Sunday, March 19, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, MARCH 19, 2006 Veterans for Peace gather in Santa Fe to remember casualties of war. WHO IS BRINGING WHAT ON TO WHOM? Fierce battle erupts in Ramadi. A fierce gun battle broke out in the restive city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, between the U.S. troops and Iraqi rebels on Sunday (March 19). The crackle of gunfire was a clear sign of the intense fighting which the U.S. forces are fighting in Ramadi. Witnesses reported that four people were wounded in the clashes when the U.S. forces artillery shelled a house in the 17th of July neighbourhood of central Ramadi. They said that two of the wounded were children. "They shelled houses and set them ablaze. We found burned children inside the house. God will damn them (the US soldiers)," said an unidentified eye witness who was standing near the burned out house. U.S. troops kill nine Iraqis after coming under attack in Duluyia. "Police said three of the victims were a man and a woman and their 13-year-old son who were shot dead when U.S. soldiers entered their house in the Sunni town of Duluiya, about 90 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad. Police described three other victims as young men, but it was not immediately clear whether they were militants or civilians. Six people were also wounded in the fighting and seven detained for questioning, they said. The U.S. military did not immediately respond to a request for information from Reuters. A Reuters reporter in the town said there was heavy gunfire and explosions from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m. When the fighting died down, residents emerged from their homes as U.S. troops backed by armoured fighting vehicles occupied the town. The reporter said several houses had been damaged in the fighting." This AP report on the above incident says that U.S. soldiers arrested Col. Farouq Khalil, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official, after raiding his house, and cites Iraqi police as saying that 8 civilians were killed. (Iraq appears to enjoy a rather unusual form of sovereignty.) Also, two civilians killed when gunmen attack U.S. troops stationed at the Governor's house in Ramadi. (No information given on how they were killed.) Hundreds of families displaced by offensive: "BAGHDAD, 19 March (IRIN) - Hundreds of families have fled the city of Samarra, some 120 km northwest of the capital, Baghdad, after US coalition and Iraqi forces launched the biggest air offensive in the country since 2003. "We have sent volunteers from the disaster department to monitor the situation and we are preparing ourselves for an emergency," said Ferdous al-Abadi, spokesperson for the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) in Baghdad. IRCS volunteers working in the Salahuddine governorate, where Samarra is located, said more than 700 families had left the city and no one had received aid so far. "We have informed the IRCS's office in the capital about the critical situation and they are going to send a convoy to the area. The main requirements are blankets, tents, food supplies, potable water and medicine," explained Ahmed Tikrit, a volunteer for the IRCS and resident of Samarra. "They need urgent help and we call on all organisations to offer them supplies and medical support as soon as possible," Tikrit stressed." Additional Reuters Factbox Incidents:
*BAGHDAD - Police said they found 12 bodies dumped in different parts of Baghdad on Sunday. BAQUBA - A policeman was killed and 12 people were wounded when two roadside bombs exploded in quick succession targeting a police patrol in the city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. One of the wounded was a police colonel, police added. HAWIJA - Iraqi police found the bodies of two beheaded soldiers in Hawija, 60 km (43 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, police Lieutenant Naji al-Ubaidi said. The two soldiers were abducted by gunmen on Saturday. LATIFIYA - Gunmen killed a policeman and wounded four civilians when they were driving a civilian car in Latifiya, in an area dubbed the 'Triangle of death' south of Baghdad, police said. The policeman was wearing civilian clothes. MOSUL - Gunmen shot dead four people, including two policemen in civilian clothes, and wounded another policeman in the northern city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police and hospital sources said. MOSUL - Two civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol exploded in Mosul, police said.
Three-Year mark. Protesters take aim at Harper, Bush By ANDY RIGA, The Gazette; CanWest News Service contributed to this report, Ottawa Citizen George W. Bush was the main villain but Stephen Harper came a close second yesterday at a Montreal anti-war march, part of a global wave of protests marking the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Iraq wasn't the only country on the minds of the hundreds of protesters who braved a windchill of minus 16 downtown. They also demanded that Canada pull its 2,200 soldiers out of Afghanistan and that the U.S. stay out of Iran. Before the march, a theatre troupe presented protesters with a mock news conference by an actor with a black-and-white picture of Harper fastened to his face.
Vermonters opposed to the war in Iraq say they are not giving up hope. More than 300 people came to Rutland from around Vermont Saturday to protest on the third anniversary of the war in Iraq. They lined up from the corner of West and Main Streets, stretching almost to Washington Street. The statewide protest was put together by the Vermont Says No To War Coalition, and organizers said participants came from as far away at Burlington, Windham, Brattleboro and St. Johnsbury. The crowd was made up of people from small children to senior citizens. A massive array of signs, flags and banners were visible, and four people wandered the line dressed as Iraqi women carrying bloodied children. Another man wore a Dick Cheney mask and carried a briefcase overflowing with fake money labeled "Halliburton."
