DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2006
Photo: US national Tom Fox cleaning a street in the restive city of Fallujah in May 2005. A corpse found in Iraq has been identified as missing US hostage Fox, a peace activist who was abducted along with three Western colleagues three months ago. (AFP/CPT/File)
No Greater Love Than This:
He died for peace. US hostage Tom Fox’s body found in Iraq. Later reports say he was tortured.
Update to Friday: Day of violence as 27 more die. Bombings and shootings killed at least 27 people around Iraq yesterday.
Two Iraqi army soldiers were killed and three others wounded on Friday in an explosion at a checkpoint in Kirkuk.
Two policemen were killed and three wounded by roadside bomb in Tikrit.
Three civilians (from one family) and an Iraqi soldier were killed by a car bombing in Fallujah on Friday.
Unknown gunmen on Friday assassinated Iraqi Army Colonel Sabah Ismael and burned his car in southern Kirkuk. Also, a group of unknown gunmen abducted Director of Huwaijah Youth Center Saheb Saleh. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Army announced that it arrested 17 suspects, including 12 wanted extremists, in three separate operations in different areas.
In Baghdad, attackers tried to set fire to a market in the troubled southern neighborhood of Dora. A gun battle broke out when police attempted to stop them, and two police officers and one gunman were killed. A car bomb at a market in a Shiite neighborhood of eastern Baghdad killed four.
Bodies of two bullet-riddled men were brought to the morgue in Kut. South of Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed a 10-year-old boy and wounded his 8-year-old friend as they played in Amarah. A policeman in Tikrit died disarming a roadside bomb when a second explosive divice detonated, wounding two others.
BAGHDAD - A director of Al-Iraqiya state owned television Amjad Hameed was killed and his driver wounded when gunmen ambushed his car in western Baghdad, police said. (Later update: driver was killed.)
BALAD - A roadside bomb exploded near a mosque killing two people and wounding one in the small town of Yathrib near Balad 85 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad on Friday, police said on Saturday. In a separate incident a U.S. military unit raided a house and killed a 25-year-old man in al-Thuluya near Balad on Friday, police said on Saturday.
US and Iraqi forces detained 20 suspected insurgents early Saturday. Four were at a west Baghdad mosque and identified by the US military as possible al Qaida suspects. A dozen more were captured in Tikrit.
Union chairman Shihab al Timini told press that 9 Iraqi journalists have been killed in the last 17 days. Two people killed by gunman west of Kirkuk. Armed gunmen opened fire on Friday night on three people in front of a house in Howeija, killing two and injuring a third. Gunman attacked and opened fire in a shop, killing four people in Baquba.
Bring ‘em on:
Marine killed in Fallujah on Friday.
No One Knows How Many Iraqis Have Died
Three years into the war, one grim measure of its impact on Iraqis can be seen at Baghdad's morgue: There, the staff has photographed and catalogued more than 24,000 bodies from the Baghdad area alone since 2003, almost all killed in violence. Despite such snapshots, the overall number of Iraqi civilians and soldiers killed since the U.S.-led invasion in spring 2003 remains murky. Bloodshed has worsened each year, pushing the Iraqi death toll into the tens of thousands. But no one knows the exact toll.
The health ministry estimates 1,093 civilians died in the first two months of this year, nearly a quarter of the deaths government ministries reported in all of 2005. The Iraqi government, however, has swung wildly in its casualty estimates, leading many to view its figures with skepticism. At the Baghdad morgue, more than 10,000 corpses were delivered in 2005, up from more than 8,000 in 2004 and about 6,000 in 2003, said the morgue's director Dr. Faik Baker. All were corpses from either suspicious deaths or violent or war-related deaths — things like car bombs and gunshot wounds, tribal reprisals or crime — and not from natural causes.
By contrast, the morgue recorded fewer than 3,000 violent or suspicious deaths in 2002, before the war, Baker said. The tally at the Baghdad morgue alone — one of several mortuaries in Iraq thus exceeds figures from Iraqi government ministries that say 7,429 Iraqis were killed across all of Iraq in 2005. "The violence keeps getting worse," the morgue director said Feb. 28 by phone from Jordan, where he said he had fled recently for his own safety after he said he was under pressure to not report deaths. Freezers built to hold six bodies are sometimes crammed with 20 unclaimed corpses. "You can imagine what a mess it is," he said.
Baghdad, which has a fifth of Iraq's 25 million inhabitants, has been a main center of the violence, with insurgent attacks and sectarian tensions both high here. Many of the Baghdad morgue's bodies arrive from the emergency room at Yarmouk Hospital, where Dr. Osama Abdul Wahab said his staff occasionally had to deal with groups of two or three trauma patients before the invasion. Now they must cope with dozens of casualties at a time, he said. "All of a sudden the doors of hell open and 40 injured patients arrive and you are alone," said Abdul Wahab, a 31-year-old neurologist. Regardless of the lack of a precise figure on deaths, virtually all studies agree that among Iraqi government security forces, the police are at greater risk than the army. But it is Iraqi civilians who bear the brunt of the deaths.
Nine Doctors Killed in Mosul; 60 Others Flee
Violence has claimed the lives of nine medical doctors in the northern city of Mosul, prompting many others to flee. The head of Mosul Medical Syndicate Mahmoud Qassem said the doctors “have been liquidated” in the midst of violence that has gripped the city since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. He said the “cold-blooded killings” have terrified the medical staff forcing at least 60 other doctors to leave. Mosul University’s Medical College was a leading medical institution in the Middle East. The nine doctors killed were medical professors who also taught at the medical college.
In spite of the mounting violence directed against Iraqi professionals, the government has slapped new travel restrictions on those willing to leave. Iraqi doctors now have to raise nearly three million dinars as part of a bail that will ensure they do not stay away when traveling abroad. The measure is reminiscent of the constraints former leader Saddam Hussein used to impose on the movement of professionals in Iraq.
Symbol of Abu Ghraib Seeks to Spare Others His Nightmare
Mr. Qaissi, 43, was prisoner 151716 of Cellblock 1A. The picture of him standing hooded atop a cardboard box, attached to electrical wires with his arms stretched wide in an eerily prophetic pose, became the indelible symbol of the torture at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. "I never wanted to be famous, especially not in this way," he said, as he sat in a squalid office rented by his friends here in Amman. That said, he is now a prisoner advocate who clearly understands the power of the image: it appears on his business card. At first glance, there is little to connect Mr. Qaissi with the infamous picture of a hooded man except his left hand, which he says was disfigured when an antique rifle exploded in his hands at a wedding several years ago. A disfigured hand also seems visible in the infamous picture, and features prominently in Mr. Qaissi's outlook on life.
In Abu Ghraib, the hand, with two swollen fingers, one of them partly blown off, and a deep gash in the palm, earned him the nickname Clawman, he said. "They blamed me for attacking U.S. forces," he said, "but I said I was handicapped; how could I fire a rifle?" he said, pointing to his hand. "Then he asked me, 'Where is Osama bin Laden?' And I answered, 'Afghanistan.' " How did he know? "Because I heard it on TV," he replied.
