Saturday, July 22, 2006


“We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.”


Iraqi forces backed by a U.S. helicopter battled Sunni gunmen south of Baghdad on Friday, and at least 11 combatants died.

Seven Shiites died in a drive-by shooting near Baghdad International Airport. Two other workers were wounded.

An Iraqi police patrol was targeted by a bombing in eastern Baghdad which killed a civilian.

Two rockets exploded Saturday in the heavily guarded Green Zone, which includes the U.S. and British embassies. There was no report of casualties.

Gunmen opened fire on workers in a house in western Baghdad, killing seven and wounding one.

A U.S. soldier was killed in Baghdad when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.

Baghdad recorded an average of 34 major bombings and shootings for the week ending July 13, the U.S. military said. That was up 40 percent from the previous period last month.


An insurgent attack killed five people in Mosul.

Gunmen attacked a joint U.S.-Iraqi base in Mosul with rocket-propelled grenades and mortar fire. A suicide car bombing followed, but no casualties were reported.

One civilian was killed in the crossfire when masked gunmen attacked Iraqi police in Mosul.

Three gunmen died in a firefight with police in Mosul.

Gunmen shot dead an Iraqi man in the city of Mosul.


Three people were killed and five were injured in a bombing and shooting in the market in Baquba.

Three policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb targeting their patrol exploded in Baquba.

Four policemen and three civilians were killed when a roadside bomb went off in a local market in Baquba.


A curfew was imposed on Samarra after a bodyguard of the city council chairman detonated an explosives belt, injuring the chairman and another security officer.


An Iraqi soldier was killed by a bomb at his home in Hillah, south of Baghdad.


Six people were wounded by a bomb at the bus station in Musayyib.


A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army convoy exploded in the city of Kut killing one soldier and wounding four others.

Tal Afar

A child was killed and another six civilians were wounded Saturday in mortar shell attacks targeting a residential compound in Talaafar in west Mosul, north Iraq.


Unidentified armed men kidnapped an Iraqi civilian in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Another suicide?: A US servicemember assigned to the 43rd Military Police Brigade died of a non-combat related injury on July 20. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.

Car ban: The Iraqi military extended its weekly vehicle ban in Baghdad Friday, after the U.S. military warned that insurgents are pouring into the city for an all-out assault.

Officials extended the ban by four hours to prevent car bomb attacks against worshippers at weekly prayer services. Despite the ban, a bomb killed one person and wounded two others at a Sunni mosque in the capital.

Change of plan: The U.S. command had drawn up plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq from 14 to 12 by September. But that plan has been shelved because of the security crisis in the capital. A senior U.S. defense official said the Pentagon was moving ahead with scheduled deployments to Iraq next month and was moving one battalion to Baghdad from Kuwait.

A distinction I fail to grasp: The top American commander for the Middle East said Friday that the escalating sectarian violence in Baghdad had become a greater worry than the insurgency and that plans were being drawn up to move additional forces to the Iraqi capital.

“The situation with sectarian violence in Baghdad is very serious,” Gen. John P. Abizaid of the Army, the head of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Friday. “The country can deal with the insurgency better than it can with the sectarian violence, and it needs to move decisively against the sectarian violence now.”

Amnesty proposals: Saturday, a government committee formed to reconcile Iraq's sectarian and political groups held its first meeting, but differences emerged immediately between top Shiite and Sunni officials over amnesty for insurgents.

The Supreme National Committee for Reconciliation and National Dialogue convened behind the blast walls and barbed wire of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

After the meeting, al-Maliki, a Shiite, told reporters that despite his proposal for amnesty for some insurgents, "all those whose hands were tainted with blood should be brought to justice."

But the Sunni speaker of parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, said "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."

Security concerns: At her home in central Baghdad, Niran al-Sammarai frets over the fate of her husband, kidnapped Saturday with 30 of his colleagues from a conference hall in one of the most heavily patrolled parts of Baghdad.

