Tuesday, March 14, 2006
DAILY WAR NEWS FOR TUESDAY, March 14, 2006
Photo: An Iraqi woman wails after a raid by U.S. soldiers, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 14, 2006. U.S. soldiers late Monday night raided a house in west Baghdad, broke doors and window and arrested one person, police said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Bodies of at least 87 people killed by execution-style shootings found in past 24 hours.
Partial macabre breakdown of the mass killings mentioned above:
Fourteen bodies — handcuffed and shot and dressed only in underwear —discovered in southeast Baghdad.
Bodies of 15 strangled men found in west Baghdad.
29 bodies found stacked in mass grave in eastern Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad.
One person killed and eight wounded when roadside bomb goes off near group of pilgrims on main road between Baghdad and Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad.
Unkown gunmen kill intelligence police in Al-Amirya west Baghdad.
Police officer dies in hospital after being shot by gunmen at Al-Zaafaraniya south Baghdad.
Editor of Iraqi magazine killed by gunmen in Al-Seidiya west Baghdad.
Three bodies with gunshot wounds found in Mosul.
American described as a security contractor arrested by police in northern Iraqi town with weapons in car: Abdullah Jebara, the Deputy Governor of Salahaddin province, told Reuters the man was arrested in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit on Monday.
The Joint Coordination Center between the U.S. and Iraqi military in Tikrit said the man it described as a security contractor working for a private company, possessed explosives which were found in his car. It said he was arrested on Tuesday.
Baghdad to be put under extended vehicle curfew from 8 p.m. on Wednesday to 4 p.m. on Thursday as parliament opens for first time. The capital already has an overnight curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Leaders of Iraq's main ethnic and religious blocs begin series of marathon meetings to try to break the deadlock over composition of new government that has delayed the inaugural session since the results of Dec. 15 elections were confirmed more than a month ago. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been shuttling between the main factions, joined the session hosted by Shiite leader Adbul-Aziz al-Hakim.
Death squads found in Iraqi government: Senior Iraqi officials on Sunday confirmed for the first time that death squads composed of government employees had operated illegally from inside two government ministries.
"The death squads that we have captured are in the Defense and Interior ministries," Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said during a joint news conference with the minister of Defense. "There are people who have infiltrated the army and the interior."
Although Jabr appeared to confirm the existence of death squads, the scale of the operation uncovered would appear to be far smaller than critics had alleged.
The government had long denied the existence of such death squads. Sunnis had accused the Badr Organization, a Shiite militia supported by Iran, of being behind the killings, inside or outside of government ministries. Jabr is a senior leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party, and has close ties to the Badr Organization.
Guerrilla attacks "steadily grown in the nearly three years since the invasion’: While the Sunni insurgency is certainly the focus of Iraqi news coverage, the actual nature of the war in Sunni areas goes largely unreported. Coverage tends to focus on spectacular moments of violence and destruction, especially car bombs and other suicide attacks against civilian targets. Only rarely mentioned are the multitude of small-scale confrontations between resistance fighters and patrolling American troops that account for the majority of violent clashes. As a result, the methods of the American side - the use of assault weapons, tanks, artillery and air power - and so the spreading "collateral" damage to Iraqi civilians is significantly underreported.
A recent James Glanz piece in the New York Times proved an exception to this pattern. Based on US military statistics, Glanz offered strong evidence against the administration portrait of a weakening (or at least stalemated) resistance movement. Guerrilla attacks had, in fact, "steadily grown in the nearly three years since the invasion". Even during a "lull" in December, the 2,500 violent confrontations - more than 80 per day - were "almost 250% [higher than] the number in March 2004", which in turn was twice the level of August 2003.
The chart that accompanied the article (originally delivered to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee by Joseph A Christoff of the Government Accountability Office) contained an even more significant fact, almost unknown to the American public: despite the impression we may have from news reports, Iraqi civilians constitute only a small proportion of resistance targets each month - never exceeding 20% and typically falling well below 10%. In December, they accounted for just 8% - about 200 - of the 2,500 attacks.
U.S. Spending Billions to Stop Iraq IEDs: The Pentagon's upgraded Joint IED Defeat Organization is getting a sharply increased $3.3 billion this year to foil the often rudimentary weapons [IEDs], which the Iraqi resistance generally fashions from artillery and mortar rounds. The "JIEDDO" staff of explosives experts and others will almost triple, to 365. From 2004 to 2006, some $6.1 billion will have been spent on the U.S. effort — comparable, in equivalent dollars, to the cost of the Manhattan Project installation that produced plutonium for World War II's atom bombs.