He said it soon became evident that the goal was to coax him to divulge names of people who might be connected to attacks on American forces. His hand, then bandaged, was often the focus of threats and inducements, he said, with interrogators offering to fix it or to squash it at different times. After successive interrogations, he said he was finally given a firm warning: "If you don't speak, next time, we'll send you to a place where even dogs don't live."
Finally, he said, he was taken to a truck, placed face down, restrained and taken to a special section of the prison where he heard shouts and screams. He was forced to strip off all his clothes, then tied with his hands up high. With a thick shock of gray hair and melancholy eyes, Mr. Qaissi is today a self-styled activist for prisoners' rights in Iraq. Shortly after being released from Abu Ghraib in 2004, he started the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons with several other men immortalized in the Abu Ghraib pictures. Financed partly by Arab nongovernmental organizations and private donations, the group's aim is to publicize the cases of prisoners still in custody, and to support prisoners and their families with donations of clothing and food. Mr. Qaissi has traveled the Arab world with his computer slideshows and presentations, delivering a message that prisoner abuse by Americans and their Iraqi allies continues. He says that as the public face of his movement, he risks retribution from Shiite militias that have entered the Iraqi police forces and have been implicated in prisoner abuse. But that has not stopped him.
311 Teachers and 64 Pupils Killed in Four Months
Some 311 teachers plus 64 pupils below 12 years have been killed in the past four months, according to the latest tally from the Ministry of Education. In a statement obtained by the newspaper, the ministry said attacks on schools and other educational facilities have increased recently and many parents have already stopped sending their children to school. It added that more than 400 schools have been attacked in the same period and many have already put down their shutters. Meanwhile, the second term of the current academic year (2005-2006) started a few days ago but educational authorities in the country say they are worried the latest upsurge in violence will adversely impact attendance. At Baghdad University, only a few students reported to classes prompting the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to put off the start of the term for a week.
Just how many foreigners are being held hostage in Iraq? The numbers are higher than most people realize—partly because victims’ relatives and employees don’t publicize disappearances for fear of jeopardizing negotiations for their release. NEWSWEEK’s calculations, however, show that at least 46 kidnapped foreigners, including 15 Americans, are still missing inside the country.
These are at best minimum figures, compiled by NEWSWEEK from both published accounts and data from U.S. officials in Baghdad, where the State Department has a high-level Hostage Working Group actively investigating the cases of the Americans, and assisting in the inquiries about other missing foreigners. While those kidnapped as far back as October 2003 may well have been killed by now, there's no evidence of that one way or another in most cases. And in many cases, there has been little or no public acknowledgement by either families or kidnappers that the hostages have gone missing.
The ones we do hear about come in fits and starts, marked by the release of another video of one of the captives, accompanied by implausible demands and bloodthirsty threats. The latest images, released March 7, showed three of the four Christian Peacekeeper Team members kidnapped by insurgents last Nov. 26: Canadians Harmeet Sooden and James Loney and Briton Norman Kember, but not the fourth hostage, American Tom Fox. [On March 10, after this story was posted, the State Department announced that Fox's body had been located and identified.] Many more hostages quietly disappear from the streets of Baghdad and for a variety of reasons, no one discloses what happens to them—until they show up either dead, or as sometimes happens, rescued or released.
These numbers are small in comparison to the kidnappings of Iraqis, which take place at the rate of 10-30 per day, mainly for purposes of ransom. The average ransom paid by Iraqi families is now $30,000, according to a U.S. official. Thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since the war began, some by common criminals and some by terrorists. The most outrageous example was this week’s mass kidnapping of 33 security guards from the Al Rafidah Company, a private Iraqi security company in eastern Baghdad; they were taken captive by 10 truckloads of men disguised as Iraqi policemen. Official sources say the kidnappings are believed to be for ransom. "Kidnappings have become a bank for terrorists to fund their operations," says Muahad Saleh, who is in charge of kidnapping investigations at the Ministry of Interior. (I am sure there have been not thousands, but tens of thousands of Iraqis kidnapped since 2003. – Susan)
Iraqi Army Takes Over Sadr City Base – But who Controls the Streets?
On a sandy field shrouded in a dust storm, the red flag of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 6th Iraq Army Division passed from American to Iraqi hands - and with it, control of one of Baghdad's most restive districts. But while Iraq's new army now runs the optimistically named Forward Operating Base Hope, the question of who really controls the teeming Shiite ghetto beyond its gates is far from certain. Col. Hussain Muhsein, commander of the 3rd Battalion, expressed confidence in his freshly trained and equipped men as they lined up in green camouflage and dark glasses for Thursday's ceremony. ''Iraqis know Iraqis,'' Muhsein said. ''We can handle the security inside Sadr City.'' After the handover, his soldiers raised their rifles in triumph, chanting: ''Where is the terrorist today? We are ready to serve our country.'' Residents, however, are far less certain about the abilities of their new army and police force. Saadoun al-Sahl, a furniture shop owner, said he counted on private militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to shield him from a recent surge of sectarian killing that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.
''They protect us better than any security agency,'' he said. ''If I or anyone has a problem, we go to the Mahdi Army to solve it.'' Life in Sadr city, a sprawling slum of 2.5 million people, is dominated by the firebrand anti-American cleric, whose face adorns shop signs and posters plastered everywhere. His Mahdi Army militia has waged two major uprisings against U.S.-led forces in Iraq and their Iraqi army allies, including members of the 3rd Battalion.
The National Strategy for Disaster in Iraq
On March 8, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to request $65 billion in emergency security funds
for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on top of the $369 billion
the United States has spent already. This appearance came amidst deep dissatisfaction among the U.S. public over the war (only 30 percent
approve of President Bush's handling of Iraq), increasing sectarian violence
, and a troubling human rights situation
. The testimony by Rice and Rumsfeld did little to reassure the American people that the administration is using taxpayers' money wisely.
IRAQI SECURITY FORCES PLAGUED BY CORRUPTION, MISMANAGEMENT: Senior military advisors acknowledge that "[t]rying to reform the police forces could take years
, because sectarian loyalties have become entrenched, and police officers are rooted in their communities." When Shiite militiamen attacked dozens of Sunni mosques after the February bombing of the Shiite Askariya shrine, many "police units stood aside, either out of confusion or sectarian loyalties, according to Iraqi witnesses." Rumsfeld's testimony ignored the administration's responsibility for the unprepared state of the police force.
THE LEGACY OF ABU GHRAIB: Two years after his promise to shut down Abu Ghraib prison
, Bush will finally do so. Prisoners from Abu Ghraib -- now called an "incubator for terrorists
" by U.S. commanders in Iraq -- will be moved to Camp Cropper, where Saddam Hussein is being held
. But closing the infamous prison will not erase the blight on the U.S. human rights record, and many Iraqis were skeptical that it was anything more than a public relations stunt.
DROPPING RECONSTRUCTION PROJECTS: While Rice and Rumsfeld yesterday outlined the importance of additional security funding for Iraq, they ignored the country's unfinished reconstruction projects. Last week, Amb. James Jeffrey, Senior Advisor to Rice and Coordinator for Iraq, stated that the United States will not be seeking significant additional funding for reconstruction projects in Iraq -- except for prisons.
