Friday, March 17, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, MARCH 17, 2006 Photo: Residents look at the damaged house, whose roof collapsed, reportedly after a raid by U.S. soldiers, in Ramadi, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, March 16, 2006. According to residents U.S. soldiers raided a house Wednesday night, in an insurgent-plagued area west of Baghdad, there were no causalities reported, and there was no information from the U.S. military side. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein) Bring ‘em on: US Mounts Assault on Guerrillas. Bring ‘em on: Day Two of US Led Iraq Offensive. US and Iraqi troops surrounded a group of villages and are carrying out raids, but a security official said insurgent leaders had left before they arrived. The operation near the town of Samarra is not as huge as has been suggested, correspondents say. Local people say there has been little if any combat. Security Incidents: Gunmen killed three civilians and wounded five in Baghdad. Overall, at least seven people were reported killed in scattered violence in and near Baghdad. A bomb left on a minibus (another report says suicide bomber) exploded on midday Friday and killed two passengers and wounded four in Baghdad. Bodies of four Sunni men were found in western Baghdad (no note of how they died). Six mortar rounds landed on six houses in Khan Bani Saad, killing one and wounding three. Security Incidents: Three bodies were found with signs of torture and bullet holes in the head. Two were found in the eastern Sadr City and one in western Baghdad, police said. One policeman was killed and two wounded when a roadside bomb struck a police patrol near Latifiya 50 km (32 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. Two pilgrims walking to the Shi'ite holy city of Kerbala were killed and seven wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in al-Mahmudiya 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. REPORTS************ Seven days in Iraq Friday March 10 · A six-year-old girl is killed by a suicide bomber as he blows himself up next to a US military convoy in Fallujah. · The body of Tom Fox, one of four hostages held in Iraq for more than 100 days, is found dumped in the street. He has gunshot wounds to the head and chest. The 54-year-old was being held with three other member of the Canada-based Christian Peacemaker Teams, including the British man Norman Kember. The previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigade has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. · A US marine is killed alongside three members of one Iraqi family and an Iraqi soldier following a car bomb in Fallujah. It is later reported that five Iraqi policemen also died in the attack. · The bodies of six men shot in the head are found in two Baghdad suburbs. · Marine Lance Corporal Bunny Long, 22, of Modesto, California, is killed when a suicide bomber rams a truck filled with explosives into a building he is guarding in Anbar province, and the building collapses. He was due to go home in two weeks. · The bullet-riddled bodies of two men - one of whom also had his throat slit - are brought to the morgue in Kut. · A civilian is killed by a car bomb in Samarra, 100km north of Baghdad, aimed at Iraqi police. Another bomb, near the Sunni Qiba mosque, kills the imam and another man. Five people are wounded in the attacks. · A 10-year-old boy dies and his eight-year-old friend is wounded by a roadside bomb as they play in the street southern city of Amarra. · A policeman in Tikrit dies while disarming a roadside bomb. A second explosive device is detonated, killing him and wounding two others. · A roadside bomb kills one person and wounds two others near Yarmouk hospital in western Baghdad. A roadside device kills one and wounds two in Iskandiriya, 50km south of Baghdad. Saturday March 11 · The general manager of the Iraqi television channel al-Iraqiya and his driver are shot dead on their way to work in Baghdad. Amjad Hamee and Anvvar Turkey are driving through the al-Khadra neighbourhood of the city when they are attacked. · A roadside bomb explodes near a mosque in the small town of Yathrib, near Balad, 85km north of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding one. · A 25-year-old man is killed in a US military raid on a house in the village of al-Thuluya, near Balad. Sunday March 12 · A US marine dies in Anbar province, "due to enemy action". · Gunmen ambush and kill Mohammad Najah, a local football player, in Latifiya, 40km south of Baghdad. · The police mayor of Mahmoudiya, 32km south of Baghdad, is attacked and killed in an ambush. · A US soldier dies of wounds received after a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad. · Two civilians are killed and four are wounded when a mortar round lands on a paint shop in central Baghdad. · Three car bombs devastate street markets in Sadr City, Baghdad, killing 58 people and wounding more than 200. The Associated Press reports that locals fire Kalashnikovs in the air as they run to pull burning bodies from the wreckage of the markets and surrounding shops. · Eight bodies are found with their hands tied and gunshot wounds to the head in Rustamiya, a suburb in eastern Baghdad. · Six people are killed and 14 wounded when a roadside bomb explodes as a US convoy passes in southern Baghdad. · Drive-by gunmen open fire on a car in the western Biyaqa neighbourhood of Baghdad, killing its three occupants, including a member of President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party. · A rocket tears apart a house in the western Jamiah neighbourhood of Baghdad, killing one occupant and injuring two others. · Gunmen kill two police officers in two different incidents in Baghdad. · Two Iraqi soldiers are killed and four are wounded when a roadside bomb goes off near their patrol in central Baghdad. · Five soldiers are wounded when a roadside bomb explodes near an Iraqi army patrol in eastern Baghdad. · Gunmen in a speeding car fire into a crowd of casual labourers in Amariyah, western Baghdad. · In Jamiah, also in western Baghdad, a rocket lands near a house, killing one occupant and injuring two others. · At least 20 bodies are received overnight at Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, many with gunshot wounds. · Two army officers working in the Joint Coordination Centre in Dhuluiya, 40km north of Baghdad, are shot dead by gunmen. Monday March 13 · Two American soldiers assigned to 2-28 Brigade Combat Team "die due to enemy action" while operating in Anbar province. · The British defence secretary John Reid announces