DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, MARCH 3, 2006
Photo: Iraqi women grieve over a dead child under a blanket at a hospital after a mortar attack in Baghdad February 27, 2006. Mortar fire killed 15 people and shooting erupted around two Baghdad mosques on Sunday but pleas for unity and a third day of curfew in the city seemed to dampen sectarian violence that has pitched Iraq toward civil war. REUTERS/Namir Noor-Eldeen
Bring ‘em on:
US Claims 61 Zarqawi-linked rebels captured in Iraq. The rebels were detained on Monday during a raid on a rebel bomb-making and training base, the US-led coalition spokesman said. Those apprehended include "critical facilitators" of Zarqawi, he said, adding that a large stock of weapons and ammunition were also confiscated. The US military, separately, announced that another 10 rebels had been detained after raids in Hubbaniya, near Fallujah, on Thursday. The latest raids are part of Operation Saeed, conducted by US forces over the past few months in the restive Al-Anbar province.
BALAD - Gunmen attacked Iraqi army and police on Wednesday in Balad, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad. Police wounded two gunmen and seized five others, police said. The police were unharmed, U.S. military and Iraqi officials said.
MUSAYYIB - Two policemen were seriously wounded on Wednesday when they were ambushed by gunmen in Musayyib, an area 85 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
Supporting police came to the scene and seized seven gunmen and 200 rockets, police added.
SALMAN PAK - Local police said a roadside bomb killed one police commando and seriously wounded another in the town of Salman Pak, southeast of Baghdad.
ANBAR PROVINCE - A U.S. soldier was killed on Wednesday while conducting combat operations in Anbar, the U.S. military said.
Security Incident: Update to Thursday: At least 33 killed in Iraq rebel attacks. Regarding the arrests of Zarqawi-linked rebels: Lynch said the operation has been successful because rebel attacks in the province fell from 145 to 104 during the week that ended February 24 compared to the previous week. He said rebel attacks across Iraq also fell during the same period from 555 to 522, although attacks across southern Iraq rose during the period from 15 to 33. (I wonder if anyone in the US military or US government knows about “statistical variability”? Or maybe some of those rebels took some time off. – Susan)
NAHRAWAN - More than 50 suspected Sunni insurgents attacked a small town southeast of Baghdad at dusk on Thursday and killed a large number of Shi'ite workers, police and Interior Ministry sources said on Friday. A local politician said at least 25 people were killed in the attack on Nahrawan in what he called a "sectarian attack" on Shi'ites.
Same incident as above:
Dozens of suspected Sunni insurgents stormed a small town near Baghdad at dusk on Thursday and killed at least 19 people. One victim was a six year old girl killed with a single bullet to her forehead. This happened in Nahrawan. Another witness said that 25 were killed. One women and three children were among the dead. “I've sat here in the police station where the bodies were brought and wept all morning," said municipal council leader Alaa Abdul-Sahib al-Lamy. “We understand there are bodies everywhere around the factory, in the fields," one Interior Ministry official in Baghdad said. "The police cannot retrieve them all because they are afraid to venture out without more military protection."
In Maamil suburb of Baghdad, gunmen killed 10 Shi’ite southerners employed at a brick factory. They were shot as they slept in their shacks. In Mahmoudiya, one person was killed when a mortar shell hit the market. Police found two handcuffed and blindfolded bodies in Iskandariyah who were shot.
Gunmen kidnapped and killed a correspondent for Al Arabiya television and two members of her crew in Iraq, the Arabic channel said on Thursday. More than 70 foreign and Iraqi journalists have been reported killed since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
The real number is believed to be higher and the list does not include the many translators, drivers and other assistants said by media watchdogs to have died since the conflict began.
Following is a chronology of those reported killed in the last year:
- March 14, 2005 - Gunmen kill Hussam Habib, an Iraqi cameraman working for Kurdistan Satellite TV. He had been kidnapped 12 hours before he was killed in Mosul.
- April 23 - AP Television News cameraman Saleh Ibrahim dies in Mosul after being shot three times in the chest when gunfire breaks out while he is reporting on an explosion.
- May 15 - Ahmed Adam and Najem Abd Khudair, reporters with the private Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada, are killed in Latifiya, south of Baghdad.
- May 31 - Jerges Mahmood Mohamad Suleiman, news anchor at Nineveh TV, is shot in Mosul. Nineveh TV is a local affiliate of Al-Iraqiya TV.
- June 24 - Knight Ridder reporter Yasser Shalihee is shot and killed while driving near a roadblock manned by U.S. and Iraqi troops.
- July 1 - Khalid al-Attar, an Al-Iraqiya television journalist, is abducted in Mosul by unidentified gunmen and found killed.
- Aug 2 - Steven Vincent, a freelance investigative journalist and art critic from New York, is kidnapped together with his translator Nouriya Ita'is. His body is found the same night. His translator is seriously wounded.
