Saturday, April 01, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SATURDAY, APRIL 1, 2006 Photo: The father of a 4-year-old girl who was killed when a car bomb exploded near the Shiite Ali Basha mosque places the cover on her coffin Friday March 31, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq. A mortar round had slammed into a street in northeastern Baghdad. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Bring ‘em on: BAGHDAD - Four militants and an Iraqi Army major were killed in fighting when an army patrol stopped several men trying to steal a truck south of Baquba 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. THULUIYA - Soldiers at a joint U.S.-Iraqi army checkpoint killed three gunmen who opened fire on them in the town of Thuluiya, 70km (45 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraqi authorities said. MOSUL - A suspected militant was killed and five were arrested on Friday, the Iraqi army said. Bring ‘em on: US helicopter down near Baghdad, no word on crew. Security Incident: Mortar shell killed three women and injured three more in Baghdad while they are in their homes. Six bullet-riddled male bodies found handcuffed in Baghdad. Three car bombs go off simultaneously in market in southern Baghdad, killing one person and injuring seven. Security Incident: Five civilians killed when gunmen fired on their car near Ba’qubah. Gunmen fired on a police patrol in Falluja, killing one police officer. Security Incident: Gunman attacked a minibus killing six men and wounding one in Balad Ruz. US and Iraqi troops killed three suspected insurgents, one a women, and captured some more, in Anbar province. Six people were gunned down in the Iraqi capital. (Three were ice cream vendors in the Dora neighborhood, a butcher and his son in eastern Baghdad and the owner of an air conditioner repair shop in Iskan neighborhood of Baghdad.) Police discovered two more bodies of young men found shot in the head and handcuffed in Baghdad. Witnesses said three gunmen in a BMW pulled a handcuffed man out of the car and shot him near a highway in Baghdad. Women and her child were wounded by mortar shell landing on their home in Baghdad (another incident than above). Roadside bomb wounded two policemen and three civilians, also in Baghdad. In Basra, a joint British-Iraqi force arrested 14 people, including a policeman, during dawn raids. Four were released. Security Incident: Sunni sheik killed by gunman in Basra. His brother was wounded. Police in Baghdad report seven bodies found today, either shot in the head or strangled. (Don’t know if this number includes the ones mentioned above.) South of Baqouba, an Iraqi army sergeant major was killed Friday after his patrol surprised a group of suspected insurgents trying to steal a dump truck. Four insurgents were killed in this incident and four Iraqi soldiers wounded. Security Incident: Roadside bomb hits police patrol in Baghdad, wounding four policemen. Security Incident: Gunmen kidnap Iraqi physician in Baghdad. Security Incident: Gunmen killed tribal chief and four male relatives and wound two more in Balad Ruz. They were ambushed when they returned from a funeral. REPORTS Special Report: Tension Accelerates in Iraq. (Summary of many recent incidents.) Two Iraqi Cities Live in Two Different Worlds Peace, calmness, stability and spirited life without fears of sudden gunfire or bombings were the first impression of the Kurdish city of Arbil to the people from Baghdad. "This is not the Iraq that I know," an Iraqi said during his first visit to the city, some 350 km north of Baghdad. "It is just like another country." "We have been here for more than 20 hours without hearing a single gunshot, unlike Baghdad where shootout and blasts could be heard everywhere and anytime," he said. Policemen in Arbil are not putting masks on their faces as what their peers in Baghdad do for fears of gunmen who could kill them or their family members in excuse of collaborating with the U.S. occupation forces. It is also noticeable that cement barriers are seldom seen around government offices, police stations and other facilities in Arbil, which makes a sharp comparison with Baghdad where cement barriers have almost reshaped the appearances of the Iraqi capital. More Than One Million People Displaced in Iraq The International Organizaation for Migration (IOM) said Friday that there has been a significant rise in population displacement recently with between 30,000 to 36,000 people fleeing their homes in the past few weeks alone. Quoting the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, IOM added that most of the displacement has occurred in Baghdad, Anbar and Diyala governorates with additional displacements also occurring in localized areas of conflict. More than one million people are now displaced in the country as a result of three decades of conflict and the on-going violence. IOM spokesperson Jemini Pandya said that her Organization is carrying out emergency distributions of food and non-food items such as mattresses, blankets, water buckets, cooking sets, and hygiene kits to vulnerable populations as well as providing clean water and medical assistance. However, she added, shelter assistance is also required. Many Iraqi Rely on Neighborhood Watches As the sun goes down and most Baghdad residents take refuge in their homes, Maamoun Abdul Wahab takes to the streets — a pistol tucked in his clothes. For about 12 hours, he prowls the narrow alleys of Baghdad's heavily Sunni Azamiyah district, part of a neighborhood watch group formed to fend off Shiite militias and Interior Ministry commando units considered by many Sunnis as little more than death squads. "If the militias or the commandos set foot here, we will fight them — either they die or we die," Abdul Wahab declared. "If we let them in, they will kill us anyway, so we might as well defend ourselves." Shortly after the Samarra attack, word spread in Azamiyah that Shiite militiamen took over a nearby Sunni mosque, plastering it with photos of Shiite clerics, Abdul Wahab said. Squatting on the floor with a group of friends in the neighborhood's Abu Hanifa Mosque, the men decided to take matters in their hands. By day, Abdul Wahab sells construction and plumbing materials. He returns home at about 4 p.m., eats and sleeps for a few hours before his guard duties begin. He said he started off as a volunteer, but the Sunni Endowment, a government agency that takes care of Sunni religious sites, decided to pay him about $65 a month to keep an eye on mosques and neighborhood streets. Neighborhood Militias Add Another Armed Layer Fearing Shiite attacks, Sunni Arabs in Iraq are organizing fighters and storing guns in mosques. Some fear an escalation to all-out sectarian war. When the "black shirts" come back, the neighbors of the mosque will be ready to fight. The Sunni Arab men of the district have posted plainclothes spies on the corners to look out for suspicious strangers. They keep their cellphones close at hand, waiting for the ring that will call them to arms. When it comes, the men will pour from the surrounding homes, guns blazing. Faced with the growth of Shiite militias such as the black-shirted Al Mahdi army and deadly abuses by the Shiite-dominated police forces, Sunnis in mixed-sect