the withdrawal of 800 British troops from Iraq but says the move does not signal the start of a complete pullout of UK forces. · Car bombs kill two civilians and two police officers in two separate attacks in Baghdad. · A child is killed and three people are injured when they are hit by a mortar in the Shula district of Baghdad. · A US soldier dies from his wounds after being hit by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad. · A civilian is killed and three more are wounded when a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol goes off in Iskandariya, south of Baghdad. · Five bodyguards are wounded when a car bomb explodes near the convoy of the governor of Salahaddin province in Tikrit, 170 km north of Baghdad. · Five people are killed and 18 wounded when a bomb targeting a police patrol explodes in Tikrit. · Two policemen are killed and four are wounded when two car bombs explode in separate attacks on a police patrol in the northern of Kirkuk. · Four policemen and six civilians are wounded when a roadside bomb hits a police patrol in central Baghdad. · One person is killed and six are wounded when a roadside bomb explodes in Taji, 20km north of Baghdad. Tuesday March 14 · In the Kamaliya district of south-east Baghdad, children playing football notice a terrible smell and report it to police who dig up 29 bodies from a pit, most of them in their underwear, all with gunshot wounds. Some have been gagged and bound and some show signs of having been tortured. · The bodies of 15 people are found strangled, bound and gagged in a minibus parked between two Sunni districts in western Baghdad. · Hospitals across Baghdad receive the bodies of 40 people, shot dead in other incidents. Four of those men have been shot in the head and hanged from pylons in Sadr City, wearing signs proclaiming that they are traitors. · Muhsin Khudayyir, the editor of Alif Baa al-Iraq, a weekly newspaper, is gunned down in a street near his home in a Sunni part of Baghdad. · Two US soldiers are killed in Anbar province. Wednesday March 15 · A roadside bomb explodes near a girls' primary school near the town of Baquba, killing three pupils aged between 12 and 13 and injuring two others. · A bomb misses a US patrol in Mosul but kills one civilian and wounds three others. · A US airstrike near Balad kills 11 people, most of whom are women and children, including a six-month-old baby. The US says the target of the raid was a man suspected of helping foreign fighters in Iraq. Ahmed Khalaf, the brother of one of the victims, said: "The dead family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children. The Americans have promised us a better life, but we only get death." · A suicide bomber riding a bicycle tries to strike a police patrol near Baquba but blows himself up prematurely, killing two civilians. · A 24-year-old man dies while in custody at Abu Ghraib prison. US authorities say the man was found unconscious and that attempts to revive him failed. · Iraqi police discover 27 bodies scattered across Baghdad late at night. The victims are all men, all have been executed, some with their hands bound together. · A US soldier is killed south west of Baghdad by indirect fire. Thursday March 16 · Four college students are shot dead by a gunman in Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad. · A roadside bomb kills a driver on his way to collect pilgrims from the border with Iran. · A convoy of cars which is normally used by the chief of staff of the Iraqi army is hit by a roadside bomb in the small northern town of Taza, 10km south of Kirkuk. Babakir Zebari was not in any of the vehicles but three others are injured. · Hundreds of enraged Kurdish protesters destroy a memorial to Saddam Hussein's 1988 gas attack on the northern town of Halabja, setting fire to the museum on the 18th anniversary of the deaths of 5,000 people. One person is killed and eight are injured after Kurdish security forces open fire on the crowd. · Three civilians are killed and and six are wounded after gunmen attack a checkpoint operated by US and Iraqi military personnel near the town of Ramadi, 180km north of Baghdad. · Four bodies are found in different parts of Baghdad. · A translator working for the American military is shot dead and four members of his family injured when gunmen attack their house in Baiji, 180km north of Baghdad. · Iraq's parliament sits for the first time since its election three months ago, though talks on forming a national unity government are still in the grip of a deadlock. · The US launches its largest air assault since the invasion of 2003. Operation Swarmer involves more than 50 aircraft, 1,500 Iraqi and US troops and 200 tactical vehicles, targeting suspected insurgents operating near Samarra. A statement says the operation is "expected to continue for several days as a thorough search of the objective area is conducted". Samarra was the scene of the attack on a Shia shrine last month which prompted sectarian reprisals and tit-for-tat killings. US: Minimize Civilian Casualties in Iraq U.S. military forces in Iraq need to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian casualties in the current air and ground offensive in Samara, north of Baghdad, Human Rights Watch said today. The dangers to civilians from air strikes were again demonstrated on Wednesday, when U.S. bombs killed as many as 11 civilians in the town of Balad during an anti-insurgency operation. Today the U.S.-led Multi-National Force announced that it would be carrying out the largest air attacks in Iraq since 2003. "All too often civilians pay with their lives when American bombs fall in Iraq," said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. "The U.S. military has in the past launched 'decapitation' strikes aimed at top leaders but based on bad intelligence, and also used cluster munitions in populated areas of Iraq." During the 2003 air war in Iraq, U.S. and British forces used as many as 13,000 cluster bombs, containing nearly 2 million sub-munitions, which killed or wounded more than 1,000 civilians. The Human Rights Watch study, published in December 2003, found that the use of cluster munitions in populated areas caused more civilian casualties than any other factor in the coalition's conduct of major military operations at that stage of the conflict. The U.S. military also carried out more than 50 "decapitation" strikes on suspected hideouts of top Iraqi leaders during the 2003 air war, but failed to kill a single one of its intended targets, the study concluded. The U.S. "decapitation" strategy relied on intercepts of senior Iraqi