Columbus, Ohio
More than 800 people met at the Ohio Statehouse on Saturday to call attention to their opposition to the war in Iraq, one of dozens of such protests around the country. They heard speeches on why American troops should be removed from Iraq and banged drums at passing traffic. The protest was peaceful and no arrests were made. The spirit of activism needs to translate into action in the November election, said Nikki Robinson, 25, of the Kent State Anti-War Committee. She urged those at the rally to vote for federal candidates who would vote to remove troops. "Every day the U.S. remains in Iraq is a day of violence," she said. "The only answer is: troops out."
San Francisco
On the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bay Area residents gathered by the thousands in a Walnut Creek park, an Oakland theater and on the streets of San Francisco on Saturday to demand the war's end. The Bay Area protests, which were peaceful, were among hundreds scheduled around the nation this weekend, as opinion polls show anti-war sentiment growing among the American public. San Francisco's march appears to have been one of the largest. . . While the Bay Area protests shared the anti-war message, each had its own character. The Walnut Creek rally had the feel of a community concert in the park, while Oakland's event was more of a traditional political rally. And San Francisco's march was a sun-soaked parade, complete with street theater, drum circles and stilt-walkers, backing a panoply of political causes. In San Francisco, a larger-than-anticipated crowd turned out for a rally in Civic Center and a march through downtown streets.
And protests around the world . . .
Thousands of antiwar protesters took to the streets around the world yesterday, marking the third anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq with demands that coalition troops leave immediately. Waleed Bader of the Arab Muslim American Federation addressed a crowd in Times Square from a flatbed truck parked near a recruiting station, which was guarded by police. ''We say enough hypocrisy, enough lies, our soldiers must come home now," Bader said. Participants chanted, ''Stop the US war machine, from Iraq to Korea to the Philippines." In Concord, N.H, nearly 300 peace activists marched about a mile from a National Guard Armory to the State House. ''I feel a huge sense of betrayal that I went and risked my life for a lie," said Joseph Turcott, 26, a former Marine who served in the invasion. Other participants showed up at the rally to support US troops. ''I have friends in Iraq and I just want them to know that I may not be able to support them there, but I can here," said Jose Avila, 36. Protests were also held in Australia, Asia, and Europe, but many events were far smaller than organizers had hoped. In London, police said about 15,000 people joined a march from Parliament and Big Ben to a rally in Trafalgar Square. Planners had expected 100,000. Protesters in several cities carried posters showing pictures of President Bush, calling him the ''world's No. 1 terrorist." In London, other posters pictured British Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying ''Blair must go!" ''We are against this war, both for religious reasons and on a humanitarian basis, too," said Imran Saghir, 25, a Muslim student who attended the London rally. Britain, the United States' strongest supporter in the Iraq war, has about 8,000 troops in Iraq but plans to pull out 800 of them by May. The British military has reported 103 deaths there. In Stockholm, about 1,000 demonstrators gathered for a rally and march to the US Embassy. One protester was dressed as the hooded figure shown in an iconic photograph from the Abu Ghraib prison. ''We do not need Abu Ghraib democracy, or Guantanamo Bay freedom," said Eftikar Hashem Alhusainy, addressing the rally. In Copenhagen, more than 2,000 demonstrators marched from the US Embassy to the British Embassy, demanding that Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen withdraw the 530 Danish troops from southern Iraq. In Turkey, where opposition to the war is nearly universal and cuts across all political stripes, about 3,000 protesters gathered in Istanbul, police said. ''Murderer USA," read a sign unfurled by a communist in Taksim Square in Istanbul. ''USA, go home!" said red-and-black signs carried in Kadikoy on the city's Asian coast. In Italy, Romano Prodi, the center-left leader who is challenging conservative Premier Silvio Berlusconi in next month's election, said he and his supporters wouldn't join a march in Rome because of a risk of violence. In Greece, about 600 demonstrators marched through central Athens to the US Embassy, where protesters chanted: ''Stop the war now" and ''American killers get out of Iraq." In Austria, protesters marching through Vienna -- about 200 by police estimates -- chanted ''Freedom, freedom for Iraq and Palestine," as they made their way to the US Embassy. Today, up to as many as 3,000 protesters were are expected in Seoul, which has the third-largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq after the United States and Britain.
