Monday, January 02, 2006

Relatives mourn as the coffin of a Christian man is taken from his home to a church in Kirkuk, Iraq, Monday Jan. 2, 2006. The man died during riots in Kirkuk as fuel price hikes and shortages of fuel led to protests in many cities around Iraq. The police in Kirkuk shot and killed four protesters. The demonstrators burned down a fuel station. DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY JANUARY 2, 2006 Bring ‘em on: At least 16 people have been killed in Iraq, including seven police recruits blown up by a car bomber as they traveled on a bus near Baquba. Thirteen other recruits were wounded. Bring ‘em on: Ambulance driver shot in the head as he drove to a hospital in Kirkuk. Two boys (ages 7 and 10) killed in a drive by shooting south of Kirkuk. Their parents were wounded. Three more men were shot and killed while traveling by car south of Baghdad, near Iskandariya. Bring ‘em on: Two Iraq soldiers hit by roadside bomb near Dujail just north of Baghdad. Another soldier killed and one wounded in drive by shooting on road between Baiji and Tikrit. Bring ‘em on: Armed men attacked the Turkish ambassador to Iraq in Baghdad, wounding him slightly. Eight unidentified bodies pulled out of a water purification plant. Iraqi soldiers foiled an attack on army base north of Kirkuk. They shot the driver of a suicide car bomb. The suicide bomber and his cameraman were killed. Bring ‘em on: UPDATE: At least 19 dead in attacks in Iraq. Bring ‘em on: US soldier killed in Sinia, Iraq on January 1, 2006 by IED. Bring ‘em on: Gunman in two cars fire on laborers, killing five, in Baghdad. Three bodies found in Iskandariyah. Bring ‘em on: Gunman attack Turkish ambassador in Baghdad, wounding him slightly. Bring ‘em on: Monday's death toll was in keeping with the daily average for the past year, according to government statistics obtained by AFP. The statistics, compiled by the health, defence and interior ministries, put the number of Iraqi dead in 2005 at 5,713. More than 4,000 were civilians, while 1,693 were from the security forces. A total of 1,702 rebels were killed and 9,264 arrested during 2005, according to the government figures. (Baghdad morgue alone reports over a thousand bodies per month that have died of suspicious circumstances, and 250 of these bodies are not identified or claimed. I imagine there are many more that don’t make it to the morgue. And that is Baghdad alone, never mind the rest of the country. These statistics cannot be correct. – Susan) Bring ‘em on: December was the worst month on record for Iraqi contractors working on reconstruction, with more killed, wounded or kidnapped than during any other month since the U.S. invasion. Bring ‘em on: Story on US military hospital. Sub title: Helicopters stream in with wounded. Over the next half-hour, 17 soldiers — all requiring surgery — were rolled in on stretchers; some with wounds ghastly enough to startle even veteran surgeons. One man with bewildered eyes came in with flaps of skin and muscle hanging from where his lower jaw had once been; others with multiple gunshot wounds cried for their fathers. “It’s weird, the ones that hit you,” Maj. Julia Woodul, a nurse, said of the hospital’s patients, about 70 percent of whom are Americans. “Maybe it’s the ones with the color of my son’s eyes,” she said. Or maybe it’s the ones who come in holding Saint Christopher medals or crosses that you have to pry from their hands.” Bring ‘em on: US Commander says al Qaida “neutralized” in western Iraq. Recent offensives near the Iraqi border with Syria have dealt a significant blow to al-Qaida and cut off the group’s ability to smuggle in foreigners through the volatile western area to join the insurgency, a U.S. commander, Maj. Gen. Steve Johnson, said Sunday. (Where have we heard this before? – Susan) Bring ‘em on: Two policemen killed in clashes with insurgents in western Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi army staff colonel Samaan al-Talabani said 71 suspects, including 25 of the country's most-wanted, were detained by Iraqi soldiers in raids near Udhaim, 80 km (48 miles) north of Baquba. He said they also found the body of a policeman and a number of stolen cars. Iraqi civlian seriously wounded by bomb targeting US patrol in Kirkuk. Bring ‘em on: Three roadside bombs hit US patrols in Fallujah. No fatalities reported. REPORTS NEWS: US Military Still Runs With Dreaded Wolf Brigade As reported in a front-page New York Times story on Dec. 30, a senior U.S. commander said the United States would greatly increase the number of soldiers advising Iraqi commando units. The unidentified U.S. general also suggested that commandos had developed with little U.S. supervision. "The commandos sort of grew like Topsy [a character in the novel 'Uncle Tom's Cabin']," he said, "very quickly, without much control, and without much training, but with lots of influences from the Ministry of the Interior and SCIRI (Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq)-Badr organisation." The senior U.S. commander further hinted that many of