Turkey to Build ‘Huge Industrial City’ in Kirkuk; Open New Border Crossing
Turkey is willing to cooperate with Iraq in the industrial sphere and “build a huge industrial city” in Kirkuk, said Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad al-Jalabi. Jalabi, fresh from a visit to Ankara, made the remarks following a meeting with the ministers of industry, oil, commerce and water resources. The oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk is home to a sizeable Turkish ethnic community known in Iraq as Turkmen. Jalabi was positive about his Ankara visit, saying Turkish authorities were prepared to expand economic cooperation with the country. However, he said, as part of a caretaker government the implementation of the understanding he had with Ankara should be left for the new government to implement. He said the Turks were ready to open a new border crossing point as the current one via the Kurdish northern town of Zakho could no longer handled the upsurge in the flow of goods and travelers between the countries. Jalabi said Turkey has also promised to reschedule the debts Iraq owes it which he said amounted to $1.4 billion.
Southern Province Warms Up to Iran
The southern province of Misan is expanding its economic and commercial links with the Iranian province of Khuzistan. The provincial authorities have announced the formal opening of the border crossing of al-sheeb with Iran that will considerably facilitate movement of people and goods across the border. “The crossing will greatly expand commercial and economic ties between Iran and Iraq and revitalize trade exchange and create new job opportunities,” declared Governor Adel Radhi.
Radhi made the remarks following a joint meeting of officials from across the province in which he announced the opening of the border post. “We have relied on our own resources on building this post,” he said, adding that construction of new roads was underway to link the crossing to the rest of the country. Iran’s border with Iraq runs for more than 1,500 kilometers. The southern province of Misan shares the eastern border flank with Iran.
Blaming the Victim as Iraq Disintegrates
The sectarian violence which has swept across Iraq following last month's terrorist bombing of the Shi'ite Golden Mosque in Samarra is yet another example of the tragic consequences of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Until the 2003 US invasion and occupation, Iraq had maintained a longstanding history of secularism and a strong national identity among its Arab population despite its sectarian differences. Not only has the United States failed to bring a functional democracy to Iraq, neither US forces nor the US-backed Iraqi government in Baghdad have been able to provide the Iraqi people with basic security. This has led many ordinary citizens to turn to extremist sectarian groups for protection, further undermining the Bush administration's insistence that US forces must remain in Iraq in order to prevent a civil war.
Top analysts in the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department, as well as large numbers of Middle East experts, warned that a US invasion of Iraq could result in a violent ethnic and sectarian conflict. Even some of the war's intellectual architects acknowledged as much: in a 1997 paper, prior to becoming major figures in the Bush foreign policy team, David Wurmser, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith predicted that a post-Saddam Iraq would likely be "ripped apart" by sectarianism and other cleavages but called on the US to "expedite" such a collapse anyway. As a result, the tendency in the US to blame "sectarian conflict" and "long-simmering hatreds" for the Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq is, in effect, blaming the victim. One of the longstanding goals of such neo-conservative intellectuals has been to see the Middle East broken up into smaller ethnic or sectarian mini-states, which would include not only large stateless nationalities like the Kurds, but Maronite Christians, Druze, Arab Shi'ites and others. Such a policy comes not out of respect for the right of self-determination - indeed, the neo-cons have been steadfast opponents of the Palestinians' desire for statehood, even alongside a secure Israel - but out of an imperial quest for divide-and-rule.
Lawyers Lash Out at Government for Dissolving Bar Council
The government has dissolved the elected council of the Iraqi Bar Association, prompting concerns that move will lead to further interference in non-governmental organizations. The association’s chairman, Dhiyaa al-Saadi, condemned the move, saying the decision to disband the current elected council was “counterproductive.” “This is unacceptable because the current council came into being following free and fair elections,” he said. The government has set up a new council as a caretaker body until new elections are held. “The government has no right to meddle in civil society organizations like the bar association,” Saadi said. He said the association should not be “politicized” and should remain a symbol of Iraq’s unity despite the presence of divergent political factions and groups. Saadi said the bar association is one of the few venues in Iraq that is seriously aiding in the establishment “of a state of law and constitutional institutions that defend civil and political rights and guarantee the rule of law.”
The government has not said why it decided to disband the council, but analysts say the authorities are apparently unhappy by the vociferous complaints by members on massive human rights violations which the lawyers compare with those committed under former leader Saddam Hussein.
US Ambassador in Iraq Proposes Extraordinary Gathering Outside Baghdad
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who helped warring parties agree on terms for an Afghan government four years ago, is now proposing Iraq's feuding political factions and sects gather in a quiet place to decide who will govern this fractious nation. Khalilzad said Friday he hopes leaders of all sides will soon join him at an unspecified time and place away from the violence and hot house political atmosphere of Baghdad. The hope is that they will talk round the clock to resolve their disputes - most prominently over the proposed second-term candidacy of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite.
US Presses Iraqis To End Deadlock
Khalilzad, a former envoy to his native Afghanistan, told Time he would advocate a new initiative: locking the officials up in a room and not letting them out until they sort out their differences. The embassy said the venue would be in Iraq. (This article is mostly junk, except for this little gem. I wonder if they will use “Abu Ghraib” style tactics on them? – Susan)
POSSIBLE FUTURE WARS
War pimp Alert:
U.S. senator: Iranian nuclear threat is biggest since Cold War: “The Iranian threat to the world is the biggest since the Cold War,” Senator John McCain told ABC television on Sunday. (McCain made the same type of statements on the Letterman show about a month ago. – Susan)
'The Vilification of Iran'
Preschoolers are taught not to exclude others (whom they don't like) from their play group. Uncle Sam could learn a lesson here. In the vilification of Iran that is now going on (recall the vilification of Iraq before we started bombing), I see no reference to the fact that the nuclear weapons non-proliferation treaty consists of mutual promises: Non-nuclear nations agree to forego developing nuclear weapons in exchange for the nuclear powers' agreement to disarm their nukes.
The U.S. has a long way to go before all of our nukes are destroyed. As a charter member of the nuclear weapons club, the U.S. can't say to Iran, "You can't play," particularly when Pakistan, India, North Korea and Israel all have nukes. In the current campaign against Iran, another parallel strikes me: We asked Saddam Hussein to "prove a negative" when we insisted he prove that he did not have weapons of mass destruction. Now we are asking Iran to prove another negative: that it is not developing nukes.
Ahmadinejad On the Warpath
Left to their own devices, Ahmadinejad and the second-generation revolutionaries who stand behind him are likely to change the Islamic Republic beyond recognition in the years ahead. But the complicating factor in all this is the increasing possibility of some form of military confrontation between Iran and the United States within two years. The key question is whether Ahmadinejad and his inner circle believe that military confrontation serves their long-term political and socio-economic agenda.
Originally dismissed as the lackey of the clerical establishment, Ahmadinejad has proved time and again that the only agenda that drives him is his own. In the space of a few months the former IRGC commander has emerged as certainly the most independent and arguably the most powerful president in the republic's 27-year history. Even the Islamic Republic's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, does not seem to have any appreciable influence over Ahmadinejad and his inner circle.
