Sunday, March 26, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 2006 Max Becherer/Polaris, for The New York Times NEW TARGETS Violence has changed, not abated, in Baghdad. Now Iraqis bomb each other, not just Americans. SECURITY INCIDENTS Mortar strike near al Sadr's home misses, but injures two guards and a child. Al Sadr calls for calm, Note: This editor, like most U.S. journalists, think his name is "Radical Shiite Cleric Muqtada al Sadr." 40 casualties (no breakdown of killed vs. injured) reported in sectarian battle in Mahmoudiya. Three "Security Contractors" injured in bomb explosion in North Baghdad; 13-year-old killed by bomb in Basra; woman killed, two sisters and a neighbor wounded by a bomb in Karradah neighborhood of Baghdad. Also, police find 10 handcuffed bodies in Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, one in Hurriyah and two in Baquoba. Security guards for Iraq finance minister attacked, one killed. Gunmen kill policeman and his cousin in Baquoba. Also, 4 Iraqi policeman wounded by bomb; U.S. patrol attacked by car bomb in Eastern Baghdad (no word on casualties); residents find three corpses in al-Yarmouk neighborhood of capital; U.S. and Iraqi troops, supported by helicopters, launch sweep operatrion in al-Yarmouk. This is pretty ugly: BAGHDAD, March 26 (KUNA) - Iraqi Ministry of State for National Security on Sunday warned of touching explosive-packed candy bars found on Baghdad streets. The ministry said that unknown gunmen threw candy bars that contain explosive materials nearby schools and residential areas in Yarmouk Neighborhood. It cautioned citizens against touching these candy bars, asserting that the first layer of which contained cocoa, while the second layer contained explosives. U.S. destroyer collides with merchant ship off Iraq coast. Two sailors, two merchant seamen injured. Also, Reuters factbox has two policemen killed by gunmen in Wajihiya, a small town east of Baquba. Three guards of the mayor of Wajihiya were wounded by a roadside bomb as they headed to the scene of the attack, police added. Note: Since I've started posting here, I've recognized that various news sources will typically report on 3 or 4 incidents a day, and there will be overlap among them, but no one is anywhere near complete, nor do they acknowledge that the list is only partial. The result is that if you only read one newspaper or watch TV news, you will have an impression of a much lower overall level of violence than the reality. Omission can be as misleading as fabrication. Of course, we don't pretend that our daily inventory is anywhere near complete either -- we depend on what information makes it into some report, somewhere, and we can miss something as well. But we're doing our best to provide a realistic picture. NEWS AND ANALYSIS Signs of a long US stay ahead: Bases getting bigger, more elaborate
By Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press | March 26, 2006 BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- The concrete goes on forever, vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it, a mile-long slab that's now the home of as many as 120 US helicopters, a ''heli-park" as good as any back in the States. At another giant base, Asad in Iraq's western desert, the 17,000 troops and workers come and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King and Pizza Hut, a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations, and young bikers clogging the roads. At a third hub down south, Tallil, they're planning a new mess hall, one that will seat 6,000 hungry airmen and soldiers for chow. Are the Americans here to stay? Air Force mechanic Josh Remy is sure of it as he looks around Balad. ''I think we'll be here forever," said the 19-year-old airman from Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The Iraqi people suspect the same. Strong majorities tell pollsters they would like to see a timetable for US troops to leave, but believe Washington plans to keep military bases in their country. The question of America's future in Iraq looms larger as the US military enters the fourth year of its war here. On Tuesday, President Bush said the decision of when to remove US troops rests with ''future presidents and future governments in Iraq." Ibrahim al-Jaafari, interim prime minister, has said he opposes permanent foreign bases. A wide range of American opinion is against them, as well. Such bases would be a ''stupid" provocation, said General Anthony Zinni, former US Mideast commander and a critic of the original invasion. But events, in explosive situations like Iraq's, can turn ''no" into ''maybe" and even ''yes."
