Tuesday, February 07, 2006

WAR NEWS FOR TUESDAY, February 7, 2006 Bring 'em on: Three US Marines killed on Monday by roadside bomb in Hit, about 140 km (85 miles) west of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: US Marine dies of wounds after roadside bomb attack on Sunday in Anbar province, western Iraq. Bring 'em on: Gunmen attacked a home northeast of Baghdad late Monday as the family was performing Shiite religious rituals, wounding six in violence ahead of this week's major Shiite feast. Among the wounded in the attack in Abu Sidaa, about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, were three women and a 1-year-old boy, according to Ahmed Fouad of the hospital in nearby Baqouba. Bring 'em on: At least seven civilians and policemen killed and 23 wounded when two roadside bombs exploded in quick succession in a crowded district of the capital. Bring 'em on: Two people killed when a roadside bomb went off on a highway in Yusufiya, south of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Four policemen wounded when a roadside bomb targeted their patrol in the city of Basra, 550 km (340 miles) south of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Gunmen killed Kamal Shakir al-Nazal, the head of Falluja city council and the preacher of its main mosque, while he was heading to his workplace in Falluja, 50 km (30 km) west of Baghdad. IRAQ NEWS 37 "insurgents" captured: Iraqi soldiers captured 37 insurgents on Monday, including 12 Syrian nationals, in the areas of Tal Afar, Ramadi and Basra. Another 26 captured on Monday in Salman Pak, about 65 km (40 miles) southeast of Baghdad. Mercenaries kill three Iraqis: A group of foreign contractors travelling in three SUVs shot at a passing car in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing two Iraqis, a police officer from Kirkuk said. Serious water shortages in Baghdad's suburbs: Residents of Baghdad's suburbs have been experiencing serious water shortages for a month due to poor infrastructure, leaking pipes and wastage, according to experts. Nearly half a million people have been affected by the scarcity. In some areas, water is available for only a few hours at night and for less than two hours during the day in other areas. Water shortages have traditionally occurred in Baghdad during the summer months, due to the intensive use of air conditioning, public swimming pools and increased washing activity. This year, however, marks the first time shortages have been recorded in the winter months. "It's the first time we don't have water during winter," said Jawad Hakeem, resident of a Baghdad suburb. UK withdrawl possible without defeating Iraqi resistance: The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq can withdraw its forces without defeating insurgents, U.K. Defense Secretary John Reid said, clearing the way for a ``significant'' British troop reduction this year. ``Our key task is not, as some claim, to defeat the insurgency ranged against Iraq,'' Reid will say in a speech in London today, according to an advance copy released by his office. ``It is to ensure the Iraqis have the ability to do that.'' Reid said the coalition could leave once the insurgency was ``manageable,'' Iraqi security forces were able to deal with it themselves and the government was working effectively across the country. Third possible case of bird flu in Iraq: Iraqi health experts are investigating the death of a boy in southern Iraq to see if he had the bird flu, a top health official said Tuesday. It is the first suspected case of the virus beyond the northern Kurdistan region, where the deadly H5N1 strain killed a 15-year-old girl on Jan. 17. Dr. Haider Abdul-Ridha said a 14-year-old pigeon seller died Sunday at Sadr General Hospital in Amarah, 180 miles southeast of Baghdad. Saddam evidence in short supply: After four months and 26 witnesses, prosecutors in the Saddam Hussein trial have offered little credible testimony directly linking the former leader to the killings and torture for which he's charged. But legal experts familiar with the case say the best might be yet to come - documents allegedly tying Saddam to the crackdown that followed an assassination attempt against him more than 20 years ago in Dujail, a mainly Shiite town north of Baghdad. Without compelling evidence, a guilty verdict against Saddam might not provide closure for victims of Saddam's atrocities. But the experts caution that the documents - which include handwritten notes, interrogation orders and death sentences handed down by the Revolutionary Court - might not be enough to win a conviction. REPORTS Iraq's children's mental health affected by insecurity: The Association of Psychologists of Iraq (API) has released a report stating that the US-led invasion and occupation of the country have greatly affected the psychological development of many Iraqi children. "Children in Iraq are seriously suffering psychologically with all the insecurity, especially with the fear of kidnapping and explosions," said API spokesman Maruan Abdullah. "In some cases, they're found to be suffering extreme stress." More than 1,000 children were interviewed countrywide over the past four months for the study, the findings of which were released on 5 February. According to Abdullah, the survey was undertaken after a noticeable increase in the number of children seeking psychological counselling, many of whom were found to have learning difficulties. "It was incredible how strong the results were," said Abdullah. "The only things they have on their minds are guns, bullets, death and a fear of the US occupation." Of the children examined, 92 percent were found to have learning impediments, largely attributable to the current climate of fear and insecurity. "The fear of kidnapping has been the