Friday, May 05, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, April 5, 2006 Photo: This undated image from video, released by the The U.S. military command Thursday, May 4, 2006, purportedly shows Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi . The full video was discovered during one of several raids against al-Qaida in Iraq safe houses in the Baghdad area starting with an operation last month near Youssifiyah. (AP Photo/Defense Department) (See below "Pentagon tries to give a face to the enemy") Bring ‘em on: Three U.S. soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in Babil province, south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement. A police spokesman said the blast struck a Humvee patrol vehicle near the town of Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of the capital. (CENTCOM)
Iraqi security forces say at least two other Americans injured while riding inside the Humvee, which caught fire after the explosion.
Bring ‘em on: Capt. Brian S. Letendre, 27, of Woodbridge, Va. died May 3 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar province, Iraq. (DefenseLink) Bring ‘em on: Cpl. Stephen R. Bixler, 20, of Suffield, Conn. died May 4 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar province (Fallujah?), Iraq. (DefenseLink) Bring 'em on: Sgt. Joseph E. Proctor, 38, of Indianapolis, Ind., died May 3 in Tammin, Iraq when a suicide, vehicle-borne, improvised explosive device detonated near his observation post during dismounted combat patrol operations. (DefenseLink) Bring 'em on: Eli Parker, a 2002 Camden High School graduate and a Marine fighting in Iraq, has been killed, Camden residents said Thursday. Bring ‘em on: A roadside bomb struck a U.S. patrol near Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, causing casualties, an Iraqi police spokesman said. The U.S. military had no immediate comment. Bring ‘em on: A British military spokeswoman in south Iraq said that unidentified gunmen launched three missiles at Shat Al-Arab hotel in central Basra, which homes British and Multi-National Norces. no casualties were reported. Washington state man working for an Alabama-based military command killed in Iraq. Jerry Palinsky, 42, of Dupont, Wash., died when the vehicle in which he was riding was struck by an improvised explosive on May 3. Palinsky was employed as a security specialist by Cochise Consultancy Inc. of Tampa, Fla. Two people were hurt by the explosion. The military has not publicly identified a second contract worker killed in another attack on May 2. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: Two policemen wounded when roadside bomb explodes near their patrol in eastern Baghdad. 14-year-old boy shot on his doorstep by Iraqi police for the apparent crime of being gay. Ahmed Khalil was shot at point-blank range after being accosted by men in police uniforms, according to his neighbours in the al-Dura area of Baghdad. Bodies of five Iraqis who apparently were kidnapped and killed in captivity were found Friday, four in Baghdad and one on the outskirts of the city, police said. Baqubah: Gunmen kill local community leader in Baqubah. Khalis: Three bodies of men who had been handcuffed and shot to death found in the town of Khalis, about 10 miles northeast of Baqubah. Their identities were unknown. Samarra: US troops kill three rebels who attacked them in the northern Iraqi town of Samarra after they captured three others suspected of planting roadside bombs, a military statement said. Balad: Two Iraqi soldiers killed by gunmen near Balad, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad. Diwaniya: Police major killed by gunmen near his house in Diwaniya, 180 km (110 miles) south of Baghdad. Fallujah: American troops come under attack on the outskirts of Fallujah and in Samarra. Returning fire, they killed at least five Iraqis, while injuring several others, Iraqi security officials said. Ramadi: Five bodies riddled with bullets found in Ramadi on Friday morning. Mosul: Iraqi soldier wounded on Friday when explosive device blows up as his patrol was passing. Kirkuk: Seven oil engineers kidnapped in Kirkuk. The engineers worked for the North Oil Company, a state owned oil distribution company stationed about 25 miles south of the city. Al Shalamja: Three British soldiers slightly wounded when their car overturned near Al-Shalamja border complex east of Basra. The three three soldiers were among six who were inside the car, adding that the accident occured when the driver of the car tried to cross a tunnel towards the customs complex in that area. NEWS Anti-war protesters interrupt Rumsfeld during speech and one man, a former CIA analyst, accuses him of lying about Iraq prewar intelligence: "Why did you lie to get us into a war that caused these kind of casualties and was not necessary?" asked Ray McGovern, the former analyst. "I did not lie," shot back Rumsfeld, who waved off security guards ready to remove McGovern from the hall at the Southern Center for International Studies. Three protesters were escorted away by security as each interrupted Rumsfeld's speech by jumping up and shouting anti-war messages. Throughout the speech, a fourth protester stood up in the middle of the room with his back to Rumsfeld in silent protest. Rumsfeld also faced tough questions from a woman identifying herself as Patricia Robertson, who said she had lost her son in Iraq. Robertson said she is now raising her grandson and asked whether the government could provide any help. Rumsfeld referred her to a Web site listing aid organizations. Denmark plans to cut 80 troops from its 530-strong contingent in Basra as part of a reorganization of its forces in the region, the government said Friday REPORTS In Baghdad, power down to less than one hour a day: About six million households have suffered regular power shortages since 30 April when insurgents attacked a major power plant supplying the capital, causing serious problems for families without access to private generators. For three consecutive days, residents of the capital, Baghdad, have received less than one hour of electricity per day. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Electricity said it could take a week or more to restore the power supply to previous levels of about six hours daily. With summer beginning and temperatures rising, residents are expressing frustration. "I've lost all the meat I had in my refrigerator because my generator's broken," said Baghdad shopkeeper Ahmed el-Zein. "Insurgents attack the plants to hurt the government, but it's the innocent population that suffers." While hospitals and emergency infrastructure are usually equipped with their own generators, universities and schools - many of which have been without electricity since 30 April - are not. Even the so-called "Green Zone", in which the national government is headquartered, has been subject to frequent power outages. Some aggravated residents place the blame squarely on the US military, which has occupied the country since early 2003, and the slow pace of US-led reconstruction efforts. "US reconstruction companies haven't been unable to restore the power levels maintained under the Saddam Hussein regime," said Mahmoud Hassan, a professor of electrical engineering at Baghdad University. "This has shown up their incompetence ever since they invaded our country." In March 2004, one year into the occupation, residents of Baghdad could expect around 16 hours of electricity a day. Two years later, however, this