DAILY WAR NEWS FOR THURSDAY, June 8, 2006
: TV cameramen film a photograph displayed at a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq purporting to show the body of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida-linked militant who led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings in Iraq, who was killed Wednesday in a U.S. airstrike, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced Thursday, June 8, 2006. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) (See below "Zarqawi Death Special")
Bring 'em on
: Sgt. Mark T. Smykowski, 23, of Mentor, Ohio, died June 6 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. (DefenseLink)
Bring 'em on
: Staff Sgt. Richard A. Blakley, 34, of Avon, was killed Tuesday by small-arms fire while he was on patrol near Al Khalidiyah, Iraq, the Indiana National Guard said Thursday. Blakley, an Avon High School graduate, was deployed with the 738th Area Support Medical Company of Monticello, Ind.
OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS
An explosion targeted a police patrol in the New Baghdad area in eastern Baghdad, killing two policemen and four civilians and wounding 11 people.
A blast at a fruit market in the New Baghdad area in eastern Baghdad killed thirteen people and wounded 39. The bomb detonated at the entrance of the market, severely damaging several shops.
A parked car exploded at the outdoor Amin market in the capital, killing at least 10 people and wounding 10 others.
An Iraqi soldier was killed and two others were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in the Udhaim area northeast of Baquba.
Unidentified gunmen attacked an Iraqi military base in Buhruz town, south of Baquba, killing two Iraqi soldiers and wounding four others.
Death of Zarqawi in Iraq comes as more Americans than ever think the war in Iraq was a mistake
, according to AP-Ipsos polling.
The poll, taken Monday through Wednesday before news broke that U.S. forces had killed Zarqawi, found that 59 percent of adults say the United States made a mistake in going to war in Iraq - the highest level yet in AP-Ipsos polling.
Approval of President Bush's handling of Iraq dipped to 33 percent, a new low. His overall job approval was 35 percent, statistically within range of his low of 33 percent last month. The poll of 1,003 adults has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Among other findings:
_More than half, 54 percent, said it's unlikely that a stable, democratic government will be established in Iraq, a new high in AP-Ipsos polling. The survey was completed before Iraq's parliament approved three key new government ministers. Just 67 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of conservatives, and 57 percent of white evangelicals believed a stable, democratic government is likely.
_Only 68 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of white evangelicals and 51 percent of self-described conservatives - key groups in Bush's base of support - approved of his handling of Iraq.
Members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are on their way east
, starting deployment yesterday from Onslow Beach. Marines said goodbye to their loved ones yesterday, but will spend another couple of days loading equipment and personnel on ships before they head out. As usual, their destination is uncertain, but it's likely they'll end up in Iraq.
Real estate prices estimated have fallen by about 40 per cent over the last six months in Ramadi
: Ismael al-Dulaimi, a 38-year-old wholeseller of construction materials, has lived in Ramadi all his life. Although he owns or leases nearly 20 properties, he is packing up and moving to Baghdad "so that my children can live a relatively normal life away from daily violence and terror".
Just to get out of the city, Dulaimi said, he sold the lease on 15 shops for a total of only seven million dinars (4,700 dollars) even though the 25-year arrangement was worth 15 million dinars.
Schools in Baghdad its suburbs faced a violent school year in which 765 teachers and 1,750 students were killed during school hours
, according to lieutenant colonel Mohammed Salin, security director for the ministry of education. At least 65 schools were attacked over the same period, he reported.
Bombs were planted inside or close to schools, and teachers - particularly sports instructors and English-language teachers working outside of school hours as translators for companies, other organisations and the military - were targeted by extremists.
"The terrorists' goal is to stop the wheel of education from turning in the country," said Karim al-Waili, director-general of general education in the education ministry. "They want to sink the country into complete ignorance."
>> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
ZARQAWI DEATH SPECIAL
HUBUB IN HIBHIB: THE TIMELY DEATH OF AL-ZARQAWI
Abu Musab Saddam Osama al-Zarqawi, the extremely elusive if not entirely mythical terrorist mastermind responsible for every single insurgent action in Iraq except for the ones caused by the red-tailed devils in Iran or the stripey-tailed devils in Syria, has reportedly been killed in an airstrike in Hibhib, an area north of Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki announced today.