leaders' satellite phone calls along with corroborating intelligence that proved inadequate. "As the U.S. launches another intensive air-ground military operation in Iraq, we are extremely concerned that the military will again rely on questionable intelligence and methods," Garlasco said. US Military Launches Probe of Iraqi Civilian Deaths The U.S. military has launched a criminal investigation into the deaths of 15 Iraqi civilians during a clash between American soldiers and insurgents in November last year, defense officials said Thursday. The probe was conducted by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which is responsible for cases involving Marines, to determine the Marines involved acted appropriately in the incident. The incident in question took place in Haditha, near Baghdad, on Nov. 19, 2005, when a roadside bomb detonated near a U.S. military convoy and a subsequent exchange of gunfire between insurgents and American and Iraqi government soldiers killed one U.S. Marine, eight insurgents and 15 Iraqi civilians. The initial allegations of possible wrongdoing by U.S. Marines were brought to the attention of the military by a reporter in February, and a preliminary investigation was opened last month, the officials said. Sectarian Violence Leads to Displacement in Capital Dozens of families in the capital, Baghdad, have been displaced from their neighbourhoods due to the sectarian violence that has come in the wake of the Samarra shrine bombing in February and subsequent attacks. "The explosions at the Samarra mosque and the attack on a market in the Sadr district [of Baghdad] have frightened minority communities in some neighbourhoods," said Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) spokeswoman Ferdous al-Abadi. "They're afraid they could become victims of sectarian violence." On 22 February, the bombing of a revered Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, about 100 km northwest of the capital, left more than 75 people dead and sparked sectarian reprisal attacks countrywide. On Thursday, the Ministry of Interior announced that at least 630 people had been killed as a result of sectarian violence since the Samarra bombing. Many families in Baghdad, lacking essential supplies, have preferred to camp outside their neighbourhoods rather than risk being killed in their homes by armed sectarian groups. According to the IRCS, more than 300 families from different areas of the capital have been displaced, many of them Sunni residents of majority Shi'ite neighbourhoods. "We believe that many more families have been displaced from these districts, but we still need to study the situation and see how we can offer help," said al-Abadi. "But with an ongoing government-imposed curfew, the situation is much more difficult." Three Years After Saddam, New Fears Haunt Iraqis Three years after U.S. forces invaded to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Iraqis have one preoccupation -- staying alive. "Every day I feel like I am waiting in a queue for death," said one Baghdad lawyer, too frightened to be named in print. Ahead of the March 20 invasion anniversary, Reuters asked dozens of Iraqis if life was now better or worse. Most were gloomy, at best ambivalent, with new fears replacing old ones. The parliament that first met on Thursday has a huge task. "In terms of security, life before was much better," said businessman Adel Hussein, 45, in Basra, the heart of southern Iraq's oil industry. "But economically, now it's much better." In the violent northern oil city of Kirkuk, labourer Ali Salman, said: "Before the war ... torture and killing took place in secret. Now it's all in public. The meaning of freedom is different: nowadays you're free to live, and free to kill." A cautious optimism engendered by December's bloodless election has largely dissipated as politicians haggle over forming a government of national unity and a wave of sectarian violence has pitched Iraq to the brink of civil war. A sectarian dirty war has claimed more than 100 victims in Baghdad in the past three days alone. From the relatively calm the Kurdish north, through the rebellious Sunni west and the fearful streets of religiously mixed Baghdad to southern Shi'ite heartlands once oppressed by Saddam, everyone is weary of the daily bloodletting. Ordinary Iraqi Families Getting Ready to Fight. They’re Stockpiling Weapons, Food and Fuel. Om Hussein, wrapped in her black abaya, lists the contents of the family's walk-in storage closet: three 175-pound cases of rice, two 33-pound cases of cooking fat, six cases of canned tomatoes, three crates of assorted legumes, a one-month supply of drinking water, frozen chicken livers in the freezer. And in the garage, jerry cans filled with fuel are piled floor to ceiling. Om Hussein, who was reluctant to give her full name, and her Shiite family are preparing for war. They've stocked up on food. They bought a Kalashnikov rifle and a second car -- so that there is space for all 13 members of their extended family should they need to flee in a hurry. "We are afraid of what will happen in the coming days," she says. "Maybe there will be a monthlong curfew, or maybe fighting in the streets will force my family to stay in the house for days at a time." Iraq’s Killing Fields FADAL Barah Joda has survived nine insurgency attempts on his life - several attacks by gunmen, four roadside bombs and explosives planted at his home. Three bullets have been removed from his body; others made a colander of the back end of his LandCruiser. But this young mayor seems far less concerned about his own safety than he is about that of Nahrawan, where he says 85,000 Shiites are surrounded by Sunni villages from which insurgents attack at will. He had to do something. He made repeated calls to General Nabil Lamlum al-Aboudi, who heads an Iraqi defence detachment of about 800 men stationed 35 kilometres to the south. But the attacks kept coming and the Shiite toll was mounting alarmingly. Fadal's problem was that he could get forces to respond after the insurgents attacked, but none that would be stationed in Nahrawan to fend them off. Frustration rising with each call, he phoned the office of the Baghdad Governor, the Interior Ministry and the Defence Ministry; he sent messages to the US Embassy and the American military; he went on local TV to appeal to his Prime Minister for help. With nowhere else to go, the mayor turned to the Mahdi Army. This is the militia force of the rebel Shiite imam Moqtada al-Sadr, a haughty young cleric who taunts the Americans as he rope-a-dopes in his many guises - rabid militant, holy