the commando operations are by rogue elements outside formal government control. "It is not easy to identify that some operation tonight was legitimately directed by somebody in the security organisation of MOI [Ministry of Interior) or MOD [Ministry of Defence]," he said, "or whether it was some people in stolen uniforms who decided to attack someone's opposite number in some other tribe or neighbourhood." Finally, the commander criticised Iraqi commando abuses of detainees as "making new enemies here" and said, "You've got to be more moderate. You must follow the rule of law." The record shows, however, that the U.S. military has had a close operational relationship with the Wolf Brigade, the most hated and feared commando unit, and has even carried out joint operations with it. The U.S. command had repeatedly sent the Brigade to carry out operations in Sunni cities despite the opposition of U.S. Embassy officials who warned that such deployments would fuel sectarian tensions and violence. (This information, plus the fact that they knew what the Wolf Brigade was up to for months now, rather indicates that the US authorities do not care about people being rounded up and tortured and killed by Iraqi authorities in police/army uniforms. - Susan) THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Honoring Iraq’s Unclaimed Dead Sheikh Jamal-al Sudani gathers the unclaimed bodies of those killed by bombs and bullets, CBS News correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi reports. He wants to give each person a proper burial. “Every week we bury forty or fifty corpses … 250 corpses a month," Sudani says. Sudani and his group of volunteers aren't paid. They do this grim job, they say, solely for god's rewards. "Prophet Mohammed said the best person is the person that helps other people," Sudani said. The group drives the bodies from Baghdad to Najaf, to their final stop at the Al-Sallam Valley Cemetery. It's a holy place because it's where a number of prophets are buried there. It is also a practical place because the loose soil makes it easy to bury so many bodies. The bodies of Sunnis, Shiites, Muslims and Christians are all carefully washed and wrapped. There is no one Sudani won't bury. "Every human is my brother," he says. And that philosophy has made him a target of violence. Terrorists want to kill him because he cares for the victims of their suicide attacks. Others want to kill him because he buries suicide bombers. But Sudani is no stranger to threats. He's been doing this job for 15 years. He started by burying the victims of Saddam Hussein's henchmen, most of them tortured or left to die in prisons. Sudani hoped when the regime fell, his work would slow down. Instead, he says he's digging three times as many graves a month. NEWS: US Has End in Sight on Iraq Rebuilding The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein. "It is easy for the Americans to say, 'We are doing reconstruction in Iraq,' and we hear that. But to make us believe it, they should show us where this reconstruction is," said Mustafa Sidqi Murthada, owner of a men's clothing store in Baghdad. "Maybe they are doing this reconstruction for them in the Green Zone. But this is not for the Iraqis." "Believe me, they are not doing this," he said, "unless they consider rebuilding of their military bases reconstruction." NEWS: Economy in Iraq Goes in All Directions Taken as a whole, Iraq's economic landscape remains wasteful and primitive, with a touch of the postmodern, a touch of the feudal and a heavy dose of tedious state bureaucracy that sucks up much of the country's resources and energy. Analysts estimate that Iraq's gross domestic product grew from $20.5 billion in 2002 to $29.3 billion last year, and President Bush has touted the visible signs of economic vitality, such as consumer sales and private business start-ups. But analysts believe these stirrings have had a limited effect, thanks to a lack of basic infrastructure and decades of neglect. Although American officials in Baghdad recently said Iraq's economy grew between 3% and 4% in 2005, one commercial service, the Economist Intelligence Unit, said Iraq's GDP fell 3% in 2005, though it predicted that it would rise in 2006. NEWS: Iraq’s Sunnis religious Scholars Paid to Assist US (via writing propaganda for the local press) The same Pentagon contractor that paid Iraqi newspapers to print positive articles written by US soldiers has also been paying Sunni religious scholars in Iraq for assistance with propaganda work, The New York Times reported. In its Monday edition, the paper said that the Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations firm, was told early in 2005 by the Pentagon "to identify religious leaders who could help produce messages that would persuade Sunnis in violence-ridden Anbar Province to participate in national elections and reject the insurgency," citing an unidentified former employee. NEWS: US Engineer View Work Done So Far With Pride "Two youth centers. Two fire stations -- those are in some of your poorer neighborhoods. Baghdad