dropped to a mere six hours daily. "At present, Iraq is producing slightly less than 6,000 megawatts per day, which usually falls to about 5,000 in summer due to high consumption rates caused by extensive use of air-conditioning," said senior electricity ministry official Salah Obaid. A Certain Peace Amidst a Campaign of Death: Two weeks ago I received a harrowing account from a friend in the Adhamiya district of Baghdad. At 7:30 that morning there was shooting in the street and my friend opened the door to find out what was going on. Iraqi National Guard troops shouted at him to close the door immediately. Two seconds later, he told me, shots were fired through the door at head level. "I was shivering to see this hole in the door," he said. "My wife nearly fainted. We kept indoors for eight hours and didn't move." Inside the house were also two of their children. "How is your wife?" I asked. "Praying," he responded. This is daily life for Iraqis, where when families say goodbye to each other in the morning, it could be goodbye for good. And Baghdad, where violence is the worst, the country's most lethal location. For the past year Baghdad's morgue has received on average 50 bodies a day, many of them brutally tortured, almost none that have died from natural causes. Morgue staff reported to an Iraqi collegue the average is now over 85 and that they recently received 480 bodies in one day alone-the highest number still remains 1,100 in one day last July. For months Sunnis in Iraq's capital have charged there is a campaign of death against them and that Ministry of Interior forces are behind it. Iraqis commonly refer to the 6th floor of the ministry's building as sites for these tortures, on-the-street knowledge that the government won't admit to. Just yesterday, the conservative Iraqi station Al-Sharqiya TV reported that Baghdad's Al-Yarmouk Hospital received 65 bodies this week alone, 25 of them yesterday, and all without heads. Reuters is reporting "some" were beheaded. In an interview with Muthana Al-Dhari, spokesperson for the Association of Muslim Scholars, I was told, "It's not only about the 6th floor, there is the 10th floor as well. The information we get about it is from the witnesses who've seen what's going on in the Ministry of Interior. Three of the people who work in the media department [of the AMS] have been tortured in the Ministry of Interior." In mid-February Dr. Faik Bakir, then director of Baghdad's mosque, turned over a detailed report the UN documenting the number of dead received and the ways in which they died. According to Dr. Bakir, the morgue received over 10,000 bodies in 2005, up from the more than 8,000 in 2004 and 6,000 in 2003. He said almost all were "suspicious deaths," citing the causes as violence and war-related rather than by natural causes. Many had been tortured terribly. Most disturbing, he also said 7,000 people had been killed in recent months by death squads. Before the war, in 2002, Bakir said the morgue had recorded less than 3,000 suspicious deaths. The 24,000 bodies were from the Baghdad area alone, and do not account for the number of bodies that never make it to the morgue, thrown instead, into garbage piles or ditches, nor for those who have disappeared. (…) At least two questions remain: Who is doing the killing and who is promoting sectarian violence? It was just after this, in March, that The Guardian quoted then outgoing head of the UN human rights office in Iraq, John Pace, "The Badr brigade [Sciri's armed wing] are in the police and are mainly the ones doing the killing. They're the most notorious." Sciri, the Shi'ite political party Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, is backed by Iran. Iraqis also charge that the Medhi Army, the armed militia of Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, is targeting and killing people and that they, too, are backed by Iran. Two weeks ago Badr and Mehdi forces were seen operating alongside Iraqi Police in an attack on Adhamiya, a predominantly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad. Fierce street battles between the IP and residents raged. One resident told me, "We've seen the Badr; they are trying to gain control of our neighborhood!" It was during these clashes that my friend's front door was blasted through by bullets. Iraqis have charged for some time that Iranian intelligence forces are part of these militias and are operating inside the Ministry of Interior. Mainstream news sources such as Knight Ridder and Time Magazine have reported the same. But the Adhamiyans had their own proof when five of the 37 militia captured turned out to be Iranians. "They couldn't even speak Arabic," said one source I spoke with, and had munitions "unlike those used by the Iraqis." The men were taken to the Abu Hanifa mosque in Adhamiya, where high-level negotiations were held between Sunni Muslim groups and officials from the ministries of the interior and defense. Residents, able to prove that Iranians were coming with the Iraqi Police, used the leverage to gain a five-point agreement in which the IP, interior ministry forces and all militias were forced to pull out of the district. Residents agreed to accept the presence of the Iraqi National Guard in certain areas, so long as they are working to defeat the death squads, but maintained the right to retaliate if they are seen to be working with any of the militias. Residents also agreed to reel in their own defense forces unless needed. Occupation forces were not included in the agreement; residents maintained their right to resist the occupation. A similar agreement was drawn up six months ago, but this one has, for the most part, held for two weeks now. When I asked my friend yesterday if the agreement was still holding he replied, "There are explosions everywhere in Baghdad, but not in Adhamiya." Adhamiyans can now walk freely down the street, shops have re-opened, cars have appeared back on the road...though driving outside of Adhamiya is still as dangerous as ever and a desperate situation remains regards lack of water and electricity in a city where the temperature hovers daily around 100 degrees. The irony, of course, is that the peace in Adhamiya is being maintained not because US troops and government security forces are present, but because they are gone. COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Bush's "Mission Unaccomplished": Moving to "rebuilding efforts" in Iraq- a recently released report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), stated that the U.S. had failed to protect and rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure, and that corruption in Iraq had become like "another insurgency." A recent report by Special Inspector General Stuart Bowen, in which he described work on virtually every part of Iraq's emerging democracy, from health care to education to energy production to the Iraqi security forces, stated that the plan to train troops to protect Iraq's oil infrastructure is "a failure," adding that the Bush administration and Iraqi government poured $147 million into trying to create an Iraqi Oil Protection Force of 14,400 and an Iraqi Electric Power Security Service of 6,000 guards, but today, the electric security service no longer exists, and the oil force has shown only sporadic success. According to Bowen notes, many reconstruction projects in Iraq haven't been finished, or almost no work has been done, despite the allocation of millions of dollars to those projects, USA Today reported. Also The Guardian said in one of its reports that a U.S. contractor hired to build 150 health care centers in Iraq almost three years ago managed to only finish six, "in spite of 75 percent of the $186 million allocated for the project being spent." Bowen's report moreover slammed the U.S. Army for failing to cooperate with the investigation into efforts to train Iraqi soldiers to protect oil, according to The Washington Times. "The lack of records and equipment accountability raised significant concerns about possible fraud, waste and abuse ... by U.S. and Iraqi officials," the report said. PENTAGON TRIES TO GIVE A FACE TO THE ENEMY