In Rasafah district, a police captain says he and colleagues are contemplating mass resignations in frustration over mistrust from US forces and orders from Iraqi politicians to release known criminals.

In the once fashionable Mansoor shopping district, metal grates are drawn over half of the businesses. And in Karada, one of Baghdad's safest neighborhoods, many of the businesses are shuttered too. The remaining shopkeepers complain that poor security is driving customers away.

In Baghdad and across much of the center and south of the country, the rhythms of normal life and commerce are rapidly breaking down in a sign that US and Iraqi government plans to build an effective security force are faltering. Reports of police standing aside as civilians get attacked are common, as are claims by survivors that government security forces, infiltrated by sectarian militias, took part in the killings.

Refugees: Tens of thousands of Iraqis have fled their homes in fear as sectarian violence has turned ever more bitter since a U.S.-backed national unity government was formed two months ago, official data showed on Thursday.

A day after the United States issued a stern warning to both Shi'ite and minority Sunni leaders to match talk with action on reining in and reconciling "death squads" and "terrorists" from their respective communities, the Migration Ministry said more than 30,000 people had registered as refugees this month alone.

"We consider this to be a dangerous sign," ministry spokesman Sattar Nowruz told Reuters, acknowledging that many more people fled abroad or quietly sought refuge with relatives rather than sign up for official aid or move into state camps.

The increase took to 27,000 families -- some 162,000 people -- the number who have registered for help with the ministry in the five months since the February 22 bombing of a Shi'ite shrine at Samarra sparked a new phase of communal bloodshed.

War on bakers: The front line in this city's sectarian war runs through Edrice al-Aaraji's backyard. He is a Shiite and a baker. So are his two brothers.

For the past year, Sunni Arab militants have swept through their old neighborhood, a heavily Sunni district in northwest Baghdad that borders a Shiite area, forcing Shiites out of their homes and destroying their businesses by killing customers and workers. One after another, bakeries, whose workers are overwhelmingly poor and Shiite like Aaraji, began to close.

Now, out of 11 bakeries in the area, northern Ghaziliya, just one, the Sunni-owned Al Obeidi on Center Street, remains open. The neighborhood, like a mouth with missing teeth, is almost entirely without the simplest of Iraqi needs - freshly baked bread.

"To shut down a well-known bakery in a neighborhood, that means you paralyze life there," Aaraji said, sitting in a bakery in a Shiite neighborhood where he now works and usually sleeps. As the most basic of local institutions, Baghdad's bakeries are an everyday measure of just how far the sectarian war here has spread.

But 14 provinces are pacified!: U.S. officials have long pointed to relative peace in many of Iraq’s 18 provinces, dismissing the insurgency as a problem limited to Baghdad and sparsely populated Sunni Arab areas to the west and north.

However, Baghdad is the country’s major transportation hub, the center of political and economic power, and home to more than 20 percent of the population. Its religiously and politically mixed population makes it a natural battleground for control of the country.

Baghdad is a must-win not only for the prime minister, but for al-Qaida in Iraq,” Caldwell said. “Without Baghdad’s centralized access to power brokers, Baghdad’s large, diverse population, its financial resources, the terrorists elements will lose here in this country.”

With the stakes high, al-Maliki last month unveiled a much-heralded security plan for Baghdad, including up to 50,000 police and soldiers on the streets, more checkpoints and raids in neighborhoods where violence is high.

But with surging attacks in the capital — including the kidnappings of Iraqi officials — leading politicians from Shiite and Sunni parties have declared the plan a failure. The United Nations said this week that about 6,000 civilians were killed in May and June, many of them in sectarian violence.

News From The Home Front

Supplying them here so we don’t have to supply them over there: Undercover government investigators purchased sensitive surplus military equipment such as launcher mounts for shoulder-fired missiles and guided missile radar test sets from a Defense Department contractor.

Much of the equipment could be useful to terrorists, according to a draft report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

In June, two GAO investigators spent $1.1 million on such equipment at two excess property warehouses. Their purchases included several types of body armor inserts used by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, an all-band antenna used to track aircraft, and a digital signal converter used in naval surveillance.

