Saturday, April 22, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SATURDAY, APRIL 22, 2006 Photo: Supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr march through the streets of Basra saying that they would protect Sunni people in Basra and that they don't want the Sunni people to leave Friday April 21, 2006 in Basra, Iraq's second largest city 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq. Rising sectarian violence has caused many Iraqis, both Sunni and Shiite to flee their homes.(AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani) Bring ‘em on: US Marine killed in western Anbar province on Thursday. (Camp Fallujah) Bring ‘em on: US army base in Al Diwaniya comes under rocket attack. No casualties reported. Bring ‘em on: US and Iraqi forces fight Ramadi insurgents. Four insurgents reported killed and two Iraqi soldiers injured. Bring ‘em on: Four US soldiers killed south of Baghdad by a roadside bomb. Bring 'em on: Another US soldier reported killed in Iraq. Australian soldier dies from gunshot wound to the head, and the officials say the incident was not related to combat. Security Incident: Six Iraqi police killed by remote-detonated car bomb in Tal Afar. Eleven officers wounded. Security Incident: Body of beheaded Briton buried near Fallujah, per report by suspected al Qaida militant. Security Incidents: Roadside bomb northeast of Baghdad killed three Iraqis and injured 22 others. US troops raided a house in the Ramadi district killing an Iraqi man and his four sons. Security commander General Salam al-Maamouri survived an attempt on his life by a roadside bomb. Security Incidents: MUQDADIYA - A fireman and a civilian were killed and 15 people wounded when two roadside bombs exploded inside a market in al-Muqdadiya town 90 km (50 miles) north east of Baghdad, police said. BAGHDAD - Police found 11 bodies in different parts of Baghdad, police said. BAGHDAD - Three policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb struck their patrol in western Baghdad, police said. HAWIJA - A municipal employee and a civilian were killed by gunmen in the town of Hawija about 60 km (40 miles) southwest of the northern city of Kirkuk, police said. MAHAWEEL - Two policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a government office in Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. Security Incidents: Body found floating in the Tigris River in Kut. On Friday, at least 22 Iraqis were killed, including six in a car bombing in Tal Afar. Six off-duty Iraqi soldiers killed in Beiji on Friday. Security Incidents: Bombings in northern Iraq market kills two and wounds 17 more. In eastern Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi police patrol, wounding two policemen. Security Incidents: Baghdad In Baghdad's northern district of Azamiyah, unidentified gunmen shot up a police patrol, killing one officer. In Baghdad...Gunmen killed a civilian riding in a car POLITICS Top Shi’ites In Iraq Nominate New Premier: Al-Maliki Opposed Hussein and the US Led Invasion Jawad al-Maliki, an experienced political operator and advocate for Iraq's Shiite Muslims, won the approval of his coalition's leaders for the post of prime minister on Friday, a day after the alliance's original nominee bowed out under political pressure. [I guessed wrong! But I was close – Susan] Maliki, a senior member of the coalition of Shiite parties that holds the most seats in Iraq's parliament, is now on a course to lead Iraq's first long-term government since the fall of Saddam Hussein. If ultimately chosen, the 55-year-old former exile will inherit grave challenges, among them an economy in tatters, an insurgent movement sworn to destroying Iraq's democracy, and ethnic and sectarian tensions that threaten to tear the country apart. [and the presence of American troops and overwhelming American influence in their country – Susan] Leaders of the Shiite coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, said on Friday night that Maliki's nomination by the alliance's political committee would be put to the coalition's full membership on Saturday morning for a vote. If accepted there, his name would then be formally presented to Iraq's parliament, along with a list of nominees for other top posts, later that afternoon. But events hardly ever proceed so smoothly in the Iraqi political process, which has been held up for months by a debate over who would be prime minister. Incumbent Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari gave in to heavy pressure Thursday and surrendered his hard-won nomination for the post. Jafari's withdrawal appears to have had the effect of removing the main obstacle to forming the government that will rule Iraq for the next four years. [oh, if only….. – Susan] On Friday night, leaders of the Shiite alliance said that they had reached an understanding with leaders of rival Sunni Arab and Kurdish political blocs over who would hold the top posts in the government and believed they had gained their support for Maliki. More information on this candidate on Juan Cole’s blog. Iraq’s Parliament Re-elects President Talabani Iraq’s parliament elected incumbent President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, for a second term on Saturday as politicians began putting together a national unity government after four months of deadlock. Talabani, who has spent most of his life fighting for the cause of the Kurds in northern Iraq, is the first non-Arab president of an Arab country. Iraq Women Lawmakers Demand Key Posts Women members of the Iraqi parliament demanded on Saturday that they be given key posts in the legislature or government, accusing male MPs of “marginalising women.” “We refuse to be marginalised. We think that women, whichever party they may be from are capable of taking posts in parliament,” said Mayssoun Damlouji an MP from the secularist Iraqi National List of former premier Iyad Allawi. “We demand from