Iraqis question why Americans haven't been able to capture Zarqawi if he is as incompetent as they claim: A videotape showing the most wanted terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, wearing American tennis shoes and struggling to fire a U.S.-made machine gun was repeatedly broadcast on [U.S.] television nationwide. The video — released Thursday by the U.S. military to undercut al-Zarqawi's image — was strikingly different from video posted last month on Islamist Web sites showing the Jordanian militant confidently firing bursts from the weapon like an experienced jihadist fighter. On the streets of Baghdad Friday, some Iraqis welcomed the unflattering clips, expressing hope they would hurt al-Zarqawi's image as a powerful insurgent. But others dismissed it as U.S. propaganda and questioned why the Americans haven't been able to capture al-Zarqawi, a Sunni, if he is as incompetent as they claimed. "If it is authentic, the part of the video I saw on TV today shows that al-Zarqawi lacks the basic knowledge of weapons that any soldier should have," said Falah Abdel-Hassan, a Shiite and a government employee. "This could hurt his image." Sattar al-Dulaimi, a Sunni, questioned the significance of the original video or its outtakes. He also said, "The reason the Americans haven't captured or killed al-Zarqawi is that they need an al-Qaida connection to justify their occupation of Iraq." The Zarqawi PSYOP program: Is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi the big al-Qaeda bogeyman the Bush administration has made him out to be? He has been labeled the mastermind behind the resistance in Iraq and responsible for massacring civilians there. But there is reason to believe that may all be a bunch of hype and disinformation planted by the administration. Western media, according to Professor Michel Chossudovsky, editor of Global Research.ca, have consistently depicted Zarqawi as a brutal terrorist, but said nothing about the Pentagon's disinformation campaign, which has been known and documented since 2002. The Washington Post recently published that the role of Zarqawi has been deliberately "magnified" by the Pentagon in an attempt to gain support for the "war on terror." Chossudovsky said: "The Zarqawi campaign is discussed in several of the internal military documents. 'Villainize Zarqawi/leverage xenophobia response,' one 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." The Post reported the military propaganda program has "largely been aimed at Iraqis, but seems to have spilled over into the U.S. media. One briefing slide about U.S. "strategic communications" in Iraq, prepared for Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, describes the "home audience" as one of six major targets of the American side of the war." Also, an internal document produced by U.S. military headquarters in Iraq, says "the Zarqawi PSYOP program is the most successful information campaign to date." The senior commander and senior planner at the U.S. Central Command, responsible for operations in Iraq and the Mideast, Gen. Mark T. Kimmitt, said: "There was clearly an information campaign to raise the public awareness of who Zarqawi was, primarily for the Iraqi audience, but also with the international audience." Officers familiar with the program said one of its goals was to create a split in the resistance by stressing Zarqawi's terrorist acts and foreign origin. He was to be painted as representing terrorism in Iraq, foreign fighters and the reason for the suffering of the Iraqi people. U.S. propaganda efforts in Iraq in 2004 cost $24 million, but much of that went for construction of offices and housing for the troops involved, and for radio broadcasts and thousands of leaflets bearing Zarqawi's face. An officer informed about the program said it was run concurrently with a related operation "led by the Lincoln Group, a U.S. consulting firm." The Washington Post, in its April 10 edition, asserted there is no relationship between the Pentagon's PSYOP program and the one run by the Lincoln Group on the Pentagon's behalf. And just who is the Lincoln Group? Its Web site says it is a telecommunications and public relations consulting company. It has recently been under investigation for planting fake news stories in Iraqi newspapers, according to SourceWatch. The executive vice president of the group is Christian Bailey, who, until 1998, was Christian Jozefowicz. He changed his name in that year. He formed a partnership with Paige Craig, a former U.S. Marine intelligence officer with service in Iraq. Early in 2003, Bailey formed a Lincoln subsidiary, the Lincoln Alliance Corp., which said it offered "tailored intelligence services [for] government clients faced with intelligence challenges." Bailey then organized another subsidiary, Iraqex, which was awarded a $6 million Pentagon contract to begin "an aggressive advertising and PR campaign that will accurately inform the Iraqi people of the coalition's goals and gain their support." In 2004-2005, Bailey was a member of Lead 21, an organization linking business and politics. He served as New York City co-chairman for the Republican National Convention/U.S. presidential election, 2004. Bailey was a founding member of Lead 21. In fall 2004, he entered a partnership with the Rendon Group, another U.S. public relations group that was a key player in promoting Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, the source of much of the disinformation about the Iraq war and the Hussein regime. The U.S. media have made Zarqawi responsible for the resistance in Fallujah, Tal Afar and Samarra. He is held accountable for the Amman hotel bombings and the terrorist attacks in several Western capitals. The Washington Post places him squarely behind the suicide bombers. Internal military documents leaked to The Washington Post confirm the Pentagon is involved in a continuing propaganda campaign that tries to give a face to the enemy. Its purpose is to present the enemy as a terrorist, to mislead public opinion. Chossudovsky states: "Counterterrorism and war propaganda are intertwined. The propaganda apparatus feeds disinformation into the news chain. The objective is to present the terror groups as 'enemies of America,' responsible for countless atrocities in Iraq and around the world. The underlying objective is to galvanize public opinion in support of America's Middle East war agenda. "The 'war on terrorism' rests on the creation of one or more evil bogeymen, the terror leaders Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and others, whose names and photos are presented ad nauseam in the daily news reports. Without Zarqawi and bin Laden, the 'war on terrorism' would lose its reason for being. The Pentagon documents leaked to The Washington Post regarding Zarqawi have revealed that al-Qaeda in Iraq is fabricated."