"The body armor could be used by terrorists or other criminal activity," noted the report, obtained Friday by The Associated Press. "Many of the other military items have weapons applications that would also be useful to terrorists."

Thousands of items that should have been destroyed were sold to the public, the report said. Much of the equipment was sold for pennies on the dollar.

Compassionate conservatism - 100 dead a day is “old ground” and a “bad summer rerun”: Declaring that he believes the situation in Iraq has devolved into a civil war, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he plans to try to bring the war back up for debate on the Senate floor.

The Nevada Democrat said he has been "somewhat gingerly approaching this.... No longer. There is a civil war going on in Iraq. In the last two months, more than 6,000 Iraqis have been killed. That's averaging more than 100 a day being killed in Iraq and we need to make sure there is a debate on this."

Republicans questioned why Reid wants to go over old ground and were ready to highlight the divisions among Democrats once again.

"Talk about your bad summer reruns," said Eric Ueland, Chief of Staff to Majority Leader Bill Frist, "if they want to do that we'll go to the mats," he said.

Digby: I know it seems ridiculous in light of what we are seeing in Iraq that they would think of running on their superior competence in dealing with the middle east. But remember, the Republicans are counting on thirty years of rightwing propaganda to get them over the line again. They expect that many voters will simply fall back into their comfortable understanding of the two parties: the Republicans are tough men who can handle national security and the Democrats are sensitive women who will help you when you need help (if you're a pathetic loser who actually needs help that is.) The Fighters and the Lovers. This is the paradigm under which we've lived for many years and people find it very disconcerting to be asked to relinquish such reflexive internalized beliefs --- no matter what they see before them. I do not know that they can pull it off one more time. We may have finally reached a tipping point. But I'm not counting any chickens.

The defining issue: Voter unrest over the war in Iraq has elevated foreign policy issues to a rare level of importance in Democratic politics and is the top concern at the moment, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, said Saturday. "At the moment, it is probably the most defining issue," Feingold said. "Whether or not it will be in the middle of the election is not clear." Feingold opened his second swing through Iowa, where precinct caucuses traditionally open the presidential nominating season, with a heavy schedule of events. It includes meetings with local Democratic activists and fundraising for Democratic candidates. Feingold has been among the harshest critics of the war in Iraq and has urged a pullout of troops.

Wrecking the US military: Recent allegations of sexual abuse by U.S. military personnel should make us wary of the culture of sexist violence that the Pentagon is fostering. More than 500 U.S. servicewomen who have been or are stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan or other countries say they have been assaulted by fellow soldiers since 2003, according to the Miles Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps victims of violence associated with the military.

The Defense Department says that reports of sexual assaults involving members of the armed forces rose 40 percent in 2005, and 65 percent in the last two years.

Sexual harassment of female soldiers is often blatant, and harassment and assault often go hand in hand.

Our Creeping Stalinism

The people have no need to know: Imagine my disappointment. Two long-awaited Pentagon reports on detainee policy had finally reached public view: the Jacoby Report on Afghanistan and the Formica Report on Iraq, available as a result of Freedom of Information Act suits, like thousands of other pages of government reports on the war on terror. As the co-editor of The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib, a collection of the memos, reports, and interview logs related to Bush administration detainee policy, I was naturally eager to see those parts of the story that were unfortunately still classified at the time of the book's publication in December 2004.

Both reports promised to contain new information about detainee policy. In June of 2004, Brigadier General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr. had submitted the results of his investigation into detainee operations and standards of detainee treatment in Afghanistan. In November of that year, Brigadier General Richard P. Formica had delivered his findings on command and control questions and allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq. Lieutenant General Richard Sanchez, Commander of the Multinational Force in Iraq and the military officer connected to the interrogation unit at Abu Ghraib, had commissioned Formica to determine whether or not U.S. forces in Iraq were in compliance with Department of Defense guidelines on detainee treatment.

