Saturday, March 25, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SATURDAY, MARCH 25, 2006 Photo: Iraqi Shiites shout anti American and anti terrorism slogans, after Friday prayers, in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 24, 2006. Drive-by shootings, roadside bombings and sectarian killings left some 29 people dead in Iraq Friday. American and Iraqi troops swept the oil-rich region of Kirkuk for suspected insurgents and captured dozens. (AP Photo/ Karim Kadim) Bring ‘em on: US soldier killed in Habbaniyah on March 23, 2006, by small arms fire. Bring ‘em on: US soldier killed by IED in Habbaniyah on March 23, 2006. Security Incidents: 60 die in violent day of prayer in Iraq on Friday, March 24, 2006. Another Update for Friday: Baghdad police said they discovered 25 more bodies, blindfolded, shot and dumped throughout the capital. Saturday’s Security Incidents: Baghdad: #1: A bomb exploded in a booth for traffic police in north Baghdad Saturday, killing four civilians, police said. A policeman was among five people wounded in the attack near the Iraqi finance ministry, police said. #2: Elsewhere in north Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on a police patrol in a drive-by shooting, wounding one officer, police said. #3: Iraqi police found a body in southeastern Baghdad and another floating in the Tigris River, 55 miles south of the capital. Both were shot in the head, their hands and legs tied _ the latest victims of Iraq's increasing sectarian violence. #4: Four people were killed today by a roadside explosion targeting a minibus in a northern Baghdad district, eyewitnesses said. #5: Gunmen killed a traffic policeman in central Baghdad then placed a bomb inside his booth which killed four civilians in a minibus and wounded four, police said. #6: Police found ten bodies in different parts of Baghdad, police said. The corpses showed signs of torture and some had been garrotted, police said. #7: A school teacher and a Sunni mosque preacher were shot dead in Baghdad. The teacher was killed by Iraqi soldiers as she drove past their convoy, police said. The Imam had stopped to have his car repaired in west Baghdad when he was gunned down. Balad Ruz: #1: East of the capital, in the small town of Balad Ruz, another roadside bomb killed two teenage boys selling farm produce from the back of their bicycles. A passing car was also hit, but the three occupants were only injured. Al Ratba: #1: two people were killed and one injured by gunshots fired by the US military in al-Ratba. Ahmed al-Kobaisy, a doctor at al-Ratba hospital said the three victims were shot at when their car approached the site of a US army base on the road. Mosul: #1: Gunmen ambushed a convoy of trucks heading to a U.S. base in Badush, west of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. Six trucks were destroyed. #2: In Mosul, three people in a car were killed by gunmen and two were wounded, police said. Samarra: #1: SAMARRA - Three police commandos and a civilian were wounded when a car bomb exploded near their patrol in Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. Al Mahmudiya #1: MAHMUDIYA - Four civilians were killed and 13 wounded when four mortar rounds landed on houses in al-Mahmudiya, 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. #2: In Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, mortar bombs hit houses, killing four people and wounding 13, police said. Mahmoudiya: #1: Some 40 people were killed or wounded in a big gunbattle near the town of Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of the capital. Police said gunmen of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia were fighting insurgent forces, which are primarily Sunni Muslim. Yusifiya: #1: YUSIFIYA - Police found two bodies, shot, blindfolded and with their hands bound in Yusifiya, 15 km (9 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. Balabroz: #1: In Balabroz, 55 miles northeast of Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded near a police checkpoint, killing two men and wounding three, authorities said. REPORTS Children Continue To Be Main Victims of US Occupation One of the most tragic consequences of the Iraq war has been its effect on children. The war continues to claim them among its main victims, while the health of the majority of the population also continues to deteriorate. In the 1980s, Iraq had one of the best health care systems in the region. Following the 2003 invasion by the coalition forces, an ongoing cycle of insurgent violence and occupation forces’ counter-attacks have significantly damaged the basic health infrastructure in the country. As a result, Iraq’s health system cannot respond to the most basic health needs of the population. In 1991, there were in Iraq 1,800 health care centers. A decade and a half later, that number is almost half and almost a third of these require major rehabilitation. This is paralleled by the country’s fall in the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index from 96 to 127, one of the most dramatic declines in human welfare in recent history. According to Jean Ziegler, the U.N. Human Rights Commission’s special expert on the right to food, the rate of malnutrition among Iraqi children has almost doubled since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in April 2003. Today, at 7.7 percent, Iraq’s child acute malnutrition rate is roughly equal to that of Burundi, an African nation ravaged by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than the rates in Ugand and Haiti, countries also devastated by unrelenting violence. Lack of dependable electricity and shortages of potable water throughout the country have led to the deterioration of the population’s health, resulting in outbreaks of typhoid fever, particularly in southern Iraq. The collapse of the water and sewage systems is probably the cause of outbreaks of hepatitis particularly lethal to pregnant women. According to the Iraq Living Conditions Survey of 22,000 households, a joint effort of the Iraq government and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme,) some 47% of urban households and only 3% of rural households have a sewage connection. Bound, Blindfolded and Dead: The Face of Atrocity in Baghdad In front of a crowd, he was grabbed by his shirt and driven off. Mr. Azawi was among the few Sunni Arabs on the block, and, according to witnesses, when a Shiite friend tried to intervene, a gunman stuck a pistol to his head and said, "You want us to blow your brains out, too?" Mr. Azawi's body was found the next morning at a sewage treatment plant. A slight man who raised nightingales, he had been hogtied, drilled with power tools and shot. In the last month, hundreds of men have been kidnapped, tortured and executed in Baghdad. As Iraqi and American leaders struggle to avert a civil war, the bodies keep piling up. The city's homicide rate has tripled from 11 to 33 a day, military officials said. The period from March 7 to March 21 was especially gruesome, with at least 191 corpses, many sadistically mutilated, surfacing in garbage bins, drainage ditches, pickup trucks and minibuses. There were the four Duleimi brothers, Khalid, Tarek, Taleb and Salaam, seized from their home in front of their wives. And Achmed Abdulsalam, last seen at a checkpoint in his freshly painted BMW and found dead under a bridge two days later. And Mushtak al-Nidawi, a law student nicknamed Titanic for his Leonardo DiCaprio good looks, whose body was returned to his family with his skull chopped in half. What frightens Iraqis most about these gangland-style killings is the impunity. According to reports filed by family members and more than a dozen interviews, many men were taken in daylight, in public, with witnesses all around. Few cases, if any, have been investigated. Part of the reason may be that most victims are Sunnis, and there is growing suspicion that they were killed by Shiite death squads backed by government forces in a cycle of sectarian revenge. This allegation has been circulating in Baghdad for months, and as more Sunnis turn up dead, more people are inclined to believe it. "This is sectarian cleansing," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of Parliament, who has maintained a degree of neutrality between Shiites and Sunnis. Bomb Explodes Near Sunni Mosque in Baghdad Video of the aftereffects of this bombing on March 24, 2006. UNEMBEDDED: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq “We crossed the lines because we believe it is more important to humanize a conflict than it is to trade in rhetorical truths, or to reinforce easy notions of enemy and friend, which are mere propaganda.” Click link to see the photographs and read the stories. (I have this book, and I recommend it. – Susan) Battle for Baghdad ‘has already started’ The battle between Sunni and Shia Muslims for control of Baghdad has already started, say Iraqi political leaders who predict fierce street fighting will break out as each community takes over districts in which it is strongest. "The fighting will