The growing influence of Iranians: Apart from oil, U.S. plans to install a Washington-friendly regime in Iraq are also in a shambles. The U.S. had banked on Iraqi Shias to emerge as a loyal new political force. The U.S., prior to the war, made extensive preparations to cultivate them. Leaders of prominent Shia organisations, including the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Daawa party, were feted in conferences held in the United Kingdom and the U.S. These organisations worked well with the U.S. to remove the Baathist regime led by Saddam Hussein. But tensions in the relationship began to appear because of the Shia reluctance to push the U.S. strategic agenda of juxtaposing its troops with those of the arch-foe Iran. Iran and Saudi Arabia share the longest borders with Iraq. The inability of the U.S. to appreciate the depth of Iranian influence lies at the heart of its debacle in Iraq. Iran derives its influence within Iraq primarily from the Shia religious network. Historically, Najaf in Iraq and Qom in Iran are the pillars of Shia Islam. Rivalry between the Najaf and Qom to capture the Shia intellectual domain is also well known. However, the equation underwent a change after the Iraqi government began to target Shia leaders. Tensions between Iraq's secular Baath party rulers and its Shia religious establishment also sharpened because of the bitterly fought Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. The war laid bare the historical rivalry between Arabs and Persians. The Baathists laid considerable emphasis on Iraqis having an Arab identity as the basis of a pan-Arab solidarity in the region. The Iranians, on their part, took enormous pride in their Persian origins. However, an undercurrent of sectarian animosity was visible during this war. The war was fought soon after the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. As a result, Shia religious fervour, including the sentiment for "martyrdom", was translated prominently in the battlefield. Consequently, the Iranian revolution, under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's stewardship, was interpreted as a major challenge to the Sunni-dominated Arab regimes, including Iraq. With the pressure on the Iraqi Shia religious establishment growing, many of its leaders took refuge in Iran. For instance, Ibrahim Jaafari, whose name for the post of Prime Minister is being hotly debated in Iraq, has extensive links with Iran. The Daawa party leader fled to Iran following a crackdown in 1980 on his party by the Saddam Hussein government. During his stay in Iran, he worked closely with the SCIRI. The Daawa party and the SCIRI are the core constituents of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), a seven-party Shia grouping that has won the largest number of seats in Iraq's parliamentary elections held in December 2005. Nine years later, Jaafari left for London to form a base for overseas Daawa activities. Similarly, the SCIRI has extensive links with Iran. Its leader, Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, along with his half-brother Mohammad Baqr Al Hakim, left for Iran in the early 1980s. Once in Iran, Abdul-Aziz Al Hakim led the Iran-supported Badr brigades, the SCIRI's military wing, against Iraqi government forces. After nearly 23 years in Iran, Al Hakim returned to Iraq following the U.S. invasion in 2003. By then his elder brother had become the leader of the SCIRI. He was assassinated in Najaf on August 29, 2003. After that Al Hakim has been leading the SCIRI and is one of the most prominent leaders in Iraq. The relationship between the U.S. and Iraqi Shias has to a great extent soured because of the SCIRI's activities. The group has entrenched itself inside the Interior Ministry and many of the Badr corps militia have been inducted in the Iraqi security forces. The Iranians have also begun to wield considerable influence over the cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, who has a wide following in Sadr City, a sprawling Shia slum on the outskirts of Baghdad. His Mehdi Army has twice revolted against the U.S. occupation. On many occasions Al Sadr has said that members of the Mehdi Army should be inducted into the Iraqi security forces. In recent times the group has made considerable political gains. Its Fadilah party won several seats in the parliamentary elections. Fearing the growing influence of the Iranians in the new Iraqi establishment, the U.S. decided to confront the SCIRI. The organisation was accused of running torture chambers where Sunnis were allegedly being incarcerated. On the political front, the U.S. stopped backing the UIA during the run-up to the December elections. On the contrary, it supported the "secular alternative", a combination of Sunnis and pro-U.S. parties, especially the Iraqiyah party of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. The U.S. has also opposed Jaafari's candidature to premiership. Apart from his Iranian links, Jaafari is also suspect in American eyes because of his "socialist tendencies". Jaffari, for instance, has been an admirer of Noam Chomsky and has been considering inviting the prominent American Left intellectual to visit Baghdad. Declaring Washington's disposition, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad was quoted as saying that President Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Jaafari as the next Prime Minister. The very definition of an information operation: Dressed in desert camouflage - to the amusement of the press corps - James R. Wilkinson, a deputy assistant to the president and the deputy national security adviser for communications, presided over press conferences at Central Command's forward base in Doha, Qatar, as the invasion of Iraq commenced in March 2003. Along with Tucker Eskew [head of The Office of Global Communications at the nexus of the government's strategic communications apparatus ---zig ], under Tucker Eskew, a deputy assistant to the president and a longtime Republican communications consultant], Wilkinson was a member of a tight-knit cadre of government communicators that Dan Bartlett, the former White House communications director (and now a counselor to the president), once referred to as "the band." Its members were responsible for orchestrating the public-relations blitz that accompanied the invasion of Afghanistan, as well as the communications effort that rallied public support for ousting Saddam Hussein. Wilkinson, in fact, had been instrumental in drafting "A Decade of Deception and Defiance," a background paper released by the White House in September 2002 that purported to lay out the various ways in which Saddam's regime had flouted UN resolutions. (Based in part on faulty intelligence, including the testimony of an Iraqi defector, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, who had failed a CIA lie-detector test nine months earlier, many of the document's claims about Iraq's weapons programs have since been discredited.) Installed as Central Command's director of strategic communications in November 2002, Wilkinson was charged with managing the military's communications operation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea had been that reporters embedded with the military would offer a narrow, on-the-ground perspective of the war, while reporters at Central Command's headquarters in Doha, updated regularly by military spokesmen, would be able to fill in the larger picture for readers and viewers back home. It was, however, the lack of information reporters received there that would become legend. "It takes about forty-eight hours to understand that information is probably more freely available at any other place in the world than it is here," New York magazine's man in Doha, Michael Wolff, wrote of his time there. Not only was news scarce in Doha, but the information that was provided to the press often proved false. In an updated version of The First Casualty, a classic exploration of journalism during times of war, Phillip Knightley writes that at Central Command:
stories were floated, picked up, exaggerated, confirmed and then turned out to be wrong. Basra was secured - it fell seventeen days later. Um Quasa fell daily. Saddam Hussein had been killed; Tariq Assiz had defected - both stories were wrong. There was an uprising in Basra that never happened even though Central Command announced at a briefing that it had. Was this deliberate strategic disinformation?
