DAILY WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY, April 3, 2006
: Spc. Joe Sommer, 20, of Lawrenceville, Ga., of Charlie Company of the U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, looks through binoculars at a window where he manned a machine gun guard post at of a U.S. observation post called OP Hotel in Ramadi April 29, 2006. (AP Photo/Todd Pitman) (See below "Fighting To Keep Route Michigan Open")
Bring ‘em on
: A US civilian killed and two others were wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb near Nasiriyah. "I can confirm that one US civilian was killed and two wounded in the incident," a British military spokesman said Wednesday, without providing details.
The US military and embassy had no reports of the incident. But the Italian news agency Ansa said the bomb exploded at around midday (0800 GMT) on the side of a road near Souk al-Shuyukh as a civilian car passed with three men on board from a US security firm.
The driver was killed and the two passengers were seriously wounded. They were transported to hospital by an Italian military helicopter, it said.
OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS
Police also found the bodies of 14 Iraqi men in Baghdad
who apparently were the latest victims of a wave of sectarian violence involving death squads that kidnap civilians, torture them in captivity and dump their bodies on city streets.
Roadside bomb explodes in outdoor market in northern Baghdad, wounding 16 civilians.
Four Shia students were pulled from a minibus and shot dead overnight.
About 20 other corpses were found in Baghdad.
Bomb goes off at a busy popular market in Baghdad's northern neighborhood on Wednesday, wounding at least 15 Iraqi civilians.
"A explosive charge detonated at the Nasr popular market in the neighborhood of Shula, wounding 15 civilians," the source said on condition of anonymity.
"We can confirm that an Australian national from Victoria working as a security contractor has been injured in a roadside bombing on April 30th,"
a DFAT [Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] spokesperson said. The bombing took place 50km south of Baghdad on Sunday.
Iraqi soldiers wound driver and two escorts of the deputy speaker of Parliament, Khalid al-Attiya, as they refused to stop near an army checkpoint.
Attiya was not in the vehicle.
Gunmen wound professor outside the University of Mustansiriya in eastern Baghdad.
Gunmen attack police patrol in central Baqouba, killing a police officer and wounding another.
Police officer killed and three wounded as they were disarming a bomb when a second bomb exploded nearby in an apparent ambush in Baquba.
Roadside bomb explodes near elementary school for girls in Tikrit, wounding one child.
Mortar round fired at Camp Echo, a military camp in southern Iraq where Polish forces are based.
No casualties were immediately reported, but the mortar appeared to explode inside the camp and it was immediately sealed off by Polish forces.
Suicide bomber blows himself up among a crowd of men waiting to sign up to join the police force in Falluja on Wednesday, killing at least 18 people.
Thirteen of the dead were recruits and two policemen.
Bodies of four Iraqi soldiers found in Ramadi, two days after they graduated from basic training.
Policeman killed and two others wounded, including a civilian, when roadside bomb hits their patrol in Yusufiya.
Bodies of three people found tortured and shot dead in Nibai, near Dujail, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad.
Two bodies found in the town of Al-Mussayib, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad.
Police find bodies of three soldiers from Fallujah who had been shot and dumped in Khaldiyah, a city west of their hometown.
Top U.S. commander in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal urged U.S. forces to "go to the outer limits" to extract information from prisoners
, according to a U.S. officer cited in a military document.
The Army last year exonerated Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez of wrongdoing relating to detainee abuse, but human rights lawyers said the document raises fresh questions about the degree to which senior officers sanctioned the abuse.
"This is evidence that raises additional questions about the role of Lt. Gen. Sanchez in authorizing and endorsing the abuse of prisoners," Jameel Jaffer, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, said on Tuesday.
The May 19, 2004 Defense Intelligence Agency document was among more than 100,000 pages of files turned over by the government to the ACLU under court order as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The DIA inspector general's office document, marked "secret," described an interview in which an officer, whose name was redacted, expressed "knowledge of incidents relating to Iraq prison situation."
It was written three weeks after the first pictures of U.S. forces abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib -- including beating them, stacking naked men in a pyramid and menacing them with snarling dogs -- became public in April 2004.
The officer, who headed a team of three to four interrogators, described a 35-page document detailing "rules of engagement" for interrogators questioning prisoners in Iraq.
"The people were encourage (sic) to go to the outer limits to get information from the detainees by people who wanted the information," the document stated.