only stop when a new balance of power has emerged," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader, said. "Sunni and Shia will each take control of their own area." He said sectarian cleansing had already begun. Many Iraqi leaders now believe that civil war is inevitable but it will be confined, at least at first, to the capital and surrounding provinces where the population is mixed. "The real battle will be the battle for Baghdad where the Shia have increasing control," said one senior official who did not want his name published. "The army will disintegrate in the first moments of the war because the soldiers are loyal to the Shia, Sunni or Kurdish communities and not to the government." He expected the Americans to stay largely on the sidelines. Throughout the capital, communities, both Sunni and Shia, are on the move, fleeing districts where they are in a minority and feel under threat. Sometimes they fight back. In the mixed but majority Shia al-Amel district, Sunni householders recently received envelopes containing a Kalashnikov bullet and a letter telling them to get out at once. In this case they contacted the insurgents who killed several Shia neighbours suspected of sending the letters. "The Sunni will fight for Baghdad," said Mr Hussein. "The Baath party already controls al-Dohra and other Sunni groups dominate Ghazaliyah and Abu Ghraib [districts in south and west Baghdad]." The Iraqi army is likely to fall apart once inter-communal fighting begins. According to Peter Galbraith, former US diplomat and expert on Iraq, the Iraqi army last summer contained 60 Shia battalions, 45 Sunni battalions, nine Kurdish battalions and one mixed battalion. The police are even more divided and in Baghdad are largely controlled by the Mehdi Army of the radical nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Badr Organisation that has largely been in control of the interior ministry since last May. Sunni Arabs in Baghdad regard the ministry's paramilitary police commanders as Shia death squads. Schools Also on the Front Lines in Iraq Rows of students in neat gray and white uniforms gathered in the courtyard to raise the Iraqi flag and sing the national anthem. They read passages from religious texts, then cheerfully went to their classrooms. Headmistress Wajida Sharhan was working in her office when a mortar shell slammed into a second-floor fifth grade classroom. "The sound of the explosion was so powerful, as if heaven and earth collided," she said. "I couldn't open my eyes because of the dust. I heard loud screams from the children, and a girl came into my office with her arm nearly cut off." The torrent of violence that has swept Baghdad and surrounding provinces since U.S. forces invaded three years ago, and surged since last month's attack on a Shiite shrine, has left little unscathed — even schools. What were once sanctuaries of learning have become places of fear, undercutting efforts to rebuild the dilapidated education system left by Saddam. Bombs, rockets, mortar and machine-gun fire killed 64 school children in the four months ending Feb. 28 alone, according to a report by the Education Ministry. At least 169 teachers and 84 other employees died in the same period. "We are in a society of insecurity," said Education Minister Abdul Fallah al-Sudani. "Schools are not excluded from the suffering of our society." Attacks and threats shut 417 schools between Oct. 27 and Feb. 28 — most only for a few weeks, but some longer — disrupting the education of thousands of children. The violence was concentrated in the capital and the volatile provinces of Anbar, Diyala and Babil, according to the Education Ministry report. Iraqi Pharmacist Relates Experiences Dr. Rashad Zidan, a humanitarian activist and pharmacist from Iraq, spoke last night about her experience in Iraq after the U.S. occupation. One woman of five from a delegation sponsored by Code Pink and Global Exchange, Zidan spoke at various events this month, including the anti-war rally in Fayetteville last weekend with more than 1,000 people, marking the Second Gulf War's third-year anniversary. Zidan discussed the day-to-day life in occupied Iraq and her dealings with the Iraqi orphans through the Women and Knowledge Society. In addition to the event, a memorial exhibition was set up in the Brickyard commemorating the fallen soldiers in Iraq. "They said it was democracy and freedom, but in reality, it was occupation from all sides," Zidan said.The international delegation consisted of seven Iraqi women who applied for visas to come share their stories, leaving their families in Iraq. Officials in some countries detained the delegation for a few days and told the women they could not receive visas. Five were eventually approved, while the other two were held back because their families had been killed in crossfire. According to Code Pink activist Shannon Hardy, the women were told "you cannot speak here because you don't have enough family in Iraq to make sure you go back to Iraq." Zidan also met with U.S. Congressman David Price, N.C. Representative Brad Miller and other politicians to share her stories. At the rally, she met with families of soldiers who also opposed the war. "It was the first time I heard a congressman only ask questions," Hardy said, in reference to Zidan's meeting with Price. Zidan stressed the importance of relaying the truth to the American people and the importance of spreading the word to others. "When you know something but do not share it, it means nothing," she said. "As students in college, we used to think the U.S. was the most free and democratic country, but have since found out that is only what is written on paper and not reality." Zidan also continuously mentioned the fact throughout her lecture that she knows not all Americans are supportive of the war. She said that when she came here, she made sure she got a lot of pictures of the events she attended to show the Iraqis back in Baghdad that some Americans do support them."What we have been told is not true -- most Americans are peaceful and want an end to this war," Zidan said. "It was done in the name of Americans, but it is not the desire of all Americans." Contrary to popular belief, she said the situation in Iraq is now worse than when Saddam reigned. She said that Saddam was not "for the Sunnis, he was for himself." Various Kurdish and Shiite groups tried to oppose him and that is why his destruction spread, she said. Zidan said she is in no way advocating the reign of Saddam, but at least then, they had hospitals available, could get to their jobs freely and had free schools available for their children. "We want to live peacefully, taking care of our families, our children, our country," Zidan said. "All of this suffering, this destruction, is for nothing." The Iraqi Brain Drain Bleeding from his head wound, he was taken home by colleagues. Only the next day did Faraj discover that the firing that saved him came from the garden of a tribal sheikh who lives opposite: "The man's bodyguards saw the gunmen going into my clinic, and were ordered by the sheikh to take cover and shoot if they were obviously abducting somebody when they came out." Who the kidnappers were remains a mystery. Were they criminals acting for money or, as they claimed to be, people linked to the police? What is certain is that a trickle of kidnappings and murders which began in the first lawless months after US and British forces toppled Saddam Hussein three years ago has now become a flood. At least 1,000 people have died in the sectarian tit-for-tat killings that followed the destruction of one of Iraq's holiest shrines in Samarra last month. The growing insecurity has set off a massive brain drain, as more and more Iraqis slip away from the country, perhaps never to return. While the fall of Saddam Hussein opened the door for an earlier generation of Iraqi exiles to go home, now the flow is going the other way again. Kidnap survivors are the lucky ones. Hundreds of Iraqi professionals are being murdered in what some Iraqis see as a deliberate campaign to destroy the country's best and brightest. The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research says that 89 university professors and senior lecturers have been killed since 2003, and police investigations have led to nothing. Iraqi academics have compiled a longer list of up to 105 names of assassinated colleagues. The most recent was Professor Ali Muhawesh, the dean of the engineering college at Mustansiriya University, one of Baghdad's two main campuses. He was shot this week. The rate of killing is increasing. Some 311 teachers have been murdered in the past four months alone, according to the Ministry of Education. It is not only Baghdad that is suffering. The medical college in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq, has lost nine senior staff. Even outside Iraq, fear consumes many exiles. In Jordan's capital, Amman, the first port of call for most refugees, requests for interviews produced repeated rejections. Others would only talk if false names