- Aug 28 - Waleed Khaled, a Reuters Television soundman is shot and killed in the Hay al-Adil district of west Baghdad. Cameraman Haider Kadhem is wounded.
- Sept 17 - Hind Ismail, a reporter for newspaper As-Saffir is found in Mosul, killed by a single bullet to her head.
- Sept 19 - Fakher Haider, an Iraqi working as a reporter for the New York Times, is found dead in Basra.
- Sept 20 - Firas Maadidi, Mosul bureau chief for As-Saffir newspaper and chief editor of local daily Al-Masar, is killed by gunmen in Mosul.
- Sept 21 - Ahlam Younnis, a journalist from Radio Nineveh is shot and killed by gunmen in Mosul. Her husband was also killed in the attack.
- Nov 7 - Ahmed Hussein Al-Maliki, who worked as an editor for Tal Afar Today newspaper, is killed inside an internet cafe in Mosul.
Jan 24, 2006 - Mahmoud Za'al, who worked for Baghdad TV satellite channel, is killed whilst filming an attack by U.S. forces in Ramadi.
Feb 22 - Gunmen kill Atwar Bahjat, a correspondent for Al Arabiya television, her cameraman, Khaled Al Falahi, and her soundman, Adnan Khairallah, as they filmed in Samarra
Iraqi Death Toll
The death toll among Iraqi civilians in insurgency-related violence last year was more than twice as high as the country's soldiers and police combined, according to the Iraqi government. The recent spike in civilian deaths is attributed to the sectarian violence that followed the bombing last month of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. IRAQI GOVERNMENT FIGURES CIVILIAN DEATHS 2005: 4,024. January and February 2006: 1,093. MILITARY AND POLICE DEATHS 2005: 1,695; most of the victims -- 1,222 -- were from the ranks of the police. January and February 2006: 155 policemen and 44 soldiers.
ASSOCIATED PRESS COUNT From April 28, when the current government took office, through December 2005: Civilian deaths: at least 3,375. Military and police deaths: at least 1,561.
BROOKINGS INSTITUTION ESTIMATE 2005 civilian deaths: between 5,696 and 9,934. 2005 military and police deaths: at least 2,569.
Since the fall of Baghdad and the end of major combat in April 2003, the Iraq war has been increasingly fought by triggering a bomb on a crowded street, or a drive-by shooting of a policeman or an ambush of an American patrol. The increased use by insurgents of roadside bombs often has devastating effects on civilians. Frequently, the blast misses the intended target and instead kills mothers carrying groceries home to their families, children walking to or from school or unemployed men loitering around street corners in hopes of getting odd jobs.
Civilians are often targets themselves. Sunni religious extremists kill Shiites, whom they consider heretics and collaborators with the Americans. Death squads from both the Sunni and Shiite communities hunt down members of the rival sect in retaliation for offenses committed against their own group. (Civilians always suffer the most in modern warfare. – Susan)
Shi’ites Told: Leave Home or Be Killed
Salim Rashid, 34, a Shiite laborer in an overwhelmingly Sunni Arab village 20 miles north of Baghdad, received his eviction notice Friday from a man at the door with a rocket launcher. "It's 6 p.m.," Rashid recounted the masked man saying then, as retaliatory violence between Shiites and Sunnis exploded across wide swaths of central Iraq. "We want you out of here by 8 p.m. tomorrow. If we find you here, we will kill you." Walking, hitchhiking and hiring cars, the Rashid clan and many of the 25 other families evicted from the town of Mishada had made their way by Tuesday to a youth center in Baghdad's heavily Shiite neighborhood of Shoula. There, other people forced from their homes were already sharing space on donated mattresses. With sectarian violence rampant since last week's bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, the families have become symbols of an emerging trend in Iraq: the expulsion of Shiites from Sunni towns.
At least 58 dislodged Shiite families have come to Shoula since late last week, said Raad al-Husseini, a cleric who is helping the families settle in. Husseini credited the organization of Moqtada al-Sadr, an outspoken Shiite cleric and growing political force in Iraq -- along with the people of the neighborhood -- for coming to the refugees' aid with blankets, clothing, and pots of stew and rice. In one room at the youth center, volunteers folded up a Ping-Pong table and swept a floor for the newest refugee family, that of Rahim Abood Sahan, 60. They arrived after a three-day trek -- walking by day, and taking shelter in strangers' homes at night -- from the village of Haswah, south of Baghdad.
