Saturday, August 05, 2006


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


On Friday, gunmen shot dead a bodyguard of a senior Justice Ministry official in western Baghdad.

Nine bodies, all apparently killed, were recovered in five predominantly Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad on Saturday. Five of the bodies were found in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Baladiyat.

A police officer was killed Saturday in the predominantly Sunni area of Adhamiya in northern Baghdad.

Two people were killed and four wounded Friday when three mortar shells exploded in a religiously mixed suburb near Baghdad.


Two bombs exploded minutes apart Saturday in a market in Baquba, wounding eight people. The first blast destroyed a grocery store and the second went off about five minutes later as police cars arrived at the scene. Police said the eight wounded included seven civilians and one policeman.


Hassan Wannas, a former member of Saddam's Baath Party, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Diwaniyah.

In Diwaniya gunmen killed a human rights advocate on Friday.


Police recovered seven bodies, four of them had been decapitated, in the southern city of Kut.


A police commando was killed in a roadside bomb in Samarra on Friday.

In country

American forces killed at least three insurgents during an air strike and multiple raids southeast of Baghdad last Thursday according to the US military.

"Non-hostile" fatality: A U.S. military statement said a soldier assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force died Saturday "due to non-hostile action" in Anbar province, west of Baghdad. It did not provide details.

Reinforcements: U.S. reinforcements sent to Baghdad to help quell sectarian violence and clamp down on other attacks took up positions in a restive neighborhood Saturday, while two bombs at a market northeast of the city wounded eight people.

The 3,700 soldiers of the Army's 172nd Stryker Brigade moved in from the northern city of Mosul to bolster U.S. and Iraqi security forces already in the city.

Several Stryker armored fighting vehicles were seen Saturday in Baghdad's mostly Sunni neighborhood of Ghazaliyah in the western part. Iraqi police used loudspeakers to encourage residents to go about their business and reopen shops because the troops were there to protect them.

Mosul, this brigade was stationed in Mosul…hmm…didn’t zig post a story about running gun battles lasting half a day, multiple fatalities, just yesterday…what a coincidence, huh? Who could have guessed that if you pull troops providing security out of Mosul to provide security in Baghdad you’d have security problems in Mosul? -m

Another forehead slapper: A review of previously unreleased statistics on American 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 American 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.

Civil War?

Some say so: While American politicians and generals in Washington debate the possibility of civil war in Iraq, many U.S. officers and enlisted men who patrol Baghdad say it has already begun.

Army troops in and around the capital interviewed in the last week cite a long list of evidence that the center of the nation is coming undone: Villages have been abandoned by Sunni and Shiite Muslims; Sunni insurgents have killed thousands of Shiites in car bombings and assassinations; Shiite militia death squads have tortured and killed hundreds, if not thousands, of Sunnis; and when night falls, neighborhoods become open battlegrounds.

So do some others: Iraq is slipping towards a civil war which could see the division of the country, Britain's outgoing ambassador in Baghdad has warned the government.

Ambassador William Patey's final cable to London - leaked to the media - painted a gloomy picture of a country more likely to tear itself apart than to embrace democracy.

In his confidential telegram, Mr Patey told the government: "The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy."

Even US generals sorta kinda think so: Two top U.S. generals said yesterday that the sectarian violence in Iraq is much worse than they had ever anticipated and could lead to civil war, arguing that improving the situation is now more a matter of Iraqi political will than of U.S. military strategy.

"The sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it," Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "If not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war."

The testimony from Abizaid and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, was the military's most dire assessment of conditions in Iraq since the war began 40 months ago. It echoed the opinion of Britain's outgoing ambassador to Iraq, who, in a confidential memo revealed yesterday, told Prime Minister Tony Blair that a de facto partition of Iraq is more likely than a transition to democracy.

Both U.S. generals said they think Iraq will be successful in maintaining a stable government in the near future, but their assessment about the possible slide into civil war is something the administration had avoided acknowledging before.

Of course some called it earlier, but who cares what a bunch of lefties think: In these columns and related ones, we have repeatedly noted that Iraq has been in a state of full-blown sectarian civil war at least since Feb. 22 this year, when Sunni insurgents bombed the al-Askariya, or Golden Mosque, in Samara and successfully provoked a furious nation-wide wave of bloody and indiscriminate reprisal killings by Shiite militias.