highway patrol. A facility for the SWAT team. A new perimeter wall for Doura," a power plant in Baghdad's insurgency-ridden south. A checkpoint on a southern road into the city. An electrical substation. Hudson picked out the sites instantly, his finger stopping on each one. The projects are among 90 under his domain and among 3,600 projects in an $18.4 billion reconstruction package for Iraq due to peak, and be completed, this year. Next stop, a children's hospital. On one side, in the wing not yet touched by the U.S. money and American and Iraqi engineers, mothers in black shrouds and fathers in black leather jackets cradled infants as they stood in the cold to press into a chaotic admitting office. In the dark inside the wing, children lay in arms or on floors, or milled, wailing, in a waiting room. "Last time I was here they had them in there two at a time," Hudson said, surveying incubators pushed up against a dirty wall, tiny, thin babies lying mute inside. In limited English, Taref Fawdhil, a physician, conceded that some infants here had died from diarrhea and septicemia. Across the courtyard, workers pushed wheelbarrows and swept up dust in a newly renovated wing of the facility, the first phase of a $2.9 million overhaul of the children's hospital. Project quality supervisor Anmar Abdul Karim pointed to the panels that would deliver oxygen and suction fluids at each bed, to the reverse-osmosis system that would deliver some of the rare clean water in Baghdad, to the placement of a clock in every room so that nurses would know when to hand out medication. Karim was particularly satisfied with an isolation ward, with self-contained ventilation and climate systems that engineers built in part from instructions found on the Internet. NEWS: Iraq Oil Exports Hit Post-war Low Iraq's oil exports in December fell to their lowest level since the official end of the conflict in 2003, Iraqi interim government figures have shown. Last month's exports totalled 1.1 million barrels per day, down from November's 1.2 million figure. Shamkhi Faraj, the government's director general of economics and oil marketing, blamed the fall on the security situation. He added that bad weather at southern ports was also a contributory factor. This halted exports for more than a week last month. NEWS: Iraq Oil Minister Resigns Under Pressure (from his protest of the increase in fuel prices) Iraq's oil minister said Monday he resigned after the government last week gave him a forced vacation and replaced him with Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi following criticism about fuel price increases. Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum said he quit because the government raised fuel prices by nine times on Dec. 19, a decision he had strongly criticized. ``This decision will not serve the benefit of the government and the people. This decision brings an extra burden on the shoulders of citizens and caused an increase in the prices of all essential materials. It also caused a reaction on the Iraqi streets,'' al-Uloum said. The price increases and the mid-December closure of the country's biggest refinery led to protests in many cities around Iraq and riots in northern oil-rich Kirkuk, where police shot and killed four protesters during unrest Sunday. POSSIBLE FUTURE WARS: Likud Members: Bomb Iran About 400 Likud members, who took part Saturday evening in a conference organized by Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz in the town of Hod Hasharon, voted by a large majority to "bomb Iran's nuclear reactor before it is too late," in the words of Likud member and Ra'anana Deputy Mayor Uzi Cohen. According to Cohen, "we have been following the Iranians for a long time now, but the defense establishment chiefs issue warnings without doing anything." "We must act as (former Prime Minister Menachem) Begin did when he bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor," he said. (And they have got to be dumb beyond dumb if they think Iran is going to act like Iraq did in the 1980’s. ~ Susan) ELECTIONS IN IRAQ NEWS: Iraqi Premier, Kurd Leader Strike Deal Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Iraqi interim prime minister, has held a long closed-door meeting with Massoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan province, in Salah al-Din resort in northern Iraq. The Sunday meeting started in the morning and carried on until the evening, with the two politicians holding a news conference afterwards in which they announced they had agreed to form a broad-based national unity government. The visit of al-Jaafari, who leads the Shia al-Dawa party, to predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq came after the visit of Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, chairman of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the dominant Shia party in Iraq. Kurdish parties had shown dissatisfaction with al-Jaafari's performance and accused him of neglecting his partners in the political process. Sunday's visit was the first by the prime minister since he