Friday, July 28, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, July 28, 2006 Photo: Iraqi Shiites gather in protest to denounce Israeli attacks on Lebanon following prayers, Friday, July 28, 2006, in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, southern Iraq. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani) Police reported clashes between the Shia Mehdi Army militia of Moqtada al-Sadr and US forces in the Babil province south of Baghdad. A curfew was placed on the town after the fighting. Sources within the militia said that one of their members was killed by US forces and one wounded. Bring ‘em on:A Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province today. (MNF – Iraq) Bring 'em on: A Salvadoran soldier was killed in Iraq in an attack on the Halliburton Co. convoy he was escorting. The soldier died yesterday when the vehicles from Halliburton's KBR unit were hit by an explosion on the outskirts of Diwaniyah, a city south of Baghdad. Another Salvadoran soldier was injured in the incident. Sub-sergeant Donald Alberto Ramirez, a 35-year-old nurse, is the fourth member of the Salvadoran armed forces to be killed in Iraq. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: A mortar bomb struck a mosque in Baghdad killing at least four people. Six people were wounded in the incident which took place at the al-Alee al-A'atheem Sunni Arab mosque on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. A rocket exploded in central Baghdad at midmorning, injuring three. Baiji: A train station official was shot dead by gunmen in Baiji, in the centre of the country. Continual attacks, including some in the last week, have kept the refinery in Beiji from producing amid an oil shortage. Hilla: (Baquba?) Five Iraqi civilians including three brothers were killed in Hilla. An army statement told Kuna that three brothers were killed by unidentified gunmen when they were about to board their car, early morning, in the heart of Baquba. Baqubah: A roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol, wounding two policemen in Baquba 65km (40 miles) north of Baghdad. Balad Ruz: (near) A Shia shrine has been blown up. Attackers planted several bombs inside the shrine to Imam Askar between the towns of Balad Ruz and Mandalay on Friday morning. The resulting explosion destroyed the monument. (near) Gunmen in a car opened fire on three brothers from a family, killing them all in a small village in the Imam Ways region west of the shrine to Imam Askar. Samarra: (near) An explosion struck a crude oil pipeline in central Iraq early Friday, a police officer in the area said. The blast, in the Tharthar area 20 kilometers west of Samarra, struck a pipeline carrying crude from Beiji refinery in the North to the Doura refinery near Baghdad, the Samarra-based policeman said. The officer didn't have any further details about the cause of the explosion and the time needed for repairs. Tikrit: Two Iraqis were killed outside their house in Tikrit. Kirkuk: Three people were killed south of Kirkuk when a roadside bomb destroyed their car. Gunmen kidnapped a Kurdish security guard in Kirkuk. An Iraqi army lieutenant was killed as his checkpoint was attacked by unknown gunmen southwest of Kirkuk. An improvised bomb exploded in one of the patrolling police vehicles on the main street of Kirkuk, while a similar attack targeted Multi-National Force (MNF) vehicle on the way of Kirkuk. Hawija: A policeman and a bystander were shot dead in an attack aimed at a passing police patrol in Hawija East of Kirkuk. Riyadh: Gunmen killed an Iraqi soldier in the village of Riyadh near Hawija. Ramadi: US warplanes attacked a house used as a hideout for gunmen in the western city of Ramadi. An army statement said the Multi-National Forces the raid also targeted a car used by insurgents. It gave no details about the insurgents' losses. >> NEWS The Pentagon's move to increase U.S. forces in Iraq will push troops levels to roughly 135,000, dashing Bush administration hopes of dropping that figure by tens of thousands by the fall congressional campaigns. As of Friday, there were 16 Army and Marine brigades in Iraq, two more than the level several months ago. And the total troops there had already reached 132,000, and will climb in the coming weeks, buoyed by the decision to delay the scheduled return home this month of an Alaskan Army brigade. (…) "The announcement that the U.S. is sending more troops into Baghdad is a grim warning of just how serious the situation in Iraq has become," said Anthony H. Cordesman, analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. One of Iraq's most influential Shiite leaders has rejected the use of US forces to stabilize Iraq's security situation, as the Pentagon announced an increase in troop numbers. Abdel Aziz Hakim told a rally in the holy city of Najaf that Iraqis should handle their own security, despite the mounting death toll in Baghdad, which is in the grip of a dirty war between rival Sunni and Shiite death squads. The Pentagon announced