Tuesday, January 10, 2006

War News for Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi interpreter killed, American journalist kidnapped in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Two insurgents were killed on Monday in Samarra when a bomb they were trying to plant at the side of a road exploded prematurely.

Bring ‘em on: U.S. soldiers shot dead one gunman and arrested another near Samarra on Monday after they had opened fire on a U.S. patrol.

Bring ‘em on: U.S. soldiers killed a gunman on Monday after he shot at them from a building near Balad. Bomb-making equipment was said to be found in the building.

Statistics: The New Year started not merely with a bang in Iraq but with lots of them: A wave of renewed insurgent terror bombings drove civilian casualties sky high while increased fatalities were inflicted on U.S. combat forces.

The total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq through Monday, Jan. 10 since the start of U.S. operations to topple Saddam Hussein on March 19, 2003, was 2,209 according to official figures issued by the Department of Defense, a rise of 28 in only seven days, and an average of 4 U.S. soldiers killed per day during that time period. That was a kill rate three times worse than the 11 killed during the previous eight-day period, an average rate of 1.375 U.S. military fatalities per day.

This grim week torpedoed the previous growing confidence of senior Bush administration officials that new combat tactics in Iraq were reducing U.S. casualties and proving more effective.

During the same seven-day period, 91 U.S. soldiers were injured in Iraq, an average rate of 13 per day. The number of U.S. troops wounded in action from the beginning of hostilities on March 19, 2003, through Jan. 10, was 16,420, the Pentagon said.

Some 7,608 of those troops were wounded so seriously that they were listed as 'WIA Not RTD' in the DOD figures. In other words: Wounded in Action Not Returned to Duty, an increase of 26 such casualties in seven days. In all an estimated 2,000 of the U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq, or one in eight of them, have suffered brain damage, loss of limbs or been crippled for life by their injuries.

Paroxysm: Despite claims of improved security, talk of drawing down U.S. forces and hopes that last month's historic elections in the country would help to defuse the insurgency, Iraq once more is experiencing a paroxysm of violence that is claiming hundreds of Iraqi and U.S. lives.

The onslaught of suicide bombs, gunfights and roadside bombs has killed more than 180 Iraqis and at least 28 U.S. troops and civilians since Thursday alone.

Analysts see the upsurge in violence, in part, as aimed at derailing the political process as political leaders try to put together Iraq's first full-term, four-year government. They also say it is the latest crest in an up-and-down cycle characteristic of an insurgency that has engulfed the country since the U.S. invasion in March 2003. In most insurgencies, "we see peaks and valleys in the continuous graph of violence that are often inexplicable," said Wayne White, former head of the Iraq team in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

The wave of violence comes after a relative lull that followed the Dec. 15 national elections. U.S. and Iraqi forces carried out major counterinsurgency operations before the elections, and the spike in attacks may be a sign that the insurgency has recuperated from the crackdown, said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute in Washington, which tracks electronic communications of Islamic insurgent and terrorist groups.

Border closed: Jordan closed all the border-crossing stations on the border with Iraq Monday, the security department of Jordanian Interior Ministry said in a press release.

It said the measure was taken for an indefinite period following an Iraqi request.

The ban to cross over to the Iraqi territory embraces the nationals of all Arab countries, including Jordanians, but an exception is made for Arab drivers of trucks and foreigners.

In the past, Jordan has closed the border crossing stations many times upon requests by Iraqi authorities.

Nothing is said about the cause of the closure this time.

US blamed: A Sunni Arab politician denounced a suicide bomb attack on a Shiite mosque that killed at least 60 people but blamed the violence in Iraq on the country's occupation by U.S. troops.

Harith al-Ubaidi of the Iraqi Accordance Front said Sunnis were "hand in hand" with Shiites against last week's attack in Karbala, south of Baghdad. His remarks were significant because the Iraqi Accordance Front is the main Sunni coalition that is negotiating with Shiites and Kurds over a coalition government.