In one initiative showing how seriously it takes the threat, the Defense Department proposes spending $167 million to build new supply roads in Iraq that bypass urban centers where convoys are exposed to IEDs.
After Saddam, Iraqi women used as sex objects: "We've studied reports from local NGOs on women's rights in the past three years, including violence, kidnappings, forced prostitution and honor killings," WFO [After Saddam, Iraqi women are used as sex objects] President Senar Mohammad told Reuters. “And the extent to which women have lost their rights in Iraq is shocking."
More than 2,000 Iraqi women have been kidnapped since April 2003, the report said, adding that such incidents were largely unknown during Saddam Hussein’s regime. "Money has become more important than lives, and kidnapping women – easy targets because of their weakness – is a quicker way to get a good ransom," said Mohammad.
Moreover, the study says that several Iraqi women were being sold as sex workers abroad, mainly to the illegal markets in Yemen, Syria, Jordan and the Gulf States. Victims usually discover their fate only after they have been lured outside Iraq by false promises.
The report also raised concerns about the conditions of women detainees currently held in prisons run by the U.S. and UK occupation forces, pointing to the Al-Kadhimiya and Abu-Ghraib prisons in particular. "Based on our records and from anonymous information, we estimate that there are more than 250 women in these two prisons alone, who are exposed to different kinds of torture, including sexual abuses,” Mohammad said.
Lawyers of women prisoners also assert that U.S. guards had been raping women detainees and forcing them to strip naked in front of men. They also said that these crimes were being committed all across Iraq. According to an Iraqi female lawyer, identified as Swadi, a woman prisoner at a U.S. military base in al-Kharkh told her that “she had been raped… several American soldiers had raped her. She had tried to fight them off and they had hurt her arm.”
There is reason to believe that these abuses are still going on.
British companies making a fortune out of conflict-riven Iraq: British businesses have profited by at least £1.1bn since coalition forces toppled Saddam Hussein three years ago, the first comprehensive investigation into UK corporate investment in Iraq has found.
The company roll-call of post-war profiteers includes some of the best known names in Britain's boardrooms as well many who would prefer to remain anonymous. They come from private security services, banks, PR consultancies, urban planning consortiums, oil companies, architects offices and energy advisory bodies.
Among the top earners is the construction firm Amec, which has made an estimated £500m from a series of contracts restoring electrical systems and maintaining power generation facilities during the past two years. Aegis, which provides private security has earned more than £246m from a three-year contract with the Pentagon to co-ordinate military and security companies in Iraq. Erinys, which specialises in the same area, has made more than £86m, a substantial portion from the protection of oilfields.
The evidence of massive investments and the promise of more multimillion-pound profits to come was discovered in a joint investigation by Corporate Watch, an independent watchdog, and The Independent.
The findings show how much is stake if Britain were to withdraw military protection from Iraq. British company involvement at the top of Iraq's new political and economic structures means Iraq will be forced to rely on British business for many years to come.
A total of 61 British companies are identified as benefiting from at least £1.1bn of contracts and investment in the new Iraq. But that figure is just the tip of the iceberg; Corporate Watch believes it could be as much as five times higher, because many companies prefer to keep their relationship secret.
The report acknowledges that British business still lags behind the huge profits paid to American companies. But, in two fields, Britain is playing a critical and leading role.
The threat from the Iraqi insurgency means British private security companies are in great demand. Corporate Watch estimates there are between 20,000 and 30,000 security personnel working in Iraq, half of whom are employed by companies run by retired senior British officers and at least two former defence ministers.
The biggest British player, Aegis - run by Tim Spicer, the former British army lieutenant colonel who founded the security company Sandline - has a workforce the size of a military division and may rank as the largest corporate military group ever assembled, according to the report. Other private security companies have sprung up overnight to protect British and American civilians.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Baghdad Dweller: The killer and the victim:
Often if you know the killer
He (or she) will surely lead you to the victim.
Often if you know the bomber,
He (or she) will surely lead you to the bombed.
On the other hand, if you know the victim
You may more easily guess who was the killer.
In any classical-conflict,
The killer and victim are enemies
The bomber and the bombed are enemies
Which makes it easy to trace the perpetrators?
And the victims, as well.
This theory is not always applicable.
