Friday, March 24, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2006 Photo: Residents and relatives carry the bodies of Shiite pilgrims, during a funeral procession, in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, March 23, 2006. Thousands of Shiite Muslims marched through the streets of a northern Baghdad neighborhood Thursday carrying 17 wooden coffins with the bodies of fellow Shiites killed while returning home from a pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) Bring ‘em on: Danish soldier killed by IED near Basra. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi troops and security forces detained 169 insurgents and seized weapons caches in several cities, the government said. US soldier killed in action in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Update to Operation Swarmer, the air and ground assault in area north of Samarra. "Ninety-five suspected terrorists were found and have been detained and are being questioned," Lynch said. "We found 24 weapons caches that included 350 mortar rounds, 116 rockets, four surface-to-air missiles, and explosive materials for [bombs], and terrorist training materials." Bring ‘em on: Iraqi soldiers conducted a search Friday for suspected terrorists in the Kirkuk area. Soldiers from the 1st and 5th battalions of the Iraqi army’s 2nd Brigade moved through five villages in an offensive dubbed Operation Scorpion. Bring ‘em on: Meanwhile, soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division joined Iraqi troops in a sweep of five villages outside the city of Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad. Forty suspected insurgents were picked up in Hawija, police said. (US forces not mentioned in prior article. – Susan) The U.S. military announced late Thursday that it was in the second day of an operation with Iraqi soldiers "to disrupt anti-Iraqi forces and to find and destroy terrorist caches in the Abu Ghraib area west of Baghdad." The military statement said 1,400 personnel were involved in the operation - termed Northern Lights - and had captured "two persons of high-value interest and 16 suspected terrorists." Two large weapons caches also were discovered, the military said. (No mention of what was in these ‘large’ weapons caches. – Susan) Bring ‘em on: Suicide car bomber blows up near passing US convoy in Fallujah, wounding several soldiers. Iraqi army killed a gunman and arrested three others in Mahaweel. Caches of weapons also reportedly found in Mahaweel. Bring ‘em on: Canadian military personnel have been serving in Iraq since day one. In the words of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it's no secret that small numbers of Canadian military personnel are embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq as part of regular military exchange commitments between the two countries. Security Incidents: At least 56 dead in latest Iraq violence on Thursday, including a car bombing that killed 25 people in the third major attack on a police lockup in three days. (Another report said 58 were killed.) Police have discovered hundreds of corpses in the past four weeks, victims of religious militants on a rampage of revenge killings. At least 21 were found Wednesday, including those of 16 Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad, police said. U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch acknowledged a spike in "ethnic-sectarian incidents," saying that civilian casualties increased 75 percent during the period of March 11-17, compared with the previous week. In Baghdad alone, he said, the U.S. command recorded 58 incidents involving 134 dead during that period. Attacks nationwide have been averaging 75 a day, a level that has been generally sustained since August, Lynch said. Security Incidents: BAGHDADY - A suicide car bomber attacked an Iraqi army patrol near the U.S. Al Asad air base and killed nine soldiers in Baghdady near the town of Haditha, 200 km (125 miles) west of Baghdad. BAGHDAD - At least seven people were killed and another 12 wounded when a car bomb exploded in a market close to a Shi'ite mosque in the southwestern district of Shurta al-Khamisa, the Interior Ministry said. Security Incidents: Authorities recovered 15 more corpses from the streets of Baghdad today, the latest victims in a wave of execution-style slayings here. At least 225 bodies -- most bound, some blindfolded and all either shot in the head or garroted -- have been recovered in less than three weeks. Five killed and 17 wounded by IED in front of a mosque in Khalis. (Another report says Iraqi police claim US military forces left the area just before the explosion. – Susan) Gunmen opened fired on a bakery in Baghdad, killing four employees and wounding one more. As Iraqi police rushed to the scene, a bomb planted near the shop was detonated, killing one officer and wounding another. Two police recruits were killed and another wounded by gunmen in Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad. (Another source says three were killed, and they were regular police, not recruits. –Susan) Security Incidents: Gunmen killed three power station employees on their way to work in Taji. Security Incidents: Mortar rounds fell on homes in south Baghdad and in Tal Afar, wounding about 10 people, mainly children. Security Incident: Four members of a family were killed and one wounded by gunmen shooting them in their home in Mahmoudiya. Security Incident: Students killed in Tal Afar as security worsens. This article was posted on 3/19/06 and reports nine students were killed. It also reports more than 150 people killed in the city in the past few months. In the southern port city of Basra, a Sunni was shot dead by unidentified gunmen, also on leaving a local mosque after prayers. Hostages Rescued: Acting on a tip from a detainee, the multinational forces had stormed a house in western Baghdad, rescuing two Canadians and a Briton who had been held hostage by a shadowy guerrilla group for four months. Thursday's rescue, by a force that included American and British troops, represented one of the few times that military action in Iraq has played a decisive role in a hostage release. (Canadian news source says Canadian special forces were involved also. This is mentioned, but not confirmed in this article. – Susan) REPORTS Progress Report: The Iraqi Insurgency After Three Years With the third anniversary of the worst foreign policy decision in US history approaching, now seems like a good time to review that nation's progress in defeating the anti-occupational forces. (video) US Military Asserts Most of Iraq Peaceful The US military spokesman in Iraq asserted Thursday that major violence is largely confined to just three of the country's 18 provinces, but fighting there raged on with at least 58 people killed in execution-style slayings, bombings and gunbattles. For the third straight day, Sunni insurgents hit a major police and jail facility — this time with a suicide car bombing that killed 25 in central Baghdad. The attacker detonated his explosives at the entrance to the Interior Ministry Major Crimes unit in the Karradah district, killing 10 civilians and 15 policemen, authorities said. As insurgent forces raised the stakes with the attacks, the U.S. military announced late Thursday that it was in the second day of an operation with Iraqi soldiers "to disrupt anti-Iraqi forces and to find and destroy terrorist caches in the Abu Ghraib area west of Baghdad. In a rundown of recent military activity, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the U.S. military spokesman, told reporters Thursday that most Iraqi violence was focused in three central provinces, including Baghdad. "There is not widespread violence across Iraq. There is not. Seventy-five percent of the attacks still take place in Baghdad, al-Anbar or Salaheddin (provinces). And in the other 15 provinces, they all averaged less than six attacks a day, and 12 of those provinces averaged less than two attacks a day." He said attacks nationwide were averaging 75 a day, a level that has been generally sustained since last August. The three provinces he cited, however, are home to about 9 million people, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development — a third of the country's population of 27 million. (Hooray! Only a third of the total population is in turmoil and chaos! Wonder when the Iraqis are going to thank us? – Susan) Sectarian Internal Migration Plagues Iraq Faced with simmering