these leaders that women be given berths in the government as well as some of the key parliament posts.” She said despite women holding 70 seats in the 275-member parliament, none of the nine top posts -- three on the presidency, three in the government and three in the assembly -- were being offered to women. Iraqi MPs were to meet later Saturday to agree the sharing out of some of the nine positions. Iraqi Lawmakers Meet to Choose New Leaders After months of political deadlock, Iraq's parliament convened Saturday to select top leadership posts, launching the process of putting together a new government aimed at pulling the country out of its sectarian strife. Before the session, Shiite lawmaker Ridha Jawad Taqi said all sides were agreed on a package deal for the top spots: Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, would remain as president for a second term, with Sunni Arab Tariq al-Hashimi and Shiite Adil Abdul-Mahdi holding the two vice-president spots. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, would become parliament speaker with two deputies - Khalid al-Attiyah, a Shiite, and Aref Tayfour, a Kurd. (….) The new prime minister nominee will now face the task of putting together a national unity government, meaning divvying up the ministries among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties. One source of conflict is likely to be the powerful Interior Ministry, which currently held by SCIRI. Sunnis will probably push for a change and demand the uprooting of Shiite militias from the ministry's security forces. Once the president is approved by parliament, he will designate al-Maliki to form a government within 30 days. Lawmakers must then approve each member of the government by a majority vote. US Interferes Yet Again [My title – Susan] The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, a driving force in pressing politicians to break a deadlock over a new government, urged Prime Minister-designate Jawad al-Maliki to choose strong, competent ministers who can unite the nation. Speaking soon after President Jalal Talabani asked Maliki to form a government of national unity, Zalmay Khalilzad said the move was critical to ending the bloodshed gripping the country and allowing U.S. troops to go home. "We believe it's important that the ministers that are selected Â… are competent ministers who are unifiers and who are strong people who can attract the trust of the Iraqi people," he told a news conference. "I have discussed this issue with the Iraqi leaders," he added, saying he met Maliki on Friday -- when his nomination by the leading Shi'ite bloc was announced -- and again on Saturday. "With the formation of a national unity government, with a good programme and with competent ministers, Iraq will be put on the right trajectory and over time the security environment will improve." Iraq’s Maliki Says Militias Must Join Armed Forces Iraq's Prime Minister- designate Jawad al-Maliki said on Saturday the country's militias must merge with the U.S.-trained armed forces, despite calls from the United States to disarm them. "Arms should be in the hands of the government. There is a law that calls for the merging of militias with the armed forces," Maliki said in his first policy speech after he was asked by President Jalal Talabani to head Iraq's new government. Iraq's interim government has promised several times it will disband Iraq's powerful sectarian militias but has never delivered. Militias are tied to political parties so disbanding them would be highly sensitive. Iraq's Sunni Arab minority has accused the Shi'ite government of condoning anti-Sunni death squads responsible for the killing of hundreds of Sunnis in purges around Baghdad. Shi'ite officials strongly deny this. Several militia groups, drawn along ethnic and religious lines, operate in Iraq, and U.S ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has said they are killing more people than insurgents. Tit-for-tat sectarian killings since the February bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra has pushed Iraq toward the brink of civil war. REPORTS Iraq’s Finest: Good Guys or Bad Iraq's most covert counter-terrorism force is known as ICTF. These soldiers are the closest thing Iraq has to U.S. Delta Forces, according to the American Navy Seals and Green Berets who fight alongside them. "They're gonna tell you there's nobody as good as them, and that's exactly the way they oughta be," says a U.S. Green Beret commander. The ICTF troops keep their faces hidden. Many don't even tell their families what they do — and with good reason: Three members of this elite unit recently were kidnapped and murdered. Their tortured bodies were returned with their eyes gouged out — a message from their enemies. But one Iraqi sergeant had a message of his own. "Let the whole world know that we don't fear any kind of danger," he says. "All these soldiers joined this unit for one purpose — to love and serve their country." But in the murky world of politics and propaganda that is Iraq today, some are casting them as villains rather than patriots. Pictures and claims that the ICTF slaughtered innocent worshippers during prayer were broadcast on Iraqi television within 22 minutes of the soldiers returning from a recent raid. The soldiers insist the raid was no slaughter — rather, they say, the dead men engaged them in a massive firefight and were part of a kidnapping cell responsible for murdering dozens of Iraqis, including their three comrades. Unlike the regular Iraqi Army, the ICTF has its their own American-made Humvees, armed with machine guns. They are full partners with their American counterparts. Navy Seals and Green Berets are being driven by Iraqi drivers and protected by Iraqi gunners — a sign of the Americans' confidence in them. One unit has done more than 700 missions, and on this night, they capture the man they're after. But the unified Iraq