"We also demand that the occupier get out, because he is the reason behind every crime," al-Ubaidi said. "If the occupier would leave, Iraqis would live as brothers."

Dismal days: Many Iraqis see dismal days ahead in the face of rising violence and the decision by the U.S. administration not to seek any further funds for reconstruction. "It is obvious that the situation is much worse than it used to be," retired army general Ahmed Abdul Aziz told IPS. "Can you walk free in the streets? Did you receive your food ration last month? It is essential for most Iraqis to receive the food ration just to feed their families." The former Iraqi general added: "When you go to the hospital, do you find medicines? The answer is no medicines, no services, no sheets or pillows, no beds, no nursing, and no ambulances to carry you from your house."

The year of the police: Senior U.S. officials in Iraq have promised to make 2006 "the year of the police," pairing American personnel with Iraqi police units in hopes of improving their professionalism and respect for the law.

U.S. programs will attempt to improve the vetting of recruits to avoid infiltration by militia members, Khalilzad and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the U.S. military commander in Iraq, said in a statement. The programs will devote more resources to training and equipment, bring on board 100 more trainers and assign more U.S. military advisers to work with the force, the statement said.

Respect for the law in action: An Iraqi who is one of the favourites to become the country’s next prime minister has said that Saddam Hussein should have been summarily executed and warned that his continuing trial is having a negative effect on the country.

In an interview last week, Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi, 63, a moderate Shi’ite, said that the former Iraqi leader’s many crimes, from atrocities against his own people to the war with Iran, were evidence that “he deserves to be put to death without trial”.

Yeah, like these guys have any say: A delegation of congressional Democrats that included rising star Senator Barack Obama of Illinois had a blunt assessment yesterday for Iraq's political leaders: Shape up, or America will ship out.

The continued US commitment to Iraq is becoming a tougher sell back home, the four lawmakers said, and unless Iraqis can start showing visible signs of progress by creating a broad-based government and security forces inclusive of all of Iraq's ethnic and sectarian groups, Americans will lose patience, they said.

Aussies bugging out: Australia’s military commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan will be halved by Christmas, Defence Minister Robert Hill has confirmed. Senator Hill announced yesterday that 110 troops and two Chinook helicopters would be sent to reinforce the special forces task group in Afghanistan, bringing to about 1300 the total number of ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This commitment could increase to 1500 by the middle of the year, but is expected to be cut to about 600 by the end of the year.

Journalism in Iraq

Heavy handed: American troops in Baghdad yesterday blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children.

Ali Fadhil, who two months ago won the Foreign Press Association young journalist of the year award, was hooded and taken for questioning. He was released hours later.

Dr Fadhil is working with Guardian Films on an investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated.

Public TV: Like much of the government in the new Iraq, Al Iraqiya is dominated by Shiites, and critics like Osman say that Iraq's version of America's Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has simply become a propaganda tool for the country's leading Shiite politicians. Al Iraqiya was meant to stand as a model for a burgeoning independent press, but seems to have instead become one more political spoil for its competing factions.

It's not the only sign that Iraq's independent media is in jeopardy. Last week a journalist in the Kurdish city of Arbil was sentenced to 30 years in prison for articles he wrote critical of Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani.

In the southern city of Kut, two other journalists have been charged with defaming police and the judiciary after criticizing provincial officials in a local paper. If convicted, they face 10 years in prison and heavy fines. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has denounced their prosecution, calling it "part of a larger pattern of judicial harassment" in Iraq.

Deathtrap: The International Federation of Journalists today said Iraq and its major cities had become a “deathtrap for journalism” and said its affiliates and others journalists’ groups in the country would vigorously support efforts to find a US journalist kidnapped at the weekend.

“With more than 100 media deaths, hostage-taking on a regular basis and targeting of reporters, Baghdad has become a deathtrap for journalism,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “No journalist is safe once they take to the streets.”

Snapshots From Fantasyland

The big lie - Al Qaeda is a greater threat than the USSR was with 5000 nuclear missles: Cheney said terrorists have a goal of gaining control of a country in the Middle East to serve as a base and ultimately overthrowing other governments in the region.

