Monday, August 28, 2006
WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, AUGUST 28, 2006
"We're not in a civil war.
In downtown Baghdad a car bomb outside the offices of a government-run newspaper left three dead and at least 29 wounded (update to report posted yesterday -m).
On Monday a suicide car bomber slammed into a checkpoint outside the Interior Ministry in downtown
Four American soldiers died when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in northern
Police said 20 bodies had been found in different areas of
Seven Iraqi civilians were killed Sunday night in a street battle between American forces and insurgents in
Gunmen killed five people in three separate attacks in Baquba.
In Basra, where Maliki has imposed a state of emergency to deal with increasing violence fuelled by tensions between rival Shiite Muslim factions, seven people were killed by a motorcycle bomb in a market. (Another report says 4 dead, 15 wounded. – m)
On Monday, eight civilians were killed in clashes between militiamen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, a populist Shia figure, and Iraqi and
Three people — believed to be the bodyguards of a member of parliament — were killed in a drive-by shooting in Dujail.
Gunmen stormed the house of a local judge in Khalis, Hamdi al-Ubaidi, shot one of his brothers, and moved to abduct another. When men from a nearby cafe ran to the aid of the family, gunmen opened fire, killing 12 of the would-be rescuers and injuring 25. The kidnappers escaped with the judge's brother as their captive.
Two back-to-back suicide car bombings in the northern city of
In Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of
Drive-by shootings killed two people in
One person was killed in a drive-by shooting in Numaniyah, a town near Kut, 100 miles southeast of the capital.
The two conflicts, which have lasted longer than most
Next month, the duration of combat operations in
(Note: For those keeping track of such things, the death toll among Iraqi civilian noncombatants probably surpassed that of the 9/11 victims on the first day of the war; certainly within the first week. They no more deserved to die than the people in the WTC. The term ‘collateral damage’ makes me want to puke. –m)
Speaking of collateral damage…: Most U.S. service members charged in the unlawful deaths of Iraqi civilians have been acquitted, found guilty of relatively minor offenses or given administrative punishments without trials, according to a Washington Post review of concluded military cases. Charges against some troops were dropped.
Though experts estimate that thousands of Iraqi civilians have died at the hands of
“What you see is an atmosphere of reconciliation.", Part One: The Iraqi insurgency remains a potent threat to U.S. forces, but in the months since the death of its flamboyant symbol, Abu Musab Zarqawi, the insurgency's aura has been eclipsed by the widening sectarian fighting between Shiites and Sunnis, American and Iraqi officials say.
The insurgency has increased its use of roadside bombs against
“What you see is an atmosphere of reconciliation.", Part Two: In a grungy restaurant with plastic tables in central
"These cases do not need to go back to the religious courts," said the commander, who sat elbow to elbow with a fellow fighter in a short-sleeved, striped shirt. Neither displayed weapons. "Our constitution, the Quran, dictates killing for those who kill."
His comments offered a rare acknowledgment of the role of the Mahdi army in the sectarian bloodletting that has killed more than 10,400 Iraqis in recent months. The Mahdi army is the militia of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, now one of the most powerful figures in the country.
The death squads that carry out the extrajudicial killings are widely feared but mysterious. Often, the only evidence is the bodies discovered in the streets. Several commanders in the Mahdi army said in interviews that they act independently of the Shiite religious courts that have taken root here, meting out street justice on their own with what they believe to be the authorization of al-Sadr's organization and under the mantle of Islam.
“The growing sense of insecurity affected all three of
The survey also asked a direct question about the presence of American troops in
The bottom line: 91.7% of Iraqis oppose the presence of coalition troops in the country, up from 74.4% in 2004. 84.5% are "strongly opposed". Among Sunnis, opposition to the
Maybe there are reasons for keeping American troops in
Titanic deck chairs: Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said Maliki planned to reshuffle his coalition cabinet just 100 days after it was formed because he wanted to root out disloyal or poorly performing ministers and rally factions behind his national reconciliation plan.
The reshuffle would partly involve the political movement of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mehdi Army militia has clashed repeatedly in recent weeks with
A key player in the government, Sadr denies his militia runs some sectarian death squads.