were used and no mention made of where they work or live. Faraj is one of the few people who have fled who are willing to speak openly and be photographed. After eluding his would-be kidnappers, he fled to Jordan last week. In the chaos and looting which followed the US entry into Baghdad, he had already taken his wife and children to Amman, aiming to wait until the dust settled. It never did. His family stayed in Jordan, but he commuted to Baghdad for several weeks at a time. "That's over now," he says with grim determination. "I will never go back to Iraq." Iraq Translator Charged in Bribe Scheme U.S. authorities have arrested a translator working in Iraq, charging him with offering a bribe to entice a police official to buy armored vests and other equipment for $1 million. Faheem Mousa Salam, 27, of Livonia, Mich., was arrested Thursday at Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia, the Justice Department said. Salam is an employee of the Titan Corp., a government contractor working in Iraq. Salam was charged under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for offering $60,000 to an Iraqi police official who Salam believed could help arrange the purchase of the goods by a police training organization, according to a criminal complaint. Salam said he wanted to sell the group 1,000 vests and a sophisticated map printer, the court papers said. Salam, described in court papers as a naturalized U.S. citizen, later made similar offers to an undercover investigator who was posing as a purchasing officer for the police group, the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, the complaint said. Al-Sader Offices Broken Into The Islamic army group in Iraq claimed in a recorded tape spoke of the burning of a truck transporting fuels for the American forces north of Baghdad. The fate of its driver was not known. For his part, an assistant for the Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sader said that the American forces on Thursday evening broke into a station for the Sadri trend east of the capital Baghdad and detained all its working staff. Iraq Hostages ‘were saved by rift among kidnappers’ The British hostage Norman Kember and his two Canadian colleagues owe their freedom to a rift among their Iraqi kidnappers, a western security source close to the rescue operation said yesterday. The source said their guards got cold feet when more senior and ruthless members of the group turned up at the house in Baghdad and took away a fourth hostage, Mr Kember's American colleague, Tom Fox, and shot him dead. Six Iraqis are in custody, accused of being in the gang, and are being interrogated by British intelligence to try to find clues which might help locate other hostages, including the American Jill Carroll and two Germans, Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braeunlich. A British official said there was no direct link between Mr Kember's kidnappers and those holding Ms Carroll, but "it is possible the information might lead to other networks". The more senior members of the gang responsible for Mr Fox's murder were part of one of the Islamist insurgent groups, either Jaish al-Mujahideen or al-Jabha al-Islamiya. The group made a series of political demands, in particular that the US and Britain release all prisoners held in Iraq. They threatened to kill the hostages if their demands were not met. But the guards holding Mr Kember and his colleagues were part of a cell motivated by money rather than politics. "It's a bit absurd that they consider themselves innocent, even though they were looking for money. They don't see themselves as criminals," the source said. "The guards were involved, which is why it was a soft operation. They played a significant role in allowing the authorities to find the hostages." He added: "The death of Fox changed the whole thing. Someone higher up the chain took him away. Because the ante had gone up and it had become more serious, it's quite possible that the operation began to open up and they got nervous about the repercussion." He said the "higher-ups" who took Mr Fox did not initially intend to kill him. Examination of his body found dumped by a road two weeks ago did not show signs of torture, as first reported, the source insisted. Nor did he seem to have been killed execution-style. It was more likely that there was a scuffle or an attempt to run away which led to his death. MEDIA ISSUES Iraqis in Tal Afar Question Bush’s Optimism George W. Bush held up the northern town of Tal Afar this week as an example of progress being made in Iraq but many residents find it hard to share his optimism. Bush said this week that Tal Afar has become "a free city that gives reason for hope for a free Iraq" after U.S.-led forces freed it from al Qaeda militants in a 2005 offensive. Although townspeople say there has been less violence since the assault, they share many of the complaints of other Iraqis watching sectarian violence tearing their country apart. These days it is Iraq's security forces, drawn heavily from the Shi'ite majority, not Sunni Arab al Qaeda militants from nearby Syria, that make many people in Tal Afar nervous. "When we stop at a checkpoint they ask us whether we are Sunni or Shi'ite. That is worrying. We are one people and were never divided before," said Fatma Mohammad Ali, 38, a teacher who is a member of Tal Afar's ethnic Turkmen Shi'ite minority. U.S. and Iraqi forces said Tal Afar was used as a conduit for smuggling in equipment and foreign fighters from Syria on the way to cities across central Iraq. In doing so, they subjected many townspeople to violence and intimidation. Al Qaeda and other Sunni Arab insurgent violence has eased in Tal Afar since September's offensive but sectarian violence elsewhere in Iraq after the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra last month raised fears among many people of civil war. "I say that Bush is 100 percent a liar because the city of Tal Afar has become a ghost town rather than the example Bush spoke about," said Ali Ibrahim, a Shi'ite Turkmen laborer. (Bush got his information from a 60 Minutes “news” story that covered the US military’s appraisal of the situation in Tel Afar. See below. – Susan) 60 Minutes Joins the Propaganda War Two weeks ago, CBS 60 Minutes ran a segment called “Tal Afar: Al Qaida’s Town”. The story focused on an Iraqi city on the Syrian border that was allegedly “taken over by Al Qaida” and turned into a terrorist “base to train insurgents and launch attacks around Iraq”. When they first arrived at Tal Afar, Colonel McMaster said, “Life was horrible in the city. They (the terrorists) fired mortars indiscriminately into playgrounds, into school yards, across the marketplace to kill innocent civilians….They would leave headless bodies in the street. They kidnapped a young child on one occasion, killed the child, put a booby trap inside of his body and waited for the father to come claim the body to kill the parent”. None of what McMaster says can be verified nor is it consistent with reports that appeared on the Internet during the siege. “Masked gunman led by Al Qaida roamed the streets of Tal Afar at will, publicly executing and kidnapping people,” the Colonel said. “They had kidnapping and murder classes that were attended by people on the best techniques.” “Murder classes”? Does any of this seem even remotely believable? Colonel McMaster continued, “The enemy showed the people who they really are. These are mass murderers. These are people who don’t respect human life.” The real story of Tal Afar is vastly different than Ware’s account and does not reflect his high-regard for American troops battling a civilian population. The siege of Tal Afar began on September 2, 2005. It was the largest military offensive since the assault on Falluja a year earlier. In 2004 the US military attempted to take over the city but was rebuffed by heavy fighting. After that, the guerilla movement inside the city intensified anticipating a future attack. If there were foreign fighters, their numbers were small. Approximately, 5,000 American and Iraqi troops sealed off the city, enclosing it behind a massive wall of sand with intermittent military checkpoints. The city’s people were forced to evacuate leaving them to fend for themselves. The Red Cross was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the exodus and was unable to provide shelter, water, or food for many of those who fled. Regrettably, thousands of people chose to stay and withstand the withering assault rather than expose themselves to the Shiite death squads that were operating in conjunction with American forces. The city was then relentlessly pounded for more than a week by Abrams tanks, F-16s, helicopter gun-ships, and heavy artillery. At least four mosques were bombed and the Sarai area was hammered persistently with 500 and 1000 lb bombs. The Iraqi newspaper Azzaman reported, “Eyewitnesses spoke of ‘scores of casualties due to indiscriminate bombing”. The pattern of assault on Tal Afar has been repeated throughout the Sunni triangle. Presently, Samarra