Finally, five and a half months after those events, top U.S. military commanders were permitted by their civilian masters to admit to the U.S. Senate Thursday that Iraq was 'near' to a state of civil war between its Sunni and Shiite communities. At long last, this admission made it into the mainstream of the U.S. media. It made the front page in the Washington Post Friday, and was, quite correctly, the main lead in USA Today and the joint lead story in the New York Times on that day.

But even these belated public admissions were dangerously behind the fast-breaking trend of events in Iraq. And neither U.S. national political leaders nor the mainstream American media have yet begun to discuss the new strategic dilemmas into which the reality of sectarian civil war has already thrust the 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

What it’s costing: The Iraq war is to overtake Korea and Vietnam as the second-most expensive overseas military operation in US history, with spending expected to top $US500 billion ($660 billion) by the end of the decade.

A report from the Congressional Budget Office says $US291billion has been allocated for the Iraq war, the equivalent of $US1000 for every man, woman and child in the US.

The CBO examined two alternative spending projections. Under the first, more optimistic scenario, the US would maintain troop levels in Iraq at 140,000 next year but quickly begin bringing them home thereafter, with almost all its forces out by the end of 2009. This would still cost taxpayers another $US184billion from next year to 2010.

The alternative scenario is a slower drawdown and a US military presence of 40,000 over the long term. This would cost a further $US406 billion over the next decade, leaving total costs approaching $US700 billion.

What it’s buying: At a press conference yesterday, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld explained that he declined to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the status of the Iraq war this morning because “my calendar was such that to do it…would have been difficult.”

Amidst a firestorm of criticism, Rumsfeld’s schedule miraculously cleared up and, just a few hours later, he agreed to testify.

It will be the first time Rumsfeld has testified publicly about the war before the committee since February 2006. Here’s what’s happened in Iraq since then:

– Approximately 300 U.S. troops have died in Iraq

– Approximately 2,530 U.S. troops have been wounded

– Well over 10,000 Iraq civilians have been killed

– Insurgents have conducted an average of 620 attacks per week

– In March there were 7.8 hours of electricity per day in Baghdad (down from 16-24 hours before the war), last month there were 7.6 hours.

– In March there were 133,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Today there are 132,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and plans to raise that number to 135,000.

That’s Rumsfeld’s record. Now he has to explain why it shows that we should “stay the course.”

Not that it’s been bad for everyone: A comprehensive U.S. government audit of a Bechtel project in Iraq has exposed gross mismanagement by the company. As a result, the $50 million contract has been canceled.

As the auditors plan to expand their investigations to all of Bechtel's $2.85 billion in Iraq contracts, they are sure to discover a pattern of failure. Not only should Bechtel be dropped from all of its failing contracts, but the company should be required to refund all misspent U.S. taxpayer and Iraqi funds so that Iraqi contractors can get to work and real reconstruction can finally begin.

But time is running out.

On Sept. 30, 2006, all unobligated money for reconstruction in Iraq reverts back to the U.S. Treasury. This means that unless action is taken now to ensure that this money goes to Iraqis, U.S. corporations will keep their billions, while Iraqis are left with failed projects and little money to recover.

Why Does Donald Rumsfeld Still Have A Job?

Stupid question, I know…: As lawmakers increasingly fret about whether U.S. policies are failing in Iraq and Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said this week that he has never provided overly optimistic assessments of either conflict.

The actual picture in Iraq continues to look grim, with two dozen people dead in a surge of violence in northern Iraq in the past two days. In addition, two American soldiers were killed Friday in restive Anbar province.

On Thursday, Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "I have never painted a rosy picture. I have been very measured in my words. And you'd have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I've been excessively optimistic."

Here's what the public record shows:

- On Nov. 14, 2002, Rumsfeld, in an interview with Infinity Radio, said:

"The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that."

- On Feb. 7, 2003, Rumsfeld, in a town hall meeting with U.S. forces in Aviano, Italy, said:

War with Iraq "could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

Current situation: The Iraq war has lasted for 3 1/2 years.

- On July 9, 2003, four months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee:

"The residents of Baghdad may not have power 24 hours a day, but they no longer wake up each morning in fear wondering whether this will be the day that a death squad would come to cut out their tongues, chop off their ears or take their children away for 'questioning,' never to be seen again."

