Friday, March 10, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, MARCH 10, 2006 Photo: A picture of life in Baghdad in March 2006, three years after the US/UK invasion. This picture was on the al Jazeera website with no caption. Bring ‘em on: American tank set on fire, with no casualties reported. Three US Marines wounded in checkpoint truck bombing in Fallujah. Security Incidents: Car bomb exploded near a mosque in New Baghdad on the eastern side of the city, killing three people and wounding ten others. Six civilians killed and eight wounded by a roadside bomb that targeted an Iraqi army patrol in western Baghdad. Security Incident: Iraqi soldier killed and three injured by car bomb in southwestern Baghdad. Security Incident: Car bombs kill three, including the imam of a Sunni Mosque in northern Baghdad. Five more people were wounded. Security Incidents: Suicide truck bomber killed seven people waiting at a checkpoint in Fallujah. Iraqi soldier killed by car bomb west of Baghdad. Three bodies were found in separate locations in Baghdad, all shot in the head. Two car bombs killed six people in Samarra. The Committee to Protect Journalists in NY said Mansuf Abdallah al-Khaldi was shot dead while driving from Baghdad to Mosul. He was an anchorman with Baghdad TV. (Another report says a passenger in the car was also killed, and two others injured.) He was the fifth journalist to be killed in Iraq this year. In the Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, a gun battle broke out between Interior Ministry special police and members of government-contracted security force guarding an oil pipeline. One guard killed and four wounded. Also on Thursday, 15 Iraqi “insurgents” convicted of terrorism six months ago were hanged, according to Bushu Ibrahim Ali, the deputy justice minister. It was the third group of insurgents to be executed under Iraq's death penalty, the minister said in a telephone interview. UPDATE: Eleven killed in Fallujah bombing, including five police. Security Incident: Two policemen were killed and three wounded by a roadside bomb in Tikrit. Security Incidents: Suicide bomber killed a six-year-old Iraqi girl when he blew himself up next to a US military convoy in Fallujah. Two Iraqi policemen were hurt. Car bomb killed an Iraqi soldier when it exploded when a military patrol drove by in western Baghdad. Security Incident: Six male bodies found slain execution style in two eastern Baghdad suburbs. Security Incidents: BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb killed one person and wounded two others near Yarmouk Hospital on the western side of Baghdad, sources at the hospital said. ISKANDARYA - One person was killed and two wounded by a roadside bomb in Iskandarya, 50 km (30 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. SAMARRA - An Imam of a Sunni mosque was killed and two people wounded when a car bomb exploded in front of a mosque in central Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. SAMARRA - Two civilians were killed and another two were injured when a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol missed its target in southwestern Samarra, police said. Security Incident: The Sunni-owned security company where about 50 employees were kidnapped on Wednesday was under investigation for allegedly collaborating with the antigovernment insurgency, an Interior Ministry official said Thursday. Witnesses to the kidnapping said the attackers had driven vehicles and worn uniforms resembling those used by paramilitary units of the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police. But no one has claimed responsibility for the assault, and the whereabouts of the workers remain a mystery. General Garawi and several other ministry officials denied that their agency had had any role in the operation, and a spokesman for the Defense Ministry said the military was not involved. Several officials said the Interior Ministry had opened an investigation, though the minister himself, Bayan Jabr, made no formal statement and, according to an aide, was unavailable to comment. American officials, while confirming the kidnapping, seemed mystified. "We don't know who did that," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a spokesman for the American military, said at a news conference in Baghdad. "We have no indication from the Iraqi authorities that they know." The company that employed the kidnapped workers, Al Rawafid Security Company, is owned by a nephew of Sheik Ghazi al-Yawer, one of the two vice presidents and a Sunni Arab, according to a company employee who requested anonymity for fear of retribution. An aide to Mr. Yawer said he was abroad and unavailable for comment. REPORTS Night-time Knock on Door Heralds Secret Assassins The cars may be back on the streets of Baghdad, but the shuttered homes of Street Number 60 provide a grim reminder that the sectarian violence that flared after the destruction of the Golden Mosque continues under cover of darkness. Each house in this street in the southern neighbourhood of Dora once housed a family. Now most lie empty, their owners having fled after armed groups warned Shia in this predominately Sunni area to leave or die. "It is like a gangster film," said one resident too frightened of reprisals to give his name or even profession. "Darkness comes and then people with masks set up checkpoints. "There is a knock on the door and those who answer are either abused or killed. "Those abused are not expected to wait to be warned twice. I see them pack their car and leave." Every day brings killings and kidnaps in Baghdad and no one knows the culprits. Nor is it possible to know exactly how many people have been killed since the mosque attack. The official figure is 379. A figure of more than 1,000 that appeared in the Washington Post was dismissed by Donald Rumsfled, the US defence secretary, as al-Qa'eda media manipulation. Previously The Daily Telegraph relied on the director of the Baghdad morgue, Faik Bakir, to provide figures for the number of violent deaths he dealt with (usually about 850 a month). That is impossible now as he has been forced to flee the country for speaking to the media. When those giving insight into the extent of the killings are targeted, it is fair to conclude that those doing the threatening want no one to know the scale of what is being undertaken. One clue came from the few fishermen remaining on the heavily polluted Tigris. They say their nets are pulling up as many bodies as fish. “Driller Killers” Spread a New Horror in Iraq THERE was no sign of danger as Mohammed Sammarai arrived at his brother Mustafa’s home for lunch last week, no hint that this would be their last meal together. It was not until after they had been joined by their old friend Ali Ahmad that they heard a commotion outside and realised something was wrong. Even then, the three men — all government employees, all Sunnis — had no inkling of the terrifying events that were about to overwhelm them. First two police vehicles pulled up outside their house in the Hay al-Jihad district of Baghdad’s sprawling southern suburbs. Then came a convoy of up to 10 black BMWs and Opels — the favoured cars of the Shi’ite militias. Suddenly masked men brandishing Kalashnikov automatic rifles were storming inside. Ahmad was arrested. Mustafa protested. Mohammed fled upstairs. There was no escape, however, as Ahmad recalled. “One of the men grabbed Mustafa’s one-year-old son and put him between his legs and threatened to kill him unless Mohammed came downstairs,” he said. “Another man grabbed the boy’s mother and placed a machinegun on her chest and threatened to shoot her.” Then he banged her head against a chair, loudly cursing her. Realising that trying to run away was futile, Mohammed, 30, came downstairs. He begged the intruders to leave 32-year-old Mustafa and his family alone but was arrested for his pains. “Who are you?” the family demanded to know. “We are from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq,” one of the men is said to have shouted. …….The Sunni brothers and their friend were bundled back into the car boots and driven off again. The next person they saw was an imam, but he was not there to save them. “I saw an imam peer into the boot with a policeman,” Ahmad said. According to his account, the imam condemned Mustafa and Mohammed with the chilling words: “Kill any identified suspect immediately.” Ahmad was freed on the imam’s orders, apparently because he had merely been a guest of the brothers and had not been suitably identified. “I walked home barefoot in a terrible state,” he said. “I could not call any official to report this. How could I when they were involved?” Two days later he found his friends’ bodies in the city’s Teb al-Adli mortuary. Mustafa’s right eye had been gouged out and his right leg broken. Other parts of his body appeared to have been penetrated by an electric drill, an increasingly common tool of torture in Iraq. Mohammed’s body bore similar injuries. Both men had been shot in the head. Iraq’s Crisis of Scarred Psyches More than 25 years after Saddam Hussein's rise to power ushered in a period of virtually uninterrupted trauma -- three wars, crippling economic sanctions and now a violent insurgency -- the psychological damage to many Iraqis is only now being assessed, psychiatrists and government officials here say. Even as a grim, though incomplete, picture of the population's mental health has emerged in recent studies, so too has the realization that the country's health care system is ill-equipped to deal with what are likely millions of potential psychiatric patients with conditions born of the hardship of recent years. One recent study was sparked by one of the country's darkest days in recent memory. Last Aug. 31, nearly 1,000 Shiite Muslim pilgrims died -- some trampled in a crush of humanity, others by drowning -- when a religious procession across a Baghdad bridge became a lethal stampede. Months after the dead were buried and the wounded had begun to heal, a team of psychiatrists at the Health Ministry established a psychological outreach facility in Sadr City, a teeming Shiite slum in the capital, to assess and treat the damage inflicted on victims, witnesses and their families. What they found surpassed even their worst fears. More than 90 percent of the people surveyed suffered from psychological disorders, including depression, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. "The people we've identified as troubled are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the mental health situation in this country," said Ali Abdul Razak, 55, who runs the clinic in a dank corner of Sadr City's Imam Ali Hospital. "I don't consider this post-traumatic, I consider it 'continuous traumatic,' because the trauma they have is ongoing." Sectarian Strife Drives Iraqi Families From Homes When Abu Kathim found a note outside his front door next to a large jar of blood, he knew it was the last day he would spend in his home. "The note said the blood in the jar belonged to the last Shi'ite they had killed and my blood would replace it if I stayed in Taji," said the distressed 37-year-old, referring to a stronghold of Sunni insurgents north of Baghdad. A member of Iraq’s majority Shi’ite community, Abu Kathim had lived in Taji for 25 years. Tensions between the Shi'ites and minority Sunnis have been running at fever pitch since the February 22 bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, north of Taji. The attack pushed Iraq the closest to civil war that it has come since the U.S. invasion. Fearful of sectarian reprisals that have killed hundreds, Shi'ite and Sunni families have been driven from mixed neighborhoods or towns across the country, resettling in areas where their sect is the dominant one. Though the sectarian migration is relatively low-scale so far, the process recalls ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan wars. Love in a Time of Madness The two Iraqi teachers met as students at the University of Baghdad. They flirted between classes and hid the romance from friends and family. The