main reason for learning deficiencies, especially among children whose parents are government employees or high-ranking professionals like doctors and teachers," Abdullah noted. "About 50 of them are in a critical state of fear that could cause mental retardation if it goes untreated," he added. War story: The troops of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit had every reason to feel a sense of accomplishment. Violence in this ancient town along the western Euphrates River had dropped sharply since their arrival. They were only a few days from heading home. And they had not lost a single Marine during two months in Iraq's most dangerous province. Until Monday. Word spread around the 22nd's main camp, among those who had stayed awake late to watch the Super Bowl: Five Marines were hit about 1:30 a.m. while driving in an armored Humvee. It was a roadside bomb. They were unconscious. In the morning, the Marines learned that three of their comrades were dead. Britain could start pulling out of Iraq in May: British troops could start withdrawing troops from Iraq within months, a senior American general has suggested. Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt of the US Central Command said the American-led coalition would be happy to reduce troop numbers as local security forces became ready to take responsibility for security in the war-torn state, where two British soldiers were killed last week. He spoke as speculation mounted that Britain was preparing to reduce troop numbers from May. Yesterday the Ministry of Defence said reports of a plan to start pulling 2,000 troops out in the spring were "speculative" but acknowledged the Government was likely to start reducing its commitment of 8,500 soldiers by the end of the year. A 9/11 Conspirator in King Bush's Court?: While Cindy Sheehan was being dragged from the House gallery moments before President Bush delivered his State of the Union address for wearing a t-shirt honoring her son and the other 2,244 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, Turki al-Faisal was settling into his seat inside the gallery. Faisal, a Saudi, is a man who has met Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants on at least five occasions, describing the al Qaeda leader as "quite a pleasant man." He met multiple times with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. Yet, unlike Sheehan, al-Faisal was a welcomed guest of President Bush on Tuesday night. He is also a man that the families of more than 600 victims of the 9/11 attacks believe was connected to their loved ones' deaths. Al-Faisal is actually Prince Turki al-Faisal, a leading member of the Saudi royal family and the kingdom's current ambassador to the U.S. But the bulk of his career was spent at the helm of the feared Saudi intelligence services from 1977 to 2001. Last year, The New York Times pointed out that "he personally managed Riyadh's relations with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar of the Taliban. Anyone else who had dealings with even a fraction of the notorious characters the prince has worked with over the years would never make it past a U.S. immigration counter, let alone to the most exclusive offices in Washington." Al-Faisal was also named in the $1 trillion lawsuit filed by hundreds of 9/11 victims' families, who accused him of funding bin Laden's network. Curiously, his tenure as head of Saudi intelligence came to an abrupt and unexpected end 10 days before the 9/11 attacks. Ultimately, a judge dismissed the 9/11 families' lawsuit against al-Faisal and his cohorts, saying US courts lacked jurisdiction over the matter. But many of those families believe firmly that al-Faisal was connected to the attacks that killed their loved ones. The obvious question is: how does the president justify the ejection of a Gold Star Mother from the State of the Union, while openly welcoming a man believed by hundreds of victims' families to be connected to the attack Bush uses to justify every shred of his violent policies? During his speech, Bush said, "It is said that prior to the attacks of September the 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy." Perhaps he should have just looked over his wife's shoulder up there in the gallery during the State of the Union. COMMENTYARY AND ANALYSIS Norman Solomon: The double standards of the term terrorism: In the so-called "War on Terror," what if there was a major questioning by the news media of the fundamentals? I wrote a column a couple of years ago on a question that I also deal with in the book [War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us To Death, 2005]: the double standards of the term terrorism. And I urged that there should be a single standard for what is called terrorism. As Colin Powell said on the day of September 11th, "If people are going to blow up buildings and kill people for political purposes, then that's to be condemned as terrorism." Well, what if we apply a single standard? Then U.S. military actions could come under that description as well. But since a significant degree of Orwellian haze envelopes our daily media discourse in this country, there's never really any sharp point put on that. When I raised that point in my column I got an email from a columnist, who wrote, "I agree with you but if our paper were to adopt that single standard of language about terrorism in our daily reporting, the repercussions would be immediate and massive in terms of economic effect. Advertisers would cancel; there would be outrage from readers." And I think he was right. Can you imagine front-page stories that refer to Pentagon terrorism, and the helicopter gun-ships and cruise missiles that are attacking residential areas in Iraq? I mean, it's just not gonna fly. Paul Craig Roberts' Epiphany [excerpts] Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration (...) We have reached a point where the Bush administration is determined to totally eclipse the people. Bewitched by neoconservatives and lustful for power, the Bush administration and the Republican Party are aligning themselves firmly against the American people. Their first victims, of course, were the true conservatives. Having eliminated internal opposition, the Bush administration is now using blackmail obtained through illegal spying on American citizens to silence the media and the opposition party. Before flinching at my assertion of blackmail, ask yourself why President Bush refuses to obey the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The purpose of the FISA court is to ensure that administrations do not spy for partisan political reasons. The warrant requirement is to ensure that a panel of independent federal judges hears a legitimate reason for the spying, thus protecting a president from the temptation to abuse the powers of government. The only reason for the Bush administration to evade the court is that the Bush administration had no legitimate reasons for its spying. This should be obvious even to a naif. The United States is undergoing a coup against the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, civil liberties, and democracy itself. The "liberal press" has been co-opted. As everyone must know by now, the New York Times has totally failed its First Amendment obligations, allowing Judith Miller to make war propaganda for the Bush administration, suppressing for an entire year the news that the Bush administration was illegally spying on American citizens, and denying coverage to Al Gore's speech that challenged the criminal deeds of the Bush administration. The TV networks mimic Fox News' faux patriotism. Anyone who depends on print, TV, or right-wing talk radio media is totally misinformed. The Bush administration has achieved a de facto Ministry of Propaganda. (...) Consider the no-fly list. This list has no purpose whatsoever but to harass and disrupt the livelihoods of Bush's critics. If a known terrorist were to show up at check-in, he would be arrested and taken into custody, not told that he could not fly. What sense does it make to tell someone who is not subject to arrest and who has cleared screening that he or she cannot fly? How is this person any more dangerous than any other passenger? If Senator Ted Kennedy, a famous senator with two martyred brothers, can be put on a no-fly list, as he was for several weeks, anyone can be put on the list. The list has no accountability. People on the list cannot even find out why they are on the list. There is no recourse, no procedure for correcting mistakes. I am certain that there are more Bush critics on the list than there are terrorists. According to reports, the list now comprises 80,000 names! This number must greatly dwarf the total number of terrorists in the world and certainly the number of known terrorists. How long before members of the opposition party, should there be one, find that they cannot return to Washington for important votes, because they have been placed on the no-fly list? What oversight does Congress or a panel of federal judges exercise over the list to make sure there are valid reasons for placing people on the list? If the government can have a no-fly list, it can have a no-drive list. The Iraqi resistance has demonstrated the destructive potential of car bombs. If we are to believe the government's story about the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh showed that a rental truck bomb could destroy a large office building. Indeed, what is to prevent the government from having a list of people who are not allowed to leave their homes? If the Bush administration can continue its policy of picking up people anywhere in the world and detaining them indefinitely without having to show any evidence for their detention, it can do whatever it wishes. Many readers have told me, some gleefully, that I will be placed on the no-fly list along with all other outspoken critics of the growth in unaccountable executive power and war based on lies and deception. It is just a matter of time. Unchecked, unaccountable power grows more audacious by the day. As one reader recently wrote, "when the president of the United States can openly brag about being a felon, without fear of the consequences, the game is all but over." Perpetual war: The Bush administration's re-characterisation of its "global war on terror" as the "long war" will be seen by critics as an admission that the US has started something it cannot finish. But from the Pentagon's perspective, the change reflects a significant upgrading of the "generational" threat posed by worldwide Islamist militancy which it believes to have been seriously underestimated. The reassessment, contained in the Pentagon's quadrennial defence review presented to Congress yesterday, presages a new US drive to rally international allies for an ongoing conflict unlimited by time and space. That presents a problematic political, financial and military prospect for many European Nato members including Britain, as well as Middle Eastern governments. According to the review, a "large-scale, potentially long duration, irregular warfare campaign including counter-insurgency and security, stability, transition and reconstruction operations" is necessary and unavoidable. Gone is the talk of swift victories that preceded the 2003 Iraq invasion. Scott Ritter: Decision already made to attack Iran: The former U.N. weapons inspector who said Iraq disarmed long before the U.S. invasion in 2003 is warning Americans to prepare for a war with Iran. "We just don't know when, but it's going to happen," Scott