Wednesday, June 14, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY, June 14, 2006 Photo: An Iraqi Shiite cleric walks across a series of British and American flags painted across a street in Karbala in Iraq Tuesday, June 13, 2006. The flags are painted on the ground in order that passers-by step on them, which is considered an insult. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani) Clashes broke out in the northern Baghdad district of Azamiyah shortly before noon, with heavy exchanges of gunfire sending residents scurrying for cover. The clashes took place near the Grand Imam Abu Hanifa mosque, the holiest Sunni Muslim shrine in Iraq. There were reports of casualties or other details. Most stores were closed in Azamiyah and mostly Sunni Dora, two strongholds of the insurgency. Entire streets in Dora, southern Baghdad, were deserted, including al-Moalemeem road, dubbed "death road" by residents because of the frequent clashes there between Sunni insurgents and security forces and sectarian killings. In Baghdad's central and mainly Shiite Karradah district, where a series of deadly car bombs took place in the past week, Iraqi army troops patrolled on foot. Some were deployed at main intersections in pickup trucks with machine-guns mounted on their roofs. U.S. troops patrolled parts of Baghdad in convoys of up to four humvees. They used the more heavily armored Bradley fighting vehicles in Dora. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: A parked car bomb struck the northern district of Qahira, killing at least four civilians and wounding six. A roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in northern Baghdad, wounding one civilian. Gunmen killed a civilian in western Baghdad as he was driving his car. A roadside bomb in western Baghdad's Jihad neighborhood killed one police commando and injured another. Muqdadiyah: Gunmen shot and killed a town councilman and a bodyguard in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. Baqubah: (Near) Five policemen were killed and three others injured when they were chased by gunmen who opened fire on them near Baquba, 60 kilometres northeast of Baghdad. Gunmen opened fire on street vendors in a city marketplace in Baqubah, killing four. Hibhib: US and Iraqi troops pursued three terrorist suspects involved in attacks in Hibhib, northeast of Baquba, where al-Zarqawi was killed last week. The terrorist suspects took shelter in a house and took one of the residents as a hostage, a security source said on Wednesday. The US troops then evacuated neighbouring houses and fired at the house where the suspects were hiding, killing two of them and the hostage. The third suspect was wounded, the source added. Najaf: Gunmen killed a construction contractor near his house in Najaf. The man, working for the Iraqi government as well as for U.S.-led forces in Iraq, was the brother of a member of Najaf's provincial council. Basra: About 500 followers of a Shiite cleric attacked the Iranian consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, throwing stones and setting fire to a building in the diplomatic complex.The Iranian Embassy in Baghdad confirmed the attack on its consulate in Basra, but said it had no idea who was behind the violence. It said no casualties were reported. The head of the mechanical engineering department at Basra University was assassinated. Gunmen shot dead Qassem Youssef Yacoub as he was leaving the university Tuesday night. Kirkuk: An Iraqi police officer was injured when a booby-trapped vehicle blew up targeting a passing police patrol in the center of Kirkuk. (Near) Police killed a suicide bomber when he tried to detonate his car near a police checkpoint 15 km (8 miles) southwest of Kirkuk. Fallujah: Gunmen killed an Iraqi journalist working for a newspaper accused by insurgents of publishing U.S. propaganda in Fallujah. Ibrahim Seneid, an editor with the local al-Bashara newspaper, was killed late Tuesday in a drive-by shooting in the city, 40 miles west of Baghdad. Ramadi: Fighting intensified in and around Ramadi as rebels launched mortars and attacked Iraqi military positions. Four Iraqi solders were killed and three injured in a lengthy gunfight with 15 insurgents who managed to burn several Iraqi army vehicles before fleeing, authorities said. The U.S. military has said it is intensifying operations in Ramadi but denied preparing an offensive on the scale of the one against neighboring Fallujah in 2004. Tikrit: A security guard from Monmouthshire [UK] has died after an explosion in Iraq on Sunday. Father-of-two Kenny Clarke, 39, from Gilwern near Abergavenny, was working in Tikrit when a device went off near his vehicle. The Foreign Office confirmed that a second British national was injured in the attack. Rustamiyah: (Near) U.S. Police officer Rudy Mesa, 56, of Maxwell, was killed by a roadside bomb near Rustamiyah, Iraq. He had been in the war-torn country for about a month, after accepting a position with DynCorp International, a company training Iraqi police officers. >> NEWS Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad to protest uninvited US President George Bush: "Iraq is for Iraqis" and "No, to the occupation," chanted the protestors who marched through the northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah. They raised Iraqi flags and pictures of young Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, demanding the withdrawal of US-led occupation forces. "This visit is a brazen violation of Iraq's sovereignty," Abdel Hadi Al-Daraji, a senior aide to the Shiite leader, told the Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channel. "He was not