It said Sanchez saw a "desperate need" to get intelligence from the prisoners, adding that "HQ (headquarters) wanted the interrogators to break the detainees."
Iraqi government using diplomacy to try to stop Iranian forces from shelling Kurdish rebel positions in the north
and does not expect an incursion by ground forces, the foreign minister said Wednesday.
Iraq's oil exports hit an average 1.619 million barrels per day (bpd) in April
, bringing about $3 billion of much needed revenue into the state budget, Oil Minister Hashem al-Hashemi said on Wednesday. On Tuesday, shipping sources had said Iraqi oil exports in April were 1.55 million bpd, 140,000 up from a revised 1.41 million bpd figure for March.
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.
"An initiative for the solution of the present crisis [in Iraq] which reflects the will and view of the Iraqi national resistance and other political forces opposing the occupation":
1- A declaration by the American side of an unequivocal decision to withdraw fully from Iraq according to a short time-table of no more than six months. In consequence, all American, and other occupying contingents, should withdraw their forces from all Iraqi cities toward temporary and recognized military bases in agreement with the new Iraqi government. These forces should not engage in any security or military operations during the time of their withdrawal. Furthermore, by the end of the six-month period, all of these forces should have completed their withdrawal from those bases [in Iraq].
So, a precondition for this initiative is that the United States administration should agree to withdraw within a very short period of time, not more than six months, and with no military bases in Iraq.
2- The Iraqi National Resistance will declare a ceasefire, while keeping their arms, until the final withdrawal of American and other national occupation forces has been completed.
Once the United States withdraws from Iraq, all resistance and militias will be dissolved. Then,
3- An agreement should be reached, under the auspices of, and with guarantees from, the U.N. Security Council, and in consultation with the Iraqi National Resistance and other political forces that have not collaborated with the occupation, on selecting a Prime Minister for Iraq for a transitional period of no more than two years. The chosen PM should have the authority to select Iraqi cabinet ministers, in non-committing consultation with the U.N. representative in Iraq, from among neutral technocrats and nonpartisans. The PM and his ministers will have to abide by the rule of refraining from nominating themselves in any elections that would be taking place thereafter. The PM should have, in non-committing consultation with the U.N. representative, the authority of discharging ministers and appointing alternatives as needed and as necessitated by circumstances. The Cabinet will be authorized during the transitional period, for all of the legislative, executive and financial powers necessary to implement their duties. The Cabinet should also have the authority to reconsider, nullify or modify the laws, rules and orders introduced since the beginning of Iraq's occupation to the date of this agreement. The same authority applies to laws, rules and instructions that were issued before the occupation.
4- The U.N. Security Council should be committed to preserving Iraq's independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.
5- The new Cabinet should immediately commence, in consultation with the Iraqi National Resistance and the other main national forces opposing occupation, to reconstruct the Iraqi Army and other security forces, according to appropriate rules and criteria. The Army and other security forces should be supplied with needed modern equipment and from suppliers that the Cabinet considers adequate. All military militias in the land of Iraq will have to be dissolved in a manner specified by the Government.
6- All squads of the Iraqi National Resistance that abide by the above ceasefire will be dismantled within six months of this agreement upon the full withdrawal of the U.S. and other foreign forces from Iraq, and after the re-establishment of a minimum size of the Iraqi army and other Iraqi security forces.
7- The army and other security forces will not be allowed to engage in politics or join political parties. They will be under the complete authority and leadership of the new government. In addition, all political parties and other political entities are to be prohibited from engaging in political activities within the military establishment and within other security forces of Iraq.
8- The Iraqi government, in non-committing consultation with the U.N. Secretary General and the Iraqi National Resistance, have the right to invite limited numbers of Arab forces of some Arab countries, who did not encourage or participate in the occupation of Iraq, to perform peacekeeping missions in Iraq. Their size and duration of stay in Iraq will be decided by the Iraqi government.
9- The new Iraqi government will be empowered to achieve the following tasks, in addition to those mentioned above:
(a) Selecting a consultative council of 100 to 150 persons from among political forces, public personalities and Iraqis of special talents, who did not collaborate politically with the occupation. The meetings and debates of this consultative council will be held behind closed doors and its proceedings will not to be publicly announced.
