Wednesday, July 19, 2006

WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 2006 “We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.” Gunmen stormed a market in the town of Rasheed, south of Baghdad, on Wednesday, killing three people in the second such raid in the area in three days. Police and Iraqi troops killed two of the unidentified assailants and were now in control of the town. Two policemen were among 11 people wounded. A senior staff member of the Interior Ministry was gunned down in a drive-by shooting Wednesday. Major General Fakhrou Abdul Mohsen, was leaving his home Wednesday morning when he was ambushed and killed by insurgent gunmen. A car bomb, followed by two other blasts, killed five Iraqis -- including three police officers -- near the Technology University in southeast Baghdad. The explosions also wounded 20 people. Four Iraqi police officers were wounded by a bomb targeting a police patrol in the Belediyat section of southeast Baghdad. Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms on Tuesday stole 1.24 billion Iraqi dinars (about $675,000) from Rafidain Bank in western Baghdad early Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday a roadside bomb killed six policemen and another police officer was wounded in the incident, which occurred in Hawija. A bomb outside a cafe killed four people and wounded 16 in Kirkuk. The body of an unidentified man was found with gunshot wounds in western Mosul. One policeman was wounded when gunmen ambushed a police patrol in central Mosul. Gunmen killed a Kurdish man on Tuesday in Mosul. Police found seven bullet-riddled bodies dumped in water sanitation tanks near Kut, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. Gunmen on Wednesday kidnapped 20 employees of a government agency that cares for Sunni mosques and shrines nationwide, and the organization suspended its work until further notice, an official said. (Baghdad?) Six people died when a bomb hidden in a plastic bag exploded inside a vegetable shop in eastern Baghdad. Clashes erupted between gunmen and Iraqi security forces in the tense area between Youssifiyah and Mahmoudiya. A member of a Shiite political organization and two of his bodyguards were gunned down Wednesday on the highway between Youssifiyah and Mahmoudiya. One person was killed and five were kidnapped Wednesday in Mahmoudiya. A roadside bombing killed two people in Kirkuk. Three people were killed in smallscale attacks in Baghdad and Yousifiyah. Good news if true: A Jordanian who killed two U.S. soldiers last month was fatally wounded in a clash with security forces, a senior Iraqi official said Tuesday.Diyar Ismail Mahmoud, known as Abu al-Afghani, was identified as the killer of the two soldiers, National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie told reporters. The two soldiers' mutilated bodies were found after they were captured in a clash near Youssifiyah, southwest of Baghdad. The descent: When Iraq's new unity government was installed two months ago, hopes rose that the sectarian violence tearing the country apart would end. When Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed last month and Iraq's new leaders quickly followed up with a plan for national reconciliation, hopes rose that the insurgents would lay down their arms and join the political process. And when all of that failed to stop the bloodshed, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched a security crackdown in Baghdad, which included 50,000 Iraqi police and troops manning checkpoints and patrolling the streets. None of it has worked. Reprisals: A Sunni driver lures Shiites into a van by promising jobs — then blows it up, killing 53 people. Sunni gunmen spray bullets and grenades at shoppers, not caring that they include women and children. Shiite death squads roam Baghdad streets, singling out and slaughtering Sunnis. The new unity government of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds was supposed to bring Iraqis together. Instead, sectarian bloodletting is spiraling out of control. In the last two days alone, more than 120 people were killed in two spectacular examples of Sunni-Shiite violence — 53 in the suicide van bombing Tuesday in Kufa and 50 in the massacre Monday in the market in Mahmoudiya. Since then, at least 19 more have been slain in Mahmoudiya in what police say were reprisals for the market massacre. Their bodies were found by police, scattered in different parts of town. Hell city: Sectarian violence in Iraq is escalating to horrifying levels. Just as dismaying, Iraq's modest democratic gains have not had the result of holding militias, insurgents and terrorists in check. Indeed, were it not for the distraction of the heavy fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah militia, the Bush administration would doubtless now be facing some of the sharpest challenges to date of its assurances that significant progress is being made in Iraq toward stability and withdrawal of