furtive nature of their courting was partly because Mahir Murad, 26, is a Sunni man, and Hind al Yasseri, 25, is a Shia woman. "There was a love story between us," says Murad, wistfully. In three years of courtship, they had only one serious argument—about wodhu, the ritual cleansing before prayer, which their sects perform differently. The issue was whether to wash the soles of the feet with water, or merely wipe them. It erupted in a furious row, but then the couple caught themselves and broke up laughing—as they do now when Yasseri recalls that moment. "We agreed that we should never discuss such minor differences. We both are Muslims who believe in the same Qur'an and the same Prophet." They married three years ago, in the heady days of the new Iraq, and until the past few weeks they might have said they lived happily ever after. Then terrorists, most likely from Al Qaeda, destroyed the Shiites' Askariya Mosque in Samarra, and Shia militants responded by attacking dozens of Sunni mosques, including two in the local neighborhood of Adhamiya. Militiamen from the Shia Mahdi Army even occupied the nearby Al-Nida Mosque. "We had no other choice but to protect ourselves," says Murad. He now goes out at night to patrol the neighborhood with other Sunni men toting AK-47s, and he keeps a heavy machine gun at home. His wife stays inside with their 2-year-old daughter and other relatives. Both husband and wife blame extremists for fanning sectarian violence, but it's clear the tension troubles them. "I could say that maybe if I met my wife now, I would not marry her," says Murad. As If There Were No Tomorrow: Sunnis Leaving Iraq Once I got to the Iraqi borders, I panicked when I saw the numbers of Iraqis leaving, as if there were no tomorrow — huge numbers waiting in long, endless lines. It could take you 48 hours at the Iraqi-Jordanian border to have your passport stamped and your car checked. It's a scene that I wish I had never seen. I moved to Iraq fifteen years ago. I was so young and I didn't know much about it, but I was so eager to explore the country I later started referring to as "home." A few months ago, I had to leave — a decision I had thought I would never take —because it became simply too dangerous to stay in anymore. Since the 2003 war and the beginning of the occupation, the security situation, among other things, started deteriorating. "Divide and conquer" is perhaps the oldest trick in the book and the occupation has been using it in every way since the very beginning. The US occupation's strategy was to support Shiites and Kurds and favor them over Sunnis in forming an Iraqi government, and, in the same time, apply all possible kinds of oppression and attacks against Sunnis. The Occupation hoped, in this way, to create internal clashes between different sects in order to keep everyone too busy to care about the occupation or demand its withdrawal. Iraqis were no longer Iraqis; they became Sunnis, Shiites, or Kurds — in the media, in the political process, in the news, and everywhere. Since the war, when people ask me, "Where are you from?" and I say that I am from Iraq, another question automatically follows: "Are you Sunni, Shiite, or Kurdish?" An attitude that was totally adopted by mainstream media in the West, making it look like a fact that there is no such thing as Iraq but rather only a number of groups fighting on its soil, a soil that happens to cover one of the largest oil reserves in the world, a soil that had one of the oldest civilizations in history. So here is why I left Iraq: For no crime at all but being a Sunni, I was arrested by the ministry of interior's intelligence body and detained for a couple of weeks. I made my way out of detention after they couldn't prove anything against me and couldn't make me confess of crimes that I hadn't done: They weren't able to make me say the name of "my terrorist cell" or "where its funding came from." I was labeled "terrorist" the moment I entered there, even before they started to interrogate me. But as I said, since they couldn't get any information out of me, they freed me for a few thousand dollars. Iraqi Parliament Delays Opening Iraq's parliament has postponed its first sitting by a week as parties continue to argue over who should take the country's top political posts. Sunday's sitting was put back amid deadlock over the posts of prime minister, president and speaker. The Shia alliance which won most seats in the December election does not want a sitting until agreement is reached. But potential coalition partners reject its candidate for prime minister - the incumbent, Ibrahim Jaafari. As the biggest bloc, United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) has the right to nominate the head of government. Because it is 10 seats short of an overall majority it needs to find support among the other parties - the Kurds, the Sunnis and the secularists. Iraq’s President to Convene Parliament on March 19 Iraq's president on Friday invited parliament to convene on March 19, a day after the powerful Shi'ite Alliance asked for more time to negotiate a national unity government. "The presidency council decided to call on the parliament to convene on Sunday morning of March 19," said the statement from the presidential office. Iraq's political leaders are deadlocked over who should be prime minister in the new government. Sunnis and Kurds are opposed to Shi'ite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari staying on in the powerful post. The Shi'ite Alliance, which has close to a majority in the parliament elected in December, said it was determined to resist the efforts to oust Jaafari. Sunni and Kurdish parties accuse Jaafari of failing to improve security or prosperity in the year he has been interim prime minister. Jaafari, leader of the Dawa party, won the nomination to lead the new government in an internal ballot of Alliance legislators. Assessing Iraq: ‘The Country Has Already Collapsed’ At this point in Iraq, you do not have a central government -- so you don't have a legitimate authority running