(b) Abrogating the so-called constitution adopted by a rigged referendum on October 15, 2005, (especially in the governorates of Mousil-Nainawah, Muthanna, Diwaniyya and Ziqar) as being illegal as it had been already rejected by two-thirds of the voters in three governorates. All actions taken based on that constitution are to be abrogated as well.
(c) Preparing, within one year of putting this agreement into force, a law on elections and a law on political parties and the holding of elections for the two houses of parliament, the deputies and the Senates, taking its guidelines from the provisional constitution drafted by the Beirut Symposium (July 2005) (in Arabic) and published in the book titled "A Program for the Future of Iraq after Ending the Occupation: the Constitution, the Law on Election, the Law on Political Parties, the Reconstruction, the Oil, the Media, the Army, the Kurdish Question, and the Reparations." In achieving this task, the government is not committed to stick to the letter of the proposed programs exclusively, and should be in consultation with a large number of Iraqis inside and outside of the country regarding these issues.
(d) The holding of general elections within the second year of the transitional period, under the auspices of the U.N., the League of Arab States, the European Union, the Arab Organization for Human Rights, Amnesty International and other Arab and international organizations, in order to secure a free, honest and transparent elections. The elections will be organized on the proportional list's rule and governorate districts as stipulated in the draft constitution mentioned above (9-C).
10- During the transitional period, the new government will abide by the oil policy agreed upon by the Beirut Symposium. All oil agreements (contracts) signed during the occupation are to be declared null and void as violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions No. 1456 and 1483. All agreements (contracts) signed by the National Kurdistan Party and the Kurdistan National Union Party during the period 1991-2003, as well as all agreements signed during the occupation, with foreign firms for the exploration, development and oil production in the governorates of Suleimania, Erbil, and Duhok, are to be declared null and void as well. The Iraqi government will demand from all concerned firms the halt of all of their operations in those governorates. These companies will also be subjected to legal proceedings, inside and outside of Iraq, for contracting for oil investments with illegal Iraqi bodies in these areas.
11- The Security Council, based upon a U.S. initiative, is to abrogate all sanctions that are not yet alleviated, that were imposed on Iraq by the Security Council in the aftermath of Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, including the halting of any further deductions from the exported Iraqi oil revenues, and to release all frozen Iraqi assets.
Now, in compensation for the damage sustained by the Iraqi people and Iraqi infrastructure as a result of the invasion:
12- The U.S. and the U.K will have to provide financial assistance, in the form of grants, for no less than U.S. $50 billion from the former and U.S. $20 billion from the latter, to be deposited within six months of the date of the agreement and to be under the disposition of the new Iraqi Government for the purposes of Iraq's reconstruction and for compensating for the damages inflicted on the Iraqi state and the Iraqi population by the illegal U.S-U.K. occupation. The total of these amounts would be less than the actual financial expenditure for keeping the U.S and the U.K. forces for another year in Iraq. Furthermore, the U.S. and the U.K. governments will strive to use their contacts with Arab governments to eliminate the debts owed to them by Iraq, to waive Iraqi reparations allocated for them by previous Security Council resolutions, and to reimburse Iraq for the reparations received by those governments (except from individuals and firms) that were extracted through the U.N. reimbursements from the Iraqi oil revenues under the oil for food program.
13- The elected Iraqi Parliament will write a draft constitution based on the guidelines of the draft constitution for the Beirut Symposium, and to be submitted to popular referendum. Until this constitution is adopted, the new government will adopt the draft written by the Beirut Symposium as a provisional one that expires by the adoption of the final constitution.
14- The Iraqi-elected Parliament will select a President of the Republic according to the constitution adopted by the popular referendum.
15- The new Iraqi government will deal with the Kurdish issue in accordance with the draft constitution written by the above-mentioned Beirut Symposium.
16- The governments of the U.S. and the U.K. will commit themselves to non-intervention, directly or indirectly, in the internal and security affairs of Iraq.
17- The new Iraqi government will commit itself to not develop weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This commitment does not deprive Iraq of the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in accordance with international law.
18- The new Iraqi government will commit itself also to peaceful means and not to resort to force in cases of dispute with other Arab states and neighbor countries, including those that encouraged, assisted or participated in the occupation of Iraq, except in cases of self-defense and within the rules of the charters of the U.N. and the Arab League.