these soldiers would like to represent still doesn't exist. And none of them would say which side they would fight for if it comes to civil war. Iraq Court Finds Man Guilty of UN Bombing An Iraqi court has tried and sentenced to death a man allegedly linked to Al Qaeda who confessed to the 2003 truck-bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, a senior U.N. official said on Friday. The attack killed 22 people, including U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian who headed the U.N. office in Iraq at the time. "They have condemned and sentenced to death the person that was held responsible for the bombing on 19 August 2003 which saw Sergio Vieira de Mello and other colleagues from the U.N. killed," Gianni Magazzeni, head of the U.N. human rights office in Baghdad, told a briefing in Geneva. "That individual, who is allegedly a member of the Al Qaeda network from Mosul, an Iraqi national, is now appealing that death sentence," he added. The man's name was not immediately available. Magazzeni said the president of the Iraqi central criminal court had informed him of the ruling. "Apparently the man has confessed. He is going through the appeals process which is 30 days and is coming to an end soon," Magazzeni told Reuters. "He apparently said he had been paid to organise the bombing," he added. The U.S. military said in December that Iraq had issued an arrest warrant for Mullah Halgurd al-Khabir, naming him as the prime suspect for the attack. It was not clear whether Khabir was ever arrested and is the same man put on trial and condemned. At the time, the warrant said he was the senior leader in Baghdad of the Army of Ansar al-Sunna-- one of the main Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. It also said Khabir had historical ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq. [I have grave suspicions when the only evidence cited is ‘he confessed’. I hope they have more to go on than that. I also have huge doubts about al Zarqawi and his role in Iraq. – Susan] Iraqi Driven From Homes to Desperation by Militias About 90 Shi'ite families have fled their homes for a small makeshift camp in Baghdad's Akhademiya neighborhood during the past two months, part of an exodus of tens of thousands from mixed Sunni-Shi'ite areas where tit-for-tat executions have become part of daily life. They include Ahmed Kathum Khalas, a driver who worked in the Beiji refinery 125 miles north of Baghdad, who fled Saturday with his wife and three small children with little more than the clothes they were wearing. They found their house burned when returning from an outing with a chilling threat spray painted in white on the building's charred walls: "Leave or we will burn you too." Mr. Khalas, 31, and his family turned away that moment and headed to Baghdad, to his parents' home. But his parents, his three married brothers and their families were already living in a space of about 1,000 square feet. There was not enough room for another five persons, he said, speaking in one of a series of interviews yesterday at the camp by a local reporter. "The first night was the worst night of my life, it was embarrassing. I lost my honor, because you are living where everyone can see you and your wife," said Mr. Khalas. He said he spent all his time trying to protect his wife from being seen when she was changing, and standing guard outside the camp's one bathroom when she needed to use it. (….)Based on six individuals per family, the ministry estimated that by April 12, nearly 66,000 people were out of their homes, in need of mattresses, food, blankets, hygiene kits and short-term employment. The Iraqi Red Crescent estimates that 80,000 people have fled their homes for makeshift camps. US Military Wary of Ethnic Strife in Kirkuk U.S. forces, wary of ethnic tensions in Iraq's northern oil-rich city Kirkuk, have received reports of a small influx of Shi'ite Muslims there and a widening presence of Shi'ite militias, a U.S. commander said on Friday. Army Col. David Gray, a brigade commander in the 101st Airborne Division stationed in the area, noted that the area, which boasts roughly 40 percent of Iraq's oil and 70 percent of its natural gas, is home to rival ethnic groups eager to control Kirkuk in the future. "Although large-scale sensational attacks are rare in Kirkuk, make no mistake, this area is still threatened by an insurgency and ethnic frictions," Gray told reporters at the Pentagon in a teleconference from Iraq. Kirkuk, 155 miles north of Baghdad, is claimed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. Under Saddam Hussein's rule, Kurds by the thousands were driven out and replaced by Arabs, part of his efforts to ensure he controlled the region. Iraqi Kurds now want Kurds who were driven out of the city to be allowed back, and for Kirkuk to be included in the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Iraq. But many Arabs and Turkmen are bitterly opposed and assert a historical claim to the city. Gray said the U.S. military has received reports of an increase in Shi'ite Muslims moving into the area, although he said it appeared not to be "huge numbers," perhaps in the hundreds. "I believe that, again, this is all a part of the game to figure out who is going to control Kirkuk ultimately in the future," Gray said. 2005 Worldwide Terror Attacks Exceeded 10,000 Terror attacks and kidnappings worldwide exceeded 10,000 for the first time last year, propelled in part by a surge in Iraq, according to government figures to be released soon. Officials cautioned against reading too much into the overall total. The government last year adopted a new definition of terrorism and changed its system of counting global attacks, devoting more energy to finding reports of violence against civilians. Yet the numbers are a striking reminder that violence around the globe has dramatically increased in the more than four years of the war on terror. (….) Federal