Wednesday, July 26, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY, July 26, 2006 Photo: Iraqis carry a victim of a car bomb outside a court house in the northern city of Kirkuk, July 23, 2006. (Slahaldeen Rasheed/Reuters) (See below under "Kirkuk") SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: Gunmen in police uniforms kidnapped 17 people from a Baghdad apartment building on Wednesday, Interior Ministry sources said. They said the kidnappers abducted 10 men, five women and two children from different families. Two brothers serving in Iraq's police forces were killed today when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle as they returned home in southeastern Baghdad. The attack occurred as the two returned to the Baghdad suburb of Nahrawan. A police patrol in Al-Nahrwan, east of Baghdad, killed local police chief Lieutenant Colonel Khadum Bressam and his brother, and wounded four officers. Gunmen abducted the Interior Ministry's residence director as he travelled in an unmarked car. It was not clear who seized Brigadier Abdullah Humoud. One civilian was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Five bodies which had been tortured and shot were found in three districts of Baghdad. A Sailor assigned to Multinational Corps -- Iraq died at approximately 2:15 p.m today in Baghdad. The incident does not appear to be the result of enemy action and is under investigation. (CENTCOM) Karbala: Gunmen on a motorcycle sprayed three men with bullets at a wedding ceremony in central Kerbala, 110 km (68 miles) southwest of Baghdad. Nahrawan: Gunmen shot at a police convoy, killing three policemen and wounding four others in Nahrawan, 15 km south of Baghdad. Baqubah: Gunmen assaulted an Iraqi police checkpoint, killing one officer and wounding another and two bystanders in Baquba. Gunmen opened fire on a Shiite Muslim family in Baquba as they gathered their possessions and prepared to flee their mainly Sunni district. One family member was killed and two wounded. Samawah: Australian troops have shot and wounded an Iraqi man who opened fire on their patrol near the capital of Al Muthanna province. Defence spokesman Brigadier Gus Gilmore said the incident happened on Monday night when the man began firing on the Australian patrol near the city of Samawah. Maysan Prv: A British armoured vehicle has been attacked in Iraq, although there were no casualties among troops, according to the Ministry of Defence. The attack took place in the Maysan province north of Basra, according to an MoD spokesman. Major Charlie Burbridge said forces came under fire from rocket-propelled grenades which did not detonate. The troops subsequently returned fire. It is not known whether there were any Iraqi casualties. Balad: An "insurgent" was killed and three others were detained in a raid by the combined security forces in the town of Balad 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad. Mosul: A policeman was wounded when a roadside bomb went off targeting his patrol in the city of Mosul 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad. Seven people were wounded when a car bomb exploded near a gas station in central Mosul. Kirkuk: A car bomb was detonated among a crowd of civilians in Kirkuk, killing one of them and wounding four more. Tal Afar: Eight suspected "insurgents" were detained in Tal Afar, about 420 km (260 miles) northwest of Baghdad. >> NEWS Saddam Hussein returned to court for the first time since his hunger strike, saying that if he's convicted, he wants to die like a soldier by firing squad rather than on the gallows "as a common criminal." Saddam also said he was brought by the Americans against his will from a hospital, where he was taken Sunday on the 17th day of a hunger strike and fed through a tube. Despite more than two weeks without food, Saddam seemed no less vigorous, although he appeared to have lost some weight. Alarming new questions about the death of Iraq weapons inspector David Kelly have been raised as a major investigation cast doubt on the official verdict that he committed suicide. The inquiry by campaigning MP Norman Baker will spark renewed speculation about how the Government's leading expert on weapons of mass destruction was found dead in a field in Oxfordshire three years ago. In particular, the dossier compiled by the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes shows that the method of suicide said to have been chosen by Dr Kelly, far from being common as was claimed at the time, was in fact unique. Dr Kelly was the only person in the United Kingdom that year deemed to have died from severing the ulnar artery in his wrist, a particularly difficult and painful process as the artery is deep and Dr Kelly had only a blunt garden knife. The MP reveals that the Oxfordshire coroner held an 'unusual' meeting with Home Office officials before he determined the cause of Dr Kelly's death. >> REPORTS U.S. COULD FACE A SHOWDOWN WITH AL-SADR Putting more U.S. soldiers in the streets of Baghdad risks a new showdown with a radical anti-American cleric who has modeled his movement after Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas. Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army has re-emerged as a key force in the majority Shiite community after suffering substantial losses during two uprisings against the U.S. military in 2004. (…) U.S. officials believe disbanding Shiite and Sunni armed groups is essential to curbing the sectarian violence threatening the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. plans for removing substantial numbers of troops before U.S. congressional elections in November. "If you don't do this, you end up with a situation like you have in Lebanon, where the militia becomes a state within a state," the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid, said in an interview this week with National Public Radio. "It makes the state impotent to be able to deal with security challenges," he said. Coalition forces already have begun moving against the Mahdi Army. In the last month, British troops have arrested the Mahdi commander in the southern city of Basra. And American soldiers killed 15 militiamen in a gunfight 40 miles south of the capital last weekend. U.S. and Iraqi forces have staged at least two major raids this month in Sadr City, the