was elected in mid-2004. A delegation from the main Sunni coalition, the Arab National Accordance Front, also met senior Kurdish officials on Sunday, possibly holding preliminary discussions about the formation of a coalition government ahead of final election results due to be released this week. The 10-member delegation was led by two of the front's three leaders: Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the General Conference of the Iraqi People, and Tariq al-Hashimi, head of the Iraqi Islamic party. A representative of the secular party led by Iyad Allawi, a Shia and the former prime minister, said the group had not been invited to the Kurdish north, which in recent days has seen a flurry of post-election bargaining between the Kurds and the governing Shia United Iraqi Alliance, which has a strong election lead. COMMENTARY OPINION: Even Some Shi’ites Uncomfortable with Election Results Tara Yousif shook her head in dismay when she heard the preliminary election results on TV. According to the figures released by the Independent Electoral Commission, the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance held an unassailable lead in the vote for the country's first permanent National Assembly. The Alliance captured 77 percent of the vote in Yousif's home province of Basra, while the secular Iraqi National List led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi came a distant second with 11 percent. "I will leave Iraq if these results are true," said the 22-year-old Shiite, who is unemployed and lives with her mother. Yousif's unhappiness with the results is mostly personal. She said her father was killed in 2003 because he had formerly been a local leader in deposed President Saddam Hussein's dissolved Baath Party. "I know who killed my father, but I can't do anything against them because those criminals are in power now," she said. OPINION: Imperialism and its young admirers (Egyptian view) Apart from the inevitable readjustments necessitated by having become bogged down in a bloody and intractable situation in Iraq, Washington's policy towards the region remains essentially the same. Spreading democracy was not originally one of its aims, and it was not the goal of the Iraqi parliamentary elections, the Palestinian presidential elections or the Saudi municipal elections, which nonetheless have been cheered as the first tender shoots of a democratic future. Following all these elections, violence in Iraq intensified and spread in new directions. In spite of these elections, the US bore down on regimes that were targets for the policy the US secretary of state dubbed "constructive destabilisation". Meanwhile, Washington's allies in the region have become increasingly bolder in making it choose between accepting them with all their corruption and the spectre of radical political Islam. The US still acts as though it is at the beginning of a historic mission in the region, as Britain had in the wake of World War I. Bush showered Sharon with promises in an exchange of letters in April 2004 that have a strong whiff of the Balfour Declaration. Then, as surreptitiously as Sykes and Picot, the US began to draw up plans for dividing the Middle East. Although these British and French colonial architects used their pens and straightedges to carve their map onto countries, Washington is carving up countries along sectarian and ethnic lines. As awry as things have gone in Iraq, the US administration cannot bring itself to look at that disaster in any way other than how it impacts on its popularity ratings or on its allies in the area who are cringing at the prospect of the growing influence of Iran. The destruction of Iraq and the suffering of the Iraqi people acquire importance only from this perspective. Therefore, the American president sat down with his military chiefs on 28 September to ponder a way to lift the morale of the American public, and came up with the ingenious "plan for victory in Iraq". The "plan" is to enable the Iraqis to defend "the freedom they have won" by building an Iraqi army capable of that aim. Then, once the Iraqi army "stands up" America will "stand down", as the US president so eloquently put it. The "victory plan" is reaping yet more bloodshed and more destruction. Why did Friedman not pick up on the fact that this "enemy" who "just keeps getting smarter" was made up of the same people who were reared under Saddam's alleged culture of fear and lack of initiative? Why did it escape him that the members of the new army lacked motivation whereas their adversaries had motivation in spades? Because he, like his military informants, has fallen into the habit of regurgitating half-baked truths about the culture of the US's Iraqi allies. The attitude is reminiscent of the disdain with which the Americans regarded their allies in South Vietnam, in contrast to their respectful awe for the Vietcong, even though the latter are as Vietnamese as the former. What is at work, essentially, is contempt on the part of the occupiers for those dependent upon them. It must be this contempt that