Now there is a provision to deal with different crimes of Kurds in Iraq;
19- The new Iraqi Government will establish an independent judicial panel, composed of Iraqi and neutral international legal experts, to investigate all complaints about crimes, human rights violations in Iraq, the collaboration with the occupiers, as well as state-terrorism including kidnappings, killings based solely on identity papers, and blackmailing. These include all crimes that were committed in Iraq since the revolution of July 14, 1958, and until the time of departure of the occupying forces from Iraq. This panel will collect information on all of these crimes in order that the newly elected Parliament would define the manner of implementing their retribution in the light of world experiences in dealing with such crimes.
20- Upon agreement to the above, and implementation by the U.S. and the U.K. of the points related to them as mentioned above, the new Iraqi government will deal with all U.S. and U.K. companies and firms on issues of the reconstruction of Iraq, oil investment, on an equal footing with other world companies and firms, without political prejudice, and on the basis of the oil policy and the reconstruction program to be adopted by the new Iraqi government.
21- This initiative is to be seen as an integral whole and not to be dealt with selectively.
You might ask "What are the chances that this initiative will be accepted or dealt with by the American administration?" This initiative and the accompanying program was prepared, as I said, in consultation with the Iraqi Resistance and the main Iraqi political parties and groups opposed to occupation as preparation for the stage after the failure of the political process. We know that the United States will not come now to the negotiation table. It is only after they are convinced of the failure of the political process that they will look for another solution or way out of Iraq, a way out of the present quagmire which they are in. We also think that because of the forthcoming midterm election in November, they will try to seek a solution, a way out in order not to loose their majority in both the Senate and the House.
This is a peaceful initiative that allows the American administration to save face. If this is not accepted, then the resistance will continue and I think we will see the liberation of one city after the other, including Baghdad. The American forces will be forced to leave, and in that case they will cut and run. I hope for the sake of Iraq, the Iraqi people, and for American lives, that the United States once they are convinced of the failure of their political process, will come to its senses and started negotiating this initiative.
--- Excerpt from a presentation by Dr. Khair El-Din Haseeb's at Georgetown University April 5, 2006. A native of Iraq, Dr. Haseeb is the Director General of the Center for Arab Unity Studies, one of the leading, most productive think tanks in the Arab world.
Most American young people can't find Iraq on a map
, even though U.S. troops have been there for more than three years, according to a new geographic literacy study released on Tuesday.
Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans aged 18-24 in a survey could place Iraq on an unlabeled map of the Middle East, a study conducted for National Geographic found. Only about one-quarter of respondents could find Iran and Israel on the same map.
U.S. Marines go hungry in Iraq
: Nick [Andoscia]'s a Marine corporal. He was in Afghanistan last year, where there was enough to eat. He's in Iraq now even though his enlistment was up last year.
"He extended," says Karen [Boucher-Andoscia, Nick's mother]. "He told me, 'I really have to go. I can't let my guys go alone.' "
So Nick Andoscia went to Iraq. And hunger soon followed.
"I got a letter," says Karen. "And he had called me before that. He said, 'Send lots of tuna.' "
Nick told his mother that he and the men in his unit were all about 10 pounds lighter in their first few weeks in Iraq. They were pulling 22-hour patrol shifts. They were getting two meals a day and they were not meals to remember.
"He told me the two meals just weren't cutting it. He said the Iraqi food was usually better. They were going to the Iraqis and basically saying, 'feed me.' "
Iraqi academics in the heart of darkness
: Academics have been subjected to four types of hassle. First, to being interrogated and detained, right after the war. This was due to an accusation of participating in the (non-existent) WMD secret programme. Detention was from a few days to three years. Two women scientists, Dr. Huda Amash and Dr. Rehab Taha, were only recently released after confirmation that there was no such secret programme.
The second hassle is that many have been subjected to 'de-Baathification.' Hundreds were fired from their jobs because they were members of the Baath party, although all of them were seniors in different scientific fields.
The third problem is having to endure threats and intimidation by students who are motivated by different political and sectarian parties. Academics receive threatening letters, asking them to leave the institute and the country. Or they find a bullet in their letterbox. Some letters are written by students who are not doing well - a kind of blackmail - but we cannot take chances.
The fourth problem is the assassination list. Those who are still alive try and survive in the heart of danger - the heart of darkness. Many are trying to leave Iraq.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Riverbend: American Hostages...
: It was around the 10th or 11th of April, 2003. There had been no electricity in our area since the last days of March. The water was also cut off and most Iraqis still didn't have generators. We spent the days- and nights- listening to American and British war planes, listening for the tanks as they invaded the city, and praying. We also tried desperately to follow the news.
