Saturday, August 26, 2006


“We're not leaving, so long as I'm the President.” – George W. Bush, Press Conference, August 21, 2006


Gunmen shot dead the Shiite owner of a bakery and a policemen in separate incidents Saturday in western Baghdad.


Gunmen in the town of Baquba attacked a Shi'ite family, killing two women and two children and wounding 11. The family had previously received Sunni insurgent threats and were moving out of their home when the attack took place.

Balad Roz

Five civilians were killed and 11 others wounded in the detonation of an explosive device near a football field on Friday night in the town of Balad Roz.


Gunmen in a speeding car opened fire on two sisters walking in Iraq's second-largest city today. Iraqi police say one woman was killed in the Basra attack, the other seriously wounded. They both worked as translators for the British consulate. A man claiming to represent a Shiite militia has since called The Associated Press to take responsibility for the attack. He referred to the women as "agents" for British forces.

Gunmen killed three civilians in Basra in other attacks.


Insurgents killed the owner of an ice factory on Friday in the small town of Dhuluiya, 40 km north of Baghdad.


An explosive device targeting an Iraqi army patrol was detonated in the town of Howeija, approximately 200 kilometres north-west of Baghdad, on Saturday. The blast killed one soldier and wounded two other members of the patrol. The army patrol vehicle was targeted following an earlier grenade attack near a gas station in the same town which resulted in the death of an Iraqi policeman. Seven other persons, five civilians and two police - were wounded


Four Kurdish civilians were killed in a drive -by shooting as they were travelling southwest of Kirkuk.

The unidentified corpses of six persons shot to death were found around the city of Kirkuk. Four of the corpses had their hands bound and bore evidence of torture.


Gunmen killed a university student and wounded his brother and sister in their home in Mosul.

Gunmen killed a policeman in Mosul on Friday.


Gunmen in Tikrit stormed a bakery on Friday and killed three Shi'ite workers and wounded two, police said. (Probably an update to the killing of two bakers reported in yesterday’s post. -m)

In Country

A little known Iraqi Islamist militant group said on Saturday it had kidnapped a Turkish man working for a Turkish firm and posted footage of what appeared to be a plea by the hostage. The man spoke in Turkish in the footage posted on a Web site often used by militants. He appeared with his hands shackled in front of a black banner carrying the name of the group, the Brigades of the Lions of Righteousness and the phrase: "God is Great, there is no god but Allah."

Iraqi Politics

Big tribal meeting, the happy version: The leaders of Iraq's powerful tribes on Saturday signed a solemn "pact of honour" vowing to halt their country's slide into the chaos of sectarian war.

Amid scenes of celebration at a Baghdad hotel, the chieftains -- who represent clans from across the country and all the major ethnic and religious groups -- promised to support a government-backed peace process.

Reading the charter, Sheikh Faal Namah said he and his colleagues vowed "to preserve our country, stop bloodletting and displacement among Iraqi people and halt the activities of takfiris (violent Sunni insurgents)".

The accord will be seen as a boost for Iraq's embattled prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who had called on the traditional leaders to support his plans for a broad-based peace initiative which will culiminate in national peace talks.

Note these other reports don’t mention any celebrations: Meanwhile, Iraq's prime minister urged hundreds of tribal leaders Saturday to join his attempts to end sectarian strife and terrorism, warning that American troops are unlikely to withdraw from the country until Iraqis unite. "Brothers, the national reconciliation is a wide door, open to all those who want to take part in rebuilding the country," Nouri al-Maliki said at the first of four conferences planned across Iraq by his new national reconciliation committee. "Liberating the country from any foreign existence and controlling the enemies can't be achieved without a real national unity among Iraqis and this is the role for our tribes," said al-Maliki.

"These tribes have to play a significant role in fighting terrorists, saboteurs and infiltrators," he told the leaders, most of them wearing checkered headscarfs. Others wore suits or loose Kurdish trousers.

"Yes to unity, yes to Iraq," some tribal chiefs chanted between speeches. "We are all brothers in this country."

Possibly there could be some glitches: The government hopes tribal leaders can exercise influence over their tribes, but it is unclear how effective they can be among Iraqis increasingly turning to religious leaders for guidance.

Iraq's minister for national dialogue, Akram al-Hakim, told state television that other meetings would be held to bring together clerics, army officers and civil and political groups.

One Sunni tribal leader set out a list of demands, including a five-year delay in implementing federalism under the constitution, the disbandment of a committee that has purged thousands of mostly Sunni members of the former ruling party from state institutions, and the disarming of militias.

Some Genuinely Good News

Victim released: A Sunni Arab lawmaker was released on Saturday nearly two months after her kidnapping sparked a political furore in Iraq.

A member of her Iraqi Islamic Party said Taiseer Najah al- Mashhadani was freed after her captors made contact with Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.

Fewer deaths: The death toll among National Guard and Reserve troops in Iraq has plunged this year as citizen soldiers play a smaller combat role against an insurgency that increasingly targets Iraqis.

Thus far in August, five members of the Guard and Reserve have died in Iraq, compared with 44 at this point last August, the deadliest month of the war for the Guard and Reserve.