neighborhoods and cities throughout Iraq are stashing guns in their mosques and knitting themselves into militias of their own. "We've made an agreement with the neighbors that if we have another attack, they'll pick up their weapons and fight the invaders," said Fares Mahmoud, deputy preacher of the El Koudiri Mosque here in the middle-class neighborhood of Arasat. "We are depending on the soul of the people to protect us." In the last week, U.S. troops have clashed with Shiite militias, and American officials have expressed concern about their growing power. On the other side of Iraq's sectarian divide, the emergence of armed bands of Sunnis, often from middle-class or secular backgrounds, presents a disturbing indication of how close Iraq is to all-out sectarian war. The Sunni neighborhood militias add yet another armed element to the Iraqi scene, which already features Sunni insurgents — often militant Islamists or former members of Saddam Hussein's ruling elite — who have been battling Iraqi and U.S. security forces for three years. Among the Sunnis, "you have the [militant Islamic] Takfiris, the old Baathists, you have the people who feel they have been marginalized, you have Arab nationalists. If each of these groups is going to have its own militia, then God help us," said Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni legislator and the temporary speaker of the new Iraqi parliament. Top US Officer Calls For Iraqi Policy On Militias The US military urged Iraqi leaders to come up with a concrete policy on militias if US forces' aim of establishing security and stability in the country was to be achieved. "When you are putting a government together you cannot have extra armed groups out there," a high-ranking US officer in Baghdad told reporters, while declining to use the word "militias" specifically. The official spoke at a background briefing and requested his name not be published. The issue of militias is of particular sensitivity because many people in the current government have connections to them. "The government is going to have to get a policy to deal with this," he said, explaining that without one it was difficult to enforce security on Baghdad's streets. Hasseiniya Bombed at Guray’at Just 2 hours ago, an ear shattering blast rocked the Guray'at area, north of Baghdad, most likely caused by a BMW vehicle rigged with explosives. The target was the Ali Bash husseiniya, right next door to the popular riverside Al-Ballaam restaurant. We counted 5 ambulances racing away, sirens wailing, and full of casualties from the scene. Residents with AK-47s immediately poured on the narrow main street firing in the air while firefighters extinguished the flames. Nearby husseiniyas and mosques were instructing people through loudspeakers to remain alert and to avoid crowding in case there was another car bomb. Indeed, someone spread a rumour that another one was in the area. The area is largely Shia, inhabited by Jubour Arabs, but surrounded by the Sunni Sulaikh and Adhamiya districts. I was attending a friend's Hinna occasion (sort of like a bachelor party before one gets married) nearby. We abandoned our lamb and rice to see what was happening. There were 2 mortar thuds and a short fire exchange in nearby Adhamiya before that, but I have no idea if the incidents are linked. The street is blocked by National Guard and police units now. We were not allowed to go close to the blast site. My friend knew people who worked at the restaurant and was trying to check on them. Iraq Conflict Grows Ever More Confusing Gunmen in police uniform kill and kidnap at electronics shops. A mosque raid draws government charges that U.S. troops run Iraqi forces beyond its control. Bodies turn up on streets as militia death squads roam freely. This week’s violence in Iraq suggests the conflict has entered an ominous new stage where crime gangs, Sunni Arab insurgents and pro-government Shia militias overlap as violence pushes the country closer to sectarian civil war. What began with a murky Sunni revolt against occupation and then the US-backed interim government has exploded into a communal and criminal battlefield where determining who is killing whom -- let alone why -- is getting harder every day. “The Sunni insurgency is now complemented by the Shia militias who are getting very powerful and are able to wreak havoc on the Sunnis,” said Martin Navias, at the Centre for Defence Studies at King’s College in London. “The various groups are killing each other and kidnapping but not openly doing it. It is a type of ethnic cleansing. But it is not an open civil war.” Iraqi leaders are struggling to form a unity government more than three months after elections, raising concerns that a widening political vacuum will foster ever more violence. Analysts say that while the new trends were alarming, there were no signs that the violence is about to spill over into open warfare with street battles between Iraq’s main Shia, Arab Sunni and ethnic Kurdish groups. Special Needs School Welcomes War-Scarred Iraqi Children For 12-year-old Iraqi Sarah al-Jamal, the world as she knew it ended the day her father was shot dead in front of her eyes. Once bright, talkative and a top student, Sarah is now one of the growing number of Iraq children traumatized by the conflict and who can no longer deal with the daily reality of life in Iraq's battered capital. "She suffers from constant nervous breakdowns and starts screaming hysterically when she sees a policeman or a soldier," said Hussein Ali Mohsen, the director Al-Rajaa Institute for Special Needs. "Her mental status is no longer stable and she cannot concentrate on her studies. "The death of her father in front of her eyes has changed the girl into another person." Mohsen's school was founded back in 1968 and once just welcomed developmentally challenged children, mostly with Down's Syndrome, but since April 2003, the facility has opened its doors to children scarred by Baghdad's harsh post-war realities. "We have been in a state of war for the past three years and the cases of children suffering from nervous breakdowns are increasing," Mohsen said. So far, the school has five students like Sarah, while the rest of the 70 pupils have Down Syndrome. "There are definitely many more cases out there, but because of tradition and society most of the families prefer to keep them indoors. We never know about them until they approach us," added Mohsen. The war is hard on all of the institute's children. The simple passage of helicopters criss-crossing Baghdad's skies can spread panic and sow fear among the pupils. "With every bomb that explodes and every helicopter flying over head, we have chaos in the school," Mohsen said. Iraqis Face A More Brutal Life With Each Passing Month The pavements outside the American embassy here are peppered with odd concrete structures. They look like oversized kennels, about four feet high and six feet long, with a low wall at each end. Painted on them, large letters explain their purpose - duck and cover. This is deep inside the well-guarded Green Zone, but if mortar rounds start to fall as you walk or drive by, these pygmy bunkers are where you and up to 10 people can squeeze in and crouch until the coast is clear. Like the iconic image of the last helicopter