He said terrorists want to “establish a radical Islamic empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia.”

He said their ultimate ambitions are “to arm themselves with weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate all Western countries and to cause mass death in the United States.”

“In the face of such a threat, those of us in positions of responsibility have a duty to wage a broad-scale effort for the sake of this nation’s freedom and security,” he said.

Whose tests? Whose sacrifice?: U.S. President George W. Bush, facing a mounting U.S. death toll in Iraq, will outline his hopes on Tuesday for building democracy and strengthening Iraqi security forces this year. "2006 will be a time of more testing and sacrifice," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on Monday. "The terrorists and Saddam loyalists want to continue to try to derail the transition to democracy. They are fighting progress."

Pure comedy gold: President George W. Bush called on Tuesday for a responsible election-year debate on Iraq and said Americans should demand a discussion "that brings credit to our democracy, not comfort to our adversaries."

In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bush predicted more tough fighting and more sacrifice ahead in Iraq in 2006 but said he believed progress will be made against the insurgency and on the Iraqi political process and reconstruction this year.

Bush made clear he was girding for battle with Democrats in the run-up to the mid-term congressional election in November, when he will try to keep the U.S. Congress in the hands of his Republican Party.

"There is a difference between responsible and irresponsible debate and it's even more important to conduct this debate responsibly when American troops are risking their lives overseas," Bush told the veterans organization.

Americans know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted, "and partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people," said Bush.

Meanwhile, Back On Planet Earth

Iran consolidates ties: In its bid to further develop export of electricity to Iraq, Iran is planning to build new power transmission lines to that country, an official at the Gharb Regional Power Company said.

The line, capable of transferring 230 kilowatts of electrical energy will be built to carry Iran’s electricity from its bordering city of Saqez to the northern parts of Iraq.

Another line capable of transferring 63 kilowatts is planned to carry more of Iran’s electricity form Marivan to the Panjewain region in Iraq.

Turkey is not happy: Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul pointed out the importance of protecting Iraq's territorial integrity and political union for Turkey and the Middle East and emphasized they will strive to achieve this end.

"Any kind of division could cause unimaginable chaos. The Middle East cannot bear another big incident," Gul warned; therefore, Turkey may contribute to Iraq’s security after the US withdrawal. The necessary legal and political steps have been taken regarding the status of Kerkuk (Kirkuk) and they have given instruction to Turkish Petroleum International Company (TPAO) to look for oil in Northern Iraq.

The Kurdish powder keg, I: Four Turkish soldiers were killed Friday in fighting during a military operation against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the Southeast of the country, officials said The clash occurred in the province of THORNyrnak, which borders Iraq and Syria, Education Minister Huseyin Celik, who was visiting the region, was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. Local officials said the fighting erupted in a rural area near the town of Guclukonak during a sweep that began Thursday against the PKK, considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

The Kurdish powder keg, II: Iraq's two main Kurdish factions will start forming a single administration for their autonomous region in the next few days under a deal they say will finally draw a line under the civil war they fought in the 1990s. The accord struck on Saturday and effective next week sets detailed terms for sharing executive power between the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) -- already formally united under a Kurdistan parliament. Officials insist the move has no bearing on their stated commitment to remaining part of a federal Iraq and is intended to make best use of the autonomy from Baghdad first won under US military protection after the 1991 Gulf War.

The Kurdish powder keg, III: Arguably 'Kurdistan' already enjoying de facto independence; and the powerful Kurdish statelet in Iraq provides, under Massoud Barzani's rule, an example for other long-neglected minorities in the region of Northern Mesopotamia. Could the example of the increasingly independent Kurds in Iraq presage further rounds of ethnic discord and state fragmentation in the wider area?

For one, we could see an increase in demands from the Assyrians, a nation which has the necessary arguments on their side in order to make a land claim from the yet-to-be established Kurdistan.