Zarqawi, the notorious shape-shifter who, according to grainy video evidence, was able to regenerate lost limbs, speak in completely different accents, alter the contours of his bone structure and also suffered an unfortunate binge-and-purge weight problem which caused him to change sizes with almost every appearance, was head of an organization that quite fortuitously dubbed itself "Al Qaeda in Iraq" just around the time that the Bush Administration began changing its pretext for the conquest from "eliminating Iraq's [non-existent] weapons of mass destruction" to "fighting terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them over here."
The name change of the Zarqawi gang from its cumbersome original - "The Monotheism and Holy War Group" - to the more media-sexy "Qaeda" brand was thus a PR godsend for the Bush Administration, which was then able to associate the widespread native uprising against the Coalition occupation with the cave-dwelling dastards of the bin Laden organization. This proved an invaluable tool for the Pentagon's massive "psy-op" campaign against the American people, which was successful in sufficiently obscuring reality and defusing rising public concerns about what many experts have termed "the full-blown FUBAR" in Iraq until after the 2004 elections.
However, in the last year, even the reputed presence of a big stonking al Qaeda beheader guy roaming at will across the land has not prevented a catastrophic drop in support for President Bush in general and the war in Iraq in particular. Polls show that substantial majorities - even those still psy-oped into believing the conquest has something to do with fighting terrorism - are now saying that the war "is not worth it" and call for American forces to begin withdrawing. (...)
With Zarqawi's Bush-granted liberty reputedly at an end, the Pentagon moved quickly to confirm the identity of the man killed in Hibhib today. At a joint press conference with Prime Minister Maliki, U.S. Gen. George Casey said Zarqawi's body had been identified by "fingerprints, facial recognition and known scars" after a painstaking forensic examination by Lt. Col. Gil Grissom and Major Catherine Willows.
In yet another amazing coincidence, the announcement of the death of Zarqawi or somebody just like him came just as Prime Minister Maliki was finally submitting his candidates for the long-disputed posts of defense and interior ministers, which then sailed through parliament after months of deadlock. The fortuitous death also came after perhaps the worst week of bad PR the Bush Administration has endured during the entire war, with an outpouring of stories alleging a number of horrific atrocities committed by U.S. troops in recent months.
Oddly enough, Zarqawi first vaulted into the American consciousness just after the public exposure of earlier U.S. atrocities: the tortures at Abu Ghraib prison in the spring of 2004. With story after story of horrible abuse battering the Administration during an election year, Zarqawi, or someone just like him, suddenly appeared with a Grand Guignol production: the beheading of American civilian Nick Berg. This atrocity was instantly seized upon by supporters of the war to justify the "intensive interrogation" of "terrorists" - even though the Red Cross had determined that 70 to 90 percent of American captives at that time had committed no crime whatsoever, much less been involved in terrorism, as the notorious anti-war Wall Street Journal reported. Abu Ghraib largely faded from the public eye - indeed, it was not mentioned by a single speaker at the Democratic National Convention a few weeks later or raised as an issue during the presidential campaign that year.
Today's news has likewise knocked the new atrocity allegations off the front pages, to be replaced with heartening stories of how, as the New York Times
reports, Zarqawi's death "appears to mark a major watershed in the war." Thus in his reputed end as in his reputed beginning, the Scarlet Pimpernel of Iraq has, by remarkable coincidence, done yeoman service for the immediate publicity needs of his deadly enemy, the Bush Administration.
It is not yet known who will now take Zarqawi's place as the new all-purpose, all-powerful bogeyman solely responsible for every bad thing in Iraq. There were recent indications that Maliki himself was being measured for the post, after he publicly denounced American atrocities and the occupiers' propensity for hair-trigger killing of civilians, but he seems to be back with the program now. Administration insiders are reportedly divided over shifting the horns to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's already much-demonized head, or planting them on extremist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, or elevating some hitherto unknown local talent - or maybe just blaming the whole shebang on Fidel Castro, for old times' sake.
The announcement of the new bogeyman is expected sometime in the coming weeks.
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MISREADING THE INSTRUCTION MANUAL
D'oh ... what are the Bushites thinking?!?