In Indiana, the Republican base is disillusioned
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | March 19, 2006 SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The third anniversary of the Iraq invasion unleashed a surge of pessimism at a local farmers' market here, where stalwart Republicans, standing amid aisles of produce and miracle cures, said President Bush has messed up a war that looks more like Vietnam every day. ''It's chaos," said Roger Madaras, who voted twice for Bush. ''How many more people are going to be killed? We were going in to free the people of Iraq, but as far as I'm concerned, a lot of them are worse off today than they were under the dictatorship." Madaras, the owner of a plumbing company, said he believed Bush when the president declared major combat to be over in May 2003, and is ''disgusted" that Bush's rhetoric was hollow. And he is far from alone. Support for Bush and his handling of Iraq is sharply eroding across the American heartland, where the overcast skies and the muddy fields of late winter matched a sense of gloom about Bush and the war. This month, the Indianapolis Star released poll findings that Bush's approval rating among Indiana voters stood at 37 percent -- a drop of 18 points over the past year. The numbers echoed national polls, but were particularly shocking in a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, and where Democratic presidential contenders often do not bother to campaign. ''A 37 percent approval rating in Indiana for a Republican president is unheard of," said Brian Howey, who runs a newsletter for Indiana state political insiders. ''Those are Bill Clinton or John Kerry numbers in Indiana. So there is something seriously awry going on right now."
Draft dodging drug addict claims insurgents "probably in their last gasp, or close to it, blames U.S. left for violence in Iraq. Former Saddam Hussein supporter and chemical weapons supplier Donald Rumsfeld compares Iraq war to WWII, says "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis." OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY Al Arabiya reports that SCIRI has agreed with the Kurdish list and Iraqi Concord Front to support Abdel Mahdi for Prime Minister. Note: This story is filtered through the Kurdish media; it is unclear what it means. SCIRI always supported Abdel Mahdi but he lost to Jafaari in an internal vote of the Shiite block. If SCIRI has now decided to split with Dawa and al Sadr over this issue, there could be substantial repercussions. But I'm witholding judgment on the credibility of this report. NY Times reports that U.S. special operations unit took over a former Saddam Hussein regime torture chamber and continued to use it as intended
By ERIC SCHMITT and CAROLYN MARSHALL Published: March 19, 2006 As the Iraqi insurgency intensified in early 2004, an elite Special Operations forces unit converted one of Saddam Hussein's former military bases near Baghdad into a top-secret detention center. There, American soldiers made one of the former Iraqi government's torture chambers into their own interrogation cell. They named it the Black Room. In June 2004, Stephen A. Cambone, a top Pentagon official, ordered his deputy, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, to look into allegations of detainee abuse at Camp Nama. In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball. Their intention was to extract information to help hunt down Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or were briefed on its operations. The Black Room was part of a temporary detention site at Camp Nama, the secret headquarters of a shadowy military unit known as Task Force 6-26. Located at Baghdad International Airport, the camp was the first stop for many insurgents on their way to the Abu Ghraib prison a few miles away. Placards posted by soldiers at the detention area advised, "NO BLOOD, NO FOUL." The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." According to Pentagon specialists who worked with the unit, prisoners at Camp Nama often disappeared into a detention black hole, barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges. "The reality is, there were no rules there," another Pentagon official said.
Stephen Hadley now disparages Iran's call for discussions with U.S. over Iraq. Sunnis also object to these proposed talks. Here's Juan Cole's translation of the al Hayat report: "the (Sunni hardline) Association of Muslim Scholars said that it "deeply resents and takes offense" at the idea that the 'forces of Occupation' (the United States) and Iran would hold talks about Iraqi internal affairs. Its communique said, "Iranian intervention in Iraqi affairs is not new, and has reached an apex of harmfulness. But what is new is the attempt to legitimize this interference and to provide it with an international cover, while completely ignoring the sovereignty and the governmental administration of Iraq itself." Sunni Arab Iraqis have long been distrustful of Shiite Iran." It never seemed likely these talks would happen -- they might spoil the bellicosity. Shiite pilgrims gather in Karbala under tight security for commemoration of the death of Imam Hussein. Iraqi defense ministry claims to have arrested killers of Amjad Hameed, editor of state television channel. BAGHDAD - Three years after US forces invaded to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Iraqis have one preoccupation -- staying alive. Mentally ill U.S. service members being returned to combat
The redeployments are legal, and the service members are often eager to go. But veterans groups, lawmakers and mental-health professionals fear that the practice lacks adequate civilian oversight. They also worry that such redeployments are becoming more frequent as multiple combat tours become the norm and traumatized service members are retained out of loyalty or wartime pressures to maintain troop numbers. Sen. Barbara Boxer hopes to address the controversy through the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health, which is expected to start work next month. The California Democrat wrote the legislation that created the panel. She wants the task force to examine deployment policies and the quality and availability of mental-health care for the military. “We’ve also heard reports that doctors are being encouraged not to identify mental-health illness in our troops. I am asking for a lot of answers,” Boxer said during a March 8 telephone interview. “If people are suffering from mental-health problems, they should not be sent on the battlefield.” Stress reduces a person’s chances of functioning well in combat, said Frank M. Ochberg, a psychiatrist for 40 years and a founding member of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. “I have not seen anything that says this is a good thing to use these drugs in high-stress situations. But if you are going to be going (into combat) anyway, you are better off on the meds,” said Ochberg, a former consultant to the Secret Service and the National Security Council. “I would hope that those with major depression would not be sent.”
