Monday, July 31, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, July 31, 2006 Photo: See below “Child Prisoners Left Without Support”. SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: Gunmen in military uniforms kidnapped dozens of people in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood. The kidnapping was carried out by gunmen in military fatigues who drove to the main shopping area of Karradah in 15 vehicles and split into two groups. One went into a mobile phone shop and the other into the office next door of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce, said police Lt. Thair Mahmoud. They kidnapped 15 staff and customers from the shop and 11 from the chamber, he said. All were believed to be Iraqis. No other details were available. Gunmen in commando uniforms blocked a car carrying a millionaire businessman and his two sons and seized the three in southeastern Baghdad. Gunmen killed Maad Jihad, an advisor to the health minister, in the Mansour district of Baghdad. Gunmen in a sedan shot and killed two vendors selling cooking-gas cylinders in Baghdad's western Yarmouk neighborhood. Gunmen opened fire on municipal street sweepers in the capital, killing one and injuring two. Gunmen killed Fakhri Salman, a brigadier in the Iraqi National Intelligence Service. Two people were killed in shootings in Baghdad. A roadside bomb killed a policeman in Baghdad. Police discovered the bullet-riddled bodies of three men in the Baghdad area. Two had their hands and feet tied, and the third was fished out of the Tigris river, his body showing signs of torture. Amara: Assassins gunned down an employee of the Sunni endowment, which manages the Sunni mosques, in a drive-by shooting as he left his house in Amara in mainly Shiite southern Iraq. Two workmen were shot dead and two more injured in another shooting in Amara. Mosul: Two civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near a joint Iraqi-U.S. military patrol in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad. A suicide bomber detonated a pickup truck near an Iraqi observation post outside Mosul, killing four soldiers and wounding six. Hawija: Gunmen Sunday ordered four policemen and a lawyer out of their car and beheaded them near the northern town of Hawija, 150 miles north of Baghdad. >> NEWS Iraqi Vice President accused Israel of "massacres" in Lebanon, the toughest criticism so far of the Jewish state by the U.S.-backed Baghdad government. "These ugly massacres, which are being implemented by the hands of the Israeli aggression, incites in us the spirit of brotherhood, solidarity," [Adel Abdul Mahdi] said. Moqtada al-Sadr accused Arab states on Monday of failing to stand behind Lebanon in its crisis with Israel and said they had done the same with Iraq in its time of need. "We are used to being disappointed by them. They were just silent over Iraq or interfered in a negative way," he told a news conference. "When it served their interests they ran to help the (Saddam Hussein's) Baath Party but they have failed to support unity now. They are doing the same in Lebanon. They talk but only about rubbish." Iraq's interior minister faced calls for his dismissal because of the security crisis in Baghdad and surrounding towns. Key Democratic leaders in the House and Senate united to call on Bush to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, citing an overtaxed military, billions of dollars spent and ongoing sectarian violence. >> REPORTS The number of refugees in Iraq increased by 20,000 in the last 10 days alone, the migration ministry said on Monday. It said in a statement the total number of people displaced has reached 182,154. The crisis is likely to be far graver because ministry figures include only those who formally ask for aid within the country, some of them living in tented camps. By excluding thousands fleeing abroad or quietly seeking refuge with relatives, officials accept the data is an underestimate. VIDEO: BAGHDAD HOSPITAL CHILDREN'S WARD In war and peace children are always amongst the most vulnerable of communities. Iraq has been no exception. In this episode, Alive in Baghdad takes you to the children's ward of Baghdad Hospital, to make visible the plight of some very sick children, stricken with cancer by the presence of Depleted Uranium munitions, left over from the last to US wars in Iraq. link CHILD PRISONERS LEFT WITHOUT SUPPORT He isn't a criminal, but just the sight of a police officer terrifies 14-year-old Omar. The boy was released last month from an Iraqi prison, after being detained there for more than seven months. "They arrested me because they said I was a suspect after a car bomb exploded in a road near my home and resulted in the killing of an American," Omar explains. He happened to be near the explosion and was arrested along with adult Iraqis suspected of the attack. Omar was one of 450 detainees who were let out of the two Iraqi and US-run prisons on 27 June, under a