Thursday, February 09, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2006 Bring ‘em on: Gunmen shot dead Sunni tribal leader Rashid Safi and four of his relatives after a funeral on Tuesday. The bodies were discovered in a garbage dump. Bring ‘em on: Two bodies found riddled with bullets and dumped in south Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: One man killed and two wounded when gunmen open fire on a group of Shi’ites in al Amiriya district west of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Police pursued two men trying to plant a roadside bomb in Dura. They wounded one and the second one committed suicide. Bring ‘em on: Eight peole wounded by roadside bomb in al Muqdadiya. Bring ‘em on: Three civilians and two Iraqi soldiers were killed by suicide car bomber in al Anbar province on Wednesday. Two Iraqi soldiers and US soldier wounded. Bring ‘em on: A Basra prison official killed by gunman firing on his vehicle. Two bodies found in north Baghdad in al Shula area. They were bound, blindfolded and shot. Bring ‘em on: Sunni tribal leader murdered in Ramadi a day after taking part in talks with American and Iraqi officials aimed at curbing violence. Bring ‘em on: Two teenage Iraqi boys arrested for killing of a Sunni Arab community leader in Fallujah. Bring ‘em on: Member of Huwaija local justice council Ahmad Abdul-Wahab killed by gunmen in Kirkuk. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi civilian wounded in explosion in Kirkuk. Bring ‘em on: US military reports two Marines killed in Iraq, one in Baghdadi and another in a road accident in Qaim. REPORTS 31 Days In Iraq In January more than 800 people — soldiers, security officers and civilians — were killed as a result of the insurgency in Iraq. While the daily toll is noted in the newspapers and on TV, it is hard for many Americans to see these isolated reports in a broader context. The map, based on data from the American, British and Iraqi governments and news reports, shows the dates, locations and circumstances of deaths for the first month of the year. Given the fog of war, the information may be incomplete. Nonetheless, it is our effort to visually depict the continuing human cost of the Iraq war. Graphic is here. About Half of All Iraqis Unemployed – Government Official Unemployment in Iraq stands at about 50 percent, kept high by relentless violence and little economic progress since the U.S.-led invasion three years ago, a senior Iraqi official said this week at a meeting with U.S. executives. The official, who is in the Iraqi planning and development ministry and asked not to be identified for security reasons, said more than 60 percent of the country's population depends on government rations to survive. He was part of an Iraqi delegation touring the United States to attract foreign investment to the war-torn country. They spoke in Houston to a group of business executives. Despite vast oil reserves and U.S. efforts to rebuild the country, Iraq's economy has faltered amid growing sectarian violence and frequent insurgent attacks on its infrastructure. The country's oil exports -- the backbone of its economy -- slumped to 1.1 million barrels per day in January, staying at the lowest level since the 2003 U.S. invasion. Residents of Baghdad Neighborhood Take Security Into Own Hands In a nation being pulled apart by sectarian violence, the residents of a religiously mixed neighborhood in this troubled capital are joining forces for their mutual protection. Alarmed at an outbreak of brazen killings in their once relatively peaceful enclave of Hai al-Salam, Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Christians have begun working side-by-side to guard their western Baghdad neighborhood. Yet just as the fate of newly democratic Iraq depends on whether national leaders can cooperate in spite of religious and ethnic differences, Hai al-Salam's remarkable unity also depends on whether residents can resist growing pressure to splinter violently along sectarian lines. "We managed to unify," said Kamil Tahir al-Bidhani, a neighborhood civic leader. "We expect the government to do the same thing: to solve its problems without resorting to force." Only recently has Hai al-Salam, which means "neighborhood of peace" in Arabic, become a neighborhood of fear. Kidnappings, assassinations and random violence have plagued other Baghdad neighborhoods since not long after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003. Meanwhile, Hai al-Salam remained the mostly quiet community that it had been for generations. Sunnis, Shiites and Christians continued to coexist happily and even to intermarry, and residents packed cafes and markets well into the night. Elsewhere in Baghdad, sectarian violence spurred residents to flee, leaving behind increasingly segregated neighborhoods of closed curtains and