Friday, March 31, 2006
DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2006 PHOTO: Iraqis look at the bodies of three men who were found dead Thursday March 30, 2006 in Ramadi, Iraq. Unknown gunmen killed 3 people, two Egyptians and one Iraqi, and left notes on their bodies claiming that they were homosexuals and agents, police said. (AP Photo Bilal Hussein) Bring ‘em on: Britain’s casualties of Iraq war total 6,700 said MoD. Bring ‘em on: Mortar shell fell on the headquarters of multi-national forces in Kirkuk. No casualties reported. Security Incident: Update to yesterday: At least 27 people died in violence on Thursday, including a 4-year-old girl who was killed when a car bomb exploded near the Shiite Ali Basha mosque in Baghdad's eastern Kryaat neighborhood. Security Incident: Three civilians killed and three wounded by mortar round in northeast Baghdad. Soldiers discovered six bullet-riddled bodies wearing handcuffs in western Baghdad. There were male and between the ages of 25 and 30. Security Incident: FALLUJA - A policeman was killed when gunmen fired on his patrol in Falluja 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, police said. BAGHDAD - A 62-year-old male prisoner died on Thursday of an apparent heart attack at Abu-Ghraib jail, a U.S. military statement said. Security Incident: At least four civilians killed by car bomb in al-Aathamiah district of Baghdad. Salem Hameed, member of the al-Daawa Party, gunned down in western Baghdad. Majed Hameed, also a member of that political party, also shot dead in al-Adel district in Baghdad. Two more civilians killed by a mortar shell that hit their car in al-Ghazaliah district of Baghdad. Four Iraqis killed and 22 others injured by IED and car bombs in Baghdad (some of these may have been mentioned yesterday). Security Incident: Two civilians killed by unknown gunmen in two separate shooting incidents in Kirkuk. Security Incident: Eight oil workers killed in Baiji. They were taken off the bus they were on and accused of being “agents of the occupation”. One person killed in Baghdad and 11 injured by two roadside bombings. Two killed and seven injured in a car bombing in Baghdad. Five injured in a suicide car bombing near a police convoy. Three workers from Ramadi General Hospital were found blindfolded and shot in the head, with notes that said al Qaeda in Iraq did the killings, and the men were killed for being homosexuals (story of the picture above). Security Incidents: Gunmen target Baghdad firm, killing eight workers. The officials said the assailants were wearing the familiar green camouflage uniforms of the Interior Ministry's Majhaweer, an elite force that has taken the lead in a number of operations against insurgents in and around Baghdad. Security Incidents: BAGHDAD - The bodies of two people were found in two different districts in the capital, police said. BAGHDAD - Three civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb hit a police patrol in central Baghdad, police said. KIDNAPPING REPORTS
Iraqis Are Most Likely Kidnap Victims The most likely kidnap victims in Iraq increasingly are Iraqis, with an average of 10 to 20 taken hostage every day for nearly three years, a U.S. official in Baghdad said Thursday. U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Colton said freedom comes at a heavy price, with ransoms averaging between $20,000 and $30,000. "It's huge," she said. "There are a lot more Iraqis being held hostage in Iraq now than most people are aware of." The puzzle is how Iraqis come up with such large ransom payments in a country where unemployment is estimated between 28 and 40 percent and the average monthly wage is about $100. Equally unclear is who the kidnappers are — they have grown increasingly bold and now are striking in broad daylight. Carloads of masked gunmen have driven up to several Baghdad businesses this month, charging through the doors and seizing employees inside. At least 90 Iraqis have been picked up in such mass kidnappings in March; there has been no word on any of the captives. Police say they are investigating who is behind the attacks, and whether they are linked. Some officials speculate that the assailants are insurgents running out of money.
RAMADI - A Syrian journalist and an Iraqi political analyst were released by kidnappers after being held for three days
Iraqi Shopkeeper Still Haunted by Hostage Ordeal Uncertainty ate away at him. Some days he was beaten, at other times the gunmen reminded him of the sectarian violence that has pushed his country close to civil war. "Are you Sunni or Shi'ite?," he was constantly asked. The answer was always one given by Iraqis who refuse to accept they have been torn apart by communal strife. "I told them I am a Muslim," he said proudly. That earned him more whippings, until he finally said he was a Sunni, the minority sect once dominant under Saddam. But his hopes began fading: "I felt like I was already dead." Back at his home, his family was frantically borrowing money to pay the $20,000 ransom demanded by his captors. After two weeks of being kept underground and blindfolded, Ahmed was released. "They let me go. But they warned me not to say anything about them or they would kill me," he said. Still gripped by fear, he imagines gunmen will suddenly turn up again, as they do across Iraq. "I am afraid of my own shadow," he said. "Whenever I walk down the street I look behind me." (The original ‘deck of cards’ issued by US authorities just after the war started contained 40% Shi’ites. – Susan)
Elated Carroll Family Plead for Iraq Hostages "My wish is that this joyous occasion will offer hope to all the mothers of Iraq whose children have been kidnapped. May they all be returned safely and swiftly to their mothers' arms," she said in a statement from her Illinois home. Thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped in the past three years, many for ransom. More than 200 foreigners have also been taken prisoner. Many have been freed but others have been killed by militant groups making political demands. Earlier, outside the Boston offices of The Christian Science Monitor, Carroll's editor Richard Bergenheim read statement from her family. "Our hearts are full. We are elated by Jill's safe release," it said. "Our thoughts are with the families of others still being held hostage in Iraq and we hope that their loved ones will return safely to them soon."