national reconciliation plan aimed at bringing insurgents into the political process and ending the bloodshed in Iraq. Although Omar was falsely arrested, dozens of other children have been imprisoned for their roles in attacks, or because poverty turned them to crime, according to reports from local and international groups and the news media in the past three years. Omar said the experience of being in prison was terrifying, "and I was crying day and night for my family." The trauma of the experience remains with him: "I would rather die than go there again." read in full... US WAR COSTS CONTINUE TO SHOOT UP It was reported in February that the army is asking for $9 billion to "reset" its war-depleted stocks - the vast bulk to replace and repair tanks, helicopters and vehicles. Since the Iraq insurgency heated up in autumn 2003, the army's combat losses include about 20 M1 Abrams tanks, 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 20 Stryker wheeled combat vehicles, 20 M113 armored personnel carriers, and 250 Humvees. The number of vehicles lost in battle comes to nearly 1,000 after adding in heavy and medium trucks and trailers, mine-clearing vehicles and Fox wheeled reconnaissance vehicles. Nearly all these losses were caused by improvised explosive devices in Iraq. The army said unfunded repair and upgrade work alone totals more than $3 billion. During fiscal 2005 the army deployed 23% of its trucks, 15% of its combat vehicles and 15% of its helicopters in Iraq, according to the Association of the United States Army. Much of this equipment does not rotate out when troops do, either because the army is trying to minimize transport costs or because it wants to retain key items such as up-armored vehicles in the war zone. As a result, the equipment is exposed to continuous use for long periods of time - more than two years in the case of some Chinook helicopters - and may not receive scheduled maintenance in a timely fashion. The army conducted an analysis of how such stresses affect field equipment and concluded that a single year of deployment in Iraq would cause as much wear and tear as five years of peacetime use. That is hardly surprising, given that much of the equipment in Iraq is being used at a rate several times as high as typically prevails in peacetime. The operating tempo, or "optempo", of helicopters is twice as high in the war zone as elsewhere. Combat vehicles such as the Abrams tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle operate at five or six times normal rates. And trucks are used at up to 10 times their peacetime rates (which helps explain why so many are washed out by the end of their time in Iraq). But high utilization rates are only the beginning of the problem, because the conditions under which systems operate in Iraq are harsher than those encountered in peacetime training exercises. For example, Abrams tanks are designed to operate in open country, but in Iraq they often travel on paved roads, accelerating wear. Their mechanical and electronic systems are exposed to sand, wind, precipitation and vibration far in excess of what would be experienced in peacetime. Maintenance is deferred, or carried out in sub-optimal circumstances. And then there is the enemy, which seldom misses an opportunity to shoot a rocket-propelled grenade at whatever US vehicle is going by. read in full... "I CAME OVER HERE BECAUSE I WANTED TO KILL PEOPLE" Writing in Sunday's editions of The Washington Post, Andrew Tilghman, a former correspondent for the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes, said he interviewed [Steven Green, a former US soldier accused of raping and murdering an Iraqi girl] several times in February at his unit south of Baghdad. "I came over here because I wanted to kill people," he quoted Green as saying. "The truth is, it wasn't all I thought it was cracked up to be. "I mean, I thought killing somebody would be this life-changing experience," Green was quoted as saying. "And then I did it, and I was like, 'All right, whatever.' "I shot a guy who wouldn't stop when we were out at a traffic checkpoint and it was like nothing," Green was quoted as saying. "Over here, killing people is like squashing an ant. "I mean, you kill somebody and it's like, 'All right, let's go get some pizza.'" read in full… >> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS JUAN COLE: SISTANI THREATENS U.S. OVER ISRAELI WAR ON LEBANON The Associated Press is carrying the story that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has demanded an immediate ceasefire in Israel's war on Lebanon, in the wake of the Qana massacre:
"Islamic nations will not forgive the entities that hinder a cease-fire,'' al-Sistani said in a clear reference to the United States. "It is not possible to stand helpless in front of this Israeli aggression on Lebanon,'' he added. ``If an immediate cease-fire in this Israeli aggression is not imposed, dire consequences will befall the region.''