the country. You don't have a government with the power to establish or maintain order. What you have is a nominal government that can only stay in power because the Americans are there. The government is supposed to have derived legitimacy from the constitution and the elections. But I think the government we end up with, won't have much legitimacy either. It is now almost three months after the elections and there is still no government. The Iraqis continue postponing the opening of parliament because according to the constitution, after they open parliament, they only have two months to form the government. They don't think they can form a government that quickly. A government that takes over five months to form is not a government that is going to have very much legitimacy in the end. The country has already collapsed. Now the challenge is figuring out a way to deal with this fact. The Americans have discovered that there are very few Sunnis in the military and the police force, so they are trying to speed up the recruitment of Sunnis. That effort, in my opinion, will ultimately fail. The last of three groups of recruits -- they take in classes of about 1,200 men -- have been predominantly Sunni; the last one almost completely Sunni. There is a great danger that, rather than creating a more balanced national police force, this will create a Sunni militia alongside a Shiite militia that for all practical purposes already exists. During the congressional hearings at the beginning of 2005, the US government said there was a high degree of combat readiness in the Iraqi military. Three months later, though, that readiness had dropped. You have to ask yourself, 'well, what happened?' There is a great danger -- and I have no proof but there certainly is a lot of circumstantial evidence -- that people who have been trained defected, or their officers defected, and that they are now in fact working for the militias. People don't become untrained. Iraq: Government Calls US Human Rights Report Unfair Iraqi officials have called a US report detailing human rights abuses in Iraq an unfair assessment of the issue, saying the report's authors should also take into account abuses perpetrated by the US military. "The US government accused our security forces of mistreatment, torture and aggression against the Iraqi population," said Hussam Abdul-Kader, a senior official in the Ministry of Interior. "But it forgot to mention in its report the ongoing violence that they have promoted in Iraq since their invasion, including the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison." The report, released on Wednesday, has been published annually by the US State Department since 1977, devoted to detailing alleged human rights abuses worldwide. On the situation within the US itself, however, the report merely noted: "The United States' own journey toward liberty and justice for all has been long and difficult, and it is still far from complete. Yet over time our independent branches of government, our free media, our openness to the world, and, most importantly, the civic courage of impatient American patriots help us keep faith with our founding ideals and our international human rights obligations." The report's treatment of Iraq, by contrast, alleged numerous human rights abuses, ranging from torture to random killings, for which the report largely blamed the Iraqi police and military. Police abuses included arbitrary arrests, threats, and beatings, as well as the reported use of electric drills and electric shocks for purposes of torture, the report said. " Additionally, the misappropriation of official authority by groups – paramilitary, sectarian, criminal, terrorist and insurgent – resulted in numerous and severe crimes and abuses," the report states. The report went on to outline 16 human rights problems, including the "pervasive climate of violence, disappearances, large numbers of internally displaced persons, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". The document also notes the reported increase in killings carried out by the Iraqi government or its agents, noting that police forces are thought to be thoroughly infiltrated by sectarian elements. US Envoy to Iraq: “We have opened the Pandora’s box” The US ambassador to Baghdad conceded yesterday that the Iraq invasion had opened a Pandora's box of sectarian conflicts which could lead to a regional war and the rise of religious extremists who "would make Taliban Afghanistan look like child's play". Zalmay Khalilzad broke with the Bush administration's generally upbeat orthodoxy to present a stark profile of a volatile situation in danger of sliding into chaos. Mr Khalilzad told the Los Angeles Times Iraq had been pulled back from the brink of civil war after the February 22 bombing of a Shia shrine in Samarra. However, another similar incident would leave Iraq "really vulnerable" to that happening, he said. "We have opened the Pandora's box and the question is, what is the way forward?" He added that the best approach was to build bridges between religious and ethnic communities. INTERVIEW- US, Iraq Fail on Militias, Former UN Envoy Says The unchecked growth of militias in Iraq will hamper any U.S. plans to pull out and the Iraqi government shows little interest in resolving the crisis, a former top U.N. official said on Friday. John Pace, the former head of the United Nations' human rights office in Baghdad, said inaction by Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim-dominated Interior Ministry had greatly exacerbated the militia problem and contributed to a breakdown of law and order. "None of the political leadership seem to be interested in cleaning up this mess," Pace, who left his post in February, told Reuters by telephone from Sydney. "Anybody with a gun and a reasonable amount of organisation can get away with virtually anything," he said. "There is a disparity of focus. There is a lack of appreciation of the urgency of cleaning up (the militias) and serving the protection of the individual." A handful of militia groups operate in Iraq, but the most powerful are the Shi'ite Muslim Badr Organisation, formed in Iran in the early 1980s and now closely allied to Iraq's Interior Ministry, and the Medhi Army, another Shi'ite group. US Sets Plan for Civil War in Iraq The U.S. military will rely primarily on Iraq's security forces to put down a civil war in that country if one breaks out, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told lawmakers yesterday. Sectarian violence in Iraq has reached a level unprecedented since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and is now eclipsing the insurgency as the chief security threat there, said Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, who appeared with Rumsfeld. "The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the . . . Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they're able to," Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Committee when pressed to explain how the United States intended to respond should Iraq descend wholesale into internecine strife. If civil war becomes reality, "it's very clear that the Iraqi forces will handle it, but they'll handle it with our help," Abizaid said later when asked to elaborate on Rumsfeld's remark. (But how are they going to know who to help? – Susan) See Dick Loot Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) have been making hay in the burning Iraqi sun for years now. It is, of course, no coincidence that the man sitting as vice president played a key role with his influence in obtaining the lion's share of contracts in Iraq for the company he was CEO of prior to his self-appointed position. Yet none of this is news. What is news, however, is that the ties that bind Cheney to Halliburton also link him to groups with even broader interests in the Middle East, which are causing civilians on the ground there, as well as in the US, to pay the price. Cheney had much more at stake than pure altruism in making sure Halliburton/KBR obtained so many no-bid contracts in occupied Iraq. Despite his claims of not having any financial ties to Halliburton, the fact is that in both 2001 and 2002 he earned twice as much from a deferred salary from his "old" company as when he was CEO. But that wasn't the beginning. When Cheney was US Secretary of Defense in the early 1990's under Big Bush, Halliburton was awarded the job of studying, then implementing, the privatization of routine army functions such as cleaning and cooking meals. Following this study, when Cheney was finished with his job at the Pentagon, he scored the job as CEO of Halliburton, which he held until nominating himself for the position of Little Bush's running mate in 2000. As if Cheney didn't already have enough conflicts of interest, it is important to note that he assisted in founding the neo-conservative think tank, the "Project for the New American Century (PNAC)," whose goal is to "promote American global leadership," which entails acquiring Iraqi oil. Complimenting this, Cheney was also part of the board of advisers to the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) along with John Bolton, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz (all PNAC members) before becoming vice president. JINSA, self-described as a "nonsectarian educational organization," does things like nominate John Bolton for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and works to "explain the role Israel can ... play in bolstering ... the link between American defense policy and the security of Israel." Their Mission Statement adds, "The inherent instability in the region [Middle East] caused primarily by inter-Arab rivalries and the secular/religious split in many Muslim societies leaves the future of the region in doubt. Israel, with its technological capabilities and shared system of values, has a key role to play as a US ally in the region," which happens to be quite similar to the stated goals of the PNAC for the region, but I digress. New American Facility for Abu Ghraib Prisoners to be Ready Within Three Months The American military said Thursday its new lockup near Baghdad airport to house security prisoners now held at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison should be ready within three months. Once the U.S. moves prisoners to the new prison at Camp Cropper, a process that will take months, Abu Ghraib will be returned to Iraqi prison authorities, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. Lt. Col. Kier-Kevin Curry, a spokesman for U.S. military detainee operations, said completion of the new prison at Camp Cropper would set the transfer in motion. "We will transfer operations from Abu Ghraib to the new Camp Cropper once construction is completed there. No precise dates have been set, but the plan is to accomplish this (completion of construction) within the next two to three months," Curry said. US Contractor Found Guilty of $3 Million Fraud in Iraq In the first corporate whistle-blower case to emerge from Iraq, a federal jury in Virginia yesterday found a contractor, Custer Battles L.L.C., guilty of defrauding the United States by filing grossly inflated invoices for work in the chaotic year after the Iraqi invasion. The civil case is expected to be the first of dozens under the Federal False Claims Act, which allows company insiders to bring suit on behalf of the government and share in damages awarded. Two former associates accused Custer Battles of faking invoices from shell companies to overcharge the coalition authority, then governing Iraq, by tens of millions of dollars. But the current trial concerned billing of just $3 million under one of several contracts the company garnered in the post-invasion scramble. After a three-week trial, the jury found that the entire $3 million was gained by fraud. According to the law, the company, which is based in McLean, Va., and its two owners and a former executive must now repay the government triple damages and also pay fines for 37 fraudulent acts. COMMENTARY A Veteran’s Letter to the President Until your administration, I