Take the example of Tom Fox death
The victim helped Iraqis, the victim criticized the US
Let alone the fact that he didn’t caused harm to any Iraqi
Which makes the analysis and investigations more difficult, if not impossible.
Question… find one common thing between Margaret Hassan, Marla Ruzicka and Tom Fox?
So I must conclude that the killer in this case
Was not an Iraqi-Kurd,
Nor an Iraqi-Shi’aa ,
Nor an Iraqi-Sunni.
Which makes him (or her) a non-Iraqi-person………
consequently , a non-Iraqi-killer.
Let me think, for a while!! ………
If wasn’t an Iraqi killer ………
who else would be interested in killing people helping Iraqis and criticizing the US ?
- Written by LadyBird…part-time Sherlock Holmes
A Citizen Of Mosul: What happened to me is happening to many others: I wrote a post about what happened to me when an American soldier shot at me. That post brought a lot of comments from many Americans, some felt sorry for that action, others tried to find an excuse or to justify it.
But what happened yesterday, (Thursday) afternoon, about 5:00 PM is beyond justification.
My uncle, the only living one from my mother’s side, is about 80 years old, a healthy, handsome and good looking gentleman. He was in his way to bring his wife home; she was in a visit to her parents, when he was shot by American soldiers, he was alone in his car, no eye witness, several bullets penetrate his car, three of them penetrate his body, he died immediately.
Iraqi police were there, they found his ID, and his mobile, with phone list, they called my cousin, a university Prof. who went to the postmortem unit at the main hospital to receive the body, the American officer there told him "we are sorry."
It is as simple as this, they are sorry and every thing is settled, no problems, as far as the victim is an Iraqi.
There is another similar accident when the American Soldiers shot a family consist of a man, his wife and his daughter and killed them all.(this happened this week at Alhadba district in Mosul)
At the funeral, I heard many similar stories, all of them contain the same subjects but different detailes, innocent Iraqi civilians were killed at the hands of American soldiers for no obvious reasons. Or just because a scared boy holding a gun and and hidding behind his Stryker is protected from the law, this what changed him from a human to a monster.
GO HOME AMERICANS, WE DON'T WANT YOU HERE"Why Do You Westerners Always Want Civil War?":
ABC Australia Reporter: Eleanor Hall interviewing Robert Fisk [Excerpts]
ROBERT FISK: (…) the problem for me is that the narrative is that the Shi’ites are being attacked by the Sunnis and their mosques are being blown up and now the Shi’ites are attacking the Sunni mosques and the Shi’ites and the Sunnis are going to fight each other.
I think that’s far too simple a version of events.
There’s never been a civil war in Iraq. Sunnis and Shi’ites, despite the fact that the Sunnis as a minority have always effectively ruled Iraq, have never had this sectarian instinct. It’s not a sectarian society, it’s a tribal society. People are intermarried.
You know, I was at the funeral of a Sunni and asked his brother, you know, he’d been murdered, probably by Shi’ites, I think, I asked his brother if there was going to be a civil war and he said look, I’m married to a Shi’ite. You want me to kill my wife? Why do you westerners always want civil war?
The first people to mention civil war were the occupation authorities. The Iraqis were not.
ELEANOR HALL: But the Iraqis are now. I mean, Al-Jaafari’s talking about
ROBERT FISK: They’re not talking about civil war, they’re talking about being frightened of who’s doing the bombing. But, you see, we still don’t know who’s doing the bombings. How many names have we been given of the suicide bombers? Two out of, what, 320 suicide bombings now. Where do they come from, these people?
I mean, we keep hearing about kidnaps. In every case they were kidnapped by people, quote, "wearing police uniforms," unquote. There’s a police station on the airport road, it was overrun and all the policemen executed by men wearing, quote, "army uniforms," unquote.
Now, we used to have this phenomenon in Algeria, when I was covering the Islamist government war there, and it took a while before we realised that they were policemen and they were soldiers.
In other words, they were being paid by the authorities.
There’s not a huge wardrobe factory in Fallujah with, you know, 8,000 policemen’s uniforms, waiting for the next suicide bomber. It’s not like that. What we’ve got is death squads, and some of them are clearly working for government institutions within Baghdad.
ELEANOR HALL: So you’re saying there are death squads, there’s chaos, but
it’s not civil war?