Torture, Killings Widespread in Iraq
Human rights abuses in Iraq are as bad now as they were under Saddam Hussein, as lawlessness and sectarian violence sweep the country, the former UN human rights chief in Iraq said Thursday. John Pace, who last month left his post as director of the human rights office at the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, said the level of extra-judicial executions and torture is soaring, and morgue workers are being threatened by both government-backed militia and insurgents not to properly investigate deaths. "Under Saddam, if you agreed to forgo your basic right to freedom of expression and thought, you were physically more or less OK," Pace said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But now, no. Here, you have a primitive, chaotic situation where anybody can do anything they want to anyone." Pace, who was born in Malta but now resides in Australia, said that while the scale of atrocity under Saddam was "daunting," now nobody is safe from abuse. "It is certainly as bad," he said. "It extends over a much wider section of the population than it did under Saddam."
Pace, currently a visiting fellow at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, spoke as sectarian tensions in Iraq push the country to the brink of civil war. There has been a surge in religious violence in Iraq since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in the mainly Sunni city of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, and a spate of reprisal attacks against Sunnis. The situation has been made worse by extremist Shiite militia operating within the ranks of the Interior Ministry, said Pace, who singled out the Badr Brigade, which makes up a large chunk of the Iraqi security services and military. He said militia and insurgents are responsible for threatening morgue staff in Baghdad not to perform autopsies on bodies of apparent victims of torture and killings. "They are told it is not necessary, and not in their interests," he said, adding that both militia and insurgents were "trying to minimize any chances" that their activities could be investigated and prosecuted. Pace, who spent much of his two years in the post in Iraq, said he visited the morgue in Baghdad once a week when he was in the city and regarded it as a "barometer" of the level of violence in the country. He declined to provide more specific details about the threats, citing fears for the safety of morgue workers. He said that around three-quarters of the several hundred bodies brought to the morgue each month were categorized with "gunshot wound" as the cause of death — a phrase Pace says is a euphemism. "Nearly all were executed and tortured," he added.
Iraq's interior minister, Bayan Jabr, is a member of Iraq's biggest Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, which ran the Badr Brigade. Badr claims it is no longer an armed militia. But former Badr commanders hold key posts in Interior Ministry commando units, which are regarded by Sunnis as nothing more than death squads. In November, the US Army raided an Interior Ministry bunker in Baghdad and found 158 tortured and starved Sunni prisoners. "They have caused havoc," said Pace, referring to the Badr Brigade. "They do basically as they please. They arrest people, they torture people, they execute people, they detain people, they negotiate ransom and they do that with impunity.
How an internal effort to ban the abuse and torture of detainees was thwarted.
At the Pentagon in recent weeks, officials portrayed Mora’s memo as ancient history. They argued that they had acted quickly to rectify the wrongs he helped expose, by limiting the list of approved interrogation techniques. But while Mora believes that the use of cruel treatment in interrogation has diminished, he feels that the fight to establish clear, humane standards for the treatment of detainees is not over. He also worries that the Administration’s views on interrogation have undermined American foreign policy, in part by threatening the international coalition needed to fight terrorism. Allied countries may not be able to support U.S. military actions, he said, if detainees are treated in a manner that most nations deemed illegal.
Just a few months ago, Mora attended a meeting in Rumsfeld’s private conference room at the Pentagon, called by Gordon England, the Deputy Defense Secretary, to discuss a proposed new directive defining the military’s detention policy. The civilian Secretaries of the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy were present, along with the highest-ranking officers of each service, and some half-dozen military lawyers. Matthew Waxman, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, had proposed making it official Pentagon policy to treat detainees in accordance with Common Article Three of the Geneva conventions, which bars cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, as well as outrages against human dignity.Going around the huge wooden conference table, where the officials sat in double rows, England asked for a consensus on whether the Pentagon should support Waxman’s proposal.
This standard had been in effect for fifty years, and all members of the U.S. armed services were trained to follow it. One by one, the military officers argued for returning the U.S. to what they called the high ground. But two people opposed it. One was Stephen Cambone, the under-secretary of defense for intelligence; the other was Haynes. They argued that the articulated standard would limit America’s “flexibility.” It also might expose Administration officials to charges of war crimes: if Common Article Three became the standard for treatment, then it might become a crime to violate it. Their opposition was enough to scuttle the proposal.
In exasperation, according to another participant, Mora said that whether the Pentagon enshrined it as official policy or not, the Geneva conventions were already written into both U.S. and international law. Any grave breach of them, at home or abroad, was classified as a war crime. To emphasize his position, he took out a copy of the text of U.S. Code 18.2441, the War Crimes Act, which forbids the violation of Common Article Three, and read from it. The point, Mora told me, was that “it’s a statute. It exists—we’re not free to disregard it. We’re bound by it. It’s been adopted by the Congress. And we’re not the only interpreters of it. Other nations could have U.S. officials arrested.”
