Friday, August 04, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, August 4, 2006 Photo: Carrying effigies of U.S. President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Iraqi Shiites in their thousands gathered in a mass demonstration against Israel's bombing of Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 4, 2006, in the Sadr City area of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) (See below) Hundreds of thousands of Shiites chanting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" marched through the streets of Baghdad Friday in a show of support for Hezbollah militants battling Israeli troops in Lebanon. The demonstration was the biggest in the Middle East in support of Hezbollah since the Israeli army launched an offensive July 12 after a guerrilla raid on northern Israel. The protest was organized by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose political movement built around the Mahdi Army militia has been modeled after Hezbollah. Al-Sadr summoned followers from throughout the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq to converge on Baghdad for the rally but he did not attend. Demonstrators, wearing white burial shrouds symbolizing their willingness to die for Hezbollah, waved the group's yellow banner and chanted slogans in support of its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who has attained a cult status in the Arab world for his defiance of Israel. "Allah, Allah, give victory to Hassan Nasrallah," the crowd chanted. "Mahdi Army and Hezbollah are one. Let them confront us if they dare," the predominantly male crowd shouted, waving the flags of Hezbollah, Lebanon and Iraq. (...) Al-Sadr followers painted U.S. and Israeli flags on the main road leading to the rally site, and demonstrators stepped on them - a gesture of contempt in Iraq. Alongside the painted flags was written: "These are the terrorists." Protesters set fire to American and Israeli flags, as well as effigies of President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, showing the men with Dracula teeth. "Saddam and Bush, Two Faces of One Coin" was scrawled on Bush's effigy. Iraqi government television said the Defense Ministry had approved the demonstration, a sign of public anger over Israel's offensive and of al-Sadr's stature as a major player in Iraqi politics.
State television said a million people had gathered for the rally, but this could not be independently confirmed. A dense sea of marchers slowly moved along al Shuhada, the slum's main street, many waving yellow Hizbollah flags and holding pictures of the group's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. After the rally, gunmen opened fire on a convoy of Sadr supporters near Yusufiya south of Baghdad. Police said 25 people had been wounded.
Heavily armed "insurgents" battled U.S. and Iraqi troops in Mosul on Friday where at least four policemen, including a top officer, and four militants were reported killed. (...) As is often the case in Iraq, accounts of the fighting in Mosul were confused and the U.S. military offered only scant information on the gunbattles which police sources agreed lasted from about 6.30 a.m. (0200 GMT) until just after midday. A source in the city morgue said it had received 20 bodies from the fighting, including those of five policemen, but police sources said four policemen and four militants died during six hours of clashes that also drew in U.S. and Iraqi troops. "We have killed a number of them (insurgents) and burned their cars. Now the west bank is 100 percent secured," Nineveh police chief General Wathiq al-Hamdani told state television, adding that the insurgents were members of al Qaeda. The governor of Nineveh province imposed a curfew until 6 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Saturday. Police sources said several roadside bombs exploded shortly after dawn, followed by gunfights between police and insurgents firing mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Two car bombs also exploded, one outside the offices of a Kurdish political party and a police station, which killed Colonel Jassim Muhammad Bilal and two bodyguards, they said. (...) The United States recently announced it was moving more than 3,500 troops from the 172nd Stryker Brigade in Mosul to Baghdad to help rein in worsening sectarian violence there. Bring 'em on: Two Soldiers assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division died due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province today. (CENTCOM) OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: An engineer was shot dead and an unidentified body, showing signs of torture, was found in western Baghdad. Two bodies were found in Baghdad, including one showing signs of torture. Three suspected militants linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq were killed in U.S. raids and an air strike southeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. A bystander was killed in a botched attempt to target a police patrol with a roadside bomb a short distance south of Baghdad. Amara: A former member of one of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's security services was shot dead in the southern city of Amara. Mahmudiya: Two "insurgents" were killed and one arrested by US soldiers as they attacked a watchtower in Mahmudiya, 35 kilometres to