sectarian tensions and the looming prospect of a civil war, thousands of Sunni and Shiite families are fleeing their homes and moving to areas where their respective sects are in majority. Some 2425 Sunni families have migrated from Shiite-dominated provinces such as Karbala, An-Najaf, Al-Qadisiyah and Babil, according to statement by the Ministry of Migration and Emigrants, a copy of which was obtained by IslamOnline.net. They have moved to cities such as Fallujah, Samarra, Al-Latyfiah and Al-Mahmoudyah, where Sunnis are in majority, added the statement. Similarly, around 1,280 Shiite families have relocated to the Shiite–majority provinces of Al-Samawah, Dhi Qar, Maysan and Wasit. The government has allocated 500 million dinars (around $338,000) in relief for these families. Many Christians have migrated from areas, particularly Baghdad, to Christian villages in northern Iraq over security deterioration. "Even after selling my Baghdad house I would still needs millions of dinars to buy a similar one in a remote Christian village," one Christian told IOL, declining to put his name. "I would have to settle for a more humble home in an area where jobs are a bit of a rarity," he added. US-led Forces Round Up Whole Iraq Village in Security Sweep The entire adult male population of a village west of Baghdad was rounded up in a major joint US-Iraqi operation against insurgents that netted two "high value targets." Operation Northern Lights, which involves more than 1,100 US soldiers and marines as well as Iraqi army units, is targeting bomb-making cells and weapon caches in the vast rural fields west of the capital. "This whole area is a hotbed for insurgents, and is a major (arms) cache and transport zone," said First Lieutenant Caleb Singer, acting commander of Bravo Company, which had a leading role in the search operation. The raid on the village of Ibrahim bin Ali began at 1 am (2300 GMT Wednesday) and is expected to last 24 hours. US troops were airlifted in to lay a cordon around the village and then went house-to-house, rounding up men and questioning them. In one case more than 100 detainees were taken to a nearby school. US Colonel Jeffrey Snow acknowledged that people were being temporarily inconvenienced but said it was worth it for the intelligence gathered as well as detailed sweeps of the area for weapons. (I wonder if Jeffrey Snow would feel ‘temporarily inconvenienced’ if that happened to his hometown. – Susan) Shia Death Squads Target Iraqi Gays – US Indifferent Following a death-to-gays fatwa issued last October by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (left), death squads of the Badr Corps have been systematically targeting gay Iraqis for persecution and execution, gay Iraqis say. But when they ask for help and protection from U.S. occupying authorities in the “Green Zone,” gay Iraqis are met with indifference and derision. “The Badr Corps is committed to the ‘sexual cleansing’ of Iraq,“ says Ali Hili, a 33-year-old gay Iraqi exile in London who, with some 30 other gay Iraqis who have fled to the United Kingdom, five months ago founded the Abu Nawas Group there to support persecuted gay Iraqis. (Abu Nawas was a great 8th century classical poet of Arab and Persian descent who is known throughout Middle East cultures, and is famous for his poems in praise of same-sex love.) Said Hili, “We believe that the Badr Corps is receiving advice from Iran on how to target gay people.” In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been carrying out a lethal anti-gay pogrom against Iranian gays, notably through entrapment by Internet -- and this tactic has recently begun to be used by the Badr Corps in Iraq to identify and hunt down Iraqi gays. Hili provided information on the cases of several gay victims of the Badr Corps, but said, “"These killings are just the ones we have been able to get details about. They are the tip of an iceberg of religious-motivated executions. Gay Iraqis are living in fear of discovery and murder." (This man spoke on Democracy Now! the other day, and they are seeking funds to help the victims in Iraq. More information at the link. – Susan) No Escape for Fearful Palestinians in Iraq Reports of kidnappings, murder and persecution of Palestinian refugees in Iraq have forced many to try to flee, but for most there is nowhere else to go. Jordan's closure of its borders with Iraq on Sunday to prevent the entry of 89 Palestinians seeking sanctuary from Iraq's carnage shows the refugees have few options. Sheikh Ayman Mustafa, a 33-year-old Palestinian cleric who lives in one of the rundown apartment buildings in Baghdad that are home to thousands of refugees, said an explosion of sectarian violence had made it too risky to stay in Iraq. "Palestinians have been abducted and later found dead," he told Reuters. "Many families have fled, others have come to me seeking protection." The Palestinians, who braved bandits and insurgents along the treacherous highway to get to the Jordanian border, may now have to turn around and come back to Baghdad. "This period is very difficult for the Palestinians. They are kidnapped and killed and tortured," said a Palestinian diplomat in Baghdad who asked not to be named. Sixty Palestinians had been killed since the invasion, he said, before adding: "Now we find about two to three Palestinians in the morgue every week." Arriving in Iraq in three waves in 1948, 1967 and 1991, Palestinians enjoyed financial support from Saddam Hussein, who considered himself the champion of the Arab cause. Their schooling and health care were subsidised, generating resentment among Iraqis who paid dearly through three wars in a quarter of a century, crippling sanctions and one of the world's most ruthless police states. These days, the mostly Sunni Muslim Arab Palestinians sit in the rundown Baladiyaat district of Baghdad hoping they will not get caught up in sectarian violence which has killed hundreds of people since last month's bombing of a Shi'ite Muslim shrine. Palestinians say Iraqis began attacking them after a deadly car bomb in a nearby area last year. Their anxieties grew after a popular state television show then featured four bruised Palestinians "confessing" to the attack. "My brother was completely innocent," said Tahir Nooreddine of one of the suspects. Situation Seems to Be Getting Worse In a bustling shopping district in a Shiite neighborhood that has been a frequent target of terrorist attacks, grocer Duraid Mohammed Hussein recently created a no-parking zone in front of his shop, fashioned from red packing cord and a couple of metal stands that he prays will keep car bombers at bay. The notion that a piece of cord could improve his chances in an insurgent attack is illogical, Hussein acknowledged. But the 35-year-old shopkeeper said he had to do something to ward off a suffocating sense of vulnerability, a feeling that seems pervasive among Iraqis these days. "In 2003 and 2004, I thought the violence would pass and we would be OK," Hussein said. "Now I feel as if this will never end. The situation seems to be only getting worse." For more than a year, Shiites and Sunnis living in neighborhoods dominated by the other sect have reported that intimidation and violence forced them to flee their homes. Since the shrine bombing, the cross-exodus has accelerated. Both sects' religious and political leaders say they have resettled hundreds of their followers who feared for their lives. Just last week, an aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's leading Shiite cleric, said his office had resettled 100 families from the Sunni cities of Mahmoudiya and Latifiyah to the Shiite holy city of Najaf. On a recent afternoon, Mohammed Aajil Sayeed al-Yassiri, 42, pulled up on his scooter to an abandoned and crumbling primary school in a Shiite neighborhood in northwestern Baghdad from which he, his wife and six children fled last month after receiving warnings from a Sunni neighbor. Behind the padlocked gate, his family laid dusty rugs on the floors of one of the few classrooms that had a door that would shut. Large sacks of rice, some pots and pans, a row of shoes and stacks of folded clothing arrayed along the walls were the only possessions the family brought with them. A few days earlier, he said, officials of the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia controlling the area around the school, had moved 11 other families who had been squatting in the school to the southern cities of Diwaniyah and