It's not a question of events turning "no" into "yes." This was the main purpose of the invasion in the first place. Here's what Jay Bookman wrote in September 2002:
The official story on Iraq has never made sense. The connection that the Bush administration has tried to draw between Iraq and al-Qaida has always seemed contrived and artificial. In fact, it was hard to believe that smart people in the Bush administration would start a major war based on such flimsy evidence. The pieces just didn't fit. Something else had to be going on; something was missing. In recent days, those missing pieces have finally begun to fall into place. As it turns out, this is not really about Iraq. It is not about weapons of mass destruction, or terrorism, or Saddam, or U.N. resolutions. This war, should it come, is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman. It would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the "American imperialists" that our enemies always claimed we were. Once that is understood, other mysteries solve themselves. For example, why does the administration seem unconcerned about an exit strategy from Iraq once Saddam is toppled? Because we won't be leaving. Having conquered Iraq, the United States will create permanent military bases in that country from which to dominate the Middle East, including neighboring Iran.
Okay Jay, you told us so. NYT's Jeffrey Gettleman gives a Sesame Street version of the Shia-Sunni schism. The tone seems mildly patronizing, but he does correctly explain that there is no "ancient enmity" between the sects in Iraq -- the violent divide is a new development. Gettleman also gives an update on the state of the Iraqi tourist industry. (Hint: not good) And, on a major roll, Gettleman gives the overall picture:
I GOT back to Iraq two weeks ago, having been away more than a year. The first story I covered began with a tip that vigilantes had hanged four suspected terrorists from lamp posts in Sadr City, a Shiite slum. The minute I got to the scene, I realized I was stepping into a new Iraq. Another new Iraq, really; maybe even the third Iraq I have seen since I began reporting here in 2003. Gone were the American tanks that used to guard the intersections. Instead, aggressive teenagers with machine guns and shiny soccer jerseys ruled the streets. They poked their heads into cars and detained whomever they wanted. There were even 8-year-olds running checkpoints, some toting toy pistols, others toting real ones. Whatever they carried, 4-foot-tall militias made me nervous. The streets now had a truly Liberian feel. snip I had thought Iraq might be getting quieter. Fewer mortars were sailing into the Green Zone, where the Americans are based, and fewer suicide bombings were disrupting the morning rush. Even the airport road, the most dreaded strip of asphalt in the world, was doing better. It had been repaved and was flowing with traffic. But soon I caught on. The violence had not declined. It had just turned inward. No longer was most of it pointed at the Americans, either directly or indirectly, as it had been during the invasion and when the insurgency exploded in 2004. Back then, if G.I.'s were not the targets, their helpers were — the Iraqi police, regional governors, Kurdish leaders, foreign civilians, anyone remotely connected to the "occupiers." It's true that American soldiers are still dying, but the focus of the bloodshed has changed. The day after that mob scene in Sadr City, bodies started showing up, first a couple and then dozens. By conservative counts, nearly 200 civilian men have been executed in the past two weeks and dumped on Baghdad's streets. Many have been hogtied. Some have had acid splashed on their faces. Others have been found without toes, fingers, eyes. snip If this all sounds depressing, it is. That's how people here feel. I've been looking hard, but in two weeks I haven't found an Iraqi optimist. In the summer of 2004, I profiled a band of young artists who braved dangerous roads to get away from Baghdad and paint pretty pictures of the Tigris River. Now, they're homebound. There is a similar sense of newfound hopelessness in the faces of the Iraqis I work with.
Ambassador Khalilzad appears to have a different view from the CinC:
BAGHDAD, March 25, 2006 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – 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."
Iraqi police major held for death squad role U.S. Senators McCain and Feingold, in Baghdad to instruct sovereign Iraq on formation of a new government,fall out over the benefits of the occupation.