invited even the government did not know about the visit." Italy began Wednesday its gradual withdrawal of troops from Iraq, Italian state television reported. By the end of June there should be just 1,600 Italian soldiers stationed in the country, the report said. Two Lebanese businessmen, initially feared kidnapped after they were snatched by armed men in Baghdad last week, are in fact being held in Iraqi police custody. Jamal Ahmad Falla and his business partner Ahmad Suweidi were seized Friday from their home in the Iraqi capital by armed men, prompting relatives and officials to declare them as kidnapped. Iraqi oil shipments to the Turkish port of Ceyhan have stopped pending a report on the condition of the pipeline, an Oil Ministry spokesman said. Pentagon officials have decided to make public all of the military's interrogation techniques. Defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision is not public yet, said Tuesday that the Pentagon had dropped plans to keep some interrogation techniques secret by putting them in a classified section of the military manual. The two senior officials said there will not be a classified section in the manual. One of the officials said descriptions of interrogation techniques initially planned for the classified section are either being made public or are being eliminated as tactics that can be used against prisoners. Marines cheer song about killing Iraqi civilians: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [America's largest Muslim civil liberties group] today called on the Pentagon and Congress to investigate a music video posted on the Internet that seems to show U.S. Marines cheering a song that glorifies the killing of Iraqi civilians. CAIR said the four-minute video, called "hadji girl," purports to be a "marine in iraq singing a song about hadji." (A "Hajji" is a person who has made the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, but the term has often been used as a pejorative by U.S. troops in Iraq.) The song, posted online in March, tells of a U.S. Marine's encounter with an Iraqi woman. It has been viewed by almost 50,000 people. The song's lyrics include: "I grabbed her little sister and put her in front of me. As the bullets began to fly, the blood sprayed from between her eyes, and then I laughed maniacally. . .I blew those little f**kers to eternity . . .They should have known they were f**king with the Marines." Members of the audience, not shown in the video, laughed and cheered wildly for these lyrics.
Marine seen in a video singing about killing members of an Iraqi family says song was a joke: Cpl. Joshua Belile apologized and said the song was not tied in any way to allegations that Marines killed as many as two dozen unarmed civilians in Haditha last year. "It's a song that I made up and it was nothing more than something supposed to be funny, based off a catchy line of a movie," Belile, 23, said in Wednesday's Daily News of Jacksonville. In a four-minute video called "Hadji Girl," a singer who appears to be a Marine tells a cheering audience about gunning down members of an Iraqi woman's family after they confront him with automatic weapons.
>> REPORTS Presence of U.S. troops in Iraq considered a greater threat to Mideast stability than the current government in Iran, according to a new poll of European and Muslim countries. The poll found that people in Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Russia rated the presence of troops in Iraq higher than the government in Iran as a threat, according to polling by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Views of U.S. troops in Iraq were even more negative in countries like Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan.(…) But the war in Iraq trumps the Iranian situation as a perceived danger to the world at a time when the image of the United States and its war on terrorism continues to drop internationally. America's image rebounded in some countries last year after the U.S. offered aid to tsunami victims, but those gains have disappeared, the Pew poll found. The 15-nation poll also found: _Overall support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism has declined even among close allies. _Favorable opinions of the United States continue to fall, with sharp declines in Spain, Turkey and India. _People in the United States and European countries are far more likely than those in Muslim countries to view the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections as a negative development. _Western European nations and predominantly Muslim nations have sharply different views on Iran, which the U. S.. claims is developing nuclear weapons. _Majorities in 10 of 14 foreign countries - including Britain - say the Iraq war has made the world more dangerous. Death of Zarqawi does little to improve views of how things are going for the U.S. in Iraq or boost President Bush's approval ratings, a CBS News poll finds. Mr. Bush has been cautious in his response to Zarqawi's killing by U.S. troops this week, calling it "a major blow to al Qaeda" but warning that it won't end the war "and it's certainly not going to end the violence." Americans agree. Half think the level of violence in Iraq will be unchanged by Zarqawi's death, while 30 percent say it will actually lead to more attacks against U.S. forces. Just 16 percent think the number of attacks will decrease as a result of his death. Sixty-one percent also say Zarqawi's death won't have any impact on the terrorist threat against the United States, while 22 percent it will increase that threat. Thirteen percent predict a decreased risk of terrorism. "NO NIGHT PASSES" WITHOUT ATTACK ON BASRA BRITISH BASE In the southern city of Basra, a rocket struck a house and killed a man in his garden. A witness, Tayb Khalil Saleem, 37, said the rocket probably was aimed at British forces occupying a hotel. "No night passes without the shelling of this hotel," Saleem said. link >> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS BUSH GOES TO BAGHDAD