While liberals and reformists are, broadly speaking, in opposition to the Ahmadinejad government, it is the conservative establishment that has emerged as the second-generation revolutionaries' most formidable adversary. This is not surprising, given that the latter aspire to reorder fundamentally the socio-economic system in the Islamic Republic, changes that would fatally weaken the conservatives.
There are already many small networks of Shi'ite extremists in the country, but they are kept in check by the country's stability and an effective security establishment. Any weakening of the state will enable these networks to widen and deepen their influence exponentially. More worrying, conflict would significantly strengthen Sunni militancy on the country's fringes, particularly in the near-lawless Sistan va Balochistan province (bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan). A US assault on Iran would run the very real risk of enabling al-Qaeda to gain a foothold in the country. While Ahmadinejad and his supporters are correct in their belief that war would not fatally undermine the Islamic Republic, it is not at all clear whether they have properly thought through the potential consequences.
The Dangers of a Middle East Nuclear War
The Bush administration's new nuclear doctrine contains specific "guidelines" which allow for "preemptive" nuclear strikes against "rogue enemies" which "possess" or are "developing" weapons of mass destruction (WMD). (2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (DJNO)
The preemptive nuclear doctrine (DJNO), which applies to Iran and North Korea calls for "offensive and defensive integration". It explicitly allows the preemptive use of thermonuclear weapons in conventional war theaters.
In the showdown with Tehran over its alleged nuclear weapons program, these Pentagon "guidelines" would allow, subject to presidential approval, for the launching of punitive bombings using "mini-nukes" or tactical thermonuclear weapons.
While the "guidelines" do not exclude other (more deadly) categories of nukes in the US and/or Israeli nuclear arsenal, Pentagon "scenarios" in the Middle East are currently limited to the use of tactical nuclear weapons including the B61-11 bunker buster bomb. This particular version of the bunker buster is a thermonuclear bomb, a so-called Nuclear Earth Penetrator or NEP. It is a Weapon of Mass Destruction in the real sense of the word. Its utilization by the US or Israel in the Middle East war theater would trigger a nuclear holocaust.
The 48 Hour Media-blitz for War With Iran
In the last 48 hours all the major players in the Bush administration have issued statements warning of the impending danger of Iran. Cheney blasted the Islamic regime saying there would be “meaningful consequences” if it refuses to comply with international demands to stop its nuclear program. Condoleezza Rice said, “We face no greater challenge from a single country than Iran… This is a country that seems determined, it seems, to develop a nuclear weapon in defiance of the international community that is determined that they should not get one.” Donald Rumsfeld warned at a press conference on Wednesday, “I will say this about Iran. They are currently putting people into Iraq to do things that are harmful to the future of Iraq. We know it, and it is something that they, I think, will look back on as having been an error in judgment.” Bush chimed in too, “Iran must not have a nuclear weapon. The most destabilizing thing that can happen in this region and in the world is for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” And then there was Bolton, the most vehement of all, saying that the Security Council should issue a “vigorous response” to Iran’s nuclear ambitions or the United States might have to consider other steps. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said, “It’s going to be incumbent on our allies around the world to show that they are willing to act.” Congress also added their support led by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) “Iran’s quest for nuclear arms requires us to do two things: squeeze Iran’s economy as much as possible and do so without delay.” Lantos claims that more than 300 lawmakers will support sanctions. Israel’s Defense Minister joined the chorus as well,” If the UN Security Council is incapable of taking action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Israel will have no choice but to defend itself.”
Bush, Cheney, Bolton, Rice, Rumsfeld, Burns, Congress, and Israel.
Whoa! That’s quite a line-up. All in the last 48 hours! Was it spontaneous or a calculated public-relations campaign? Beyond the political speechmaking are literally hundreds of articles, full of the same predictable fictions and demagoguery which have mischaracterized Iran’s nuclear program from the get-go; fueling the hysteria for another preemptive war. Did Iran become nuclear superpower overnight? Apparently, so. But, just for the sake of argument, let’s remember that according to the IAEA there is “no evidence of a nuclear weapons program or any diversion of nuclear material.”
O’Reilly: Blowing Iran “off the face of the earth….. would be the sane thing to do”
On the March 8 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly
stated: "You know, in a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the earth. That would be the sane thing to do." O'Reilly made the remark during a discussion of Iran's recent threat
to cause "harm and pain" to the U.S. if it pursues sanctions
against Iran in the U.N. Security Council because of Iran's developing nuclear program.
As Media Matters for America has documented
, O'Reilly recently declared that "it's just a matter of time ... before we have to bomb" Iran.
Iranian Students Plot Anti-US Suicide Attacks
A group of potential suicide bombers in Tehran warned the United States and Britain it will attack coalition military bases in Iraq if there is a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. An Iranian group calling itself Esteshadion, which translates as "Martyrdom Seekers," hopes to sign up thousands of potential bombers.
Suicide Bombing 101 As they gather in Tehran at Khajeh Nasir University, these students aren't studying the subtleties of history or science, they're learning about suicide bombings. The students study videos showing suicide attacks around the Middle East and listen to lectures from a former Revolutionary Guard member who praises the use of suicide bombers. "Their possible attacks to [nuclear facilities of Iran] will not certainly be a ground attack — that would be, a missile attack — but they should know that they have interests in some sensitive areas which can be targeted by our suicide attackers," said Muhammad Ali Samadi, one of the movement's leaders, speaking in Farsi. Samadi claims to have trained 1,000 students already. At the meeting over the weekend, more than 200 people gathered and 50 signed up. "For example, if some day it's necessary to attend such operations, I will definitely do that," said university student Ahmed Salehi. "I will attack the one who have attacked us."
White House Linked to Mitch Wade Iran Group?
Yesterday at TPM we noted the fact that in April 2004 Mitchell Wade -- the guy who paid off Duke Cunningham for help bagging contracts – registered as the 'registered agent' for an outfit called the "Iranian Democratization Foundation." That was on April 5th, 2004. Now, during 2004, the Federal Procurement Data System lists 444 procurement contracts for the Executive Office of the President (that's the official name for what we colloquially refer to as 'the White House'). Most of those contracts are what you'd expect for a large office complex -- computer services, shipping, office supplies, etc. But three stand out: three contracts, for a total of $254,437, for unspecified "intelligence services." Those three contracts were awarded to Mitchell Wade's MZM, Inc.
The first contract was signed only about eight weeks after Wade set up the Iranian Democratization Foundation (IDF). The first was on June 16th, the second on July 23rd and the third on September 30th. We're not the first ones to report these contracts for "intelligence services." On June 28th, 2005, just as the Duke Cunningham scandal was getting underway, the Washington Post wrote ...
“Government procurement records show that MZM, which Wade started in 1993, did not report any revenue from prime contract awards until 2003. Most of its revenue has come from the agreement the Pentagon just cut off. But over the past three years it was also awarded several contracts, worth more than $600,000, by the Executive Office of the President. They include a $140,000 deal for office furniture in 2002 and several for unspecified "intelligence services."