Some reporters, including Paul Hunter of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, concluded that this was likely the case. In 2003, he told the BBC: "So if word comes out of Centcom that there is an uprising against Saddam's regime, well certainly they can be thinking, planning, hoping that that information will be then picked up on and . . . then the local people will build on that and . . . the idea will become reality, even if it never existed in the first place." What Hunter described is the very definition of an information operation, which is designed to create a specific effect in targeted populations. More than a year later, with the insurgency reaching a critical point, the military attempted what seems to be its most overt - and ham-handed - attempt at media manipulation in recent memory. In October 2004, as U.S. troops prepared to retake the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, the military took the unusual step of contacting CNN's Atlanta headquarters to offer the network an interview with a commander on the ground who they said was prepared to discuss "major unfolding developments." The "commander" turned out to be a public affairs officer, Lieutenant Lyle Gilbert, who told Jamie McIntyre, CNN's Pentagon correspondent, that "troops crossed the line of departure . . . it's a pretty uncomfortable time. We have two battalions out there in maneuver right now dealing with the anti-Iraqi forces and achieving the mission of restoring security and stability to this area." Gilbert's comments seemed to signal that the long-expected offensive had begun. (Before he talked to Gilbert, McIntyre spoke to a senior aide to Donald Rumsfeld who told him that he would want to cover the pending announcement - it would be significant.) But even as CNN broke this news, other reporters were being warned off the story by their military contacts. As it turned out, the offensive had not begun and wouldn't for another three weeks. It was widely reported that Gilbert's interview with McIntyre had been part of an apparent psychological operation. "The purpose of this was actually a bit of deception," Christopher Lamb, the former Pentagon official, said. "We wanted to see how the insurgents we were monitoring would react to this news - that was the purpose." Lamb, now a fellow at the National Defense University's Institute for National Strategic Studies, said this operation was ill-advised. "That was a bad no-no. Public affairs guys must have credibility with the press and in my estimation ought not to be used for that purpose." (Gilbert, for his part, maintains that his comments to CNN were true; he contends it was McIntyre who overstated the import of the operation, which included air strikes on enemy positions and was itself intended as a feint.) Mark Mazzetti, the former defense correspondent for the Los Angeles Times (he recently joined The New York Times) who, with Borzou Daragahi, would later break the news of the Lincoln Group's role in paying Iraqi newspapers to run U.S. propaganda, reported at the time that operations like this one were "part of a broad effort under way within the Bush administration to use information to its advantage in the war on terrorism." This, he reported, included using military spokesmen in psychological operations and "planting information with sources used by Arabic TV channels such as Al Jazeera to help influence the portrayal of the United States." "The movement of information," a senior defense official told Mazzetti, "has gone from the public affairs world to the psychological operations world." In Iraq, our descent into hell, our "Apocalypse Now" moment, has begun: First there was Gitmo, then the global rendition program, then Abu Ghraib, then the pulverizing of Fallujah, and now trigger-happy raids that are filling multitudes of sandy graves with men, women and children. Has "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" become the mission in Babylon? Can't anyone remember Vietnam, where we left behind more than a million dead civilians? In Iraq, we've way past the half-million mark, probably the million mark, if you count the 1990s sanctions. Are the American people as blind and deaf as they seem? Don't we see ourselves walking through the gates of hell and can't we hear the doors clanging shut on our country? Who am I to say all this, you might ask. Fair enough, I reply. [the author, Tony Swindell, served with the 11th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, in Vietnam --- zig] So let me tell you a story about monstrous crimes and tragedies from my generation about to be repeated in Iraq in front of the whole world. First, understand that a single soldier can't be expected to grasp the total criminality of war because his whole universe is a tiny place right in front of his nose. So he can stay alive. If he knew everything that was going on, he would be heartbroken, and if he also knew why, he would go insane. The narrowness of his vision is exactly how even the best and most humane soldier unwillingly becomes a monster, and the people who create war know this. Out of grief and rage, with the stench of his buddy's shredded flesh in his nostrils, the soldier stops asking questions and then begins making up his own rules with a rifle. He has touched the heart of darkness and there's no going back ever. Embracing the whore called war destroys morality, and doing all this in a dishonorable cause compounds the damage. That's why we who have been there must speak out forcefully. If it requires a stiff punch in the mouth to jump-start some addled neocon brains, so be it. And for anyone who gets their political truth from self-inflating whoopee cushions like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, it will come none too soon. To remain silent this time risks the loss of everything that our country stands for. The story I want to tell you begins on a miserably hot day in February, 1969, as I watched U.S. Army Col. John W. Donaldson put a cup of rice wine mixed with blood to his lips and drink deeply. No matter that the concoction was alive with heartworms, Donaldson never flinched. At the time, I was serving as an army combat correspondent attached to the 11th Light Infantry Brigade and my job that day was to follow Donaldson around, snapping picture after picture of the macabre festivities unfolding in front of my eyes. He was the brigade commander at a bloody punching bag called LZ Bronco next to the village of Duc Pho. The brigade base camp was part of the Americal Division, headquartered to the north in Chu Lai. The colonel and a large contingent of other brigade and division officers were guests of honor at a Tet festival in the Montagnard village of Ba To in the central highlands southwest of Chu Lai. Nearby was a Special Forces A Team camp, an ominous triangular fortress bristling with 105 mm cannon at each corner firing flechette rounds. (…) Unknown to the visitors, the Montagnards had earlier tortured to death three North Vietnamese captives and partook of their blood in the company of Special Forces A Team troopers. These unfortunate had been impaled through their anuses with bamboo poles and given the same spear prodding. Later, their bodies were staked out along enemy infiltration trails as a mortal warning to the enemy. This day became my own personal "Apocalypse Now" moment, a full decade