Kut. Al-Yassiri said his family had been told that a home in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad might be available for them in a few days. The Forgotten Victims of the Iraq War 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. They live in homes where 25 people live in a space of 40 square metres. Even intact families may comprise parents and five children in a single 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. Others load and transport items in the markets, where they must pull carts weighing 60-70kg and carry boxes weighing 15kg in temperatures of 50°C. Two children may unload a lorry carrying one tonne of food items. Not surprisingly, Iraq’s child workers suffer from a wide array of serious health problems. Children who work in the garbage dumps are prone to skin and respiratory problems, while those who work with paints eventually become addicted to the intoxicants that 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 by family members if they do not provide the daily wage expected of them, or by their bosses when they are inattentive or make a mistake. Indeed, Iraqi children are exposed to beating without regard for their age and for myriad reasons, thus growing up insecure, hostile and violent. Moreover, they are prone to being kidnapped by criminal gangs, trained to steal or pickpocket, or, worse, placed at the mercy of terrorists for use in attacks. The deterioration of families’ financial situation has also left poor children deprived of educational opportunity. For many children, even when they do attend school, the collapse of infrastructure, the unavailability of electricity and water, and high temperatures in the summer are hardly conducive to successful study. Simply put, children in Iraq have been reduced from human beings worthy of care to tools of production and instruments of violence. We are quite literally breeding a new generation of disorder. The writer, a member of the Iraqi National Assembly, directs the Islamic Foundation for Women and Children. Rehabilitating A Fighting Force/ Iraqi Soldiers Learn How to Deal Respectfully With Residents And Make Them Believe The Army is There To Protect, Not Oppress (See next article – Susan) The Iraqi army has set up a checkpoint in the center of this small town east of Fallujah. Uniformed soldiers with AK-47 assault rifles stand guard at the main intersection. Others load into white Nissan pickups to relieve guards at other checkpoints on the outskirts of town. They're dressed in desert camouflage uniforms, and almost all wear ski masks or other covering for their faces. But the masks can't hide their youth. Most of these young soldiers look barely old enough to be in the army. They're fresh-faced kids, some right off the farm, who hardly need to shave. "I came here to save my country and help my family," said one jundi -- Arabic for soldier. Nearly all the Iraqi soldiers, jundi and officers, wear scarves or ski masks when they go out on patrol to keep from being recognized. For safety's sake, they didn't want their names published. (Which tells you a lot. – Susan) The Iraqi army is in its infancy and experiencing growing pains. But it is considered crucial to the question of when American troops might finally leave this war-torn country. (Guess he missed Bush’s speech saying he did not intend to leave Iraq. – Susan) The soldiers in Nasser Wa Sallem are largely Shiites from the south. In Anbar province, they patrol a population that is mostly Sunni. The Sunni-Shiite divide is one of the fault lines that threaten to tear the country apart. (And apparently, those ‘fault lines’ did not exist prior to the invasion. 40% of the ‘deck of cards’ were Shi’ias. – Susan) Many Iraqi and American troops said the Iraqis in the field do pretty good work overall. The trouble comes with the senior leadership in Baghdad, you hear repeatedly. There is too much nepotism and corruption. People are being given positions based on who they know, rather than what they can do. (I take it that this refers to the current Iraqi government, not the Bremer administration, but the same tactic applied. – Susan) UN Rights Office Urges Iraq to Rein in Death Squads The United Nations has called on Iraqi authorities to rein in "death squads" allegedly operating within security forces and said it received regular reports of torture in detention centres. The U.N. human rights office in Iraq also said in a report covering the first two months of this year, insurgent activities including "terrorist acts" have intensified since the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra on Feb 22, "resulting in hundreds of cases of killings, torture, illegal detention and displacement". The nine-page report posted on the website www.uniraq.org., said U.N. officials, who report to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, had received serious allegations about elements in the police and special forces and "their apparent collusion with militias in carrying out human rights violations". The (U.N.) Human Rights Office also continues to receive regular allegations and evidence of torture in detention centres, particularly (those) not operated or controlled by the Ministry of Justice," it said. It welcomed inspections underway in places of detention under the control of the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defence and special forces throughout the country, according to the U.N. which called for those reports to be made public. It also said military operations by multinational and Iraqi forces especially in western Anbar province had raised concerns due to allegations of "excessive use of force", mistreatment and theft during raids, and demolitions of houses. Challenge for US: Iraq’s Handling of Detainees (Brought to you by the NYT, devoid of any thought. Snark alert. – Susan) CAMP JUSTICE, Iraq — The blindfolded detainees in the dingy hallway line up in groups of five for their turn to see a judge, like schoolchildren outside the principal's office. (I don’t know of any schools that blindfold children, do you? – Susan) Each meeting lasts a few minutes. The judge rules whether the detainee will go free, face trial or be held longer at this Iraqi base in northern Baghdad. But Firas Sabri Ali, squeezed into a fetid cell just hundreds of yards from the judge's office, has watched the inmates come and go for four months without his name ever being called. (Just like school children again! What a co-inky-dink! – Susan) He is jailed, along with two brothers and his father, solely as collateral, he says. The Iraqi forces are hunting another brother, suspected of being an insurgent. The chief American medic here says that he believes Mr. Ali to be innocent but that it is up to the Iraqi police to decide whether to free him. The Iraqis acknowledged that they were holding Mr. Ali until they captured his brother. (There they go – imitating the US forces in Iraq again! And they were imitating Saddam’s forces, right? – Susan) Such is the challenge facing the American military as it tries to train the Iraqi security forces to respect the rule of law. (And what a challenge it is! – Susan) Three years after the invasion of Iraq, American troops are no longer simply teaching counterinsurgency techniques; they are trying to school the Iraqis in battling a Sunni-led rebellion without resorting to the tactics of a "dirty war," involving abductions, torture and murder. (Opps, they forgot bombing! This article should be titled “Do As We Say, Not As We Do”. – Susan) The legacy of Abu Ghraib hampers the American military. (No! Who would have thought? Just because Rumsfeld and Gonzales are still in power and still promoting these policies is *NO* reason for the world to think the US is being hypocritical! – Susan) The Americans are pushing the Shiite-dominated Iraqi forces to ask judges for arrest warrants, restrain their use of force and ensure detainees' rights. (And when they finish this, maybe they could work on that prison down in Cuba? – Susan) The Iraqi officers at this base, the headquarters of the Public Order Forces, a police paramilitary division with a history of torture and abuse, are gradually changing their behavior, American military advisers say. Cases of detainee abuse have declined in recent months, they say. (Sure it has! And the death squads are gone, and peace and prosperity have broken out all over Iraq! And the prisoners at Guantanamo are now seen justice and the American Way! – Susan) "The tradition in this country of a law enforcement agency that had absolute power over people, we've got to break them of that," said Maj. Andrew Creel, the departing joint operations officer here. "I think it'll take years. You can't change a cultural mind-set overnight." (I think he is talking about America, what do you think? – Susan) But Col. Gordon Davis Jr., the head of Camp Justice's departing advisory team, praised the Iraqi commander here, Maj. Gen. Mehdi Sabih Hashem al-Garawi, for showing a willingness to embrace human rights. (Can we reassign him to the CIA? – Susan) "I won't say he's gone 180, but he's realized that the best way of getting information is not to beat or abuse detainees," Colonel Davis said as he stood in the operations room, the walls plastered with maps of Baghdad. (The CIA NEEDS HIM. – Susan) "The current generation has been brought up with a certain code and a certain tolerance for abuse," he said in another interview. "They've got to be constantly worked on." (I think he is talking about the current US government here, even though it is an article about Iraq. – Susan) In Fallujah, Iraqi Forces Riven by Sectarianism If all goes to plan, U.S.