Mixed Section of Iraqis Sees Hope Dashed
The sheik sat in a simple room and spoke quietly of his loss. A building was burned. Three worshipers were killed. He could not understand why. Here in the mixed neighborhood of Zayuna, Sunnis, Shiites and Christians live side by side, and residents always felt immune to sectarian violence. So when it exploded last Thursday, so did many dearly held beliefs. "I used to keep in my mind that Iraq will come back one day," said Shirouq Abayachi, a Zayuna resident who was pondering her country's fate with friends in a social club in central Baghdad on Tuesday. "Now the Iraq I wish to have cannot come back. There is no core left to rebuild."
Beyond the small changes in city blocks — where a Shiite man took down a holiday flag, and Sunni clerics held machine guns as they peered though gates — is a larger shift in thinking. It was not the rate of the violence, to which Iraqis have grown bitterly accustomed, but its texture. Iraqis struck other Iraqis on the basis of their sect, in a rampage that few here could have imagined at the time of the American invasion three years ago. Iraqis in Zayuna wanted desperately for it not to be true; the phrase "Iraqis are brothers" was on everyone's lips. Once they had glimpsed the underside, many turned away, not wanting to see, but some, like Ms. Abayachi, seemed transfixed. "Maybe I see the end more clearly now," she said over a lunch of salads and a cocktail. "The end of Iraq."
The descent into violence in Zayuna, an affluent area of manicured hedges and stores that sell Swatches in central Baghdad, did not pit neighbors against neighbors. Armed gangs, it seemed, were mostly from other areas. But the neighborhood was transformed anyway; its Sunni Arab residents have been left deeply afraid, and some of its Shiite residents ashamed. One of the neighborhood's worst attacks was on Sheik Mahmoud's mosque, Al Kazaz, which is Sunni but has attracted many Shiite worshipers. On Thursday shortly after 3 p.m., armed men poured gasoline onto the walls of a ceremonial hall inside its outer gate, and set the building on fire. Then they marched three worshipers, Kadham Chalub al-Jubouri, Mahmud Jawad al-Korui and Suaad Baha al-Biati, out to their cars. Mr. Jubouri, 73, resisted, and fell to the ground, but was eventually stuffed into a car, said Faak Abbas, a Shiite who saw the panicked procession from his cellphone shop across the street. Their bodies later surfaced in the city morgue. "We watched them, but we could do nothing," said Mr. Abbas, whose partner is a Sunni. "I tried to get close enough to talk to them, but we felt they were ready to kill anyone."
Gangs ‘Kill Freely’ in Iraq Chaos
Hundreds of bodies showing signs of torture or execution arrive at the Baghdad mortuary each month, a senior UN official has told the BBC. John Pace, until recently UN human rights chief in Iraq, told the BBC News website that up to 75% of the corpses showed signs of extrajudicial death. Mr. Pace blamed an "endemic" breakdown of security for increasing violence. "Anyone with a gun who is reasonably well organized can do whatever they want with impunity," he said. Armed groups often threatened mortuary staff, aiming to stop autopsies and suppress evidence, Mr Pace said.
Bush Adviser Foresees Iraq Violence Lull
Although bombings and other attacks have surged in the last week, Stephen Hadley expressed optimism in the light of statements from Iraqis who have condemned the attacks and pledged to move forward with building a unity government. "It is a time of testing for Iraqis," Hadley said on CBS "Face the Nation." "They've stared into the abyss a bit, and I think they've all concluded that further violence, further tension between the communities, is not in their interest," he said. Hadley said the hope is that advancing the political agenda and continuing to train Iraqi security forces will work against the terrorist attacks. "There has to be the country coming together and committing to a unified future together. That is the process we hope will be accelerated by this. That is the hope out of this tragedy," he said. (Not if the US is behind all the violence. – Susan)
Vehicle Ban To Combat Iraq Unrest
The Iraqi authorities have announced a daytime ban on vehicles in Baghdad and surrounding areas on Friday in response to the latest upsurge in violence. The ban follows another day of attacks across the country, in which at least 30 people were killed. A senior UN official has blamed an "endemic" breakdown of security for the increasing bloodshed. John Pace, until recently UN human rights chief in Iraq, told the BBC News website that 75% of the hundreds of bodies that arrived at the Baghdad mortuary each month showed signs of torture or execution. Last month, an investigation was launched into claims by the US military that an Iraqi interior ministry "death squad" has been targeting Sunni Arab Iraqis.
What Bush Was Told About Iraq
Two highly classified intelligence reports delivered directly to President Bush before the Iraq war cast doubt on key public assertions made by the president, Vice President Cheney, and other administration officials as justifications for invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, according to records and knowledgeable sources. The first report, delivered to Bush in early October 2002, was a one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate that discussed whether Saddam's procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes was for the purpose of developing a nuclear weapon.
The second classified report, delivered to Bush in early January 2003, was also a summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, this one focusing on whether Saddam would launch an unprovoked attack on the United States, either directly, or indirectly by working with terrorists.