Current situation: Violence spawned by sectarian militias, Sunni and Shiite death squads and al-Qaida insurgents has sharply increased in Baghdad. Additional U.S. forces are being dispatched to the city in an effort to reduce the mayhem.

- On Feb. 4, 2004, Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee:

"The increased demand on the (U.S. military) force we are experiencing today is likely a 'spike,' driven by the deployment of nearly 115,000 troops in Iraq. We hope and anticipate that that spike will be temporary. We do not expect to have 115,000 troops permanently deployed in any one campaign."

Current situation: The U.S. military force in Iraq stands at 133,000. Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said last week that the security situation was so precarious that it was unlikely large numbers of U.S. forces would come home soon.

- On June 23, 2005, Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee:

"The insurgency remains dangerous, to be sure, in many parts of Iraq. But terrorists no longer can take advantage of sanctuaries like Fallujah."

Current situation: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, complained last month that Fallujah, one of the largest cities in restive Anbar province, was "still not under control." Sunni leaders complain that Shiite death squads roam Fallujah's Sunni neighborhoods. Last week, a Sunni imam was assassinated in his home there.

- On June 23, 2005, Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee:

"These final months between now and that constitution drafting and the election, (the insurgents) may very well be in their last throes by their own view because they recognize how important it will be if they lose and in fact a democracy is established."

Current situation: Nearly 10 months after the adoption of a constitution and eight months after parliamentary elections, Abizaid, and Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warn that Iraq is on the verge of civil war.

- On March 9, 2006, Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Committee:

"At least thus far, the situation has been such that the Iraqi security forces could for the most part deal with the problems that exist," referring to the capability of Iraqi forces to stop the violence.

Current situation: No more than a single Iraqi battalion of some 800 soldiers is capable of battling enemy insurgents without American assistance, according to Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

- On March 21, 2005, Rumsfeld told reporters:

"Well, the situation in Afghanistan has just made wonderful progress. They have a new government, they assumed sovereignty over their country, the Taliban are gone, the al-Qaida are gone. The people that killed 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11th have been captured, killed or driven out of that country and it's on a path towards democracy."

Current situation: The Taliban is increasingly resurgent. Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said last month that "the Taliban is more organized than they were last year and they have more fighters in certain areas."

In June, Eikenberry said that "the presence and strength of the Taliban has grown in some districts, primarily in the south."

Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, chief of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, said in February that "the Taliban-dominated insurgency remains capable and resilient."

Attacks against the U.S.-led coalition there increased 20 percent in 2005, he said.

Al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri remain at large.

War Crimes

Cold blooded murder: A military prosecutor said Friday that four U.S. soldiers accused of murder in Iraq crossed the line and violated the "laws of war," arguing they freed three detainees, encouraged them to flee and then shot them down as they ran. "Soldiers must follow the laws of war. That's what makes us better than the terrorists, what sets us apart from the thugs and the hit men. These soldiers did just the opposite," Capt. Joseph Mackey said in closing arguments at a hearing to determine if the four should face a court-martial -- and possibly the death penalty. Pfc. Corey R. Clagett, Spc. William B. Hunsaker, Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard and Spc. Juston R. Graber are accused of murder in the killing of three Iraqi men taken from a house May 9 on a marshy island outside Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. The soldiers, all from the 101st Airborne Division's 187th Infantry Regiment, declined to testify at the hearing, relying instead on statements they made to military investigators. They claim the detainees, who were blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs with plastic straps, were killed while trying to escape.

Rape and cold blooded murder: On March 13, a group of American soldiers sitting at a checkpoint south of Baghdad were asked to look into a horrible crime: A 14-year-old Iraqi girl had been raped, then killed along with her family in their house nearby in Mahmudiya.

The soldiers knew the house. They had been there only the day before, military prosecutors now say, committing the crime.

Those soldiers, along with others from their checkpoint, walked over and took detailed forensic photographs of the charred and bullet-riddled bodies, as if it were a routine investigation of an insurgent attack, according to a defense official.

Now, those photographs will probably serve as evidence in the military's prosecution of the case, which opens a new chapter on Sunday when an Article 32 hearing, the rough equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, begins in Baghdad for five soldiers accused in the crime.