the south of the capital. Diyala Bridge: Two Iraqi civilians were killed and 17 wounded on Friday in a mortar attack on a popular market south of Baghdad. An Iraqi security source told KUNA that four mortar rounds hit a popular market on Friday afternoon in the town of Diyala Bridge, south of Baghdad, noting that a number of commercial stores and houses were damaged. Kout and Nahrawan: An Iraqi Interior Ministry source announced that 14 unidentified dead bodies were found in the towns of Kout and Nahrawan, south of Baghdad. The source told KUNA that the local police in Kout found 10 unidentified dead bodies more likely for Iraqi soldiers, noting that the bodies were handcuffed, blindfolded, had torture marks, and were executed by shooting. Also, the local police in Nahrawan found four unidentified dead bodies that were shot to death. Dujail: (Thursday) Gunmen shot and killed four people and wounded eight from a Shiite family in Dujail, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad. Huweidar: A roadside bomb killed a pregnant Iraqi woman and her husband as they raced to hospital to deliver her child in the early hours of the morning. Police said the couple were taking a taxi at 2 am (2200 GMT Thursday) from the village of Huweidar towards the maternity hospital in Diyala provincial capital Baquba, north of Baghdad. The cab driver and the man's sister-in-law were injured in the blast. Behdinan: One of the top names in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was killed in a gun attack in north Iraq on August 1, according to a pro-PKK website. Al-Obaidey: (Ubaudi) The United States military said Friday three Iraqi civilians were killed and nine were injured in mortar shelling close to the Iraq-Syria borders. A statement issued by the US military said insurgents attacked with 120 mm mortars a civilian area in the Al-Obaidey town close to the Iraqi and Syrian borders. Hadhar: Ten people, including three Iraqi policemen, were killed by a suicide bomber in Hadhar, a town 90 km (55 miles) south of Mosul. The attack took place on a sports field and wounded 12 people, including nine policemen, who were patrolling the area. In country: Four members of a family were gunned down in a city north of the capital. >> REPORTS "WELCOME TO HIT!” Lt. Col. Thomas Graves wasn't expecting trouble as his convoy rolled toward this embattled Euphrates River town at midday recently, on a mission to monitor Friday prayers at mosques. Local officials had assured Graves, the top U.S. commander in the area, that Hit was "going through a period of peace and quiet," he said shortly before leaving his camp. But just as Graves reached the edge of town, the road in front of his Humvee exploded in a cloud of dust and debris. An insurgent hiding in a nearby palm grove had detonated two buried artillery rounds, narrowly missing the colonel. "Welcome to Hit! It's a peaceful little town -- sorta," Graves told a reporter traveling with him. So it goes here in western Iraq's Anbar province, a center of Sunni resistance. In Hit, U.S. forces and their Iraqi counterparts are the target of most of the two dozen attacks -- road bombs, shootings and mortar fire -- each week. Residents are quick to argue that the American presence incites those attacks, and they blame the U.S. military rather than insurgents for turning their town into a combat zone. The Americans should pull out, they say, and let them solve their own problems. Increasingly, the U.S. military seems eager to oblige. read in full… OFFICERS ALLEGEDLY PUSHED 'KILL COUNTS' Military prosecutors and investigators probing the killing of three Iraqi detainees by U.S. troops in May believe the unit's commanders created an atmosphere of excessive violence by encouraging "kill counts" and possibly issuing an illegal order to shoot Iraqi men. At a military hearing Wednesday on the killing of the detainees near Samarra, witnesses painted a picture of a brigade that operated under loose rules allowing wanton killing and tolerating violent, anti-Arab racism. (...) [Witness Pfc. Bradley] other depicted a unit [101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade] that had embraced a violent ethos and was routinely hostile to ordinary Iraqis. Commanders encouraged soldiers to compete to rack up "enemy kills," he said. A board at their headquarters that showed the numbers of Iraqis killed served to reinforce the message. "Let the bodies hit the floor," read a phrase at the bottom of the board. "That's another terrorist down," Mason quoted [accused Staff Sgt. Raymond L.] Girouard as telling soldiers after they killed someone. "Good job." Soldiers referred to ordinary Iraqis derogatorily as "hajis," a reference to Muslims who have made the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, and considered the 10 or so Iraqi army soldiers and interpreters working for their unit as mostly "terrorists," Mason said. Under questioning, Mason acknowledged saying that even before he arrived in Iraq, he asserted that "every man, woman and child in Iraq deserves to die." On May 8, the day before the raid, [Army Col. Michael] Steele [commander of the 3rd Brigade] reportedly addressed a group of about 100 soldiers. "We're going in tomorrow," he told them, according to 1st Lt. Justin Werheim, another prosecution witness. "We're going to hit the ground shooting, and kill all the Al Qaeda in Iraq insurgents." The rules of engagement were unambiguous, Werheim said, and came down "several times" via Capt. Daniel Hart, who also has requested immunity. "We were to positively identify and kill any military-age male on the island," Werheim said. read in full... >> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS AL-HAKIM’S "NATIONAL RECONCILIATION" Today [August 2], Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who heads the biggest and one of the most influential Shiite group in Iraq, appeared before a mob of thousands of Shiites and provoked more ethnic and sectarian-based assassinations and urged the sheep flock to arm themselves and kill Iraqis in the streets. All this was aired on the Iraqi government's official TV station. Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, told the jobless, uneducated and vulgar mob that gathered around him that the main "battle" in Iraq now is the one against the baathists. The baathists should be killed, he told the mob, and then Iraqi will stabilize. The last problem left in Iraq now is what is left of baathists!! "The battle today is against the remnants of baathists," he barked in speakers reading with difficulty from a paper [because he didn't write it maybe!] "it is a critical battle. It is either to be or not to be," he said quoting someone he never read or heard of, Shakespeare. "We should never forget that the baathists killed hundreds of thousands of people," he reminded the audience. In this time, when the government, which basically is led by Hakim and his kind, calls for a "national reconciliation," Hakim appears on TV provoking people to kill each other. read in full... TOY STORE OWNERS KILLED I just read some shocking news on the Where Date Palms Grow blog that the Jelawi Store has shut down because its three owners were killed. La hawla wa la quatta illa billah. This store is the only store I've seen in Baghdad that sells high quality baby and children products/toys and better quality houseware. I've shopped there many times for my one year old daughter; got her a set of Legos from there, some crib toys and her walker. So it was quite shocking for me to hear this news of the store that is just a few minutes drive from my house. Apparently the three brothers who own the store were murdered, and the store closed down. Zappy writes:
One of the Gelawi Boys was interviwed some time ago by the Baghdad Sattilite Channel he was asked why have you not shut down your shop and fled the country. He answered that where should I go? I love my country and I like to keep the smile on the Children's faces. Two weeks ago the three Gelawi Brothers were assassinated inside their Shop.
The Terrorist succeeded in closing the largest toy shop in Baghdad. Another blow to life in Baghdad. link A SWEET FAMILY I had to take a couple of days off to put down an attempted mutiny by my brain. But I see that during my absence, this recent column by John "I Give Nepotism A Bad Name" Podhoretz has been widely celebrated: What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us they would go along with anything? Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of the sectarian violence now? Among those finding this noteworthy were Tristero, Matthew Yglesias, Mark Kleinman, and Gregory Djerejian. They all seem to think genocide is a bad thing. I'm not really in a position to criticize here, given the massive bloodshed that was required to quell my own mental insurgency. But I do think it's worth recalling something related. John Podhoretz is the son of Midge Decter. Back in May, 2004, Decter frankly explained the real reason we attacked Iraq: "We're not in the Middle East to bring sweetness and light to the world. We're there to get something we and our friends in Europe depend on. Namely, oil." So there you have it, straight from the world's most appealing family: we invaded Iraq for the oil, but we may have made a mistake by not killing millions when we got there. link >> BEYOND IRAQ Afghanistan: A Canadian military convoy was rocked by two bombing attacks in southern Afghanistan, just a day after four Canadian soldiers were killed. The convoy was hit by two improvised explosive devices and one civilian vehicle was engulfed in flames on the main highway west of Kandahar city. There are no reports of Canadian injuries, however it's not clear whether there were civilian casualties. ISRAEL'S IMAGE OF INVINCIBILITY LITERALLY SHATTERED There was a time when the international media was literally 'owned' by Israel. I can't help remembering the previous wars between Israel and her neighbors. The media bias was astounding. The other point of view was virtually non-existent! This time, there was live coverage from Arab and other media channels, dozens of channels. The declared claims of avoiding civilian casualties, acting in self defense, helping the Lebanese government etc. etc. simply could not hold! This time, Prime Minister Olmert complained about the media's unbalanced reporting. It seems that Israel did things with a mentality that assumed that they were going to get away with things like previous times. That was a major error. As the battles unfolded, the declared objectives of the Israeli campaign were 'reduced' several times, clearly indicating that things were not going as planned. A major casualty in this war was Israel's image of invincibility. It