ROBERT FISK: Well, it’s certainly chaos, and it’s certainly death squads. But I don’t regard this as a civil war at the moment. As I said, somebody wants a civil war. I mean, if you really try hard and you kill enough people you may be able to produce this.
ELEANOR HALL: So somebody wants a civil war?
ROBERT FISK: Yes.
ELEANOR HALL: You must have some clues about who.
ROBERT FISK: I don’t have. I have suspicions, I don’t have clues. I spend a lot of time, when I’m in Baghdad, trying to find out who this is and what this is. Clearly, the Interior Ministry have been torturing people to death, and clearly the Interior Ministry have people who do operate death squads.
What distinguishes the Iraqi army from virtually every other military on the planet: Iraqi government impotence flows from its lack of access to any systematic means of coercion. This may seem a strange assertion, given the increasing prominence of the Iraqi army in various military campaigns since late last summer, and the slogan popularized by Bush since about the same moment, "As the Iraqi military stands up, we will stand down."
Nonetheless, even if the Iraqi army, special forces and local police were to become the formidable military machine that American officials envisage, they would not add up to an effective instrument of Iraqi national policy, for a simple reason: these units are being developed as part of the occupation military, not as a force loyal to or commanded by the elected government.
It is well known that the Americans are recruiting and training both the military and the police in Iraq. What is less well known is that, once their training is complete, the Bush administration does not relinquish control over these forces.
Let's begin with the Iraqi army. Its troops are directly integrated into the occupation structure commanded by the US military. This is not just a matter of who makes command decisions. The Iraqi military has no air support, no artillery and almost no armored vehicles; nor does it have a logistics capacity that would allow it to resupply its fighting units. As a result, even if the Iraqi government could "take command" of its army, it could not fight battles on its own. This distinguishes the Iraqi army from virtually every other military on the planet. None of its units can go into battle unless they are integrated into the US military.
In the major campaigns undertaken in October and November in western Anbar province, this was quite evident; the Iraqis were used in "partnership programs", involving "Iraqi and US military units patrolling and fighting together". According to Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Wellman, official spokesman for the US effort to create an "effective" Iraqi army, this sort of close "control and cooperation" is crucial to the usefulness of Iraqi army units in sweeps through western Anbar. When an Iraqi unit "is specifically tasked to operate side by side" with US units, he assured Washington Post reporter Ellen Knickmeyer, "The unit absolutely just blossoms."
Is it possible, however, that the Iraqi military might eventually develop the capacity to command, support and supply itself? While this could occur, of course, the Americans have no current plans to make it happen, and no resources are available to the Iraqi government to launch such an effort. Keep in mind, for instance, that all projections of future US troop reductions explicitly call for the continued presence of US air power and support troops in Iraq. As a result, the integration of Iraqi units into the occupation military will continue into the foreseeable future, and with it the incapacity of the Iraqi government to craft and enforce a military policy independent of the occupation.
THREE YEARS AFTER THE INVASION
US Occupation of Iraq: Where is the limit?: The United States-led occupation continues to demolish humanitarian law with impunity in Iraq.
Occupying powers have bred a culture of insecurity that destroys the lives of ordinary Iraqis.
International institutions, monitoring bodies and parliaments must act or risk irrelevance.
Three years have passed since the United States launched an illegal war of aggression on the sovereign Republic of Iraq. Neither were weapons of mass destruction found nor democracy or human rights advanced. Within one month, Iraqis will enter their fourth year as a people under occupation, ruled by a puppet regime that sanctions death squads and torture.
The time has long passed for this to end.
In the words of John Pace — until recently head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq — “the ordinary Iraqi has absolutely no protection whatsoever from the state or from the authorities.” Pace adds that, “the prevalence torture is quite clearly established,” that “the degree of violence has increased exponentially since the invasion,” and that “the country has been blown apart in terms of its social structures and social fiber.”
In the absence of a sovereign Iraqi government — which cannot exist, by definition, under occupation — the US-led Multi-National Forces in Iraq (MNF-I) are legally responsible, and imputable, for the failure to protect even the most basic of all human rights principles: the right to life. The current situation is intolerable. Workers in the morgue of Baghdad alone report that on average 1600 corpses are brought in every month. Following the criminal destruction of Al-Askari mosque in Samarra, these same workers report that 1300 dead were brought in over a period of seven days.