Our Creeping Stalinism

Secret charges: A petty officer has been in the Norfolk Naval Station brig for more than four months facing espionage, desertion and other charges, but the Navy has refused to release details of the case.

The case against Fire Control Technician 3rd Class Ariel J. Weinmann is indicative of the secrecy surrounding the Navy military court here, where public affairs and trial court officials have denied access to basic information including the court docket – a listing of cases to be heard.

The Navy’s position was challenged by military legal affairs experts and First Amendment advocates who say the nation’s courts, whether civilian or military, historically have been open to the press and public.

A docket listing Weinmann’s preliminary hearing, called an Article 32, was never produced. The Navy would not disclose when the hearing was held.

“That’s hogwash,” said Eugene R. Fidell, president of The National Institute of Military Justice and a Washington lawyer .

“I know of no authority to keep the proceeding closed,” he said. “I’ve never seen an Article 32 classified.”

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington, said that, even in military courts, an order must be issued closing or sealing a case.

Brown acknowledged Thursday that “there is no order,” but said that the charge sheet in the Weinmann case would not be released.

Dalglish and others said protecting someone’s privacy has never been a legally acceptable reason to exclude the public from a court proceeding or to withhold the identity of someone who’s been in custody for four months.

“We don’t lock up people in this country secretly,” Dalglish said. “Personal embarrassment has never been found to be a justification for closing a proceeding.”

No due process: US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the US government could "indefinitely" hold foreign 'enemy combatants' at sites like the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"We can detain any combatants for the duration of the hostilities," said Gonzales, speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"If we choose to try them, that's great. If we don't choose to try them, we can continue to hold them," he said.

State sponsored kidnapping: …(T)his month, at a conference in Florence convened by NYU law school's increasingly influential Center on Law and Security, Italy's renowned investigating judge, Armando Spataro, declared—as reported in the June 4 New York Times—that he has activated in Milan a "criminal case against 22 people allegedly linked to the Central Intelligence Agency charged with the abduction of [Hussan Nasr] . . . as part of a rendition operation."

The exposure of this CIA kidnapping ring is part of the growing revulsion throughout Europe and other parts of the world against such American gangsterism. As Judge Sparato said in Florence: "We know it's a great mistake to fight terrorism in this way."

For example, by its own involvement in torture, the CIA has given Al Qaeda and its offshoots an effective recruiting tool. And even among people across the globe who have supported American efforts to export democracy, these crimes make a mockery of the president's recurring assurances—most recently on June 14—that "we are a nation of laws and the rule of law. . . . This is a transparent society."

Now, further angry attention is being focused throughout Europe on an explosive report by the 46-nation Council of Europe, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights. It documents the secret collusion of certain European countries with the CIA in what the report's chief investigator—former prosecutor Dick Marty of Switzerland—calls "a spider's web across the globe." This exposure—says the London-based Financial Times—"is likely to make it more difficult for European countries to cooperate with U.S. intelligence."

Torture: The Geneva hearings are over and the final report has been released. It is not pretty, insofar as the U.S. and human rights are concerned.

Every four years, nations representing the Conventions against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights meet to review meet to review compliance of ICCPR nations. An official report is issued, along with a "shadow report," what The Raw Story refers to as "a rebuttal from non-government organizations (NGO), advocacy groups, and citizen representatives. The US “shadow report” was prepared by The Coalition for Human Rights at Home, a coalition of 142 not-for-profit groups."

This year's 456-page shadow report describes over a hundred instances of human rights violations, in a response to the official report issued by the United States. Also, the U.S. was a mere seven years late in developing its report, which it is obligated to prepare as an ICCPR signatory nation.

Breaking The US Army

Calling all warbloggers!: The Army has begun training the oldest recruits in its history, the result of a concerted effort to fill ranks depleted during the Iraq war.

In June, five months after it raised the enlistment age limit from 35 to just shy of 40, the Army raised it to just under 42.

To accommodate the older soldiers, the Army has lowered the minimum physical requirements needed to pass basic training.

The first group of older recruits is going through basic training here. So far, only five people 40 and older — and 324 age 35 and older — have enlisted, Army records show.

Fighting Back

New party: A new political party is forming in Britain to challenge lawmakers who voted to support the war in Iraq. The move to create the Specter Party is led by Reg Keys, a 54-year-old former paramedic, whose son, Thomas, was one of six British military policemen killed in Iraq in 2003, the Guardian newspaper reported Saturday. Growing numbers of families who lost loved ones to the war are banding together across Britain to form the party, which will target lawmakers and other politicians, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, who have supported a war the party considers illegal.