-trained Iraqi troops and police will work together, gain the trust of volatile cities like Falluja and battle insurgents on their own as the Americans gradually withdraw troops. But, judging by the mood of this former rebel stronghold west of Baghdad, that is wishful thinking. Iraqi soldiers and police, charged with making sure al Qaeda-linked militants and Saddam Hussein loyalists who once took over the city never return, are deeply divided, raising questions about the prospects of stability. This week, the mostly Arab Sunni police staged a strike to protest what they said were abuses committed by Shi'ite Muslim soldiers. The police have returned to their posts, but the mistrust remains. "The soldiers attacked a 17-year-old grocer and took him away to an area where he was found dead two hours later," said a police major, who asked not to be named. He said the youth had been shot in the eye and his stomach ripped open. There was no way to independently verify the account but facts rarely matter in Iraq's chaos, where word of kidnappings and killings are all it takes to fuel sectarian violence. (And if there is no way to independently verify, then there is no security. What good did it do to ‘liberate’ Fallujah three times? – Susan) Saddam loyalists and Islamist militants were crushed in a U.S. offensive on Falluja in 2004 that was designed to stabilise the city and hand it over to local forces, but resentment towards Iraqi soldiers remains and is growing. "The army raided my shop a few days ago and they beat and kicked me," said Alaa Majeed, a mobile telephone dealer. "They stole my money and the mobiles I had left. I closed my shop because I don't want to be robbed again." Residents say Falluja is still recovering from the 2004 U.S. air strikes, artillery and tank fire that left most of the city in ruins. The Iraqi government and the U.S. military hoped the offensive would deter rebels from trying to take over other towns, but Iraqi soldiers say insurgents have crept back. Aside from renewed violence, residents complain of sporadic electricity, poor water supplies and slow reconstruction. But one of their biggest problem appears to be the Iraqi forces charged with protecting them. "As long as Iraqi army troops are in our city we will never see any security or feel any relief. Most attacks are carried out by them because they do not want to see any stability here," said Fahd Saadoun, 30, a teacher. Mosul Governor Turns to Tribal Leaders for Help Governor Duraid Kashmoula has pleaded with tribal leaders in the province of Nineveh to help him reinstate security in his troubled province. U.S. troops have handed security of the restive city of Mosul, the provincial center, to Iraqi forces but violence is reported to have escalated. Last week U.S. military commanders officially withdrew from the part of the city on the left bank of the Tigris River. Iraqi forces now have sole responsibility for Mosul and many of smaller provincial towns like Tal Affar. Fearing an upsurge in violence following the U.S. withdrawal from the city, Kashmoula held a meeting with scores of tribal leaders in the province urging them to flush out “criminals and terrorists” from their areas. He asked the tribes “to pursue criminals and terrorists and restrain their activities as part of a security plan to wipe them out.” Minister Says 89 Professors Killed; Universities Suffering From Sectarian Strife Higher Education and Scientific Research Minister said 89 university professors have been killed in the three years since the U.S. invasion. It is the first time a high-ranking government official gives a figure on number of universities professors who have been killed in the past three years. But the minister, Sami Mudhafar, denied reports that the killings were part of a campaign targeting mainly Iraqi intelligentsia. He said the killings were the result of worsening security conditions in Iraq in general. Earlier reports gave much higher figures of the professors who have been killed. “The announced figures on the exact numbers of victims are considerably exaggerated. I have exact and accurate figures and the number of university professors who have martyred does not go beyond 89,” he said in an interview. Asked whether he had any plans to protect universities and their professors, he said: “The state is incapable of protecting university professors because the whole security situation is unstable and fraught with many violations.” “I myself was target of an assassination attempt recently and the government has failed to obtain any lead regarding the party behind it,” he added. REPORT: US: Iraq On Own to Rebuild The head of the US-led program to rebuild Iraq said Thursday that the Iraqi government can no longer count on U.S. funds and must rely on its own revenues and other foreign aid, particularly from Gulf nations. "The Iraqi government needs to build up its capability to do its own capital budget investment," Daniel Speckhard, director of the U.S. Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, told reporters. The burden of funding reconstruction poses an extraordinary challenge for a country that needs tens of billions of dollars for repairing its infrastructure at the same time it's struggling to pay its bills. Iraq's main revenue source - oil - is hampered by insurgent attacks on production facilities and pipelines, forcing the country to spend $6 billion a year on oil imports. Iraq's deputy finance minister, Kamal Field al-Basri, said it was "reasonable" for the United States to sharply cut back its reconstruction efforts after spending about $21 billion. "We should be very much dependent on ourselves," al-Basri said in an interview. Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, called the U.S. reconstruction effort "a dismal failure. It hasn't met any of its goals. It's left a legacy of half-built projects, built to U.S. standards, which Iraq doesn't have the capability to maintain." (This makes me sad. – Susan) Benchmarks: US Iraq Casualties Stay High Over the past month, the average rate at which U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq has significantly fallen, the but the rates at which they are being wounded have dramatically increased. U.S. mainstream media reports have focused only on the numbers being killed. But over the past eight months, we have repeatedly emphasized in this column that the far larger numbers of U.S. troops wounded, especially those wounded too seriously to return to active duty, represent a far broader and more statistically significant figure of the scale of insurgent activity and the degree to which it is succeeding or failing to inflict significant casualties on U.S. forces. Oil Ministry In Crisis, Experts Say Iraq’s oil ministry, mired in corruption, is facing a serious crisis, experts said. They said the ministry lacked “effective leadership” and the officials in charge were only keen to attain personal gains. The accusations come as exports have plunged to nearly half their level before the 2003 U.S. invasion and fears that the ministry may not be able even to pay for fuel imports. “The Iraqi oil sector currently suffers from the absence of an effective leadership, bad administration, retreat in output and has become a fertile ground for corruption,” said Fadhil Jalabi, an Iraqi oil expert and head of the