But given all that's transpired, this odd fact seems worthy of more scrutiny, especially since Wade was setting up shop in the Iran regime-change game right around then. Just how many contracts does the White House give out for "intelligence services"? And were these three tied to Wade's just-discovered work on the Iran regime-change front?
Bomb Hits Istanbul Internet Cafe
A bomb tore through an Internet cafe frequented by police Thursday in Istanbul, wounding at least 17 people, including a child. A hard-line Kurdish militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, a Kurdish news agency reported. The explosion took place Thursday afternoon in the cafe on a side street near the riot police headquarters in the Bayrampasa neighborhood.
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons Organization, a hard-line group believed linked to the main Kurdish guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers Party, claimed responsibility for the bombing, the Netherlands-based Firat News Agency said on its Web site. The group has demanded that jailed Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan be moved out of solitary confinement. Ocalan has been in prison on an island near Istanbul since his capture on Feb. 15, 1999.
Bomb Blast in Turkish City Hurts Man, Causes Damage
A small bomb wounded one man and damaged dozens of buildings in western Turkey on Saturday, the state-run Anatolian news agency said. The makeshift bomb exploded in a wheelbarrow near a police station in a mainly Kurdish district of Izmir, Turkey's third biggest city, located on the Aegean coast. The wounded man, aged 54, had been crossing the street at the time of the blast, which shattered glass and caused other damage to more than 40 buildings in the vicinity. Police suspected the hand of the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is fighting for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey, Anatolian said. A wide variety of militant groups ranging from Kurdish rebels to ultra-left radicals and Islamists operate in Turkey and small-scale bomb blasts are not uncommon.
Two Turks Killed in Fighting With Kurdish Rebels
Two members of Turkey's security forces were killed on Friday in fighting with Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, security officials said. "The fighting is still going on. The security forces' operation is also being supported from the air (by military helicopters)," one official told Reuters. CNN Turk television said five people soldiers were also wounded in the fighting, in a remote rural area of Sirnak province near the Iraqi border. Ankara blames the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the rebels launched their armed struggle in 1984 for an independent Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey.
Violence, which largely subsided after the 1999 capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, has ticked up since the group called off a unilateral ceasefire in 2004. Four Turkish policemen were killed on Monday when PKK rebels ambushed their vehicle in the southeastern city of Batman. Officials say the PKK may also have been behind an apparent suicide bombing in the eastern city of Van on Thursday in which three people died. Both the United States and the European Union regard the PKK as a terrorist organisation.
Gulf States Worried Iraq Sectarian Tension Could Spread to Neighbors
A fleeting smile lit up the stern face of Sheik Abdul-Atheem al-Bahrani when asked if he worried that the sectarian tensions in Iraq would spread to the Gulf. “The good in Iraq overflows, but so do its evils,” said the Bahraini Shiite cleric, quoting an old saying. The spiral of Shiite-Sunni clashes in Iraq unleashed by last month’s bombing of a sacred Shiite shrine has nearby Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on edge.
All are Sunni-led countries with large Shiite communities, and they fear a spillover of tensions or even violence. In Kuwait, the government is making a serious effort to remove negative references to Shiites from the school curriculum and has ordered preachers to infuse their Friday sermons with “the spirit of unity and respect for the other,” according to Shiite lawmaker Salah Ashour. Shiites in the Gulf have been hoping for an overflow of good from Iraq. They talk with pride about the rise of their co-religionists to power in Iraq — the first such advance for Shiites in an Arab country — and hope for democratic changes in their countries to end discrimination against them. But they also are concerned that the sectarian strife next door could have the opposite effect: deepen sectarian divisions at home and set off the same kind of violence as Iraq.
Terrorist Growth Overtakes US Efforts
Thirty new terrorist organizations have emerged since the September 11, 2001, attacks, outpacing U.S. efforts to crush the threat, said Brig. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, the Pentagon's deputy director for the war on terrorism. "We are not killing them faster than they are being created," Gen. Caslen told a gathering at the Woodrow Wilson Center yesterday, warning that the war could take decades to resolve.
Gen. Caslen said that two years ago the Department of Defense had not settled on a clear definition of the nature of the war. (That’s because it is not a war, it is criminal acts. – Susan) Moreover, because each government department had its own perspective, "we all had different strategies," he said. The Defense Department now has defined the nature of the war, he said. The enemy, he said, is "a transnational movement of extremist organizations, networks and individuals that use violence and terrorism as a means to promote their end." It is not a global insurgency, the general said. "We do not go as far as to say it is a global insurgency, because it lacks a centralized command and control," he said. Groups such as al Qaeda, though, are constantly trying to increase their capabilities, and in some cases are outstripping the United States, Gen. Caslen said.
Shock and Awe; The Sequel
The Bush administration has unilaterally repealed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by demanding that Iran cease all uranium enrichment. This action overturns the central principle of the treaty which provides states with the “inalienable right” (NPT phrase) to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. Two years of intrusive inspections by the UN watchdog agency (IAEA) have not produced “any evidence of nuclear weapons programs” or any diversion of nuclear material. Nevertheless, the US insists that Iran be deprived of the same right that is afforded to every other signatory of the NPT. What gives Washington the right to rescind an internationally-recognized treaty? White House press secretary Scott McClellan summarized the administration’s view saying, “We’ve made it clear as have many in the international community that the regime must suspend all enrichment activity. It cannot be allowed to pursue enrichment in any capacity on any scale that would allow the regime to develop technologies needed to develop nuclear weapons.”
McClellan’s comments are a clear violation of the letter and spirit of the treaty which is not intended to arbitrarily deprive any member of the advantages of nuclear technology. The administration’s brazen declaration puts the onus on the 35-member board of the IAEA to reject their demands. Unfortunately, most of them are already cowed by the bullying tactics of the US. This tells us that the system is broken and cannot be expected to provide solutions to this or any of the other pressing issues that face the world community. The “superpower model” of governance allows one party to quash agreements on global warming, nuclear proliferation, chemical-biological weapons and anything else that isn’t in its narrow, subjective interests.
Thomas L. Friedman: Cheney to Iraq. This article can only be read if you pay for it under Times Select, and I recommend that you do not bother. However, when I read the title I thought: send Fried Man too. – Susan
Neocon Advocates Civil War in Iraq as “Strategic” Policy - Daniel Pipes Finds Comfort in Muslims Killing Muslims
One of the abiding myths about the War on Iraq is that the neocons were too stupid to realize that they would confront an unrelenting, indigenous resistance to their occupation of Iraq. Unwittingly, the story line goes, they led the U.S. into a conflict which has now produced a civil war. But this simply does not fit the facts. The neocons clearly anticipated such an outcome before they launched their war as Stephen Zunes documents in Antiwar.com
"Top analysts in the CIA and State Department, as well as large numbers of Middle East experts, warned that a U.S. invasion of Iraq could result in a violent ethnic and sectarian conflict. Even some of the war's intellectual architects acknowledged as much: In a 1997 paper, prior to becoming major figures in the Bush foreign policy team, David Wurmser, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith predicted that a post-Saddam Iraq would likely be "ripped apart" by sectarianism and other cleavages but called on the United States to "expedite" such a collapse anyway."