shuttered shops. Then two months ago, armed men began to attack people in Hai al-Salam. They killed Sunnis and Shiites, gunning down people with no role, or at most a perceived role, in Iraq's deadly political, insurgent or sectarian intrigues. The murders occurred as often as every other day, sometimes on the street in front of horrified onlookers. "We had been united since the fall of the regime," said Fadel Khalaf Jassam, imam of Hai al-Salam's Sunni mosque. "The area remained safe until recently, when specific groups set out to promote sectarianism." Baghdad police and the Iraqi Army conceded they could do little to protect the neighborhood from the new threats. Stretched thin by their fight against the Sunni-led insurgency, police and Army officials only occasionally and briefly dispatched forces to Hai al-Salam. "We do not have enough policemen," said General Adnan Abdul-Rahman, Interior Ministry spokesman. An Iraqi Army commander recently promised to dispatch soldiers to the neighborhood but without assurances that they would remain for long. So, the neighborhood's residents took the initiative, said Jassam. "We, the imams of the Sunni and the Shiite mosques and the city hall, held a meeting to protect the area." Neighborhood leaders decided to disregard previous Iraqi Interior Ministry and U.S. military objections to residents mounting their own armed defense. With the blessing of neighborhood civil officials, they erected roadblocks and checkpoints and put neighborhood men to work as guards. Sunnis, Shiites and Christians armed with AK-47 assault rifles and pistols serve eight-hour shifts watching the remaining three routes into and out of the neighborhood. They stop and question strangers and search suspicious vehicles for illicit weapons. "We formed these checkpoints because we do not have a police station in the area," said Sunni guard Ala'addin Mahdi Salih, 45. "Even if we depended on the government, by the time the police come it would be too late." A committee of Shiite, Sunni and civic leaders manages the guards and has begun collecting money from neighborhood households to pay the 50 or so men about $650 a month. Guards said they signed up not just for the money. "It is our duty to protect my area, my friends and my family," said Shiite guard Amir Ali, a 37-year-old former officer in the Saddam-era Iraqi Army. "We never worked (together) like this during Saddam." The checkpoints began almost three weeks ago and greatly reduced the number and frequency of attacks, said neighborhood leaders and guards. But the fragile effort could fall apart in the wake of a raid on the neighborhood late last month that increased sectarian tensions. What appeared to be Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry forces hauled away about 30 residents and two were killed during the early morning raid. All but two of those taken were Sunni, including one of the neighborhood checkpoint guards. The raid "confused and terrified people here," said al Bidhani, the neighborhood leader. It drove the wedge between Sunnis and Shiites deeper, casting further suspicion on all as residents began wondering who among them were the informants. If the detained Sunnis turn up dead, as have others snatched in similar raids, reprisal killings by Shiites could follow. "I have never differentiated between Sunni and Shiite," said Omar Nouri Rasheed, 26, a Sunni resident whose house was raided. "But now I will, as long as they want that. ... Sunnis have become threatened in Iraq." For now, the once peaceful neighborhood is uneasy. Fearful that gunmen or Interior Ministry men or sectarian reprisals will strike at any moment, many people are too afraid even to sleep, said one resident who was so frightened he refused to give his name. "They wait for the dawn prayer," the man said. "They pray to God to keep the evil away." COMMENTARY OPINION: Iraqi Voices Drowned Out in a Blizzard of Occupiers’ Spin Three years after invading Iraq, George Bush and Tony Blair are still dipping into the trough of deception and disinformation that launched the war: Hailing nonexistent progress, declaring sanctimonious satisfaction with sectarian elections and holding out the mirage of early withdrawal. In reality, the occupation and divide-and-rule tactics have spawned death squads, torture, kidnappings, chemical attacks, polluted water, depleted uranium, bombardment of civilians, probably more than 100,000 people dead and a relentless deterioration in Iraqis’ daily lives. Much of this goes unreported in the British and American media, stripped of context or consigned to the small print. The headlines are reserved for Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi’s terrorism, Saddam Hussein’s farcical trial and the perennial “exit strategy”. We are fed the occupiers’ spin, while words of skepticism are deemed jarring. Invited