officials attributed the increase in the tally to three factors: The increase in terror incidents in Iraq as the insurgency tried to disrupt elections and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other Sunni Muslim fighters attacked Iraqi Shiites. More resources devoted to finding attacks documented by non-governmental organizations, the news media, Web sites and other sources. In 2004, about 10 people at the counterterrorism center spent two months tallying the attacks. Last year, about 15 people spent roughly nine months on the work. That meant the center’s analysts were able to do a more robust job of counting thousands of people kidnapped in Nepal, for instance. A new, broader definition of terrorism adopted last year, before the release of the 2004 numbers, included all “premeditated violence directed against noncombatants for political purposes.” The previous definition focused on international terrorism and required that the terrorists victimize at least one citizen of another country. This definition would exclude from the count much of the sectarian violence in Iraq. Also, only attacks resulting in more than $10,000 damage or serious injuries were counted. [But do they count bombs dropped by state entities for political purposes, or bullets shot at foreigners for political purposes, or invasions of other countries, as terrorism? Or is their definition limited to non-state actors? Of course, it is obvious that the bombing and invasion and occupation of Iraq by US and British forces was totally done for political purposes, and just like the ones who are non-state actors committing terrorism, they do have no concern for civilian casualties. If they did, they would count them and honor them and compensate them and make efforts not to further harm them. – Susan] UN Exec Decries Illegal Iraq Detainees Some 15,000 detainees are being held in Iraq by government ministries in violation of Iraqi law, and nearly as many are being held by U.S.-led multinational forces, a senior U.N. official said Friday. Only the country's justice ministry is permitted to hold detainees for longer than 72 hours, but Gianni Magazzeni, head of the U.N. Human Rights Office in Baghdad, said most Iraqi-held detainees are under the control of other government officials, naming Iraq's interior and defense ministries in particular. ``Those are still in the thousands and would be not in a situation which is in line with Iraqi law,'' he said at the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva. Magazzeni, who took over the post in mid-February, was visiting Geneva and said he was on his way back to Baghdad. It was unclear where Magazzeni obtained his figures for detainees held by the Iraqi government. He said the 14,222 detainees being held by multinational forces in Iraq at the end of February for ``imperative reasons of security'' also is ``way too high.'' ``We're working very closely with them (the U.S.-led multinational forces) to try to see that number brought down in a very substantive way.'' The United States said in February it was holding nearly 14,390 detainees at four major prisons including Abu Ghraib. The figure did not include people picked up and held at local jails for investigation. Magazzeni said those detainees should be brought before an Iraqi judge and be found guilty or be released if they are innocent, Magazzeni said. He also said cases of torture and summary execution ``are happening every day.'' He said his office also was receiving reports of an increasing number of attacks by death squads and militias, which have at least the appearance of being police or official units. The Pornography of War Disturbing report on what some Iraqis have on their video cell phones. WAR SPREADS Iran Shells Iranian Kurdish Positions in Iraq – PUK Iranian forces shelled Iranian Kurdish rebel positions inside mountainous northern Iraq on Friday to repel an attack, wounding at least four civilians, Iraqi Kurdish officials said. "This morning Iranian Kurdish fighters infiltrated the border into the Iranian side and the Iranian army bombed the area and repelled them. The shelling hit Iraqi land at Sidakan," said Saadi Pira, an official in Iraq's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party. The governor of the Arbil region, Nawzad Hadi, said four civilians had been wounded in the shelling of the rebels of the Iranian Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). Sidakan is about 80 km (50 miles) north of the Iraqi city of Arbil and about 10 km (6 miles) from the Iranian border. The pro-PKK Firat Web site and a rebel spokesman said six Iranian soldiers and five Kurdish guerrillas had been killed. It was not possible to independently confirm that claim. The incident could fuel tensions in Iraq, where Sunni Arab leaders accuse Shi'ite Iran of meddling in the country's internal affairs. Turkey Strengthens Forces Against Kurds Turkey has sent thousands of soldiers backed by tanks to its overwhelmingly Kurdish southeast and the Iraqi border following stepped-up attacks by Turkish Kurdish guerrillas, officials and reports said Friday. Fighting between soldiers and the guerrillas, who are based in northern Iraq, often intensifies in the spring, when the snows melt, clearing mountain passes along the border. Turkey already has some 2,000 soldiers, backed by tanks in northern Iraq to guard against cross border attacks. But a military officer and an intelligence officer said that force was not being increased and Turkey was not considering any incursion into the neighboring country. The Aksam newspaper reported Friday that Turkey has moved some 10,000 soldiers to the border regions, increasing its troop strength to some 50,000. The officers, both speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, confirmed the deployment but would not say how many troops were involved. In the past few months, some 40 rebels, 14 soldiers and four police officers