Ritter said to a crowd of about 150 at the James A. Little Theater on Sunday night. Ritter described how the U.S. government might justify war with Iran in a scenario similar to the buildup to the Iraq invasion. He also argued that Iran wants a nuclear energy program, and not nuclear weapons. But the Bush administration, he said, refuses to believe Iran is telling the truth. He predicted the matter will wind up before the U.N. Security Council, which will determine there is no evidence of a weapons program. Then, he said, John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, "will deliver a speech that has already been written. It says America cannot allow Iran to threaten the United States and we must unilaterally defend ourselves." "How do I know this? I've talked to Bolton's speechwriter," Ritter said. Ritter also predicted the military strategy for war with Iran. First, American forces will bomb Iran. If Iranians don't overthrow the current government, as Bush hopes they will, Iran will probably attack Israel. Then, Ritter said, the United States will drop a nuclear bomb on Iran. The only way to prevent a war with Iran is to elect a Democratically controlled Congress in November, said Ritter, a lifelong Republican. He later said he wasn't worried his advice would be seen as partisan because, "It's a partisan issue." He said the problem is one party government and if Democrats controlled the presidency and Congress, he would advise people to elect Republicans. CARTOONS AND THE "CLASH OF FREEDOMS" Iranian newspaper holds competition for Holocaust cartoons: A prominent Iranian newspaper said Tuesday it would hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West extends the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Hamshahri, one of Iran's largest papers, made clear the contest is a reaction to European newspapers' publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which have led to demonstrations, boycotts and attacks on European embassies across the Islamic world. Several people have been killed. The newspaper said the contest would be launched Monday and co-sponsored by the House of Caricatures, a Tehran exhibition center for cartoons. The paper and the cartoon center are owned by the Tehran Municipality, which is dominated by allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, well-known for his opposition to Israel. Hamshahri invited foreign cartoonists to enter the competition. "Does the West extend freedom of expression to the crimes committed by the United States and Israel, or an event such as the Holocaust? Or is its freedom only for insulting religious sanctities?" Hamshahri wrote, referring to the Prophet Muhammad cartoons. Robert Fisk: This is not an issue of secularism versus Islam: For Muslims, the Prophet is the man who received divine words directly from God. We see our prophets as faintly historical figures, at odds with our high-tech human rights, almost cariacatures of themselves. The fact is that Muslims live their religion. We do not. They have kept their faith through innumerable historical vicissitudes. We have lost our faith ever since Matthew Arnold wrote about the sea's "long, withdrawing roar". That's why we talk about "the West versus Islam" rather than "Christians versus Islam" - because there aren't an awful lot of Christians left in Europe. There is no way we can get round this by setting up all the other world religions and asking why we are not allowed to make fun of Mohamed. Besides, we can exercise our own hypocrisy over religious feelings. I happen to remember how, more than a decade ago, a film called The Last Temptation of Christ showed Jesus making love to a woman. In Paris, someone set fire to the cinema showing the movie, killing a young man. I also happen to remember a US university which invited me to give a lecture three years ago. I did. It was entitled "September 11, 2001: ask who did it but, for God's sake, don't ask why". When I arrived, I found that the university had deleted the phrase "for God's sake" because "we didn't want to offend certain sensibilities". Ah-ha, so we have "sensibilities" too. In other words, while we claim that Muslims must be good secularists when it comes to free speech - or cheap cartoons - we can worry about adherents to our own precious religion just as much. I also enjoyed the pompous claims of European statesmen that they cannot control free speech or newspapers. This is also nonsense. Had that cartoon of the Prophet shown instead a chief rabbi with a bomb-shaped hat, we would have had "anti-Semitism" screamed into our ears - and rightly so - just as we often hear the Israelis complain about anti-Semitic cartoons in Egyptian newspapers. Furthermore, in some European nations - France is one, Germany and Austria are among the others - it is forbidden by law to deny acts of genocide. In France, for example, it is illegal to say that the Jewish Holocaust or the Armenian Holocaust did not happen. So it is, in fact, impermissable to make certain statements in European nations. I'm still uncertain whether these laws attain their objectives; however much you may prescribe Holocaust denial, anti-Semites will always try to find a way round. We can hardly exercise our political restraints to prevent Holocaust deniers and then start screaming about secularism when we find that Muslims object to our provocative and insulting image of the Prophet. In any event, it's not about whether the Prophet should be pictured. The Koran does not forbid images of the Prophet even though millions of Muslims do. The problem is that these cartoons portrayed Mohamed as a bin Laden-type image of violence. They portrayed Islam as a violent religion. It is not. Or do we want to make it so?


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