IF BUSH HAD SWOOPED DOWN ON ANY OTHER CAPITAL CITY IN THAT FASHION… The most remarkable fact of the visit was that the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was informed of Bush's presence in his country only five minutes before he was ushered in to meet the US president. Until then, Maliki had been led to believe he was going to the US embassy to participate in a videoconference with Bush and his war cabinet, ensconced in the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. Maliki's ignorance of Bush's arrival demonstrates that the government installed in Baghdad by the American invaders lacks one of the most essential attributes of sovereignty: it has no control over who comes into the country. If Bush had swooped down on any other capital city in that fashion-with the possible exception of Kabul, headquarters of another US stooge regime-his plane or helicopter would have been intercepted or even shot down. But Iraq is not an independent country. It is a conquered province of the US empire. The Iraqi "government" does not govern, even in Baghdad. It is simply an agency of the real government, the American occupation regime headed by US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and enforced by 130,000 US troops. read in full... AND ALL OF IT MAKES SENSE TO ME In retrospect, the ruse seems painfully transparent: Bush was going to spend two days discussing Iraq policy. Two days! Policy! No, the only thing these clowns plan in that sort of detail is a photo op. We're informed this one took a month of planning. And what a plan it was! Wheels within wheels: oh sure, when Bush started fake yawning at 7:45 and saying he was going to turn in and read. Of course no one was fooled - read! what a kidder! - but they just figured that any second Condi was going to make some similarly lame excuse to absent herself - have to brush my teeth, takes a really long time with the gap, you know! - and then the boys could get on with the traditional game of "Deliverance," in which Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, who'd been wondering why he'd been invited, is jumped, stripped naked, told he has a purdy mouth, and given a two-minute head start. So it's off to the Green Zone for George Bush! In a fleet of helicopters and, despite what CNN may have told you, Bush wore the same flak jacket as these guys, though perhaps without the pee smell Tony Snow detects arising from Dan Barlett's. [reference to photo in yesterday's post -- zig] read in full...
WAR SUPPORTERS READY TO VOTE FOR "STAY THE COURSE" The House Republican leadership has an exquisite sense of timing. First, our air force drops a 500-lb bomb, killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Next, Nuri al-Maliki completes his cabinet appointments. Then, President Bush and his senior advisors convene at Camp David to talk about Iraq. Drum roll, please... House Majority Leader Boehner announces a debate on the Iraq War for this Thursday. Could there be a better time for an aye-vote on "Stay the Course"? read in full… "WE KILLED OUR BOGEYMAN" Jeffrey White, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, said Zarqawi's death, paradoxically, creates a new challenge for the Bush administration, which no longer has the specter of Iraq's most violent and fanatical terrorist to hold up as its enemy. "We killed our bogeyman," White said. "A lot of effort went into making him enemy number one. If the violence continues, who do we blame?" link to excerpt DÉJÀ VU IN RAMADI We've seen this before. An Iraqi city is surrounded by troops and armored vehicles; the artillery is wheeled into place, the roads are blocked, a giant wall of sand is piled up around the perimeter, and everything goes silent before the final onslaught. We've seen it in Falluja, al Qaim, Husbaya and Tel Afar; the same persistent refrain over and over again; Rumsfeld's lone mantra; "surround, isolate and destroy". This time it's Ramadi, next time somewhere else; what difference does it make? Iraq is being decimated city by city, town by town; ravaged by invaders who see an opportunity to fatten their wallets or enhance their reputations. They'll level everything before they're done. Ramadi is just another dot on the map; another set of mud-buildings in a vast ocean of oil; another convenient testing-ground for the War Department's next generation of high-tech weaponry. To hell with the people; their lives mean nothing. The strategy for Ramadi is the same as everywhere else; "search and destroy"; identify all areas of resistance and crush them with an iron fist. We don't do diplomacy, we don't do negotiations, we don't do "body counts". No one defies the new boss. Ramadi is a teeming city of 400,000 people. Now it is under siege by Rumsfeld's legions. The water lines have been blown up, medical supplies have been blocked, electricity has been cut off, and tens of thousands of people are fleeing into the countryside without shelter or food. This is what is taking place in Ramadi right now. It's not a video game; its real, and its being executed by the United States under the cover of "liberation" or some other such nonsense. (…) It's a good day for Rumsfeld; another chance to spread misery across the pock-marked landscape; another opportunity to experiment