believed it was inconceivable that the United States would ever initiate an aggressive and preemptive war against a country that posed no threat to us. Until your administration, I thought it was impossible for our nation to take hundreds of persons into custody without provable charges of any kind, and to “disappear” them into holes like Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram. Until your administration, in my wildest legal fantasy I could not imagine a U.S. Attorney General seeking to justify torture or a President first stating his intent to veto an anti-torture law, and then adding a “signing statement” that he intends to ignore such law as he sees fit. I do not want these things done in my name. As a citizen, a patriot, a parent and grandparent, a lawyer and law teacher I am left with such a feeling of loss and helplessness. I think of myself as a good American and I ask myself what can I do when I see the face of evil? Illegal and immoral war, torture and confinement for life without trial have never been part of our Constitutional tradition. But my vote has become meaningless because I live in a safe district drawn by your political party. My congressman is unresponsive to my concerns because his time is filled with lobbyists’ largess. Protests are limited to your “free speech zones”, out of sight of the parade. Even speaking openly is to risk being labeled un-American, pro-terrorist or anti-troops. And I am a disciplined pacifist, so any violent act is out of the question. Nevertheless, to remain silent is to let you think I approve or support your actions. I do not. So, I am saddened to give up my wings and bars. They were hard won and my parents and wife were as proud as I was when I earned them over forty years ago. But I hate the torture and death you have caused more than I value their symbolism. Giving them up makes me cry for my beloved country. Now He Tells Us GEORGE BUSH'S MAN IN BAGHDAD, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, was refreshingly candid in an interview he granted this newspaper on Monday. Describing the situation in Iraq, he acknowledged that the United States had opened a "Pandora's box" when it removed Saddam Hussein from power, creating the potential for widespread sectarian violence to lead to a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites.Khalilzad's observation would have been obvious to anyone in Iraq in the aftermath of the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra. But because the Bush administration's spin machine has been so relentless, it's noteworthy, sadly enough, to hear a top U.S. official bluntly state what is clear to anyone else on the ground in Iraq. Usually such candor from high-ranking administration officials — about Iraq or anything else — comes only after the word "former" appears before their titles. The ambassador's dire talk of a possible worst-case scenario in Iraq that would make Taliban Afghanistan "look like child's play" is in stark contrast to the president's consistently rosy platitudes about the marvels of an emerging democracy on the Tigris. The administration's assumption that the war would lead to the building of a prosperous and democratic Iraq that would be the envy of the entire Middle East is looking rather dubious now, as its own ambassador is pointing out. US Church Alliance: Washington is ‘Raining Down Terror’ with Iraq War, Other Policies A coalition of American churches sharply denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq on Saturday, accusing Washington of "raining down terror" and apologizing to other countries for "the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown." The statement, issued at the largest gathering of Christian churches in nearly a decade, also warned the United States was pushing the world toward environmental catastrophe with a "culture of consumption" and its refusal to back international accords seeking to battle global warming. "We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights," said the statement from representatives of the 34 U.S. members of World Council of Churches. "We mourn all who have died or been injured in this war. We acknowledge with shame abuses carried out in our name." The World Council of Churches includes more than 350 mainstream Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches; the Roman Catholic Church is not a member. The U.S. groups in the WCC include the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, several Orthodox churches and Baptist denominations, among others. The statement is part of widening religious pressure on the Bush administration, which still counts on the support of evangelical churches and other conservative denominations but is widely unpopular with liberal-minded Protestant congregations. Iraq War: Mother of Cheap Lies It's becoming increasingly apparent that this administration lives in Never Never Land, down the block from the Easter Bunny, right across the street from the Tooth Fairy. First it pretended that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, then it imagined that Saddam was harboring al-Qaida terrorist bases, now we are asked to believe that the war over there is going well. It depends on how you feel about chaos, I guess. I have a feeling that Osama bin Laden is in a cave somewhere right now, smiling. Things couldn't have gone better for him if he'd planned them this way. And - who knows? - maybe he did. Is it possible that the 9/11 attacks were intended to draw a response that would put us at risk on his home turf? Is it possible that this whole thing is an elaborate trap that has succeeded beyond his dreams? Possible perhaps, but unlikely. This is a trap of our own making, engineered by the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight, or Talk Straight Either For That Matter. This is a war, remember, that was supposed to pay for itself. Paul Wolfowitz, one of its chief architects, told Congress that. He is off, so far, by $250 billion. For this, they made him president of the World Bank? WOMEN SAY NO TO WAR