leaving the roof of the US embassy in Saigon in 1975 with terrified people struggling to clamber aboard, these ugly shelters may eventually achieve similar symbolic status. For Iraqis in Baghdad, duck and cover is already a metaphor for daily life. On each of the seven visits I have made here since Saddam Hussein was toppled, security conditions have worsened. The downward slide since my previous trip for the December elections seems particularly steep. The spate of sectarian revenge killings that followed the bombing of the golden-domed shrine at Samarra last month is not yet over, in spite of an 8pm curfew imposed in Baghdad. Abductions and murders continue relentlessly. Bodies, often scarred by torture and with their hands tied, have been turning up on lonely roadsides at a rate of 13 a day. Shops close their metal shutters and streets start emptying at 4pm as people flee home well before the curfew. Many Baghdadis rarely venture out except to the corner store. Those who drive to work vary their routes. A doctor who uses taxis to get to her hospital says she tells the driver she's a patient, "since it makes kidnapping a bit less likely". Frequently Asked Questions About Academics in Iraq How many Iraqi academics have been killed and when? The Brussell’s Tribunal has compiled a list that names over 130 Iraqi academics murdered between 2003 and 2006. The Iraqi Association of University Lecturers say the number is over 300. The puppet government of Iraq has itself confirmed over 150 assassinations. Other estimates place the number over 1000. This is in addition to the thousands forced to flee Iraq in fear of their lives. That so many are subject to forced exile is testament to the violent climate that faces Iraqi educators, intellectuals and academics. Further to assassinations, disappearances and forced exile, a report published in 2005 by the International Leadership Institute, affiliated to the United Nations University, found that “Eight-four per cent of higher education institutes were burned, looted or destroyed,” following the US invasion in 2003. Iraq: Three Years On Before first light on 20 March 2003 missiles rained down on Baghdad as the American-led invasion began. Saddam's regime was toppled but, three years on, the war still rages. About 35,000 Iraqis, 2,500 allied troops and 109 journalists are dead. The lives of millions have changed forever. Here are some of their stories. US Troop Fatalities Hit A Low; Iraqi Deaths Soar March was the least deadly month in more than two years for U.S. troops in Iraq, but a surge in killings of Iraqi troops and civilians suggests that the overall death rate in the conflict is growing, according to military data. But recent weeks have also been among the most lethal of the war for Iraqi civilians, police officers and soldiers, who were killed and wounded at a rate of about 75 a day, a rate three times as high as at the start of 2004. The U.S. military's count of Iraqi civilian casualties is likely far lower than the actual total, because many attacks go unreported. The numbers reflect a pair of trends grown sharper in recent months, military commanders and analysts say: the insurgency and sectarian militias focusing attacks toward "softer" Iraqi targets, and a move by U.S. forces to cede ever more terrain and initiative to their Iraqi counterparts. Insurgents are "now specifically targeting Iraqi security force members and Iraqi civilians," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said during a recent briefing. "We're fighting a cowardly enemy. And he's turned his focus in the last three months to the softest target he can find." Insurgents Found Guilty of Possession Of Illegal Weapons The Central Criminal Court of Iraq convicted six security detainees for various crimes including possession of illegal weapons and illegal border crossing. In the first case, on Nov. 13, 2004, Coalition Forces apprehended Ismael Keham Hussein Rothan after conducting an intelligence-based raid on his home. CF found a box inside a burlap bag on the second floor. The box contained four anti-personnel rocket-propelled grenade warheads, two anti-tank RPG warheads, five RPG boosters, 20 links for heavy caliber rounds with 16 rounds in the links, one loaded AK-47 magazine and one RPG sight. The defendant was charged with violating Coalition Provisional Authority Order No. 3, Section 6, paragraph 2/B for possession of illegal weapons. The trial court found the defendant guilty of the charge and sentenced the defendant to three years imprisonment. Upon conviction, all defendants are turned over to the Iraqi Corrections Service to serve their sentences. To date, the CCCI has held 974 trials of insurgents suspected of anti-Iraqi and anti-Coalition activities threatening the security of Iraq and targeting MNF-I. These proceedings have resulted in 885 individual convictions with sentences ranging up to 30 years imprisonment. The Invisible Army Today, military might is not measured in battleships or submarines, carriers, tanks, aircraft or missiles, although silhouettes of all of these have featured at some time in books comparing the world's armed forces. We have moved on to measuring strength in terms of capability. The key capability that Britain possesses at the dawn of the 21st Century, and which absorbs a huge proportion of the annual military budget, is the UK's Special Forces. Best known are the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) Regiments, who the Guardian newspaper estimates at about 1,000 in total. Others include specialist combat troops from the Royal Marines and Parachute Regiment, SAS-trained support troops, Intelligence Corps personnel and the civilian security service community who work with the military, for example, MI6 and GCHQ. This relatively new intermingling of the civilian and military Special Forces is called the multi-agency approach in military circles. All are highly skilled and supported by some of the best equipment and technology that money can buy. Reading American war memoirs from the recent Gulf War - there are no British ones out yet - it is apparent that the front line in Baghdad, and presumably Basra, was awash with these figures during 2003. These books tell us that Americans call these civilians serving alongside military units Other Government Agencies (OGAs). Although some former SAS men like Andy McNab have argued for more openness, the Ministry of Defence are routinely tight-lipped about anything to do with Special Forces and never comment on their day-to-day activities. The recent public resignation of former SAS trooper, Ben Griffin, 28, who refused to return to Iraq and has now joined the anti-war lobby, reminds us of their presence in the Gulf. Filming the Iraq Insurgency As a US tank comes into view on a street in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, three fighters in civilian clothes and headscarves aim their weapons and wait. They claim to be part of al-Qaeda in Iraq. "This is a message to America," one insurgent says to the camera. "Look at your might and power, yet you are unable to walk the streets of Ramadi, which belongs to the mujahideen." He turns back to the tank, which has paused a few blocks away. "I swear by almighty God we will destroy them," the insurgent says. We received