has blinded them to the reality that the destruction of an entire economy and national infrastructure, the opening of the floodgates to theft and corruption, the subcontracting of the reconstruction of the Iraqi army to a host of greedy private catering, construction and security firms, and that recruitment into this army has become virtually the only source of livelihood for millions of unemployed, does not offer the greatest motives for fighting. Now, as we mourn the death of democracy, leaving only desolation, the spread of terrorism to other countries such as Jordan, and the growing Iranian influence in Iraq through the Iraqi elections, studies have begun to emerge refuting the established lore about the relationship between the spread of democracy and the fight against terrorism, or between dictatorship and the breeding of terrorism. Suddenly, scholars have observed that terrorism in non-democratic China pales next to terrorism in democratic India; that democracy in Britain did nothing to dampen the resolve of a group of native-born British youths to mount a series of terrorist acts, and that domestic terrorist movements emerged in democratic Germany, America, Italy, Israel and Japan in the 1970s, 1980s and up to the end of the last century. The war against terror has produced only one result so far, which was to expand the range of terrorism. Nor has exploiting terrorism to expand the realm of American hegemony had any sure-fire results apart from having opened the gates of hell. And the Iraqi model of democracy has few buyers; indeed, it is repellent even to Syrian opposition forces. OPINION: The Spoils of War You can't have war without corruption. The history of war is inseparable from histories of corrupt power and social debasement. War attracts corruption like corpses attract flies. When a country elects "to remain on a wartime footing," the rot can get pretty deep. Americans should know all about this. We are nearing the end of the fourth decade of Israel's chronic war of occupation of Palestinian lands. The web of corruption spun by this festering wound has had plenty of time to reach into the deepest nooks and crannies of both Palestinian and Israeli societies. America's decisive support of Israel's war, including more than 100 billion dollars and dozens of UN vetoes, has ensnared us in the same web. To sustain the unending flow of money and materiel, American politics has had to yield to the ways of the war: lies, denial, and intimidation. OPINION: The idea that the end of the war will come within sight as soon as the majority of Sunnis come to terms with the reality of their minority status, is an appealingly hard-nosed realistic perspective. Nevertheless, this expression of "realism" obscures the fact that the breakdown of Iraqi identity is as much a product of the occupation as it is the effect of the manifestation of core ethnic identities. Moreover, it's hard to imagine that those Americans who argue that Iraqi Sunni power should be commensurate with the size of the Sunni population, would accept the same argument if applied globally. Even so, why exactly should a country in which fewer than five percent of the world's population lives exert such a disproportionately large influence over the rest of humanity and the planet on which we all depend? The fact is, whether it is in Iraq or the United States, those who possess power are always inclined to see the inequities from which they benefit as intrinsic features of a natural order. OPINION: Cartoon from al Jazeera on the end of 2005 and beginning of 2006 (flash presentation) PEACE ACTION: Out of Iraq Events Planned Nationwide (USA) on January 7, 2006. National call in day on accountability planned for January 9, 2006. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Report on the injuries received by US troops in Iraq. Photos included. Local Story: Soldier from Washington State Killed in Iraq QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Under the influence of politicians, masses of people tend to ascribe the responsibility for wars to those who wield power at any given time. In World War I it was the munitions industrialists; in World War II it was the psychopathic generals who were said to be guilty. This is passing the buck. The responsibility for wars falls solely upon the shoulders of these same masses of people, for they have all the necessary means to avert war in their own hands. In part by their apathy, in part by their passivity, and in part actively, these same masses of people make possible the catastrophes under which they themselves suffer more than anyone else. To stress this guilt on the part of the masses of people, to hold them solely responsible, means to take them seriously. On the other hand, to commiserate masses of people as victims means to treat them as small, helpless children. The former is the attitude held by genuine freedom fighters; the latter that attitude held by power-thirsty politicians." ~ Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism


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