The report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that it was unlikely that Saddam would try to attack the United States -- except if "ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime" or if he intended to "extract revenge" for such an assault, according to records and sources. On at least four earlier occasions, beginning in the spring of 2002, according to the same records and sources, the president was informed during his morning intelligence briefing that U.S. intelligence agencies believed it was unlikely that Saddam was an imminent threat to the United States.
Phone Stolen in Iraq Used for Sex Chatlines
It certainly was not part of Britain's plans to win the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq. But the Foreign Office has been apparently paying for an adult sex chatline in a Baghdad street for 17 months without knowing it. The Foreign Office has had to tell MPs that an investigation into how a diplomat lost two satellite phones in Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism but more to do with a budding entrepreneur and a telephone porn network.
Mr. Blair, You Sent My Son to Die in a War Based on Lies
Since the death of my son on October 2005, three days before his tour was to end, I have started to question why the invasion of Iraq occurred. My son's remit in Iraq was as a "peacekeeper", helping with the rebuilding of schools and the infrastructure, and training the Iraqi police to enable them to maintain stability in the future. At the time of his death, Chris was the platoon commander and was responsible for clearing a safe route for a large convoy.
The Iraqi police have been implicated in the death of my son, from a roadside bomb. There will be no further investigation as they were spoken to, photographed and searched, then allowed to go as an Iraqi police service lieutenant colonel arrived and confirmed their identities. It makes nonsense of our involvement with them, as their own chief of police says that he can only trust 25% of his own men. This suggests that the remainder is made up of insurgents who would think nothing of killing coalition troops.
My son was on foot patrol when the bomb exploded. This was to minimise casualties should they come in contact with an improvised explosive device. The only vehicles available to them were fibreglass Jeeps; there were no armoured Land Rovers. The British government had sent a consignment of armoured Land Rovers for the Iraqi police prior to my son's death. His commanding officer spoke out about this following my son's death, as he had requested the essential Land Rovers but was turned down on the basis that they were not suitable for the roads. Would the Iraqi police not have been using the same roads as the troops? I understand that your wife, Cherie Blair, has a government bulletproof vehicle. I would question who is at most risk: British troops in a war zone or your wife driving around London?
Civil Strife is Not the Only Conflict For Iraq’s Shias
In spite of the killing of Sunnis and Shias, the main struggle these days is an intra-Shia one. The Mahdi army attacked several Sciri offices in southern Iraq last summer, putting Sciri in a weak position everywhere, including Basra. Under cover of the latest mayhem, each side accuses the other of sending snatch teams into mixed Sunni-Shia areas to kill people. While the Mahdi army's role is hard to prove (anyone can use men in black clothes, the trademark Mahdi dress, to terrorise people), Sciri's link to death squads that have killed hundreds of Iraqis in recent months is established: a Sciri minister runs the police, who operate a network of torture centres in Baghdad, which the Americans themselves have denounced.
The US is turning against the federalism it favoured last year. Anxious to bring Sunnis into government, it advocates legislation to "implement" the constitution, but in fact to amend it - a goal that looks unlikely unless Sciri changes its line or is marginalised. The constant talk of civil war is undermining even the hardiest secular Iraqis, though it is still far from reality. Minorities in mixed areas are slipping away to be with their "own". Community leaders and imams are targeted. But the violence is mainly imposed from above. Balkan-style pogroms where neighbour turns against neighbour, burning houses and shops, have not happened.
The Americans use the fears of civil war to give life to their mission. The International Crisis Group, a thinktank, said last week that "US forces are preventing, by their very presence and military muscle, ethnic and sectarian violence from spiralling out of control". In fact, reports from Baghdad say US troops have been standing aside, rightly worried that intervention would increase people's anger. If they can do nothing now, why expect anything else if things worsen?
Tortured Logic on the Treatment of Iraqi Detainees
I, too, might be culpable for brutal interrogations at Abu Ghraib. But, if so, the blame goes much farther up the chain of command. I have never met Sgt. Santos Cardona or Sgt. Michael Smith, but we share similar experiences. In late 2003 and early 2004, both men used their dogs to intimidate Iraqi prisoners during interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison. They maintain that they were following legal orders. Now they both face impending court-martial.
From January 2004 to January 2005, I served in various places in Iraq (including Abu Ghraib) as an Army interrogator. Following orders that I believed were legal, I used military working dogs during interrogations. I terrified my interrogation subjects, but I never got intelligence (mostly because 90 percent of them were probably innocent, but that's another story). Perhaps, I have thought for a long time, I also deserve to be prosecuted. But if that is the case, culpability goes much farther up the chain of command than the Army and the Bush administration have so far been willing to admit.