The state-controlled Iraqi channels had, seemingly, ceased to exist. Transmission had been bad since the war began- sometimes, we'd be able to access the channel clearly, and at other times, it was only a fuzzy blur of faces and scratchy national anthems. The official Iraqi radio station was no better- sometimes it seemed like they were transmitting from Mars- it was so far away. When we did get it clearly, none of it made sense: Sahhaf, the Minister of Information, would say, "There are no tanks in Baghdad!" and yet, explosions and the carcasses of burnt up cars with families still inside, said otherwise.
By the beginning of April, we had given up on getting any information from television and had to rely completely on the news we received through radio stations such as Monte Carlo, BBC and the Voice of America. VOA was nearly as useless as Sahhaf- we could never tell if the news they were broadcasting was real or if it was simply propaganda. In between news, VOA would broadcast the same songs over and over and over. I still can't hear Celine Dion's "A New Day Has Come" without shuddering because in my head I hear the sounds of war. "I was waiting for someone..." the roar of a plane overhead ... "For a miracle to come..." the BOOM of a missile... "My heart told me to be strong..." the rat-tat-tat of an AK-47... I hate that song today.
One television station that had been broadcasting since the beginning of the war was an Iranian station called "Al Alam". They had been broadcasting for the Iraqi public in Arabic with permission from the former government and they continued broadcasting even after the Iraqi stations stopped. Their coverage of the war was rather neutral. They gave facts and avoided unnecessary commentary or opinion and that, to a certain extent, made them trustworthy- especially since we really didn't have any other options.
We had heard about the statue being pulled down on one radio station or another, but none of us had seen it because we had no television due to a lack of electricity. Some Iraqis were taking old televisions and connecting them to an ordinary car battery which is what they did back in 1991. E. and the cousin managed to dig up a small, old, black and white television my aunt had managed to overlook during last years spring cleaning. They had it hooked up and working in a matter of twenty minutes (and after a thorough dusting). There was no longer an Iraqi television station. There was only the Iranian one, transmitting clearly. The tanks were rolling through Baghdad and bombing everything in their path. The Apaches were flying low and it seemed like every hour the gunfire and explosions were intensifying.
It was around 9 pm on the 11th of April when we finally saw the footage of Saddam's statue being pulled down by American troops- the American flag plastered on his face. We watched, stunned, as Baghdad was looted and burned by hordes of men, being watched and saluted by American soldiers in tanks. Looking back at it now, it is properly ironic that our first glimpses of the 'fall of Baghdad' and the occupation of Iraq came to us via Iran- through that Iranian channel.
We immediately began hearing about the Iranian revolutionary guard, and how they had formed a militia of Iraqis who had defected to Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. We heard how they were already inside of the country and were helping to loot and burn everything from governmental facilities to museums. The Hakims and Badr made their debut, followed by several other clerics with their personal guard and militias, all seeping in from Iran.
Today they rule the country. Over the duration of three years, and through the use of vicious militias, assassinations and abductions, they've managed to install themselves firmly in the Green Zone. We constantly hear our new puppets rant and rave against Syria, against Saudi Arabia, against Turkey, even against the country they have to thank for their rise to power- America... But no one dares to talk about the role Iran is planning in the country.
The last few days we've been hearing about Iranian attacks on northern Iraq- parts of Kurdistan that are on the Iranian border. Several sites were bombed and various news sources are reporting Iranian troops by the thousand standing ready at the Iraqi border. Prior to this, there has been talk of Iranian revolutionary guard infiltrating areas like Diyala and even parts of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the new puppets (simply a rotation of the same OLD puppets), after taking several months to finally decide who gets to play the role of prime minister, are now wrangling and wrestling over the 'major' ministries and which political party should receive what ministry. The reason behind this is that as soon as a minister is named from, say, SCIRI, that minister brings in 'his people' to key positions- his relatives, his friends and cronies, and most importantly- his personal militia. As soon as Al-Maliki was made prime minister, he announced that armed militias would be made a part of the Iraqi army (which can only mean the Badrists and Sadr's goons).