The US-led occupation has consciously led Iraq to the verge of disintegration. The country is being plundered. Torture and assassinations are endemic. Women and children have borne an equal share of the violence. The occupation is running out of space for prisoners. Cities have been targeted and destroyed in a programme of urbicide — Fallujah, Tel Afar, Al-Qaim, Haditha. US coordinated air strikes and related military interventions are the biggest killer in Iraq. Repeated polls in Iraq have shown that Iraqis believe they would be safer if foreign troops left.
A culture of intended destruction
As the year 2006 opens, we have no other conclusion to draw except that the United States has intended destruction upon the people of Iraq. The use of depleted uranium weaponry will leave a scar on Iraq for billions of years. All public services have collapsed — health, water, electricity, communications, justice and security. The occupation has done nothing to protect Iraqis. Refusing to safeguard civilians is as much a violation of international law as the criminal use of chemical agents — such as white phosphorus on Fallujah and Tel Afar. Criminal inaction, especially following the Samarra atrocity — the US military standing by as death squads roam the streets of Iraq — has highlighted with precision the underlying rationality of the US presence in Iraq: impoverish the country, break it up, foment sectarian hatred, stand back and watch the killing fields swallow the population.
Silence is complicity
The international community has failed Iraq, and the Iraqi people. A decade of silence over murderous sanctions has been compounded with timidity as the United States overturned a century of legal regulation and waged an illegal preemptive war on a state that was already on its knees.
The BRussells Tribunal, in solidarity with the Iraqi people and its struggle to recover sovereignty, calls on all international organizations and institutions that work towards upholding international law, as well as national parliaments and regional organizations, to act now and with purpose.
International institutions, monitoring bodies and parliaments must recognize the gravity of the situation and act to protect the life and person of all Iraq civilians, condemn US policies in Iraq, demand the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces, demand the US and all other occupying powers pay reparations to Iraq and compensation to Iraqis for the human and material destruction wrought, restore in full Iraqi sovereignty, recognize as null and void any treaty, law or contract passed under occupation, and bring again a semblance of credibility to the legal underpinnings of international society.
When the powerful claim a state of exception to law the rights and obligations of all are undermined. The situation in Iraq is disgrace to us all. It is time for all actors in positions of authority and influence to rediscover their conscience, as well as their mandate and legal obligations, and speak up and ensure the end of this atrocity now.
- The Brussells Tribunal Committee, March 13, 2006
Plan Z in Iraq: As we approach the third anniversary of this war of choice, it is instructive to review the pre-invasion blue prints.
'Plan A' was simple enough. Deploy troops in Kuwait and Turkey. Put together an 'international coalition' similar to the one Bush senior recruited for Desert Storm. Solicit a UN Security Council resolution to legalize the invasion. Initiate hostilities with a 'shock and awe' air campaign to decapitate Saddam's regime. Dispatch Special Forces behind enemy lines to secure the oil fields. Launch the ground assault and conduct mop up operations. Install Ahmed Chalabi as a puppet president. Assign Paul Bremer as the American Viceroy to lord over the Iraqi oil fiefdom. Iraqis would then be adopted as wards of the United States for a period of ten to twenty ten years -- or however long it took to put together a modern and secular pro-American social order. To enforce Emperor Bremer's dictates, permanent bases would be built to accommodate a garrison of thirty to fifty thousand troops.
The cost estimate for Plan A was around fifty Billion. After greeting our troops with rose parades, the Iraqis were expected to display their generosity by reimbursing Bush for the cost of the invasion. Their oil proceeds would be more than enough to finance reconstruction efforts.
Another projected result of the war was a reduction of oil prices -- as a pliant Iraq replaced Saudi Arabia to become the world's major swing producer. The new Iraq would be expected to withdraw from OPEC and privatize its oil industry. Among the more fanciful neo-con fantasies was the construction of an oil pipeline to Haifa. Based on these pre-war projections, American companies were salivating at the prospect of economic dividends from Iraqi reconstruction contracts.
Once Plan A was implemented, the neo-cons had other blue prints ready for the march on Damascus and Tehran.
On first contact with reality, 'Plan A' fell apart. Even before the first shot was fired, serious revisions had to be made. Turkey refused to be a staging ground for the invasion and the United Nations balked at granting Washington a license to initiate hostilities. In rounding up a credible international 'coalition of the willing', Bush Junior was reduced to pleading with stalwart allies like Mongolia and Bulgaria to volunteer a few hundred foot soldiers. Even these token participants only agreed to deploy their forces after the ground invasion was a done deal.