Iraqi blogger in the USA for ‘Women Say No to War’ events:

Good evening.. I am in Washington these days, we have long and busy schedule to meet people or media or Congress staff, to talk about war in Iraq, and the reality on ground since three years... yesterday we were in NewYork city in the rally moving from UN building towards American mission office when the police stopped us, and arrested Medea Binjamin and Cindy Shehan and other mothers.. we were surprised, we have been told this is the land of freedom and democracy, what is going on here? faiza MORE: I saw a small group standing in another side of the street, holding banners like : support Saddam, sending money to terrorists in Iraq. I was really surprised, yes, I come here to see these people and hear their vision. so, now, every one who is against this war is supporting Saddam? and every one trying to send money or medicine to poor Iraqi families who are suffering of poverty and lack of income and medicine and security, every one help these people will be involved with terrorism and being supporter of Saddam ? then ,where is humanity? how could we help our people? who could accept and believe these ideas? I am sad about what is going in Iraq , and in America. I can see we are both victims of this war.. we both have lost thousands of souls, and Billions of Dollars since three years.. and what have we gained? faiza Cindy Sheehan reports on ‘Women Say No to War’ events:

What Really Happened, Part 2, NYC Style

Yesterday started off like any other day for me. I woke up, missing Casey and wondering where in the world I was. After I got my bearings, realizing I was in my friend's apartment in NYC, I got up for my day of meetings, speeches, marches and rallies. March 8th is International Women's Day and I was in NYC with a contingent of women from Code Pink, Gold Star Families for Peace, Global Exchange, and some brave Iraqi women to work on our women's global call for peace. (http://www.womensaynotowar.org/)

We began our day with a meeting with Koffi Annan's assistant Secretary General for Gender. We asked her to get a meeting with the Iraqi women and the Security Council. She said we couldn't get a meeting until October at the earliest! I was appalled because a few of us had just been at UNIFEM in September, meeting with the head of UNIFEM who said if we got a contingent of Iraqi women to the states for International Women's Day that she would make sure we could meet with the security council. October is also far too late: people are dying in Iraq everyday on all sides as we sit around waiting for meetings and for people to do their jobs. (on delivery of the petition that I posted about on this blog several times - Susan).

…… We were told if we moved across the street onto the other public sidewalk that our petition would be received. We refused and said we would go to the nearest public sidewalk in front of the building and we would give our petition to a representative of the US Mission—that request was refused. We were told if we didn't move to the other side of the street, we would be arrested. We refused to move.

We had an appointment to deliver the petition. We would have been willing to give the petition to anyone to take up the US Mission. However, we were not willing to give up our First Amendment rights to do so. Some principles cannot be compromised. After we sat on the cold, hard concrete, and after we had been assured that the Iraqi women were safely on their way to DC—we tried to negotiate with the officers and security agents of the building for someone to take our petition and we would leave. A security agent for the Mission said he would go ask if he could bring the petition up and he came back and told us that they would not receive our petition which is another clear violation of our First Amendment right to petition our government for redress of wrong.

….. The officer then jerked my right arm up and cuffed me then pulled me up by my arm and cuffed the other arm. As I lay here in bed, barely able to move, writing this I am again filled with rage and sorrow for my country. What scares me the most is how blatant and rough the people who are supposed to protect US are in the face of cameras and other citizens. It is as if they don't care who in the world witnesses their abuses. They are not afraid of being brutal for the world to see—they are not afraid of any sort of retribution. I am looking into filing charges against the NYPD. Peace Activists Arrested at US Mission to UN

New York police arrested four women activists outside the United States mission to the United Nations Monday as they tried to deliver a petition signed by 72,000 people calling for immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq. The arrests took place after the U.S. diplomatic mission reportedly refused to meet with a delegation of Iraqi women who are currently on a rare speaking tour of the Unites States. Among those arrested were Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son, a U.S. soldier, in the Iraq war; Medea Benjamin, co-director of Global Exchange, a human rights organisation, and the women's peace group CODEPINK; Rev. Patricia Ackerman; and activist Missy Beattie of the Gold Star Families for Peace. Sheehan and Benjamin had just concluded a news conference outside U.N. headquarters, where they were joined by an Iraqi women's delegation calling for an end to the U.S. occupation of their country.

The Iraqi delegation and women leaders from the U.S. blamed the Pentagon for provoking much of the violence in Iraq and demanded the replacement of U.S. troops with a U.N. peacekeeping force. But they emphasised that the peacekeeping troops must not be drawn from any country that took part in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. "What happiness they (the Coalition) have brought to Iraq. They have brought us death and destruction," Faiza Al Araji, a member of the Iraqi delegation, told IPS. "They talk about reconstruction? What reconstruction? There is no water, no electricity, no security in Iraq. They should just leave our country," she said. One member of the Iraqi delegation told reporters that every month in Baghdad's hospitals, about 1,600 people die as a result of violence. "When I enter the hospital where I work, I see children with no arms, no eyes," said Dr. Entisar Mohammad Ariabi, a pharmacist at a Baghdad hospital, who broke into tears several times during her presentation. “We Are Human, Like You”

A delegation of women from Iraq told stories last night in Washington, D.C., unlike anything we've ever heard about this war from the media in the United States. And the media was not there, so I'm going to tell you what they said. The event was held at Busboys and Poets, the restaurant that serves as the gathering place for all social justice groups in Washington. The restaurant's owner is Andy Shallal, an Iraqi American and an active opponent of the war. Shallal spoke briefly, and then Gael Murphy of CODE PINK introduced six women.