By Jonathan Finer, Washington Post | March 26, 2006 BAGHDAD -- The increasingly rancorous public debate in the United States over the war spilled into Iraq during a news conference yesterday with two visiting lawmakers who are outspoken opponents on the issue. Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, a longtime supporter of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, and Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, who voted against the invasion and has spoken out against the war ever since, said they had come not to air their divergent views, but to urge Iraqi politicians to speed up the process of forming a government. But during questions from reporters, they argued -- cordially and pointedly -- over such issues as the timing of any withdrawal of US troops and whether their presence is doing more harm than good. Feingold said he believed ''a large troop presence has a tendency to fuel the insurgency because they can make the incorrect and unfair claim that the US is here to occupy the country. I think that it's very possible that the sectarian differences are inflamed by the fact that US troops are here," he continued, adding that their long-term presence "may well be destabilizing, not stabilizing." Asked a question on a different topic, McCain quickly responded, "I believe that premature troop withdrawal is not in consonance with what's going on on the ground."
Headlines speak of Condoleeza Rice talking of a possible substantial drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq, but when you read the actual stories, it's just the same old jive:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says US forces could be scaled down in Iraq, if Iraqi troops can take control. Rice says troop reductions depend "on events on the ground." Her comments echo those of military commanders and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rice says a significant troop withdrawal could come this year if conditions are right. Rumsfeld last week declined to predict when US forces would leave Iraq. President Bush has said the decision would be up to a future US president and a future Iraqi government. Rice tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that General George Casey "has talked about a significant reduction of American forces over the next year."
Let Freedom Reign: Writer jailed for defaming Kurdish leader in Iraq
By Shamal Aqrawi ARBIL, Iraq, March 26 (Reuters) - A Kurdish writer was sentenced to 1-1/2 years in prison on Sunday for defaming Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, in a case that has raised questions about the freedom of the press in postwar Iraq. Kamal Karim, an Iraqi-born Kurd with Austrian citizenship, was originally sentenced to 30 years in jail for defaming Barzani but was retried. "I swear by God I am not guilty. I am not satisfied with this verdict. I am a victim," Karim said after the sentence was pronounced. The judge said the court had been lenient. "This sentence is fair and it is proportionate to the charges against him," Faridoun Abdullah told Reuters. "We helped him. We took into consideration that he is an academic and has served in the education field. So we sentenced him to a year and a half. Otherwise we would have sentenced him to five years." Karim was convicted by a state security court in Arbil after an hour-long trial on Dec. 19 on charges of defaming Barzani and public institutions. He was arrested in October. Karim had published articles on a Kurdish website accusing Barzani and his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of corruption and abuse of power.
Let Freedom Reign: Demonstrators who last week torched a monument to the victims of a gas attack on Halabja could face the death penalty if convicted, according to a judge investigating the incident. All of the demonstration's organisers are now in hiding. "I'm afraid of being arrested and tortured to confess things I haven't done," said one who asked not to be named. He said eight protest organisers will meet with Emad Ahmed to try to convince him that they did not sanction the attack on the monument, "What happened was a reaction to the security forces opening fire on demonstrators." Basra-area university students work for civil peace
BAGHDAD, 26 March (IRIN) - University students in Basra are promoting peace using leaflets, posters and internet chat rooms to alert the population to the dangerous consequences of sectarian violence. "If people stay in their homes without doing anything, the result will be civil war," said Ali Haydar, an engineering student in Basra, some 550km south of the capital. snip The student movement, therefore, has devoted itself to raising awareness about the folly of sectarian violence by distributing leaflets and posters and through the internet. According to members, the group, which supports itself financially, is growing daily. The idea was originally the brainchild of a Sunni student whose family was killed in sectarian violence, Haydar explained. "We're more than 200 students from different colleges in Basra working with the same aim," Haydar said. "To open the hearts of the population and ease feelings of revolt and revenge." snip As a result of the Basra initiative, a similar student movement has begun in the capital, albeit at a slower pace due to insecurity and prevailing curfews. Despite these obstacles, however, members hope to eventually expand the scope of their work throughout the country. "If each person, in his own way, does something that can lessen the violence, a better country will surely emerge in the end," said Adel Abdel-Rasoul, a member of the group and a dentistry student at a Baghdad university.