When the chief warrant officer at our interrogation site in Mosul first told me to use dogs during interrogations, it seemed well within what was allowed by our written rules and consistent with what was being done at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers. The dogs were muzzled and held by a handler. The prisoners didn't know that, though, because they were blindfolded; if they gave me an answer I didn't like, I could cue the handler so the dog would bark and lunge toward them. Sometimes they were so terrified they'd wet their jumpsuits. About halfway through my tour, I stopped using dogs and other "enhancements" like hypothermia that qualify as torture even under the most nonchalant readings of international law. I couldn't handle being so routinely brutal.
In training, we learned that all POWs are protected against actual and implied threats. You can never put a "knife on the table" to get someone to talk. That was clear. But our Iraqi prisoners weren't clearly classified as POWs, so I never knew what laws applied. Instead, a confusing set of verbal and written orders had supplanted the Geneva Conventions. When an Army investigator asked Col. Thomas Pappas, the top military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, how intimidation with dogs could be allowed under this treaty, he gave the chilling reply, "I did not personally look at that with regard to the Geneva Convention." Pappas later testified that he was taking his cue on the use of dogs from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who took over detainee operations in Iraq after running them in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Miller has denied recommending the use of guard dogs to intimidate prisoners during interrogations in Iraq. He also recently said he would not testify in the courts-martial of Cardona and Smith, invoking his right to avoid self-incrimination.
As someone who voluntarily spoke at length about my actions in Iraq to investigators, without a lawyer present, I can't have a favorable opinion of Miller. By doing the military equivalent of "taking the Fifth," he's decided to protect himself, apparently happy to let two dog handlers take the fall -- a stunning betrayal of his subordinates and Army values. Cardona and Smith have been accused of sick and sadistic behavior. They face the prospect of serious jail time. But they almost certainly acted believing they were following legal orders. In the military, orders are orders unless there is clear, uncluttered law transmitted from far above our commanders' rank and station. Instead of a clear message prohibiting torture, our top commanders gave us a deliberate muddying of the waters. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently shepherded a ban on torture through Congress. Then, while reluctantly signing the legislation, President Bush muddled this very clear ban on torture by stating that he would construe it "in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the president."
Those who serve in the prisons of Iraq deserve to know clearly the difference between legal and illegal orders. Soldiers on the ground need a commander in chief who does not seek strained legalisms that "permit" the use of torture. The McCain amendment, prohibiting "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" treatment in all instances, is an accurate reflection of the true values of the military and American society. We should adhere to it strictly and in all cases. I know, from personal experience, that any leeway given will be used to maximum effect against detainees. No slope is more slippery, I learned in Iraq, than the one that leads to torture.
Is this war worth the price?
Look closely at the face of collateral damage in Iraq before you answer. Pittsburghers were captivated this week by the 7-year-old Iraqi boy who arrived here for reconstructive facial surgery at Children's Hospital, having been badly disfigured in an American bombing raid in 2004. On a shoestring budget, the American group No More Victims arranged for his medical care, got visas for the child and his father, paid their expenses in Jordan until the documents came through, and is still trying to raise the cash to cover the travel. A Massachusetts philanthropist kicked in $50,000 for the hospital bill. A single mom in Banksville has taken father and son into her home during their stay.
It's a story that bores right through peoples' defenses without regard to politics, position on the war, religious beliefs or lack thereof (the family is Muslim; the U.S. Army veteran who spent six weeks in Jordan working on their visas is an atheist; the host family is Catholic; the philanthropist is Jewish). No one with a beating heart could look at Abdul Hakim Ismael's scarred face and the happy, excited, nervous child behind it, and not be moved. No one could look at the many people who've stepped up to help and not be inspired. But this story does not begin and end with an injured little boy, or the other wounded children that the group is helping. It begins with the Bush administration's prosecution of the Iraq war, and the thousands of innocent civilians it is willing to sacrifice in pursuit of its unintelligible goals. Where it ends, no one knows. Yes, war is hell, and that's true for American soldiers as well as the Iraqis. The question for the American public is how much more hell we are willing to inflict in the name of this particular war.
There's only one honest way to answer this question, and that is with the human results of U.S. policy right before our eyes. Americans need to see these shattered kids and families up close. Likewise, the U.S. veterans coming home maimed, traumatized or dead. Only then can citizens make an informed decision as to whether this war is worth its weight in carnage, not to mention $200 billion-plus.
Cole Miller, co-founder of No More Victims, said it's critical for Americans to show the world they care about the human suffering caused by the war. And, he added, it's no coincidence that so many Americans never saw a badly injured Iraqi child until one arrived in their midst, or that the administration has blacked out coverage of flag-draped coffins arriving home. "That's a tactical decision," he said. "They know that if the American people see what's really going on, they won't support it and might even try to stop it."
"When Gen. Tommy Franks said we don't count Iraqi casualties, the message is that Iraqis don't count. I believe they do count, and so do many other Americans. The response to Abdul Hakim and the others proves it. Given the chance to step up, people will do amazing things. "There's going to be a lot more killing and maiming of innocents in Iraq, especially now that civil war seems increasingly likely if not already under way. What the United States can do about that is an open question.