COMMENTARY AND OPINION Robert Fisk is baffled by U.S. corporate media continuing to give presumption of credibility to Bush administration officials:
In post-invasion, post-Judith Miller mode, the American press is supposed to be challenging the lies of this War. So the story beneath the headline “In a Battle of Wits, Iraq’s Insurgency Mastermind Stays a Step Ahead of US” deserves to be read. Or does it? Datelined Washington - an odd city in which to learn about Iraq, you might think - its opening paragraph reads: “Despite the recent arrest of one of his would-be suicide bombers in Jordan and some top aides in Iraq, insurgency mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi has eluded capture, US authorities say, because his network has a much better intelligence-gathering operation than they do.” Now quite apart from the fact that many Iraqis - along, I have to admit, with myself - have grave doubts about whether Zarqawi exists, and that al-Qai’da’s Zarqawi, if he does exist, does not merit the title of “insurgency mastermind”, the words that caught my eye were “US authorities say”. And as I read through the report, I note how the Los Angeles Times sources this extraordinary tale. I thought American reporters no longer trusted the US administration, not after the mythical weapons of mass destruction and the equally mythical connections between Saddam and the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001. Of course, I was wrong. Here are the sources - on pages one and 10 for the yarn spun by reporters Josh Meyer and Mark Mazzetti: “US officials said”, “said one US Justice Department counter-Terrorism official”, “Officials … said”, “those officials said”, “the officials confirmed”, “American officials complained”, “the US officials stressed”, “US authorities believe”, “said one senior US intelligence official”, “US officials said”, “Jordanian officials … said” - here, at least is some light relief - “several US officials said”, “the US officials said”, “American officials said”, “officials say”, “say US officials”, “US officials said”, “one US counter-Terrorism official said”. I do truly treasure this story. It proves my point that the Los Angeles Times - along with the big east coast dailies - should all be called US OFFICIALS SAY. But it’s not just this fawning on political power that makes me despair. Let’s move to a more recent example of what I can only call institutionalised racism in American reporting of Iraq. I have to thank reader Andrew Gorman for this gem, a January Associated Press report about the killing of an Iraqi prisoner under interrogation by US Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jnr. Mr Welshofer, it transpired in court, had stuffed the Iraqi General Abed Hamed Mowhoush head-first into a sleeping bag and sat on his chest, an action which - not surprisingly - caused the general to expire. The military jury ordered - reader, hold your breath - a reprimand for Mr Welshofer, the forfeiting of $6,000 of his salary and confinement to barracks for 60 days. But what caught my eye was the sympathetic detail. Welshofer’s wife’s Barbara, the AP told us, “testified that she was worried about providing for their three children if her husband was sentenced to prison. ‘I love him more for fighting this,’ she said, tears welling up in her eyes. ‘He’s always said that you need to do the right thing, and sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing to do’”.
Iyad Allawi tells BBC Iraq is now in a state of civil war:
Speaking on BBC TV's Sunday AM programme, he said it would be a mistake to underplay Iraq's problems, although the country was "edging towards" a political deal. He said he had warned against creating a vacuum in the country and raised concerns about the insurgents and the dismantling of the military. "It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is." Mr Allawi added that a national unity government may not be "an immediate solution" to the country's problems. Iraq is moving towards the "point of no return", he said, when the country would fragment. "It will not only fall apart but sectarianism will spread throughout the region, and even Europe and the US will not be spared the violence that results...," he said.
LOCAL NEWS War leaves 65 orphans in Ohio. Missouri family organizes fundraising walk for memorial to slain relative, other dead soldiers. Brain damaged Georgia vet has severe loss of short-term memory. Special issue of New Mexican remembers 19 dead from that state. Quote of the Day: “I thought we would have real freedom after Saddam, but now if you criticise a politician or a party, you can be killed the next day. I cannot relax, I suffer tension all the time. If civil War comes I will lock myself in my house and rot there. I would rather die than kill someone. I hate to say it, but we were better off under Saddam.” -- Baghdad taxi driver Abu Yasser, who served as guide to reporter Nick Meo. - post by Cervantes


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