have been killed in clashes in southeastern Turkey. COMMENTARY IRAQI OPINION: Are US and Iraqi Forces Considering Retaking Baghdad? Media reports say that the new government’s top priority Will be to launch a massive attack for yet another ‘liberation’ of Baghdad. In this large-scale military operation, U.S. occupation troops and Iraqi forces will take part. The ultimate aim will be to comb Baghdad, home to more than 6 million people, house after house, street after street and quarter after quarter. The new government has yet to be formed but reports say both London and Washington are keen to see it born as quickly as possible. The U.S. and the U.K. are looking for a face-saving formula to leave Iraq and would like to use the nascent Iraqi forces as a spearhead in their decisive move on Baghdad. Once the ‘terrorists’ are rooted out, reconstruction legions will move in to repair and upgrade public utilities such water and electricity. The Pentagon is reported to be enthusiastic about the idea. U.S. military planners believe that Baghdad is in need of a ‘second liberation’ for the return of normalcy. This new ‘liberation’ comes in the heels of the first U.S.-led ‘liberation’ of April 2003 whose results are well know to Iraqis and the Pentagon itself knows the benefits it reaped from it and its beneficiaries. We have precedents of such military attacks in the past three years in which cities and towns were torched under the pretext of flushing out ‘terrorists.’ But evidence also points that the torching of these cities has not moved us one inch further on the path of peace. Thus, our much-awaited for government will try to heal our wounds and extinguish our fires but by only by pouring more fuel on them. From an email I received from an Iraqi-American: I have expressed a number of times over the months and years my conviction that the whole Zarqawi thing is mainly a US propaganda construct. I based that on both evidence, and lack thereof. This Washington Post article confirms my conviction. There is no doubt in my mind that the magical, mysterious Zarqawi is - or at least was at one time - a real person who spend a small bit of time with Al Qa`eda in Afghanistan, who did not have a good relationship with bin Laden, who was responsible for a few small-time "terrorist" actions, mainly in Jordan, who may or may not have been present in Iraq post-invasion, and who may or may not have been killed in Kurdistan in the early weeks of the US invasion. The fact that there is not one single reported actual siting of him in Iraq by anyone whatsoever should make one deeply suspicious at least about his alleged significance, and perhaps even about his present-day existence as a living, breathing person. There are other indications that he is not even alive anymore, including the fact that his family has had no word from him for years. When his mother died, he did not even send a word of acknowledgement, which is a severe breach even for someone living on the run. Another thing that should immediately arouse suspicion is the fantastical and inconsistent nature of the reports of his manifestations, presences and activities, all of which have been generated by - you guessed it - US sources. One of my favourites occurred a few months ago. According to this (American-generated - of course) report, Zarqawi, who has only one leg, was suffering from from severe abdominal wounds as a result of an American (of course) attempt to kill him. In spite of his one-leggedness and severe (US-inflicted, of course) abdominal wounds, he managed to travel from western Iraq all the way across the country into Iran, where he was warmly greeted, and to do so without being seen by anyone. And he was warmly greeted in overwhelmingly Shi`i Iran despite the fact that he is allegedly personally responsible for all the anti-Shi'a rhetoric and activity in Iraq, and wants to wipe all traces of Shi`ism from the world. (This is for real - the sect he belongs - or belonged - to is, unlike the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, poisonously anti-Shi`i). And please do not forget that in all the videotapes in which he supposedly appears, his face is completely covered, plus in at least one or two of them he clearly has two good legs. Finally, I am reminded of the time I heard one of the more liberal hosts on KGO, the biggest, baddest (and overall most balanced) talk radio station in the whole US, hysterically describe Zarqawi as "one of the most powerful terrorists in the world". After I picked myself up off the floor I considered calling in to correct this absurdity, and decided against it. Maybe I was wrong, but it seemed like an exercise in futility to present the evidence that this "most powerful terrorist" was in reality a small time fanatic who not only probably was not in Iraq, but who could very well have been dead since 2003. Military Plays Up Role of Zarqawi The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The documents state that the U.S. campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners. U.S. authorities claim some success with that effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists. For the past two years, U.S. military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicize Zarqawi's role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the "U.S. Home Audience" as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign. (….) One slide in the same briefing, for example, noted that a "selective leak" about Zarqawi was made to Dexter Filkins, a New York Times reporter based in Baghdad. Filkins's resulting article, about a letter supposedly written by Zarqawi and boasting of suicide attacks in Iraq, ran on the Times front page on Feb. 9, 2004. Leaks to reporters from U.S. officials in Iraq are common, but official evidence of a propaganda operation using an American reporter is rare. Filkins, reached by e-mail, said that he was not told at the time that