Maybe the pages of their copies of George Orwell's 1984 have gotten too crusted over -- because I could've sworn they understood the concepts well enough to know you don't kill Emmanuel Goldstein!
Judging from this Reuters report, even Dubya and the gang know this isn't going to help them very much:
"Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues," a somber-looking Bush said in a measured statement in the White House Rose Garden.
. . . A senior White House official said: "Don't expect any announcement that there's going to be a reduction in troop levels. It's not going to happen now."
There's not much reason for them to hope for anything more than a temporary blip in the polls -- and the nearest elections are five months away! This never would've happened if Karl Rove was still running the show, lemme tell ya.
ZARQAWI DEATH DANCE PARTY: WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO BRING THE BALLOONS?
The US military has announced the death by air raid of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (Muss to his friends). Zarqawi was never as important inside Iraq as he was in Washington, where the Jordanian served as symbol of the Bush admin's contention that insurgency in Iraq was largely the work of outside agitators. It's hard to see what will change. After all, unlike our illegal immigrants, the Z Man was doing a job that many, many Iraqis are willing to do.
Still, in the Green Zone, Gen. Casey, Amb. Khalilzad and PM Maliki, seemingly the only Iraqi present except for an interpreter, held a kick-ass victory party. Later, there was cake.
read in full...
PEOPLE OPINIONS ON ZARQAWI DEATH
The whole day I was with TV team covering the news of the death of Zarqawi, by asking people's opinions.
The orders came from above that the opinions must be "pro-occupation" (speaking about the freedom of speech).
We just asked pedestrians on the streets, from 30 opinions of different fraction of the Lebanese society only three opinions were pro-occupation" and the rest were something like this:
"They are the Americans who create Zarqawi, and now they don't need this myth anymore".
"As long as the occupation exists then there will be many other Zarqawis".
Best opinion I heard today was:
"The Americans announce the death of Zarqawi because they wanted to show support for Iraq's new government, but Zarqawism is not dead they left the option open to use another name or names".
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US ARMY OFFICER SAYS WON'T FIGHT IN "UNLAWFUL" IRAQ WAR
A U.S. Army officer said on Wednesday that fighting in the war in Iraq would make him "party to war crimes" and he would not go.
First Lt. Ehren Watada's supporters -- including clergy and a military family group -- said he is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to serve in Iraq and risked being court-martialed.
The Pentagon said Watada was among a number of officers and enlisted personnel who have applied for conscientious objector status.
"The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people is not only a terrible moral injustice but a contradiction of the Army's own law of land warfare. My participation would make me party to war crimes," said Watada in a taped statement played at a Tacoma news conference.
His superiors at the nearby Fort Lewis military base would not let Watada leave the base to attend the press conference. Another news conference took place in Watada's native Hawaii.
Watada, 28, had been scheduled to be deployed to Iraq for his first tour later this month. He joined the Army in 2003, and has served in Korea.
Watada said his moral and legal obligations were to the U.S. Constitution "not those who would issue unlawful orders."
RIVERBEND: I NEVER THOUGHT I'D ACTUALLY MISS THE CAR BOMBS
This has been happening all over Iraq- mysterious men from the Ministry of Interior rounding up civilians and taking them away. It just hasn't happened with this many people at once. The disturbing thing is that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior has denied that it had anything to do with this latest mass detention (which is the new trend with them- why get tangled up with human rights organizations about mass detentions, torture and assassinations- just deny it happened!). That isn't a good sign- it means these people will probably be discovered dead in a matter of days. We pray they'll be returned alive...
Another piece of particularly bad news came later during the day. Several students riding a bus to school were assassinated in Dora area. No one knows why- it isn't clear. Were they Sunni? Were they Shia? Most likely they were a mix... Heading off for their end-of-year examination- having stayed up the night before to study in the heat. When they left their houses, they were probably only worried about whether they'd pass or fail- their parents sending them off with words of encouragement and prayer. Now they'll never come home.
There's an ethnic cleansing in progress and it's impossible to deny. People are being killed according to their ID card. Extremists on both sides are making life impossible. Some of them work for 'Zarqawi', and the others work for the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. We hear about Shia being killed in the 'Sunni triangle' and corpses of Sunnis named 'Omar' (a Sunni name) arriving by the dozen at the Baghdad morgue. I never thought I'd actually miss the car bombs. At least a car bomb is indiscriminate. It doesn't seek you out because you're Sunni or Shia.