this footage while making a documentary about the Sunni insurgency fighting the Coalition Forces in Iraq. We had asked local fixers and stringers in Baghdad if they would be prepared to take a camera and a list of prepared questions into the heart of the Sunni Triangle to speak directly with insurgents. Few accepted such a dangerous task. Of those that did, one person got past the roadblocks with the film of al-Qaeda in Ramadi. Cases of US heavy handedness or the abuse in Abu Ghraib have provided fertile ground for the insurgents to recruit from. "A number of the insurgents keep saying to me that this is what I was trained for," journalist Michael Ware explained to us. "They say the next generation is going to be worse than we've ever been. And it's in this way that it's al-Qaeda that are one of the main beneficiaries of this war. (This will be a report on BBC TV on April 2, 2006. - Susan) We're Sorry: Former US soldiers on the personal cost of war in Iraq. Repost: A film by the BBC on returning Iraq war veterans in the USA, and how the vets were affected by the experience. This was posted on the blog the other day, but this is really worth watching, so I am reposting the link. POLITICS IN AMERICA AND BRITAIN A Man’s Word My husband, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, chose to no longer participate in war. He followed the Army regulations, filed a Conscientious Objector application, and acted honorably every step of the way. His unit commanders chose to punish him for not allowing them to control him with their threats, and my husband went to jail simply because his commanders had no integrity, no honor and no respect for the very constitution they had given a sworn oath to uphold. Sadly – the military administration has sided with my husband’s commanders to this point. At any time, any member of the military hierarchy could have stepped in and ordered the command to abide by the regulations. Instead, the military powers that be chose to turn a deaf ear to the truth and the facts, and allow the continued mistreatment of one of their own – a veteran who has served with distinction for ten years. The sworn testimony given verbatim in the Record of Trial from my husband’s court martial, clearly shows an incompetent command; a command that lied, mishandled their administration of my husband’s request, and fabricated evidence after the fact. It shows a command that had no knowledge of the regulations, no idea how to respond to my husband’s request and admittedly made no effort to learn. The company commander stated for the record that “Sgt. Benderman is just one soldier out of 191 that I command. I did not have time to worry about him.” He went on to admit that he “was not aware of the proper procedures for handling Sgt. Benderman’s request, but if he had been he would have taken steps to correct his actions.” US Deserter ‘Shocked by Abuses’ A US soldier who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Iraq says he was shocked by alleged atrocities committed by the American military. Josh Key was speaking before Canada's refugee board hearing his asylum plea. Among the incidents, he described soldiers kicking the severed head of an Iraqi like a football in Ramadi. Mr Key served as an explosives expert in Iraq for eight months, and deserted to Canada with his family in 2004. He faces a court martial back in the US. The soldier, 27, also told Canada's refugee board he saw a US army squad leader shooting the foot off an unarmed Iraqi man. The army's attitude in Iraq was "just shoot and ask questions later", Mr. Key said. Mr. Key says he refuses to fight in a war he regards as immoral and illegal. About 20 US soldiers have applied for asylum in Canada. Two have already had their applications rejected. The Immigration and Refugee Board said it was not convinced the men would face persecution if they were sent back to the US. They have said they will appeal against the decision. Speaking to the BBC, Mr Key said he was in Iraq when he realised the war was unjustified. Enough of the D.C. Dems Every Democrat I talk to is appalled at the sheer gutlessness and spinelessness of the Democratic performance. The party is still cringing at the thought of being called, ooh-ooh, “unpatriotic” by a bunch of rightwingers. Take “unpatriotic” and shove it. How dare they do this to our country? “Unpatriotic”? These people have ruined the American military! Not to mention the economy, the middle class, and our reputation in the world. Everything they touch turns to dirt, including Medicare prescription drugs and hurricane relief. This is not a time for a candidate who will offend no one; it is time for a candidate who takes clear stands and kicks ass. Who are these idiots talking about Warner of Virginia? Being anodyne is not sufficient qualification for being President. And if there’s nobody in Washington and we can’t find a Democratic governor, let’s run Bill Moyers, or Oprah, or some university president with ethics and charisma. What happens now is not up to the has-beens in Washington who run this party. It is up to us. So let’s get off our butts and start building a progressive movement that can block the nomination of Hillary Clinton or any other candidate who supposedly has “all the money sewed up.” Making the World Safe for Christianity The sad fact is that even under the despicable rule of Saddam Hussein, Christians were safer in Iraq than they are today. Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister was a practicing Christian. Today thousands of Christians have fled Iraq following our occupation, to countries like Jordan and Syria. Those Christians who have remained in Iraq fear for their lives every day. That should tell us something about the shortcomings of a policy that presumes to make the world safe for democracy. The Muslim world is not fooled by our talk about spreading democracy and values. The evidence is too overwhelming that we do not hesitate to support dictators and install puppet governments when it serves our interests. When democratic elections result in the elevation of a leader or party not to our liking, we do not hesitate for a minute to undermine that government. This hypocrisy is rarely recognized by the American people. It’s much more comfortable to believe in slogans, to believe that we’re defending our goodness and spreading true liberty. We accept this and believe strongly in the cause, strongly enough to sacrifice many of our sons and daughters, and stupendous amounts of money, to spread our ideals through force. Pointing out the lack of success is taboo. It seems of little concern to many members of Congress that we lack both the moral right and constitutional authority to impose our will on other nations. The toughest task is analyzing what we do from their perspective. We should try harder to place ourselves in the shoes of those who live in the Arab countries where our efforts currently are concentrated. We are outraged by a Muslim country that would even consider the death penalty for a Christian convert. But many Muslims see all that we do as a reflection of Western Christianity, which to them includes Europe and America. They see everything in terms of religion. When our bombs and sanctions kill hundreds of thousands of their citizens, they see it as