Now the neocons are beginning to advocate for civil war in Iraq quite openly. The clearest statement of this strategy as yet comes from pre-eminent neocon and ardent Zionist Daniel Pipes. In a recent piece in the Jerusalem Post, Pipes spills the beans. He writes: "The bombing on February 22 of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, Iraq, was a tragedy, but it was not an American or a coalition tragedy. Iraq's plight is neither a coalition responsibility nor a particular danger to the West. Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition's responsibility, nor its burden. When Sunni terrorists target Shi'ites and vice versa, non-Muslims are less likely to be hurt. Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy, but not a strategic one."
Official: Iraq May Still Seek WMDs
A former top CIA official said Thursday that despite the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is likely to be looking for weapons of mass destruction within the next five to 10 years. Paul Pillar, who until last year was in charge of intelligence assessments for the Middle East, said the CIA warned the Bush administration before the Iraq invasion in 2003 that a change of regimes would not necessarily solve any WMD problem.
In a speech at the Middle East Institute here, Pillar said Iraqis live in "a dangerous neighborhood," with rival countries pursuing weapons of mass destruction. So the CIA had warned that a future Iraqi government would likely want the very weapons Hussein was (wrongly) suspected of hiding, including nuclear weapons, he said. "Iraq may turn once again to ... a WMD program," Pillar, who is retired from the CIA, said Thursday. "And wouldn't that be ironic?"
Congress Should Open the Way to a Sustainable Peace In Iraq
The U.S. can’t abandon Iraq, but its troops must leave. At the beginning of last year, FCNL issued this statement and urged Congress to declare that the U.S. military will withdraw from Iraq. One year later, the public, the Congress, and many in the U.S. military agree that a lasting solution to the conflict in Iraq will come only through political negotiation among Iraqis, not through battle. Rep. John Murtha’s legislation (H.J. Res. 73), calling for the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq and for the pursuit of peace and stability through diplomacy, has won substantial support (although he was still well short of a majority in January 2006). Murtha, one of the strongest supporters of the Pentagon in the U.S. Congress, says military officers have told him the military is not the right tool for creating a sustainable peace in Iraq.
Yet the administration and some leaders in Congress from both parties continue to argue that the U.S. must stay the course in Iraq: the only choices for U.S. policy in Iraq are “victory” or “defeat,” they say. These simplistic arguments do not make strategic sense, as Col. Dan Smith (USA Ret.) points out in these pages. But, in an election year, politicians seeking reelection may believe these arguments do make political sense.
War Is Not the Answer
The costs of the failed U.S. policies in Iraq can now be measured by the names of the tens of thousands of Iraqi lives lost and more than 2,000 U.S. military personnel killed, the billions of dollars in funds spent on prosecuting a war rather than reconstructing for a sustainable peace, and the growing anger at the U.S. in the rest of the world. In the next few months, Congress will vote to provide tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in additional funding for the U.S. war in and ongoing occupation of Iraq. Our elected officials should condition any further funding on the U.S. taking clear steps toward the withdrawal of all U.S. military troops and bases from Iraq.
Did US Know Iraq Had No WMDs?
WHAT IF the Bush administration wasn't entirely convinced before the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, but simply invoked those ''mushroom cloud" images to rally necessary public support? One source of such speculation lies in the administration's puzzling prewar failure to supply Iraqi Kurds, Hussein's closest and most likely targets, with gas masks and other promised protection.
While the White House has publicly maintained that the decision to go to war was not made until early 2003 -- and only as a last resort after the failure of both inspections and diplomacy -- I knew a full year before that Kurdish leaders were quietly tipped off to war plans just weeks after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. In December 2002, Senators Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel visited northern Iraq on a fact-finding trip for the Foreign Relations Committee. The senators expressed concern that the Kurds still had no protection, stating in separate interviews they would try to convince the administration to expedite the promised shipment.
In February 2003, with the US attack now imminent, Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani published an impassioned letter to President Bush, complaining they ''have yet to receive any of the protective equipment promised by your officials to deal with the very real risk of chemical and biological weapons attacks on the cities of Iraqi Kurdistan." When the Bush appeal was made public, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, the wife of Jalal Talabani, who later became president of Iraq, told me that she had personally filmed victims of Hussein's earlier gas attacks in 1987-1988. ''No one was interested at that time in my videos," she lamented.
No one could doubt that the Kurds presented an easy target for expected retaliation by the Iraqi regime, but I had to believe that once the support of the Kurds had been enlisted by Rumsfeld, then their survival became a genuine concern to war planners. The alternative scenario was just too disturbing: that the Pentagon knew all along that the Kurds, an exposed population of almost 4 million, would have no need for masks. Could the White House have conducted the war with actual knowledge that there were no WMD in Iraq? Was that why no one saw fit to protect the Kurds?
Iraqi Shi’ite Cleric Calls US, Britain and Israel a ‘Triad of Evil’
In a television interview Friday night, radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr described the United States, Israel and Britain as a "Triad of Evil". Speaking on state-run Iraqiya television, the anti-American al-Sadr also said last month's attack on a Shi'ite shrine in the central city of Samarra was carried "in collusion with the occupiers and the Zionist Entity of Israel," meaning for the U.S. and Israel. Hundreds of Iraqis died in the subsequent sectarian violence, much of which Sunni Muslims said was the work of al-Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army. The Triad of Evil reference was an obvious play on words U.S. President Bush used in his 2002 State of the Union address, when he labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea and "axis of evil."
Al-Sadr, whose militia launched two uprisings against U.S. troops in 2004, refused to name any group that he believed was behind the bombing of the Askariyah shrine in Samarra but hinted at members of Saddam Hussein's former regime or Sunni Muslim extremists. “Those who carry arms could be takfiri extremists, Saddamists or others. But those who control arms are the Triad of Evil that are Israel, America and Britain," said the black-turbaned cleric during the one-hour interview. The extremist takfiri ideology urges Sunni Muslims to kill anyone they consider an infidel, even fellow Muslims. He said that the attacks on Sunnis that followed the Samarra explosion "were a natural reaction" by Shiites, angry over the attack on their shrine.
He said he rejected any attacks on mosques of either Muslim sect, although violence after the Samarra bombing damaged many. Al-Sadr, who was on a regional tour when the Feb. 22, bombing happened, cut short his visit and came back "in order for the country not to be pulled to street battles. I wanted to salvage the Iraqi people from these problems."
A Government With No Military and No Territory
President Bush marked the Iraqi election of December 2005 as the beginning of a new era. A freely selected permanent government would begin asserting its sovereignty over the country, building an administrative infrastructure, and rising to the challenge of governing an unruly and often violent constituency.