So, by the time American tanks rolled into Baghdad, the initial blue print had to be repeatedly revised. 'Plan B' required a last minute re-deployment of tens of thousands of troops anchored off the coast of Turkey -- after Istanbul rebuffed Wolfowitz's last minute entreaties to grant them landing rights. 'Plan C' was to pressure the British to go into battle without a UN resolution. Unlike Bush, the Prime Minister still faces the prospect of criminal charges in British courts for launching an illegal war of aggression. The invasion date was delayed when Blair came under serious domestic pressure -- which included the resignation of Robin Cook.
The new popular myth about this war is that the administration failed to develop a post-war plan. In fact, State Department experts put together a comprehensive strategy that was shelved primarily because some of the planners were suspected 'Arabists'. The neo-cons have an enduring grudge against American diplomats who might know a thing or two about the Middle East but have no work history in pro-Israeli think tanks.
To appease neo-con sensibilities, Dick Cheney intervened and Colin Powell's experts were unceremoniously dismissed. Post war planning was then handed over to the Pentagon. Rumsfeld's nominee to lead and supervise post-hostilities reconstruction and stabilization efforts was the genius most responsible for manufacturing WMD canards -- Douglas Feith. For reasons unknown, Rummy still refuses to expedite the ongoing internal DOD investigation of Feith's pivotal role in corrupting pre-war intelligence.
Since the invasion, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Initial resistance to the occupation was deemed to be a passing storm by disgruntled dead-enders and Saddam loyalists. Accordingly, plans were made to deal with that delusionary perception. In the meantime, the Iraqi army was disbanded. In its place, the Pentagon wizards envisioned a reconstituted 40,000 native Iraqi defense force that would be assigned to guard the borders and oil installations.
As these plans evolved and failed -- the administration finally realized they had a serious insurgency on their hands. Needless to say, new strategies had to be developed to deal with new perceptions. When the coalition forces continued to suffer daily casualties, force protection became the number one priority. To deal with that awkward reality, the Pentagon decided to reverse itself and substantially increase the size of the Iraqi army to shoulder some of the burden of confronting the rebels. This new scheme required considerable modifications when Sunni insurgents infiltrated army ranks. So, either by design or out of desperation, new Iraqi Army units developed along sectarian lines. The predictable result is that entire army brigades are now made up exclusively of Shia and Kurdish recruits.
The British and American forces have now decided to retreat to well protected garrisons and hand over the bulk of the fighting to the Iraqi army -- which is still a work in progress. The designated role for coalition forces is to train new recruits and back up the Iraqi army with logistical support -- including air cover. This new strategy is nothing but a replay of Nixon's Vietnamization policy. Can 'peace with honor' be far behind?
At every stage of this unnecessary and immoral tragedy, the administration had set benchmarks that would derail the insurgency and usher in a semblance of stability. The arrest and trial of Saddam Hussein, handing nominal sovereignty to an Iraqi puppet government, the interim government elections, the constitutional referendum and last December's election all promised to put Iraq on the path to a united secular pro-American democracy with peace and prosperity for all. Three months after the last goal post, the Iraqi parliament has yet to convene and the streets of Baghdad are as treacherous as ever.
In the aftermath of Samarra, the only remaining justification for the continued deployment of 130,000 American troops is to prevent a major outbreak of civil strife. Yet, Rumsfeld is sending unmistakable signals that - in the event of civil war - US troops will take a neutral stand. Which begs the question: why continue placing American troops in harm's way when the administration has no intention of engaging them in an effort to prevent a civil war.
Complicating matters, Iran is currently being primed for American military intervention. In the event of hostilities, Tehran would certainly retaliate by launching missiles against US troop garrisons in Iraq. The Shia militias in Iraq have publicly stated that they will not stand idle if their Iranian brethren are subjected to America's military might. No worries. The Pentagon must have plans for that such eventualities. It's probably called 'Plan X'.
While the neo-cons tinker with new plans, domestic pressures to withdraw the troops are intensifying and coming from unlikely voices on the right like William Buckley, Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama and Andrew Sullivan. The majority of Americans are now firmly against the war -- including the troops stationed in Iraq. The White House's new focus is to develop new contingency plans to deal with George Bush's blue dress moment. I am just guessing that the blueprints will be called 'Plan Y'.