an attack on their religion by Christians. To them our actions represent a crusade to change their culture and their political systems. They do not see us as having noble intentions. Cynicism and realism tell them we’re involved in the Middle East to secure the oil we need. Our occupation and influence in the holy lands of the Middle East will always be suspect. This includes all the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Naïvely believing otherwise will guarantee continuing hostilities in Iraq. Our meddling will remain an incitement for radicals to strike us here at home in future terrorist attacks. All the intelligence gathering in the world will serve little purpose if we don’t come to understand exactly why they hate us – despite the good intentions that many Americans hold dear. - Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas. Four Words That Spoke Volumes Ed Kinane, from Syracuse, and I stood before Milliken, charged with disrupting a Congressional Committee hearing the evening of March 8 when Ed silently held up a banner that read, "Stop the Killing," and I started reading the names of U.S. soldiers and Iraqis killed in the war. Capitol Police hustled us out and arrested us, but not before we interjected several moments of reality into the committee's discussion of $67,000,000,000 more for the war. In court we didn't contest our charges, but we winced when prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Ed, previously arrested at a School of the Americas protest, to six months in jail, suspended except for three days' probation, and an order barring him from the Capitol. With no federal record, prosecutors were content to ask for probation and a "stay away" order for me. I told Judge Milliken, "There are other, more recent images from my trips to Iraq that I cannot forget. Images of the kids I met on the streets of Baghdad, and the ones in Abu Hishma who shared their chicken and rice dinner with an American journalist two days after a cruise missile blew their orange grove to bits...Images of the young U.S. Army sergeant from West Virginia I accompanied on patrol one night near Balad, who answered my question, 'why are you in Iraq?' with a tired shrug saying, 'I really don't know.' And his partner, just as bone tired, who answered simply, 'oil.'" Did Bush Contemplate Violating International Law to provoke Iraq? And we already know that Bush knew he wouldn't find WMD in Iraq, either. But here's a new twist: "The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours," the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach." So, blogosphere-based experts and Google monkeys, what's the deal with this? Doesn't it strike you as likely that this would represent some sort of enormous and glaring violation of international law and/or the U.N. Charter? To bait another sovereign nation into war by deliberately violating its airspace, with military aircraft repainted in U.N. colors? Rice Visits England: Report in Pictures Rice: Don’t Take Iraq Errors ‘Literally’ One day after Condoleezza Rice said the United States made possibly "thousands" of tactical mistakes in the war against Iraq, the secretary of state says she was speaking "figuratively, not literally." About 300 protesters -- most of them upset about the war in Iraq -- and two dozen supporters greeted Rice outside the town hall in Blackburn, the home of her counterpart, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. The two faced reporters at midday after attending a multi-faith service at Blackburn Cathedral and meeting with the city's Muslim leaders. About 20 percent of Blackburn's population is Muslim. "I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them, I'm sure," she said. "But when you look back in history what will be judged on is" whether the "right strategic decision" was made. (I think she has that exactly backwards – it was the wrong, very wrong, strategic decision and the tactical errors were minor. – Susan) "I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them, I'm sure," she said. "But when you look back in history what will be judged on is" whether the "right strategic decision" was made. On Saturday, a reporter asked Rice to give examples of the mistakes. "First of all, I meant it figuratively, not literally. Let me let me be very clear about that. I wasn't sitting around counting," she replied. “The point I was making to the questioner ... is that, of course, if you've ever made decisions, you've undoubtedly made mistakes. Rice Gets an Earful from British Muslims Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice faced more protests and public embarrassment here on Saturday that have turned a trip meant to be a friendly follow-up to an American trip by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw into a two-day run through a raucous, mishap-ridden gantlet. She was heckled by protesters and faced criticism from Muslim leaders hand-selected to meet with her by the Foreign Office during a visit here, the hometown of Mr. Straw. He visited Ms. Rice's hometown in Alabama in October. About 250 protesters ringing Blackburn's City Hall shouted, "Shame on you," as the two arrived. Through the din, Ms. Rice looked off into the distance and spotted a handful of people, many holding shopping bags, who had stopped to gawk. She pointed them out to Mr. Snow, and the two of them waved enthusiastically. Later, Mr. Straw said that this gathering of "people who agree with the visit" was "at least as large as the protesters." In a news conference, Ms. Rice said she was "enjoying this visit very much." She described the meeting with the Muslim leaders as "immensely stimulating and interesting." Although the names of the 21 Muslim leaders had been made public, several of them requested that their names not be published or broadcast, for fear of repercussions. Five who agreed to be interviewed clearly feared they might be viewed as traitors. "We are here to represent the views of the thousands of protesters out there," said Kamrudden Kotha, the leader of a business federation. "We talked to them about the perceived double standard of American foreign policy. But I am not naive enough to think we will change American foreign policy." Blair Blasted by School Children Tony Blair was yesterday blasted over the Iraq war - by a group of children. The PM received an early warning when he walked into the Indonesian school and the pupils' band struck up John Lennon's peace anthem Imagine. One boy, Rezar Rizky Ramadam, 13, later challenged him: "Do you ever ask your best friend George W Bush to stop the war in Iraq? "I hear the UK always helps America to defeat Iraq, even though they know America is completely wrong." Another lad asked: "How would you feel if you were an Iraqi who had had relatives killed in the conflict?" Mr Blair looked uncomfortable faced by pupils' grilling and the 90C heat at the Islamic boarding school in capital Jakarta. On the issue of getting the US to stop the war, he said he would "never agree" with the pupils but admitted: "There is certainly a need for greater understanding." And on how he would feel were he a grieving Iraqi, he said: "I understand how angry you are, but understand why I feel it passionately the other way. "You have a view of America that is not the