Sunday, August 06, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, AUGUST 6, 2006 An Iraqi man carries the body of his child outside the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf August 6, 2006. The child was killed by a stray bullet during clashes between insurgents and Iraqi police in Najaf on Saturday. REUTERS/Ali Abu Shish. Note: This is yet another example of an incident that only gets reported in a photo caption. -- C Police find 14 bullet-riddled bodies in various parts of Baghdad on Saturday, according to an interior ministry source who demanded anonymity. Some were blindfolded and bound. Mortar strike kills one, injures two, in southern Baghdad. Also, according to AP: Five Iraqi soldiers killed in ambush in Kirkuk. Also, unidentified armed men kidnapped a civilian in the city. In Mosul, unidentified men opened fire against multinational forces. The scene has been "besieged," but casualties are unreported. Also in Mosul, according to KUNA, police found the body of an al Qaeda leader, according to a major general of the police, following a confrontation with armed men. The police claim 20 were killed in armed confrontations in Mosul. Iraqi police say three people killed in separate incidents in Diyali. Also, "a member of one of the security protection agencies" killed in Baqubah. Four truck drivers, transporting barbed wire to a U.S. base, are killed in an ambush near Ishaqi, north of Baghdad. Also, according to Reuters: Roadside bomb wounds two police commandos and two civilians in Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad. AFP also reports a second roadside bomb in Baghdad, but gives no details. Also, AFP gives the day's total of tortured and murdered bodies in Baghdad as 17, rather than the 12 or 14 mentioned elsewhere. The discrepancy appears to be in part that AFP includes 4 Iraqi soldiers, as well as 13 civilians. Gunmen in Samarra ambush a convoy of Iraqi trucks carrying food, killing two drivers and setting their trucks on fire, according to police Capt. Laith Mohammed. Also, A sniper shot dead a government security guard in southern Baghdad, and a body is found in Amarah. This story also refers to five men found shot in Baghdad, but it is unclear whether this is in addition to those reported elsewhere. MNF Casualty Report Marine killed on Thursday is identified as Lance Cpl. Kurt Dechen, 24, of Springfield, VT. Shot while on foot patrol in Fallujah. Sailor killed August 2 in Ramadi identified as Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc A. Lee, 28, of Hood River, Ore. OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY Police undertake morning ritual of recovering bodies. (Note: This story reminds us that our daily practice of listing reported incidents greatly understates the level of violence in Iraq, most of which is not specifically reported. -- C) Excerpt:
EVERY morning in the Sadr area of northern Baghdad, police undertake a familiar ritual. A dusty area once used as a city rubbish tip has for two months been the dumping ground for Sunni victims of Shiite death squads. Just after dawn each day, before the temperature soars to 50 degrees, police gather as many as 30 bodies - each identifiably Sunni from a hole bored in the head by an electric drill - for transport to the morgue. Meanwhile, a similar number of headless bodies are pulled from the Tigris, the daily crop of Shiite victims of Sunni militia. The corpses are the latest tally in a sectarian war raging through Baghdad. As many as 200 a day are delivered to the morgue. "Some of the bodies are impossible to identify," Dr Falih Hassan said at the morgue. "But we can tell the victim's religion: if they have been beheaded they are Shia, if they have been killed by an electric drill or hammer blows to the face they are Sunni." For the fighters roaming Baghdad, the logic is simple. Hassan Alami, 25, a Shiite from Sadr City, said the holes drilled in the Sunni heads were to "destroy their stupid minds". The Sunnis are said to behead their victims because this was how Muhammad dealt with apostates.
U.S. Army 172 Stryker Brigade takes up positions in Baghdad. Excerpt:
08-06-2006, 06h42 BAGHDAD (AFP) US reinforcements have rolled into some of the most violent districts of Baghdad in a fleet of 17-tonne armoured troop carriers as part of a major push to halt Iraq's slide towards civil war. Units of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team deployed in flashpoint districts in the west of the capital Sunday, which in recent weeks has seen hundreds of civilians murdered by sectarian death squads. snip An extra 3,700 combat troops will join Operation Forward Together in support of some 50,000 mainly Iraqi personnel struggling to regain control of the capital and to restore the embattled coalition government's authority. "The Stryker Brigade continues to move, and its final positions are still being worked out," said US military spokesman Major William Willhoite. snip The Stryker Brigade had already completed a 12-month deployment in the restive region around the northern city of Mosul, and had begun to head home to Alaska when the order came to proceed to Baghdad for the next 120 days. The 172nd -- nicknamed the "Arctic Wolves" -- has handed over authority in Mosul to the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, a US statement said. The handover maintained US troop levels in Iraq at around 130,000. The Arctic Wolves use the "Stryker", a wheeled armoured car regarded as well-suited to urban terrain.