Does This Surprise Anyone?

Profound ignorance and smug certainty: Former Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith is claiming President George W. Bush was unaware that there were two major sects of Islam just two months before the President ordered troops to invade Iraq, RAW STORY has learned.

In his new book, The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created A War Without End, Galbraith, the son of the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith, claims that American leadership knew very little about the nature of Iraqi society and the problems it would face after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

A year after his “Axis of Evil” speech before the U.S. Congress, President Bush met with three Iraqi Americans, one of whom became postwar Iraq’s first representative to the United States. The three described what they thought would be the political situation after the fall of Saddam Hussein. During their conversation with the President, Galbraith claims, it became apparent to them that Bush was unfamiliar with the distinction between Sunnis and Shiites.

Galbraith reports that the three of them spent some time explaining to Bush that there are two different sects in Islam--to which the President allegedly responded, “I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!”


Paul Waldman: A few days ago William Kristol, who is as responsible as anyone outside the Bush administration for the neocon dream of creating an empire in the Middle East—which has become the now-familiar nightmare—made clear his preference for military action against Iran, sooner rather than later. And not only that, once we start dropping bombs, the Iranian people will do their part and rise up to overthrow their government. “The right use of targeted military force,” Kristol told Fox News, “could cause them to reconsider whether they really want to have this regime in power.” That Kristol could make such a prediction without getting laughed out of Washington, never to be invited on television again, tells us something about the miasma of inanity and insanity that envelopes our politics like a fog. Being wrong—or being an outright fool, or being possessed of not a shred of morality, for that matter—carries no cost. Only being “weak”—that is, insufficiently enthusiastic about spilling others’ blood—will earn you the contempt of the Washington establishment. Why? Because that establishment, both governmental and journalistic, is ruled by weenies. They burn to show that they’re real men, that they’re tough and strong and mean, that they don’t cower from a fight, that they’re the ones who get going when the going gets tough. Washington is an arena of institutional and ideological competition, but it is also a throbbing mass of insecurities. We sometimes see it as ironic that those calling for the most bellicose foreign policy are almost invariably those both in and out of government, like Bush and Cheney and Gingrich and DeLay and Limbaugh and O’Reilly, who never served in the military and never got within a thousand miles of combat. But it is not ironic at all; in fact, it is absolutely predictable. Combine a personal history devoid of evidence that one’s manliness has been tested (let alone proven) with an ideology inclined to divide the world into enemies and friends, and you have a recipe for frantic muscle-flexing.

Judith Coburn: While comparisons to Vietnam and terms from that era like "quagmire," "hearts and minds," and "body counts" swamped the media the moment the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003, "Vietnamization" didn't make it into the mix until that November. Then, the White House, which initially shied off anything linked to Vietnam, launched a media campaign to roll out what they were calling "Iraqification," perhaps as an answer to critics who doubted the "mission" had actually been "accomplished" and feared that there was no "light at the end of the [Iraqi] tunnel." But the term was quickly dropped. Perhaps it resurrected too many baby-boomer memories of Vietnamese clinging to the skids of choppers fleeing the fruits of Vietnamization.

It seems, however, that there is no way of keeping failed Washington policies in their graves, once the dead of night strikes. I was amazed, when, in 2005, in Foreign Affairs magazine, Melvin Laird resurrected a claim that his "Vietnamization" policy had actually worked and plugged for "Iraqification" of the war there. Soon after, journalist Seymour Hersh, famed for his reportage on the Vietnam-era My Lai massacre (and the Iraq-era Abu Ghraib abuses), reported in the New Yorker that the Vietnamization policy of the Nixon era was indeed being reclothed and returned to us -- with similarly planned American drawdowns of ground troops and a ramping up of American air power -- and I wondered if we could be suffering a moment of mass post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Missy Comley Beattie: I have often remarked to my husband that if more and more families of the fallen would speak out against the war in Iraq, the mainstream media, might, just might, begin to give them airtime. My 81-year-old mother was interviewed by Pacifica Radio host Deepa Fernandez ("Wakeup Call") soon after my nephew died in Iraq. Her words and pain are still vivid in my mind and heart. She speaks the same way today about the death of her grandson.