view I share." He called for a "bridge of understanding between the Muslim and Western world, so that even if we disagree we never distrust or hate each other". Indonesia, with 210million Muslims, is the world's largest Islamic state. And the Premier, in the country on the final leg of a week-long tour, was also taken to task over the faltering Middle-East process. Another pupil among the 100 boys and girls at the gathering asked: "Will you stop the war and violence against our sisters and brothers in Palestine and create lifelong peace, not just a temporary one?" The PM agreed: "There's no more important issue than to bring peace between Israel and Palestine." No Satisfaction Jill Carroll has more testosterone in her little finger than all these bedwetters put together. I'm sorry that she has not given the 101st one-handed keyboarders the picture of blood and horror they need to get satisfaction from their safe little offices, but I think it's highly unlikely these bedwetters would have handled themselves with such fortitude in those circumstances. They are after all, the same brave soldiers who believe the shoe bomber is a greater threat to the nation than having thousands of ICBM's pointed at every major American city. IRAQI POLITICS Iraq Shi’ites Call For Jaafari to Step Down “I call on Jaafari to take a courageous step and set a fine example by stepping down," Kasim Daoud, a senior member of the independent group within the Alliance, told Reuters. Other senior Alliance officials, speaking anonymously, confirmed that four of seven main groups within the bloc wanted Jaafari to give up the nomination for a second term if, as is all but certain, he fails to persuade minority Sunni and Kurdish parties to drop their refusal to serve in a cabinet under him. "There is a broad trend inside the Alliance who want Jaafari to do this (step aside) and we expect him to do so," Daoud said. "We have stood behind him for 50 days and today we have reached the conclusion that there should be a prime minister for all Iraqis, not just one group," he added. "Daoud's call is supported by at least 60 percent of Alliance members of parliament," another senior Alliance official from another group within the bloc told Reuters. Iraqis Rally Support for Jaafari People rally in Baghdad in support of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Nearly one thousand people marched through the streets of the predominantly Shi'ite neighbourhood of Kadhimiya on Saturday (April 1) to show support for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. The protest came in response to a public call for the first time by leaders of Iraq's ruling Shi'ite Alliance bloc for Jaafari to step down as prime minister to break weeks of deadlock over a national unity government. The protesters, mainly supporters of the radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched through the street chanting slogans in support of Jaafari. Sadr's support enabled al-Jaafari to win the nomination by a single vote in a Feb. 12 caucus of Shiites who won election to the new parliament December 15. The protesters carried two black coffins representing democracy and election. Religious Leaders Support Resistance to Foreign Troops in Iraq Two years after U.S. authorities ceremoniously declared Iraq to be sovereign again, top religious leaders say Iraqis still don't govern themselves, remain under military occupation and have a right to fight foreign troops. Their statements, made at the conclusion of a peace conference in London on Tuesday, provided a stamp of approval from Iraq's most influential Sunni and Shiite Muslim clerics for their countrymen to step up attacks aimed at hastening the withdrawal of U.S., British and other troops. Two Christian archbishops and ethnic Kurdish leaders, whose community has previously supported the foreign military presence, joined Jordan's Prince Hassan bin Talal in endorsing a communique underscoring the ''legitimate right'' of Iraqis to resist what they called the occupation. A Defense Department spokesman, Air Force Maj. Todd Vician, praised the religious leaders for holding their dialogue in London because ''when they're talking, they're not fighting.'' But he said it is important for them to understand ''that the violence is brought about by the terrorists who try to attack Iraqi security forces, civilians and coalition forces as well.'' The U.S. and British governments say that their forces are in Iraq at the request of the government to assist in security operations. An expert in the law of armed conflict concurred, saying that because foreign forces are in Iraq with approval of the U.N. Security Council, they are not legally occupation forces regardless of how Iraqi religious leaders might define them. The clerics were adamant in their interpretation of Iraqis' rights to resist. Their call comes at a time when Shiite militants, like their Sunni counterparts, have engaged in armed confrontations with troops of the U.S.-led coalition, including a raid on a Shiite mosque Sunday in which at least 17 Iraqis were killed. ''The occupation is something that everybody is calling for an end to,'' added Sayyid Salih al-Haydary, outgoing minister of Shiite religious affairs. US Ambassador Reportedly Shunned by Iraq Leaders The al-Sistani aide said Shiite displeasure with U.S. involvement was so deep that dignitaries in the holy city of Najaf refused to meet Khalilzad on Wednesday during ceremonies commemorating the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The Afghan-born Khalilzad is a Sunni Muslim. Elizabeth Colton, the U.S. Embassy spokeswoman, said Khalilzad had not sought any meetings and simply flew over Najaf and the nearby holy city of Karbala to witness the big processions of Shiite faithful marking the day. "The ambassador did a fly over to see people on the streets of Karabala and Najaf. The ambassador did not ask to see anyone and did not go into either city," Colton told AP. The United States is believed to oppose al-Jaafari because of his close ties and strong backing from radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Leading Contenders for Iraq PM Post Ibrahim Al Jaafari’s chances of remaining Iraq’s prime minister suffered a serious setback on Saturday when leading officials within his own bloc called on him to step aside to end deadlock on forming a unity government. The Shia Alliance, as the biggest bloc in parliament, has the right to nominate the prime minister. If Jaafari were to give up the nomination he won in an internal ballot in February, it is unclear how the Alliance would choose a new candidate. Here is a short list of possible contenders for the post. ADEL ABDUL MAHDI - One of Iraq’s two vice presidents, HUSSAIN AL SHAHRISTANI - A senior independent member of the Alliance, NADIM AL JABERI - Leader of the Fadhila party, KASIM DAOUD - An independent politician, and ALI ALLAWI - Finance Minister and an independent member of the Alliance. MORE MEDIA ISSUES Reporters in Iraq Work Around the Limits of Safety Measures ''I think the notion that we cannot report at all has gotten overblown," said Jonathan Finer, a Baghdad reporter for The Washington Post. ''We are not housebound. We just have to be careful and discreet and take calculated risks, not stupid ones." With few