The Assyrians might present historical evidence of large-scale massacres carried out against them by Kurdish chieftains during the late 19th and early 20th centuries- massacres often blamed on Turkey, especially by another Christian minority with a more powerful diaspora, the Armenians.

If all the efforts now being made in Northern Mesopotamia are for bestowing the Kurds with their long-desired independent state, why so far have those who are passionately struggling for an independent Kurdistan failed to voice the same independence or autonomy arguments for other ethno-religious groups in the region? And in any case, could the latter follow the Kurdish example and demand greater autonomy?

Slice of life in Kurdistan: "Here in Kurdistan, there is a lot of violence against Kurdish women," Ali says in delicate English. She's an Iranian Kurd by birth, a swimmer by training, and superbly educated by Iraqi standards, lending a quiet confidence to her words. Asked who is perpetrating this violence, she doesn't hesitate: "Men, of course. Husbands, brothers, fathers, managers. All men."

Abuse drives many Kurdish women to suicide, says Ali. "Here in Kurdistan, most women, when they want to kill themselves, they burn themselves. I don't know why."

Regional assemblywoman Vian Dizyee does. She says that in a society where women have few resources at their disposal, sophisticated methods of suicide are impossible. So women self-immolate using household items like cooking fuel and matches.

"We try to find solutions," Ali says of ZEEN, an eight-hour-a-day operation that broadcasts call-in programs, news, and music—all for and by Kurdish women—to this 10,000-year-old city of 1.2 million and its surrounding villages. "When a lady burns herself, on the radio we talk about why, about what must we do to solve this problem."

Ali pauses. Her wide, dark eyes are sad. When she speaks, it's in a pillow-soft tone. "We want to teach girls to not kill themselves."

Screw The Troops

Suck it up, vets: A veteran who turns to the Department of Veterans Affairs for information about benefits might want a second opinion.

According to VA data, people who call the department's regional offices for help and advice are more likely to receive completely wrong answers than completely right ones.

To see how well department employees answer typical questions from the public, VA benefits experts in 2004 called each of the 57 regional offices, which process disability claims. The mystery callers, saying they were relatives or friends of veterans inquiring about possible benefits, made 1,089 calls. Almost half the time they got answers that the department said were either completely incorrect or minimally correct.

Suck it up, mom: When other mothers were starting their Christmas shopping, Elaine Brower was online buying $3,000 worth of body armor for the son who will be heading for Iraq with the Marines next month.

"I said to him, 'I don't understand why they don't give you this stuff,'" Elaine Brower recalled yesterday.

Elaine Brower is considerably less supportive of the war than her son, and at first she balked at purchasing what was surely the government's responsibility to provide to everyone headed into harm's way. James countered with an argument no mother could contest.

"I said, 'No way,'" Elaine Brower recalled. "He said, 'Well, I'll just be dead.'"

Suck it up, Individual Ready Reservists: The Army took initial steps Monday to expel dozens of reservists who failed to report for active duty, in effect warning hundreds of others that they too could be penalized if they don’t heed orders to return to active service.

The proceedings mark a turning point in the Army’s struggle to deploy thousands of soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve, a rarely mobilized group of reservists, to war zones in which some have resisted serving.

The Bush administration – creating new opportunities for stupid people: Three months ago, I wrote that the war in Iraq was wrecking the U.S. Army, and since then the evidence has only mounted, steeply. Faced with repeated failures to meet its recruitment targets, the Army has had to lower its standards dramatically. First it relaxed restrictions against high-school drop-outs. Then it started letting in more applicants who score in the lowest third on the armed forces aptitude test—a group, known as Category IV recruits, who have been kept to exceedingly small numbers, as a matter of firm policy, for the past 20 years. (There is also a Category V—those who score in the lowest 10th percentile. They have always been ineligible for service in the armed forces and, presumably, always will be.)

The bad news is twofold. First, the number of Category IV recruits is starting to skyrocket. Second, a new study compellingly demonstrates that, in all realms of military activity, intelligence does matter. Smarter soldiers and units perform their tasks better; dumber ones do theirs worse.