that 3,500 US combat troops who had been due to return home after a 12-month tour will be held back in Iraq for 120 days to help the US-led coalition restore order to the war-torn capital. (…) Currently 7,200 US troops are working with 43,000 Iraqi forces but have failed to stem the tide of violence in the capital, with another 4,000 US troops being sent to reinforce them. But Hakim, whose party the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) is one of the largest in Maliki's coalition government, told a chanting crowd of thousands that Iraqis should take matters into their own hands. "We must activate the project of popular committees to secure the neighbourhoods," he said, echoing calls from other Shiite leaders for local militias to protect their districts from Iraq's roving death squads. "The security file should be handed over to Iraqi forces and no one should interfere with it," he told supporters in Najaf. "The interference in the work of Iraqi security forces prevents them from catching terrorists." Hakim's intervention reflects a deepening divide in perceptions of Iraq's security problems among the country's political leaders. Shiite groups like Hakim's see an unfinished war against supporters of former dictator Saddam Hussein's regime and Sunni religious radicals. (…) "Those who kill the Iraqis are the takfirists (Sunni extremists), Saddamists, and Baathists," he said, referring to members of Saddam's former ruling party. "Any talk about anything else is directing the war away from its focus." Mahmud Mahdi al-Sumaidaie, a member of the hardline Sunni Muslim Scholars Association, and imam of the Umm al-Qura mosque preferred to lay the blame for the security situation on US forces. "The US occupiers are responsible for what is going on with the violence and destruction -- they are the ones controlling the security file," he said in his Friday sermon. US troops have come under increasing attack by groups linked to Shiite militias: Colonel John Tully, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade, said people associated with radical cleric Moqtada Sadr's Jaish al-Mahdi militia were often linked to the attacks in his area. The attacks, which mainly involved roadside bombs, were up by about 25 percent, he said. >> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS PRISONERS OF WAR, CONT'D From the Associated Press this afternoon:
Military commanders in Iraq are developing a plan to move as many as 5,000 U.S. troops with armored vehicles and tanks into the country's capital in an effort to quell escalating violence, defense officials said Thursday. As part of the plan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Thursday extended the tours of some 3,500 members of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. It was scheduled to be leaving now, but instead, most of its 3,900 troops will serve for up to four more months. . . . All flights out for soldiers currently at the end of their deployment were canceled as of Tuesday, as commanders wrestled with the plan and how to supply troops needed for it, a third official said.
"Bring 'em on," the man said three years ago. "We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation" . . . Update: The reliable Tom Lasseter of Knight Ridder McClatchy Newspapers explains the blunt truth for anyone who hasn't been paying attention:
The Bush administration's decision to move thousands of U.S. soldiers into Baghdad to quell sectarian warfare before it explodes into outright civil war underscores a problem that's hindered the American effort to rebuild Iraq from the beginning: There aren't enough troops to do the job. Many U.S. officials in Baghdad and in Washington privately concede the point. They say they've been forced to shuffle American units from one part of the country to another for at least two years because there haven't been enough soldiers and Marines to deal simultaneously with Sunni Muslim insurgents and Shiite militias; train Iraqi forces; and secure roads, power lines, border crossings and ammunition dumps. . . . "This is exactly what happens when there aren't enough troops: You extend people and you deplete your theater reserve," said an American defense official in Iraq, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. During embedded reporting trips beginning in the summer of 2003 - which included time with troops from eight Army divisions, an armored cavalry regiment and several Marine units -- yours truly a McClatchy reporter was told repeatedly that more manpower was needed. . . . Almost no high-ranking, active-duty U.S. officers are willing to discuss their concerns about troop levels publicly, for fear of being reprimanded or having their careers cut short. There's an unwritten understanding, they said, that the Bush administration doesn't want to hear about the need for more troops. "They're not allowed to ask for more troops," the U.S. defense official in Iraq said. "If you say something you're gone, you're relieved, you're not in the Army anymore."