is undergoing the same style of attack; a wall of sand has formed around the city, water and power have been cut off, and more than half of the people have fled. The siege of Falluja has become the model for “pacification” throughout the Sunni heartland although the level of destruction has decreased significantly. The application of overwhelming force is still at the very heart of the military strategy for victory in Iraq. The siege was executed according to the normal protocols of massive round-ups and detentions, snipers deployed to the tops of buildings, and widespread bombing wherever resistance appeared. The incessant battering of the city continued despite appeals from human rights groups, member states in the UN, and religious leaders from the Sunni community. The widely-respected Council of Nineveh issued a statement from the Brussels Tribunal that was ignored by the western media but is worth reiterating: “The truth of what is happening in Tal Afar of the extreme use of force and the use of internationally forbidden weapons of poison gases, cluster, microwave, and napalm bombs, we demand that autopsies be carried out on the corpses of our sons who fell in the barbaric aggression to verify the inhuman practices carried out by the American forces and the (Iraqi) militias that participated in the massacre of Tal Afar.” The PsyOps War: A Look at the Lincoln Group Last November, the Los Angeles Times first revealed that the US military was secretly planting stories in the Iraqi press. Articles written by U.S. military "information operations" are translated into Arabic and then placed in Iraqi newspapers with the help of Washington-based defense contractor the Lincoln Group. The articles are presented to an Iraqi audience as unbiased news accounts written by independent journalists. The Lincoln Group's contract is worth up to $100 million dollars over five years. When the secret propaganda program was first revealed even the White House admitted it was "very concerned" about the practice. But earlier this month, the top Pentagon brass insisted it will go on. General George Casey said an internal review of the program had "found that we were operating within our authorities and responsibilities." Pentagon officials told the New York Times this week that the Lincoln Group remains under contract, and would continue its activities unless the military revises its policies. ANDREW BUNCOMBE: The Lincoln Group remains to this day a somewhat mysterious and hidden group based here in Washington. They were set up five or six years ago, essentially, by a young British guy called Christian Bailey. That wasn't his first name; his first name was Christian Jozefowicz. He changed his name whilst he was at university at Oxford, and since then, it seems his career has been one of shifting and moving and perhaps not being as forthcoming about the truth as one would hope. He's only a young chap; he’s 30, 31. He’s got no experience in public relations, and yet last summer he landed a $100 million contract for planting faux news stories, should we say, within the Iraqi media. These weren’t technically false stories; they were technically true, but they portrayed an inaccurate and unbalanced picture of what's going in Iraq, essentially bribes, because the Iraqi journalists were being paid vast amounts of money, relatively vast amounts of money, to put these stories in, essentially out of the control of their editors. (And the unasked and unanswered question is, anybody paying off 60 Minutes? – Susan) Baghdad: The Besieged Press Visiting any of the news bureaus gives an immediate sense of how embattled foreign journalists now are and how difficult it has become for them to do their jobs. Everyone I spoke to complained that the deteriorating security situation has increasingly made them prisoners of their bureaus. "We could go almost anywhere in Iraq in a regular car, unprotected," wrote the Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi this February, in a wistful front-page story for her paper about the situation she found when she first arrived in 2003. "I wore Western clothes—pants and T-shirts, skirts, sandals—walked freely around Baghdad chatting with shopkeepers and having lunch or dinner with people I met." By the spring of 2004, she writes, the insurgency had been spreading and gaining strength faster than we had imagined possible. For the first time, I hired armed guards and began traveling in a fully armored car. Outings were measured and limited and road trips were few and far between.... As security deteriorated around the country, the areas in which we could safely operate shrank. Foreign news bureaus are either in or near the few operating hotels such as the Al Hamra, the Rashid, or the Palestine. Like battleships that have been badly damaged but are still at sea, these hotels have survived repeated bomb attacks and yet have managed to stay open. A few hotels like the Rashid, where once there was a mosaic depicting George Bush Sr. on the floor of the lobby, are sheltered within the Green Zone. A few other bureaus have their own houses, usually somewhat shabby villas that have the advantage of being included inside some collective defense perimeter that makes the resulting neighborhood feel like a walled medieval town. Wherever in the city the news bureaus are, they have become fortified installations with their own mini-armies of private guards on duty twenty-four hours a day at the gates, in watch towers, and around perimeters. To reach these bureaus, one has to run through a maze of checkpoints, armed guards, blast-wall fortifications, and concertina-wired no man's lands where all visitors and their cars are repeatedly searched. The bitter truth is that doing any kind of work outside these American fortified zones has become so dangerous for foreigners as to be virtually suicidal. More and more journalists find themselves hunkered down inside whatever bubbles of refuge they have managed to create in order to insulate themselves from the lawlessness outside. (A January USAID "annex" to bid applications for government contracts warns how "the absence of state control and an effective police force" has allowed "criminal elements within Iraqi society [to] have almost free rein.") Nearly every foreign group working in Iraq has felt it necessary to hire a PSD, or "personal security detail," from more than sixty "private military firms" (PMFs)—Triple Canopy, Erinys International Ltd., and Blackwater USA—now doing a brisk business in Iraq. In fact, there are now reported to be at least 25,000 armed men from such private firms on duty in the country today. Led mostly by Brits, South Africans, and Americans, these subterranean paramilitary PSDs form a parallel universe to America's occupation force. Indeed, they even have their own organization, the Private Security Company Association of Iraq. Some critics, like the London Independent's Robert Fisk, have written about how Western reporters have been reduced to "hotel journalism," or what the former Washington Post bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran somewhat more charitably describes as "journalism by remote control." The Guardian war correspondent Maggie O'Kane was even more emphatic: "We no longer know what is going on, but we are pretending we do." TV SHOW: Searching For Comedy Amid Iraq’s Tragedies Many people — including top officials in the Bush administration — think the media coverage of the war is too negative. They say there are too many stories about body counts of soldiers and Iraqis, about car bombs and carnage, and sectarian strife teetering precipitously on the brink of civil war. And not enough about all the good that's been achieved. It's not entirely an unfair criticism. There are success stories. With the country's new freedom of speech, for instance, there are more comedy shows in production on Iraqi TV than during the reign of Saddam Hussein. We in the ABC News Baghdad bureau were intrigued as we watched these shows. What must it be like, we wondered, to try to make Iraqis laugh? (snip) During the ABC News visit, Mustafa received some terrible news. He grabbed the show's director to tell him: Their boss, Amjad Hameed — the head of the entertainment division for Iraqi TV, the man who had arranged for the shoot — just minutes before had been assassinated, shot by gunmen on his way to work. Both he and his driver were killed. The director then told the rest of the crew. Within moments, what had been a set full of fun and laughter quickly became one full of fear. And there went the effort to show comedians trying to make Iraqis smile again. It ended with the funeral of the man who helped put the story together — a horrible, gruesome, perfect metaphor for day-to-day life in postwar Iraq. DIRTY POLITICS US Confirms Talks With Iran on Iraq The United States will talk to Iran about Washington’s accusations of Iranian destabilization of Iraq, Secretary of State Rice said on Friday in the first public acceptance of an Iranian offer to meet. Iran, responding to an overture by Washington last November, said last week it was open to talks on the issue with the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, but until Rice's comments U.S. officials had given no firm reply. "I'm quite certain that at some point they will meet," Rice told a Washington news conference, referring to the planned talks. She added that they would be "at an appropriate time." Washington has charged Tehran with meddling in the sectarian strife in Iraq, an accusation denied by Iran, which blames the U.S.