Foreign News

Protest planned: Anti-war protesters are planning to hold a vigil in the Capital if and when the 100th British soldier is killed in Iraq.

A total of 98 British soldiers have been killed so far in Iraq and the Stop the War Coalition today said it will mark the 100th death with a demonstrations in 100 cities and towns across the UK.

One hundred giant white poppies will be on display and the names of the 100 British soldiers, along with the names of 100 Iraqis killed in the conflict, will be read out.

Death of a brave man: An Italian hostage who told his Iraqi captors "I will show you how an Italian dies" seconds before he was shot in the head was hailed a hero as his countrymen viewed the footage from his execution for the first time.

In the video, released by Rome prosecutors, security guard Fabrizio Quattrocchi, 35, is shown kneeling on the ground with his face covered and hands tied behind his back, seconds before he was killed on April 14, 2004.

Quattrocchi asked his captors to take his hood off, but they refused, to which he replied: "I will show you how an Italian dies."

Whistleblowers: Two Labour MPs have defied the Official Secrets Act by passing on the contents of a secret British document revealing how President George Bush wanted to bomb the Arabic TV station, al-Jazeera.

The document, a transcript of a meeting between Mr Bush and Tony Blair in April 2004 when the prime minister expressed concern about US military tactics in Iraq, is already the subject of an unprecedented official secrets prosecution in Britain, against an aide to one of the MPs and another man.

No Depths Too Low

Faking WMDs?: A recent Raw Story report by Larissa Alexandrovna suggests that the notorious Office of Special Plans didn’t just stovepipe cherry-picked “intelligence” to the White House and press. It also sent teams into Iraq after the invasion began, which, after it became apparent that there were no abundant WMDs, examined the possibility of planting such weapons in order to help the resident avoid embarrassment.

Citing “[t]hree U.S. intelligence sources and a source close to the United Nations Security Council,” Alexandrovna indicates that the OSP planned “off book” missions that were dispatched by Stephen Cambone, Defense Department intelligence chief, from March 2003. (Cambone now occupies the # 3 post in the Defense Department.) Teams sent to Iraq included “CIA, FBI, Green Berets, Delta Force operators, and commandos from the Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group.” Their first priority was to investigate an allegation made by disinformation master Ahmad Chalabi that a USN pilot shot down in 1991 and proclaimed KIA soon afterwards was being held as a POW in Iraq. (That was bogus.) The second was to deal with the WMD issue. The third was to get Saddam.

During the summer and fall of 2004, one unnamed team, according to the UN source, interviewed many Iraqi intelligence officers, telling them, “Our President is in trouble. He went to war saying there are WMD and there are no WMD. What can we do? Can you help us?” The Iraqis understood they were being asked to cooperate with a deception. “But,” the UN source continues, “ the guys were thinking this is absurd because anything put down would not pass the smell test and could be shown to be not of Iraqi origin and not using Iraqi methodology.”

Welcome to the dicatatorship: John Yoo publicly argued there is no law that could prevent the President from ordering the torture of a child of a suspect in custody – including by crushing that child’s testicles.

This came out in response to a question in a December 1st debate in Chicago with Notre Dame professor and international human rights scholar Doug Cassel.

What is particularly chilling and revealing about this is that John Yoo was a key architect post-9/11 Bush Administration legal policy. As a deputy assistant to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, John Yoo authored a number of legal memos arguing for unlimited presidential powers to order torture of captive suspects, and to declare war anytime, any where, and on anyone the President deemed a threat.

It has now come out Yoo also had a hand in providing legal reasoning for the President to conduct unauthorized wiretaps of U.S. citizens. Georgetown Law Professor David Cole wrote, "Few lawyers have had more influence on President Bush’s legal policies in the 'war on terror’ than John Yoo.”

This part of the exchange during the debate with Doug Cassel, reveals the logic of Yoo’s theories, adopted by the Administration as bedrock principles, in the real world.