to join a popular BBC radio program for Iraq’s recent elections, I quoted George Bush’s accidental brush with reality when he declared: “You can’t have free and fair elections in Lebanon under Syrian occupation.” An editor politely said: “Sorry Sami, but we are sticking to a positive spin on this one. I am sure we will invite you on other occasions.” A few days ago, a large-scale opinion poll conducted by Maryland University showed that 87 percent of Iraqis (including 64 percent of Kurds) endorsed a demand for a timetabled withdrawal of the occupiers. The findings were mostly ignored by the British media. Admittedly, reports on the ground are difficult and dangerous. But while Western media is not averse to revealing deceptions around the WMD scare and pre-war lies, occupier-generated news still takes pride of place, and anti-occupation Iraqi voices of all sects — particularly Shiite clergy such as Ayatollahs Hassani, Baghdadi and Khalisi — are ignored. A few months before US soldiers boasted of using white phosphorus, the BBC’s Paul Wood defended his reporting from Fallujah in the November 2004 siege, telling Medialens: “I repeat the point made by my editors, over weeks of total access to the military operation, at all levels: we did not see banned weapons being used ... or even discussed. We cannot therefore report their use.” Doctors and refugees fleeing US bombardment talked of “chemical attacks” and people “melting to death”. But for the BBC, eyewitness testimony from Iraqis is way down the pecking order of objectivity. It would clearly be wrong to portray victims’ claims as uncontested facts, but there is a duty to publish and investigate them. Had, for example, Iraqi families’ claims been highlighted shortly after the occupation began, the world would not have waited over a year to learn of torture at US-run jails. It was not until US soldiers gleefully circulated sickening pictures of tortured Iraqis that the media paid attention. OPINION: Extremists All Over the World While many are going around associating the word extremist with Muslims and Islam, extremism elsewhere seems ... overlooked. Look at this story from the BBC."An ultra-Orthodox Jew has been given a 12-year jail term for stabbing three people during a gay pride march held in Jerusalem last year." Speaking after his arrest, Mr Schlisel said: "I have come to kill in the name of God." Well ... okay ... but doesn't this sentence seem severe when considering that an Israeli soldier received no reprimand for shooting a Palestinian girl - basically emptying his whole clip into her young body? From The Guardian in November 2005: An Israeli army officer who fired the entire magazine of his automatic rifle into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl and then said he would have done the same even if she had been three years old, was acquitted on all charges by a military court yesterday. The soldier, who has only been identified as "Captain R", was charged with relatively minor offences for the killing of Iman al-Hams who was shot 17 times as she ventured near an Israeli army post near Rafah refugee camp in Gaza a year ago. It's the same with US military personnel who except for one or two cases walk free. And, let's tie all this together. Did a Danish court not find five Danish military personnel guilty of torturing Iraqis but let them go free for reasons only understood by the court? OPINION: Lowery Speaks “Truth to Power” at King Funeral "We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor." These were the words Reverend Joseph Lowery spoke at Coretta Scott King's funeral on Tuesday in Atlanta in front of an audience of 10,000 including President Bush and former Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Carter. (Hurray for him! – Susan) OPINION: Let’s Send Old People Off to War With the war in Iraq not going all that well, it is apparent that a primary strategy of the insurgents is to erode our will to fight by inflicting casualties on our troops until the whole undertaking becomes sufficiently expensive in lives that we simply give up and leave. Most of these casualties are being produced by improvised explosive devices commonly known as roadside bombs. These fiendishly clever explosives are usually triggered remotely, often using garage door openers or high-definition TV remotes stolen from Officers' Clubs throughout Iraq. Many Americans are becoming impatient with this sacrifice of the young people who comprise our combat forces, soldiers with their whole lives ahead of them. I think the public attitude toward casualties could be changed by the simple expedient of extending the age of eligibility for military service to, say, 85. Think about it. How much strength or physical fitness is required to drive a vehicle down the road? What if, rather than pester high school students (and their