-led forces that invaded in 2003. Analysts say both the United States and Tehran are worried about worsening violence in Iraq, pushing them to agree to talks. Iraqi political sources have said they expected Khalilzad to meet Iran's representatives this week. Iran has not announced its team. Khalilzad has renewed accusations Iran is backing Shi'ite violence in Iraq. Some analysts say Tehran is using Iraq to deflect U.S. pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. "Training and supplying, direct or indirect, takes place, and that there is also provision of financial resources to people, to militias, and that there is presence of people associated with Revolutionary Guard and with MOIS (Iranian intelligence)," Khalilzad told the Washington Post. (Now, won’t it be funny if he got his information from a story in the Iraqi press written by the Lincoln group? – Susan) THE FOLLOWING THREE ARTICLES CAME FROM INFORMATION CLEARING HOUSE: ===File this under propaganda: ABC News says Saddam OK'd bin Laden contact: The document is handwritten and has no official seal ===File this under pathetic: Did Russian Ambassador Give Saddam the U.S. War Plan? Iraq Archive Document Alleges Russian Official Described Locations, Troops, Tanks and Other Forces Before Operation Iraqi Freedom Began ===Report: Russia Had Sources in U.S. Command The Russian government collected intelligence from sources inside the American military command as the U.S. mounted the invasion of Iraq, and the Russians fed information to Saddam Hussein on troop movements and plans, according to Iraqi documents cited in a Pentagon report released Friday. Iran Stages War Games Near Iraq Border Islamist militiamen affiliated to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have launched military exercises near the Iraqi border to “deal with possible unrest”, Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported. Members of the paramilitary Bassij force staged military exercises in the western town of Dehloran. The paramilitary forces attacked dummy enemy sites during the operation. “The objective of the military exercises here is to raise the level of readiness of the Bassij forces”, said Alireza Bazdar, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Dehloran. “Our forces were able to capture the positions taken by the enemy and destroy the enemy forces”.“This will help us prepare ourselves to deal with possible outbreaks of unrest with force and determination”, Bazdar said. The Revolutionary Guards and the Bassij have been staging a series of military and security exercises in Tehran and its suburbs since February. Militias Kill More Iraqis Than “Terrorists” US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said on Saturday, March 25, that militias, many with strong ties to powerful Shiite leaders and well entrenched in security and police forces, are killing more Iraqis than "terrorists," urging Iraqi leaders to rein them in. "More Iraqis are dying from the militia violence than from the terrorists," he told reporters during a visit to a Baghdad youth center newly renovated with US funds, reported Reuters. "The militias need to be under control." Khalilzad renewed accusations on Friday, March 25, that Iran is training, supplying and funding Shiite violence in Iraq. Shiite militias have melded into Iraqi security forces and police and they are unlikely to want to give up their weapons at a time of raging sectarian violence, according to Reuters. Iraq has been ravaged by sectarian violence since the bombing of a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra, north of Baghdad, on February 22. In the following days, more than 450 civilians, mostly Sunnis, were killed and 81 Sunni mosques targeted, including eight completely destroyed, in reprisal attacks. Iraq Qaeda Chief Seems to Pursue a Lower Profile Abu Masab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist and the head of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, has sharply lowered his profile in recent months, and his group claims to have submitted itself to the leadership of an Iraqi. In postings on Web sites used by jihadi groups, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the terrorist network's arm in Iraq, claims to have joined with five other guerrilla groups to form the Mujahedeen Shura, or Council of Holy Warriors. The new group, whose formation was announced in January, is said to be headed by an Iraqi named Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi. Since then, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia has stopped issuing its own proclamations. The Mujahedeen Shura, which continues to call for attacks against American and Iraqi forces, has stopped taking responsibility for large-scale suicide attacks against civilians, and it has toned down its fierce verbal attacks against Iraq's Shiite majority. (I posted this for everyone’s information, but I am not sure the NYT knows what it is talking about here. – Susan) No Risk Of Civil War in Iraq, US Military Chief Says The chief of the US military on Friday played down the risk of civil war in Iraq as he announced the withdrawal "soon" of a battalion temporarily deployed in Baghdad following the recent wave of sectarian violence. Peter Pace, the chairman of the US joints of staff, however, underlined that Washington could move in more troops depending on the security situation in the conflict-torn country. US officials said last week that the military called in a battalion-size force of 700 to 800 troops from Kuwait to help shore up security in the Baghdad area for 30 to 45 days during the Shiite pilgrimage holiday of Arba-een. The deployment marked the first time US commanders requested more troops since the February 22 bombing of a Shiite mosque ignited sectarian tensions in Iraq, and raised questions about prospects for significant troop cuts this year. "That battalion will probably be going back out of Iraq within the next week or two. I'm not sure exactly when but it will be relatively soon," Pace, who was in Turkey for a conference on global terrorism, told reporters here. Turkey Should be Patient About Fight Against Terrorist Organization PKK Gen. Peter Pace, the Chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has indicated that Turkey should be patient about fight against terrorist organization PKK in Iraq. Speaking on private TV channel NTV, Pace said that they knew there were armed PKK members in Iraq, and an effective fight against terrorist organization PKK needed a much more strong Iraqi state. Pace underlined that the United States aimed to train Iraqi security forces first. Noting that attacks were continuing in Iraq and terrorists were trying to prevent efforts for formation of the government, and he considered that those attempts would not yield any result and there would not be civil war in Iraq. Gen. Pace stressed that the United States was in favor of a united Iraq. (Imagine telling US citizens to be patient with terrorists! - Susan) US ARMY NATIONAL GUARD Readiness Issues: PDF file from the Army National Guard on equipment readiness. It is 38 pages long, so I have not read the whole thing, but it looks like our readiness is really in doubt. COMMENTARY OPINION: Bush’s Way Out is Staying the Bloody Course IN SO many words he finally said it. In the middle of well-worn remarks about democracy being on the march in Iraq and failure not being an option, President Bush finally said what many have predicted and dreaded. He has always parroted the administration mantra of bringing the troops home when Iraqi troops are sufficiently trained to take over, but broaching the subject of a permanent American military presence in Iraq was studiously avoided. Until now. The President let it slip toward the end of his recent news conference. The moment was a stunning throwback to Vietnam. It happened when the commander in chief was blissfully deferring to everyone from Army generals to Iraqi parliamentarians about what would or could happen in Iraq and when. A reporter asked the tap-dancing Texan if, without tying himself to a specific deadline, he could at least assure Americans that all U.S. troops will eventually be withdrawn from Iraq. He couldn't. The man who mired his nation in a war of his own choosing more than three years ago allowed that while bringing home all the "kids" he's put in harm's way is "an objective," he'd leave it to "future presidents and future governments of Iraq" to figure out how to do it. The Bush Administration that had sold its urgent war-making against Iraq as a shock-and-awe regime