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Who are our enemies? The answer, of course, is that we have many enemies, foreign and domestic.
Radical Islamic jihadists are enemies. Other nations in the world may be enemies. Plotters and conspirators within our government and government circles are our enemies. We may have enemies we are not fully aware of.
Ignorance and indifference about the trauma our troops and their families are facing are also our enemies.
So many Americans seem to simply put the Iraq War out of their minds. In a way, we can't blame them. The horror and brutality of what our military personnel are facing is often nothing less than a nightmare. A nightmare that they, and we, can't wake up from.
We can try to avoid thinking about these things and try to avoid feeling this terrible truth. But deep down, we are part of it. Deep down, we know it and we feel it.
Our troops are seeing friends with legs, arms and faces blown off. Seeing Iraqi children with horrible injuries or simply lying lifeless from bullets or bombs. This terrible reality our military personnel are dealing with is the enemy.
The enemy includes the people who profit illegitimately from the Iraq War. Sometimes the profit is financial. Sometimes it is power or political glory. Sometimes it is the actual enjoyment of the implementation of military might and the excitement of killing and destruction.
Our enemies can be concrete and obvious. Sometimes they are vague and hard to grasp. They can be behind the scenes. They can pose as friends or leaders or objective sources of information. Enemies can be among us. They can be within us.
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The hotel's elevator shaft was next to m room, and when the elevator hit the groun floor it made a muffled echo boom tha sounded exactly like a bomb. The elevato sounded like a bomb; thunder sounded like bomb; construction clangs sounded like bomb; a door slam sounded like a bomb bombs sounded like bombs. Firecracker thrown by kids sounded like sharp, clos Kalashnikov fire; a car backfiring sounded lik a single shot, unanswered, and nothing to tur your head about
I had been in Baghdad for six months straight. Every month, the situation got worse, but it crept worse, incrementally, so that it was hard to register, like boiling a lobster in tepid water. It produced not fear, exactly, but an ache, a deep fatigue. My friend Dan told me, "Jesus, you look like shit, get out to Amman for a week." But the rest of the world seemed very far away-almost unimaginable. In any case, at the end of March four American contractors were hanged, burned, and dismembered, in Falluja, and, a few days later, the authorities announced their intention to arrest the Shiite "firebrand" Moqtada al-Sadr for the murder of a Shiite cleric in 2003. There were uprisings in Kufa and Kut, fighting in Sadr City, and more dead American soldiers overnight in Ramadi. Falluja was surrounded; apparently, the Marines were advancing in armor, getting rocketed, and withdrawing. There were gunfights on the road and the highway to Jordan was closed.
We journalists sat around the hotel coffee shop, swapping nasty stories. There was a rumor that the hotel was going to be attacked. "It's like a whirlpool going down the plug hole," one of them said. Then, "No, pretend I didn't say that." Discussions went back and forth with the whiskey bottle. The Spanish were pulling their troops out; translators were getting gunned down on the highway; there were death threats, gunmen on the roofs in Sadr City. An American soldier had shot over Molly's and Steve's heads in Adhamiya. Did you hear that Burns got detained by the Mahdi Army outside Kufa? Later, drunker, the conversation slipped into fucking jihadis and blood-preaching imams and those God-crazed idiots cutting people's heads off. Did you see they've got beheadings as mobile-phone screens now? Stop: let's talk about Coetzee and Orwell and V. S. Naipaul and why Chalabi is such a chump. A political discussion ensued, and it struck me that we foreigners understood very little.
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U.S. "RULES OF ENGAGEMENT" IN IRAQ: "CIVILIANS BE DAMNED"
Confirming yet again my description of the U.S. "rules of engagement" in Iraq, which can be summed up as "civilians be damned," comes the latest incident:
On Monday, U.S.-led forces fired artillery at the train station in Anbar's provincial capital of Ramadi, "targeting four military-aged males unloading a weapons cache."
A hospital official, Dr. Omar al-Duleimi, said American forces killed five civilians and wounded 15. The U.S. military said the mission had "positive effects on the target," but it denied that civilians were killed or injured in the city west of the capital.