Sistani had earlier condemned Israeli air raids on Lebanon but had confined himself to ordering the Iraqi Shiite religious establishment to provide aid to victims of the war in Lebanon. Sistani's statements of early Monday morning (which are not yet reflected at his website in Arabic) go substantially beyond his earlier statement. Several questions arise: 1) Why is Sistani speaking like this? 2) What can he do about it all? and 3) What are the possible consequences if he turns anti-American in practice, not just in rhetoric, as in the past? Sistani is taking such a hard line on this issue not only because he feels strongly about it (his fatwa against the Jenin operation of 2002 was vehement) but also because he is in danger of being outflanked by Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr's Mahdi Army is said to be "boiling" over the Israeli war on Hizbullah, since after all the Sadrists are also fundamentalist Shiites and they identify with the Lebanese Hizbullah. There have already been big demonstrations in Baghdad against the Israeli attacks, to which Sadrists flocked but probably also other Shiites. Sistani cannot allow Muqtada to monopolize this issue, or the young cleric's legitimacy will grow among the angry Shiite masses at the expense of Sistani's. (...) Sistani has issued a warning to the United States. He wants Bush to intervene to arrange a ceasefire, i.e. the cessation of israeli air raids on Lebanon in general. What could he do if he were ignored? Sistani could call massive anti-US and anti-Israel demonstrations. Given Iraq's profound political instability, this development could be extremely dangerous. US troops in Baghdad and elsewhere are planning offensives against Shiite paramilitary groups, so tensions are likely to rise in the Shiite areas anyway. But big demonstrations could easily boil over into actual attacks on US and British troops. Both depend heavily on fuel that is transported through the Shiite south. Were the Shiites actively to turn on the US for its wholehearted support of continued Israeli air raids, the US military could be cut off from fuel and supplies. The British only have around 8,000 troops in Iraq, and they would be in profound danger if Iraq's Shiites became militantly anti-occupation. (...) Sistani does not issue threats lightly, and he has repeatedly shown a willingness to back them up with action. Bush and US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad will ignore him to their peril. read in full... QANA WILL IMPACT IRAQ Expect life to get short, lonely, and interesting, for a lot more American body bag contents dead men walking soldiers in Iraq in the near future. I rather suspect the same is true for much of the Maliki "government" I wrote about the cabinet reshuffle last Friday, there are strong rumours that a coup was only barely foiled, and now this. I expect life to get just as short, lonely, and interesting for the Maliki government as it will become for more and more American soldiers particularly as regional governors seen as too close to the Americans and the green zone government are being increasingly targetted by Sunni and Shia resistance fighters alike. read in full... RIVERBEND: QANA MASSACRE... I woke up this morning to scenes of carnage and destruction on the television and for the briefest of moments, I thought it was footage of Iraq. It took me a few seconds to realize it was actually Qana in Lebanon. (...) I just sat there and cried in front of the television. I didn't know I could still feel that sort of sorrow towards what has become a daily reality for Iraqis. It's not Iraq but it might as well be: It's civilians under lethal attack; it's a country fighting occupation. (...) And the world wonders how 'terrorists' are created! A 15-year-old Lebanese girl lost five of her siblings and her parents and home in the Qana bombing... Ehud Olmert might as well kill her now because if he thinks she's going to grow up with anything but hate in her heart towards him and everything he represents, then he's delusional. Is this whole debacle the fine line between terrorism and protecting ones nation? If it's a militia, insurgent or military resistance- then it's terrorism (unless of course the militia, insurgent(s) and/or resistance are being funded exclusively by the CIA). If it's the Israeli, American or British army, then it's a pre-emptive strike, or a 'war on terror'. No matter the loss of hundreds of innocent lives. No matter the children who died last night- they're only Arabs, after all, right? Right? read in full... SUICIDE