Cassel: If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him? Yoo: No treaty. Cassel: Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo. Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.

The audio of this exchange is available online at revcom.us

Nothing short of breathtaking: President Bush agreed with great fanfare last month to accept a ban on torture, but he later quietly reserved the right to ignore it, even as he signed it into law.

Acting from the seclusion of his Texas ranch at the start of New Year’s weekend, Bush said he would interpret the new law in keeping with his expansive view of presidential power. He did it by issuing a bill-signing statement — a little-noticed device that has become a favorite tool of presidential power in the Bush White House. In fact, Bush has used signing statements to reject, revise or put his spin on more than 500 legislative provisions. Experts say he has been far more aggressive than any previous president in using the statements to claim sweeping executive power — and not just on national security issues. “It’s nothing short of breathtaking,” said Phillip Cooper, a professor of public administration at Portland State University. “In every case, the White House has interpreted presidential authority as broadly as possible, interpreted legislative authority as narrowly as possible, and pre-empted the judiciary.”

Interview with Susan Oehler of Today in Iraq

Our very own Dancewater: At the end of last year I came across an excellent website, "Today in Iraq." What caught my eye was an email about "This day in history of Iraq" that highlighted the handshake between Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein on December 20, 1983. Six bloggers make up the site - all with diverse backgrounds and perspectives thereby producing a lot of depth and nuance. I interviewed one of the bloggers, Susan Oehler and then asked her fellow bloggers to comment at the end of the interview. My hope in sharing their work is not only to provide you with a useful source of information and analysis on Iraq but also inspire you to take action and do what you can to end the war.

Great job, Susan! Sorry the rest of us (except for FF) were too busy (or lazy) to put in our two cents. But you did us proud!


Bill Sanders: The U.S. crept into the war in Vietnam on the tunnel vision of its leadership. After the French occupation ended with a humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu in May of 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower ( a supporter of French) lobbied to delay a free election in Vietnam out of fear that the expatriate Ho Chi Minh would win. John Kennedy bought into the "communism domino" theory and sent 16,000 troops as U.S. "advisors" to prop up the South Vietnam dictator Ngo Dinh Diem.However, it was the testosterone of Lyndon Johnson that sent over 200,000 troops to Vietnam. George W. Bush took us to war more directly—using the terrorists attack of 9/11, supplemented by lies, deceptions, and the gutlessness of congressional democrats. The embedding of the media, dictatorial secrecy and Bush’s imperial presidency—i.e. he is not only above the law (domestic spying), he IS the law (enemy combatant declarations)—have kept Americans from getting an unsanitized look at his war. Unlike the America of the 60s we do not see beyond the looped yellow ribbons that proclaim the euphemisms "support out troops" and "God bless America". We are not exposed to photographs of the torn and mutilated men, women and children who are victims of our bombs and the terrorist violence that has followed us into Iraq. Our only discomfort is the American body count that the Bush administration is forced to disclose. They do not keep a count of Iraqi bodies except for those victims of Saddam Hussein.