THE FORGOTTEN WOUNDED Big props to Whisker for sending in the following. Connecticut: Army Spc. Jay Strobino--shot several times in a firefight New Jersey: Specialist James "Jimmy" Benoit--roadside bomb--critically wounded and is expected to be permanently disabled, requiring the use of a wheelchair Alabama: Lance Cpl. Shane Chambers --grenade fragments --right leg was paralyzed United KingdomCaptain Peter Norton--roadside bomb-- lost an arm and a leg North Carolina: Jeffery Redman--mortar attack--skin graft to repair his right leg and that it took 37 units of blood to save his son’s life., shrapnel ripped a hole into one of his hands. Connecticut: U.S. Marine, lance corporal Dan Williams--improvised explosive device --left knee smashed into the door and steering wheel, X-rays showed had bone chips New York state: Marine Sgt. Eddie Ryan--shot--twice in the head, suffered brain damage Georgia: Staff Sergeant Douglas Piper--grenade blast--mangled his right eye, collapsed his right eardrum and slammed his brain against the inside of his skull, losing his eye, hears fine with the help of a hearing aid, at least 80 percent of his short-term memory has been destroyed. MORE COSTS OF WAR From the Front Line to the Unemployment Line
BY CHERYL L. REED Staff Reporter, Chicago Sun-Times Mark Wirth Jr., a 21-year-old from Orland Park, figures the skills he learned as a combat Marine are too valuable to waste waiting tables. But back in civilian life now after serving two tours in Iraq, Wirth isn't getting any offers for the jobs he wants, the jobs he thought the military had trained him to do -- in law enforcement or security consulting. He says the only job he has been offered, through the state's job bank, is as a truck driver. "I know how to drive a Humvee," said Wirth, who's aiming for a job that pays at least $13 an hour. "But I don't know how to drive an 18-wheeler." More than half a million reservists and guardsmen have been called to active duty in Iraq. When they come home, will they have jobs? He's like thousands of other U.S. military veterans who, having served in the Iraq war, expected to come home and find a job that employed skills he learned in the military. Instead, he faced the worst job environment for young vets since the early 1980s. After four years in the Marine Corps, Wirth got out Jan. 29. He signed up for unemployment benefits on Valentine's Day. He has been looking for a job in law enforcement or security consulting since then. "It's kind of upsetting," he said of hearing employers tell him they're looking for people who've been to college, who have at least an associate's degree. "You'd think these police departments would value someone who has spent four years defending the country more than someone who spent two years sitting in a classroom. But that's not the case."
GAO report finds National Guard equipment inventory stripped bare by Iraq war. (PDF) Excerpt:
While deploying Army National Guard units have had priority for getting the equipment they needed, readying these forces has degraded the equipment inventory of the Guard’s nondeployed units and threatens the Guard’s ability to prepare forces for future missions at home and overseas. Nondeployed Guard units now face significant equipment shortfalls because (1) they have been equipped at less than war-time levels with the assumption that they could obtain additional resources prior to deployment and (2) current operations have created an unanticipated high demand for certain items, such as armored vehicles. To fully equip its deploying units, as of July 2005, the Army National Guard had transferred more than 101,000 pieces of equipment from its nondeployed units. As of May 2005, such transfers had exhausted the Guard’s inventory of more than 220 high demand equipment items, such as night vision equipment, trucks, and radios. Further, as equipment requirements for overseas operations continue to evolve, the Army has been unable to identify and communicate what items deploying units need until close to their scheduled deployments, which challenges the Guard to transfer needed equipment quickly. To meet the demand for certain types of equipment for continuing operations, the Army has required Army National Guard units to leave behind many items for use by follow-on forces, but the Army can account for only about 45 percent of these items and has not developed a plan to replace them, as DOD policy requires. DOD has directed the Army to track equipment Guard units left overseas and develop replacement plans, butthey have not yet been completed. The Army Guard estimates that since 2003 it has left more than 64,000 items, valued at more than $1.2 billion, overseas to support operations. Without a completed and implemented plan to replace all Guard equipment left overseas, Army Guard units will likely face growing equipment shortages and challenges in regaining readiness for future missions. Thus, DOD and Congress will not have assurance that the Army has an effective strategy for addressing the Guard’s equipping needs.
Quote of the Day -- lest we forget: "C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action. . . . The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force." -- The so-called Downing Street Memo


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