A hat tip goes to Holden at First Draft. I probably would have missed this story, which is buried 24 paragraphs (!) down the story about 50 people being kidnapped in Baghdad. And the issue of the 24th paragraph is no minor issue. The San Jose Mercury News, which I read in print, cut the story off well before that paragraph, and searching on Google and Yahoo news indicates minimal coverage of this story.
And let me say that the despicable, cynical nature of that phrase "positive effects on the target" merits only contempt.
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HUMOR: PENTAGON CALLS "OPERATION INSTANT EXONERATION" A SUCCESS
After the U.S. military said it had cleared of any wrongdoing a commander who led a raid on a home in the Iraqi town of Ishaqi, the Pentagon announced that its latest mission, dubbed Operation Instant Exoneration, had been a stunning success.
At a press briefing at the Pentagon today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld revealed that Operation Instant Exoneration, in which military officials charged with wrongdoing are exonerated more swiftly than ever before, was the culmination of months of meticulous planning.
"We have worked hard to make our military probes faster, lighter, and more cursory than ever before," Secretary Rumsfeld said. "When it is time to exonerate military personnel who have been involved in raids or massacres, we believe we now have what it takes to hit the ground running."
Secretary Rumsfeld noted that the military's probe of the Ishaqi raid had set a new world speed record for exonerations, but added that the military would try to beat that record when it came time to probe the killings in the Iraqi town of Haditha.
"We exonerated the commander at Ishaqi pretty darn quickly, but a record like that is made to be broken," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Acknowledging that some innocent civilians had perished in both incidents, Mr. Rumsfeld said that he would send out a memo to commanders to clear up apparent confusion about the war's actual objective: "Operation Iraqi Freedom does not mean making the country free of Iraqis."
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>> BEYOND IRAQ
A report that Canadian soldiers were abducted in Afghanistan is false and all troops have been accounted for
, officials said Wednesday after a head count to make sure. The head count was conducted after the Al-Jazeera and Reuters news agencies reported Taliban claims that it had abducted several soldiers.
Taliban insurgents fired three rockets into the international base at Kandahar airfield
, causing soldiers to race to concrete bunkers for cover. No one was hurt in the attack, which failed to cause any serious damage. The international base at Kandahar airfield has come under repeated attacks by 107-mm rockets this year.
Security forces thwarted a bombing in a southern Afghan town by capturing a donkey laden with explosives and a man who was plotting to blow up the animal in a rebel attack.
The donkey had 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of explosives and several land mines strapped to its back hidden in old sacks, said Ali Khail, a local government spokesman in Qalat town. The charge was linked to a remote-controlled detonator.
A roadside bomb slightly wounded four coalition soldiers when it blew up near their vehicle in southern Zabul province Wednesday.
The four were treated at a base and released, Innis said, but he declined to specify their nationalities.
In Ghazni province, a roadside bomb killed three Afghan soldiers and wounded one when it blew up under their vehicle.
Three suspects were arrested.
The Taliban killed two policemen in an ambush in the southern province of Kandahar.
The US Air Force increased its bombing of Taleban and other insurgent targets in Afghanistan this spring, making about 750 airstrikes in May alone
, Air Force officials said. U.S. warplanes logged nearly 2,000 strikes in Afghanistan from March through May 2006, about as many as the same period in 2005, said Air Force Maj Michael Young.
A U.S. military vehicle hit a minibus on a road outside the Afghan capital on Thursday and injured at least three civilians.
U.S. military officer Col. Bob Elliott, the driver of the military sports-utility vehicle, said he hit the oncoming bus while trying to overtake another vehicle on his side of the road. There were five U.S. soldiers in the Landcruiser and about 40 civilians on the bus. Two of the injured were in serious condition and were rushed to hospital. None of the U.S. soldiers was hurt. The driver of the minibus expressed anger at the Americans.
"I was driving on my side, but this foreigner was driving like a crazy man," he said. "I pulled to the side of the road, but he hit me and pushed my bus off the road. How can this happen so soon after last week's crash?"
QUOTE OF THE DAY
: “For globalism to work, America can't be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is ... The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist - McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.” -- Neoconservative Thomas Friedman, in a March 1999
New York Times article