Iraq Hostage Believes Ransom Paid A peace activist held hostage in Iraq for nearly four months says he believes a ransom was paid for his freedom. Harmeet Singh Sooden said he had no evidence but "instinct" told him money had been exchanged for his release and that of his two fellow hostages. Mr Sooden, 33, a Canadian who lives in New Zealand, was freed last week after being held by militants in Baghdad. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said her government had not paid a ransom for Mr Sooden. The activist for the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) group was released unhurt along with fellow Canadian James Loney and Briton Norman Kember. A fourth hostage captured at the same time in Baghdad, US citizen Tom Fox, was found shot dead earlier this month. Speaking publicly for the first time since his release, Mr Sooden said he believed he and his colleagues had been captured "to fund the insurgency". "They kept telling us that 'if we wanted to kill you, you wouldn't have been given the treatment you have been given'," Reuters news agency reported. He said it was highly unusual his captors had been absent when the three men were freed from a house west of Baghdad by multinational forces, adding that he disapproved of the payment of ransom to secure the release of hostages. "I wanted to be released. I didn't want money to be paid for me to be released because I know where that money is going to go," he said. "I'd rather it went on social work or feeding people who need food, not on killing people." Report: Carroll Threatened Before Release Jill Carroll's kidnappers reportedly warned her before her release that she might be killed if she cooperated with the Americans or went to the Green Zone, saying it was infiltrated by insurgents. The freelance writer for The Christian Science Monitor, who was freed by her captors Thursday and dropped off at a branch office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, was later escorted to the Green Zone by the U.S. military, the newspaper said Friday. OTHER REPORTS Garbage Dump Second Home for Iraqi Children Every day before school, seven year old Mohammed Fariq Rostam goes with his father on their donkeys to scrounge through Sulaimaniyah's garbage dump. Mohammed's eyes often burn from the smoke that rises from the rubbish, and his forehead bears a scar from when he slipped on trash and sliced it on a piece of glass. But he is proud when he helps his father find a source of income for their five member family. That could be aluminium cans that they can resell in the market, or a piece of electrical equipment that has been thrown away but can be repaired. Shoes and clothes, though torn or stained, are also prized. "This isn't a place for him," said Mohammed’s father Fariq, 31, who is illiterate and unemployed. "I want him to have a better future." The dump lies in an industrial area 11 kilometers southwest of Sulaimaniyah city, near seven villages that are home to more than 100 families. It has become a source of income for many like the Rostams who are out of work and looking for anything that can be resold or reused. Zereen Abdullah, 12, sloshes through garbage with a pair of muddy boots - one of her many finds. She has rashes all over her body from the trash that itches her skin, but triumphantly announces, "I have found three dolls, and whenever I go home I play with them." Parents in the area close to the dump criticize the government for not providing basic services for their children such as kindergartens, parks or a playground. Their relatives do not visit, they say, because of the stench of the rubbish heap, which clings to their clothes even when they return. For local children, though, the dump is an a big attraction, so much so that some say they dream of becoming garbage workers when they grow up - much to the consternation of parents, who they want more for their families. "Our children have nowhere to go during vacations except this garbage dump," said Parween Muhammed, 48. Iraq Politician Says 1,700 Sunnis Killed in Unrest A Sunni Arab leader said on Thursday more than 1,700 Sunnis had been killed in Iraq's sectarian bloodshed since a major Shi'ite mosque was bombed a month ago, but it was unclear how he arrived at the figure. The spiralling violence between Shi'ites and minority Sunnis, with death squads and militias leaving scores of horribly mutilated corpses in the streets every day, has stoked fears of an all-out sectarian civil war. "Up to now, more than 1,700 bodies of Sunnis have been delivered to the morgue," Adnan al-Dulaimi, who heads the largest Sunni bloc in the newly elected parliament, told Reuters. "The killing is continuing and every day nearly 50 Sunnis get killed and we expect this number will rise in the coming days." Dulaimi said the 1,700 was for the main central morgue alone and did not include smaller morgues in smaller hospitals. But he did not say how he had determined the figure amid the confusion and uncertainty that shrouds everything in postwar Iraq. Morgue officials do not have comprehensive records but they estimate 1,100-1,500 victims of sectarian violence, from all sides, have been brought to the central morgue over that time. Iraq Accuses US of Damaging Ancient City American forces are damaging the ancient city of Kish and must withdraw from the 5,000-year-old archaeological site, an Iraqi ministry said Thursday. The Ministry of State for Tourism and Antiquities Affairs said U.S. forces had set up a camp in Kish, near Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. In a statement, the ministry said the U.S. military was preventing anyone from entering this important archaeological site to assess the damage, which was not specified. The U.S. military had no immediate comment. Last year, the British Museum said that U.S.-led troops using the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon as a base had damaged and contaminated artifacts dating back thousands of years in one of the world's most important ancient sites. The U.S. military then said all earth moving had been halted and that all engineering work were discussed with the head of the Babylon museum. Mosul Slips Out of Control As the Bombers Move In When the 3,000 men of the mainly Kurdish 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division of the Iraqi Army go on patrol it is at night, after the rigorously enforced curfew starts at 8pm. Their vehicles, bristling with heavy machine guns, race through the empty streets of the city, splashing through pools of sewage, always trying to take different routes to avoid roadside bombs. "The government cannot control the city," said Hamid Effendi, an experienced ex-soldier who is Minister for Peshmerga Affairs in the Kurdistan Regional Government. He is influential in the military affairs of Mosul province with its large Kurdish minority, although it is outside the Kurdish region. He believes: "The Iraqi Army is only a small force in Mosul, the Americans do not leave their bases much and some of the police are connected to the terrorists." In the days since a suicide bomber killed 43 young men waiting to join the Iraqi army at a recruitment centre near Mosul last week soldiers in the city have been expecting a second attack. He claims that the situation is very different today when the people of Mosul "welcome us, hate the terrorists and give us information about them". But the general's own account of recent events in the city show the depth of the divisions between Arabs and Kurds as well the Arab hostility to the occupation. For instance at the end of last year the Arab chief of police Ahmed al-Jibouri, appointed after the uprising, was dismissed with 40 of his officers for aiding the insurgents. "He was telling people that every family should have one of its members in the resistance," recalled the general. In reality, Mosul city, like so many places in Iraq, is an ethnic minefield which the US has sought to negotiate with varying success since the overthrow of Saddamin 2003. At first US commanders did not want Kurdish forces in the city fearing the reaction of the Arabs. General David Petraeus of the 101st Airborne tried to bring on board the Sunni Arabs but when he left this policy languished. Since November 2004 Arabs in the province claim that the US has simply joined forces with the Kurds after the mass desertion of the Arab police and army. "The Americans are now just one more of the tribes of Mosul," said one Arab source alleging that the CIA got all its information from Kurdish intelligence. Most soldiers have an ethnic map of Mosul imprinted on their brain. "I feel safer now because there is nothing but Kurdish villages from now on," said a driver, with a sign of a relief, as we drove away from the city. For the moment nobody is wholly in control and most expect more fighting. Saddam Better for Women Women were far better off under former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein, a women's group has found after an extensive survey in Iraq. ''Under the previous dictator regime, the basic rights for women were enshrined in the constitution,'' Houzan Mahmoud from the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq told IPS in an interview. The group is a sister organization of MADRE, an international women's rights group. Under Saddam, she said, ''women could go out to work, university and get married or divorced in civil courts. But at the moment women have lost almost all their rights and are being pushed back into the corner of their house.''