exceptions, once the danger level spiked a year ago, most smaller Western news organizations closed their bureaus. Most freelancers stopped working independently in the country. Those who remain live outside the Green Zone in guarded hotels or compounds. Larry Kaplow, the Cox Newspapers bureau chief in Baghdad, has spent one of the longest continuous reporting stints in Iraq; he moved to Baghdad in March 2003, before the US invasion that month, and has been based there since. He said that even the little remaining freedom reporters enjoyed vanished after the recent spate of kidnappings of foreigners in the last few months, including that of Carroll and two Iraqi TV reporters. ''Many areas of western Baghdad fell off-limits," Kaplow said. ''It cuts us off from a lot of the city. Also, we can't be exposed in public, like in a restaurant or on the street, for a long time." He has watched working conditions tighten since 2003, when reporters drove relatively freely all over the country chronicling daily life, political upheaval, and a level of violence that in hindsight seems tame. Now bombings take place daily and foreign journalists almost never drive outside the city because the highways are too dangerous. Australian Web Site Forced to Shut Down One week before the third anniversary of the criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Australian government forced the closure of a satirical web site that powerfully exposed several key lies told by Prime Minister John Howard to justify participation in the US-led war. The web site consisted of an “apology speech” from Howard in which the prime minister announces that he is reversing his support for the invasion of Iraq. It cites several Howard speeches, including an address to the Institute of Public Affairs in May 2004 when he claimed that hospitals, electricity, water, sewerage and other basic services were being restored to ordinary Iraqis. In the “speech”, the prime minister claims that he is now “a troubled citizen” and that all US-led forces should withdraw as soon as possible so that the Iraqi people can “regain control of their future”. Although the site remains blocked, the speech is now available as a pdf at “John Howard’s apology: reflections of the situation in Iraq”. Ignorance by Content and Omission As a nation and as a people we have come to where we are as a direct result of the information we receive through the commercial media. In terms of democracy creation the news is useless if its intent is to inform and to educate. It is effective if its intent is to purvey propaganda and to deceive the masses. So many well intentioned people fall in line behind the president because they fail to understand his policies. They lack historical perspective. Having the ability to understand current events from an historical perspective brings them into clear focus. Certain unmistakable patterns emerge to explain things. No thinking person should take any government at its word, especially this one. Governments lie in part because they represent special interest groups rather than the ordinary citizens that comprise the great majority. Most governments fear and loath its citizens because they are clandestinely betraying them. The less transparent the government, the more it has to hide. Lying is the only recourse that undemocratic governments have to make the citizens support and implement their hidden agendas. This explains why the Bush cabal is incapable of speaking truth. It also explains why it is the least transparent government ever to occupy the oval office, bar none. The Bush cabal and its enablers in Congress are thus forced to call into service noble sounding euphemisms to hide the selfish motives behind their policies. Who but a fool or a madman would volunteer to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people for the sake of increasing the already obscene profits of defense contractors and oil companies? It is precisely because the agenda of those in power conflicts with the interest of the people that governments lie and distort. Those who carry out the agenda of Plutocratic Empire must be made to believe that they are serving noble purposes rather than feeding the insatiable hunger of corporate greed. They must be convinced to betray their own class by acting against its best interest. It would be impossible to accomplish such a monumental task of behavior modification without the aid of the commercial media. Know that the consumption of commercial media content, whether news or entertainment (they are really one and the same these days), is hazardous to your health. Owned by only five major corporations the world over, the content is sweet to the taste but devoid of nutriment. It consists of addictive substances and empty calories—the kind that leads to mental and spiritual obesity typified by an array of serious health problems that may result in permanent blindness. The sole beneficiaries of this content are the corporations who manufacture and sell them and their servants in government. As always, the consumers are the victims. The effects of this pervasive propaganda are visible all around us. We see it in the flag-draped coffins that arrive home every week from Iraq. We see it in the faces of the Iraqi children whose families were decimated by those whose sole concern is privatized wealth. We witness it in our dilapidated schools and national infrastructure. It is visible in the elderly without health care, the millions of nameless poor that are forced to live in abject poverty so that Bush could execute his war. The flies are buzzing around the dung heap. This is nothing new. People have always been deceived by their governments, regardless of which party is in power. You see, the underlying cause is capitalism and privatized wealth. So be careful about what you admit into your mind. It may be hazardous to your health. COMMENTARY US Illegality in 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. Silence of the Dead, Voices of the Living: A Witness to End the War in Iraq Three Years After President Declares "End of Major Combat," Military Families and Veterans Unite to Remember Lives Lost in Ongoing Iraq War Hundreds Gather on Washington's National Mall over Mother's Day Weekend to Honor and Mourn Thousands of Iraq War Casualties. Three years after President Bush first declared the “end of major combat operations in Iraq” thousands continue to die. To urge Congress to halt the mounting death toll, organizations representing military families, veterans, Iraq war survivors and peace activists unite for Silence of the Dead, Voices of the Living, a march and procession on Saturday, May 13, at 11:30 a.m., on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It’s designed to send a message to Congress: “Bring our troops home now.” Iraq war veterans, survivors of previous wars, Iraqis and military families who lost loved ones will form a silent procession -- solemnly marching to mourn the lives lost. After the march, they will share personal stories and reflections on the tragic human cost of the Iraq war. Silence of the Dead, Voices of the Living takes place under the backdrop of the American Friends Service Committee’s widely acclaimed traveling exhibition: Eyes Wide Open: The Human Cost of War, which will be on