Now, a mere two years or so later, I began skimming through the introductory matter and the boldface headings of the Jacoby Report. I stopped first at "Detainee Operations Standard Operating Procedures." Here it would be in black and white -- or so I thought. But, as it happened, I was only half right. Startling amounts of the report were redacted or blacked out. Where there should have been text against white space, there was section after section filled with nothing but solid black blocs. Even some subsection titles were missing. Pure ink. Meant not to be read.

Due process: Benamar Benatta, believed to be the last remaining domestic detainee from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was released yesterday after negotiations involving Canada, the United States and his attorneys ended his captivity at nearly five years.

Benatta crossed the border from the United States to Canada, where he will be allowed to resume the bid for political asylum that resulted in his detention shortly before the terrorist attacks.

The Algerian air force lieutenant spent more than 58 months behind bars even though the FBI formally concluded in November 2001 that he had no connection to terrorism.

He was among more than 1,200 mainly Muslim men who were arrested after the attacks and held under tight security while authorities scoured their backgrounds for links to terrorist groups. It is believed that Benatta was the last to be released, though it is difficult to be certain because of the secrecy that surrounded some of the cases.

"This is the result of an individual being labeled a terrorist and the government treating him as such," Benatta's attorney Catherine Amirfar said yesterday. "He was fully cleared by the FBI of any connection to terrorism . . . but the label stuck, so a man with no previous criminal record was detained for a visa overstay."

Worth Reading Twice

Joshua Holland: There's never been a global war on terror. It's a sham, a ruse. The conflict that's broken out between Israel and Hezbollah shows us, again, how important it is to articulate that. It's a real war, and it has both neocons and Islamic extremists praying that it will escalate into the global Clash of Civilizations that they've long lusted after.

Bush and Congress gave Israel the green light to pummel Lebanon for a while because "Israel is fighting a brave battle in a dangerous front in the War on Terror." And what can we, as Americans, really say about that? After all, we accepted the idea (some of us grudgingly) that there was a global "War on Terror" ourselves -- why shouldn't Lebanon be the next front?

When the media and our political class accepted the war frame, the hawks got a blank check. Everything that followed -- invasions, illegal surveillance and prisoners held in limbo, are all expected during times of war. Once we went to "war," resisting those policies became an uphill fight. War talk justifies powerful states responding to terrorist or insurgent attacks with disproportionate force. That makes the hawks feel macho and will likely create a whole new generation of potentially violent radicals who hate our guts.

We should have fought the "War on Terror" narrative from the beginning. Calling it a "war" is a numerical error, not an ideological difference. There are a few tens of thousands of potentially violent extremists dispersed around the world. They're not gathered in large groups, and you can't distinguish them from ordinary civilians. That makes it fundamentally an intelligence and law enforcement problem (which may require some military support).


Paul Krugman: Today we call them neoconservatives, but when the first George Bush was president, those who believed that America could remake the world to its liking with a series of splendid little wars — people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — were known within the administration as “the crazies.” Grown-ups in both parties rejected their vision as a dangerous fantasy. But in 2000 the Supreme Court delivered the White House to a man who, although he may be 60, doesn’t act like a grown-up. The second President Bush obviously confuses swagger with strength, and prefers tough talkers like the crazies to people who actually think things through. He got the chance to implement the crazies’ vision after 9/11, which created a climate in which few people in Congress or the news media dared to ask hard questions. And the result is the bloody mess we’re now in.

Patrick Cockburn: While the eyes of the world are elsewhere, Baghdad is still dying and the daily toll is hitting record levels. While the plumes of fire and smoke over Lebanon have dominated headlines for 11 days, with Britain and the US opposing a UN call for an immediate ceasefire, another Bush-Blair foreign policy disaster is unfolding in Iraq.