Digby: This is an issue that cuts across all the abuses of power in the GWOT, from rendition to torture to illegal wiretapping. What constitutes a suspected terrorist? Without due process how do we know that innocent people aren't being accused? There is no review. There is no oversight. We are asked not only to take the word of the president that he is using these extra-legal powers judiciously, we are asked to believe that all the people he's judiciously using these powers against are guilty. Some Americans don't trust this president. Some Americans wouldn't trust a Democratic president. And some of us don't trust any president with the power to unilaterally decide who is a terrorist and who isn't and then unleash extra-legal actions against them. Certainly, we don't believe that any president can unilaterally declare someone guilty. Yet that is exactly what has been happening. And we know that many of the people who the president has decided are guilty were not. A fair number of those who were beaten, abused and tortured in our custody at Gitmo and elsewhere have turned out to be cases of mistaken identity. Others were "sold" to Americans as terrorists by rivals. Still more were low level grunts who had no operational knowledge of anything. This has happened quite often. Yet, we have accepted it because we "we're at war" excuses a great deal of inhumane behavior (which is why we should always be careful about saying that we are waging one.) It's very easy for people to fall into a primitive tribalism --- the old "the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim" or perhaps "if you don't want to be seen as a terrorist, don't be a Muslim." But this NSA illegal spying issue has brought all that home. We have a president who believes that he knows who is guilty and who is not. He believes that he has the inherent constitutional power to declare American citizens "unlawful combatants." He interprets the office of president to be above the laws. When you have a president who takes this position, it is not illogical to assume that he might declare some innocent Americans to be suspected terrorists as well. And that innocent American could be anyone. The supporter of wiretaps who I quoted above knows that, too. I can't see any reason why Democrats and civil libertarians of all stripes should be afraid to make that point openly. It's why due process was made a part of the Bill of Rights in the first place. If we willingly discard this principle in the case of morons who are planning to attack the Brooklyn Bridge with a blow torch, why on earth should we adhere to the principle in cases of dangerous gangs or serial killers or child molesters? After all, throwing those people in jail without due process, wiretapping them without a warrant, holding them indefinitely without trial could easily be seen as the president upholding his personal oath to "protect the American people" which has now officially usurped his official oath to protect the constitution. The fourth amendment is in place to protect innocent people who mistakenly or purposefully get caught up in the government's hugely powerful maw. To pussyfoot around that bedrock principle is to help destroy it.

John Buell: Shooting wars often hide many domestic sins of commission and omission. Nonetheless, as the war in Iraq drags on, the administration's cavalier attitude toward civil liberties has become a concern. The media have reacted with surprise and alarm to the latest revelations about the National Security Agency, but no one should have been surprised. The administration's repeated suggestions that the ruthlessness of the enemy justifies whatever steps it takes should have kept media watchdogs on alert. For history students, Bush's rhetoric recalls those dogmatic left-wing defenses of Stalin in the 1930s. Stalin's sympathizers argued that food and security must be established before full freedom could be assured. I suspect we will have little security or economic justice if we don't start devoting more time to protecting our civil liberties.

Jim Kunstler: Many of my readers, I sense, wonder why things aren't falling apart across America right now, given the hallucinatory nature of our economy. The answer is that Peak Oil is not the end of anything, it's the peak of everything. We're getting more oil now than ever before or ever again, and it is making us crazy. It makes it possible for me to succumb to the invitation to fly across North America for a one-day meeting. It keeps feeding the spreading tumors of suburbia. It supports the illusion that burning liquid hydrocarbons results in the creation of wealth. When the TV news cut away to a commercial break, it was an advertisement for some kind of snazzy new mortgage deal featuring 30-second approvals. Getting a mortgage now is easier than stepping off a curb (except, who walks anymore?). This is exactly what is making it possible for people to buy houses so far away from anything that they end up peeing on their car seats to get there in the evening. It also unleashes magical streams of liquidity for the playas in the financial markets to convert into personal fortunes. Unfortunately, they have to pee on their car seats, too, because the stupidity of our culture is absolutely democratic and the playas get stuck on the freeway just like everybody else, only they pee on real leather seats. Peak is making us insane and passing peak will make us more insane. There may be no moment of clarity, only new kinds of delusion and disorder. We'll keep behaving the way we do until we can't, and then we won't.

Casualty Reports

Killed: Sergeant Nathan Field

Killed: Major Stuart Anderson

Killed: Arsenio Domingo

Killed: Kyle Brown

Killed: Chester Troxel

Killed: Sgt. 1st Class Stephen J. White

Killed: Sgt. Adam L. Cann

Killed: Cpl. Albert P. Gettings

Killed: Lance Cpl. Ryan S. McCurdy

Killed: Jeriad Paul Jacobs

Killed: Spc. Robert T. Johnson

Killed: Spc. Richard Junior DeGracia Naputi

Killed: Spc. Clinton R. Upchurch


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