The recent constitution which was written under the U.S. government's supervision is ''very backward and anti-women,'' Mahmoud said. ''They make Islam the source for law making, and the main official religion of the country. This in itself means Islamic Sharia law and according to this women will be considered second-class citizens and will have no power in deciding over their lives.'' The whole of Iraqi society has been subjected to ''chaos and brutalisation,'' she said. ''Security is absent, all basic services, and above all the protection for women's rights is in no way on the agenda of any of the political parties who have been hand-picked by the U.S. administration in the installed so-called parliament.'' MADRE is calling for the deployment of a United Nations-led peacekeeping force and an immediate end to the U.S. occupation. As the crisis in Iraq intensifies, the group says women and their families in Iraq face an urgent need for security, functional government, and the provision of basic services within a human rights framework. An Intimate Story of Marines in Iraq (A PBS program on US TV.) What's working and what's failing in the US-led effort to battle the Iraqi insurgents? On Friday, video journalist Brian Palmer, who was embedded with US Marines in Iraq's volatile Anbar province, gives us an uncensored, inside look at the extremely dangerous and often overwhelming job of fighting the committed insurgency. "I don't see any more good coming out of being here," Lance Corporal Damon Broussard told Palmer. "You can only make so much progress and then you have the guys hiding behind the scenes planting IEDs and stuff ... You can only do so much until you friggin' slam your face into the wall so many times." What's it really like going door-to-door on the front lines of the War on Terror? Iranian Infiltrators Captured Interior Ministry forces have seized 17 Iranians after entering the country illegally. In a statement, the ministry said the infiltrators were on their way to the southern city of Kut. It did not say when these infiltrators were captured or what they intended to do in Iraq. Several provinces in southern Iraq have struck their own agreements with the Iranian government on the flow of goods and travellers. Trade between the countries is booming and Iran is now Iraq’s largest trade partner and exporter. The U.S. has repeatedly said that Iran was interfering in Iraqi affairs, a claim the country’s Shiite-dominated government denies. But undoubtedly, Iran now exercises tremendous influence in the central and southern parts of the country. The U.S. has only recently come to acknowledge the immense power Iran has in Iraq and the countries have agreed to negotiate the Iraqi issue. MEDIA ISSUES, YET AGAIN…. OR STILL….. All the ‘Good News’ From Iraq I bet you guys didn't really listen to President Bush this week. Too bad, because for once he told the truth. I listened, heard the truth and checked it out. And, as he promised, it was a real eye-opener. It happened at one of Bush's fake "town hall meetings" this week. An Army wife asked Bush why the mainstream media only focuses on "the bad news" from Iraq and never reports "the good news." Bush furrowed his brow and nodded in agreement. Earlier in the week the administration launched a Vietnam-era-style "blame the media" campaign to explain plummeting public support for both the war and Bush himself.
The woman's question offered Bush an opportunity for another anti-media riff on that theme. He sympathized with her distress and suggested (pay attention -- here comes the truth part) that she should turn to alternative sources for news, "like the internet." (He used to call it the "internets" until his handlers informed him that, like God, the internet is not plural.) Whoa! When I heard Bush say that, it struck me. Of course! The internet! Why have I been relying on the New York Times and Washington Post and CBS, NBC, CNN to tell me what's really going on in Iraq. Hell, they don't even speak the language. And, of course, we learned four years ago we can't believe anything the U.S. government says about the war. So I checked with Iraqis to see how much "good news" I could find. I read dozens of March postings by folks living in U.S.-'liberated' Iraq. Bush was right. It was time well spent. CNN, MSNBC, FOX, eat your hearts out. These postings are a revelation. And, hey, big dude -- thanks for the tip, George. Now I suggest you take your own advice and do the same. Here's a sampler and some links to get you started on your search for all the "good news" from Iraq that the scheming evil U.S. media is hiding from you. From A Star from Mosul: March 9: It was about 6 p.m. last night when dad's mobile rang, dad was in the mosque, my aunt was calling him and so mom picked up the mobile instead. Mom's emotions on the phone only led to one conclusion: Someone is dead. … Mom put the mobile aside and said: "Uncle S is dead." … Yesterday he was shot by Americans on his way back home, and he died. Like many others, he died, left us clueless about the reason and saddened with this sudden loss. He was shot many times, only three reached him: One in his arm, one in his neck and one in his chest. But they said they're sorry. They always are. From Healing Iraq: March 16: Black-clad Mahdi army militiamen drag the body of Sheikh Ghazi Al-Zoba'i, the imam and preacher of the Al-Sabbar mosque around a street in Husseiniya, a mixed suburb north of Baghdad. … Someone shouts: "Drag the Wahhabi," while another describes him as a "bastard." … Then they dump him on the side of the road. Another militiaman suggests they bury him. "What do you mean bury him?" the gang leader snaps back with indignation. "Leave him here to the dogs." Then they joke about his underwear and cover the corpse with a cardboard that life looks absolutely normal in the surroundings. You can see children running about, stores open, religious holiday flags and even a traffic jam. Perhaps Ralph Peters will happen to drive by with an American army patrol and enjoy the scene of children cheering for the troops, while wondering where his civil war is, dude. I see people blown up to smithereens because a brainwashed virgin seeker targeted a crowded market or cafe. I see all that and more. … Don't you dare chastise me for writing about what I see in my country. From Hammorabi: March 20: Death and killing in Iraq become a daily event and apprehension of death is a concomitant issue with every person. The Iraqi politicians who fight for the power, their hands are stained with the blood of the innocent Iraqis … Iraq, as the rest of the world, is much better without Saddam but much worse in every other aspect, especially the security. Why The Media Get The War Wrong To a question from CBS's Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation – had his "over optimistic" statements had led Americans "to be more skeptical in this country about whether we ought to be in Iraq?" – Vice President Dick ("in the last throes") Cheney replied: "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." This was Cheney's version of an ongoing litany of not-enough-good-news complaints from officials of the Bush administration who are already preparing their (media) stab-in-the-back/we-lost-the-war-at-home arguments to cover their Iraqi disaster. ("A few violent people can always grab headlines and can always kill innocent people" was the way Condoleezza Rice put it on Meet the Press Sunday.) Missing, they regularly claim, are those quiet, behind-the-scenes stories of what's really happening in Iraqi life. They imagine such missing "good news" reports as like those the U.S. Central Command regularly sends out in its weekly electronic newsletter with headlines like "Darkhorse Marines Deliver Wheelchair to Iraqi Girl" and "Bridge Reopens over Euphrates River." (snip) The invasion was initially successful, but the plan for the peace was faulty. Bush administration officials misestimated the amount of resistance they would find in the wake of Baghdad's fall. Donald Rumsfeld and his civilian officials in the Pentagon ignored military warnings and did not deploy sufficient soldiers to handle this initial resistance. As a result, the occupation was unable to quell the rebellion when it was small. This first blunder allowed what was at best a modest insurgency to grow to formidable proportions, at which point occupation officials committed a second disastrous blunder, dismantling the Iraqi army which otherwise could have been deployed to smash the rebellion. Bottom line: General Eric Shinseki was right. If the U.S. had deployed the several hundred thousand troops that he insisted were needed to lock down the country (instead of hustling him into retirement), then the war would have been short and sweet, and the U.S. would now be well on its way both to victory and withdrawal.