with the Pentagon's latest lethal gadgetry, another occasion to reduce a major Iraqi city to Dresden-type wreckage. He is completely free to work his magic. No one will notice anyway. read in full... WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THE US IS FORCED OUT OF IRAQ? We are reaching a turning point in history. The US is caught in a military stalemate in Iraq and most Americans have turned against the war. The prospect is now opening up that the US may be forced to leave Iraq. And such a political humiliation would have enormous consequences across the world. But most Europeans, even those on the left, can't see what is happening. They believe the US empire is too strong to be broken. They also think Americans are naturally right wing and unable to change their government's policy. All these beliefs are mistaken. This article tries to explain what is really happening and what it will probably mean. (...) Now a large majority of people in the US think the war was a mistake. They do not all support immediate withdrawal, but they want it and expect it in the next two years. In response, George Bush's administration says it will reduce the number of troops in Iraq this year. But such a move would send a signal to every Iraqi politician that the US was weakening and the resistance getting stronger. Remaining US troops would be reluctant to risk their lives for a lost cause. And the danger of a real defeat would increase. So Bush has talked of reductions - but not delivered them. This political climate has made the military crisis worse for the US in Iraq. Half the US troops there come from the National Guard and National Reserves. These men and women did not expect to go to war. They are older, and have families, and when they return to the US they leave the army. Recruitment to the Guard and the Reserves has largely dried up. Regular recruitment is falling too, partly because parents are dead set against it. The Pentagon is relaxing the entrance requirements to include people with mild learning difficulties. But with a deeply unpopular war, they cannot bring back conscription. The generals can see all this. It is clear from their private briefings to the press that senior US and British officers want out. So do the soldiers and their families. (...) The US ruling class is deeply split about what to do. They can't win in Iraq - but the consequences of a public defeat will be terrible for them. If the US leaves Iraq, it will lose control of Iraqi oil. The dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Egypt are widely hated by their own people, who are seen as creatures of the US. With a US defeat, Saudis and Egyptians could well rise up and bring Islamist opposition movements to power. The US would then lose control of all Middle East oil. (...) This is a matter of corporate survival. The fact that most ordinary people cannot envisage an alternative to the market is a key weapon in the hands of the rich. But defeat in Iraq will raise that possibility. In most people's minds, the power of the market and the power of the US have become closely related. If the empire cracks, the domination of the market inside our minds will crack too. Moreover these effects will be amplified precisely because most people don't believe it can happen. If the Iraqis can win, people will say, then we can take on our government - or our supervisor, or the head teacher. Every manager in the world will lose some confidence. A defeat in Iraq will open the floodgates - and the US ruling class knows this. But they cannot talk that way in public. Many of them cannot imagine intellectually what defeat would be like, or even allow themselves to think about it. But they can sense it. Inside themselves, they know. read in full... >> BEYOND IRAQ Afghanistan: One U.S. soldier killed and two wounded in attack in southern Afghanistan, an American official said Wednesday. The American soldier was killed when a coalition patrol on a resupply mission came under attack Tuesday afternoon in the Sangin district of Helmand province, said Lt. Col. Chris Toner. The assailants fired on the 10-vehicle convoy with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms, disabling three vehicles and forcing the U.S. troops to spend the night where they were attacked, Toner said. The ambush triggered a fierce clash in which coalition forces backed by helicopters and planes attacked Taliban positions. "We believe 12 suspected Taliban were killed in the bombing," Innes said, adding that the coalition was assessing if there were any civilian casualties in the air strikes. A coalition soldier was killed while fighting enemy forces in eastern Kunar province Tuesday, the U.S. military said in a statement. No details were released on the soldier's nationality, but U.S. troops have been fighting alongside Afghan forces against Taliban militants in the remote region bordering Pakistan. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded in two attacks in southern Zabul province Tuesday. One soldier was treated and released while the other is receiving care for non-life threatening injuries, he said. Two German soldiers were hurt, one of them seriously, in Afghanistan's Feyzabad province. QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'm a high-value target for some. And Iraq's a dangerous place. If there was ample notification that I was coming, it perhaps would have given somebody a chance to plan. And we just don't want to take that risk." -- George Bush during a press conference at the White House hours after returning from his second surprise visit to Iraq.


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