was literally shattered! Yes, Israel had air and fire-power superiority. In more than 2,400 sorties and precision bombings, they killed many children but could not make a noticeable dent in Hezbollah's primitive armor. When ground skirmishes started, those fighters gave the Israelis a good run for their money. Much of it was reported almost immediately. The impressive Israeli war machine looked clumsy and almost pathetic! Also gone is the image of small country fighting against all odds for survival. read in full... TODAY YOU'VE GOT THE POWER TO TAKE IT, TOMORROW YOU WON'T HAVE THE POWER TO KEEP IT Several days ago at American Footprints, praktike offered a parable about the American/Israeli neocon desire to reshape the Middle East through military force: There's a kind of raccoon trap where you drill or countersink a hole in a log, then nail a few nails pointing downward that are spaced just wide enough to allow a furry paw to enter. You put a shiny object, like a piece of tinfoil, in the hole and wait for the raccoon to discover it. So entranced by his treasure, he won't be willing to let go, and thus his balled little fist won't make it past the nails. Sound familiar? I thought about this analogy when reading (via Billmon) the latest column by Tony Karon in Time magazine:
Israel's strategy is now premised on the arrival in the not-too-distant future of an international security force in south Lebanon. . . . But the terms on which an international force will be deployed is now the focus of an intensifying diplomatic fight. . . . [T]he U.S. is insisting that there be no demand for a halt to Israel's offensive until a mechanism is in place to disarm Hizballah. . . . But the French, who are currently the prime candidates to lead an international force, are making clear that the international community is not going to finish the job for Israel, and will only police a cease-fire when one has been agreed to by the Lebanese government, which includes Hizballah. In other words, it won't try to disarm Hizballah unless Hizballah has agreed to be disarmed. And the only formula likely to achieve that objective on the basis of the current battlefield situation would be an agreement among Lebanese parties to somehow incorporate Hizballah's fighting forces into the Lebanese Army - which may not be quite what the U.S., and certainly not Israel, had in mind. (...)
So here is Israel, its furry paw tightly gripping whatever shiny bits of Lebanese territory it's been able to hold (not much according to the latest from Billmon, whose coverage of this war has been extraordinary). It promises to let go and pull its paw out, if someone will volunteer to crawl between the nails and take custody of the tinfoil on its behalf. If not, Israel will just have to... stay caught in the trap. Which doesn't sound like much of a threat, when you think about it. read in full... BILLMON: IMPORTANT IF TRUE Important because it would mean the war clock is ticking down to it's final few days. Ha'aretz:
Ideally, the IDF would also like a number of weeks for "clean-up" operations. The prime minister has indicated only that it has at least until next Monday. In his note, Olmert wrote: "Chief of Staff! If we have time... at least until Monday... because only then will the Security Council convene."
It may be, of course, that Olmert always has the option of calling up the timekeeper in Washington and asking him to to put another week back on the clock. No sweat, Olmy old buddy, says Shrub, cheefully. But if Monday is indeed the deadline, then it's hard to see how the IDF can even eke out a narrow loss. As best I can tell from wire reports and this Ha'aretz story (I mean, we're not talking the Hizbullah Times here) the Israelis are still fighting nasty little battles in and and/or around a three or possibly four villages along the border -- Ayta a-Shab (not far from lovely Bint Jbeil, gateway to southern hell) Taibe and Kfar Kila to the east, and someplace called Mahabib, which I can't find but which is said to be right across the border from an Israeli town called Manara. (see map.) This is not much of a buffer zone -- more like a series of small pockets poking a couple of kilometers into Lebanon. And the IDF appears to be moving very slowly and deliberately to try to hold down its own casualties -- successfully so far, but at what cost in terms of the mission? It looks to me like it would take weeks of hard fighting -- Iwo Jima style fighting -- just to link these pockets into a contiguous zone inside the border, much less advance to the Litani River on a broad front. (The Israelis claim they've already reached the river, but it appears to be far to the east, where the Litani ducks close to Israel before taking a hairpin turn to the north. It's very hard for me to see how the IDF can accomplish even the Olmert government's minimum objectives over the next 4-5 days. Not unless the pace is drastically picked up, which could cost many lives. read in full... QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Nobody wants us here, so why are we here? That's the big question. If we leave, all the attacks would stop, because we'd be gone." -- Maj. Brent E. Lilly, who leads a Marine civil affairs team in Hit, 35 miles upriver from Anbar's capital of Ramadi (See above "Welcome to Hit!")


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