A few days ago, we were watching one of several ceremonies they held after naming the new prime minister. Talbani stood in front of various politicians in a large room in the Green Zone and said, rather brazenly, that Iraq would not stand any 'tadakhul' or meddling by neighboring countries because Iraq was a 'sovereign country free of foreign influence'. The cousin almost fainted from laughter and E. was wiping his eyes and gasping for air... as Talbani pompously made his statement- all big belly and grins- smiling back at him was a group of American army commanders or generals and to his left was Khalilzad, patting him fondly on the arm and gazing at him like a father looking at his first-born!
So while Iraqis are dying by the hundreds, with corpses turning up everywhere (last week they found a dead man in the open area in front of my cousins daughters school), the Iraqi puppets are taking their time trying to decide who gets to do the most stealing and in which ministry. Embezzlement, after all, is not to be taken lightly- one must give it the proper amount of thought and debate- even if the country is coming unhinged.
As for news of the new Iraqi army, it isn't going as smoothly as Bush and his crew portray. Today we watched footage of Iraqi soldiers in Anbar graduating. The whole ceremony was quite ordinary up until nearly the end- their commander announced they would be deployed to various areas and suddenly it was chaos. The soldiers began stripping their fatigues and throwing them around, verbally attacking their seniors and yelling and shoving. They were promised, when they signed up for the army in their areas, that they would be deployed inside of their own areas- which does make sense. There is news that they are currently on strike- refusing to be deployed outside of their own provinces.
One can't help but wonder if the 'area' they were supposed to be deployed to was the north of Iraq? Especially with Iranian troops on the border... Talbani announced a few days ago that the protection of Kurdistan was the responsibility of Iraq and I completely agree for a change- because Kurdistan IS a part of Iraq. Before he made this statement, it was always understood that only the Peshmerga would protect Kurdistan- apparently, against Iran, they aren't nearly enough.
The big question is- what will the US do about Iran? There are the hints of the possibility of bombings, etc. While I hate the Iranian government, the people don't deserve the chaos and damage of air strikes and war. I don't really worry about that though, because if you live in Iraq- you know America's hands are tied. Just as soon as Washington makes a move against Tehran, American troops inside Iraq will come under attack. It's that simple- Washington has big guns and planes... But Iran has 150,000 American hostages.
Bush recounts Condi & Rummy's impressions of the new Iraqi leaders: "they were optimistic people, that they're full of energy and they're very eager to succeed." Sound like interns or cheerleaders or puppy dogs or something.
Another line from Condi's appearance on Face the Nation: "you defeat an insurgency through politics, not just through military force." Oh dear, I think Zarqawi's about to be... Swift Boated.
Fighting To Keep Route Michigan Open
: On the roof of a ruined hotel-turned-observation post nicknamed ''the Ramadi Inn,'' two U.S. snipers listen to Johnny Cash's ''Ring of Fire'' on an iPod and watch a firefight through holes knocked out of a penthouse wall.
Marines at another sandbagged outpost up the road are firing grenades at insurgents, sending clouds of smoke rising above a hazy midday skyline of rusting water towers, minarets and an exquisite blue-domed mosque.
''It's a never-ending war,'' says one of the snipers, 22-year-old Spc. Jarrod York of Mansfield, Pa., as explosions boom in the distance.
Ramadi, populated by Sunni Arabs 70 miles west of Baghdad, is the most dangerous city in Iraq for U.S. forces. Commanders say there are more insurgent attacks here than anywhere else in the country, with militants and American troops exchanging fire several times a day - at least.
American troops seized ''the Ramadi Inn,'' known officially as OP Hotel, in 2004 to protect a road through the heart of the city. Two years later, they are using the building and others like it to secure Route Michigan, a key supply road for U.S. forces.
This four-story structure is one of the tallest in town, offering panoramic views over an urban wasteland crawling with insurgents.
The troops say the militants are also watching them - casing their positions in vehicles, peeking around corners, looking from afar through binoculars and video cameras. (…)
''We watch for anything that's not normal. But nothing's normal around this place,'' said Spc. Joe Sommer, 20, of Lawrenceville, Ga., his belt-fed machine-gun poking out a hallway window.
Past dreary halls draped with camouflage nets, soldiers sleep in cot-crammed quarters with no electricity, running water, phones or Internet.
Iraqi forces arrived a couple weeks ago and sleep on their own floor. A few promptly installed a satellite on the roof so they could watch TV in their rooms.
Every window has been sealed with leaking sandbags. Troops joke the weight of the bags may bring down the building. Scrawled on one wall: ''Ramadi Inn, aka OP Sandbag.''