If only Democratic politicians would realize that this is the story they need to tell about Iraq -- not simply that we need more troops (because there aren't more troops to send), but that there aren't enough troops to accomplish the "mission" that Dubya fantasizes about. And sending American soldiers on a mission they can't accomplish is betraying their trust, whereas Democrats will either redefine the mission into a more modest one that can be accomplished (with far fewer casualties) or bring them home. More on this "soon," as they say... link "IT WON'T BE LIKE VIETNAM AT ALL - WE GOT OUT OF VIETNAM ALIVE" The Army is dying. Not the same as Vietnam. I was in right after that. Still lots of drug use then, mid to late 70s. Lots of disrespect for authority. Middle NCO's were shot. Senior NCO's were ok but burned out. Today, no drugs, not a race problem like we were having at the end of Vietnam. Respect for military authority more or less okay still. But the soldiers are burned out, and don't know what they're fighting for. And too many second raters are there now. Furthermore, none of this is going to matter if the word is given and half a million fighting men suddenly storm the lines. It won't be like Vietnam at all - we got out of Vietnam alive. If it's word up, we could lose a Division or more. Because what we've got left just ain't got what it takes. The Army's broken. Only question left for me is, how long till someone who ain't us decides to pick our Army up and throw it on the ground. -- Comment by Jesse Wendel posted 07.28.06 - 1:39 am at The News Blog BUSH'S IRAQ: A BLOODBATH ECONOMY Iraqis have been brutalized not only by bombs and bullets; they've also been the victims of economic violence in the form of the free market "shock therapy" cooked up by a firm in Virginia on a $250 million no-bid contract before the U.S. invasion. Tranforming Iraq's economy overnight was a matter of ideology trumping commonsense, and it's killed thousands of innocent Iraqis and shattered a way of life for hundreds of thousands more. That the radical restructuring of Iraq's political economy has received so little critical attention -- even as Iraq's nascent government threatens to crash and burn -- is a testament to how deeply indoctrinated we are --especially our media -- in the narrative of what "American-style" capitalism is. It was taken as a given that after knocking off Saddam, we'd rapidly privatize huge swaths of Iraq's national companies, get rid of hundreds of thousands of civil servants, completely restructure the country's tax and finance laws and throw Iraq's economy wide open for foreign multinationals. File it under bringing "democracy and capitalism" to the poor, backward Arabs. The reality is that the economic policies we imposed on Iraq were not some generic form of "capitalism"; they included the most radical business-state rules imaginable -- policies that developing countries have vehemently resisted for over a decade. What's more, imposing them at the point of a gun appears to have violated both international and U.S. laws. There's nothing "normal" about it. And while "democratization" and "free markets" supposedly go hand-in-hand, the truth is that Iraq's economic transformation was mutually exclusive with the goal of forming a legitimate government, and the Bush administration knew it well in advance of the occupation. That's because it's universally accepted -- even among the most vocal proponents of the very model of corporate globalization that inspired Iraq's new economy -- that in the short-term those policies create economic pain, displacement, anger and civil unrest, as well as a lack of faith in government. That's no way to win hearts and minds. read in full... AMERICA'S LEGACY IN IRAQ In the wake of recent unrest and "sectarian attacks in Iraq", Muslim leaders in India blamed the U.S. for the escalation in Shia-Sunni tensions. "The people who are behind this fratricide in Iraq are those who ultimately want to destroy Islam and Muslims, those who want to defame the community," said Naib Imam Moulvi Mouzzam Ahmed of the Fatehpuri mosque in Old Delhi. "These things never happened in Iraq until the Americans came," he added. "So long as the Americans don't leave Iraq, these things will continue," the Imam told IANS. "Unfortunately, just as the British left behind the cancer of Hindu-Muslim tensions in India, America's legacy in Iraq will be Shia-Sunni tensions." "America is fully involved in this violence," said Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam at the Jama Masjid, the city's biggest mosque. "They will use this violence to keep their forces in Iraq for ever. They don't want normalcy to return to Iraq." read in full... BILLMON: AXIS OF WEEVIL Glenn Greenwald directs our attention to this astonishing column from ubercon David Frum, in which the master of disaster essentially recants four years worth of views on the wisdom, necessity and feasibility of invading Iraq -- without, of course, ever admitting that he is doing so.
It's like some baby boomer nightmare: after decades of swearing that we would never repeat the mistakes of our parents, we are re-enacting the errors committed in Indochina in the 1960s and 1970s, every single one.
It seems like everybody's hopping on that bandwagon these days. Of course in Frum's view, the Vietnam errors repeated in Iraq weren't the lies and distortions used to sell the war to the public, the absence of a realistic plan, the lack of international support, the bureaucratic inefficiency, the ideological blindness, etc. etc. No, the big mistake we repeated, according to Frum, is underestimating the strength of Iraq's "internal enemies" and the willingness of hostile neighbors to provide them with sanctuary and support:
Only the US has tried to pretend that the war zone stops at the international border. In some horrible rerun of Vietnam, the US has let the enemy establish safe havens just on the other side of the line, from which it draws supplies and reinforcements with impunity.