Authorities lift curfew in Mosul after making 62 arrests. Excerpt:
By RAWYA RAGEH | Associated Press August 6, 2006 Iraqi authorities Sunday lifted a partial curfew in the country's third largest city, rounding up 62 suspects after repulsing a series of attacks that killed a police colonel and raised concern that insurgents were regrouping there. A Defense Ministry statement said the 62 arrests were made in northern Iraq since Saturday, a day after heavy fighting erupted in Mosul between security forces and insurgents. Another 10 suspected insurgents were arrested in other parts of the country, the statement said. Nine other people were arrested elsewhere in the country in the ongoing sectarian and political violence, police said. The curfew had been imposed in the eastern part of Mosul, where much of Friday's fighting took place, but was listed Sunday after order was restored, police chief Maj. Gen. Wathiq al-Hamdani said. Police estimated that 20 militants were killed in the Friday fighting but only four bodies have been found. The fighting began after a car bomb killed a police colonel and three other policemen.
Military hearing in Mahmudiyah rape/massacre begins. Excerpt:
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq (AFP) - An Iraqi army doctor has told of his horror at coming upon a dead teenager "naked with her legs spread" after the alleged murder of her family by a group of US soldiers. Testifying Sunday on the first day of a US military hearing to decide whether there is enough evidence to court martial four of the soldiers, the doctor decribed how he was called to the 14-year-old's home in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad. It has been alleged that on March 12 five US soldiers left their post and headed to the nearby home of a Iraqi. The young girl was allegedly raped and killed, along with her family, and the house set on fire. The doctor said the girl's upper torso and her head were burned and she had a single bullet under her left eye. Her five-year-old sister was found in an adjacent room, where a bullet had blown the back of her head out. The girls' father and mother had also been shot dead. The mother was riddled with bullets in her chest and abdomen. The doctor told the prosecutors that he was ill for weeks after witnessing the crime scene. Reporters were barred from the hearing during the testimony, and the medic's name was not released, but a recording of his testimony was made available. Two other Iraqis also testified but the media was not allowed to listen.
Families of UK soldiers killed in Iraq form party to challenge government. Excerpt:
Steve Boggan Saturday August 5, 2006 The Guardian Whenever news of British military deaths in the Middle East flashes on to their TV screen, Reg and Sally Keys become silent and you can see anxiety wash across their faces. This week has been particularly tough; three soldiers killed in Afghanistan, one in Iraq. Each time it happens, it reminds them of their son, Thomas, one of six royal military policemen killed in Iraq in 2003. The Keys are among 115 families whose sons have been killed in Iraq. But this week, one of the worst for British casualties, has been different for the bereaved; this week, they have been doing something about it. Mr Keys, a 54-year-old former paramedic who stood against Tony Blair in Sedgefield at the general election, is at the centre of moves to form a new political movement aimed at bringing down ministers who failed to vote against the war in Iraq. In the next two weeks he and a small group of others will meet to lay down the foundations of Spectre, a political party that will target the people they hold culpable for the deaths of their sons in what they see as an illegal war. Last week, four of them won an appeal court challenge against the government's refusal to hold a public inquiry into the decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein. Their lawyer, Phil Shiner, described the victory as stunning, not least because, if they are successful in November, the inquiry could see the prime minister, former foreign secretary Jack Straw and former defence secretary Geoff Hoon called to explain their actions. The parents were delighted, but regard legal proceedings as only one element of a two-pronged attack. At Spectre's inaugural meeting, expected to be held in the Midlands, they will lay plans for a launch next month at the start of Labour's annual conference in Manchester. The families hope to field upwards of 70 candidates at the next general election, and suck enough votes away from Labour ministers to cause political ructions. "Every time you see news of more deaths, it just brings it all back and you realise that some family's nightmare is just beginning," Mr Keys says. "We know how those families will be feeling. We all feel we've been lied to, ignored and, frankly, insulted. But now it's different. Now we're going to make ministers pay with their seats." Thomas Keys, 20, and five colleagues were murdered at an Iraqi police station in Al-Majar Al-Kabir. Since the deaths, Mr Keys has learned that the six were ill-equipped and could have survived if they had had such basic resources as a satellite phone to call for help. "When they recovered Thomas's body there were 30 bullet holes in it," he says. "He had been systematically shot in the feet, shins, shoulders and arms. It was only the last two shots, to the head, that killed him. The authorities know who killed him. They even have the murderers' addresses, and the address of a man who took Thomas's watch from him, the watch I gave him for his 18th birthday. But these men are still free. "All the parents of the soldiers killed are angry. If Thomas had been fighting for his country in a legal war, then you wouldn't be hearing from me. But we were lied to. Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction; he was no threat to us. So we feel those lives were lost for nothing." Mr Keys took 4,252 votes in Sedgefield - 10.3% of the vote. Now he believes similar results up and down the country could cost Labour ministers their seats. He will stand, as will Rose Gentle. Her 19-year-old son, Gordon, was killed in a roadside bombing in Basra in 2004. She uses a website, www.mfaw.org.uk (Military Families Against the War) to encourage bereaved families to come forward and make a stand. "I'm getting between 200 and 300 emails a day from bereaved families, concerned military families and serving soldiers who all feel angry at the way we have been lied to," she says. "This movement is growing and by forming a political party we'll have a focus of that anger." The idea came from John Mackenzie, the lawyer representing families of the six military policemen. He says the name Spectre was chosen to remind ministers of the fear that should haunt them. Spectre's steering committee is likely to comprise Mr Keys, Mrs Gentle and Mr Mackenzie, with Mike Aston, whose son Russell died alongside Thomas Keys, Peter Brierley, whose son Shaun died in Kuwait in 2003, Sue Smith, whose son Phillip Hewett died in a roadside bombing last year, and Beverley Clarke, who lost her son David to "friendly fire" in 2003. Mr Brierley, who put up £11,000 of his own money to fund last week's successful court action, says: "We can do a lot of damage to the ministers who supported the war. I don't particularly have an argument with the Labour party, or even most of the government. I blame the personal ambitions of one man: Tony Blair."
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Note: I'm going to concentrate on "mainstream" -- i.e. corporate news media -- sources today. It's important to understand where the conventional wisdom is heading, and right now it's going in an interesting direction. You may have a gripe with Dexter Filkins, but more people read him than read Noam Chomsky. -- C CNN's Kim Seagal describes the limitations of practicing journalism in Iraq, which corresopnd to the limitations of living there.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The past few weeks we've had a fairly normal schedule in the Baghdad bureau. Reminding you that normal is relative here. With so much news coming out of Lebanon and Israel, we didn't broadcast as much as we usually do. But that has changed in the past few days. We are back to working round the clock to bring the situation in Iraq to our viewers. Unfortunately, the situation has not changed for the better. When a bomb goes off on a soccer field, killing young athletes and spectators, you cannot help but wonder if there will ever be a time when we can go out and find a story instead of reacting to a crisis. As much as possible, we work on stories that are not reactionary -- but the daily bombings, shootings and kidnappings consume a large part of our day. Even the stories we do that are not based on a tragedy seem to ultimately have a tragic twist. The other day an official with the Iraqi government estimated the unemployment rate was about 50 percent. Eleven million people without jobs. So we went to talk to day laborers looking for work. The men we spoke with were scared to be on the streets, but had no choice but to work in order to feed their families. The fear was real: They all knew the story of a group of day laborers lured with the promise of work into the car of a suicide bomber. That blast killed over 60 people. For now, the common thread whether it be a reactionary story or an enterprise story, one in which we seek out ourselves, is fear. When youngsters are risking their lives for the chance to play soccer, it is no wonder people in Baghdad think twice before going out to buy bread.
Lebanon war dashing Bush administration plans. Excerpt:
By SALLY BUZBEE of The Associated Press Published Sunday, August 6, 2006 CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Anger toward America is high, extremists are on the upswing and hopes for democracy in the Middle East lie dashed. The Lebanon war is creating dangerous ripples in the war on terror, the future of Iraq - even the effort to keep nuclear weapons from dangerous hands. "America, we hate you more than ever," Ammar Ali Hassan wrote in the independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, in the kind of visceral, slap-in-the-face rhetoric boiling across the region. So far, the violence has not led allies to take steps that directly hurt America’s strategic interests, such as forcing the military from its regional headquarters in Qatar or its naval base in Bahrain. And there are those who see the conflict as the bloody but necessary prelude to a real assessment by the Arab world of its choices: democracy and peace, or Islamic extremism and warfare. Yet so far, almost every U.S. and European goal for the region - keeping oil prices stable, promoting democracy, fighting extremists, strengthening moderates - is damaged. Jordan’s pro-American King Abdullah gave the sharpest warning last week: Even if Hezbollah loses the military battle, its rising popularity among Arabs means a like-minded group could pop up anywhere in the Middle East, even in his own country. Others worry terror groups might already be directly benefiting. Al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader has called on supporters to wage holy war against Israel in a clear effort to turn the hostility to its advantage. More broadly, a wide swath of even progressive, middle-class people across the Mideast are outraged at the Israeli bombing of Lebanon and in part blame the United States. That means the long-sought U.S. effort to win Arab and Muslim "hearts and minds" - so crucial to fighting terrorism - has been dealt a huge blow. The signs are everywhere grim: ● Moderates such as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have become almost irrelevant. All hope of an Israeli-Palestinian "land for peace" deal lie in tatters. ● Iran has received a prestige boost as a key Hezbollah backer, and it has gained some relief from its own problems: U.N. efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions still limp along but have taken a back seat. ● The effort to calm Iraq has been "complicated" because the Lebanon war has boosted the prestige of Shiite extremists who are pushing Iraq toward civil war, said a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The fighting even led to tension between Washington and Iraq’s Shiite moderates, when the country’s prime minister was harshly criticized by Democrats for condemning only Israel, not Hezbollah. ● The push for democracy in other Arab regimes, already stalled, has ground to a halt. The United States is unlikely to pressure allies such as Saudi Arabia or Egypt for reform when it needs their help to end the crisis. Even many Arab reformers now believe the United States cares more about supporting Israel than anything else, including democracy.