IN BASRA: THE UNRAVELLING OF A MILITARY MAN After a flawless military career that had seen him rise to the rank of captain in just 15 years, the task of leading the British Military Police's investigative unit in Basra should have been the crowning achievement for Ken Masters, a soldier for whom, on missions from Afghanistan to Bosnia, the glass was always half full. "The accom is good," he told his wife Alison in a letter sent soon after he had reached his garrison in the southern Iraqi city in April last year. "It is air conditioned and we have two windows either end and a real bed and proper mattress, which makes a difference. Missing you all. Love to you and my girls. Daddy xxxooo." This was the way he signed each of the many letters he sent from Iraq to the home they had made in Porta-down, Northern Ireland. But Capt Masters never made it back. Six months after sending that letter, he walked into his small barrack-room at the Waterloo Lines military camp and took his own life. Aged 40, he was five days away from the end of a tour that had reduced him from a high-flying officer, and prospective Major, to a broken man. He is one of two British soldiers - both from the Special Investigation Branch (SIB) - to have committed suicide in the current conflict. Today, the story of Capt Masters' mental disintegration can be told for the first time. Pieced together from the testimony of his wife and colleagues, and from his own letters and e-mails from Basra, it provides a sense of the pressure facing the small Military Police team he led which, amid political pressure for quick results, has investigated mounting abuse allegations against British troops. The story also raises a profound question about a military establishment that is sending hundreds of men and women to serve under enormous daily pressures in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is this: how could Capt Masters have been allowed to die when so many people knew he was suffering? "Imagine your worst day and multiply it by a thousand," Capt Masters told his wife in one of their regular Sunday evening telephone calls (each of them was limited to 20 minutes) towards the end of his life. read in full... TUNING IN, TUNING OUT Let's face it. These are not easy times for America's effort to make friends in the Middle East. The key media outlets in this campaign -- al-Hurra television and Radio Sawa -- are laboring hard. But a recent survey of college students in the region -- done before Israel's re-invasion of Lebanon -- says U.S. policies on Israel and in Iraq are such that "these networks may be completely unable to change opinions on these two issues." The survey, an unscientific sampling of attitudes of 394 university communications students in such places as Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Morocco, found that these young people listened to Radio Sawa's pop music, but there was "no significant relationship between the frequency of listening to Radio Sawa and favorability toward US foreign policy." The same held true for al-Hurra. Worse yet, the more they listened, the less they liked us, according to the new study, "U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Arab World," published in the current Global Media and Communication. "One significant finding," said author Mohammed el-Nawawy of Queens University of Charlotte, "is that respondents' attitudes toward U.S. foreign policy have worsened slightly since their exposure to Radio Sawa and Television Alhurra." Bad study, Broadcasting Board of Governors spokesman Larry Hart responded: "The self-selected sample is too small, nearly half [were] Palestinian and some of them . . . never saw or heard our broadcasts." Al-Hurra, with a budget of $73 million this year, and Sawa, budget $23 million, are asking for an additional $10 million for fiscal 2007. Can't hurt that much more. read in full... >> BEYOND IRAQ "A CRUSHING DEFEAT FOR ISRAEL" Hezbollah on Sunday fired its largest missile barrage yet into northern Israel - 156 Katyusha rockets. The missiles damaged buildings, caused minor injuries and sparked panic. But their biggest impact was the message they sent: after nearly three weeks of fierce Israeli aerial bombardment, Hezbollah is still standing. With pressure mounting for a cease-fire - and Israel agreeing to a 48-hour suspension of airstrikes - Israel appears poised to fall short of its original goal of routing the militant group and preventing it from rising again as a threat. "Hezbollah looks like the big winner here," said Dick Leurdijk, a terrorism