man and, increasingly, political king maker. Fadal is pleased with the outcome: "The Mahdi Army controls Nahrawan now. They are the only force that the terrorists fear. The Mahdi Army controls this war for the simple reason that their orders come from the entire Shiite religious leadership. They have the power that'll make us victors." The 39-year-old mayor's embrace of the militiamen is instructive as liberated Iraq embarks on the fourth year of its candidacy for American-tailored democracy. Saddam Hussein faces the gallows; there have been three elections, but three months on there is no government; and in this power vacuum opposing militias face off in the streets of the capital. This sectarian showdown is a fraught new dimension in the Iraq conflict. Is it civil war? It feels like it, but only time will tell. The Boy Who Saw Too Much THIS is Ibrahim Sa'ad Al-Jabouri. At just five, a Shiite boy cannot be expected to comprehend what the past three years have been about in Iraq. But it is not surprising he has retreated into his own very small and empty world. Ibrahim became an orphan when Sunni insurgents forced him to watch as they executed his father, a brother and two uncles. He had already lost his mother to illness. The killers compounded this unbelievable cruelty by then abandoning the helpless child where wolves and wild cats roam the empty river flats on the eastern fringe of metropolitan Baghdad. But this was just one of a series of debauched killings that have traumatised the farm and factory district of Nahrawan in just eight weeks in the run-up to the third anniversary - on Monday - of the US-led invasion of Iraq. It climaxed grotesquely in the aftermath of the desecration of the Golden Mosque at Samarra on February 22. In a series of interviews with the Herald, local figures confirmed the death of 48 civilian men, women and children who were abducted as they drove from a factory near Nahrawan to join a midtown protest against the Samarra attack. They also provided rare - and disturbing - video footage of the aftermath of the February 23 attack, in which the camera steadily pans the length of a shallow ditch where the victims were made to lie down, side by side, and then were systematically executed in one of the worst single killing rampages in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. War Against Iraq’s Children Orphans, whose number has increased sharply over the past quarter-century as a result of wars, economic sanctions, and terrorism, are especially vulnerable to the cruellest type of physical and psychological violence. Having lost their homes and parents, they sleep in alleys, sell cigarettes or newspapers, and be. Iraq’s children have suffered more than just successive wars and economic sanctions. The loss of parents and family resources has boosted child labour, homelessness, and inclinations towards violence and rebellion. Now they often live in homes where 25 people are packed in 40 square metres. Even intact families may comprise parents and five children in a single six-metre room. The increase in child labour reflects families’ dire economic situation: children are frequently a family’s only breadwinners, and they work cheap. Contractors in municipal services, for example, prefer to use children in order to cut costs. Here, a child may be used for agricultural labour or for janitorial work. Many work in piles of garbage, either removing them to another place or collecting empty bottles and cans to sell. Other children load and transport items in the markets, where they must pull carts weighing 60-70 kilograms and carry boxes weighing 15 kilograms in temperatures of 50 degrees centigrade. Two children may unload a truck carrying 1,000 kilograms of food items. Not surprisingly, Iraq’s child workers suffer from a wide array of serious health problems. Children working in the garbage dumps are prone to skin and respiratory problems. Those who work with paints eventually become addicted to the intoxicants they inhale. And all working children are vulnerable to malnutrition, as their diet typically lacks the items necessary to build body tissues. Nor is there any official authority to protect children and defend their rights in case of incapacitation or sickness. On the contrary children are often beaten up. By their family members if they do not provide the daily wage expected of them and by their bosses when they are inattentive or make a mistake. POLITICS**************** Tehran Willing to Talk With US About Iraq At loggerheads with the United States over its nuclear programme, Tehran said it was ready to negotiate with the "Great Satan" to help stabilise neighboring Iraq. The White House responded by saying any talks would not take up the nuclear crisis or other disputes and that negotiators would have a "very narrow mandate." "We agree to negotiate with the Americans," the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Larijani told reporters after a closed-door speech to parliament. "Iran accepts the demand of (Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz) Hakim to resolve the Iraqi problems and issues with the goal of creating an independent (Iraqi) government," said Larijani, also Iran's nuclear chief. Hakim, leader of one of Iraq's main Shiite parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), called Wednesday for a dialogue between longtime foes Iran and America. His comments echoed those of the US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, who said in a television interview Friday he was ready to hold talks with Iran on matters of mutual concern. US Accuses Iran of ‘Unhelpful Activities’ in Iraq U.S. officials in Iraq on Friday again accused Iran of meddling in its neighbour's internal affairs, saying the Islamic Republic was carrying out "unhelpful activities" there. A US embassy statement said Washington was "concerned about unhelpful Iranian activities in Iraq. These concerns are well known and we have talked about them." The statement was issued one day after Iran said it accepted a proposal by a leading Iraqi Shi'ite leader to open a dialogue with the United States on Iraq. Also on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she believed U.S. talks with Iran on stabilising Iraq would be "useful". Iranian officials had previously said Tehran was not interested in discussions before U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq. Iraqi Sunnis Denounce Plan for Talks Between US and Iran Iran and the United States agreed Thursday to hold direct talks on how to halt sectarian violence and restore calm in Iraq, a plan that was denounced today by Iraq's largest bloc of Sunni parties. And while the agreement offered the first face-to-face conversation between Iran and the United States after months of confrontation over Iran's nuclear program, it was followed today by a new round of mutual criticism. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, announced in Iran's Parliament on Thursday that he would send a team of negotiators to Iraq to meet with American representatives there. But he also suggested in an interview that there would be stiff preconditions. "I think Iraq is a good testing ground for America to take a harder look at the way it acts," Mr. Larijani said in his office shortly after making the announcement. "If there's a determination in America to take that hard look, then we're prepared to help." But the Iraqi Tawafuq Front, a coalition of Sunni groups, denounced news of the talks "as an obvious unjustified interference in Iraq's affairs." The group said, in a statement released in Baghdad, that "it is not committed, under any circumstances, to any results" of the negotiations. Within Iraq, crucial negotiations are underway on the formation of a national unity government. American officials are hoping that a formula that draws in Sunni groups could weaken the insurgency, but the Sunnis are deeply suspicious of the links they see between Iran and Shiite politicians, particularly Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Mr. Larijani said that he called for the American talks at Mr. al-Hakim's request. House Oks Bill To Pay for Iraq War. $92 Billion Appropriation Now Awaits Action by Senate The House passed a $92 billion emergency spending package Thursday to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for Hurricane Katrina relief operations. The House, in approving the spending bill 348-71, also gave anti-war Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland a rare victory by accepting her proposal to bar permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. But lawmakers rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, that would have cut off future contracts in Iraq for Halliburton Co. Waxman argued that Halliburton had billed the Pentagon for unsupported and unreasonable' charges exceeding $1 billion in connection with its work for the military. The emergency appropriations bill, the sixth since the United States invaded Iraq almost three years ago to oust Saddam Hussein, includes $72 billion for the wars and $19 billion for Katrina relief. It also has about $750 million to help poor Americans with their winter heating costs. The bill would bring the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to about $400 billion. COMMENTARY************ "The Final Word Is Hooray!" Remembering the Iraq War's Pollyanna pundits Weeks after the invasion of Iraq began, Fox News Channel host Brit Hume delivered a scathing speech critiquing the media's supposedly pessimistic assessment of the Iraq War. "The majority of the American media who were in a position to comment upon the progress of the war in the early going, and even after that, got it wrong," Hume complained in the April 2003 speech (Richmond Times Dispatch, 4/25/04). "They didn't get it just a little wrong. They got it completely wrong." Hume was perhaps correct--but almost entirely in the opposite sense. Days or weeks into the war, commentators and reporters made premature declarations of victory, offered predictions about lasting political effects and called on the critics of the war to apologize. Three years later, the Iraq War grinds on at the cost of at least tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. Around the same time as Hume's speech, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas declared (4/16/03): "All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent. Otherwise, they will return to us in another situation where their expertise will be acknowledged, or taken for granted, but their credibility will be lacking." Gathered here are some of the most notable media comments from the early days of the Iraq War. Declaring Victory "Iraq Is All but Won; Now What?"(Los Angeles Times headline, 4/10/03) "Now that the combat phase of the war in Iraq is officially over, what begins is a debate throughout the entire U.S. government over America's unrivaled power and how best to use it." (CBS reporter Joie Chen, 5/4/03) "Congress returns to Washington this week to a world very different from the one members left two weeks ago. The war in Iraq is essentially over and domestic issues are regaining attention." (NPR's Bob Edwards, 4/28/03) "Tommy Franks and the coalition forces have demonstrated the old axiom that boldness on the battlefield produces swift and relatively bloodless victory. The three-week swing through Iraq has utterly shattered skeptics' complaints." (Fox News Channel's Tony Snow, 4/27/03) "The only people who think this wasn't a victory are Upper Westside liberals, and a few people here in Washington."(Charles Krauthammer, Inside Washington, WUSA-TV, 4/19/03) "We had controversial wars that divided the country. This war united the country and brought the military back."(Newsweek's Howard Fineman--MSNBC, 5/7/03) "We're all neo-cons now." (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03) "The war was the hard part. The hard part was putting together a coalition, getting 300,000 troops over there and all their equipment and winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning a war." (Fox News Channel's Fred Barnes, 4/10/03) "Oh, it was breathtaking. I mean I was almost starting to think that we had become inured to everything that we'd seen of this war over the past three weeks; all this sort of saturation. And finally, when we saw that it was such a just true, genuine expression. It was reminiscent, I think, of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And just sort of that pure emotional expression, not choreographed, not stage-managed, the way so many things these days seem to be. Really breathtaking." (Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly, appearing on Fox News Channel on 4/9/03, discussing the pulling down of a Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad, an event later revealed to have been a U.S. military PSYOPS operation [stunt]--Los Angeles Times, 7/3/04) Mission Accomplished? "The war winds down, politics heats up.... Picture perfect. Part Spider-Man, part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan. The president seizes the moment on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific." (PBS's Gwen Ifill, 5/2/03, on