U.S. forces. Even by the standards in Baghdad, an increasingly hellish city at the mercy of marauding gangs and death squads, the July 9 massacre of at least 40 Sunni Muslims by Shiite gunmen triggered outrage. Hundreds have died since then in a spiral of retribution that begets further retaliation. A substantial increase: An average of more than 100 civilians a day were killed in Iraq last month, the United Nations reported Tuesday, registering what appears to be the highest official monthly tally of violent deaths since the fall of Baghdad. The death toll, drawn from Iraqi government agencies, was the most precise measurement of civilian deaths provided by any government organization since the 2003 invasion and represents a substantial increase over the figures in daily media reports. Standing up while we stand down: Iraqi forces are accused of standing idly by while gunmen sprayed grenades and automatic weapons fire in a market south of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 50 people, most of them Shiites. Women and children were among the dead and wounded in the assault in Mahmoudiya, hospital officials said. Late Monday, police said they found 12 bodies in different parts of town - possible victims of reprisal killings. The Mahmoudiya assault occurred a few hundred yards from Iraqi army and police positions, but the troops did not intervene until the attackers were fleeing, several witnesses said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals. No trust, no hope: When her home became unlivable, when her neighbors were gunned down in the streets, a mother of seven said goodbye to her teenage sons and set out on foot into the lethal Baghdad night. Ignoring the citywide curfew, the woman known as Um Mustafa grabbed her two youngest children and walked five miles down the back roads of moonlit urban slums to the refugee camp that has become their new home. In a patch of crusted dirt and scratchy grass, they are now among 30 families living under the camp's green tents, surviving on rations of rice and tomatoes, and watching as violence engulfs much of their city. "I left my boys in al-Jihad because they refused to leave their house. They said, 'We will never leave our home. We will fight for it,' " recalled Um Mustafa, too afraid to give her full name, as she stood outside her tent. "I ran away when the shooting started. We left with the clothes that were on our bodies." "Neighbors are killing neighbors," she said. "We cannot trust anyone." Foreign Affairs Sayanara: The last batch of Japanese troops touched down in Kuwait from southern Iraq on Monday, ending the country's largest and most dangerous overseas mission since World War II. About 220 troops arrived at Kuwait's Ali Al Salem Air Base from Samawah, the provincial capital of Muthanna, on C-130 transport air planes, the Defense Agency said in a statement. The contingent was the last of about 600 non-combat soldiers previously stationed in Samawah to distribute water and assist in other humanitarian tasks. Following Israel's lead: Turkish officials signaled Tuesday they are prepared to send the army into northern Iraq if U.S. and Iraqi forces do not take steps to combat Turkish Kurdish guerrillas there - a move that could put Turkey on a collision course with the United States. Turkey is facing increasing domestic pressure to act after 15 soldiers, police and guards were killed fighting the guerrillas in southeastern Turkey in the past week. Sauce for the goose…:Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan rapped the US yesterday for tolerating Israel’s attacks on its enemies in Lebanon while refusing to allow Ankara to crush Kurdish rebels hiding in northern Iraq. Erdogan is under mounting domestic pressure to get tough with the rebels, who have killed 16 Turkish security personnel in separate attacks over the past week. “The way they look at terror there (in Israel) and in Turkey is not the same. They show tolerance towards country A (fighting terrorism) and show a different approach to country B. This is unacceptable,” Erdogan said. He did not mention the US or Israel by name but it was clear to whom he was referring. Helping the theocracy: Iran's most prominent dissident said Sunday that the war in Iraq has hurt his country's reform movement by giving its regime an excuse to stifle dissent. Journalist Akbar Ganji said in an interview that the West can best promote change in Iran by lending moral support to the country's democratic movement. "We do not want the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, this is our problem. Any intervention by any foreign power would bring charges of conspiracy against us," he said. "What has happened in Iraq did not support our movement in any significant way." Instead, he said, it gave Iran's regime an excuse to crack down on dissidents, accusing them of colluding with the U.S. and promoting an invasion of the Islamic republic. Your Tax Dollars At Work Boondoggle: If you were to gather together the