adjustment, or relative cakewalk for a superpower in a hurry, now suggests future administrations will be saddled with fixing what went terribly wrong. It doesn't seem worrisome to George W. that he will be long gone while his war rages on and American soldiers continue to slog it out in a land pockmarked and paralyzed by deadly violence. OPINION: The Good News From Iraq (We Can’t Hear It – The Bombs Are Too Loud) I can't keep up with the administration's Iraq candor campaign. On the one hand the president is making a show of being more realistic about the chaotic situation there. "I understand how tough it is," he told reporters at his press conference Tuesday. "You make it abundantly clear how tough it is. I hear it from our troops. I read the reports every night." On the other hand, he and his advisers continue to blame the media for presenting too negative a story. Dick Cheney argued on Face the Nation on March 19 that Americans don't recognize the great progress in Iraq because the media create a false perception by focusing on car bombings in Baghdad and not on all the good things happening in the other 15 provinces. Then I talk to other administration officials and advisers who are also optimistic about Iraq—not because things are getting better but because they're so bad they have to get better. "This rattled the politicians in Iraq," said one senior administration official, referring to the recent spate of internecine violence. "They know they have to get their act together. Obviously, it's rough right now, but they understand the alternative is worse." The alternative, of course, is complete anarchy. It's a good thing Iraqi leaders didn't subscribe to Dick Cheney's view of reality or they wouldn't be so motivated. White House, Conservative Surrogates Continue Their ‘Blame the Media’ Campaign During the past week, President Bush, White House officials, and an array of conservative media figures have advanced the argument that mainstream news outlets are undermining public support for the war in Iraq. As Media Matters for America noted, what began as a few pointed criticisms by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney quickly grew into a full-scale offensive, with conservative columnists, radio hosts, editorial pages, and, of course, Fox News, joining the White House in assailing the media's negative coverage of Iraq. In the past 24 hours, the campaign against this purportedly biased war reporting has continued on the airwaves and in print. During a March 23 press briefing, a reporter asked White House press secretary Scott McClellan to clarify the administration's "specific frustration" with the media's coverage of Iraq. The reporter cited Bush's complaint during a March 21 press conference about the "enemy's capability to affect the debate." The president had noted that the insurgents are "capable of blowing up innocent life so it ends up on your TV show." McClellan responded that the president's comments were not meant as a criticism of the media and conceded that the daily atrocities occurring in Iraq are "newsworthy." Nonetheless, he went on to suggest that the Iraq coverage is not providing a "complete picture" of the situation there: McCLELLAN: There are horrific images of violence that we see on our TV screens. Those are newsworthy items to cover, and we have made that clear repeatedly. But there is more to the situation on the ground, and if you're going to have a complete picture it's important to look at the progress that's being made. There is real violence that is occurring and the situation remains tense. But there's also real progress that is being made toward victory. And I think the President was emphasizing the importance of taking into consideration what the enemy knows and looking at the motivation of the enemy. The enemy knows -- the terrorists, they know that when they carry out these kind of attacks, or car bombings, or kidnappings, or beheadings, that it's going to generate attention. And so as commander-in-chief, it's important for the president to put it all in context and also to talk about the broader context and talk about the progress that's being made. The White House's message -- that the mainstream news outlets are not offering Americans a "complete picture" of the Iraq war -- again reverberated throughout the media, most notably on Fox News. For instance, on the March 23 edition of Special Report, host Brit Hume posed the question of whether the media is "suppressing or underreporting the good news in Iraq" to his "All-Star Panel." OPINION: Bush's War is Anti-Christian Many things about Bush's war are anti-Christian, but the destruction of Christianity in Iraq is near the top of the list. Writing in the current issue of Chronicles magazine, Wayne Allensworth reports how Christians in Iraq have faced contiinuous attacks since the U.S. invasion began. Because Muslims have identified all Christians with the West, Christians in Iraq have been killed, kidnapped, and forced to flee their homes. They have had their businesses destroyed, and their women have been forced to wear the Muslim veil. Yet, under Saddam Hussein's secular regime, Christians lived in relatively safety and had freedom to practice their religion. Christian held posts in the government. Hussein suppressed radical Islamic groups. No, Iraq was no Bible Belt, but it was a far cry from other Muslim countries. Are Christians in Iraq better off now than under Saddam Hussein? Is anyone in Iraq better off now than under Saddam Hussein? George Bush may claim to be a Christian, but his actions are decidedly anti-Christian. OPINION: Apocalyptic President In his latest PR offensive President Bush came to Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday to answer the paramount question on Iraq that he said was on people's minds: "They wonder what I see that they don't." After mentioning "terror" 54 times and "victory" five, dismissing "civil war" twice and asserting that he is "optimistic", he called on a citizen in the audience, who homed in on the invisible meaning of recent events in the light of two books, American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips, and the book of Revelation. Phillips, the questioner explained, "makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this? And if not, why not?" Bush's immediate response, as transcribed by CNN, was: "Hmmm." Then he said: "The answer is I haven't really thought of it that way. Here's how I think of it. First, I've heard of that, by the way." The official White House website transcript drops the strategic comma, and so changes the meaning to: "First I've heard of that, by the way." But it is certainly not the first time Bush has heard of the apocalyptic preoccupation of much of the religious right, having served as evangelical liaison on his father's 1988 presidential campaign. The Rev Jerry Falwell told Newsweek how he brought Tim LaHaye, then an influential rightwing leader, to meet him; LaHaye's Left Behind novels, dramatising the rapture, Armageddon and the second coming, have sold tens of millions. But it is almost certain that Cleveland was the first time Bush had heard of Phillips's book. He was the visionary strategist for Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign; his 1969 book, The Emerging Republican Majority, spelled out the shift of power from the north-east to the south and south-west, which he was early to call "the sunbelt"; he grasped that southern Democrats would react to the civil-rights revolution by becoming southern Republicans; he also understood the resentments of urban ethnic Catholics towards black people on issues such as crime, school integration and jobs. But he never imagined that evangelical religion would transform the coalition he helped to fashion into something that horrifies him. COMMENTARY: “A Recent Surge of Violence” September 3, 2003: Meanwhile, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac were to meet in Germany on Thursday to discuss ways for the West to respond to the recent surge in violence in Iraq and the Middle East. October 31, 2003: Ansar is believed to be channelling into Iraq the foreign fighters who are behind a recent surge in violence in the country, officials say. November 3, 2003: Bush blamed loyalists to ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and foreign terrorists for the recent surge in violence in Iraq. March 4, 2004: A wave of bomb attacks in Baghdad and Karbala killing at least 171 people earlier this week has highlighted the difficulties in rebuilding the country and restoring peace. But Mr Blair, speaking after a meeting in Rome with his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi, said the recent surge in violence in Iraq did not constitute civil war. (snip- cut out a lot of them) January 8, 2006: The recent surge in violence is "an anomaly" and Iraq is not on the verge of civil war, the top US commander there said yesterday, after one of the country's bloodiest days since the fall of Saddam Hussein. February 1, 2006: Recently, five other members of Congress and I