George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech) "We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits." (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 5/1/03) "He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star, and one of the guys." (CNN's Lou Dobbs, on Bush's 'Mission Accomplished' speech, 5/1/03) Neutralizing the Opposition "Why don't the damn Democrats give the president his day? He won today. He did well today." (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03) "What's he going to talk about a year from now, the fact that the war went too well and it's over? I mean, don't these things sort of lose their--Isn't there a fresh date on some of these debate points?" (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, speaking about Howard Dean--4/9/03) "If image is everything, how can the Democratic presidential hopefuls compete with a president fresh from a war victory?" (CNN's Judy Woodruff, 5/5/03) "It is amazing how thorough the victory in Iraq really was in the broadest context..... And the silence, I think, is that it's clear that nobody can do anything about it. There isn't anybody who can stop him. The Democrats can't oppose--cannot oppose him politically." (Washington Post reporter Jeff Birnbaum-- Fox News Channel, 5/2/03) Nagging the "Naysayers" "Now that the war in Iraq is all but over, should the people in Hollywood who opposed the president admit they were wrong?" (Fox News Channel's Alan Colmes, 4/25/03) "I doubt that the journalists at the New York Times and NPR or at ABC or at CNN are going to ever admit just how wrong their negative pronouncements were over the past four weeks." (MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/9/03) "I'm waiting to hear the words 'I was wrong' from some of the world's most elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types.... I just wonder, who's going to be the first elitist to show the character to say: 'Hey, America, guess what? I was wrong'? Maybe the White House will get an apology, first, from the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. Now, Ms. Dowd mocked the morality of this war.... "Do you all remember Scott Ritter, you know, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector who played chief stooge for Saddam Hussein? Well, Mr. Ritter actually told a French radio network that -- quote, "The United States is going to leave Baghdad with its tail between its legs, defeated." Sorry, Scott. I think you've been chasing the wrong tail, again."Maybe disgraced commentators and politicians alike, like Daschle, Jimmy Carter, Dennis Kucinich, and all those others, will step forward tonight and show the content of their character by simply admitting what we know already: that their wartime predictions were arrogant, they were misguided and they were dead wrong. Maybe, just maybe, these self-anointed critics will learn from their mistakes. But I doubt it. After all, we don't call them 'elitists' for nothing." (MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/10/03) "Over the next couple of weeks when we find the chemical weapons this guy was amassing, the fact that this war was attacked by the left and so the right was so vindicated, I think, really means that the left is going to have to hang its head for three or four more years." (Fox News Channel's Dick Morris, 4/9/03) "This has been a tough war for commentators on the American left. To hope for defeat meant cheering for Saddam Hussein. To hope for victory meant cheering for President Bush. The toppling of Mr. Hussein, or at least a statue of him, has made their arguments even harder to defend. Liberal writers for ideologically driven magazines like The Nation and for less overtly political ones like The New Yorker did not predict a defeat, but the terrible consequences many warned of have not happened. Now liberal commentators must address the victory at hand and confront an ascendant conservative juggernaut that asserts United States might can set the world right." (New York Times reporter David Carr, 4/16/03) "Well, the hot story of the week is victory.... The Tommy Franks-Don Rumsfeld battle plan, war plan, worked brilliantly, a three-week war with mercifully few American deaths or Iraqi civilian deaths.... There is a lot of work yet to do, but all the naysayers have been humiliated so far.... The final word on this is, hooray." (Fox News Channel's Morton Kondracke, 4/12/03) "Shouldn't the [Canadian] prime minister and all of us who thought the war was hasty and dangerous and wrongheaded admit that we were wrong? I mean, with the pictures of those Iraqis dancing in the streets, hauling down statues of Saddam Hussein and gushing their thanks to the Americans, isn't it clear that President Bush and Britain's Tony Blair were right all along? If we believe it's a good thing that Hussein's regime has been dismantled, aren't we hypocritical not to acknowledge Bush's superior judgment?... Why can't those of us who thought the war was a bad idea (or, at any rate, a premature one) let it go now and just join in celebrating the victory wrought by our magnificent military forces?" (Washington Post's William Raspberry, 4/14/03) "Some journalists, in my judgment, just can't stand success, especially a few liberal columnists and newspapers and a few Arab reporters." (CNN's Lou Dobbs, 4/14/03) "Sean Penn is at it again. The Hollywood star takes out a full-page ad out in the New York Times bashing George Bush. Apparently he still hasn't figured out we won the war." (MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 5/30/03) Cakewalk? "This will be no war -- there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention.... The president will give an order. [The attack] will be rapid, accurate and dazzling.... It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation. And I say, bring it on."