there was a psychological operations campaign aimed at Zarqawi, but said he assumed that the military was releasing the letter "because it had decided it was in its best interest to have it publicized." No special conditions were placed upon him in being briefed on its contents, he said. He said he was skeptical about the document's authenticity then, and remains so now, and so at the time tried to confirm its authenticity with officials outside the U.S. military. [Highlighted for the benefit of the easily gullible among us who thought that letter was for real. Seems the imaginary WMDs in Iraq did not teach them a thing. – Susan] (……) The Zarqawi campaign is discussed in several of the internal military documents. "Villainize Zarqawi/leverage xenophobia response," one U.S. military briefing from 2004 stated. It listed three methods: "Media operations," "Special Ops (626)" (a reference to Task Force 626, an elite U.S. military unit assigned primarily to hunt in Iraq for senior officials in Hussein's government) and "PSYOP," the U.S. military term for propaganda work. One internal briefing, produced by the U.S. military headquarters in Iraq, said that Kimmitt had concluded that, "The Zarqawi PSYOP program is the most successful information campaign to date." [I can’t tell you how sick it makes me to find out my government is doing things like “leverage xenophobia response” on purpose. I suppose they think it is okay to make people fearful and hateful (along with misinformed) but it just does not even come close to what I consider acceptable human behavior. – Susan] OPINION: Tribute To A National Hero RAF Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, having refused to serve in Iraq in what he correctly believes is an occupation brought about by an illegal war, is predictably given an 8-month prison sentence, fined £20,000 costs and dismissed from his job. Kendall-Smith, now a national hero, follows in the steps of Ben Griffin who resigned from the Army SAS in a similar protest. Despite all the pompous huffing and puffing from a few military wallahs rolled-out for the occasion the fact remains that, according to the Geneva Convention, Dr Kendall-Smith was perfectly entitled to refuse service. The decision made by the Military was based not on legal premises but on expediency. If Kendall-Smith had not been found guilty what kind of message would that send out to other conscientious objectors, refusekinks and would-be deserters? So the thin red line was held and an honourable man punished. Kendall-Smith has been criticised for not having resigned his post before being sent to fight in a war he disagreed with. But in the real world it's the horror of war that opens the eyes of the idealistic rookie, leading to disillusion and a changed perspective. Kendall-Smith admits to having had a somewhat romantic illusion of the RAF in earlier days. Those illusions were dashed in the nightmare of the Iraq invasion and what followed which he put on a par with Nazi behaviour. Believing Britishness to be a matter of decency, Kendall-Smith swallowed all the recruitment propaganda of the war machine. But, then, who would have thought that, in the early 21st Century, Britain's war machine would still be fighting imperialist ventures? Who would have attributed so much sheer stupidity or venality to a Prime Minister determined to drag his country, against its will, into the killing fields of another madman? Attention: F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. Since you're the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I figure you must be the appropriate person to address this to. I have another piece of evidence to go into your articles of impeachment against George Bush and Dick Cheney: "Drumheller, who retired [from the CIA] last year, says the White House ignored crucial information from a high and credible source. The source was Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, with whom U.S. spies had made a deal. There's nothing particularly earth-shattering here, except perhaps for the question of who exactly made up the "they" that blew this source off in such a manner. But it ought to serve well enough as another nail in the House's indictment of this criminal administration. This may also be an appropriate time for the last few people who still believe they weren't deliberately lied into war to go ahead and take the opportunity to snap out of it. OPINION: The Great Revulsion "I have a vision — maybe just a hope — of a great revulsion: a moment in which the American people look at what is happening, realize how their good will and patriotism have been abused, and put a stop to this drive to destroy much of what is best in our country." I wrote those words three years ago in the introduction to my column collection, "The Great Unraveling." It seemed a remote prospect at the time: Baghdad had just fallen to U.S. troops, and President Bush had a 70 percent approval rating. Now the great revulsion has arrived. The latest Fox News poll puts Mr. Bush's approval at only 33 percent. [Who are these people who still approve of him? – Susan] According to the polling firm Survey USA, there are only four states in which significantly more people approve of Mr. Bush's performance than disapprove: Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nebraska. If we define red states as states where the public supports Mr. Bush, Red America now has a smaller population than New York City. The proximate causes of Mr. Bush's plunge in the polls are familiar: the heck of a job he did responding to Katrina, the prescription drug debacle and, above all, the quagmire in Iraq. But focusing too much on these proximate causes makes Mr. Bush's political fall from grace seem like an accident, or the result of specific missteps. That gets things backward. In fact, Mr. Bush's temporarily sky-high approval ratings were the aberration; the public never supported his real