Salih also told Reuters Iraq hoped its plans to attract investment and create jobs could stem a descent into civil war and that foreign leaders should back a U.N. economic package next month or face disaster for the entire
You just can’t blame the media enough for the mess we’re in: In the Washington Post's front page story this Sunday about the Democratic Party's position on the Iraq War, the newspaper makes a highly misleading statement about the Republican Party's position. After a comment by Montana Democratic Senate nominee Jon Tester demanding a "plan to move the troops out of
One could stretch to make the argument that such a statement is technically true - no Republican has gone on record saying word-for-word "I want to keep large amounts of
For example, less than three months ago, Reuters reported that "congressional Republicans killed a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have put the United States on record against the permanent basing of U.S. military facilities in that country." In other words, despite the Post's claim, Republicans just a few months ago actually went on record as supporting the concept of a permanent, indefinite military presence in Iraq (you can see the video of the congressional debate here). Congressional Democrats' efforts to prevent
Then there is President Bush, who stated just last week that we will not be reducing troops "while I'm the president." That was just the latest statement from the administration and the Pentagon about indefinite troop deployments. For example, in May of 2004, international news service AFP reported that the administration quietly announced that it will "keep high force levels in Iraq indefinitely."
I’ll bet he’s not the Easter Bunny either: In a lively but polite give-and-take, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld fielded questions Saturday from wives and other family members of Alaska-based soldiers whose combat tours in
“It is something we don’t want to do,” Rumsfeld told several hundred family members who gathered in a gymnasium at nearby
“But in this case we had to,” he added, referring to the decision made in late July to extend the 172nd.
The brigade’s tour was extended by up to 120 days, bringing them close to a Christmas return date. Rumsfeld said he would make no promises that the full brigade would be back home by the holidays.
“I’d love to be Santa Claus. I’m not,” he said in an interview with reporters during a flight to
All-volunteer conscripts: Q: Bush administration officials talk about the all-volunteer force. Are the troops in
A: It's difficult to say for sure. The Army tapped its individual ready reserve in 2004, mobilizing about 5,000 inactive soldiers. About 2,200 Army ready reservists continue to serve, about 1,850 of them involuntarily.
In addition, many military units have been held in
Profiles in spinelessness: Most Democratic candidates in competitive congressional races are opposed to setting a timetable for pulling
Of the 59 Democrats in hotly contested House and Senate races, a majority agree with the Bush administration that it would be unwise to set a specific schedule for troop withdrawal, and only a few are calling for substantial troop reductions to begin this year, according to a Washington Post survey of the campaigns.
The large number of Democrats opposed to a strict timeline for ending the military operations runs contrary to the assertion by President Bush and top Republicans that Democrats want to "cut and run" amid mounting casualties and signs of civil war. At the same time, the decision by many Democrats to refrain from advocating a specific plan for withdrawal complicates their leaders' efforts to convince voters that they offer a clear new direction for the increasingly unpopular war.
Profiles in cynical unprincipled expediency: "Republicans are trying to insulate themselves from
Your tax dollars not at work: The National Priorities Project has a real eye-opening website that calculates the cost of the War in
As a resident of
16,733,296 People with Health Care or 627,551 Elementary School Teachers or 4,767,634 Head Start Places for Children or 25,168,314 Children with Health Care or 235,246 Affordable Housing Units or 4,390 New Elementary Schools or 7,685,109 Scholarships for University Students or 616,017 Music and Arts Teachers or 741,482 Public Safety Officers or 117,140,845 Homes with Renewable Electricity or 601,790 Port Container Inspectors
Go check out what the trade-offs are for your state.
We could have spent money on this stuff: A pipeline shuts down in
None of these recent events resulted from a natural disaster or terrorist attack, but they may as well have, some homeland security experts say. They worry that too little attention is paid to how fast the country's basic operating systems are deteriorating.
"When I see events like these, I become concerned that we've lost focus on the core operational functionality of the nation's infrastructure and are becoming a fragile nation, which is just as bad — if not worse — as being an insecure nation," said Christian Beckner, a
The American Society of Civil Engineers last year graded the nation "D" for its overall infrastructure conditions, estimating that it would take $1.6 trillion over five years to fix the problem.