Invoking the sanctity of human life, George Bush wielded the presidential veto for the first time in his presidency to halt US embryonic stem cell research in its tracks. He even paraded one-year-old Jack Jones, born from one of the frozen embryos that can now never be used for federally funded research, and talked of preventing the "taking of innocent human life". How hollow that sounds to Iraqis.

More people are dying here - probably more than 150 a day - in the escalating sectarian civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims and the continuing war with US troops than in the bombardment of Lebanon.

Marc Sandalow: The path from the U.S. invasion of Iraq to this week's clash between Israel and Hezbollah is a matter of conjecture. However, most analysts agree that Syria and Iran are behind Hezbollah's actions, and have been stirred, in part, by the 2003 attack.

"It's an inescapable fact, as uncomfortable as it is, that the ... Iranian position is stronger than it otherwise would be,'' Blacker said. "It's not an accident that on the more traditional Middle East front, things are heating up again. The Iranians are trying to send a concrete signal.''

The overthrow of Iran's Sunni enemies in Iraq has "created an Iranian moment,'' Cook said.

The Syrians, who are largely Sunnis, withdrew from Lebanon last year, a move which was widely hailed as a positive consequence of Hussein's demise. Yet they left behind a government in Lebanon, though democratically elected, apparently too weak to control the violent Hezbollah forces who have been firing missiles at the Israelis and killing scores of its citizens.

This was not the sort of geopolitical shakeup predicted by President Bush when he declared two weeks before the Iraq invasion that "acting against the danger will also contribute greatly to the long-term safety and stability of our world.''

One Pissed Off Liberal: It has become fashionable in our overly conservative society to have a certain disdain, be it mild or extreme, for pacifists. I guess it's been long enough since our national humiliation in Vietnam that the concept of war has been successfully rehabilitated, and people who would counsel against it are deemed unwise or somehow disconnected from the `real world.' Yes, it seems America has overcome its squeamishness, shaken off its self-doubt, and gotten its swagger back. Once again we are the cocky kid on the block, the neighborhood bully, the macho superpower prepared to dominate the world. We have come to a place where the lessons of Vietnam have been discarded, our national memory of it buried and forgotten.

DISCLAIMER: I believe in legitimate self-defense and in intervention in the case of genocide, etc. as I see a qualitative difference between waging war and coming to someone's rescue. This is known as the pragmatic school of pacifism. My view is that pacifists are the real heroes - and I say that as the son of a warrior. As much as I love and admire my father, a career soldier, it is the peacemakers whom I look up to. Why? Because as the son of a warrior, and one who lived for 3 months among warring factions in Laos, I know what war is. The people who really know war are those who have lived through them. Ask any combat veteran...

Billmon: It's very hard, after more than three years of anticipating, dreading and now watching the catastrophe blossoming in Iraq, to tolerate the pathetic whimpering of former hawks who've finally managed to drag themselves into the searing light of reality -- and feel ill used because they must suffer the slings and arrows of the deluded goons who still refuse to leave the cave of winds. Welcome to the camp, guys. Ivan over there will show you around.

Back in days of the real gulags, the Stalinists used to talk about "useful idiots" -- well-meaning but hopelessly naive Western politicians and intellectuals (i.e. parlor pinks) who could be used to advance the proletarian cause, even though their reward in the event of an actual revolution would have been a one-way ticket to Siberia. For the comrades of the modern authoritarian right, guys like Sullivan and Djerejian served a very similar purpose. But now they're not so useful any more, in fact they've been revealed as deviationists -- which means they must be struggled against, lest they infect the party cadres with their counterrevolutionary poison.

I suppose I should welcome these refugees to reality, and let them be useful idiots for the Left Opposition for a change. But they don't actually bring much to the table -- just lots of wishful thinking and a water-down Wilsonian idealism that bears absolutely no relationship to the modern Middle East -- or the old one, for that matter. And so far that kind of misplaced idealism has only helped the neocons (who generally know better) get a lot of people killed.

What we are dealing with here, in other words, are some truly useless idiots. And this country -- and this world -- have far too many of those already.


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