policy agenda. OPINION: A Reliable Prophet of Doom To some people, George Bush is a visionary, a bold man who will bring democracy to the world’s people, defend America in this new age of insecurity, and hunt down terrorists wherever they may be hiding. To some, George Bush is an incompetent nutcase, a man who bungled the hunt for Osama bin Laden, got bogged down in Iraq, botched the Katrina relief effort and drove the Iranians to try to develop a nuclear weapon. As George himself famously said: "Our enemies never stop trying to come up with new ways to harm our people, and neither do we." Visionary, moron, or something in between – everyone has their favourite label. One label that you do not hear very often, however, is prophet. I believe that George Bush is a prophet. But not just any old prophet. A special kind – one whose actions bring about the very things he claims will happen, albeit without any recognition of his role in causing them to occur. He is, therefore, a self-fulfilling prophet. Let me explain. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, George Bush told the American people that Iraq was somehow connected to global terrorism. He said that under Saddam Hussein’s leadership, Iraq was harbouring terrorists. At the time, most political analysts and security experts outside of the Pentagon thought he was wrong. If there were any terrorists there, they were sure keeping a low profile. There were no terrorist training camps, nothing to suggest an inflow and outflow of foreign fighters. In short, there was nothing that would indicate that Iraq was the centre of any terrorist organisation. On the strength of the available evidence, many concluded that he was waging the wrong war. But just look at Iraq now. Iraq is clearly a centre for terrorism, a global hub for myriad loosely affiliated, interconnected terrorist groups. Furthermore, not only is there an al-Qaida presence in Iraq, but they have a head office with a high-profile branch leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. There are probably dozens of terrorist training camps, sending jihadi graduates out into short but high-impact careers involving car bombings and suicide attacks on markets, mosques and hospitals. There are frequent kidnappings and occasional beheadings. Oil supplies are almost continually disrupted, and a large portion of the money originally earmarked for reconstruction is siphoned off paying the exorbitant prices demanded by private security firms. Sectarian violence is raging. It is not yet civil war, but it is getting close. So, three years on, we should admit that, gosh darn it, George was right after all. OPINION: In Terror War, Not All Names are Equal A major government watchdog group is charging that Muslim charities are being shut down for supposedly backing terrorist causes, while giant firms like Halliburton are receiving the full protection of U.S. law for allegedly breaking government sanctions against doing business with Iran – a country designated as a sponsor of terrorism. The group says the USA PATRIOT Act gives the government "largely unchecked power to designate any group as a terrorist organization." And once a charitable organization is so designated, all of its materials and property may be seized and its assets frozen. The charity is unable to see the government's evidence and thus understand the basis for the charges. Since its assets are frozen, it lacks resources to mount a defense. And it has only limited right of appeal to the courts. So the government can target a charity, seize its assets, shut it down, obtain indictments against its leaders, but then delay a trial almost indefinitely. Kay Guinane, OMB Watch's director of nonprofit speech rights, told IPS, "The real tragedy behind closure of Muslim charities is the fate of people in need of humanitarian assistance, who are doing without because the funds have been frozen by the U.S. and sit in the bank, benefiting no one." OMB Watch says that dozens of charitable groups have been investigated since 2001. The organizations shut down were not on any government watch list before their assets were frozen, it adds. The result is that Muslims have no way of knowing which groups the government suspects of ties to terrorism. "Organizations and individuals suspected of supporting terrorism are guilty until proven innocent," it says. To support its claim that the government is applying the law unevenly and targeting Muslim-American groups, OMB Watch cites the government's "velvet glove" treatment of the Halliburton Corporation, a giant defense contractor once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. Halliburton has been under investigation by the Treasury Department, which oversees the terror-financing campaign, and the Department of Justice since 2001 for doing business with Iran, which is listed as a sponsor of terrorism. But, says OMB Watch, rather than seizing and freezing assets "pending an investigation," Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Justice Department sent an inquiry to Halliburton requesting "information with regard to compliance." Halliburton sent a written response explaining why it felt it was in compliance with the law. Halliburton's defense seemed to rest on the fact that its dealings with Iran were done through a Cayman Islands subsidiary, not its U.S.