(Christopher Hitchens, in a 1/28/03 debate-- cited in the Observer,3/30/03) "I will bet you the best dinner in the gaslight district of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week. Are you willing to take that wager?" (Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 1/29/03) "It won't take weeks. You know that, professor. Our military machine will crush Iraq in a matter of days and there's no question that it will." (Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 2/10/03) "There's no way. There's absolutely no way. They may bomb for a matter of weeks, try to soften them up as they did in Afghanistan. But once the United States and Britain unleash, it's maybe hours. They're going to fold like that." (Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 2/10/03) "He [Saddam Hussein] actually thought that he could stop us and win the debate worldwide. But he didn't--he didn't bargain on a two- or three week war. I actually thought it would be less than two weeks." (NBC reporter Fred Francis, Chris Matthews Show, 4/13/03) Weapons of Mass Destruction NPR's Mara Liasson: Where there was a debate about whether or not Iraq had these weapons of mass destruction and whether we can find it...Brit Hume: No, there wasn't. Nobody seriously argued that he didn't have them beforehand. Nobody. (Fox News Channel, April 6, 2003) "Speaking to the U.N. Security Council last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell made so strong a case that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is in material breach of U.N. resolutions that only the duped, the dumb and the desperate could ignore it." (Cal Thomas, syndicated column, 2/12/03) "Saddam could decide to take Baghdad with him. One Arab intelligence officer interviewed by Newsweek spoke of "the green mushroom" over Baghdad--the modern-day caliph bidding a grotesque bio-chem farewell to the land of the living alongside thousands of his subjects as well as his enemies. Saddam wants to be remembered. He has the means and the demonic imagination. It is up to U.S. armed forces to stop him before he can achieve notoriety for all time." (Newsweek, 3/17/03) "Chris, more than anything else, real vindication for the administration. One, credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Two, you know what? There were a lot of terrorists here, really bad guys. I saw them." (MSNBC reporter Bob Arnot, 4/9/03) "Even in the flush of triumph, doubts will be raised. Where are the supplies of germs and poison gas and plans for nukes to justify pre-emption? (Freed scientists will lead us to caches no inspectors could find.) What about remaining danger from Baathist torturers and war criminals forming pockets of resistance and plotting vengeance? (Their death wish is our command.)" (New York Times' William Safire, 4/10/03) OPINION: Was It Worth It? An Iraqi Family Debates. Crammed into the same ramshackle apartment in which they fearfully waited out the US invasion of Iraq three years ago, the Methboub family is asked to list the good points of the US presence. But an argument erupts in their small living room, like a bomb in a crowded marketplace. "They never do anything good, they close the roads, they kill the Iraqi people," spits out 19-year-old daughter Fatima, clicking her tongue "no" repeatedly. "They own Saddam's palaces, but they are worse than Saddam Hussein. They hurt the Iraqi people." "I object," says Amal, 16, trying to insert her more nuanced argument between Fatima's strident declarations. "The first thing [the Americans] did is release us from Saddam Hussein. That's a big revolution for Iraq." The close-knit, poor family of Karima Selman Methboub, a widow with eight children whom the Monitor has followed closely since late 2002, has always met challenges head-on, accepting what they see as their fate with a potent sense of humor, and often with laughter. But for many Iraqis, who have watched in horror as tens of thousands of their countrymen have died since the 2003 invasion, hopes for the future are muted, or gone. US promises of freedom and democratic rule after the tyranny of Saddam Hussein have instead given way to Iraqi anger at US invaders and Iraqi insurgents. "The only one who is responsible for the Iraqi and American dead is [President] Bush," claims Fatima. "I hope Bush's conscience judges him. The Americans and the Iraqis know: He is responsible for the mass killing in Iraq, no one else." Today, the Methboub family still cries and lives in fear. Like so many other poor families in Iraq, they are battling to scrape a living through war, occupation, insurgent violence and now growing sectarian bloodshed. Another 25 executed bodies were found on the streets Thursday. Some 86 corpses were discovered on Tuesday. Baghdad has morphed from a place of order and calm - imposed by the heavy hand of Hussein and his well-oiled, omniscient security forces - to one of divided by miles of blast walls, coils of razor wire, and checkpoints. The word "safety" is rare; the word "victory" is never heard. From an email I received, on Tom Fox’s last journey home: Tom's last journey - by Doug Pritchard The U.S. Embassy arranged for Beth Pyles, a member of the CPT Iraq team, to travel to Anaconda, and she was able to keep vigil with Tom for the next 36 hours until his departure. Meanwhile, CPT’ers Rich Meyer and Anne Montgomery traveled to Dover, and have been in the vicinity since 5 p.m. Mar. 11, keeping vigil and awaiting Tom's arrival. Pyles was present on the tarmac at Anaconda as Tom's coffin was loaded onto the plane for Dover. She reported that his coffin was draped in a U.S. flag. This is unusual for a civilian, but Tom may not have been uncomfortable with this since he had always called his nation to live out the high ideals which it professed. Iraqi detainees who die in US custody are also transported to Dover for autopsies and forensics. On this plane, right beside Tom's coffin, was the coffin of an Iraqi detainee. So Tom accompanied an Iraqi detainee in death, just as he had done so often in life. At Tom's departure, Pyles read out from the Gospel of John, "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it" (1:5). In honour of Tom's Iraqi companion, she spoke the words called out repeatedly from the mosques of Baghdad during the Shock and Awe bombing campaign in March 2003, "allah akhbar" (God is greater). She concluded the sending with words from the Jewish scriptures, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21). Dawn broke. The contingent of Puerto Rican soldiers nearby saluted. The plane taxied away. Venus, the morning star, shone brightly overhead as the night faded away. Godspeed you, Tom, on your final journey home to your family and friends. Another email: IRAQ REFLECTION: "Tom, we will greatly miss you." - by Peggy Gish "If I understand the message of God, we are here to take part in the creation of the peaceable Realm of God. And that is to love God with all our heart, our mind and our strength and to love our neighbors and enemies as we love God and ourselves," Allan Slater read during our memorial service for Tom at a local church in Baghdad. We selected the reading from a reflection Tom Fox had written days before he was kidnapped. At the front of the church was a large picture of Tom, a bouquet of fresh flowers and lit candles. "Tom was very clear that if any harm came to him he did not want anyone to act out of revenge or