London-based Energy Center. Shamkhi Faraj, a senior ministry official, agreed. “The country is ruined and these officials are working to achieve their personal wishes,” he said. Another senior official, refusing to be named, was even blunter in his criticism, saying: “The conditions have reached the worst stage one can imagine.” Iran Becomes Iraq’s No. 1 Trade Partner, Minister Says Iran tops the list of countries trading with Iraq, said Industry and Minerals Minister Osama al-Najafi. He said other neighboring countries and states in the Arab Middle East were still reluctant to resume normal trading with the country. Iran, he added, is pressing ahead to expand bilateral trade paying no heed to security conditions that have driven away other partners. Iran, he added, is now number one exporter to Iraq and has recently provided financial incentives to set up large-scale, heavy industries. Najafi said Iraq’s industrial sector was in desperate need of investments. “We require $60 billion to revive our industry,” he said. He said foreign donations for the industry were being diverted to other ministries dealing with security issues. However, he said, some progress has been made despite the difficulties. Fertilizer industries now meet most of the domestic demand, he said, adding that the country’s pharmaceuticals cover 40% of local needs. POLITICS REPORT: Mr Rumsfeld urged Iraqi leaders to form a government that included all of the country's religious, ethnic and political groups. "A good government, a competent government, a government that's seen as inclusive and seen as governing from the centre, that gets about the task of serving the Iraqi people... I believe that that would be a good thing for the country and would reduce the level of violence," he said. "So to the extent that isn't happening, obviously, the level of violence continues and people are being killed, and that's unfortunate. And they need to get about the task." On Sunday, Iraqi leaders formed a security council to tackle key issues while talks on forming a new government continued, but there has been no sign of progress since. There has been deadlock over the post of prime minister, with the Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance's potential coalition partners rejecting its candidate - the incumbent - Ibrahim Jaafari. (Someone please tell Mr. Rumsfeld that it isn’t going to make a bit of difference! – Susan) REPORT: In a news conference Thursday, U.S. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch blamed the surge of attacks on insurgents intent on derailing Iraqi efforts to form a national unity government. (So, what are they going to say when the attacks continue after the government is formed? – Susan) Political leaders continue to quarrel over the new government's makeup but plan to meet Saturday to discuss their differences. Envoy Accuses Iran of Duplicity on Iraq -- (Courtesy of the WaPo, Devoid of Any Critical Thought Process. Snark alert. - Susan) Iran is publicly professing its support for Iraq's stalemated political process while its military and intelligence services back outlawed militias and insurgent groups, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Thursday. (So much for getting the Iranian officials to talk to US officials, eh? – Susan) Iranian agents train and arm Shiite Muslim militias such as the Mahdi Army, linked to one of Iraq's most powerful clerics, (No, this is not true. – Susan) Khalilzad said, and also work closely with Sunni Arab-led insurgent forces including Ansar al-Sunna, (Even less plausible! –Susan) blamed for dozens of deadly attacks on Iraqi and American soldiers and Shiite civilians. (Where was that mention about the Iranians helping the Badr corps? Got to be here somewhere, right? Nope. What a co-inky-dink! – Susan) With negotiations to form a government deadlocked three months after the Dec. 15 legislative elections and Iraqis growing increasingly impatient, Khalilzad said he was stressing to Iraqi leaders that new authority is needed to quell instability. (“Do as I say” says Khalilzad, not as my country does. We only dropped 30,000 bombs on your country to quell instability, and now you are messing up all our self-less and charitable efforts here. – Susan) "I am the one who's saying, 'The country is bleeding, you need to move,' " he said, (The country is bleeding because of US authorities actions and decisions, you dope! – Susan) adding that recent sessions with political leaders from various sides have brought at least one encouraging sign: The groups are now more willing to directly address each other's concerns without using Americans as intermediaries. (If only they could! Ha! – Susan) Asked if Shiites, who fell short of winning a parliamentary majority, would ever be willing to share enough power to allow a unified government to be formed, Khalilzad pointed to constitutional provisions that require a two-thirds vote for many of the functions of government to be carried out. (Maybe we should have that here in the USA? – Susan) The Shiites "have no alternative" but to compromise, he said. (Funny how the Bush administration saw other “alternatives” rather than compromise on many, many issues… but somehow, the Iraqis cannot do the same. Hey, just watch them! These US idiots would be really funny if it weren’t for the fact that they are killing innocent people. – Susan) LEGAL CASES Another Abu Ghraib Trial Leaves Top Brass Unscathed With the conviction of an Army dog handler, the military has now tried and found guilty another low-ranking soldier in connection with the pattern of abuses that first surfaced two years ago at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But once again, an attempt by defense lawyers to point a finger of responsibility at higher-ranking officers failed in the latest case to persuade a military jury that ultimate responsibility for the abuses lay further up the chain of command. Some military experts said one reason there have not been attempts to pursue charges up the military chain of command is that the military does not have anything tantamount to a district attorney's office. "The real question is: Who is the independent prosecutor who is liberated to pursue these cases?" said Eugene Fidell, a specialist in military law. "There is no central prosecution office run by commanders. So you don't have a D.A. thinking, 'I'm going to follow this wherever it leads.' " To date, the highest-ranking officer convicted in relation to the abuses is Army Capt. Shawn Martin, who was found guilty last March of kicking detainees and staging the mock execution of a prisoner. He was sentenced to 45 days in prison and fined $12,000. Smith had faced a maximum sentence of 8 1/2 years, but on Wednesday was sentenced to just 179 days -- slightly less than under six months -- in prison. He will also be demoted to private, fined $2,250 and will be released from the Army with a bad-conduct discharge after serving his sentence. "A mere tap on the wrist for abusing prisoners gives the appearance that once again that the United States is not serious about its responsibility to discipline those convicted of human rights violations," Curt Goering, Amnesty International's senior deputy executive director for policy and programs, said in a statement. Soldier Who Killed Iraqi Girl in 2004 Discharged; No Criminal Charges Filed The Army has discharged without criminal charges a Schofield Barracks soldier who was involved in the 2004 killing of a 13-year-old girl and wounding of her sister and mother in Iraq. A criminal investigation was opened and evidence was reviewed before the decision by Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, the commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, to approve the discharge of Sgt. Jeffrey D. Waruch, 28, officials said. "In this case, a review of the investigation determined that no further evidence was likely to be found that would result in the case going to trial," Schofield Barracks said in a statement. The investigation found that Waruch, who was with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, did not act in a negligent or unlawful manner in the Feb. 18, 2004 shootings and that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute, the Army said. ……as the three ran from a roadside bomb attack on a U.S. convoy, 13-year-old Intisar Saleh was shot in the head from a distance of about 200 feet. Her mother was hit and lost a leg, and Intisar's 15-year-old sister was shot in the