-based entity. [Clear evidence, yet again, of Bush administration’s hypocrisy. – Susan] From CodePink email: The Iraqi women who toured the United States last month told us that they were amazed by how misinformed many Americans were about the lives of Iraqi women. Most Americans thought that before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi women were sitting at home oppressed, heavily veiled and secluded, and that thanks to the US invasion, they are now liberated. This is what the Bush administration would like us to believe, but after listening to our Iraqi friends many people now know better. To further shed light on the true status of Iraqi women, CODEPINK has released an in-depth report Iraqi Women Under Siege. We encourage you to download this report, read it and pass it on to others. The report shows that from 1958 to the 1990s, Iraq provided more rights and freedoms for women and girls than most of its neighbors. Though Saddam Hussein's dictatorial government and 12 years of severe sanctions reduced these opportunities, Iraqi women were active in all aspects of their society. After the occupation, with the exception of women in Iraqi Kurdistan, women's daily lives have been reduced to a mere struggle for survival. Women walking on the streets face random violence, assault, kidnapping or death at the hands of suicide bombers, occupying forces, Iraqi police, radical religious groups, and local thugs. Women trying to raise families in the midst of this chaos find themselves beset by a lack of electricity and clean water, and a dearth of social services like decent schools and health care. Unemployment among women has skyrocketed. Of the 260,000 reconstruction contracts in Iraq, less than 1,000 have gone to female contractors. Before the occupation 70% of the public workforce, by far the largest employer in Iraq, were women. The constant violence has trapped women and their children -- particularly their daughters -- inside the homes. Fewer girls go to school and illiteracy among girls is on the rise. Though 25% of the seats in the National Assembly are reserved for women, the real power in Iraq is increasingly in the hands of Islamists determined to move Iraq from a secular society towards a theocracy. They are forcing women to wear veils and are trying to curtail women's rights in areas such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. But as we learned from our amazing delegation, Iraqi women are not mere victims, passively watching the destruction of their lives and the fabric of their communities. As delegate Nadje Al-Ali writes in our report, "Despite the chaos and violence that restricts their activities and mobility, the women struggle on, meeting in each other's houses, establishing refuges where women can learn skills to make a living, providing free health care, legal advice and literacy and computer classes. Iraqi women also organize conferences, sit-ins and demonstrations to get their voices heard and to influence the political process." PEACE ACTION: CODEPINK will continue to support the efforts of Iraqi women, and to push for the withdrawal of foreign troops so that the Iraqi people can determine their own future. Our next major CODEPINK action to end the occupation and support Iraqi women will be a 24-hour Mother's Day vigil in front of the White House in Washington DC from May 13-14. Click here for details. Whether or not you can join us, please consider making a donation to help us bring Iraqi and Iranian women, as well as US military families against the war, to speak at the DC vigil and to travel to communities throughout the US. For the sake of our Iraqi sisters, let's educate ourselves, spread the truth and redouble our efforts to build a more peaceful world. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Five Fort Hood soldiers die in mine blasts in Iraq. Local Story: Bomb kills Miami soldier. Local Story: State honors fallen heroes. (Hawaii) Local Story: A life remembered. (California) Local Story: Fort Campbell soldier is killed by bomb during combat in Iraq. Local Story: Michigan soldier killed in blast in Iraq. Local Story: Royal Scots soldier dies in bombing. Local Story: Five Lejeune Marines killed in Iraq. Local Story: Soldier from San Antonio killed in Iraq. Local Story: Soldier from Miami-Dade killed by bomb in Iraq. Local Story: Local Marine killed. (Ohio) Local Story: Margate Marine killed by bomb in Iraq. (Florida) Local Story: Kidnapped brother of Iraqi Sunni Leader killed. Local Story: KY Guardsman wounded in Iraq dies. Local Story: Marine from Henley killed in Iraq. (Missouri) Local Story: Lauderhill family mourns Marine killed in Iraq. (Florida) Local Story: Pendleton Marines killed in action in Iraq. Local Story: Marine from Hoover dies in Iraq. (Alabama) Local Story: Holmes Remembers Fallen Marine. (Kentucky) Local Story: Pittsburgh soldier killed in Iraq on Saturday. Local Story: Police recover 17 bullet-riddled bodies in Baghdad. Local Story: Ex-John Curtis athlete killed in Iraq. (Louisiana) Local Story: US assault on Fallujah leaves three Iraqi civilians dead. Local Story: Funeral planned for felled soldier from Windsor. (Virginia) Local Story: Huntington Beach Marine killed in combat in Iraq. Local Story: Flags to be lowered to honor Michigan soldier. Local Story: County mourns fallen soldier. (Iowa) Local Story: Bloomington soldier dies in Iraq explosion. (California) Local Story: Hawkinsville Marine remembered. (Georgia) Local Story: Colorado soldier killed in Iraq. Local Story: Funeral service set for fallen Marine. (Texas) Local Story: Family says Kentucky soldier killed in Iraq. Local Story: Four Fiji Nationals killed in Iraq. Local Story: Life and death at age 22 for a Marine. Local Story: Australian soldier dies in Baghdad. Local Story: Canadian killed in Iraq. Local Story: Funeral set for Saturday for NC – based Marine killed in Iraq. Local Story: Lake Havasu City man killed in Iraq (Nevada) Local Story: His time here was too short. Local Story: Executed for the crime of entertaining the children. Local Story: Slain soldier buried. (Missouri) Local Story: Pride and tears at Marine memorial. (California) QUOTE OF THE DAY: The truth is to be lived; it is not to be merely pronounced with the mouth. There is really nothing to argue about in this teaching; any arguing is sure to go against the intent of it. Doctrines given up to controversy and argumentation lead of themselves to death. (Hui Neng, paraphrased)


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