parents) about enlisting, military recruiters focused their efforts on nursing home residents? Sure, many with advanced Alzheimer's or hooked up to Foley catheters might be unenthusiastic about military service, but I guarantee you that some World War II vets who haven't really felt significant since 1945 would be happy to make use of their still-valid driver's licenses in the service of their country. Imagine these guys -- or women -- at the wheel of a humvee in Fallujah or Kirkuk. The insurgents would have no idea what to make of it. ("Hang on Achmed, I think he's turning left. No, wait, he just put on his right directional.") You don't have to throw their timing off by much to make them miss. Just when you thought the greatest generation was about to pass into history (after making the rest of us feel like wimps), here's a whole new opportunity for them to demonstrate heroism. Polls show heavy support among elderly veterans for whatever war we happen to be in at the moment. This is their chance to translate their beliefs into action and accumulate a new set of war stories. There would definitely be fewer surviving wounded to burden the military medical care system. If a healthy, fit 25-year-old loses an arm, he may well survive and live for 60 years with this handicap. If a 75 year-old sustains a similar injury we can be fairly confident that he will not require medevac to Germany. It also might serve as an opportunity for some elderly members of the current national leadership to shed their "chicken hawk" label. People like Dick Cheney or Dennis Hastert could at last have a crack at the combat that eluded them during the 1960s. Since there is no apparent end in sight to the war on terror, President Bush himself might eventually "age in" to the geezer brigade. With his driving record, he might even be eligible for a waiver to join immediately on leaving office. We are constantly told how thinly spread our combat forces have become. Why require second and third tours of duty from our youth when we could simultaneously reduce out-of-control Medicare expenses and deal with the loss of personal significance that afflicts many elderly members of society? And, if by some remote chance we lose the war, hey, who would the insurgents have defeated? Just a bunch of old guys. OPINION: Rice Sees Iran, Syria Effort to Inflame President Bush on Wednesday delivered a lecture to the world's press and a plea to the world's Muslims. As leader of the most powerful democracy, he defended the rights of newspapers to print what they see fit. But he felt obliged to tell the news media they must be sensitive about their power to offend. (What about his power to kill? – Susan) That said, Bush called on foreign governments to bring a halt to the deadly rioting that has burned across the Muslim world in response to the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. (How about he stops bombing people who never attacked or threatened us? – Susan) Bush's secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, accused Syria and Iran of trying to inflame the situation. (And, of course, we are only trying to calm things down by starting up wars where none existed before. If these people only imagined they were killing people instead of really doing it, they would be DAMN funny, in my opinion. – Susan) OPINION: National Priorities Project Bulletin The Bush administration released its budget request for fiscal year 2007 on February 6th. It proposes deep cuts in domestic programs, totaling a $15 billion loss in non-security domestic discretionary spending. NPP has just released "The President's Budget: Impact on the States," which provides a brief publication for each state with an overview analysis and local numbers showing the impact of the proposed budget. The publication addresses seven different programs or issue areas: food and nutrition; community development; the environment; Head Start; Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program; education and community policing. While the administration claims that the proposed cuts are necessary to reduce the deficit, the budget would make the 2001-2003 tax cuts permanent, which would reduce revenues by $1.7 trillion over the next decade. The budget also does not include complete funding for the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, which could add another $70 billion to the deficit. Excluding war spending, the Defense Department budget would increase by 7 percent. OPINION: Federal Budget Choices: State Security or Human Security Imperatives? We call it a “shoot and spend” budget. President Bush this week proposed a $2.7 trillion budget for fiscal year 2007. He has chosen to increase spending on new weapons systems, the special forces (unconventional fighters), and other military programs. To pay for this war fighting, he has proposed