Elaine Johnson is an African American woman from South Carolina who lost her son in the war. She said: "When I met George Bush, five or six days after my son was killed, I promised him one thing, that he will forever see my face….[drowned out by applause] "You send a son, and you get back a coffin, but you don't know who's in the coffin. So, a little part of me is hoping I'll get a knock on the door, and my only son will say 'Mom, I'm home.'

Eman Ahmad Khamas is a human rights advocate who has documented abuses by the U.S. military in Iraq. She is a member of Women's Will, and is married with two daughters. She said: "Hundreds of Iraqi mothers and wives are, like you, waiting for a knock on the door… "This occupation has destroyed Iraq. Americans don't know that tens of thousands of Iraqis are in prisons. Americans don't know how many have been killed. Lancet reported 100,000 in 2004, not counting Falluja. Now it is something like double this number. "Hundreds of thousands of families must search for men who are missing, and they are left with nothing to support themselves. "Many people do not know about the bombing of cities. Bush said the war ended on May 1, 2003. That's not true. Many Iraqi cities have been bombed severely. And families are buried in the rubble.

Entisar Mohammad Ariabi is a pharmacist at the Yarmook Teaching Hospital in Baghdad who has documented the deteriorating health system. She is married with five children. She said in Arabic, with Khamas interpreting: "Bush promised to keep civilian casualties as low as possible. "I work in the second biggest hospital in Baghdad as director of the pharmacy department, and my office is across from the emergency department. From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. the bodies don't stop coming in, injured or killed, and the crying and the agony of the mothers and wives. [with voice breaking] "In the emergency department I see the bodies cut into parts, dead, or injured, blood everywhere. I ask what happened, and they tell me stories. They were driving and the Americans began shooting randomly….

"I feel the sadness of these mothers, but I am also afraid that one day this will happen to me and my family. Iraqi families say goodbye in the morning to go to work or school, and pray to come home alive or if shot to die immediately, because if you are injured they will not find the medicines…. "To come here was not easy and not safe, but the most difficult part is that every minute we think of our families back home, and we are worried." PEACE ACTION: From Opening of the Heart education network: We are asking people to screen “Voices in Wartime” documentary film as part of A Season for Nonviolence. Opening of the Heart education network, together with our partners -- Association for Global New Thought and the Peace Alliance -- are sponsoring a nationwide screening of the film “Voices in Wartime” between January 30 - April 4, a national 64-day educational, media, and grassroots campaign dedicated to demonstrating that nonviolence is a powerful way to heal, transform, and empower our lives and our communities. Inspired by the 50th and 30th memorial anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this international event honors their vision for an empowered, nonviolent world. CASUALTY REPORTS

Local Story: US Marine with ties to Bedford County dies in Iraq (Virginia). Local Story: Fort Drum soldier killed in Iraq. Local Story: Full military honors for Utah soldier killed in Iraq. Local Story: Michigan soldier wounded in November blast dies in Iraq. Local Story: Fort Campbell soldier’s funeral draws hundreds of supporters. Local Story: Alabama soldier killed in Iraq. Local Story: Hardwick soldier is 21st Vermonter killed in Iraq. Local Story: Wisconsin flags to fly at half-staff in honor of Duluth native killed in Iraq. Local Story: Marine from Finksburg (Maryland) dies in Iraq crash. Local Story: Detainee dies at Camp Bucca. Local Story: It was about 6PM last night when dad's mobile rang, dad was in the mosque, my aunt was calling him and so mom picked up the mobile instead. Mom's emotions on the phone only led to one conclusion: Someone is dead.At that time, my brain was trying to figure out who that "someone" was, hoping it wouldn't be someone I know, or someone I really care about. Dad came back from the mosque and stood beside me and HNK trying to figure out what's happening himself. Mom put the mobile aside and said: "Uncle S is dead".

Uncle S was dad's only uncle from his mother's side. A man in his late seventies, peaceful and young in the heart. Last time I saw him was after Eid, I gave him a kiss on his cheek when I greeted him, and he kissed me on my forehead before we left. There's nothing that would make me happier than a kiss on the forehead, especially from a man like him. (He was happy with his new mobile then, and he really knew how to use it unlike many, and I was impressed that a man his age, could understand such up-to-date thing. )

Yesterday, he was shot by Americans on his way back home, and he died. Like many others, he died, left us clueless about the reason, and saddened with this sudden loss. He was shot many times, only three reached him: One in his arm, one in his neck and one in his chest. But they said they're sorry.. They always are. Local Story: Baghdad TV presenter killed by gunman. QUOTE OF THE DAY: One possesses only so much wisdom as he puts into practice. (St. Francis of Assisi)


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