ill will. He calls us to follow Jesus' example of loving and praying for those labeled enemy," I said as part of the beginning tribute to Tom. When it came to the part about Tom's captivity for over 100 days and his death, the words were harder to get out. It was rewarding to see in the church the caring faces of so many Iraqis that had loved Tom. There were members of the congregation, some Christian neighbors, and Muslim friends and colleagues. The assembled sang a version of the song, "Be Thou My Vision," that Tom had liked. Maxine read excerpts from another of Tom's writing. He spoke of his struggle to not let rage take over, become numb, or turn away from the pain he encountered, but to learn compassion while staying with that pain. On Friday, the day after we learned of Tom's death, we had to decide whether to go ahead with or cancel two meetings scheduled at our apartment. One was to link leaders from the Muslim Peacemakers Taskforce (MPT) in Najaf with a Sunni human rights organization in Baghdad. They were forming a coalition between Shi'a, Sunni, Christian, and Kurdish organizations to work to prevent sectarian violence. The second was to link MPTers with Palestinian Iraqis whose lives are under daily threat and are asking for accompaniment to travel to one of Iraq's borders. While emotionally it was very hard for us to host these meetings, it seemed important to do so. The news of Tom's death hit us hard. We grieve--especially for Tom's family. We also continue to celebrate Tom's life as we remember his words and his work to end all forms of violence. It does not take away the sorrow, but it helps remind us why we are here and why Tom kept returning to Iraq and was willing to give up his life. Our memorial service tribute to Tom ended with the words we heard expressed by so many Iraqis in the past three days: "Tom, we will greatly miss you." U.S./Iraqi Troops Must Respect Civilian Lives in Targeting Insurgents Humanitarian organization says new U.S. air campaign in Iraq dangerous to civilians. Following news of a surge in U.S. air power in Iraq, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) today called on the U.S. and Iraqi military to review their procedures for assessing harm to civilians both before and after air strikes. U.S. forces today launched their most extensive air operations since 2003 against insurgent strongholds north of Baghdad. CIVIC cautioned that the use of air power in urban areas carries with it a high risk of civilian casualties, despite the use of precision weapons. Just yesterday, a U.S. air strike aimed at insurgents near Balad killed civilians, including children. “The use of air power makes it harder to distinguish between civilians and combatants in densely populated areas like Samarra,” said Sarah Holewinski, executive director of CIVIC. “If the goal of rounding up insurgents is to make Iraq safe for its people, minimizing harm to civilians must be higher priority.” Under the law of armed conflict, military operations must use all feasible means to minimize loss of civilian life and property, and attacks must be withheld if expected to cause civilian loss disproportionate to a concrete military goal. During the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Human Rights Watch reported that “haste” in U.S. led aerial attacks against moving objects – such as the insurgents now being targeted – contributed to unnecessary civilian casualties, as did attacks on individual Iraqi leaders – all of which failed to hit their intended targets. CIVIC urged U.S. and Iraqi planners to adequately assess the risk to civilians before launching air attacks and to include in post-attack reports any harm to civilians. The Pentagon should also implement a mechanism to record the number of civilian casualties incurred by U.S. forces. Currently, the U.S. government does not keep an official count of civilian casualties in Iraq, making the evaluation and improvement of those procedures all the more difficult. “The U.S. cannot be seen as credibly minimizing civilian casualties if it does not keep the data to back up that claim,” said Holewinski. CIVIC is a Washington-based organization founded by the late Marla Ruzicka, who was killed by a suicide bomb in Baghdad while advocating for victims of war in Iraq. CIVIC believes that civilians killed or injured in conflict should be counted and their families compensated by the governments involved, and is working in conflict zones to identify and help the families of civilian casualties. "Operation Swarmer": That's what the U.S. military is calling the air assault they launched in Iraq earlier today. In what CNN is reporting as "the largest air assault since the invasion of Iraq nearly three years ago," some 50 aircraft are "supporting" U.S. and Iraqi troops near the city of Samarra. When the military says "supporting," they mean bombing. And when bombs are dropped, innocent civilians are killed. Just yesterday U.S. air power demolished a farmhouse. According to The New York Times, "The American military said that only three civilians had been killed, while Iraqi officials said an entire 11-member family -- from a 75-year-old grandmother to a 6-month-old baby -- had died in the attack .... The results were devastating, according to images broadcast on Arab TV: dead cows, scorched cars, a smashed house and 11 bodies rolled up in blankets." (New York Times, March 16, 2006, p. A8) This new air assault demands a quick, visible outcry from people all around the country. As it happens, there are more than 500 antiwar activities already planned to coincide with the 3rd anniversary of the start of the war in hundreds of locations around the country. Please take a moment right now to find out what is happening near you and then do everything you can to build those actions. It is time to stop the killing. It is time to stop the war in Iraq. It is time to bring all of our troops home! PEACE ACTION: The 20th Century is haunted by the ghosts of the millions of innocent victims of genocide the world failed to protect. From the Holocaust to Rwanda, the question of "How could this be allowed to happen?" will hang in the air forever. And those who stood by will be forever defined by what they failed to do. We can stop the Genocide in Darfur -- but we must act now. QUOTE OF THE DAY: Each of the Iraqi children killed by the United States was our child. Each of the prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib was our comrade. Each of their screams was ours. When they were humiliated, we were humiliated. – Arundhati Roy


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