This, I think, is a fair summary of the thinking on Iraq currently dominant in the mainstream media and, because it ignores the fundamental cause of the war-after-the-war – the American attempt to neo-liberalize Iraq – it is also profoundly wrong. The claim that the war has an economic foundation may sound strange in the context of American media coverage, because it is so unfamiliar. So let me begin by agreeing with two key points in the currently fashionable media analysis: The initial attack on Saddam Hussein's regime was a success and there was a moment – just after the fall of Baghdad – when the Bush administration might have avoided triggering a formidable armed resistance. The war and proto-civil war of the present moment were not the inevitable result of the invasion, but of Bush administration actions taken afterwards. The War Reporter Who Turned Prophet on Iraq Looking back at E&P’s extensive, and often critical, commentary on media coverage of the Iraq war three years ago, I was struck again by how Chris Hedges stands out as a kind of prophet. The longtime war reporter, who decided to sit this one out, was among the few who recognized that taking Baghdad would be the easy part. Let's contrast it with the criminal incompetence of the U.S. war planners. That British memo recording President Bush's meeting with Prime Minister Blair two months before the war, in contrast, reveals that the two leaders expected an easy ride during the occupation with little sectarian violence. One thing Hedges said back then, in early April 2003, has stuck with me. I think it could go down, unfortunately, as the most prescient quote of the entire war. Speaking of what the U.S. was facing in an Iraq occupation, he said: “It reminds me of what happened to the Israelis after taking over Gaza, moving among hostile populations. It's 1967, and we've just become Israel.”
E&P contributor Barbara Bedway interviewed Hedges during the run-up to the war in early 2003, and then during and just after the invasion. He was a logical source. Hedges had covered 12 wars, most recently for The New York Times, and was held for a week by the Iraqi Republican Guard during the Shiite uprising following the Gulf War. He also wrote the influential book, "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning." Even before the attack on Iraq, he warned of the limits of the embedding program, which discouraged independent reporting on the “other side,” the civilian toll, and the long-term obstacles to the success of any occupation. "Most reporters in war are part of the problem," he cautioned. "You always go out and look for that narrative, like the hometown hero, to give the war a kind of coherency that it doesn't have.” He also warned: “When the military has a war to win, everything gets sacrificed before that objective, including the truth." The US Propaganda Machine: Oh, What A Lovely War The Lincoln Group was tasked with presenting the US version of events in Iraq to counter adverse media coverage. Here we present examples of its work, and the reality behind its headlines. A week after the US Defence Secretary criticised the media for " exaggerating" reports of violence in Iraq, The Independent has obtained examples of newspaper reports the Bush administration want Iraqis to read. They were prepared by specially trained American "psy-ops" troops who paid thousands of dollars to Iraqi newspaper editors to run these unattributed reports in their publications. In order to hide its involvement, the Pentagon hired the Lincoln Group to act as a liaison between troops and journalists. The Lincoln Group was at the centre of controversy last year when it was revealed the company was being paid more than $100m (£58m) for various contracts, including the planting of such stories. The Pentagon - which recently announced that an internal investigation had cleared the Lincoln Group of breaching military rules by planting these stories - has claimed these new reports did not constitute propaganda because they were factually correct. But a military specialist has questioned some of the information contained within their reports while describing their rhetorical style as "comical". Furthermore, it has been alleged that quotations contained within these reports and others - attributed to anonymous Iraqi officials or citizens - were routinely made up by US troops who never went beyond the perimeter of the Green Zone. What seems clear is that, taken by themselves, these reports would provide an unbalanced picture of the situation inside Iraq where ongoing violence wreaks daily chaos and horror. Three years since US and UK troops invaded, more than 2,500 coalition troops have been killed. How many Iraqi civilians have died is unclear. The Iraqi Body Count puts the minimum at 33,773, but this figure is based on media reports and the group admits "it is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media". An extrapolation published in The Lancet 18 months ago said more than 100,000 had been killed. (example follows) 'IRAQI ARMY DEFEATS TERRORISM' 26 October 2005 The Lincoln version With the people's approval of the constitution, Iraq is well on its way to forming a permanent government. Meanwhile, the underhanded forces of al-Qa'ida remain bent on halting progress and inciting civil war. The honest citizens of Iraq, however, need not fear these criminals and terrorists. The brave warriors of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are hard at work stopping al-Qa'ida's attacks before they occur. On 24 October, soldiers near Taji received a report that terrorists were stockpiling dangerous weapons. The soldiers found over 150 tank and artillery rounds. These munitions are similar to the ones that al-Qa'ida bomb-makers often use to construct their deadly bombs. The troops destroyed every last round, ensuring they will never be used against the Iraqi people. Three al-Qa'ida mercenaries in Baqubah were planning to conduct a suicide vest attack. Officers of the Iraqi Police Service (IPS) spotted them as they drove towards their target. But then something happened. The would-be murderer lost his faith and leapt from the moving vehicle. One of the other suicide bombers panicked and detonated his vest while still inside the car, instantly killing himself and another accomplice. The reality check At least five Iraqis killed by suicide bomber on bus in Baqubah, north-east of Baghdad. Bodies of nine Iraqi border guards, who were shot dead, found previous day. Joint US-Iraqi convoy targeted by car bomb in al-Ma'mun area of Baghdad. The “Salman Rushdie of Iraqi-Kurdistan” Forced to Flee to Sweden As first reported by the Kurdish language weekly Hawlati on March 27, 2006, and later reported by the Peyamner News Agency and The Hewler Globe on March 28, Mariwan Halabjayee, "the Salman Rushdie of Iraqi-Kurdistan” has been forced to flee to Sweden. Halabjayee departed from Suleimaniya International Airport. Mala Bakhtiar, a political bureau member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was responsible for facilitating Halabjayee’s escape. The PUK effectively controls the Eastern half of Iraqi-Kurdistan, including Suleimaniya. Halabjayee is in possession of a warrant for his arrest issued by the Suleimaniya police department. Halabjayee reportedly intends to use the warrant in an attempt to secure political asylum in Sweden. Halabjaee is the author of the book ‘Sex, Sharia and Women in the History of Islam. The book is about how Islam is allegedly used to oppress women. "I wanted to prove how oppressed women are in Islam and that they have no rights," said Halabjayee. The Islamic League of Kurdistan has issued a “conditional” fatwa to kill Halabjayee if he does not repent and apologize for writing his book. The "conditional" nature of the fatal fatwa is uncertain. Halabjayee reported that "a couple of weeks ago in Halabja, the mullahs and scholars said if I go to them and apologize they will give me 80 lashes and then refer me to the fatwa committee to decide if I am to be beheaded. They might forgive me, they might not." As a result, Halabjaye went into hiding with his pregnant wife and three children. Courage in Coverage Yesterday's release of American journalist Jill Carroll makes this a good moment to celebrate the work that reporters are doing every day in Iraq. They are taking huge personal risks to bring back the news -- not "good news," as some supporters of the administration often seem to want, but the news. Anyone taking potshots at the "mainstream media" should read the description of what it's like to cover Baghdad that appears in the April/May issue of the American Journalism Review. The story opens with a description of NPR's Deborah Amos, dressed in Arab clothes, anxiously scanning the street for bombers and kidnappers as she heads for an interview in the protected Green Zone. And that's an easy assignment. Like most resident correspondents, National Public Radio reporters such as Amos live and work in the "Red Zone" -- meaning the real Iraq. These reporters are in daily contact, through their Iraqi staffs, with the nightmare the Iraqi people are experiencing. When their reporting contrasts with the more upbeat accounts coming out of the Green Zone, the reporters in the Red Zone generally have been right, for a simple reason: They are closer to the story. (This commentary goes on to state): “Fortunately that point wasn't lost on U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who has warned in recent days that America will not support an Iraqi government that doesn't crack down on the Shiite militias.” (Too late for that, but this comment does illustrate how the corporate US media totally supports the “right” of the US government and military to go and interfere and even run foreign countries as they see fit. In this case, that may mean stopping a human rights abuse, but in other cases it is exactly the opposite. This war in the Middle East has been a real boon for Latin America countries – since the USA is too busy to mess with them and has mainly left them alone. And, no surprise, they are doing much better. This attitude that this columnist supports underscores the real problem we are up against. The underlying reason they support this type of attitude is because that is what keeps THE CORPORATIONS going. No morality to be found here. – Susan) “But there are also some horrific stories: Time magazine published a disturbing account in its March 27 issue about how U.S. Marines are believed to have killed 15 Iraqi civilians in their homes in Haditha last November after a roadside bomb attack. This may prove a shocking tale when more details emerge about what happened, but it's a story that journalists must report.” (I suppose such an incident would be “shocking” if one is totally ignorant of war and how things go in war. I wish I suffered from such naiveté, to think that ‘my’ people have an “anti-revenge” gene or something. – Susan)POLITICS IRAQ AND VIETNAM DEJA VU President George W. Bush, March 21, 2006: "We're making progress because we've got a strategy for victory." 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." President Richard Nixon, 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 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." Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, October 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.” Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, May 1962: "We are winning the war.” Shiite Ayatollah Ignores Letter From Bush A letter from Bush is Iraq’ supreme Shiite spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was hand-delivered earlier this week but sits unread and untranslated in the top religious figure’s office, a key al-Sistani aide told the Associated Press on Thursday. The aide — who has never allowed use of his name in news reports, citing al-Sistani's refusal to make any public statements himself — said the ayatollah had laid the letter aside and did not ask for a translation because of increasing "unhappiness" over what senior Shiite leaders see as American meddling in Iraqi attempts to form their first, permanent post-invasion government. The aide said the person who delivered the Bush letter — he would not identify the messenger by name or nationality — said it carried Bush's thanks to al-Sistani for calling for calm among his followers in preventing the outbreak of civil war after a Shiite shrine was bombed late last month. The messenger also was said to have explained that the letter reinforced the American position that Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari should not be given a second term. Al-Sistani has not publicly taken sides in the dispute, but rather has called for Shiite unity. Iraq Shi’ite Ayatollah Demands US Fire Envoy A leading Iraqi Shi'ite cleric demanded on Friday that the United States sack its ambassador, accusing Zalmay Khalilzad of siding with his fellow Sunni Muslims in the sectarian conflict gripping the country. In a sermon read out at mosques for Friday prayers, Ayatollah Mohammed al-Yacoubi said Washington had underestimated the bloody conflict between Shi'ites and the once dominant Sunni Arab minority, which many fear threatens to trigger a civil war. "By this, they are either misled by reports, which lack objectivity and credibility, submitted to the United States by their sectarian ambassador to Iraq ... or they are denying this fact," Yacoubi said in the message, later issued as a statement. (Or, it has been part of the plan all along – how many times do bad things have to happen under this administration before we conclude they are doing it on purpose? – Susan) "It (the United States) should not yield to terrorist blackmail and should not be deluded or misled by spiteful sectarians. It should replace its ambassador to Iraq if it wants to protect itself from further failures." After the imam of Baghdad's Rahman mosque read that line, worshippers chanted "Allahu Akbar" -- God is Greatest. Afghan-born Khalilzad, former envoy to Kabul and the most senior Muslim in the U.S. administration, has been in Iraq for 10 months and is spearheading Washington's increasingly urgent efforts to pressure Iraq's leaders into a unity government. Yacoubi is the spiritual guide for the Fadhila party, one of the smaller but still influential components of the dominant Islamist Alliance bloc. He is not part of the senior clerical council around Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf. Nonetheless, Shi'ite politicians said his comments reflected widespread disenchantment among them with the ambassador. Soldiers Flee to Canada to Avoid Iraq Duty Hundreds of deserters from the US armed forces have crossed into Canada and are now seeking political refugee status there, arguing that violations of the rules of war in Iraq by the US entitle them to asylum. A decision on a test case involving two US servicemen is due shortly and is being watched with interest by fellow servicemen on both sides of the border. At least 20 others have already applied for asylum and there are an estimated 400 in Canada out of more than 9,000 who have deserted since the conflict started in 2003. Ryan Johnson, 22, from near Fresno in California, was due to be deployed with his unit to Iraq in January last year but crossed the Canadian border in June and is seeking asylum. "I had spoken to many soldiers who had been in Iraq and who told me about innocent civilians being killed and about bombing civilian neighbourhoods," he told the Guardian. "It's been really great since I've been here. Generally, people have been really hospitable and understanding, although there have been a few who have been for the war." He is now unable to return to the US. "I don't have a problem with that. I'm in Canada and that's that." Blair Leaves NZ Saying Focus Should Not Be On Iraq British Prime Minister Tony Blair has ended his 24-hour visit to New Zealand agreeing to closer ties between the two countries and calling for those angry about the invasion of Iraq to focus on other issues instead. During the 24 hours Mr Blair was questioned numerous times about Iraq and his role in the decision to topple Saddam Hussein. Repeatedly Mr Blair said even those who disagreed with the decision should recognise the occupation was now mandated by the United Nations and welcomed by the Iraqi Government. He argued that the whole world would now benefit from a stable, democratic Iraq. (I can only surmise that he is not current on what is happening in Iraq. But, what I want to know is: how dare that little punk tell us what we should or should not focus on? – Susan) Rice Admits “thousands” of Errors in Iraq Rice accepted on Friday the United States had probably made thousands of errors in Iraq but defended the overall strategy of removing Saddam Hussein. Local Muslims and anti-war activists told Rice to "Go Home" when British counterpart Jack Straw earlier led her on a tour of his home town of Blackburn in the industrial northwest, an area which rarely plays host to overseas politicians. "Yes, I know we have made tactical errors, thousands of them," she said in answer to a question over whether lessons had been learned since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. "I believe strongly that it was the right strategic decision, that Saddam had been a threat to the international community long enough," she added. COMMENTARY OPINION: May God Rest Our Souls! Every Baghdad neighbourhood must have a wall or a corner for black banners announcing recent deaths in the area so that people who recognize the names can attend the funerals and express their condolences to the bereaved families, if there were any family members left. On the other hand, white banners indicate that the victim was killed by the Americans. Throughout the past three years, the number of banners was mounting. Calligraphy and coffin-making have become booming industries. I once read an interview with a coffin-maker, who said that his workshop was in full swing that he had to hire a large number of skillful carpenters to keep up with the increasing demand on his products. Families started to refer to reasons for death, about which nobody gave a damn ten or fifteen years ago, when most people died of cancer thanks to the depleted uranium the US Administration have wholeheartedly bestowed upon us. Not surprisingly, the majority of banners these days read "Due to a Cowardly Accident". When there's no mention of any causes, people tend to raise their eyebrows and say, "oh! Natural causes, that's weird!", "he or she must be old!" OPINION: ‘If You Start Looking At Them As Humans, Then How Are You Gonna Kill Them?’ They are a publicity nightmare for the US military: an ever-growing number of veterans of the Iraq conflict who are campaigning against the war. To mark the third anniversary of the invasion this month, a group of them marched on Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. At a press conference in a cavernous Alabama warehouse, banners and posters are rolled out: "Abandon Iraq, not the Gulf coast!" A tall, white soldier steps forward in desert fatigues. "I was in Iraq when Katrina happened and I watched US citizens being washed ashore in New Orleans," he says. "War is oppression: we could be setting up hospitals right here. America is war-addicted. America is neglecting its poor." A black reporter from a Fox TV news affiliate, visibly stunned, whispers: "Wow! That guy's pretty opinionated." Clearly such talk, even three years after the Iraq invasion, is still rare. This, after all, is the Deep South and this soldier less than a year ago was proudly serving his nation in Iraq. The soldier was engaged in no ordinary protest. Over five days earlier this month, around 200 veterans, military families and survivors of hurricane Katrina walked 130 miles from Mobile, Alabama, to New Orleans to mark the third anniversary of the Iraq war. At its vanguard, Iraq Veterans Against the War, a group formed less than two years ago, whose very name has aroused intense hostility at the highest levels of the US military. OPINION: Bombing Civilians Is Not Only Immoral, It’s Ineffective No one knows how many civilians have died violently in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. The most careful assessment, by the website Iraq Body Count, estimates at least 36,000. The true figure could be three times higher. The uncertainty is explained by General Tommy Franks' now-notorious remark, "We don't do body counts." Three interesting facts nevertheless help shape a sense of the possibilities. One is that the US forces insist that they use precision techniques to minimise "collateral damage". The second is that the coalition recently and controversially admitted using phosphorus weapons in its attack on Falluja. The third is that one of the US marine air wings operating in Iraq announced in a press release in November 2005 that since the invasion began it had dropped more than half a million tons of explosives on Iraq. The felt inconsistency between the first fact and the other two reminds one that ever since the deliberate mass bombing of civilians in the second world war, and as a direct response to it, the international community has outlawed the practice. It has been hypothesised that if allied bombing had been relentlessly focused on fuel and transport in Nazi-controlled Europe, the war would have been shorter by two years. To their credit, the Americans understood this and in Europe did not join the RAF in indiscriminate area bombing, but concentrated on these crucial assets. As a result they share with the Russian army the largest single credit for victory over nazism. But when the US got within bombing range of Japan it adopted the RAF tactic with a vengeance, and in less than a year killed as many Japanese civilians as were killed in Germany in the entire war. OPINION: Cheney's dysfunction Sunday morning (March 19), I listened to Bob Schieffer's interview with Dick Cheney on CBS's "Face the Nation." My diagnosis of Cheney's comments: The VP has "Iraqtile dysfunction." Bill Burnett, Greensboro, NC OPINION: Truth in Short Supply Truth in Iraq is in short supply. The raid on a Shiite mosque complex by Iraqi security forces and US special forces illustrates this. According to the Iraqi authorities, the operation against a terror cell of Moqtada Sadr’s Mehdi Army left 22 dead. The Americans said there had been 16 fatalities. A large hoard of weapons was seized and a kidnapped and tortured government employee was freed. Both denied the mosque itself had been entered, insisting the raid had focused on a nearby building. Worshippers claimed this was untrue. Video footage taken afterward appears to show bloodstains and bullet holes in the mosque itself. A fireman called to the site said he saw a US soldier leaving the mosque. The same day US forces said they raided an Interior Ministry building and arrested 41 staff guarding a secret prison and seized 17 Sudanese nationals held there. Government sources claimed only ten policemen had been detained and then released when it was realized that the Sudanese were being legitimately held. The Americans have yet to respond and there is no word on the fate of the Sudanese nor what precisely they were doing in Iraq. Even if there is not yet a civil war in Iraq, this is a looking-glass conflict in which nothing is ever quite what it seems and rarely what those involved claim it to be. The only things that seem apparent from these actions is that the US military, increasingly concerned at the growth of Shiite militias and their influence within the Iraqi police and armed forces, are belatedly trying to clip their wings. OPINION: War Hawks Show Callous Disregard for Working Class Troops Ah, but they volunteered, you say. Yes, they did. All the more reason to honor their commitment by making sure they aren't cannon fodder in a dubious cause. They took to heart the common platitudes and easy slogans about duty and honor and service while many who are wealthier did not. Soldiers shouldn't be ill-used simply because they believed in their country and its leaders. And they have been ill-used. They were sent to fight on a false pretext -- that Saddam was linked to Sept. 11 -- by civilian leaders who refused to plan for anything but quick and certain victory. Of course, combat veterans were rare among the armchair hawks in Congress and the White House who rallied the nation for war. Vice President Dick Cheney has said he had "other priorities" during the war in Vietnam. And President Bush ... well, that story is well-known. Even if you credit him with conscientiousness and brilliance as a National Guard pilot, he never left the United States. Their callousness about other people's children aside, it's not just Cheney and Bush whom I hold responsible for the deaths of more than 2,300 hundred Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. It's also men like Sen. John Kerry and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vietnam veterans who had seen young men die in combat. They knew better than to take the nation to war on the wings of a lie. That they did was not only unjust; it was immoral. OPINION: Iraqi Blogger Thursday, March 23rd, 2006Good morning…….The situation in Iraq is very dangerous currently; there are street fights in Baghdad and other cities, the connections are cut-off, the occupation forces closed the Internet Cafés in the hot towns, like Sammara'a, Al-Qaim, and Al-Ramadi, cutting off their communications with the Iraqi and international cities, meaning- even someone living in Iraq wouldn't know what is happening there…I try to call by Mobile phone, and written messages, some of them get through, and a lot don't…I called my sister in Jordan, and she says the boarders with Iraq are also closed, and every connection with the people there by Internet was cut off…. Our people there are besieged; by an occupation force which commits crimes against civilians and children, by mercenaries who kill, kidnap, and ravage, corrupting the country, by criminal militias who perform eliminations and sectarian revenges, while people are hiding in their houses, aiming to protect their children and families from violence and killings. The Iraqis say: Someone out there is destroying our country, and we are hiding in our houses, without any power or might, without being able to do anything? We cannot defend our country?A friend of mine there told me yesterday, by Phone message: Each of us is holding his shroud by his hands, awaiting death…Her words struck me, leaving me stunned and sad all day, and all night, imagining their life, feeling panic, awaiting death each second….People are in grave pain and sadness, saying that these are the worst days since Baghdad fell, these are the most dangerous stages, and the darkest for us… Story about the same blogger as above: Iraqi Woman Tours U.S. to Tell True Story of Iraq War Faiza Al-Araji, a middle-class Iraqi woman, was able to pay her innocent son’s way out of jail last summer. That’s when she understood that she had to leave. With her husband and three sons, she went to Jordan, leaving behind the chaos and misery of the country of her birth. “I was lucky. I had money to pay for the release of my son,” Al-Araji said, speaking to a small home gathering in Berkeley on Wednesday evening. Al-Araji’s talk was part of a tour by six Iraqi women organized by San Francisco-based Global Exchange to promote a better understanding of the effects of war on the Iraqi people. It took place in a house owned by Becky and Mike O’Malley, also owners of the Daily Planet. She will speak at three large public events in Oakland, Palo Alto and Santa Cruz this weekend. “I have come here to talk about the truth. It’s been three years of pain and suffering,” Al-Araji said. “I hope we can open people’s eyes.” An engineer since 1976—taught in part by women professors, she said proudly—the family’s exit follows on the heels of countless Iraqi professionals who have fled. Al-Araji and her husband, who still own a water treatment company in Iraq, have the means to live in Jordan, where life is very expensive. A Summary of Remarks By George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on the Third Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq: Our strategy for peace there Is really working well. It's just that all the killing Can make it hard to tell. Iraq Unbreakable Three years have passed and the world continues diving into ever obscurantist times. On 15 February 2003, collective humanity felt it so deeply that it used every available tool to get organised against power, taking to streets simultaneously across the planet to oppose this terrifying war. Three years have passed and as we sensed pre-emptively, it's a massacre; a bloodshed of unspeakable brutality. Three years have passed and Iraq has been destroyed as a state and as a nation. Its natural resources have been plundered, its civilisational and cultural heritage looted, its religious heritage desecrated, its people raped, tortured, drilled, murdered and even melted. Cynicism nowadays refuses the call for an immediate and complete withdrawal of occupation forces for fear of civil war. Since the very first day of this occupation we have witnessed the development of a two-sided power system. One side is the occupation and its stooges; the second is the Iraqi people and its various forms of resistance. Even if some part of the population might have been inclined to welcome an occupier, temporarily, the methods used by the occupation, along with its ultimate end, are contrary to the interest of the Iraqi people, therefore challenged and blunted by an ever- increasing number. OPINION: Not A Country Anymore Think about contractors in Iraq, and what's the first thing that comes to mind? Halliburton, raking in billions and overcharging taxpayers by billing the government for stuff it never delivered, and then getting bonuses for almost all its questionable charges? The Lincoln Group, paying Iraqi journalists to plant "good news" stories in the press? The Pentagon's private army of outsourced "security specialists," like Blackwater and Custer Battles, the mercenaries whose greed and shameful tactics make the CIA look like choirboys? You'd be right. And wrong. Wrong because what you probably don't know is that these miscreants are not the only contractors there. There is also a not-nearly-large-enough cadre of contractors who don't make millions. Most of them work for USAID - the much-maligned US Agency for International Development. They are both Americans and Iraqis - Shia, Sunni, Kurd. And they work side by side every day, in an environment of chaos, fear and violence, risking their lives trying to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis. That they make any progress at all in that kind of environment is truly remarkable. But they do make progress. And that may be the only piece of legitimate "good news" coming out of what can now only be described as "not a country anymore." I get a near-free pass today, because the rest of this column has been written by one of those unsung heroes - a dear friend who heads a sizable economic development team. But I cop out with sadness. Here's the email he sent me this morning (slightly edited to protect identities): "I just now talked to my security manager in Baghdad, and am left speechless. He describes a complete breakdown of law and order. We reviewed our staff list to determine each individual's circumstances. One guy, Ahmed, has his brothers stay with him at night. They take turns sleeping in case someone attempts to break into his home. Abdullah is the same. He and his father alternate sleeping at night, three hours on and three hours off. Walid and his family live in Sadr City where violence has once again brought tragedy to large numbers of families. "On and on, one by one, we discussed all of our people. All are scared. None of these friends is specifically targeted, so there is nothing for us to do except hope that they do not become victims of random and senseless violence. The most common words are death, kidnapping, injury and danger. Iraq, especially Baghdad, is not a country any more. It is hell. "I am beyond angry, and only feel a deep sadness. The optimism we felt in 2003 and early 2004 has been replaced by despair and wretchedness - there is no longer even a thread of hope to hang onto. How to Lose the ‘War on Terror’ We have been accused of "giving legitimacy to terrorist organizations", of "suffering from the Stockholm syndrome", of being "naive and soft", of treading on ground where only "more realistic, experienced and trained diplomats" have a right to go, and of being "apologists for violence". The US administration has insisted that we make it clear that our program does not have its approval or even tacit endorsement. We repeatedly sought a meeting with US officials to brief them on our work, but were told that such a meeting "would be seen as a confirmation that you are acting on our behalf as some kind of back channel - which you are not". The message to us was repeated several times by a number of officials: "The United States is not talking with terrorists, we will not talk to terrorists and we do not endorse or in any way support those who do." We have agreed that we would make it clear: we do not represent anyone but ourselves. This has been plain to all our interlocutors from the outset. But we adamantly reject the view that our willingness to engage in "an exercise in mutual listening" with Islamist organizations gives them legitimacy. They already have legitimacy. The Muslim Brotherhood (the most recognizable as well as the oldest pan-Islamic party in the region) is the most widely respected Islamist organization in the Middle East and the second-largest party in the Egyptian legislature, Jamaat e-Islami is the most powerful and respected elected opposition to the Pervez Musharraf government in Pakistan, Hezbollah forms the second-largest bloc in the Lebanese parliament, and Hamas is now the majority party in the Palestinian Authority. In southern Lebanon and in the West Bank and Gaza, the largest proportion of constituent services - in health care, child care, education and employment - is conducted under the auspices of Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively. The question of legitimacy is important because for democracies, legitimacy is not conferred, but earned at the ballot box. Hamas and Hezbollah would welcome a dialogue with the West not because it would confer "legitimacy" - they already have that - but because such a dialogue would acknowledge the differences between Islamist movements that represent actual constituencies from those (such as al-Qaeda and its allied movements) that represent no one. The West's insistence that opening a political dialogue [with organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah] be preceded by and conditioned on disarmament is simply unrealistic: it suggests that we believe that "our" violence is benevolent while "theirs" is unreasoning and random - that a 19-year-old rifle-toting American in Fallujah is somehow less dangerous than a 19-year-old Shi'ite in southern Lebanon. In fact, political agreements have rarely been preceded by disarmament. United Nations demands for the disarmament of the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) in 1978 unraveled a conflict-ending political agreement (a situation put right when the rebels were allowed to keep their weapons), and Northern Ireland's "Good Friday Agreement" allowed the IRA to keep its weapons until a political process (leading to "decommissioning") reflecting their concerns was put in place. The West often views Islamic violence as random and unreasoning, but Hamas and Hezbollah believe that violence can shift practical political considerations to create a psychology in which armed groups can use the tool of de-escalation as a way of forwarding a political process. That is to say, absent a political agreement, Hamas and Hezbollah will not voluntarily abandon what they view as their only defense against the overwhelming weight of Israeli military power. Disarmament (or "demilitarization") is possible: it worked in Northern Ireland and South Africa. When coupled with substantive political talks, the unification of armed elements into a single security or military force - demilitarization - provides the best hope for increased stability and security in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. As a part of our program with Hamas and Hezbollah, we invited John Lord Alderdice to Beirut to brief the groups on how demilitarization might work in their societies. Lord Alderdice helped to negotiate the "Good Friday Agreements" in Northern Ireland that "decommissioned" the IRA and allowed, among other things, for Catholic policing of Catholic neighborhoods and the recomposition of a more representative Ulster Constabulary. Hezbollah leaders have acknowledged that they would be willing to undertake a process of demilitarization that would allow Shi'ite officers to hold more senior level officer positions in the Lebanese army, while Hamas leaders have openly talked of creating a national army - thereby acknowledging the importance of the "one commander, one security service, one gun" solution promoted by the Bush administration. Demilitarization is not a panacea, it does not work always and in every case, but it holds out greater hope for long-term stability and security than conditioning peace on requirements that cannot be met. CASUALTY REPORTS (or, ‘WAR IS DEATH’ REPORTS) Local Story: Lemay Women Killed in Iraq. Local Story: Engineering college dean killed in Baghdad. Local Story: U.S. solider had shot and killed Fadhil’s 81-year-old uncle, Saadi Al-Tahi, as he drove through an intersection in Mosul, Iraq. Local Story: Principal fondly recalls fallen GI. Local Story: Tom Fox commemorated in Baghdad. Local Story: Local serviceman from Shafter dies in Iraq. Local Story: Residents say US Marines killed 15 members of two innocent families. Local Story: Two soldiers with 101st Airborne killed in Iraq. Local Story: Family remembers son killed in Iraq. Local Story: Local soldier killed in Iraq. Local Story: Kentucky guardsman killed in Iraq to be buried in Bowling Green. Local Story: Two Fort Lewis soldiers killed in Iraq. Local Story: Indianapolis soldier killed in Baghdad. Local Story: Fort Hood soldier dies of non-combat injuries in Iraq. Local Story: Two Army Rangers are killed in Iraq. Local Story: Memorial service held for Marine. (Hawaii) Local Story: Kentucky National Guardsman dies in Iraq. Local Story: Soldier from Aberdeen dies in Iraq. Local Story: White House, Tennessee soldier killed in Iraq. Local Story: 200 gather to mourn fallen soldier. Local Story: Green Beret killed in Iraq. Local Story: Allan Enwiya, fatally shot during Jill Carroll’s capture, is one of 26 media assistants killed since the war began. Local Story: Indiana county soldier killed in Iraq. (Pennsylvania) Local Story: Four Iraqis hanged from lampposts in Baghdad. Iraq violence turns inward. Local Story: Romanian soldier dies in Kuwait hospital from suicide attempt in Iraq. Local Story: Schoolboy dies in bomb blast. Local Story: Prince George’s police officer killed in Iraq. Local Story: Iraqi woman, child killed in Iraq violence. Local Story: Native Hoosier killed in Iraq. Local Story: Iraq detainee beaten to death by fellow inmate. Local Story: Soldier from Bethlehem killed in Iraq. Local Story: (same individual as above story) PA soldier dies in Iraq, autopsy pending. Local Story: Remembering Professor Salah Jmor of uncommon grace, dignity and style. “On the day he turned 49, he arrived in Baghdad for a family visit. One day later on the 28th of June 2005 he was killed by the invading American troops in Baghdad.” Local Story: Oxford Hills honor fallen soldier. (Maine) Local Story: Funeral for fallen Kentucky soldier. Local Story: Iraqi girl tells how seven members of her family were killed. 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 Dixie Chicks talk back….and say they are “Not Ready to Make Nice” (Click link to hear the song.) “I know you said Can’t you just get over it It turned my whole world around And I kind of like it I made my bed and I sleep like a baby With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’ It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger And how in the world can the words that I said Send somebody so over the edge That they’d write me a letter Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing Or my life will be over I’m not ready to make nice I’m not ready to back down I’m still mad as hell and I don’t have time to go round and round and round It’s too late to make it right I probably wouldn’t if I could ‘Cause I’m mad as hell Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should” I want to personally thank the Dixie Chicks for speaking up when it counted – before the war. -Susan