But instead we’re spending it on this: The most current estimates of the war's cost generally start with figures from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which as of January 2006 counted $323 billion in expenditures for the war on terrorism, including military action in
Scott Wallsten, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, put the direct cost to the United States at $212 billion as of last September and estimates a "global cost" of $500 billion to date with another $500 billion possible, with most of the total borne by the United States.
That figure is in line with an estimate published last month by
Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and self-described opponent of the war, puts the final figure at a staggering $1 trillion to $2 trillion, including $500 billion for the war and occupation and up to $300 billion in future health care costs for wounded troops. Additional costs include a negative impact from the rising cost of oil and added interest on the national debt.
(Yeah, I know the article’s from March 2006 but it’s worth another look…-m)
Your tax dollars paid for this, too: A U.S. Army Reserve officer pleaded guilty on Friday to improperly steering millions of dollars in
Lt. Col. Bruce Hopfengardner, 46, of
He pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and money laundering in U.S. District Court for the
Hopfengardner, who had been a police chief in
His duties included recommending spending for law enforcement projects related to rebuilding
Prosecutors said he and others plotted to steer millions of dollars to Philip Bloom, a
Robert Stein, a former U.S. Defense Department contract employee, pleaded guilty on February 5 to related charges. He controlled the spending of about $82 million in CPA funds reserved for reconstruction projects in south-central
Bloom pleaded guilty on April 18 to conspiracy, bribery and money laundering.
Traditional American Values
Fair trials: Despite assuring Congress that career military lawyers are helping design new trials for accused terrorists, the Bush administration has limited their input on their key request, that any tribunals must give detainees the right to see the evidence against them, officials said.
After the Supreme Court struck down the White House's military tribunals system in June, government lawyers began drafting legislation that would set new rules for trials of terrorist suspects. A central issue is whether prosecutors will be allowed to introduce secret evidence, which detainees would not be able to defend against.
Most military lawyers strongly oppose allowing secret evidence, arguing that such a plan would probably violate the Geneva Conventions and create a precedent for enemies of the
Members of Congress have pressured the White House to listen to the military lawyers as it drafts the legislation, and on Aug. 2, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told lawmakers that ``our deliberations have included detailed discussion" with military attorneys whose ``multiple rounds of comments . . . will be reflected in the legislative package."
But the issue of secret evidence, officials said, has been off the table for all of those discussions with the exception of one meeting between Gonzales and the top military lawyers in late July. The session ended in an impasse, and the issue has not been raised again, they said.
Due process: The federal government has barred two relatives of a
Muhammad Ismail, a 45-year-old naturalized citizen born in
Federal authorities said Friday that the men, both
"We haven't heard about this happening --
McGregor Scott, the
"They want to come home and have an absolute right to come home," said Mass, who has filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security and a petition with the Transportation Security Administration.
"They can't be compelled to waive their constitutional rights under threat of banishment," Mass said. "The government is conditioning the return to their home on cooperation with law enforcement."
Open government: Last week, The Washington Post ran a fascinating story based on a report from the National Security Archive, a research library at
Now maybe you wonder what the problem is. This is sensitive information we're talking about, right? Can't have that falling into just anybody's hands, right?
The thing is, it's already in "anybody's" hands: it dates back half a century to the Cold War. We're talking about memos, charts and papers that have over the years been cited in open congressional hearings, reported in newspapers, used in history books. We're talking about information our government long ago deemed innocuous enough to provide even to its former enemy, the
And now - "now!" - we're supposed to believe it's suddenly so sensitive it has to be classified Top Secret? Please.
This is a classic case of locking the barn after the horse has escaped - and died of old age. More to the point, it is a classic and absurd example of the present regime's mania for secrecy, its obsessive need to control what, when, how and why you and I learn about its activities.
Anyone who doesn't see a pattern here has not been paying attention. From its 18-hour blackout of news that the vice president had shot a man, to its paying a newspaper columnist to write favorable pieces, to its habit of putting out video press releases disguised as TV news, to its penchant for stamping top secret on anything that doesn't move fast enough, this administration has repeatedly shown contempt for the right of the people to know what's going on. At a time when information is more readily available than ever, this government is working like 1952 to enforce ignorance.