finest, most creative minds and ask them to come up with a plan to outsource the reconstruction of Iraq that would guarantee shoddy work, overcharges, unfinished projects and overt graft, they would probably devise a system very similar to what U.S. taxpayers have enjoyed -- to the tune of about $30 billion -- for the past three years. In Baghdad, basics like electricity, sanitation and clean drinking water are at lower levels today than they were before the war. A poll last year found that after more than two years of work, only 30 percent of Iraqis had any idea that there was any kind of reconstruction effort at all. The reconstruction of Iraq has become a boondoggle of historic proportions, but make no mistake: It's a boondoggle by design. No duh, Dave: U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker told Congress last week that "massive corruption" and "a lot of theft going on" in Iraq's government-controlled oil industry is hampering the country's ability to govern itself. "It took me about, you know, a second and a half to realize that, obviously, there was massive corruption going on, because the numbers just didn't add up," Walker said, referring to a trip he took to Iraq this year in which he was shown figures on oil production and revenue. Walker, who heads the Government Accountability Office, made his remarks at a House Government Reform subcommittee meeting last Tuesday called to examine implementation of the Bush administration's 2005 "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." He said one of the failures of the U.S. program was related to the prewar assumption that Iraq would be able to pay for its reconstruction "in large part through oil revenues." He said about 10 percent of Iraq's refined fuels and 30 percent of its imported fuels are being stolen, in part because the subsidized Iraqi price of gasoline, about 44 cents a gallon, is less than half the regional price of 90 cents a gallon. "That provides a tremendous incentive to be able to steal these fuels and be able to sell them for whatever purposes, corruption or otherwise," Walker said. Walker noted that oil production, which was to provide prime support to the new government, is below prewar production and distribution levels, complicated by the insurgency and difficulties in maintaining the aging oil infrastructure. Another Bush failure: Key to Washington's efforts to get its message across to the Arab world are two Arab-language networks – Radio Sawa, begun in 2002, and Television Alhurra, launched in 2004. Backed by $78 million in federal funding this year, the efforts are meant to duplicate the success of Voice of America and Radio Free Europe during the Cold War. The networks have garnered their share of both accolades and criticism, but now comes controversial research alleging that they could actually be making matters worse. A new study by Mohammed el-Nawawy, a communications professor at Queens University in Charlotte, N.C., surveyed 394 Arab college students in five Arab countries on the credibility of the two networks. Nawawy found that once students began watching and listening to the networks, their attitudes toward U.S. foreign policy, in fact, worsened slightly. The study, "U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Arab World: The News Credibility of Radio Sawa and Television Alhurra in Five Countries," is in the August issue of Global Media and Communication, an academic journal. Nawawy surveyed students in Morocco, Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, and the Palestinian territories, and he concluded that U.S. officials face a tough time changing Arab hearts and minds. The bottom line, he writes: "No matter how savvy its public diplomacy efforts ... they will be ineffective in changing Arab public opinion if that public is dissatisfied with U.S. policies on the ground." Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the two networks, issued a blistering response to U.S. News about the study. "It is astonishing that a flawed study such as this would appear in a peer-reviewed journal and looks more like a conclusion in search of a reinforcing study instead of the other way around," he wrote. "It does not meet the universally accepted standards of international media research. Its sample is too small, it is skewed by population with nearly half the respondents identified as Palestinian, and some of the respondents were not even listeners or viewers." "I did not have a predetermined agenda," fired back Nawawy, who insists he followed well-established guidelines in preparing the study. "But I expected the BBG to be unhappy with the study outcome. ... I just thought that it would have been beneficial to work together to try to strengthen the U.S public diplomacy efforts in the Middle East instead of criticizing a study which simply conveyed the opinions of a sample of Arab students who were available to take the survey at the time." Tomlinson…hmmm. Where have we heard that name before?: Kenneth