draconian reductions in the civilian programs of the federal government. As reported, the $439.3 billion allocated to the Pentagon in this budget is a 6.9 percent increase over fiscal year 2006. According to an estimate by the Washington Post, President Bush has increased military spending about 45 percent over the level when he took office five years ago. The president has proposed a budget driven by fear of “terrorists” and by the assumption that military muscle is the primary tool for creating global stability, world peace, international security, and safety for the people who live in this country. The president’s budget trades off human needs here and abroad for aggressive U.S. military strategies and war. As a practical matter, these strategies have been tried and arguably have made matters worse – witness Iraq, the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, and the ascendency of al Qaeda franchises worldwide – while making profits for war and “reconstruction” industries. Congress should not accept the president’s budget choices, both for these practical reasons and for moral reasons. Budgets reflect the moral choices of the nation. The Constitution provides Congress with the responsibility to make the final decisions on government spending. Grounded in recognition of the failures of military strategies over the last three years, Congress should craft a budget that reflects the moral values of our people. War spending drives up the mounting federal debt and diverts resources from human needs programs both here and abroad. Our observation is not – as the president charges – “isolationist.” On the contrary, we urge federal spending for engagement with the world through peaceful civilian programs. Domestic programs, especially those with a proven track record of success, should not be cut back to provide yet more money for war. That’s a bad deal for everyone, except the military industry. Congress should construct a federal government spending plan that reduces funding for the military and increases money for international diplomacy and efforts to build human security at home. No More “Enron bookkeeping.” As he has in previous years, the president refused to include in his budget estimates the real costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, preferring to fund these military operations largely through “emergency supplemental” spending requests. That is, he does not want that spending shown in his budget. Congress has already approved $320 billion for these two wars, and the Pentagon announced this week it will seek an additional $70 billion in funding for this year. The 2007 budget also includes $50 billion in “bridge” financing to cover ongoing costs in Iraq. Congress should condition any further funding for these wars on the U.S. taking clear steps toward the withdrawal of all U.S. military troops and bases from Iraq. Money for prevention, not for war. The president’s budget includes $439 billion for the Pentagon, but only $35 billion in funding for the State Department and foreign assistance programs. The president has again proposed spending $3 billion on foreign aid channeled through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, but he cut funding for traditional development assistance programs. Overall, spending on diplomacy and foreign aid is at about the same level as two years ago. PEACE ACTION: Take Action Now Urge your representative and senators to reject the president’s budget and craft a federal government spending plan that recognizes that more military spending will not bring the U.S. more security at home or abroad. Contact your members of Congress directly from FCNL's web site. We've provided a sample letter that you can edit and send to your representatives by clicking here. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Texas soldier remembered for family, faith. Local Story: Killed soldier’s family do not want funeral salute. (Scotland) Local Story: Soldier from London, KY killed in Iraq. Local Story: Relatives mourn Santa Rosa soldier who died in Baghdad attack. Local Story: South Dakota soldier dies from wounds received in December 2005. He died at Brooke Army Medical Center. He was wounded in Baghdad by two IEDs. Local Story: Congressman collapses at soldier’s funeral. Local Story: Westerville (Ohio) Marine Killed in Iraq. He was scheduled to return home this week. He graduated from high school in 2003. QUOTE OF THE DAY: "A true revolution of values will say of war, 'This way of settling differences is not just.'… I call on Washington today, I call on every man and woman of goodwill all over America today: Take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late; a book may close. And I don't know about you -- I ain't going to study war no more." - Martin Luther King, Jr.


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