Which brings us to Plan Z -- a major American international campaign to expand the letters of the alphabet to deal with the unpredictable outcomes of this disastrous war of choice.BEYOND IRAQ
IRAN UNDER THE GUN
Ahmadinejad: no compromise with West in nuclear dispute: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday once again reiterated that there would be no compromise with the West in the ongoing dispute over Iran's nuclear programmes.
'Compromise and retreat have no meaning at all. We will continue our nuclear path regardless of all the political games currently played (against Iran),' Ahmadinejad said during a speech to thousands of people in the northern city of Gorgan, carried live by state television.
He said that the West had claimed that pursuing the nuclear programme was just an initiative by 'Ahmadinejad and his friends' for their own political benefit and he asked the crowd to reply directly to these charges.
The crowd replied with the standard slogan, 'Nuclear energy is the undeniable right of Iran.'
Watch out, this 'lame duck' president has nothing to lose: Ten days ago I paid a visit to the imposing Russell Building on Capitol Hill where senators have their offices. What I saw there was a timely reminder of just how much power the US constitution vests in the legislature. The senators I spoke to made it abundantly clear that President Bush's "political capital" - about which he boasted after securing re-election 16 months ago - is all used up. The phrase I kept hearing was "lame duck".
It's not hard to see why. With his approval ratings as low as 34 per cent, Bush is now as unpopular a president as his father was in the year before his defeat by Bill Clinton. According to the polls, four out of five Americans expect Iraq - the transformation of which has become the Bush administration's flagship policy - to descend into civil war. As midterm elections near, the political hunting season has begun. Rep-ublicans and Democrats alike are taking pot shots at the president as if merely having a lame duck is not enough. They want this duck dead.
Last week they got him with both barrels. The House Appropriations Committee stunned the Beltway by voting 62-2 to block the acquisition by Dubai Ports World of the US operations of Peninsular & Oriental, a deal backed by the president. Before Bush could even reach for the presidential veto - a weapon he has never had to use thanks to his own party's dominance in Congress - DP World folded, announcing that it would "transfer fully" P&O Ports to "a US entity". This is the biggest humiliation Bush has suffered since entering the White House. It is unlikely to be the last.
Congressmen should beware of underestimating this president as others have done in the past. They should remember that a second-term president is not necessarily a lame duck. He is also a man with nothing to lose.
So my guess is that Bush is going to bite back. And the obvious way for him to do this is over Iran. Last Tuesday Vice-President Dick Cheney gave a speech in which he bluntly declared: "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon." Remind you of anything? It was Cheney who set the pace four years ago, as the administration prepared to confront Iraq, insisting that Saddam already possessed weapons of mass destruction. And the same sequence of events now looks set to replay itself.
The United States is going to ask the UN Security Council to impose sanctions if Iran does not halt its programme of uranium enrichment. The other permanent members won't agree. And then… Well, when those missiles slam into the Iranian nuclear facilities, don't say I didn't warn you. The next time you hear the word "duck" in Washington, my advice would be to do just that.Chávez' "Mr. Danger": In references to the head of state, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez sometimes speaks of "Mr. Danger" instead of George W. Bush. New York Times South American correspondent Juan Forero in an October story from Caracas mentioned that Chávez has bestowed that nickname-which makes sense on its face--but he didn't explain what it means to people in the Spanish-speaking world....
Mr. Danger is a long-standing figure in Venezuelan life, a character in a 1929 work, many times republished, by the novelist Rómulo Gallegos, who was also Venezuela's first freely-elected president, brought down in a U.S.-backed 1948 military coup, ten months after he took office.
Gallegos introduced Mr. Danger in Doña Bárbara, a work that has been required reading in Venezuela's secondary schools for forty years, ever since the return of electoral rule. In Gallegos' novel, Danger is the exemplar of a type of American once common in rural Venezuela. A man of reddish complexion and deep blue eyes, he shows up in the ranch country of Venezuela's tropical plains, where he kills alligators and tigers for their skins. Before long, he carries out a series of schemes to "conquer badly defended lands," Gallegos wrote. In furtherance of his aims, Danger takes part in the murder and burial of an aged cattleman and his mount, but "for him, the scornful foreigner," Gallegos noted, "there wasn't much difference between Apolinar and the horse who accompanied him in his grave." Mr. Danger afterwards usurps the property of a declassed landowner and claims custody of the man's pubescent daughter, until a neighboring rancher-whom Danger had also defrauded--rescues both, Gallegos writes, "to liberate them from the humiliating tutelage of the foreigner."