leg. Waruch said in a statement that he shot the three Iraqis after they ignored repeated warnings in English and Arabic to stop, suspicious movements were made, and one appeared to have "something long" that he believed could have been a weapon. A review conducted by Maj. Samuel Schubert found that two in the group of fleeing civilians were surrendering, and that Waruch fired at one of the females because the civilians made "sudden movements." Schubert said in his report: "Under these facts, the soldier's certainty that he was about to be fired upon was not reasonable," and there was no weapon. He added, "The soldier did not observe hostile intent.” Military Doctor to Face Court Martial for Refusing to Return to Iraq A Royal Air Force doctor who refused to return for a tour of duty in Iraq because he believes military action there is illegal will face court martial, a judge ruled. Lawyers for Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith had argued at a pre-trial hearing that he should not face action for disobeying orders because he believed there was no basis in international law for attacking Iraq. But Judge-advocate Jack Bayliss disagreed, outlining in his judgment Wednesday that the orders given to the 37-year-old medic were lawful. COMMENTARY OPINION: "George Bush's Trillion-Dollar War " Call it the trillion-dollar war. George W. Bush's war in Iraq was never supposed to be particularly expensive. Administration types tossed out numbers like $50 billion and $60 billion. When Lawrence Lindsey, the president's chief economic adviser, said the war was likely to cost $100 billion to $200 billion, he was fired. Some in the White House tried to spread the fantasy that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for the war. Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and a fanatical hawk, told Congress that Iraq was "a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." The president and his hot-for-war associates were as wrong about the money as they were about the weapons of mass destruction. Now comes a study by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University, and a colleague, Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, that estimates the "true costs" of the war at more than $1 trillion, and possibly more than $2 trillion. "Even taking a conservative approach and assuming all U.S. troops return by 2010, we believe the true costs exceed a trillion dollars," the authors say. The study was released earlier this year but has not gotten much publicity. The analysis by Professors Stiglitz and Bilmes goes beyond the immediate costs of combat operations to include other direct and indirect costs of the war that, in some cases, the government will have to shoulder for many years. These costs, the study says, "include disability payments to veterans over the course of their lifetimes, the cost of replacing military equipment and munitions, which are being consumed at a faster-than-normal rate, the cost of medical treatment for returning Iraqi war veterans, particularly the more than 7,000 [service members] with brain, spinal, amputation and other serious injuries, and the cost of transporting returning troops back to their home bases." The study also notes that Defense Department expenditures that were not directly appropriated for Iraq have grown by more than 5 percent since the war began. But a portion of that increase has been spent "on support for the war in Iraq, including significantly higher recruitment costs, such as nearly doubling the number of recruiters, paying recruitment bonuses of up to $40,000 for new enlistees and paying special bonuses and other benefits, up to $150,000 for current Special Forces troops that re-enlist." "Another cost to the government," the study says, "is the interest on the money that it has borrowed to finance the war." Among the things taken into account by the study are some of the difficult-to-quantify but very real costs inflicted by the war on the American economy and society, such as the effect of the war on oil prices, and the economic loss that results from the many thousands of Americans wounded and killed in the war. The study does not address the substantial costs of the war borne by Iraq or by any other countries besides the United States. In an interview, Mr. Stiglitz said that about $560 billion, which is a little more than half of the study's conservative estimate of the cost of the war, would have been enough to "fix" Social Security for the next 75 years. If one were thinking in terms of promoting democracy in the Middle East, he said, the money being spent on the war would have been enough to finance a "mega-mega-mega-Marshall Plan," which would have been "so much more" effective than the invasion of Iraq. It's not easy to explain just how much money $1 trillion really is. Imagine a stack of bills worth $1 million that is roughly six inches high. (Think big denominations — a mix of $100 bills and $1,000 bills, mostly $1,000's.) If the six-inch stack were enlarged to the point where it was worth $1 billion, it would be as tall as the Washington Monument, about 500 feet. If it were worth $1 trillion, the stack would be 95 miles high. Ms. Bilmes said that the $1 trillion we're spending on Iraq amounts to about $10,000 for every household in the U.S. At his press conference on Tuesday, President Bush made it clear that whatever the cost, American forces would not be leaving Iraq soon. When asked whether a day would come when there were no U.S. forces in Iraq, he said that decision would be made by future presidents and future governments of Iraq. The meter's running. We're at a trillion dollars, and counting. OPINION: Did US Soldiers Execute Iraqi Family? Including Children? Another policeman, Colonel Farouq Hussein, is quoted as saying: "all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head". Hussein said that the bodies, their hands bound, had been dumped in one room before the house was destroyed. Police allegedly found spent American-issue cartridges in the rubble. "It's a clear and perfect crime without any doubt," Hussein reportedly said. It is clear that the objective to paint US soldiers as cold blooded killers continues. This report is offensive and denigrates each and everyone who wears a US uniform. (This writer does not address why the USA would want to stay in Iraq and support such a people as he describes here. – Susan) Opponents of the Iraq war will stoop to even lower levels in the future. Has no one considered that these wounds may have been inflicted at a later time? No one over there would ever stoop to such tactics. And here is where I get labeled a fascist and a war mongerer. In the 'Art of War' by Sun Tsu, he points out that if you are going to kill a warrior who is the head of a household - then you best kill all who could seek revenge. This is also biblical; in the Old Testament the armies of God often would kill all the members of a household. Now, I'm not saying this is what has happened, as I was not there. However, it it did happen (and that's a big IF) then the only logical solution would be the one pointed out here. Our soldiers are brave fighting men and women who have no personal axe to grind and are not hot-headed cold blooded killers with a taste for blood. Our soldiers are taught to kill no doubt, but they are also taught mercy. The way the article is slanted would have you believe that our soldiers simply recklessly invaded a household and murdered everyone inside with no regard. There are no counter claims as to the occupants standing in the community. We did not go in and blow away the local librarian and her family. (It is unlikely this small town would have a librarian. – Susan) This is war people, innocents die along with the guilty and that is why it is as ugly as it is. That's why as an American I remind my children each day of the American blood spilled so they can play video games, watch tv, play sports, go to school and talk on their cell phones. That same blood spilled allows you (Americans) to critique those fighting this war as well as me writing a response pointing it all out. (I printed this to show you how the other side thinks. I am not sure who did the killing in this instance – it seems unlikely to me that US troops who handcuff an entire family and then shoot them, when just shooting them would have the same effect – but I am certain that the US soldiers have on occasion acted out feelings of revenge and retribution. Now, aren’t you