before the Francis Ford Coppola's movie was released. Not long before, we became personally aware that soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, had rampaged in My Lai when military police ransacked our hooch looking for evidence and then hauled Rusty Calley off in handcuffs. Meanwhile, Tiger Teams were creating ruthless, bloody havoc across the Batangan Peninsula against suspected enemy cadre. Brutality against civilians was standard operating procedure. Because of the Pacification Program mass relocations, entire swathes of the countryside began to resemble the Missouri Burnt District during the Civil War. The Phoenix Program was in full swing, and it was the horror to end all horrors. I had earlier tagged along on a Phoenix mission directed by the ARVN National Police, and will spare you the details. Trust me, you do not want to know what was being done. Standing there and watching Donaldson drink from the cup, the profound symbolism of all that was wrong in this place hit me like a blow in the face. Ironically, an anti-war rag called the Overseas Weekly or Overseas latched onto one of my pictures and captioned it, "Army Brass Drinks Blood In Pagan Ceremonies". (…) There's a numbness in my guts as I see the same nightmares becoming reality again in Iraq, and I wonder what's happened to America's soul. Is this what we want, another generation suckled on the poison of another renegade leadership? Gooks have become ragheads, every adult male is an insurgent eligible for torture, and every Iraqi home filled with men, women and children is a free-fire zone. Even places of worship get flattened. Once again, we've been marched into another lunatic asylum in the Twilight Zone. How did it happen? Why did we sit on our hands and let our leaders initiate an unprovoked proxy war? A mushroom cloud over Cleveland delivered by a pipsqueak Iraq that couldn't even get an airplane in the air or a dilapidated tank outside its own borders without throwing a track? Gimme a break. How could the average John Doe let himself be deceived into believing that Saddam Hussein was really a threat? With Iran now in the crosshairs, I pray that our national amnesia is wearing off. I know that from coast to coast a growing number of people _ especially many combat veterans like myself _ feel helpless, confused, frightened, and completely out of the loop. Three years into Iraq, why do we still keep hearing the same refrain, pre-emptive war into the next generation? On and on and on it goes, but unfortunately our emperors in Washington treat middle Americans asking hard questions like bill collectors at a funeral or, publicly skewer them as extremists and traitors. And don't even think about asking about Israeli involvement in the disaster that Dubya calls a Middle Eastern policy. I listen in vain to hear the voices of young Americans who will be directly and immediately affected. Current events in the Middle East should be a paramount issue, but, inexplicably, the kids are completely nonchalant. Raised on the Internet and X-Boxes, maybe Iraq is just another Hollywood-style media production to them. But, I'm going to make a prediction. Our salvation will come when Selective Service notices begin arriving in mailboxes, and make no mistake, they are coming. I predict that young voices will soon become the loudest against empire as the hip-hoppers, the teeny boppers and the slackers rudely discover that involuntary combat means no video games or boom boxes, no marathon beer busts, and certainly no teenaged girls in thong bikinis. BEYOND IRAQ Two Italian soldiers killed, four wounded by roadside bomb south of Kabul. Iran and Pearl Harbor syndrome: It is not merely the doctrine of a preventive strike that is pushing the U.S. to be tough. In effect, the doctrine itself reflects the painful Pearl Harbor syndrome, and a highly dubious assumption that it was possible to nip Hitler in the bud if the U.S. had intervened in Europe earlier. The trauma inflicted on the U.S. by the barbarous hostage seizure in Iran has not healed, either. Good old Freud is here again. Finally, the Americans are worried by some forecasts. Zbigniew Brzezinski thinks that the U.S. will wage war with Iran for 30 years and lose its world supremacy as a result. This prediction suggests the conclusion - either not go to war at all, or strike without mercy and win a quick victory. Thus, the American Eagle is now looking around with particular attention and is ready to nip in the bud anything it perceives as an attack. Invasion of Iran on the basis of unverified data may be just a prelude, all the more so since presumption of innocence does not apply to Iran. Defending its right to a civilian nuclear program, Tehran has already said too much and got bogged down in contradictions. Even some independent Russian experts believe that war is inevitable. Chairman of the Presidium of the Institute of Globalization Problems Mikhail Delyagin said: "I think that the actions, which have been taken, and the propaganda accompaniment, which we have been hearing, give us enough grounds to predict that the decision on a missile attack... has been made. Considering the election race, this should happen in late spring or summer." It is rumored that in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, wealthy Iranians of Azeri background have already rushed to buy housing, just in case... In turn, the press is trying to predict what Iran will do in return. Quoting its sources in Tehran, the British Sunday Times writes that Iran is ready for an adequate reply. There are 40,000 trained suicide bombers, who will attack American, Israeli and British targets, 29 of which have already been selected. The Iranian president is talking about an asymmetrical blow at Israel. Tehran has also repeatedly threatened to blockade the Strait of Hormuz. To sum up, Pearl Harbor and the good old Freud are spelling a lot of trouble. The "New Totalitarianism" now defines a desperate neo-con end game: As the Bush/neo-con kleptocracy disintegrates in a toxic cloud of military defeat, economic bankruptcy, environmental disaster and escalating mega-scandal, its attack on basic American freedoms---its "New Totalitarianism"---has escalated to a desperate new level, including brutal Soviet-style prosecutions against non-violent dissidents and an all-out offensive for state secrecy, including an attack on the internet. In obvious panic and disarray, the GOP right has turned to a time-honored strategy---kill the messengers. While it slaughters Americans and Iraqis to "bring democracy" to the Middle East, it has made democracy itself public enemy Number One here at home. The New Totalitarianism has become tangible in particular through a string of terrifying prosecutions against non-violent dissenters, an attack on open access to official government papers, and the attempted resurrection by right-wing "theorists" of America's most repressive legislation, dating back to the 1950s, 1917 and even 1797. Bush's universal spy campaign is the cutting edge of the assault. The GOP Attorney-General has told Congress both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln engaged in electronic wiretapping. He has deemed the Geneva war crimes accords a "quaint" document and treats the Bill of Rights the same way. Evidence of no-warrant spying on thousands of US citizens continues to surface. Like