display at the National Mall, May 11 -- 14. Eyes Wide Open features a pair of combat boots for each U.S. military casualty in the Iraq war. The exhibit provides an engaging environment where visitors may pay respect to all lives lost in Iraq, reflect on their feelings about our involvement there, and take measure of the meaning of sacrifice. Everyone is invited. A special tribute designed to commemorate the estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians who have died reminds us of the story not often told -- the effects of war on the men, women and children of Iraq. The names of Iraqi civilians and U.S. service personnel killed in the war will be read daily. Don’t Politicize Our Soldiers I was a soldier in 1969, and I witnessed misguided students and adults attacking individual soldiers because of their disgust with national policy. In the '60s the purveyors of hate on the left were mostly resident on campus and could not differentiate between those responsible for policy and deception regarding the war in Vietnam and the young, honorable men and women who served in the military. The vandals who struck the Petithory family were confused. Oil, Christian crusades and Bush were not issues during the fight in Afghanistan. We had consensus. Both sides of the aisle in Congress and the entire nation agreed that al-Qaeda had to be kept from continuing its attacks. (I think all Americans agreed that we had to try to stop al-Qaeda attacks, but we did not have consensus on starting a war in Afghanistan. I, for one, did not agree. – Susan) Sadly, the vandals' actions are illustrative of how we have squandered our opportunity to face terrorism with unified and coherent action. (I would say the ignoring of the anti-war crowd’s voices also “squandered our opportunity to face terrorism with united and coherent action”. – Susan) The right's neocons orchestrated a war with Iraq that has destroyed national consensus and they are culpable for politicizing the individual soldier by repeatedly sending the message that to criticize policy equates attacking the soldier -- an allegation that is simply not true. Meanwhile, some on the left are returning to mindless violence. (And some on the right never abandoned mindless violence. – Susan) So here I stand, waiting for my daughter to return from her voluntary tour in the Middle East with the U.S. Coast Guard, wondering if some cretin will spit on her. (I do hope we can act better than that. I also hope that false accusations are not made about the anti-war citizens. – Susan) I pray that soon our leaders on the left, right and center will find a way forward, build a new consensus and reverse our growing polarization. OPINION: Attempting to Redefine Reality Won't Fix Iraq The Pentagon has once again investigated itself ! And -- have a seat, get the smelling salts, hold all hats -- the Pentagon has once again concluded the Pentagon did absolutely nothing wrong. In this particularly fascinating case, the Pentagon investigated its own habit of paying people to make up lies about how well the war in Iraq is going, and then paying other people to put those lies in the Iraqi media, thus fooling the Iraqis into thinking everything in their country is ticketyboo. Well, if we can't fool them, whom can we fool? The case revolves around a contract worth several million dollars given by the U.S. military command in Baghdad to the Lincoln Group, a public relations outfit started by two young entrepreneurs, one British, one American, in 2003 in Iraq. Articles were written by American military personnel from the American point of view about the war, to wit, it's going well. Lincoln Group in turn paid Iraqi journalists, some "on retainer," to print the articles without revealing the source. Amusingly enough, through other programs, the U.S. government is also spending money trying to teach Iraqis about the importance of a free press in a democracy. According to the Pentagon's investigation of itself, none of the Lincoln Group's actions violate military policies because the Pentagon is just trying to counter the vast amount of anti-American propaganda carried in Middle Eastern papers. Despite the huge international outcry over torture, so far the heavy-hitters in the plot receiving real red, white and blue justice are Lynndie England, a 5-foot-tall, 23-year-old woman with learning disabilities and other non-commissioned officers. They were clearly the mastermind behind the entire international stink fest, from Gitmo to Afghanistan. Better Off Under Saddam Saddam Hussein is bad man. As a 22 year old he worked with the CIA on a botched effort to assassinate Iraqi President Abd al-Karim Qasim. The CIA and Egyptian intelligence got him out of Iraq and to Lebanon, where the CIA paid for his Beirut apartment, and then to Cairo. In 1963, under the new government headed by President 'Abd as-Salam 'Arif, he was placed in charge of the interrogation, torture and execution of communists whose names the CIA happily provided the new regime. He rose in the Baathist party ranks, and although jailed between 1964 and 1966, grabbed power in 1979. The Reagan administration cozied up to him after he attacked Iran; Rumsfeld met with him twice and provided his regime with invaluable intelligence abetting his aggressive war on Iran in the '80s, which took a million lives. A bad man and bad regime. The propaganda of the occupiers requires that we believe things have improved since his fall. But the evidence suggests otherwise. People in general were better off under bad Saddam, one-time U.S. ally. According to John Pace, former director of the human rights office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, "Under Saddam, if you agreed to forgo your basic right to freedom of expression and thought, you were physically more or less OK. But now, no. Here, you have a primitive, chaotic situation where anybody can do anything they want to anyone." Under Saddam the scale of abuse was "daunting," but now, "It extends over a much wider section of the population than it did under Saddam." I doubt it was the intention of the Bush administration, once it decided to conquer Iraq and humiliate its former ally, to empower the religious fundamentalists who've launched their reign of terror on all these communities. But the administration does include some extreme Islamophobes who may delight in the general chaos they've inflicted on a mostly Muslim society, and who may see in the worsening situation a launch pad for more chaos in Iran. All this Islamic badness in Iraq, they'll say, is encouraged by next door Iran. Things will only improve, "democracy" will only prevail, when Iran too enjoys a violent encounter with American goodness. As the bloody "creative chaos" they've unleashed in Iraq and Afghanistan spreads, they'll depict it as the necessary cure for religious fanaticism---the very fundamentalist fanaticism which secular Baathism was designed from its inception to prevent, but which in its fundamentalist Christian variety (as manipulated by secularist neocons) helps drive Bush's apocalyptic provocation of the Islamic world. 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: The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule. –H.L. Mencken


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?