Only three months later, this hopeful vision is in ruins. Various parliamentary leaders have occupied themselves with tortuous negotiations over who will be the next prime minister, while crises explode around their Green Zone sanctuary. Some of these crises flashed in and out of the headlines, including a controversy over illegal detention and torture sites reportedly run by Shia militias under the aegis of the Ministry of the Interior; a new wave of insurgent attacks in Baghdad; and, most dramatically, the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, triggering retaliatory attacks against Sunni mosques as well as nationwide demonstrations calling for the withdrawal of American forces. Other crises continue to build without benefit of the media spotlight: a multi-ethnic conflict over control of Kirkuk, the northern oil hub and projected capital of a future Kurdistan; the steady escalation of guerrilla attacks on American troops and of American air strikes against Sunni cities; a further degeneration in the delivery of electricity, potable water, fuel, and most of the other basics of modern life; a growing population of homeless refugees; an ongoing exodus of professionals; and unremitting unemployment levels, variously estimated at between 30% and 65% of the workforce.
In dealing with all these crises, the government was notable mainly for its absence -- neither a party to the controversies, nor a mediating force in any of them. It volunteered no leadership and was not invoked by any of the contesting groups. This irrelevance is not temporary. It is the single enduring, probably irremediable feature of a government that has none of the resources needed to exercise sovereignty. As these multifaceted crises grow, intertwine, and overlap, the capacity for exercising sovereignty -- whether by this government, the occupation forces, or any other entity -- will only be further eroded.
….Nonetheless, even if the Iraqi army, Special Forces, and local police were to become the formidable military machine that American officials envision, they would not add up to an effective instrument of Iraqi national policy for a simple reason: These units are being developed as part of the occupation military, not as a force loyal to or commanded by the elected government. It is well known that the Americans are recruiting and training both the military and the police in Iraq. What is less well known is that, once their training is complete, the Bush administration does not relinquish control over these forces. Let's begin with the Iraqi army. Its troops are directly integrated into the occupation structure commanded by the American military. This is not just a matter of who makes command decisions. The Iraqi military has no air support, no artillery, and almost no armored vehicles; nor does it have a logistics capacity that would allow it to resupply its fighting units. As a result, even if the Iraqi government could "take command" of its army, it could not fight battles on its own. This distinguishes the Iraqi Army from virtually every other military on the planet. None of its units can go into battle unless they are integrated into the American military.
Things are somewhat different for the police and Special Forces, including SWAT squads, secret police, and other units designed to carry on covert and irregular military operations. Instead of being subject to American commanding officers, these forces are advised by counterinsurgency specialists -- either American military officers or American-employed private security contractors. Such units act semi-autonomously under the direction of Iraqi officers appointed by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior.
This looseness of command worked well as long as there was no policy friction between American officials and the Iraqi government. In January 2005, for example, Newsweek
reported that U.S. advisers in the Interior Ministry were instituting a program of systematic assassination of leaders and supporters of the resistance -- including prominent Sunni clerics and political leaders. The program was dubbed the "Salvador option" because it was modeled after the right-wing assassination squads that committed thousands of murders in El Salvador and other Latin American countries two decades earlier.
There was no opposition to this policy within the Interior Ministry, since the new units were to be recruited largely from the Badr Brigade, the Shia militia associated with the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the political party already in charge of the Ministry. The recruits were apparently militant fighters anxious to avenge suicide-car bombings organized by Sunni jihadists against Shia civilians. Soon, reports on their activities became a staple of the news from Iraq, as dead bodies
of Sunnis, often described as suspected resistance fighters, were found hours or days after being arrested by "men dressed in Iraq police uniforms."
Toward the end of 2005, problems
began to develop between the Ministry-controlled police (and Special Forces) and their American sponsors. Soon after, American personnel twice raided
detention centers operated by the Interior Ministry, replete with accusations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners. These incidents, and a host of lesser ones, seemed to suggest a lack of control by the United States over the police and Special Forces.
….. What a closer look at this controversy reveals, however, is how much the U.S. already does dominate most such units. (This is a very good article, I recommend reading the whole thing. – Susan)
On The Brink of Abyss
The current political deadlock over who is to hold the powerful post of the prime minister is pushing the country towards the abyss. Whims and personal agendas are dictating the political process rather than the country’s national interests. For nearly three months since the December 15 elections, political factions are still squabbling over the post of Prime Minister Control of influential ministries while the country is bleeding to death. The crisis over whether the incumbent Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari does not seem to be driven out of concern for the future of the country. Not everyone in the country has been happy with Jaafari’s performance. Popular discontent with his policies is difficult to hide. But the same politicians who are now opposing his nomination have paid no heed to the wishes of the Iraqi people and their criticism of the government. And today their objections are not a response to the needs of the Iraqi people. They are part of the 11th-hour scenario staged for personal and factional gains rather than the interests of the Iraqi people.
Lying and Deception as Government Policy
What is even more imprudent than the invasion of Iraq and the ‘war on terror’ is the Bush administration’s determination to interpret the tragedy of that stricken nation in a way that lays blame on just about everyone else but itself. And yet this is just one thread within an elaborate web of lies and deceit initiated by the Bush administration years ago. Immediately after its seizure of power by a court negotiated ruling, the Bush administration seemed determined to marginalize the American public. The terrorist attacks of September 11 were the needed element that transformed that determination into policy: anything goes — from unleashing unwarranted wars abroad to monitoring people’s reading habits at public libraries and tapping into their telephone conversations - as long as the goal is to safeguard ‘national security’.
While many Americans seemed willing to concede part of their freedoms to preserve the rest - or so the cliché goes - Bush’s detrimental policies, at home and abroad, remained heedless and self-serving. The relatively small gap between the government and the public turned into a bottomless abyss. Not as if past US governments were known for their integrity and painful honesty with the American people regarding their backroom dealings and undemocratic tendencies from Latin American, to Indochina to the Middle East. But the Bush administration has undeniably pushed the conventional and sometimes acceptable margin of a government’s deceit to the point that lying becomes the primary, if not the sole form of public policy.
Unfortunately for the Bush administration, cant and deceit are the only lifelines still available to win back the discontented public. Numerous opportunities have been lost, including that of providing a tangible timeline as to when the US will withdraw from Iraq, signaling the end of the nightmare. The confounded public is even denied the mere courtesy of being informed with a realistic assessment of the US ‘war on terror’ and the Iraq quagmire. In the meantime, America — its economic prospects, its people’s welfare, its reputation, its internal struggles, and more — all are being held hostage to a ‘war on terror’ that even the administration’s own pundits are finding it difficult to define. The botched war is a disaster save for a few neo-conservative think tanks, their followers and a dwindling number of rightwing dreamers, who haven’t a clue what this war is really like.
Iraqis are of course suffering the consequences of the administration’s imprudence as well. In fact, the price they have paid is most unmatched. They were promised freedom and were delivered a torturous war and civil strife that can only worsen. They too were victims of double talk and rosy promises that are yet to actualize. Not that deceit doesn’t have its generous rewards for some. By checking on the growing profits of Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, CACI and Titan, BKSH & Associates, Bechtel, ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, one will understand that the war in some strange way is not as ‘senseless’ as one might think.
WAITING IN THE LIGHT
Intermittently during his time in Iraq, Tom Fox posted to a blog he titled "Waiting in the Light." Visitors to the blog were greeted with a quote by George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, or the Quakers, amongst whom Tom Fox worshipped for 22 years. "Be patterns, be examples in every country, place, or nation that you visit," George Fox wrote, "so that your bearing and life might communicate with all people. Then you'll happily walk across the earth to evoke that of God in everybody. So that you will be seen as a blessing in their eyes and you will receive a blessing from that of God within them."