Now this is a bit unfair, in my opinion, because it's easy to understand why the Pentagon and the Cheney administration lowballed the potential for guerrilla warfare. They were told by some pretty world-class foreign policy experts that they didn't have to worry about the risk of guerrilla warfare. And who were these experts? Why, David Frum and his mentor, Richard Perle. read in full... IRAQ, WE HARDLY KNEW YOU As the spokesman for my generation -- Ferris Bueller -- once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Ferris' bit of wisdom came back to us this morning when, in the blur of violent news from the Middle East, we saw a CNN.com headline that read: "Iraq: The forgotten war." (Hat tip to Atrios for flagging it.) Iraq, forgotten? Is that possible? While calling the war "forgotten" is a little too extreme (we'll save that title for Afghanistan), recent coverage of the constant, staggering daily death toll has begun to take on the pall of boilerplate copy in the nation's newspapers. In one sense, it's understandable: After three years of grinding conflict and daily body counts, eyes may begin to gloss over when reading a story about the latest suicide bombing in Baghdad. That is, until you step back and realize the massive toll the sectarian violence in Iraq has exacted. Earlier this month, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq estimated that during the first six months of 2006 the civilian death toll in Iraq shot up more than 77 percent, from 1,778 deaths in January to 3,149 in June. During May and June alone, 5,818 Iraqi civilians were killed in sectarian violence and a horrific 14,338 civilians have been killed so far in 2006, which adds up to an average of 100 deaths a day. Former CJR Daily staffer Brian Montopoli has written about "Iraq fatigue" and TNR's Ryan Lizza has had some interesting observations about the placement of stories dealing with civilian casualties in Iraq over the last several months. Writing about the relatively scant media coverage of the bombings in Mumbai, Montopoli asked: "Can we now say that the growing list of terrorist acts in recent years -- 9/11, Madrid, London, to name but a few -- have blurred into normalcy?" He speculated that "we seem to be moving towards a situation in which we view world events as we might a violent movie -- dimly aware of each individual death, but not terribly affected, thanks to the desensitizing regularity with which we absorb them." A good point, and one made even before the recent fighting in Lebanon and Israel (which was what the CNN headline referred to), which pushed Iraq off the front pages, or at least bumped it below the fold. But it's a chilling comment on the news these days that the bloodletting in Iraq has become so common as to be relegated to the inside pages, and, aside from a few media monitors, few seem to notice. Part of that may be due to unease with the fact that neither the U.S. nor anyone else appears to be making much progress in Iraq. For how long can anyone remain interested in what increasingly seems a stalemate? But part of it is also the seeming inability of the press to pay attention to more than one big story at a time. As Howard Kurtz put it yesterday on his CNN show Reliable Sources:
"Hundreds of innocent people killed by bombs in an awful war with huge civilian casualties. No, I'm not talking about Lebanon. The carnage in Iraq continues day after day, but that conflict has largely been blown off television and newspaper front pages by a newer story, the fighting in the Middle East. "The media seemed unable to handle two wars at the same time."
link FIRST IRAQ, NOW LEBANON When Iraqi complaints of disproportionate firepower levelled at Iraqi cities and civilians surfaced in global media, the US military response was that "insurgents" had hidden among the civilian population. US media, especially in the case of Fallujah, referred to Iraqi cities where fighting against occupation troops had erupted as "strongholds". The most popular definition for this term alludes to a militarised area akin to a fortress, populated by military or militia-affiliated personnel. The civilian component is therefore removed from the collective psyche. By performing such a sleight of hand definitions, Fallujah, once home to 400,000 Iraqi men, women and children, was then considered a legitimate target -- an area upon which open warfare and the many horrors thereof was permitted. This, too, is the semantic strategy for qualifying the destruction of entire neighbourhoods in Beirut and all outlying villages and towns in South Lebanon. Villages dotting the Lebanese side of the border with Israel are now referred to as strongholds. (…) When Iraqi civilians are killed in a US military raid on a village or neighbourhood, US spokespersons immediately exonerate US troops by claiming that they came under fire and therefore returned fire to defend themselves. Any civilians killed in such actions are blamed not on the US troops pulling the trigger but on "insurgents" who were in civilian areas to begin with. Such is the case today with Lebanon. The media is persistently hammered by declarations that the civilian death toll should not blamed on Israel but on Hizbullah fighters who disappear within the civilian population, hide out among women and children, use women and children as human shields, and are hiding their rockets and weaponry in civilian homes. (…) It's the same when it comes to the issue of "civilian infrastructure". Again, one must refer to the applied model in Iraq. In routing out dead-enders in Iraq, the US military pounded entire neighbourhoods