Y. Tomlinson is an American government official. He currently serves as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which manages Voice of America radio. According to The New York Times, there is an ongoing inquiry concerning possible criminal misuse of federal money by Tomlinson. Investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting said on 15 November 2005 "that they had uncovered evidence that its former chairman had repeatedly broken federal law and the organization's own regulations in a campaign to combat what he saw as liberal bias." He is a former board member of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and served as chairman from September 2003 to September 2005. During his time as chairman, he pursued aggressive policies of adding conservative viewpoint to CPB's programming. An internal investigation into his acts as chairman led to his resignation in November 2005. Commentary Letter to the Editor: Let's talk about "cut and run." Cut and run was the awful strategy used by this administration when it gave up on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida when we had them cornered on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. We cut and ran from Afghanistan so that Iraq could become the news. As most news in early 2002 was about the poor economy, low employment and a record surplus becoming a huge deficit, administration officials in the spring of 2002 are on record saying "change the subject or we will lose the 2002 congressional election." Iraq was in no way a threat to the U.S. This strategy (the worst in U.S. history) caused thousands of U.S. and Iraqis to be killed and wounded so that this administration could change the subject and helped it win the 2002 elections. Where are the families and congressmen of all the brave and patriotic troops killed and wounded so the administration could win in 2002 when they knew Iraq was no threat? Sold down the river to win in 2002, possibly the worst crime in U.S. history. Talk about "cut and run." NYT Editorial: It is only now, nearly five years after Sept. 11, that the full picture of the Bush administration’s response to the terror attacks is becoming clear. Much of it, we can see now, had far less to do with fighting Osama bin Laden than with expanding presidential power. Over and over again, the same pattern emerges: Given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House always shrugged off the legal constraints. Even when the only challenge was to get required approval from an ever-cooperative Congress, the president and his staff preferred to go it alone. While no one questions the determination of the White House to fight terrorism, the methods this administration has used to do it have been shaped by another, perverse determination: never to consult, never to ask and always to fight against any constraint on the executive branch. One result has been a frayed democratic fabric in a country founded on a constitutional system of checks and balances. Another has been a less effective war on terror. NYT Editorial: William Haynes II, the Pentagon’s general counsel, has been closely involved in shaping some of the Bush administration’s most legally and morally objectionable policies, notably on the use of torture. The last thing he is suited to be is a federal judge, but that is just what President Bush wants to make him. The Senate has been far too willing to rubber-stamp the president’s extreme judicial nominees. But there is reason to hope that strong opposition to Mr. Haynes, including from the military, may block this thoroughly inappropriate choice. Mr. Haynes has been nominated for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., a court that has heard some of the most important cases about the constitutional limits on the war on terror. This is a subject on which Mr. Haynes has no business posing as an impartial jurist. He has for years been part of a small group of insiders who have mapped out the Bush administration’s policies on questioning detainees and declaring American citizens to be “enemy combatants.” The administration’s policies in this area have been indecent and lawless, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly had to step in to rein them in. Mr. Haynes was by many accounts a key player in the administration’s development of its shamefully narrow definition of “torture,” which gave the green light for a wide array of abuses. The decisions made in Washington cleared the way for abusive treatment of the detainees being held in Guantánamo Bay, and created the environment necessary for the Abu Ghraib torture scandal to occur. It is disturbing that while low-level soldiers have been convicted for their actions at the Iraqi prison, Mr. Haynes has been rewarded with a coveted judicial nomination. Bob Herbert: Mr. Bush has tried to scrap the very idea of checks and balances. The Republican-controlled Congress has, for the most part, rolled over like trained seals for the president. And Mr. Bush is trying mightily to pack the courts with right-wingers who will do the same. Under those circumstances, his will becomes law. Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the majority opinion in the Hamdan case, referred to a seminal quote from James Madison. The entire quote is as follows: "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." As the center noted in a recent report, "The U.S. government has employed every possible tactic to evade judicial review of its detention and interrogation practices in the war on terror,' including allegations that U.S. personnel subject prisoners to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." There is every reason to be alarmed about the wretched road that Bush, Cheney et al. are speeding along. It is as if they were following a route deliberately designed to undermine a great nation. A lot of Americans are like spoiled rich kids who take their wealth for granted. Too many of us have forgotten — or never learned — the real value of the great American ideals. Too many are standing silently by as Mr. Bush and his cronies engage in the kind of tyrannical and uncivilized behavior that has brought so much misery — and ultimately ruin — to previous societies. Frank Rich: As American foreign policy lies in ruins from Pyongyang to Baghdad to Beirut, its epitaph is already being written in Washington. Last week's Time cover, "The End of Cowboy Diplomacy," lays out the conventional wisdom: the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, upended by chaos in Iraq and the nuclear intransigence of North Korea and Iran, is now officially kaput. In its stead, a sadder but more patient White House, under the sway of Condi Rice, is embracing the fine art of multilateral diplomacy and dumping the "bring 'em on" gun-slinging that got the world into this jam. The only flaw in this narrative — a big one — is that it understates the administration's failure by assuming that President Bush actually had a grand, if misguided, vision in the first place. Would that this were so. But in truth this presidency never had a vision for the world. It instead had an idée fixe about one country, Iraq, and in pursuit of that obsession recklessly harnessed American power to gut-driven improvisation and P.R. strategies, not doctrine. This has not changed, even now. Only if we remember that the core values of this White House are marketing and political expediency, not principle and substance, can we fully grasp its past errors and, more important, decipher the endgame to come. The Bush era has not been defined by big government or small government but by virtual government. Its enduring shrine will be a hollow Department of Homeland Security that finds more potential terrorist targets in Indiana than in New York. Casualty Reports A soldier from White County was killed while traveling with an Army convoy in Iraq, becoming the fourth serviceman with an Indiana connection to be killed overseas this month. Army Spc. Nathaniel Baughman, was killed in Iraq, workers at the Cass County Red Cross confirmed Tuesday. His mother, Jill Baughman, is the agency’s executive director. Baughman told WSAL-AM in Logansport that her son’s convoy was hit with a missile and he suffered massive head injuries. She said it was her son’s last mission and he was scheduled to return home in a few weeks. The son of a former administrator at Stockton's University of the Pacific was killed this week in a bomb blast while on tank patrol in Baghdad, Iraq, a Department of Defense spokesman said Tuesday. Staff Sgt. Jason M. Evey, 29, died immediately Sunday afternoon when the Bradley tank he commanded ran over an improvised explosive device on a road, said Maj. Nathan Banks, an Army spokesman. John Evey said his son wasn't shy about stating his opinion against the United States' war in Iraq, but he nonetheless led with dedication and honor. After three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army Staff Sgt. Michael A. Dickinson II of Battle Creek was preparing to leave the war. "He told me he was on his last mission and he would be home," Dickinson's mother, Vicki Dickinson said Tuesday, a day after her son was killed by a sniper in Ramadi, Iraq. "But he's not supposed to come home like this." Petty Officer 1st Class Jerry Tharp, 44, of Aledo, Ill., was killed July 12 as a result of enemy action when his dismounted patrol was struck by an improvised explosive device in Iraq. He was assigned to the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25, the Seabees, which is based Arsenal Island. Staff Sgt. Andres Jonathan Contreras, 24, of Huntington Park, Calif., died Saturday as a result of wounds received when an improvised explosive device exploded near his vehicle during combat operations, the U.S. Defense Department reported Tuesday. Contreras was a military policeman assigned to the 258th Military Police Company, 519th Military Police Battalion.


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