all totalitarian regimes, this one believes its best defense is to terrorize its citizenry by intruding, Big Brother-like, into all facets of personal life. Inevitably, it is moving prosecute whoever reveals that spying is going on, including a KGB-style search for the hero who leaked Bush's warrantless wire-tap program. Along with spying comes official secrecy. The Bush regime is reclassifying millions of pages of harmless, marginal documents to prevent public scrutiny. It demands access to the papers of the deceased investigative reporter Jack Anderson so they can be reclassified. It has moved to prosecute reporters, government officials and even lobbyists who have used documents in ways the administration doesn't like. (...) In Cleveland Heights, Carol Fisher has been charged with a major felony for putting posters on public lamp-posts. The posters are critical of the Bush attack on Iraq. Fisher, who is committed to non-violence, was assaulted by local police who ordered her to take down the posters, then threw her down on the ground and charged her with felonious assault. "I am 53 years old," she says, "not exactly a spring chicken. A hand comes down to push my chin against the concrete. By this time there are four cops on the scene. My hands are tightly cuffed behind my back. They lift me up and shove me onto a park bench and shackle my legs. I am still calling out, telling people what this is about." Fisher says the police cursed her, shouting "Shut up or I will kill you!...I am sick of this anti-Bush shit!...You are definitely going to the psyche ward." Fisher now faces years in prison and the loss of her livelihood. Such gratuitous, mean-spirited and overtly repressive prosecutions against non-violent dissenters have proliferated throughout the Bush era, in which ordinary citizens with moderate bumper stickers or t-shirts have been turned away from or arrested at public events. The clear and present purpose is to spread a climate of totalitarian fear aimed at reversing the sacred American freedoms embodied in the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The campaign runs in tandem with the attack on academic discourse coordinated by David Horowitz and other haters of open debate. In the guise of seeking "balance," the rightist campaign aims to purge liberals from the liberal arts. It parallels the industry-centered attempts to clamp down on the internet, which has been the sole grassroots source of reliable information and dissenting opinion in the US for years. With total corporate domination of the major media, only the internet and a few talk radio shows and liberal magazines have kept alive the American tradition of a free press. Predictably, the administration is using a corporate front to shut off this last source of open "diablog." (…) The neo-cons have taken particular aim at generals and other officers who have criticized the Bush military strategy, if it can be called that. The critiques have merely underscored the astonishing incompetence of the Bush junta. They reflect the highest order of courage and patriotism. But such honor and honesty comprise the New Totalitarianism's worst nightmare. With indictments flowing deep into the kleptocracy, the most anti-democratic of all American regimes has just two tactics. The first is to create a culture of fear while silencing the dissenters, by all means necessary. The second is to rig voting machines and strip voter rolls to guarantee that no matter how deep dissent actually carries in this country, it will have no tangible impact on who holds the reins of power. In tandem comes the deliberate shrinking of the electorate through repressive ID requirements and digitized voter registration lists. Thus far up to ten percent of the entire Ohio electorate---some 500,000 voters---have been stripped from the state's registration rolls, all from Democratic strongholds. Today Bush's popularity has sunk to about a third of the population, a level similar to Hitler's percent of the vote when the Nazis took power in 1933. The GOP neo-cons have clearly realized that they can only hold power with old-fashioned thuggery and high-tech Tammany. Having lost the public debate on its suicidal military, economic, environmental and social policies, all-out repression and stolen elections are the two remaining pillars of the New Totalitarianism. -- Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008. Amnesty International: US Government creating "climate of torture": Amnesty International today made public a report detailing its concerns about torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees both in the US and in US detention sites around the world. The report has already been sent to members of the UN Committee Against Torture, who will be examining the US compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on 5 and 8 May in Geneva. The Convention against Torture prohibits the use of torture in all circumstances and requires states to take effective legal and other measures to prevent torture and to provide appropriate punishment for those who commit torture. The US is reportedly sending a 30-strong delegation to Geneva to defend its record. In its written report to the Committee, the US government asserted its unequivocal opposition to the use or practice of torture under any circumstances -- including war or public emergency. "Although the US government continues to assert its condemnation of torture and ill-treatment, these statements contradict what is happening in practice," said Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director Of Amnesty International USA. "The US government is not only failing to take steps to eradicate torture it is actually creating a climate in which torture and other ill-treatment can flourish -- including by trying to narrow the definition of torture." The Amnesty International report describes how measures taken by the US government in response to widespread torture and ill-treatment of detainees held in US military custody in the context of the "war on terror" have been far from adequate. This is despite evidence that much of the ill-treatment stemmed directly from official policy and practice. The report reviews several cases where detainees held in US custody in Afghanistan and Iraq have died under torture. To this day, no US agent has been prosecuted for "torture" or "war crimes". "The heaviest sentence imposed on anyone to date for a torture-related death while in US custody is five months -- the same sentence that you might receive in the US for stealing a bicycle. In this case, the five-month sentence was for assaulting a 22-year-old taxi-driver who was hooded and chained to a ceiling while being kicked and beaten until he died," said Curt Goering. "While the government continues to try to claim that the abuse of detainees in US custody was mainly due to a few 'aberrant' soldiers, there is clear evidence to the contrary. Most of the torture and ill-treatment stemmed directly from officially sanctioned procedures and policies -- including interrogation techniques approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld," said Javier Zuniga, Amnesty International's Americas Programme Director. The report also lists concerns surrounding violations of the Convention against Torture under US domestic law, including ill-treatment and excessive force by police, cruel