expert at Holland's prestigious Clingendael Institute. "They are clearly winning the war for world public opinion. From a public relations point of view, Israel is doing a very poor job." Analysts say Israel's failure to make quick work of Hezbollah after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12 is likely to have long-term ramifications, emboldening Israel's opponents and shattering the regional belief that Israel's military is all but unbeatable. "Militarily it looks pretty much like a stand-off," said Robert Lowe, manager of English political research center Chatham House's Middle East program. "From a public relations perspective, it looks like a crushing defeat for Israel." read in full... “HEZBOLLAH COULD BE YOU OR ME” "One Western journalist spent days scouring the south Lebanese port city of Tyre and the surrounding villages for a sign of the militants who triggered the Israeli assault, but came up empty. Then, two men showed up at his seafront hotel. He had asked too many questions, they said. He would have to return to Beirut. The journalist in question asked not to be identified fearing Hezbollah retaliation. "This is their counter intelligence. They have a very effective local networks who report every thing that is going on," says Goksel, the former UN advisor. An ice cream vendor in downtown Tyre simply shrugs his shoulders when asked about the shadowy organization. He knows they are around, he says, but no one knows where. "Even during peaceful times we never see them anywhere," says Ali Mohammed, 56. "They are a part of the people. We don't know who is Hezbollah and who is not. It could be you or me." read in full… URI AVNERY: A NICE LITTLE WAR It is the old story about the losing gambler: he cannot stop. He continues to play, in order to win his losses back. He continues to lose and continues to gamble, until he has lost everything: his ranch, his wife, his shirt. The same thing happens in the biggest gamble of all: war. The leaders that start a war and get stuck in the mud are compelled to fight their way ever deeper into the mud. That is a part of the very essence of war: it is impossible to stop after a failure. Public opinion demands the promised victory. Incompetent generals need to cover up their failure. Military commentators and other armchair strategists demand a massive offensive. Cynical politicians are riding the wave. The government is carried away by the flood that they themselves have let loose. That is what happened this week, following the battle of Bint-Jbeil, which the Arabs have already started to call proudly Nasrallahgrad. All over Israel the cry goes up: get into it! Quicker! Further! Deeper! A day after the bloody battle, the cabinet decided on a massive mobilization of the reserves. What for? The ministers do not know. But it does not depend on them any more, nor on the generals. The political and military leadership is tossed about on the waves of war like a boat without a rudder. As has been said before: it is much easier to start a war than to finish one. The cabinet believes that it controls the war, but in reality it is the war that controls them. They have mounted a tiger, and can't be sure of getting off without being torn to pieces. War has its own rules. Unexpected things happen and dictate the next moves. And the next moves tend to be in one direction: escalation. (…) What next? One cannot stop. Public opinion will demand more decisive moves. Political demagogues will shout. Commentators will grumble. The people in the shelters will cry out. The generals will feel the heat. One cannot keep tens of thousands of reserve soldiers mobilized indefinitely. It is impossible to prolong a situation which paralyzes a third of the country. Everybody will clamour to storm forwards. Where to? Towards Beirut in the north? Or towards Damascus, in the east? The cabinet ministers recite in unison: No! Never ever! We shall not attack Syria! Perhaps some of them really don't intend to. They do not dream of a war with Syria. Definitely not. But the ministers only delude themselves when they believe that they control the war. The war controls them. read in full... QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The situation in Iraq is spiralling out of control but not as the US/UK and Western media would have us believe, into a civil war, but what amounts to a US internal 'withdrawal' to its firebases. Most cities in the country are effectively 'no-go' areas for the occupation forces.” -- William Bowles


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