sat on a C-130 transport plane surrounded by soldiers going from Kuwait to Baghdad. The backdrop is a recent surge in violence. February 4, 2006: Dozens of bodies have been discovered in various parts of Baghdad gagged, bound and shot repeatedly in the past week, amid recent surge in violence, which analysts have repeatedly described as initial stages of an open-ended civil war between Iraq’s ethnic groups. March 1, 2006: AP reports that he was giving an unusually frank assessment of the stakes in the country's recent surge in violence. March 4, 2006: The top U.S. commander in Iraq said yesterday that he hopes to make an assessment this spring about whether to reduce the number of American troops in Iraq. But Pentagon officials speaking anonymously said a recent surge in violence there has dampened hopes that force levels can be cut anytime soon. (snip) Here's a new one with some slight editing: March 6, 2006: Pressure mounted Sunday on Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to give up his bid for a new term amid anger over a recent surge of sectarian killings that has complicated already snarled negotiations on a new Iraqi government. OPINION: The Scourge of High Prices When we were children we used to listen to our grandmothers’ tales about demons and goblins. The demon, they told us, was of high stature that kidnapped children while the goblin was used to refer to any creature killing human beings. The goblin was also depicted as a female demon that scared human beings and made them go out of their mind. We were warned that if this female demon captured a person, she would play with him, make him dance in the manner a cat toys with a mouse. This is the situation Iraqis find themselves in today. Merchants and traders have taken Iraqis hostage and as a result many of them have gone mad. Every thing in Iraq has become so dear. Fuel is expensive. Medicine is expensive. Clothes are expensive. Even post is being taxed dearly by the government. A letter which used to cost 50 dinars to send by post now costs thousands. Once the state is keen to raise the price of a commodity, these executioners move quickly to increase prices on their own, fearing no authority or government. They have indeed become a state inside a state. The citizen of this state has become a toy in their barbaric games. There is regrettably no one in the government who can read and write or listen. The government is in a valley and the people in another. In the golden days, citizens could pass their grievances to the head of the state and would find a listening ear. But today things are so much different. OPINION: How to Spot A Baby Conservative Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative. At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals. The study from the Journal of Research Into Personality isn't going to make the UC Berkeley professor who published it any friends on the right. Similar conclusions a few years ago from another academic saw him excoriated on right-wing blogs, and even led to a Congressional investigation into his research funding. But the new results are worth a look. In the 1960s Jack Block and his wife and fellow professor Jeanne Block (now deceased) began tracking more than 100 nursery school kids as part of a general study of personality. The kids' personalities were rated at the time by teachers and assistants who had known them for months. There's no reason to think political bias skewed the ratings — the investigators were not looking at political orientation back then. Even if they had been, it's unlikely that 3- and 4-year-olds would have had much idea about their political leanings. All of us, liberal or conservative, feel as though we've reached our political opinions by carefully weighing the evidence and exercising our best judgment. But it could be that all of that careful reasoning is just after-the-fact self-justification. What if personality forms our political outlook, with reason coming along behind, rationalizing after the fact? It could be that whom we vote for has less to do with our judgments about tax policy or free trade or health care, and more with the personalities we've been stuck with since we were kids. (They didn’t control for parents being liberal or conservative, so therefore maybe the whinny kids have conservative, uptight, rigid, moralistic parents…. And the whininess is due to that fact rather than personality. And then the kids grow up to be like their parents, oftentimes. – Susan) OPINION: The Prophecy of America’s False Prophet The recent statements by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on predictions regarding the outbreak of a civil war in Iraq raise fury and disgust now matter their incentives and targets. We have followed U.S. media and statements by U.S. officials since last Wednesday’s bloody events and the subsequent violent attacks. These statements say that a civil war is imminent if not already there in Iraq. But what is strange is the fact that some of these statements warn of the dangers of the sectarian push by some quarters in the society and its dangers to the national solidarity and the Iraqi national unity. I want first to say to the U.S. administration and assure it that the Iraqi people have lived together in cohesion throughout centuries despite their religious, sectarian and ethnic differences. And that the colonial powers have constantly tried to split the Iraqi society by playing the card of the sectarian, ethnic or religious differences in its ranks. These powers’ aim has always been to split the society as a means to spread their control over it. OPINION: The War Lovers The war lovers I have known in real wars have usually been harmless, except to themselves. They were attracted to Vietnam and Cambodia, where drugs were plentiful. Bosnia, with its roulette of death, was another favorite. A few would say they were there "to tell the world"; the honest ones would say they loved it. "War is fun!" one of them had scratched on his arm. He stood on a land mine. I sometimes remember these almost endearing fools when I find myself faced with another kind of war lover – the kind that has not seen war and has often done everything possible not to see it. The passion of these war lovers is a phenomenon; it never dims, regardless of the distance from the object of their desire. Pick up the Sunday papers and there they are, egocentrics of little harsh experience, other than a Saturday in Sainsbury's. Turn on the television and there they are again, night after night, intoning not so much their love of war as their sales pitch for it on behalf of the court to which they are assigned. "There's no doubt," said Matt Frei, the BBC's man in America, "that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now to the Middle East … is now increasingly tied up with military power." Frei said that on April 13, 2003, after George W. Bush had launched "Shock and Awe" on a defenseless Iraq. Two years later, after a rampant, racist, woefully trained, and ill-disciplined army of occupation had brought "American values" of sectarianism, death squads, chemical attacks, attacks with uranium-tipped shells and cluster bombs, Frei described the notorious 82nd Airborne as "the heroes of Tikrit." For me, one of the more odious characteristics of Blair, and Bush, and Clinton, and their eager or gulled journalistic court, is the enthusiasm of sedentary, effete men (and women) for bloodshed they never see, bits of body they never have to retch over, stacked morgues they will never have to visit, searching for a loved one. Their role is to enforce parallel worlds of unspoken truth and public lies. COMMENTARY: Speech at Asheville, NC Peace Rally There is no peace gained by war – we all pay, and not just today – we will pay for this war for many generations to come. But, here is the question I see in the eyes of the many mothers I have interviewed: “At what cost victory?” Must this war cost me my family, my sons, my daughters, and even my partner?” When I listen to their dreams, their hopes, their longings, I hear them calling for the long path out – not a quick fix. I hear them asking for real evidence of our qualifications to wage this war on terror. And what is the evidence of our peaceful culture – of our qualification to go teach others – to wage war on mothers in another land? We have none! We are not qualified! Not even our desire for cheap oil qualifies us! We may have warmongers scheming in the halls of our governments – lining their war chests with the very lifeblood of our children, but let me repeat, “We are not qualified to teach any other culture the ways of non-violence.” Before we set out for such an ambitious task; before we pride ourselves as a peace-keeping nation; before we attack the axis of evil – we must look into the axis of evil right here in our community. Here is the long path of integrity for all of us. Here’s the call of the voiceless mothers among us. For centuries, we made our national wealth on the backs of slaves – we waged terror on the African families from whom we stole their