Accountability: In an ironic twist, legislation that would open up the murky world of government contracting to public scrutiny has been derailed by a secret parliamentary maneuver.
An unidentified senator placed a "secret hold" on legislation introduced by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., that would create a searchable database of government contracts, grants, insurance, loans and financial assistance, worth $2.5 trillion last year. The database would bring transparency to federal spending and be as simple to use as conducting a Google search.
The measure had been unanimously passed in a voice vote last month by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. It was on the fast track for floor action before Congress recessed Aug. 4 when someone put a hold on the measure.
Now the bill is in political limbo. Under Senate rules, unless the senator who placed the hold decides to lift it, the bill will not be brought up for a vote.
This Is The Kind Of Courage It Takes To Save Our Country
Support Lt. Watada!: Bob Watada is proud of his newly famous, and infamous, son. And he's making 26 public appearances this week to tell Bay Area audiences why.
The son is said to be the Army's first commissioned officer to refuse to go to
Both lauded and vilified in columns and letters to editors around the country, 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, faces a possible seven years in prison. Following a hearing last week, the Army's investigating officer in the case recommended Tuesday that he be court-martialed.
His refusal has prompted support rallies in
Speaking out: About 700 demonstrators marched past the seaside church where President Bush's second cousin was to be married Saturday and then up to the checkpoint guarding the family summer compound to protest the war in
The protesters left a few hours before the service so as not to disrupt the event itself, but they took advantage of the president's visit to make their point and showcase their opposition to a war that polls show has lost most of the public's support. Just as Bush found himself trailed to
"People wanted to speak truth to power," said Jamilla el-Shafei, 53, a business owner in Kennebunk who helped organize the march. "What we wanted to do was let President Bush know we are the face and voice of a majority of Americans who are standing up to say, 'Enough is enough; we want out of
But more Utahns will see them as aiding the enemies of the
Forty-five percent of poll respondents said war protesters such as Sheehan and Anderson aid
Billmon: Hypocrisy, thy name is Uncle Sam:
Another official confirmed that the sale of cluster bombs was conditional on
The Guardian US investigates whether Israel violated deal on cluster bombs August 26, 2006
On March 31, 2003, a
Human Rights Watch Cluster Munitions: Toward a Global Solution January 2004
The little canisters dropped onto the city, white ribbons trailing behind. They clattered into streets, landed in lemon trees, rattled around on roofs, settled onto lawns . . . The deadly objects were cluster bomblets, small explosives packed by the dozens or hundreds into bombs, rockets or artillery shells known as cluster weapons. When these weapons were fired on
Michael Kaidy: Is it all right for a participant in one war to oppose another war? Not many members of my organization, the Genesee Valley Chapter, Veterans of the
No one can seriously contend that World War II was a war of choice, since
So in World War II, we had no choice: The issues and combatants were real, unavoidable. But the
Toledo Blade: Faced with continuing shortages of
These are people who thought they had completed their duties to the nation as soldiers. Many had launched new, more stable lives in the civilian economy, taking on jobs, relationships, and other commitments appropriate to a nonmilitary life. Now they will be required to return to active duty, including combat in
The involuntary recall is a result of Mr. Bush's approach to the Iraq War: that the
The evidence is clear to everyone except, possibly, Mr. Bush and the engineers of the Republican Party's fall campaign, that, apart from the overthrow of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, the other stated
Flynt Leverett: The conceptual discontinuities between the Bush approach and that of its predecessors make the record of
Regarding democratization, the administration’s three examples of U.S.-engineered democratic empowerment in the region --
Digby: I am not entirely sure how I feel about this notion of "Ethical Realism" but I'm completely confident that neoconservatism in any permutation is dangerous and doomed to fail. I will repeat my favorite little story to illustrate:
I remember as a child a strange little neighbor girl who was found in her backyard swinging her cat by the tail against the sidewalk screaming "you're gonna love me!"
That's neoconservatism. It's so insane, I believe almost anything is an improvement.
Frank Rich: Were it not so tragic, Mr. Bush's claim that he had never suggested a connection between the 9/11 attacks and