The growing dilemmas of this war are far too heavy a burden for one little boy. He's here to be healed, and that's an act of kindness, generosity and hope. At some point he'll go home. To what, one fears to ask. But the fact of his presence has done more to inform the citizenry than a thousand presidential speeches. From this point on, we can't say we didn't know. (I seem to have lost the link for this article. It was in a Pennsylvania paper. - Susan)
The Smoking Gun
By now, we should realize that the Bush administration has no plan to govern Iraq nor do they care a whit about the suffering of the Iraqi people. The only thing the matters is the extraction of petroleum from Iraqi oil-fields and its unobstructed transfer to the market. The rest is rubbish.
“We don’t do body counts”, boasted General Tommy Franks.
Franks could have added that we don’t do reconstruction, security or governance; all of which are sadly lacking in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration has no intention of rebuilding Iraq or establishing order. They’ll continue to operate as they have from the onset; blasting away erratically at the resistance while concealing the bloodshed behind an impenetrable wall of propaganda. The present strategy reflects the growing desperation of the Pentagon planners and the civilian leadership. America is hopelessly mired in an “unwinnable” war. The choices for action have narrowed to either withdrawal or a stepped-up campaign of Black-ops designed to foment sectarian violence. The bombing of the Samarra Mosque fits perfectly into the latter category.
Henry Kissinger summarized the current Iraq strategy when he offered his opinion on the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. Kissinger callously averred, “I hope they kill each other.” The former National Security Chief’s axiom has now been elevated to the level of state-policy. The Iraq strategy replicates the Kissinger Doctrine; manipulating chauvinism and cruelty to advance the imperial agenda. The demolition of the sacred mosque was a deliberate assault on the foundations of Muslim identity. It was intended to undermine Iraqi tradition and culture and weaken confidence in the resistance. Neocon Michael Ledeen might refer to this as “creative destruction” but, in fact, it is terrorism writ large; the calculated use of violence directed at civilians to achieve a political objective.
Somebody is trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq.
The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it's Al Qaeda, it's the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities.
I'd like to know what the Americans are doing to get at the people who are trying to provoke the civil war. It seems to me not very much. We don't hear of any suicide bombers being stopped before they blow themselves up. We don't hear of anybody stopping a mosque getting blown up. We're not hearing of death squads all being arrested. Something is going very, very wrong in Baghdad. Something is going wrong with the Administration. Mr Bush says, "Oh, yes, sure, I talk to the Shiites and I talk to the Sunnis." He's talking to a small bunch of people living behind American machine guns inside the so-called Green Zone, the former Republican palace of Saddam Hussein, which is surrounded by massive concrete walls like a crusader castle. These people do not and cannot even leave this crusader castle. If they want to leave to the airport, they're helicoptered to the airport. They can't even travel on the airport road. What we've got at the moment is a little nexus of people all of whom live under American protection and talk on the telephone to George W Bush who says, "I've been talking to them and they have to choose between chaos and unity." These people can't even control the roads 50 metres from the Green Zone in which they work.
There's total chaos now in Iraq.
Shining Light into the Abyss
America’s ruling elite cannot abide even the least vestige of a true democratic republic. They rail against democracy wherever they find it, as evidenced by countless U.S. sponsored acts of terror around the world. These often covert actions virtually always occur against left leaning governments that are not amendable to exploitation of their natural resources and human labor by U.S. business interests. This is what is meant when the president and cabal speak of ‘protecting American interests.’ They are referring to their own hold on power and wealth, not the welfare of the republic, as is so widely assumed.
The U.S. plutocracy has a long and bloody history of fomenting upheaval and violence against Democratic Socialism. For example, on September 11, 1973 a U.S. backed coup d’ etat was carried out against Chilean president Salvador Allende, in which the Popular Unity (socialist) government was overthrown, and Allende was assassinated. President Allende was replaced by Augusto Pinochet, a brutal dictator who with C.I.A. backing tortured and murdered thousands of people. Pinochet is the kind of man the U.S. always backs. His kind makes the host country safe for plunder by U.S. corporations. Look at the litany of brutal dictators the U.S. has supported all over the world. The list reads like a who’s who of world class terrorists. How can this be reconciled with democracy? The assassination of Allende is part of a familiar pattern of intervention that can only be described as terrorism. The C.I.A. is involved in creating instability and insurrections in democratic governments all over the world—your tax dollars at work.
America has a lot to answer for. Despite the willful perversion of language used to conceal unpopular truth, the soul of a nation is revealed not by what it says, but by what it does. We are not the people we purport to be. Our actions, our policies, do not portray a democratic republic concerned with human welfare, the common good.