The crime of interviewing Osama: The European papers that published the cartoons in solidarity with the Danish paper said they wanted Muslims to know they cannot be exempt from satire. But for Muslims the cartoons were sheer ridicule. They reflected nothing that the Prophet had ever said or done. They might refer to some ideas held by some Muslims; but none of those ideas were expressed by the Prophet. So they ask: If the papers only want to critique Muslims, why do they target the Prophet?
Had these cartoons been directed against someone alive today, that person might have a case to sue the papers for libel. How come, then, that Western laws protect Tom, Dick and Harry but leave the man who is the object of every Muslim’s love and veneration vulnerable to senseless abuse? The logic is straightforward to a Muslim who is under divine command not to mock the religious symbols of any religion, including idols and similar objects of worship.
Muslims see the West’s selective application of some of its enshrined freedoms. They ask: What freedom of expression are we speaking about when US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair discuss the bombing of the Arabic television channel Al-Jazeerah? In fact, the coalition actually bombed Al-Jazeerah’s offices in Afghanistan and Iraq and killed Arab journalists working in Baghdad. What freedom of expression sentences Al-Jazeera’s Tayseer Allouni to seven years imprisonment? One of the pieces of “evidence” against him was that he interviewed Osama Bin Ladin: Wouldn’t every Western journalist think of that as a scoop?
Sickness Unto Death: America in Plague-Time: It was, by all reports, the most heinous terrorist act in history. A ruthless gang of religious extremists, driven by an insatiable hatred for Western civilization, killed multitudes of innocent people in a surprise attack that struck without warning, without mercy. The perpetrators - who posed as ordinary citizens, members of a law-abiding ethnic minority going about their daily business - took advantage of the burgeoning global economy to move easily across borders as they brought their vast conspiracy to its poisonous fruition.
But Western leaders, though they did sleep, finally roused themselves to action. One by one, terrorist operatives fell into their hands. In the face of such an unprecedented threat, the "gloves came off": captives were subjected to strenuous interrogation as officials worked feverishly to forestall any further attacks. Soon the hard evidence of guilt emerged: the words of the conspirators themselves, set down in black and white, confessing all, in copious detail, irrefutable.
That's how 14th-century Europe "learned" that the Black Death - the rat-borne plague that killed 25 million people across the continent in just four years - had been "caused" by the Jews. Vague rumor and ancient prejudice were "confirmed" by evidence extracted from captured Jews who had been "put to the question" - the medieval spin-word for "torture." The story that emerged was full of concrete detail, like a pre-war New York Times report on Saddam Hussein's WMD: names of the terrorist leaders, the elaborate methods used to poison wells, specific locations, the composition of the various toxins, etc.
Armed with such official reports - earnestly delivered by the Colin Powells of the day, trusted officials oozing gravitas and sincerity - Europe embarked on a frenzy of pogroms. In city after city, country after country, the Jews were rounded up, burned alive, beheaded, beaten to death, slaughtered in every way imaginable, man, woman and child. All of it justified in the name of security - and all of it based on lies, on desperate nightmares wrung from innocent people tormented into madness. The plague pogroms marked a watershed in European anti-Semitism, notes author John Kelly in his sweeping history, The Great Mortality: a new element of outright eliminationism entered into the traditional religious disputes and cultural frictions. The seeds of the Holocaust were sown by the inhumanity of sanctioned torture.
Who knows what seeds of future horror are being sown this very day in the vast, sprawling hive of torture that George W. Bush and his chief minions, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, have spread across the planet? How many lies condemning how many innocent people are even now being extracted by "stress techniques," by "sensory disorientation," by electric shocks and sexual humiliation, by waterboarding and snarling dogs, by the infliction of pain just short of "organ failure or impairment of bodily function," and other refinements devised by the perverters of law in the White House and Pentagon?
Torture is the new plague, the real poison, spreading the toxins of untruth and brutality throughout the society that embraces it. The well-documented reality of Bush's ghastly system is now glaringly obvious for all to see. There can be no more excuses. Anyone who ignores this spreading evil is willfully blind; anyone who defends it is morally corrupt.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:"There's a road [in central Iraq] we called IED Alley that the ordnance disposal guys would clear regularly. But no sooner would they reach the end of that stretch [eight miles] than the insurgents would be planting IEDs again at the beginning."
- Georgia National Guard's Sgt. Robert Lewis speaking at his current post in western Iraq.