Mahdi Army's Baghdad stronghold. read in full… >> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS PEPE ESCOBAR: THE SPIRIT OF RESISTANCE In Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was forced to issue a fatwa denouncing the Israeli assault. This means that Sistani knows very well Iraqi Shi'ites may be on the verge of turning all their anger against - who else - the occupying Anglo-American axis. The fatwa may not be enough to appease them. Israel's rampage has even unified Baghdad's parliament; Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds took a unanimous vote condemning Israel and calling for a ceasefire. Fiery nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr, whose rising influence rivals Sistani's in US President George W Bush's "democratic" Iraq, hinted what may happen when he said at his Friday sermon in Kufa, "I will continue defending my Shi'ite and Sunni brothers, and I tell them that if we unite, we will defeat Israel without the use of weapons." As if the few thousand Sunni Arab guerrillas bogging down the mightiest army in history were not enough, Muqtada's Mehdi Army has all the potential to make life even more hellish for the Americans in Iraq. read in full... WHY THE MILITIAS ARE GROWING IN STRENGTH Al-Maliki became prime minister only because the U.S. and Britain were determined to get rid of his predecessor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Al-Maliki is inexperienced, personally isolated without his own kitchen cabinet, guarded by U.S. guards and heavily reliant on shadowy U.S. advisers. The quasi-colonial nature of the Iraqi government may not be obvious to outsiders who see that it has been democratically elected. But its independence has always been a mirage. For instance, its own intelligence organization should be essential to a government fighting for its life against a violent insurgency. At first sight, Iraq might appear to have one under Maj.-Gen. Mohammed al-Shahwani, but it has no budget because it is funded directly by the CIA, to the tune of $110 million to $160 million a year and, not surprising, it is to the CIA that it first reports. Not surprising, Iraqis will need a lot of convincing that Al-Maliki is not one more U.S. pawn. In theory he should be in charge of a substantial army force. The number of trained Iraqi soldiers and police has grown from 169,000 in June 2005 to 264,000 this June. But the extra 105,000 armed men have not only made no difference to security in Iraq but that security has markedly deteriorated over the past year. The reason is that the armed forces put their allegiance to their own communities -- Kurd, Sunni or Shiite -- well before their loyalty to the state. Shiites do not believe they will be defended from a pogrom by Sunni units and the Sunni feel the same way about Shiite units. This is why the militias are growing in strength. (...). Not only is Al-Maliki's suggestion that the militiamen might be stood down untrue but also the trend is entirely the other way. The army and police are themselves becoming sectarian and ethnic militias. This makes absurd Bush's and Tony Blair's claim that at some stage the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces will be strong enough to stand alone. Al-Maliki's visit to Washington has more to do with the White House's domestic political agenda than with the dire reality of Iraq. The Bush administration wants to have live Iraqis say in the lead-up to mid-term elections in November that progress is being made in Iraq. A frustration of being a journalist in Iraq is that the lethal anarchy there cannot be reported without getting oneself killed in the process. read in full... KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE TO ACHIEVE AN OBJECTIVE Bush met with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki today. He seems to have been having flashbacks to his days in b-school. "The Prime Minister has laid out a comprehensive plan. That's what leaders do. They see problems, they address problems, and they lay out a plan to solve the problems. The Prime Minister understands he's got challenges and he's identified priorities." But wait, what if the enemy has discovered the secret of doing things to accomplish goals too? Oh no! they have: "These are people that just kill innocent people to achieve an objective, which is to destabilize his government." I blame the New York Times, cause we so had the idea of killing innocent people to achieve an objective first, and it was secret, and the media just leaked it like the traitors they are. So the best idea Bush has left is to "lay out a plan," possibly using different colored pencils. Oh, and form committees, lots and lots of committees, those are always good: "The Prime Minister and I agreed to establish a joint committee to achieve Iraqi self-reliance." Let me say that again: a joint committee of Iraqis and Americans to end Iraqi reliance on Americans. Hey, does anyone know what happened to that female Sunni MP who was kidnapped? I can't believe I completely forgot about her. Oh, he's really firing on all cylinders today; he has another bold idea: an Iraqi Leaders Initiative, to bring 200 Iraqi high school and college students to the US next summer to study and "build personal friendships with the people of our country." Hurrah! Iraq is saved! Really, did Maliki come thousands of miles from a war zone to discuss a summer program for 200 students with the so-called leader of the so-called free so-called world? read in full... FOR MANY, SADDAM HAS BECOME SYMBOL OF ARAB UNITY Boushra Khalil walked through the metal detectors and into the vast convention center, a crumbling relic of a fallen dictatorship with walls still emblazoned with murals of Scud missiles. It took only a few minutes for one of the security guards prowling the halls to catch sight of her. "Hey, excuse me," his voice rang out. "Aren't you Saddam's lawyer?" Soon they were all around her, five young men with U.S. military-issued badges clipped to their sports shirts. Their eyes were wide; they smiled. "Tell him you met young people here, youth that are sending their greetings to the president," one of the young men said. "We believe he is suffering injustice," said another. They spoke quickly and eagerly and pressed Khalil for her autograph. Iraqis who had been cleared to work in the drab nerve center of Iraq's U.S.