I Do Not Wish to Be Associated With Torture
As a matter of conscience, I am returning the Intelligence Commendation Award medallion given me for "especially commendable service" during my 27-year career in CIA. The issue is torture, which inhabits the same category as rape and slavery - intrinsically evil. I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.
Reports in recent years that CIA personnel were torturing detainees were highly disturbing. Confirmation of a sort came last fall, when CIA Director Porter Goss and Dick Cheney - dubbed by the Washington Post "Vice President for Torture" - descended on Sen. John McCain to demand that the CIA be exempted from his amendment's ban on torture. Subsequent reports implicated agency personnel in several cases of prisoner abuse in Iraq, including a few in which detainees died during interrogation. The obeisance of CIA directors George Tenet and Porter Goss in heeding illegal White House directives has done irreparable harm to the CIA and the country - not to mention those tortured and killed. That you, as Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, show more deference to the White House than dedication to your oversight responsibilities under the Constitution is another profound disappointment. How can you and your counterpart, Sen. Pat Roberts, turn a blind eye to torture - letting some people get away, literally, with murder - and square that with your conscience?
If German officials who were ordered to do such things in the 1930s had spoken out early and loudly enough, the German people might have been alerted to the atrocities being perpetrated in their name and tried harder to stop them. When my grandchildren ask, "What did you do, Grandpa, to stop the torture," I want to be able to tell them that I tried to honor my oath, taken both as an Army officer and an intelligence officer, to defend the Constitution of the United States - and that I not only spoke out strongly against the torture, but also sought a symbolic way to dissociate myself from it. We Americans have become accustomed to letting our institutions do our sinning for us. I abhor the corruption of the CIA in the past several years, believe it to be beyond repair, and do not want my name on any medallion associated with it.
Please destroy this one. Yours truly, Ray McGovern
What To Do When The Emperor Has No Clothes
But torture is something else. Most people agree with this, and in a democracy that puts the torturers in a delicate position. They must make sure to destroy their e-mails and have subordinates who will take the fall. Because it is impossible to keep torture secret. It goes against the American grain and it eats at the conscience of even the most disciplined, and in the end the truth will come out. It is coming out now.
Our adventure in Iraq, at a cost of billions, has brought that country to the verge of civil war while earning us more enemies than ever before. And tax money earmarked for security is being dumped into pork-barrel projects anywhere somebody wants their own SWAT team. Detonation of a nuclear bomb within our borders--pick any big city--is a real possibility, as much so now as five years ago. Meanwhile, many Democrats have conceded the very subject of security and positioned themselves as Guardians of Our Forests and Benefactors of Waifs and Owls, neglecting the most basic job of government, which is to defend this country.
The peaceful lagoon that is the White House is designed for the comfort of a vulnerable man. Perfectly understandable, but not what is needed now. The U.S. Constitution provides a simple, ultimate way to hold him to account for war crimes and the failure to attend to the country's defense. Impeach him and let the Senate hear the evidence.
“We have no second thoughts about the wisdom of what we did or the legality of what we did.” – Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in May 2003. There is a picture that goes with this quote (click link). To all American and British readers: print up the photo and the quote and mail it to your elected officials, and add this statement: Maybe it is time for you to have some second thoughts. (warning: the picture is graphic)
Kansan killed in the war in Iraq.
Fort Hood soldier killed in Iraq.
Stanwood soldier serving second tour in Iraq is killed. Tueday night, as his former wife made her way to his Stanwood home to mourn the loss of their only child in Iraq, 50-year-old Chuck Matheny could not contain his anguish. "Right now the only way I could have any respect for President Bush is if he would volunteer his daughters to go over there now and take my son's place. That would restore my faith in his commitment and his belief in this action," Matheny, an Army veteran, said.
Soldier from Kokomo killed in Iraq, family says.
Utah soldier killed by blast in Iraq.
Soldier from Ann Arbor killed by roadside bomb in Iraq.
Missouri family recalls soldier killed in Iraq.
Bakersfield soldier killed by roadside bomb in Iraq.
Hoover (Alabama) soldier dies in Iraq.
Vermont Guardsman who sought to “make a difference” killed in Iraq.
Soldier killed. (New York)
Service planned to honor soldier killed in Iraq. (Fort Wainwright, Alaska)
Two British soldiers killed in Iraq bombing.
Two Oklahoma soldiers killed in Iraq.
Two Fort Drum soldiers killed by roadside bomb in Iraq.
Flags to be flown half-staff for two servicemen killed in Iraq. (Michigan)
A Believer in Iraq. A fellow reporter remembers Atwar Bahjat, the Iraqi correspondent brutally killed in Samarra.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
We who were not stupid, we who did not cheerlead this war, we who did not acquiesce in it out of fear or laziness, we have another idea: Stop being stupid and get rid of the stupid people who got us into this mess. - James E. Powell, blog comment on Oliver Willis blog.