young – their sons and their daughters. We did this for centuries. We waged terror on other shores, for centuries. Have we offered restorative justice to those whose family trees have been torn down at the trunk? Is it any surprise that the beautiful great grandchildren of the African nations now fill our jails? How successful have we been at teaching them to forsake terror and seek peace? What kind of person emerges from our prison system after we’ve had our way with them for twenty plus years? Yes, let’s wage war on the axis of evil right here in our own country, President Bush! These are the real struggles I’ve been hearing from patriotic American mothers in our fair town -- I cannot imagine turning my heart toward the Iraqi mothers whose children have been bombed, shot, land mined, poisoned, raped, abused, and forsaken -- whether it was by order of our leader or theirs! How hard and for how long will we have to scrub our hands before we wash them of the blood of the children sacrificed to lower the cost of oil at our gas stations? What will it take for us to be able to stand toe to toe with these panic-stricken mothers and look them in the eye? How will we explain our reasons for bringing terror into their neighborhoods; into their homes, to the children they bore from their own bodies? What is the longing of these grieving mothers? PEACE! Support our troops? YES – bring them home! Be patriotic? YES – insist on peace and justice here before we go anywhere else. I long for the day when we scrap aircraft carriers and Asheville Buncombe County Christian Ministries is fully funded. I dream of the day when we close our military bases abroad to fund non-violence training in our high schools. I have hopes that, instead of pushing our struggling minorities into the Army where they can “be all that they can be,” we fund industry in our towns so that our young people aren’t seduced into the violence of drug trade. I am working toward the goal of removing from this land the abomination of the National Security Administration so that we can open our borders to the mothers of this world who have made us rich on the backs of their children’s cheap labor, for centuries. My brothers – my sisters – loved and lovers all of you . . . each in your own way . . . We watch far too much CNN and FOX and C-Span and Prime Time news. Our sight is diminished; our memories are short; our hearing is poor! We no longer see the violence our policies produce and the despair acted on in our children’s homes! We choose not to remember the terror that floods the heart when an angry male stands over the ones we love and wages terror on our family. And, try as we might, we no longer hear the cries of those whose voices are not represented here today. You will not hear or se them on CNN. You will not find them in political office. You will not see their books on the New York Times bestseller list. And why not? Because if we heard these voices – the voices of the women and children affected by our own Domestic Violence, if we heard their pleas, we could not find it in ourselves to wage war on anyone else! And so . . . if by some chance, after all this warring, you find it in your heart to go and listen for those voiceless, here’s what you might do . . . Call Jacqueline Hallum at MAHEC who works to build bridges over racial tensions and bigotry in our neighborhoods and our schools and ask her, “How do I support your war on the terror of racism and poverty and the inequities of white privilege here in our own beautiful Asheville?” Call Pisgah Legal Services and ask one of their attorneys doing pro bono work for our immigrant brothers and sisters, “How can I support your war on their terror?” Call those at our local Veterans for Peace chapter who are supporting soldiers struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who are tempted to bring combat action into their own homes, “How can we, the good people of Asheville – how can we support your war on terror?” How might we learn to hear again? How might we give voice to those who have lost theirs? Call Val Collins at HelpMate – one of our local agencies working feverishly to prevent Domestic Violence – call Ms. Collins and ask her, “How do we prevent the “real” war on terror?” Then, once you’ve made just one of those calls, then you and I can talk about peace. First, peace at home; peace in our homes. Then, and only then should we consider sending our children to another country. And if we do, there will not be war. We will listen to our mothers. There will be peace. There WILL be peace. For the sake of our children, please! Peace! OPINION: The Unresolved Cases Everyday we read about the arrest of new groups of tens or perhaps hundreds of suspects. And sometimes the statement on these arrests is written beforehand and announced to the public replacing the word suspects with ‘terrorists.’ On a parallel line there are daily assassinations of Iraqi intellectuals particularly doctors, engineers, pilots, pensioners and university professors. Reports speak of about 200 Iraqi professors being killed but in their police files the perpetrators’ blank is filled with the word ‘unknown.’ What is the meaning of installing a transitional or permanent government and what is the meaning of democracy when no one is capable of finding the killer or killers of at least one of the scores of Iraqi professors who have been murdered so far. The police are supposed to have investigated these cases, but the media have never been given access to the results of any such investigation PEACE ACTION: At the heart of many Iraqi's call for an end to the occupation are many of the same concerns of the peace & justice movement: *The presence of US troops puts ordinary Iraqis in a catch 22 - If they work with the occupation forices, they are collaborators. If not, they are targeted as insurgents. *Occupation troops fuel the fire of a growing insurgency, which attracts foreign fighters and terrorists into the battle, and creates divisions among Iraqis where there were none before. *The US Occupation has used divide and conquer tactics, arming the very militias which commit acts of atrocity against fellow Iraqis. *The Occupation forces and mercenaries in Iraq are getting away with crimes that undermine any attempt at establishing a justice system or civil society. Once US troops leave, the majority of Iraqi's can put their energy into building a coalition government, holding accountable elections, rebuilding their society, and providing for their security. The hard-core foreign and fundamentalist fighters still represent a small proportion of the resistance, and Iraqi society will better be able to handle this element once the fuel to their fire has been removed. The sooner the occupation ends, the more likely it is that Iraq as a society can survive. Dr. Rashad (story above) met with Representative Price and Miller during her visit, pleading with them to end the suffering by ending the occupation. She also asked that all of us support her and all those in Iraq working for peace by being a voice for change with our elected officials. NC Peace & Justice again encourages everyone across the state to contact members of Congress while they are on recess in their districts. If you haven't already, please make a call or fax to your Representative and Senator to their district and DC offices by Monday - you can even leave a voice mail over the weekend! Free Call to All Congress… 877-762-8762 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: I've been waiting for something to happen For a week or a month or a year With the blood in the ink of the headlines And the sound of the crowd in my ears You might ask what it takes to remember When you know that you've seen it before Where a government lies to a people And a country is drifting to war And there is a shadow on the faces Of the men who send the guns To the wars that are fought in places Where their business interests runs On the radio talk shows and the TV You hear one thing again and again How the USA stands for freedom And we come to the aid of a friend But who are the ones that we call our friends- These governments killing their own? Or the people who finally can't take any more And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone And there are lives in the balance There are people under fire There are children at the cannons And there is blood on the wire There's a shadow on the faces Of the men who fan the flames Of the wars that are fought in places Where we can't even say the names They sell us the President the same way They sell us our clothes and our cars They sell us everything from youth to religion The same time they see us our wars I want to know who the men in the shadows are I want to hear somebody asking them why They can be counted on to tell us who are enemies are But they are never the ones to fight or to die And there are lives in the balance There are people under fire There are children at the cannons And there is blood on the wire -Jackson Browne


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