Tom Fox traveled to Baghdad with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in late November 2005. On October 1st, in a post time-stamped 10:01 AM (local time where he had his home in Clearbrook, Virginia), he introduced himself cautiously to whomever was listening:"You should take these first impressions of Baghdad with several grains of salt," he wrote. "The first being I have only been in the city for seven days and have never been to the Near East before. The next grain is that I have only been a CPTer for fifty days having just taken the training in Chicago in July and August 2004. The final grain is that I have no previous background in peacemaking, having spent the last ten years working for a natural foods company and before that having spent the remainder of my adult life as a musician."
A committed Christian pacifist, Fox next quoted from the Gospel of Thomas (a text as unfamiliar in mainstream Christianity as the model for Christian nonviolence that Fox and CPT were attempting to build in Baghdad): "Do not lie and do not do what you hate."
American Hostage Knew the Dangers in Iraq
``We were very cognizant of the fact that there are a lot of people being killed over in Iraq every day, and not just foreigners, a lot of Iraqis are being killed,'' said Anne Bacon, clerk of the Quaker meeting. ``This tragedy that we are feeling is a part of a much larger tragedy.'' Fox, 54, was the only American in a group of four Christian Peacemaker Teams members taken hostage last year by a previously unknown group, the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. Those who knew him say Fox had prepared himself for the possibility he would not return from Iraq. He even wrote about it on his Web log when he first arrived in Baghdad in October 2004.
``I am to stand firm against the kidnapper as I am to stand firm against the soldier,'' he wrote. ``Does that mean I walk into a raging battle to confront the soldiers? Does that mean I walk the streets of Baghdad with a sign saying 'American for the Taking'? No to both counts. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right, then I am asked to risk my life and if I lose it to be as forgiving as they were when murdered by the forces of Satan.'' Fox worked with families of incarcerated Iraqis, often serving as the only link between them and their families on the outside, said Paul Slattery, a member of his support group from Langley Hill Friends Meeting. Fox also escorted shipments of medicine to clinics and hospitals and worked to form an Islamic Peacemaker Team. ``This guy was not after martyrdom by any means,'' Slattery said. ``He actually believed in his heart that he would better them by his conviction and his beliefs and his skills, and I think largely succeeded. ``What he leaves behind is a tremendous challenge for the rest of us and a guiding force.''
Christian Peacemaker Team: We Mourn the Loss of Tom Fox
In grief we tremble before God who wraps us with compassion. The death of our beloved colleague and friend pierces us with pain. Tom Fox’s body was found in Baghdad yesterday. Christian Peacemaker Teams extends our deep and heartfelt condolences to the family and community of Tom Fox, with whom we have traveled so closely in these days of crisis. We mourn the loss of Tom Fox who combined a lightness of spirit, a firm opposition to all oppression, and the recognition of God in everyone. We renew our plea for the safe release of Harmeet Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember. Each of our teammates has responded to Jesus’ prophetic call to live out a nonviolent alternative to the cycle of violence and revenge.
In response to Tom’s passing, we ask that everyone set aside inclinations to vilify or demonize others, no matter what they have done. In Tom’s own words: "We reject violence to punish anyone. We ask that there be no retaliation on relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. We hope that in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening nonviolently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.”
Even as we grieve the loss of our beloved colleague, we stand in the light of his strong witness to the power of love and the courage of nonviolence. That light reveals the way out of fear and grief and war. Through these days of crisis, Christian Peacemaker Teams has been surrounded and upheld by a great outpouring of compassion: messages of support, acts of mercy, prayers, and public actions offered by the most senior religious councils and by school children, by political leaders and by those organizing for justice and human rights, by friends in distant nations and by strangers near at hand. These words and actions sustain us. While one of our teammates is lost to us, the strength of this outpouring is not lost to God’s movement for just peace among all peoples.
At the forefront of that support are strong and courageous actions from Muslim brothers and sisters throughout the world for which we are profoundly grateful. Their graciousness inspires us to continue working for the day when Christians speak up as boldly for the human rights of thousands Iraqis still detained illegally by the United States and United Kingdom. Such an outpouring of action for justice and peace would be a fitting memorial for Tom. Let us all join our voices on behalf of those who continue to suffer under occupation, whose loved ones have been killed or are missing. In so doing, we may hasten the day when both those who are wrongly detained and those who bear arms will return safely to their homes. In such a peace we will find solace for our grief.
Despite the tragedy of this day, we remain committed to put into practice these words of Jim Loney: “With the waging of war, we will not comply. With the help of God’s grace, we will struggle for justice. With God’s abiding kindness, we will love even our enemies.” We continue in hope for Jim, Harmeet and Norman’s safe return home safe.
From an email I received:
Our Friend Tom Fox, the Christian Peacemaker of Langley Hills Meeting, who was captured last November by the "Swords of Righteousness Bridgade" in Baghdad, has been killed. CNN reports that Fox's body had two bullet wounds, his hands were bound, and there were cuts and bruises on his body that indicated physical abuse.
According to ABC News, "The State Department continues to call for the unconditional release of all other hostages in Iraq". This of course is completely and utterly false. The State Department is calling for the unconditional release of all hostages except the 20,000 or more being detained by Occupation forces. These hostages, some of whom have been tortured and killed, are used by terrorists as a convenient excuse to capture, torture, and kill innocent Americans.
Cynical warmongers claim that Fox and his compatriots were on a fool's errand. Nothing could be further from the truth, IMHO. It is the military that is on a fool's errand, one that has cost us over a half trillion dollars and 2,400 American lives. Anyone who thinks that Peacemakers are less safe because they are unarmed has forgotten what happened in Fallujah.
On Nov 25, 2005, the day before he was captured, Tom wrote this in his diary: "Why are we here?" We are here to root out all aspects of dehumanization that exists within us. We are here to stand with those being dehumanized by oppressors and stand firm against that dehumanization. We are here to stop people, including ourselves, from dehumanizing any of God's children, no matter how much they dehumanize their own souls.A true Peacemaker, Tom recognized that the first place to look for what stands in the way of peacemaking is within. Rest in Peace, Tom.
May your legacy live on, and triumph, before it is too late for all of us.
Quaker Conference on Torture will be held on June 2-4, 2006 at Guilford College, Greensboro NC. The keynote speaker, Jennifer Harbury, is a leading and eloquent voice in the rapidly growing movement to expose and end torture as an instrument of public policy. Her own husband, Everardo, was kidnapped and tortured to death by Guatemalan military, acting in collaboration with American officials. Jennifer's books, “Searching for Everardo: A Story of Love, War, and the CIA in Guatemala, and Truth, Torture”, and “The American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture”, tell this story and point the way toward action. She most recently helped establish a Unitarian anti-torture campaign, and now works with TASSC. This conference is being organized by QUIT, the Quaker Initiative to End Torture.
Anti-war media protest in NYC and LA on March 15, 2006. This is through Media Channel and United for Peace and Justice.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Too many are willing to die for war and too few are willing to die for peace.” – Thomas Fox, American member of Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq.