Thursday, February 02, 2006


Photo: A local resident inspects the damage from a US military helicopter attack on a home early Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006, in the Sadr City area of Baghdad, Iraq. A U.S. helicopter fired rockets into a crowded Shiite neighborhood of eastern Baghdad on Thursday after gunmen shot at it, killing a young woman and enraging both residents and Shiite politicians. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Bring ‘em on: Two car bombings in Baghdad kill 11 Iraqi civilians and wounded over 70 people.

Bring ‘em on: US troops fired rockets in a Baghdad neighborhood, killing a young women and wounding several. Bombing in this Sadr City neighborhood by US forces left several homes and cars destroyed (picture above). US soldiers detained two unidentified people before the attack inside Sadr City. American officials have been holding up this neighborhood as a model of improving relations between US military and the Iraqi community.

Bring ‘em on: A shepherd found 16 male bodies that were partially burned on the eastern outskirts of Baghdad, all of who had been blindfolded, bound and shot.

Bring ‘em on: Two IEDs targeted an American patrol in Tarmiyah, with no American casualties reported.

Bring ‘em on: An IED killed three Iraqi army soldiers in Baghdad.

UPDATE: Housewife Ikhlas Abdul-Hussein, 20, was killed in the blast, said her father, Abdul-Hussein Shanoof, who was wounded along with another woman and a 2-year-old child. (US air strike in Sadr City). Update: Bring ‘em on: 16 died in the double Baghdad car bombings on Thursday. 90 more were wounded.

Update: Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis were killed in heavy fighting reportedly between the Mehdi Army militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and US forces in Baghdad's Sadr City, a US military spokesman said. An interior ministry official said the fight was between US forces and Sadr's militia, and that a woman was also killed in the fighting. Sadr's militia and US troops have often clashed in the past, most dramatically in August 2004 when the fiery cleric waged a bloody rebellion in the Shiite holy city of Najaf in which hundreds of his men were killed.

Bring ‘em on: The interior ministry also reported that gunmen in a four-wheel drive vehicle of the kind used by foreign security details opened fire on a commuter minibus south of Baghdad, killing two and wounding seven.

Bring ‘em on: In a separate incident, insurgents attacked an oil storage facility near the northern city of Kirkuk setting off a massive blaze, an official with the Northern Oil Company said.

Bring ‘em on: In the restive city of Mosul, rebels killed three policemen and wounded 10 in separate attacks, police said, while gunmen assassinated the police intelligence officer responsible for an area south of Basra and his driver. (See article below on how Mosul “making gains” – Susan)

Bring ‘em on: In other violence, a high-ranking industry ministry official, Mary Hamza al-Rubai, was kidnapped on her way to work by gunmen who stopped her car but let her driver go. Bring ‘em on: The US military said that 11 Syrians, suspected to be insurgents, were captured Thursday during an Iraqi army raid in the restive town of Ramadi. It said the raid against a suspected foreign rebel cell operating in Ramadi led to the capture of 15 suspected insurgents, four of them Iraqis and the rest from Syria.

Bring ‘em on: The interior ministry reported the discovery of 14 bodies, blindfolded and with their hands tied, found in a ditch at the edge of Sadr City. They had been shot in the head.

Bring ‘em on: Three policemen's bodies were found in Madaen, east of the capital, and two corpses were also found in Nabaie, north of Baghdad. They were all believed to be among an ill-fated expedition of police hopefuls from Samarra in mid-January. At least 60 young men had been returning from Baghdad after failing to be accepted by the police academy when their bus was stopped by insurgents and they were taken off into the desert. So far, police and medical sources have identified more than three dozen corpses from the group, mostly around Nabaie. Bring ‘em on: Five US troops die in three separate incidents in Iraq. Three killed by IED south of Baghdad, a Marine killed by small arms fire in Fallujah, and soldier killed by small arms fire in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: A police major was wounded and his driver killed when gunman attacked their car in Basra.

Bring ‘em on: Police found the body of a man in the Euphrates River in Mussayib. He had been shot.

Bring ‘em on: One of the 43 police recruits abducted by militants last month was found near the town of Dujail. The other bodies have already been found.

Bring ‘em on: Four soldiers wounded by IED in Tuz Khurmatu, south of Kirkuk. No mention if they are Iraqi soldiers or American soldiers.

Bring ‘em on: Policeman killed and five wounded by IED in Mosul. REPORTS Women Bear Brunt of Poverty in Post-Invasion Iraq

Umm Ziyad, her husband, two sons and granddaughter were just making ends meet in a one-room hovel in Baghdad when a suicide bomber decided that the best way to attack a police station was to drive through the carwash where her husband worked. "We didn't used to need anyone. He worked and we could make do, but now it's obvious that we are in need," said the widow, swathed in black and looking much older than her 46 years. But one year after she applied for government assistance, she has heard nothing and her eldest son, Ziyad, has dropped out of high school to support the family with occasional work. Poverty has exploded across Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 US invasion.

A recent study by the United Nations Development Program and International Monetary Fund shows that 20 percent of the population has fallen below the international poverty line of $1 per day per person. The numbers of families registering for assistance with the labor and social affairs ministry has more than tripled since the war to 171,000 and even that, according to Leila Kazem, a director general at the ministry, is a "drop in the ocean". "After the war, a new dangerous issue arose in Iraqi society - poverty, which is clear to everyone," she said, blaming unemployment and violence that has been killing off the main breadwinners, something "which is happening every hour of every day". The families, however, do not receive any special treatment at the ministry. "We don't have a separate category for victims of terrorism, we just talk about needy families," she said.

Violence is hitting families, already weakened by decades of war and international sanctions under the regime of Saddam Hussein, who were just surviving and now have lost their sole means of income. "We were afraid a war would come and then it happened and our father is gone now," Umm Ziyad said, referring to her husband. As she tells her story, the electricity cuts out and her other son Ali, who is still in school, steps out into the twilight to finish his homework.

Mosul Makes Gains Against the Chaos

A year after its police force melted away and the streets descended into anarchy, Mosul has climbed up from the abyss. But this city of 2 million, a key battleground in the Iraq war, still teeters on the edge of chaos.

Insurgents have tried to assassinate the province's governor three times during his 18 months in office. They have killed his son, five other relatives and 27 bodyguards. The provincial police chief was fired late last year after he was accused of having ties to the insurgency.

Unemployment hovers at about 40 percent. The number of reported attacks is down 57 percent since the battle for the city last year, according to Lt. Col. Mitchell Rambih, operations officer for the U.S. Army's 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. But residents say violence remains a serious problem.

Though the political, economic and military situations in Mosul are still tenuous, U.S. officials here say the city's fate will soon be in Iraqi hands. Confident in the skills of the newly trained Iraqi army and political and military leaders who say they are fiercely opposed to terrorism, U.S. commanders have started giving small units responsibility for protecting areas of this ethnically divided city. Plan for Clinics in Iraq at Risk

The centerpiece of a $786 million plan to modernize Iraq's health care system has stalled amid spiraling costs and insurgent threats, jeopardizing one of the country's most ambitious reconstruction projects. Initial plans called for completing 180 medical clinics by December 2005, but only four are finished, said Ammar al-Saffar, Iraq's deputy health minister. None has opened. The plans have been scaled back to 142 clinics, but at the current pace the project may shrink further, said Jon Bowersox, senior U.S. consultant for health care reconstruction in Iraq. Only 94 of the facilities are more than half finished. "It's been slower than we anticipated," he said. "It's behind schedule."

The delays reflect a broader problem facing U.S.-funded reconstruction in Iraq. Congress approved $18.4 billion for Iraq reconstruction in November 2003, but by the following year nearly one-third of the money had been diverted to help train and equip Iraq's security forces as the insurgency gained steam. Some projects were canceled, others scaled back. The newest hospitals in Iraq are 20 years old. Some facilities date to the 1960s. Many of Iraq's 270 hospitals are frequently overflowing with victims of car bombings and other attacks. Baghdad's Al-Kindi Hospital cares for an average of 300 patients per day, said Salwan Akram, a surgeon at the hospital. But the number of patients surges following a car bombing or similar attack, which overwhelms the hospital's trauma center, he said.

The proposed network of clinics would provide health care to Iraqis across the country, not just in the cities, where most hospitals are concentrated. "It's the core of their health care system," Naeema Al-Gasseer, the World Health Organization representative for Iraq, said about the proposed centers. "We cannot build hospitals in every single district of Iraq. But (we) could have primary health clinics that reach people."

Iraqi forces beset by sectarian differences: US intelligence czar

Stubborn sectarian rifts are hampering the development of local security forces destined to eventually take over from American troops in Iraq, the United States's intelligence chief said. John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, told a Senate committee that Iraq's survival as a state after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 depended on establishment of "bold, inclusive leadership." But he echoed concerns by defense and political analysts that split between the country's majority Shiite Muslims, Kurds and Sunnis were stalling efforts to build cohesive Iraqi security forces. Negroponte gave a mixed assessment of US fortunes in the war, which has become increasingly unpopular with the US public and contributed to the declining popularity of President George W. Bush. (I just wonder how much Mr. Negroponte contributed to this problem. – Susan)

Among the encouraging developments, he told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, were signs of open conflict between Sunni Islamic militants and nationalist elements in the insurgency, which are "encouraging and exploitable." (They are always willing to let someone else do the fighting and dying, aren’t they? – Susan) Beyond the problems in building the Iraqi security forces, Negroponte cited other challenges facing the US operation, …..(like) the insurgents' continuing ability to recruit, supply, and attack coalition and Iraqi forces and the insurgents' use of increasingly lethal improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and their ability to adapt to US countermeasures, which remain the "most significant day-to-day threat to coalition forces." Negroponte: Al Qaida Biggest Terror Threat (then why am I more afraid of you? – Susan)

Al-Qaida is the leading terrorism threat to the United States followed by the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, the nation's intelligence chief said Thursday in a forum that turned into a debate on government eavesdropping. (I think Pakistan’s nuclear threat is much worse. – Susan) National Intelligence Director John Negroponte tried to focus on terrorist threats, but lawmakers repeatedly returned to the uproar surrounding the National Security Agency's surveillance program.

Hop-scotching through other global issues, Negroponte said Afghanistan faces challenges as it confronts an insurgency that will impede the new government, slow economic development and weaken counter-narcotics operations. He called Syria a "pivotal but generally unhelpful player" in a troubled region. (What a hypocrite! – Susan) He said next year's elections in Nigeria will be the most important in Africa because it is the continent's most populous nation and largest oil producer. (Finally, someone mentions “oil.” – Susan)

Timeline: The Road to War in Iraq

Tonight's revelations about Tony Blair and George Bush's White House meeting on January 31 2003 show that the prime minister was prepared to go to war in Iraq before he had tried to get a second UN resolution. Given that the attorney general and Foreign Office lawyers believed at this time that war would be illegal without one, the story throws further doubt on the legality of the conflict. A partial review:

2003 · January 9: Mr Blix says his teams have so far found no "smoking gun" in Iraq but adds Baghdad has failed to answer "many questions" about its weapons programmes.

· January 14: Mr Bush says he is "sick and tired" of Iraq's deception over its suspected weapons and warns time is running out for Baghdad to comply with UN demands to disarm.

· January 16: Mr Blix says UN inspectors have found illegally imported conventional arms materials in Iraq and only fuller cooperation with his team could avert the option of war.

· January 20: Iraq promises UN weapons experts more help and says it will form its own teams of inspectors to search for banned weapons after two days of talks with chief UN arms inspectors.

· January 27: Mr Blix and fellow weapons inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, reporting to the UN security council, outline the gaps in information that Iraq should have delivered by now. But Mr Blix says those gaps could not lead him to conclude Baghdad possessed prohibited arms.

· January 28: Britain declares Iraq in "material breach" of UN disarmament demands and says the chances of averting war are receding.

· January 31: Mr Bush meets with Mr Blair at the White House where the prime minister presses for a new UN resolution authorising military force against Iraq, for British political reasons. Mr Bush recalls to Bob Woodward that he told Mr Blair: "If that's what you need, we will go flat out to try and help you get it."

· February 5: The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, addresses the UN security council, laying out what he says is evidence of Iraq's ongoing weapons of mass destruction programmes. He says: "how much longer are we willing to put up with Iraq's noncompliance before we, as a council, we, as the United Nations, say: 'Enough. Enough.'" (And what a fool believes, he sees. – Susan) Wide Plot Seen in Guilty Plea in Iraq Project

Robert J. Stein Jr. could not have been clearer about his feelings toward the American businessman who was receiving millions of dollars in contracts from Mr. Stein to build a major police academy and other reconstruction projects in Iraq. "I love to give you money," Mr. Stein wrote in an e-mail message to the businessman, Philip H. Bloom, on Jan. 3, 2004, just as the United States was trying to ramp up its rebuilding program in Iraq.

As it turned out, Mr. Stein had the money to give. Despite a prior conviction on felony fraud that his Pentagon background check apparently missed, Mr. Stein was hired and put in charge of at least $82 million of reconstruction money in the south central Iraqi city of Hilla by the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American-led administration that was then running Iraq. In United States District Court in Washington, court papers indicate, Mr. Stein will plead guilty today to conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, possession of a machine gun and being a felon in possession of firearms, for essentially giving millions of that money to Mr. Bloom, and taking millions more for himself.

Mr. Stein used some of his stolen money, the papers say, to buy items as wildly diverse as grenade launchers, machine guns, a Lexus, "an interest in one Porsche," a Cessna airplane, two plots of real estate in Hope Mills, N.C., a Toshiba personal computer, 18 Breitling watches, a 6-carat diamond ring and a collection of silver dollars. The papers say that the ring of corruption was much wider than previously known, drawing at least seven Americans, including Mr. Stein, Mr. Bloom and five Army reserve officers, into what is portrayed as a maelstrom of greed, sex and gun-running at the heart of the American occupation of a conservative Muslim country. Nightmare numbers in Iraq

While Britain mourns the loss of its one hundredth solider in Iraq today, US forces reached this dismal landmark back in April 2003 –at the height of the conflict to topple Saddam Hussein. · 2,240 Americans have now perished on active duty – 137 of them in a single month (November 2004). · More than 16,420 US troops have been wounded. · The deadliest single incident involving British troops occurred in January 2005. Ten soldiers perished when their C-130 Hercules transport plane crashed 25 miles north west of Baghdad. · In December 2005, US President George Bush announced that an estimated 30,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed since March 2003. · Anti-war watchdog group Iraq Body Count estimates that more than 1,700 Iraqi police and military personnel have perished. · In addition to the UK and USA, there are 25 other coalition forces on duty across Iraq who have lost a total of 103 troops. They include Australia, Italy, Japan and South Korea. · A study by the Lancet medical journal in October 2004 said “poor planning, air strikes by coalition forces and a climate of violence” was to blame for 100,000 deaths in the country. National Security Archive: Rumsfeld’s Roadmap to Propaganda

A secret Pentagon “roadmap” on war propagands, personally approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in October 2003, calls for "boundaries" between information operations abroad and the news media at home, but provides for no such limits and claims that as long as the American public is not "targeted," any leakage of PSYOP to the American public does not matter.

Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive at George Washington University and posted on the Web today, the 74-page “Information Operations Roadmap” admits that "information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and vice-versa," but argues that "the distinction between foreign and domestic audiences becomes more a question of USG [U.S. government] intent rather than information dissemination practices."

The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, amended in 1972 and 1998, prohibits the U.S. government from propagandizing the American public with information and psychological operations directed at foreign audiences; and several presidential directives, including Reagan's NSD-77 in 1983, Clinton's PDD-68 in 1999, and Bush's NSPD-16 in July 2002 (the latter two still classified), have set up specific structures to carry out public diplomacy and information operations. These and other documents relating to U.S. PSYOP programs were posted today as part of a new Archive Electronic Briefing Book. WOMEN’S COMMENTARY Didn’t See It Coming, Again

The more the White House tries to force-feed democracy to tempestuous parts of the world, the more it discovers that you may be able to spin and scare voters in the U.S., but the Middle East is not so easy to manipulate. W. believes in self-determination only if he's doing the determining. Fundamentalists in America like to vote for Mr. Bush, but elsewhere they're violently opposing him.

Bush officials keep claiming they couldn't have anticipated disasters — from the terrorist attacks to Katrina — even when they got specific warnings beforehand. Busy building up the fake nuclear threat in Iraq, they misplayed the real ones in Iran and North Korea. In London Sunday, Condi Rice admitted that all of our diplomats and spies were caught off guard by the Hamas win. "I've asked why nobody saw it coming," she said. "It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse." Instead of paying the Lincoln Group millions to plant fake newspaper stories in Iraq, the Bush team might try reading real newspaper stories here. Instead of simply believing any fact that makes him feel self-important, the president might try reading history.

A more honest TV moment was Christiane Amanpour labeling Iraq "a black hole." The "spiraling security disaster," she told Larry King, had robbed Iraqis of hope, "and by any indication whether you take the number of journalists killed or wounded, whether you take the number of American soldiers killed or wounded, whether you take the number of Iraqi soldiers killed and wounded, contractors, people working there, it just gets worse and worse." But, hey, how could the Bushies have known that occupying a Middle East country — and flipping the balance of power from one sect to another — without enough troops to secure it could go wrong? Who on earth could predict the inevitable? OPINION: Jill Carroll and Arab Hypocrisy

The terrorists who kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll thought they would win Arab sympathy if they demanded the release of Iraqi women detained by U.S. forces. After all, what could be a surer bet than claiming to be acting in the name of the “honour” of our women, particularly when that “honour” is threatened by Americans? The U.S. is said to be holding eight or nine Iraqi women on terrorism-related suspicions. If, as Iraqi human rights activists claim, any of these women were detained as bait to induce wanted male relatives to hand themselves in, then the U.S. and the post-Saddam Iraqi army have taken one of the worst pages out of the book of Arab dictatorships.