glad this guy is not your dad? – Susan) OPINON: The Joy of Being Blameless The contrast could not have been more stark, nor the message more clear. On the day that a court-martial imposed justice on a 24-year-old Army sergeant for tormenting detainees at Abu Ghraib with his dog, President Bush said once again that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose benighted policies and managerial incompetence led to the prisoner abuse scandal, was doing a "fine job" and should stay at his post. We've seen this sorry pattern for nearly two years now, since the Abu Ghraib horrors first shocked the world: President Bush has clung to the fiction that the abuse of prisoners was just the work of a few rotten apples, despite report after report after report demonstrating that it was organized and systematic, and flowed from policies written by top officials in his administration. Just this week, Eric Schmitt and Carolyn Marshall provided a bloodcurdling account in the Times of how a Special Operations unit converted an Iraqi military base into a torture chamber, even using prisoners as paintball targets, in its frenzy to counter a widely predicted insurgency for which Mr. Rumsfeld had refused to prepare. In early 2004, an 18-year-old man suspected of selling cars to members of a terrorist network was arrested and beaten repeatedly. Another man said he had been forced to strip, punched in the spine until he fainted, put in front of an air-conditioner while cold water was poured on him and kicked in the stomach until he vomited. His crime? His father had worked for Saddam Hussein. These accounts are tragically familiar. The names and dates change, but the basic pattern is the same, including the fact that this bestiality produced little or no useful intelligence. The Bush administration decided to go outside the law to deal with prisoners, and soldiers carried out that policy. Those who committed these atrocities deserve the punishment they are getting, but virtually all high-ranking soldiers have escaped unscathed. And not a single policy maker has been called to account. Col. Thomas Pappas, the former intelligence chief at Abu Ghraib, testified at the dog handler's trial that the use of dogs had grown out of conversations he had had with military jailers from Guantánamo Bay led by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who had been sent to Iraq to instruct soldiers there in the interrogation techniques refined at Gitmo under Mr. Rumsfeld's torture-is-legal policy. Colonel Pappas said General Miller had explained how to use the "Arab fear of dogs" to set up interrogations. What of General Miller? He invoked his right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying, and Time magazine reported this week that he was exonerated by an Army whitewash. Apparently he was not responsible for the actions of soldiers operating under rules he put in place. About the only high-ranking officer whose career has suffered over Abu Ghraib is Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was the commander in Iraq at the time. General Sanchez should certainly take responsibility, but he was also a victim of administration blunders. General Sanchez was vaulted inappropriately from head of the First Armored Division to overall commander because Mr. Bush declared "mission accomplished": the war's over. He was then denied the staff, soldiers and equipment he needed to deal with the insurgency that quickly broke out and produced thousands of prisoners. Mr. Bush has refused to hold himself or any of his top political appointees accountable for those catastrophic errors. Indeed, he has promoted many of them. And this is not an isolated problem. It's just one example, among many, of how this president's men run no risk of being blamed for anything that happens, not matter how egregious. OPINON: In Charge, Except They’re Not Is President Bush the leader of our government, or is he just a right-wing talk-show host? The question comes to mind after Bush's news conference this week in which he sounded like someone who has no control over the government he is in charge of. His words were those of a pundit inveighing against the evils of bureaucrats. Obviously," said the critic in chief, "there are some times when government bureaucracies haven't responded the way we wanted them to, and like citizens, you know, I don't like that at all." Yes, and if you can't do something about it, who can? This episode is important because it is representative of a corrosive style of politics. Bush and many of his fellow Republicans have done a good business over the years running against the ills of Big Government. They are so much in the habit of trashing government that even when they are in charge of things -- remember, Republicans have controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for all but 18 months since 2001 -- they pretend they are not. And when their own government fails, they turn around and use their incompetence to argue that government can never work anyway, so you might as well keep electing conservatives to have less government. It's an ideological Catch-22. Even their failures prove they are right. OPINION: Un-American Activities THE MORE revelations there are of detainee abuse by US troops, the more evident it is that the guards who mistreated prisoners at Abu Ghraib were not just a few bad apples, as the Bush administration has described them. A New York Times report Sunday focused on a detention center at Baghdad airport where FBI, CIA, and civilian Department of Defense officials complained to their superiors about the harsh tactics, including beatings, used by military interrogators. The public, in whose name this treatment is being inflicted, deserves to know the findings of the Pentagon inquiry on what happened at the airport. The public also has a right to know whether ranking officers are being held accountable, and, if not, why not. The military could not ignore the Abu Ghraib abuses after soldiers who disapproved of what happened released photos of the activities to the media. The Bush administration then did its best to minimize Abu Ghraib as an isolated case and the work of untrained reservists. But the Baghdad airport center was staffed largely by highly trained Special Operations troops, with about 1,000 present at any time. According to the Times, 34 have been disciplined for mistreatment. The United States is paying for prisoner abuse in the animosity it engenders throughout the Mideast. And US soldiers will pay for it in future conflicts when they are captured and subjected to similar mistreatment. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has consistently been an apologist for and enabler of prisoner abuse. President Bush should order him to resign, and, as his last official act, release the Formica report. OPINION: ‘Question of Torture’ Might Cause Readers to Question Their Liberties McCoy shows torture has been a principal tool used throughout history and remains so -- even for America, a country once thought to be clean from such behavior. Along the way, McCoy also leads readers to consider what they believe to be the moral implications of torture and its effectiveness. He begins with a history of torture and its uses and tells how the U.S. first experimented heavily with torture techniques during the Cold War. The extent of U.S. involvement with torture is what might shock most readers. Although the images of Abu Ghraib are well-known, the exact measures taken against Iraqi detainees are not: sensory and sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and standing in a stressed position for long periods. McCoy poses the question of whether torture is effective in eliciting confessions from suspected terrorists. He invites readers to ponder whether torture would be acceptable even if it broke America's ideals of liberty, if it would reveal, say, the location of a time bomb in Times Square. He writes: "After four years of torture, the agency, in statements on the record and off, could not boast of anything akin to stopping a ticking bomb. And there is good reason for this failure: Very few individuals have enough information to make torture worthwhile, and those who do are the least likely -- for obvious reasons -- to fall into the interrogator's net or to talk when they do." McCoy said it best when he reflected: "Torture will not and cannot serve as a bargain-price shortcut to security. It is a deal with the devil that will leave Satan holding a