Only a few rooms have generator-driven fluorescent lights: the command center and a kitchen stacked with military rations. A few rays of sunlight stream in during the day, but the darkness ''makes you feel like you're living in a cave,'' said Army Lt. Nicholas Goshen, 24, of Cleveland.
Ringed by trash, blast walls and razor wire, the hotel's crumbling brown balconies and boarded windows are covered by chicken-wire fencing that hangs from the roof to help deflect shoulder-fired grenades.
Exchanges of fire have wasted most surrounding buildings and forced nearby residents to flee.
''It's sad, but this hotel is critical to keeping Route Michigan open,'' Goshen said, looking at vacant, bullet-sprayed shops across the street.
The snipers are stationed in a small enclosed room called the penthouse, which is on the roof.
Sgt. 1st Class Britt Ruble, platoon commander for Charlie Company of the Army's 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, said snipers had ''taken out quite a few people digging in alleys'' - planting roadside bombs - in the past year. (…)
Black marks and chips on the walls and ceilings bear testament to such stories, but soldiers say it is quieter here now than it had been - and quieter than other Marine-manned outposts along Michigan that are attacked daily.
Strikes on Iran too risky, says US general
: Military action against Iran would be fraught with risk and would have repercussions across the region, a leading American general conceded.
"Any action militarily is very complicated," Lt Gen Victor Renuart, the director of planning for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Daily Telegraph.
"And any action by any country will have second-order effects, and that is a strong case to continue the diplomatic process and make it work."
His comments are a rare public statement from the US military on what is the most contentious international issue of the day.
How Bad Is It?
: April 28, 2006 By Sarah Chayes and Amir Soltani Sheikholeslami, Boston Globe
In Afghanistan, disgust at warlords whom the US military signed up as proxies and then ushered into positions of power has much of the exasperated population cursing the very word ''democracy" and harking back nostalgically to the Taliban era as one of at least some law and order.
Now, when Taliban knock on village doors at night asking for succor, few see a reason to risk denying it. Worse than Orwellian
: Zeynep (Under the Same Sun) calls Orwellian the claim that the US can't return prisoners now in Guantanamo to their home countries because they might be treated... wait for it... inhumanely. Breathtaking in its audacity, yes, but it might actually be worse than Orwellian, a term which implies cynical knowing distortion of the truth: the Bushies might well genuinely believe that America's motives are so pure and enlightened that the exact same treatment is somehow a superior experience to those at its sharp end when meted out by Americans than it is when inflicted by the dusky hands of lesser nations.
The Conscience of a Nazi: What Immigration Reform Means for the U.S.
: Claudia Koonz, in The Nazi Conscience,
writes of the Nazi youth leader who watches his friend being marched off to the death camps. A few years earlier, the youth would have decried the round up, but on that day he merely thought, "How unfortunate that Heinz is a Jew." As an adult he recalled, "I accepted deportation as just."
Koonz posits that it was a steady message of racial superiority combined with subtle legal and bureaucratic rule-making that disposed the Good German to turn an uneasy blind eye to the Holocaust. Once he held power, Adolph Hitler dropped his public anti-Semitic rhetoric for references only to the superior German race, leaving the "other" in the shadows of public rhetoric.
The Left today widely acknowledges the emergence in the United States of three fundamentals of Fascism: corporatism, imperialism, and repression. What is forgotten is the fourth, equally critical prop to a Fascist state: scapegoats. Without them, even "good" citizens will question themselves and their government. With them, the frustration of the volk can play itself out on the scapegoats, without threat to the state.
With the emergence of punitive immigration laws like [Wisconsin Congressman James] Sensenbrenner (HR 4437), communities of recent immigrants have, understandably, recognized the Fascist implications of scapegoating with far more clarity than most European-descent people in the U.S.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army is stepping up plans for prison labor camps, and Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) mulls over replacing migrants with prison labor. The Department of Homeland Security has a standing contract with Halliburton for emergency detention prisons for immigrants. DHS has issued Operation Endgame to "provide the endgame to immigration enforcement and that is the removal of all removable aliens." "We must strive for 100% removal rate," according to a cover memo written by Anthony Tangeman, director of ICE's Office of Removal. (The memo has been removed from the ICE website since March 24, but pieces remain at the eScholarship Repository at the University of California).