use of electro-shock weapons, inhuman and degrading conditions of isolation in "super-max" security prisons and abuses against women in the prison system -- including sexual abuse by male guards and shackling while pregnant and in labour. The US last appeared before the Committee Against Torture in May 2000. Practices criticized by the Committee six years ago -- such as the use of electro-shock weapons and excessively harsh conditions in "super-maximum" security prisons -- have in some cases been exported for use by US forces abroad -- serving as a model for the treatment of US detainees in the context of the "war on terror". "The US has long taken a selective approach to international standards, but in recent years, the US government has taken unprecedented steps to disregard its obligations under international treaties. This threatens to undermine the whole framework of international human rights law -- including the consensus on the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," said Javier Zuniga. Amnesty International called on the US to demonstrate its commitment to eradicating torture, by withdrawing the reservations it has entered to the Convention against Torture, including its "understanding" of Article 1 of the Convention, which could restrict the scope of the definition of torture by the US. The organization also called on the US to clarify to the Committee in no uncertain terms that under its laws no one, including the President, has the right or authority to order the torture or ill-treatment of detainees under any circumstances whatsoever -- and that anyone who does so, including the President, will have committed a crime. For a full copy of the report, please see http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engamr510612006 A Cornered Administration: Dangerous Times Ahead: The noose is tightening around George Bush and his gang of White House crooks and liars, with prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald reportedly getting closer to an indictment of Karl Rove, and now with the Illinois and California state legislatures considering resolutions that would have those states submit bills of impeachment to the U.S. House of Representatives--an alternative means of bringing an impeachment case against a president when, as now, the sitting members of Congress don't have the courage or conviction to do so themselves. These are dangerous times, because the Bush family history, and the Rove M.O., are to attack viciously and without restraint when cornered. At a book signing on Friday at Columbia University, a number of journalists told me they worried that Bush, Rove and Cheney, if they thought they were going to lose the House in November and face serious investigations into their crimes and deceits, would do something treasonous, like launching a war against Iran, or perhaps allowing another major terrorist attack against a U.S. target, so that they could then clamp down further on domestic freedom and ramp up jingoistic support among their wavering base. The time for vacillating, cowering Democrats is over. The only way to defeat this threat is to warn about it and resist it openly now. Democrats also need to stop waffling about voter security and vote fraud. It is essential that all voting machines in November have paper records, and that an army of activists begin now preparing to block Republican efforts to confuse and intimidate progressive voters to keep them from even getting to the polls. Italians and other people in nations around the globe have shown the way, standing up to fraud and intimidation to insist on honest elections, and throwing out charlatans. November 2006 will be America's turn. Will the American people be up to the task? Guantanamo prisoners planting seeds of hope: With some water and the most basic of tools, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have managed to plant a secret garden where they have grown plants from seeds they saved from their meals. For some of the detainees - who have been cleared for release by the U.S. army - the garden grants them patience to bear the injustice of their long detention. The existence of the garden, which is banned by U.S. authorities, was disclosed by the Boston-based lawyer Sabin Willett who knew about it from one of his clients, Saddiq Ahmed Turkistani, held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. "We planted a garden. We have some small plants - watermelon, peppers, garlic, cantaloupe. No fruit yet. There's a lemon tree about two inches tall, though it's not doing well," Willet quoted Saddiq as saying. The Saudi-born prisoner says he and other detainees used water to soften the soil and scratched it with plastic spoons and mop handles to prepare it for planting. "At night we poured water on the ground. In the morning, we pounded it with the mop handle and scratched it with the spoons.... The next day, we did it again. And so on until we had a bed for planting... We have lots of time, here," he said. Saddiq is detained in part of Guantanamo prison known as Camp Iguana, along with eight other men whom the military cleared long ago but who are forbidden newspapers, visits from relatives, English dictionaries - and flowers. In an interview with the Independent, Willet said that he was amazed that Saddiq and other detainees managed to plant a garden. "I could not believe it," he said. "I knew they had no tools. If you take in court papers you have to take the staples out. The look on his face as he told me how they had unscrewed the mop handles and used buckets of water [to build the garden] was something wonderful." The U.S. army admitted in 2005 that Saddiq wasn't an "enemy combatant" but that he remained in legal limbo because no country was prepared to take him. Willet says he and other lawyers had regularly asked the authorities of Joint Task Force Guantanamo [JTFGTMO] to build a garden for the prisoners but they refused. Gardens are commonplace in POW camps, and those prisoners aren't even enemies. At the Harperley POW Camp, in County Durham, built by the British for German and Italian POWs during the Second World War, gardening was encouraged, along with educational classes and football. "These people have been put in such a hellish situation and yet, somehow, they have found a way to create life, literally," Willet said. The revelation of the garden has now been used by human rights groups, seeking to close the detention facility, who launched a campaign, called "Seeds of Hope", urging supporters around the world to supply the prisoners with seeds. The UK-based campaign group Reprieve established a PO Box, details of which can be found on the group's website www.reprieve.org.uk, to send seeds to Guantanamo prisoners. "The massive might of the U.S. military is intent on holding prisoners in an environment that is stripped of comfort, humanity, beauty and even law. Yet the prisoners held there have overcome this with a plastic spoon and a lemon seed. It is the beginning of the end of Guantanamo Bay," said Reprieve's legal director, Clive Stafford Smith. QUOTE OF THE DAY: "In this [Iraq] war, the end is going to be very, very messy - because we don't know how to get out. We're going to get out body by body. I think that scares the hell out of me." -- Seymour Hersh talking to Robert Fisk


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