into rubble. Thousands of families were forced to live in tents and many still do as their houses, shops and livelihoods have been destroyed. This modus operandi is ongoing, and may soon be inflicted upon Ramadi. The situation in Lebanon, sadly, is identical. In the 1991 bombing of Baghdad, US warplanes targeted water filtration plants that had zero military significance but would eventually give rise to disease as thousands of Iraqis suffered from the lack of potable water. Bridges, factories, homes, ministries, power plants, communications, and sewage treatment and health facilities were also targeted. The strategy behind targeting such civilian infrastructure was to create difficult conditions for the populace thereby hoping to coerce them into rising up against the Saddam Hussein-led government. In Lebanon, the severe bombing of cities and towns is designed to shock and awe the civilian populace to pressure its government to move against Hizbullah and disarm it. read in full... >> BEYOND IRAQ Afghaniatan: Two coalition soldiers were wounded during a clash with Taliban rebels in the Sangin district of southern Helmand province, said Maj. Scott Lundy, a coalition spokesman. He did not disclose the soldiers' nationalities. He said their conditions were not life-threatening. Lebanon: 87 percent of Lebanese support Hizbullah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll [by the Beirut Center for Research and Information] conducted in February. More striking, however, is the level of support for Hizbullah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hizbullah along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis. THESE PLACES ARE NOT VILLAGES Israel's Justice Minister Haim Ramon, the guy who claimed that the Rome conference's failure, under American pressure, to denounce Israeli military operations in Lebanon was in fact "permission from the world" to finish the job, has announced that all of southern Lebanon is a legitimate target for indiscriminate bombing. Villages there may be completely destroyed, he says, because "These places are not villages. They are military bases". Ditto the people: "Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hizbollah." Ramon is a moderate by Israeli political standards (you can look him up), but this sort of language, and the collective punishment and wholesale killing that language is intended to justify, could not be more racist if he came right out and called the Lebanese sand niggers. link "OUR OWN PEOPLE" Israel is making another wasteland; the Lebanese mustn't have an economy, tourists, electricity; they mustn't have any means to resist, and they mustn't use any water for swimming pools. Iraq is flaunted as the model New Middle East, (itself modelled on Gaza). In this crusade, even top shelf branded humanity (Americans, Israeli soldiers) are utterly disposable; the Auschwitzization of the planet begins with the reduction of selected segments of humanity to insects and then, as if as a concession to égalité and fraternité, the sinking of the rest to the same level. Palestinian Arabs, then Lebanese Muslim Arabs, then Lebanese Christian Arabs, then Arab-Americans, then sentimental Swedes who 'sympathise' with them. The apocalyptic onslaught pauses as Condoleeza Rice descends, like Athena from Olympus, to the battlefield, to chant and prophesy, distribute depleted uranium weapons to poison the land irreperably, and bless the bloodbath. They Rule From The Heavens. read in full... BILLMON: HIROHITO WATCH I guess this is going to become a standing feature:
There are evident concerns among Arab governments that a victory for Hezbollah - and it has already achieved something of a victory by holding out this long - would further nourish the Islamist tide engulfing the region and challenge their authority. (emphasis added)
Boy, you just can't beat the New York Times for clueless understatement, delivered about a week behind the curve. Chris Dickey of Newsweek gives us the unvarnished version:
The bottom line: Hizbullah is winning. That's the hideous truth about the direction this war is taking, not in spite of the way the Israelis have waged their counterattack, but precisely because of it. As my source Mr. Frankly put it, "Hizbullah is eating their lunch."
Sheik Nasrallah: Tastes like chicken! link EXACTLY WHAT BREED IS TONY BLAIR? Boy, poor ol' Tony is in deep doo-doo when his friends think this is the way to tweak his reputation. He's stopping in Washington on his way to California with this brand-new image makeover: After his stop-over in Washington, Mr Blair will fly on to California tonight to attend a conference with the media magnate Rupert Murdoch. An ally of Mr Murdoch, Irwin Stelzer, insisted Mr Blair was not Mr Bush's "poodle", but his "guide dog", particularly over the Middle East. Now I'm not going to make the faux pas of ridiculing guide dogs--but then, poodles are intelligent as well. But I suppose it works insofar as it casts Bush as the blind man. What's next? "Arf!" "What's that, Tony? You say there's a crisis in the Mideast?" "Arf arf arf!" "And we should do nothing about it? Good boy! Here's some kibble!" link QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If we punish a person who killed an American soldier, who is an occupier, we should punish the American soldiers who killed an Iraqi who fought against occupation. In my view, a person who killed Americans in defense of his country, in other countries, they would build a statue to him." -- Iraqi parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhandani


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