Chaos in Baghdad forces U.S. to veer from chosen course. Excerpt:
By Dexter Filkins, The New York Times Published: August 6, 2006 BAGHDAD Over the past year, as U.S. commanders pushed Iraqi forces to take over responsibility for this violent capital, Baghdad became a markedly more dangerous place. Now the Americans are being forced to call in more of their own troops in an attempt to bring the city under control. The failure of the Iraqis to halt the slide into chaos here undercuts the central premise of the American project: that Iraqi forces can be trained and equipped to secure their own country, allowing U.S. troops to go home. A review of previously unreleased statistics on U.S. and Iraqi patrols suggests that as Americans handed over responsibilities to the Iraqis, violence in Baghdad increased. In mid-June 2005, Americans conducted an average of 360 patrols a day, according to statistics released by the military. By the middle of February this year, the patrols ran about 92 a day - a drop of more than 70 percent. The first Iraqi brigade took over a small piece of Baghdad early last year. Now, Iraqi soldiers or police officers take the leading role in securing more than 70 percent of the city, including its most violent neighborhoods. They control all of Baghdad's 6,000 checkpoints. Even after the attack on the Askariya shrine in Samarra on Feb. 22 unleashed a wave of sectarian violence, the U.S. patrols remained at a level lower than in the past. At the end of July, Americans were patrolling Baghdad 89 times a day - a quarter of their patrols in mid-June last year. Thirteen months ago, Baghdad had about 19 daily violent events, like killings. Today, the daily average is 25 - an increase of more than 30 percent. Many of these attacks cause more than one death; some cause many more, like the rampage by Shiite gunmen in western Baghdad last month that left as many as 40 people dead. On Thursday in Washington, senior U.S. military commanders pointedly warned that Iraq was heading toward civil war. To stop the slide, the United States has decided to double the number of U.S. troops in the city, to about 14,200 from about 7,200. U.S. officials have declared Baghdad the country's "center of gravity," an arena that must be won if the Iraqi project is to succeed. The Americans and Iraqis say they are also preparing to bring in more Iraqi troops and spend at least $50 million for jobs and public services like electricity. The decision to increase the number of U.S. troops in the city appears to reflect a conviction that only U.S. troops can bring the city under control. "If we were willing to accept the high levels of casualties that occur in the city each month, then the Iraqi security forces could have continued handling the situation," said Major General William Caldwell 4th, the spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq. "We can handle it at the levels we have. But if we want to reduce the violence, then we bring more forces into the city." U.S. commanders say the greater violence in Baghdad does not necessarily suggest that the Iraqi forces are failing. Iraqi police officers and army soldiers are competent, the Americans say, but the explosion of sectarian violence was of a scope and virulence that could have overwhelmed any army. "I don't think we moved too quickly," Caldwell said of putting the Iraqis in charge of Baghdad. "I don't think anyone could have anticipated the sectarian violence." Some independent observers say the Americans have a point - that the job of trying to secure a city of seven million people plagued by terrorism, sectarian violence and crime is a task of a magnitude that has never been attempted by a modern army. Some wonder whether the additional 7,000 U.S. troops bound for the city will be enough.