balloon mortgage on the American birthright of liberty." From an email I received: CPT rejoices in the release of our peacemakers Our hearts are filled with joy today as we heard that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been safely released in Baghdad. Christian Peacemaker Teams rejoices with their families and friends at the expectation of their return to their loved ones and community. Together we have endured uncertainty, hope, fear, grief and now joy during the four months since they were abducted in Baghdad. We rejoice in the return of Harmeet Sooden. He has been willing to put his life on the line to promote justice in Iraq and Palestine as a young man newly committed to active peacemaking. We rejoice in the return of Jim Loney. He has cared for the marginalized and oppressed since childhood, and his gentle, passionate spirit has been an inspiration to people near and far. We rejoice in the return of Norman Kember. He is a faithful man, an elder and mentor to many in his 50 years of peacemaking, a man prepared to pay the cost. We remember with tears Tom Fox, whose body was found in Baghdad on March 9, 2006, after three months of captivity with his fellow peacemakers. We had longed for the day when all four men would be released together. Our gladness today is made bittersweet by the fact that Tom is not alive to join in the celebration. However, we are confident that his spirit is very much present in each reunion. Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end. Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained their spirits over the past months. We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace. Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. That support continues to come to us day after day. We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq. During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When? With Tom's death, we felt the grief of losing a beloved friend. Today, we rejoice in the release of our friends Harmeet, Jim and Norman. We continue to pray for a swift and joyful homecoming for the many Iraqis and internationals who long to be reunited with their families. We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq as a way to continue the witness of Tom Fox. We trust in God's compassionate love to show us the way. Living through the many emotions of this day, we remain committed to the words of Jim Loney, who wrote: "With God's abiding kindness, we will love even our enemies. With the love of Christ, we will resist all evil. With God's unending faithfulness, we will work to build the beloved community." Doug Pritchard and Carol Rose are co-directors of Christian Peacemaker Teams. Addenda We have been so overwhelmed and overjoyed to have Jim, Harmeet and Norman freed, that we have not adequately thanked the people involved with freeing them, nor remembered those still in captivity. So we offer these paragraphs as the first of several addenda: We are grateful to the soldiers who risked their lives to free Jim, Norman and Harmeet. As peacemakers who hold firm to our commitment to nonviolence, we are also deeply grateful that they fired no shots to free our colleagues. We are thankful to all the people who gave of themselves sacrificially to free Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom over the last four months, and those supporters who prayed and wept for our brothers in captivity, for their loved ones and for us, their co-workers. We will continue to lift Jill Carroll up in our prayers for her safe return. In addition, we will continue to advocate for the human rights of Iraqi detainees and assert their right to due process in a just legal system. As Yogi Berra said, “it’s like déjà vu, all over again” President George W. Bush – March 21, 2006: “We're making progress because we've got a strategy for victory.” President’s press conference President Lyndon Johnson - November 17, 1967: "We are inflicting greater losses than we're taking... We are making progress." Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld – March 19, 2006: “The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq. I believe that history will show that to be the case.” Washington Post Richard Nixon, New York Times, March 28, 1985: “No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now.” President George W. Bush – March 19, 2006: "We are implementing a strategy that will lead to victory in Iraq.” President’s Remarks on the South Lawn President Richard Nixon - January 4, 1971: "The end is in sight." Vice President Dick Cheney – March 19, 2006 -“And I think we are going to succeed in Iraq. I think the evidence is overwhelming.” Face The Nation Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Oct. 1972: “We believe that peace is at hand.” Gen. George Casey – March 19, 2006: “So, yes we’re making good political progress and yes, we continue to make good progress with the Iraqi security forces.” Meet the Press Defense Secretary Robert McNamara – May 1962 - "We are winning the war.” Bob Schieffer: “Mr. Vice President, all along the government has been very optimistic. You remain optimistic. But I remember when you were saying we'd be greeted as liberators; you played down the insurgency 10 months ago. You said it was in its last throes. Do you believe that these optimistic statements may be one of the reasons that people seem to be more skeptical in this country about whether we ought to be in Iraq?” Dick Cheney: “No. I think it has less to do with the statements we've made, which I think were basically accurate and reflect reality, than it does with the fact that there's a constant sort of perception, if you will, that's created because what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad. It's not all the work that went on that day in 15 other provinces in terms of making progress towards rebuilding Iraq.” Face the Nation, March 19, 2006 Walt W. Rostow, National Security Adviser, Dec. 1967: “I see light at the end of the tunnel.” OPINION: America’s Blinders Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war, now that they no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that the evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even the major media, always late, have begun to register indignation), we might ask: How come so many people were so easily fooled? It seems to me there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture, and which help explain the vulnerability of the press and of the citizenry to outrageous lies whose consequences bring death to tens of thousands of people. If we can understand those reasons, we can guard ourselves better against being deceived. One is in the dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The other is in the dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior. If we don’t know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives. I am not speaking of the history we learned in school, a history subservient to our political leaders, from the much-admired Founding Fathers to the Presidents of recent years. I mean a history which is honest about the past. If we don’t know that history, then any President can stand up to the battery of microphones, declare that we must go to war, and we will have no basis for challenging him. He will say that the nation is in danger, that democracy and liberty are at stake, and that we must therefore send ships and planes to destroy our new enemy, and we will have no reason to disbelieve him. But if we know some history, if we know how many times Presidents have made similar declarations to the country, and how they turned out to be lies, we will not be fooled. Although some of us may pride ourselves that we were never fooled, we still might accept as our civic duty the responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against the mendacity of our high officials. PEACE ACTION: No More Victims was founded in September 2002. We work to find medical sponsorships for war-injured Iraqi children and to forge ties between the children, their families and communities in the United States. We believe one of the most effective means of combating militarism is to focus on direct relief to its victims. We are committed to developing information and strategies that empower local communities to engage in direct aid and advocacy. QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are simply not compatible with military efficiency ." -- George Orwell


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