Soon, we will mark the first anniversary of the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, killed in action on August 6, 2005. We received the news early Sunday morning, the day after he died, that day our lives changed forever.

When I hear or read that a devastated family member has said, "He died doing what he loved," or "protecting our freedoms," or "she was fighting them over there so we wouldn't have to fight them over here," I turn to my husband or call my parents with complete understanding of the tragic loss, and we discuss that, while it might be some small comfort to believe all this, we simply can't. And we wish that more parents and relatives of the dead would say, "This is an illegal, immoral war that took our child, our loved one. So, now, what are we doing to do to prevent others from hearing the words that no family should have to bear?"

Saul Friedman: There is an alien influence, mostly unpublicized, running like an undercurrent beneath the Bush administration's Middle East policies. It may help explain George W. Bush's single-mindedness, his oblivious inability to face reality as his war in Iraq, his war against terror and his policies towards Arabs and Israeli have collapsed.

I say "alien," because I believe this to be the first time in modern American history that a president's religion, in this case his Christian fundamentalism, has become a decisive factor in his foreign and domestic policies. It’s a factor that has been under-reported, to say the least, and that begs for press attention.

Bush, who says he reads the Bible daily, acknowledges his fundamentalist beliefs. Biblical and Middle East scholar Karen Armstrong writes in The Guardian, "Whatever Bush's personal beliefs, the ideology of the Christian right is both familiar and congenial to him. This strange amalgam of ideas can perhaps throw light on the behavior of a president who, it is said, believes God chose him to lead the world toward Rapture, who has little interest in social reform, and whose selective concern for life issues has now inspired him to veto important scientific research.

"It explains his unconditional support for Israel, his willingness to use 'Jewish End-Time warriors' to fulfill a vision of his own, arguably against Israel's best interest, and to see Syria and Iran...as entirely responsible for the unfolding tragedy."

Noting that "the same time as Bush decided to veto the stem cell bill, Israeli bombs were taking the lives of hundreds of innocent Lebanese civilians, many of them children, with the tacit approval of the U.S. " And she suggested there is "a connection between a religiously motivated mistrust of science...and a war in the Middle East."

As she notes, Bush and his administration not only rely on Christian fundamentalists, he espouses many of their ideals, including their belief that "the second coming of Christ is at hand" but Christ cannot return unless, "in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, the Jews are in possession of the Holy Land."

Casualty Reports

The Department of Defense announced today the death of nine soldiers and marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sgt. Ryan D. Jopek, 20, of Merrill, Wis., died in Tikrit, Iraq on Aug. 2 of injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy. Jopek was assigned to the Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry Regiment, Waupun, Wis. Sgt. Dustin D. Laird, 23, of Martin, Tenn., died on Aug. 2 during combat operations in Rawah, Iraq. Laird was assigned to the Army National Guard 913th Engineer Company, 46th Engineer Battalion, Union City, Tenn. Cpl. Joseph A. Tomci, 21, of Stow, Ohio, died Aug. 2 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. Spc. Hai Ming Hsia, 37, of New York, N.Y., died Aug. 1 during combat operations in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. Hsia was assigned to the 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany. Sgt. George M. Ulloa Jr., 23, of Austin, Texas, died Aug. 3 from wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. Sgt. Joshua A. Ford, 20, of Wayne, Neb., died on July 31 during combat operations in Al Numaniyah, Iraq. Ford was assigned to the Army National Guard 189th Transportation Company, 485th Corps Support Battalion, Norfolk, Neb. Lance Cpl. Kurt E. Dechen, 24, of Springfield, Vt., died Aug. 3 from wounds received while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, while attached to Regimental Combat Team 5, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc A. Lee, 28, of Hood River, Ore., was killed on Aug. 2 during combat operations while on patrol in Ramadi, Iraq. Lee was an aviation ordnanceman and a member of a West Coast-based SEAL Team. Staff Sgt. Daniel A. Suplee, 39, of Ocala , Fla., died on Aug 3 at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, Tampa, Fla., of injuries sustained on Apr 1 in Kabul, Afghanistan, when his HMMWV was involved in a traffic accident. Suplee was assigned to the National Guard 153rd Cavalry Squadron, Ocala, Fla.


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