Residents in Iraqi town say US presence incites insurgents. Excerpt:
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post | August 6, 2006 HIT, Iraq -- Lieutenant Colonel 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 US 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, US 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 US 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 US military seems eager to oblige. While senior US commanders have indicated that troops will be required to stay longer in Anbar than elsewhere in Iraq, they have already begun cutting back forces in some smaller, less strategic towns along the Euphrates. In Hit, Graves's Army battalion replaced a much bigger Marine contingent; US troops have been ordered recently to leave other regions in western Anbar to reinforce Baghdad. ``We want the same thing. I want to go home to my wife," Graves, of Killeen, Texas, said he told Hit officials when his unit, the First Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, First Armored Division, arrived here in February. The goal, Graves said, is for US forces to leave Hit proper and patrol only the main highway passing by the town. Another US officer put it more bluntly. ``Nobody wants us here, so why are we here? That's the big question," said Major Brent E. Lilly. Lilly leads a Marine civil affairs team that has disbursed many thousands of dollars for damage claims and projects in Hit, but is still mortared almost daily. ``If we leave, all the attacks would stop because we'd be gone." Lying 35 miles upriver from Anbar's capital of Ramadi, Hit is an ancient city known for its tar deposits and relatively educated population. But more than two years of warfare have dragged the town of 40,000 people back to the pre-industrial age.
WHISKER'S ROUNDUP OF THE WOUNDED Corporal Mark Sutcliffe's left leg was sliced off when a razor-sharp rocket-propelled grenade hit him while he was walking through the streets of Basra alongside a military convoy. With his leg severed at the knee by the grenade's blades, the 27-year-old was dragged aboard an armoured vehicle by his comrades who managed to flee to the safety of their army headquarters. Sgt. Kevin Downs a guardsman with the 278th Armored Calvary Regiment--Shortly after turning down a dirt road, the Humvee exploded. Downs was thrown 60 feet. Fire consumed his body. It was sometime after waking from a three-week coma in Fort Sam Houston’s hospital in San Antonio, Texas, that Downs learned the truth the attack that cost him the use of his left arm. Both legs had to be amputated. Army Specialist Matthew Pennington was traveling in a convoy with the 82nd Airborne Division on April 29th when a roadside bomb blew up near his vehicle. He lost his left leg below the knee, and his right leg has severe tissue damage. He has been at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington since he was wounded. Stephen McLaughlin was driving a Humvee down a road near Fallujah. McLaughlin, a U.S. Marine platoon sergeant, swerved around the pothole - which had the explosives hidden in it, his father said. the explosion destroyed the Humvee and McLaughlin, along with the three other Marines in the vehicle, sustained a grade II concussion. McLaughlin also received second-degree burns on his arm, shoulder and neck. Lance Corporal Mark Beyers A U-S Marine from western New York who lost an arm and a leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq was mugged after leaving a Washington-area restaurant. Spc. Benjamin Marksmeier, 20, suffered serious leg wounds in the same attack that killed Spc. Joshua Ford, 20, Monday in An Numaniyah in south-central Iraq, according to family members. The men were riding in the same truck, army officials said. A 29-year-old soldier from Mobile has been seriously wounded in Iraq, his father said Thursday. Pfc. Jeremy Hardy a member of the Army's famed 101st Airborne Division, is recovering in a hospital in Germany from wounds he received Monday in Baghdad. The soldier was lifting weights in a gymnasium in the war-torn city when a mortar shell slammed through the roof of the gym, Phillip Hardy said. He said his son was "hit by a good-sized piece of shrapnel which went in just below his hip and lodged in his colon." He reported that several other U.S. soldiers in the gym were also wounded. Sgt. Andrew A. Robinson, 23, suffered spinal cord trauma and broke both legs during a June 20 military vehicle explosion in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. The young Marine has undergone more than 20 surgeries since the incident. Sgt. Jeff Vorpahl was wounded July 24 by a roadside bomb explosion while on convoy duty near Tallil, Iraq. He was serving with the Wisconsin National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry. Spc. Stephen Castner, 27, of Cedarburg was killed in the same attack. Welter said she expects her son will be treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for the next month. She has declined to publicly discuss the nature or extent of her son's injuries, calling it a family matter QUOTE OF THE DAY It may be that that hawks are thinking this way: Destroy Lebanon, and destroy Hizbullah, and you reduce Iran's strategic depth. Destroy the Iranian nuclear program and you leave it helpless and vulnerable to having done to it what the Israelis did to Lebanon. You leave it vulnerable to regime change, and a dragooning of Iran back into the US sphere of influence, denying it to China and assuring its 500 tcf of natural gas to US corporations. You also politically reorient the entire Gulf, with both Saddam and Khamenei gone, toward the United States. Voila, you avoid peak oil problems in the US until a technological fix can be found, and you avoid a situation where China and India have special access to Iran and the Gulf. The second American Century ensues. The "New Middle East" means the "American Middle East." And it all starts with the destruction of Lebanon. -- Juan Cole And do read


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