The minutemen and their ilk have attached every conceivable failing to immigrants, chiefly those from Mexico. To hear the minutemen tell it, Mexican immigrants are responsible for failing schools, inadequate health care, unemployment, gangs, inner city slums, inflation, overpopulation, tuberculosis, and AIDS.
That's scapegoating. The U.S. government, in authorizing labor camps, detention centers, and the threat of enforcement-only "immigration reform," has added its imprimatur. A proto-Fascist government needs a scapegoat, an "inherently" evil population to take the blame, and the minutemen have handed them Mexicans on a plate.
The truth is, nobody can make a decisive case against undocumented immigrants. Perhaps they pay less in taxes, but even in 1995, before most states cut undocumented migrants' benefits to bare survival, they received proportionately less in benefits, according to the Cato Institute. The right-wing Heritage Foundation establishes that on both the high and low ends of the economic scale, immigrants with and without papers aren't taking anyone's job.
So the Sensenbrenner anti-immigrant bill is necessary to authorize the scapegoating. And Sensenbrenner's bill is what finally provoked Mexicans, Chicanos, and other immigrant and immigrant-descent communities across the nation to rise up in a groundswell as great as the civil rights movement at its peak.
HR 4437, along with its Senate siblings (most crafted to make the poison pill more palatable), will not only criminalize most of a national group in this country. They will encourage police harassment of entire ethnic-descent communities, regardless of immigration status, and they will, in effect, legitimize every accusation the minutemen have made of Mexicans and Chicanos.
The object of Operation Endgame is to deport all undocumented people by 2012.
Under Sensenbrenner, the U.S. will build 700 more miles of border wall. Think one and a half times a completed apartheid wall across Palestine. In California, the current border wall is sixty-six miles long. Since 1994 when Operation Gatekeeper was begun, more than 4000 people have died trying to cross around the wall, across the brutal deserts and an often raging Rio Grande River. Fewer than a dozen died annually before the wall. The net effect of 700 more miles of the proposed 3-layer wall can only be more death, hundreds of corpses scattered across the desert and floating in the river.
The U.S. interior will be militarized. One minuteman leader has proclaimed, "Oh Jesus, it is unbelievable. I mean, we need the National Guard to clean out all our cities and round them up." Another has called for the deployment 36,000 National Guard and State Defense Force personnel along the border. Under pressure from her legislature, in February the governor of Arizona authorized additional National Guard troops to assist the Border Patrol.
HR 4437 would double the number of border police, add 1000 ICE agents, and 25% more dogs. President Bush has proposed equipping the Border Patrol with extensive high-tech, military surveillance equipment, including a fleet of unmanned drone airplanes based just 150 miles south of Los Angeles. So much for posse comitatus, the law against posting military troops within U.S. borders.
Airbrushing The Dead
: It takes a deft hand to not only erase an active sponsor of genocidal violence, but also hide some 200,000 butchered human beings. Yet Guido Guilliart of the Associated Press did so in a single sentence:
"Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and ruled the tiny half-island territory with an iron fist until 1999, when a U.N.-organized plebiscite resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence."
The ol' "iron fist" line. Seemingly descriptive, but in this case, incredibly vague. An honest, accurate account would read:
"Indonesia invaded East Timor on December 7, 1975, after receiving the green light from then-U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who visited Jakarta on the eve of the Indonesian invasion. Indonesia ruled the tiny half-island territory through terror and mass murder, killing some 200,000 Timorese, nearly a third of East Timor's population, thanks to several billion in military and economic support from the United States. This state of siege lasted until 1999, when a U.N.-organized plebiscite resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence. The Clinton administration continued to finance the Indonesian military as it committed more atrocities in a last-ditch attempt to stem Timorese independence. As U.S. Ambassador to Jakarta, Stapleton Roy, told reporters at the time, 'Indonesia matters, East Timor does not.' International pressure and outrage in Congress finally forced President Clinton to halt military aid on September 10, 1999."
Something tells me that if the Soviets or Saddam were financing these atrocities, especially over a 24 year period, their sponsorship would be mentioned. Indeed, we'd never hear the end of it. But knowing when to tell the whole story, if telling it at all, is one of the many tricks a journalist must learn in order to climb the mainstream ladder. An "iron rule," if you will.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
: "If the War Party pulls this one off [attack Iran], then you can kiss your country – your freedom, your relatively comfortable lifestyle, your Americanness
– good-bye." --- Justin Raymondo