But the masked cowards who kidnapped Carroll are the last people to claim they care for Iraqi women or for their well being.

As Amnesty International made clear in a report it published in July called “ Iraq: In cold blood – abuses by armed groups”, scores of women and girls have died in attacks by these groups. In some cases, the deaths have been the result of indiscriminate attacks. In others, women campaigning to protect women’s rights have been threatened, kidnapped and killed by members of armed groups in Iraq. Sometimes, the perpetrators have identified themselves as members of Islamist groups, linking their attack to the women’s activism for women’s rights, according to the report.

If we are condemning the Americans or the Iraqi army for holding female relatives of wanted men, then what about Ansar al-Jihad, which in November 2004 abducted three relatives – two of them women - of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi from their home in Baghdad? As Amnesty reported, the group demanded that U.S. and Iraqi military operations in Falluja be halted and political prisoners released and threatened to kill the hostages unless their demands were met within 48 hours. A day later, they released the two female relatives. One was 75 years old and the other was pregnant. Who kidnaps elderly and pregnant women? Where is the “honour” in that? And what message does this send? That we can abuse our own women but it is unacceptable when the Americans do it? OPINION: Riverbend on Iraqi Election Results

Why is it so very surprising that in times of calamity people turn to religion? It happens all over the world. During tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, blockades, wars- people turn to deities… It’s simple- when all else fails, there is always a higher power for most people. After nearly three years of a failing occupation, I personally believe that many Iraqis voted for religious groups because it was counted as a vote against America and the occupation itself.

No matter what American policy makers say to their own public- and no matter how many pictures Rumsfeld and Condi take with our fawning politicians- most Iraqis do not trust Americans. America as a whole is viewed as a devilish country that is, at best, full of self-serving mischief towards lesser countries and, at worst, an implementer of sanctions, and a warmongering invader. Even Iraqis who believe America is here to help (and they seem to have grown fewer in number these days), believe that it helps not out of love for Iraqis, but out of self-interest and greed.

Shia religious parties, like SCIRI and Da’awa, have decidedly changed their tone in the last year. During 2003, they were friends of America- they owed the US their current power inside of the country. Today, as Iraqis are becoming more impatient with the American presence inside of Iraq, they are claiming that they will be the end of the ‘occupiers’. They openly blame the Americans for the lack of security and general chaos. The message is quite different. In 2003, there was general talk of a secular Iraq; today, that no longer seems to be an option.

I try not to dwell on the results too much- the fact that Shia religious fundamentalists are currently in power- because when I do, I’m filled with this sort of chill that leaves in its wake a feeling of quiet terror. It’s like when the electricity goes out suddenly and you’re plunged into a deep, quiet, almost tangible darkness- you try not to focus too intently on the subtle noises and movements around you because the unseen possibilities will drive you mad…(And riverbend could be speaking of election results anywhere – people who feel under threat often turn to their religion. It truly saddened me to see the WV coal miners’ family gather at a church rather than at the local union hall, and I attend church regularly. - Susan)

Bush is Full Of……

Bush said: "Dictatorships shelter terrorists, feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction." So, why are we arming and supporting Pakistan and their dictator? Then he goes and says that Iran is not a democracy. It is certainly closer to a democracy than Iraq or Afghanistan is!

Bush said: "and we will never surrender to evil." When the US government does kidnapping, torture, rape, murder and starting up a war where none existed, they are not surrendering to evil. THEY ARE EVIL!!

PEACE ACTION: Women Say No to War. Over 30,000 Women around the world have signed this petition to say no to war. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: 100th Victim met Blair just six weeks ago.

Local Story: Iraqi insurgents kill British soldier in multinational patrol. Local Story: Final respects for Tracy (California) Marine killed in Iraq.

Local Story: Badly burned Iraqi girl to get skin grafts. QUOTE OF THE DAY: We cloak ourselves in cold indifference to the unnecessary suffering of others--even when we cause it. – James Carroll


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