-backed government, in the heavily fortified Green Zone, might appear to be unlikely fans of the ousted president. (…) To Khalil, Saddam is a figure of martyrdom. Although she acknowledges that he was "hard" on those who opposed his reign, she also compares him to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and describes him as a man willing to follow his political vision all the way into death. Nor does she accept the conventional view that it's unusual for a Shiite to defend a Sunni leader famous for persecuting Shiites. "Saddam Hussein stood in the face of American occupation, so if Imam Ali were present, on which side would he stand?" she asked, invoking the cousin of the prophet Muhammad and a central figure in Shiite Islam. "America or Saddam Hussein? Definitely, Saddam Hussein. So because I am Shia, I stand with Saddam Hussein." read in full… >> BEYOND IRAQ Afghanistan: Six Australian special forces soldiers have been wounded in fighting in Afghanistan. Defence spokesman Brigadier Gus Gilmore said the injuries occurred during heavy fighting earlier this month at unspecified locations in southern Afghanistan. An unidentified plane crashed in southeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, reportedly causing casualties, but few other details were available, Western and Afghan officials told Reuters. The plane had taken off from the southeastern province of Khost, where U.S.-led coalition forces have a base, before crashing in a nearby province, Afghan officials said. A Western source said he had heard reports of casualties, but had no further information. A spokesman for the coalition forces in Kabul confirmed the crash, but said he had no details. The crash occurred in an area where Taliban insurgents are active. An unidentified helicopter has crashed in the south-eastern Afghan province of Paktia, officials say. One unconfirmed report says there were four people on board, all of whom died. It is not clear what caused the crash. Details of the incident are sketchy. A defence official said the helicopter took off in nearby Khost province and hit the Qalandar mountains, 35km away. Lebanon/Israel Israel on Wednesday suffered its heaviest losses in Lebanon in its offensive against Hezbollah, with militants killing eight soldiers in a battle for a key town. A top Israeli commander said he expected the campaign to last "several more weeks." U.N. observers in southern Lebanon called the Israeli military 10 times during a six-hour period to ask it to halt an airstrike before their observation post was hit, according to details of a preliminary U.N. report on the incident. Four U.N. observers were killed in the bombing Tuesday. During each phone call, an Israeli official promised to halt the bombing, according to a U.N. official who had seen the preliminary report. WHY ISRAEL IS LOSING The world is witnessing what could be a critical turning point in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel is now engaged in a war that could permanently undermine the efficacy of its much-vaunted military apparatus. Ironically, there are several reasons for believing that Israel's destruction of southern Lebanon and southern Beirut will weaken its bargaining position relative to its adversaries, and will strengthen its adversaries' hands. (...) As will soon be demonstrated by events on the ground, Israel will not be able to destroy or even disarm Hizballah. Neither will Hamas, Hizballah, Lebanon, or Syria permit Israel or America to dictate terms to them. Consequently, if Israel lingers too long in Southern Lebanon, its presence will be paid for at such a high cost, that it will be forced to withdraw in ignominy, as it has so many times in the past. In the end however, Israel's loss of power will make it even more dangerous, because the more threatened the Israelis feel, the more likely they will launch destructive wars against the Palestinians and Israel's other adversaries. Finally, the same can be said of the U.S., with respect to its loss of global power. Instead of becoming more careful with its use of force, the erosion of America's global dominance will likely make the U.S. government more aggressive, as it attempts to re-assert its former position relative to its adversaries and competitors. And it is precisely because America and Israel are losing influence over global events, that an American attack upon Iran in 2007 becomes more likely. God help us all. read in full... GORE VIDAL INTERVIEW: "THAT'S THE END OF OUR WARS" Q: Bush’s ratings have been at personal lows. Cheney has had an 18 percent approval rating. Vidal: Well, he deserves it. Q: Yet the wars go on. It’s almost as if the people don’t matter. Vidal: The people don’t matter to this gang. They pay no attention. They think in totalitarian terms. They’ve got the troops. They’ve got the army. They’ve got Congress. They’ve got the judiciary. Why should they worry? Let the chattering classes chatter. Bush is a thug. I think there is something really wrong with him. Q: What do you think of the conspiracy theories about September 11? Vidal: I’m willing to believe practically any mischief on the part of the Bush people. No, I don’t think they did it, as some conspiracy people think. Why? Because it was too intelligently done. This is beyond the competence of Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. They couldn’t pull off a caper like 9/11. They are too clumsy. Q: Today the United States is fighting two wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and is now threatening to launch a third one on Iran. What is it going to take to stop the Bush onslaught? Vidal: Economic collapse. We are too deeply in debt. We can’t service the debt, or so my financial friends tell me, that’s paying the interest on the Treasury bonds, particularly to the foreign countries that have been financing us. I think the Chinese will say the hell with you and pull their money out of the United States. That’s the end of our wars. read in full… QUOTE OF THE DAY: "All of the information we receive sometimes from the Pentagon and the State Department isn't always true." -- The pro-war Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) recently returned from a trip to Iraq


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