The number of Guard and Reserve deaths for the year totals 54, down more than 70 percent from the 189 recorded at this point last year. In the comparable period in 2004, the death toll was 92, according to Defense Department casualty records.

The death count for all U.S. forces in Iraq - both active and reserve - has slid from an average of a little over two per day last year to a little under two per day so far this year. The insurgents continue to target U.S. troops, but the worst violence this year has been aimed at Iraqis in what some say amounts to civil war.

The main reason for the decline in reservist deaths is that fewer are being sent to Iraq.


I know zig posted this story yesterday but I just love the opening line: Iraqis looted a military base vacated by British troops and stripped it of virtually everything removable on Friday, an indication of possible future trouble for U.S.-led coalition forces hoping to hand over security gradually to the Iraqi government.

Men, some with their faces covered, ripped corrugated metal from roofs, carried off metal pipes and backed trucks into building entrances to load them with wooden planks. Many also took away doors and window frames from Camp Abu Naji.

"The British forces left Abu Naji and the locals started looting everything," 1st Lt. Rifaat Taha Yaseen of the Iraqi Army's 10th Division told Associated Press Television News. "They took everything from the buildings."

Possible future trouble. Damn, that’s good. - m

Too dangerous for archaeology: Iraq's most prominent archaeologist has resigned and fled the country, saying the dire security situation, an acute shortage of funds, and the interference of supporters of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr had made his position intolerable.

Donny George, who was president of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, achieved international recognition for his efforts to track down and recover the priceless antiquities looted from Iraq's National Museum in the mayhem that followed the fall of Baghdad in 2003.

But this week he revealed that he had resigned and was in hiding with his family in the Syrian capital Damascus. In an interview with the Art Newspaper, Dr George said Baghdad was now so dangerous that the National Museum, which houses a trove of Sumerian and Babylonian artefacts, had been sealed off by concrete walls to protect it from insurgent attacks and further looting.

News From The USA

Self review: The Army is reviewing casualty reports on American soldiers killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere since 2001, a response to complaints that it has not always given families accurate information.

The review covers hundreds of casualties in Operation Enduring Freedom, the campaign in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, two senior military officials said. It also includes American soldiers killed in neighboring countries in support of the two operations.

In coming weeks, the Army will issue a directive formalizing the review, according to the military officials. One spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because officers at the highest levels of the Army are still making minor changes. The other described the initiative in memos obtained by The Associated Press.

Going after the bedwetter vote: In the thick of an election campaign, President Bush has revived and retooled his argument that the U.S. must fight terrorists overseas or face them here. Despite the unpopularity of the Iraq war, some GOP candidates are borrowing Bush's line.

"We leave before the mission is done, the terrorists will follow us here," Bush warned at a news conference this week.

Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., locked in a tight Philadelphia-area re-election race, went a step further. "We either fight them there, or we fight them in the supermarkets and streets here," he said Wednesday in an interview with CNN.

Bush is not on the ballot this midterm election year. But control of the GOP-led Congress is. So the elections could determine the fate of what's left of Bush's second-term agenda.

The fight-them-there theme has been part of Bush's national security stump speech since 2003. But the "follow us here" part is a relatively new twist.

You just can’t blame the media enough for the mess we’re in: During his August 21 press conference, George W. Bush responded to a question about the Iraq War by saying that "sometimes I'm happy" about the conflict. But many readers and TV viewers never heard the remark, since journalists edited the statement to save Bush any possible embarrassment. Bush's unedited comment was as follows:

Q: But are you frustrated, sir? BUSH: Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated. Rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. This is -- but war is not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times, and they're difficult times, and they're straining the psyche of our country. I understand that. Viewers of CBS Evening News (8/21/06) saw a carefully edited version of that response—one better suited to presenting Bush as serious and concerned with the effects of the war. Reporter Bill Plante previewed the answer by saying that Bush "conceded that daily reports of death and destruction take a toll, both on the nation and on him." The edited quote that followed:

“Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated, rarely surprised. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times, and they're difficult times. And they're straining the psyche of our country. I understand that.” CBS was not alone in massaging Bush's response—many outlets excised Bush's "happy" remark, or found other ways to clean up Bush's performance. NBC Nightly News (8/21/06) worked around Bush's awkward answer; reporter Kelly O'Donnell noted that Bush "offered an unusual glimpse into his thinking," but then proceeded to edit the comments to Bush's advantage:

BUSH: Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated. Rarely surprised. O'DONNELL: ...and acknowledged Iraq's weight on the nation. BUSH: They're difficult times, and they're straining the psyche of our country. I understand that.

So instead of airing Bush's "happy" remark, NBC's reporter stressed the fact that Bush was serious about Iraq's "weight on the nation."

Promoting American values: Lawyers for Murat Kurnaz, a German native released Thursday after spending more than four years locked up at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said he was mistreated to the end by U.S. military personnel, who kept him shackled and blindfolded until his flight home landed.

Bernhard Docke, an attorney representing Kurnaz, a 24-year-old Turkish citizen who was born and raised in Germany, said his client was kept in a "cage" and under bright neon lights 24 hours a day during his captivity at Guantanamo. "The Americans are incorrigible, they have not learned a thing," Docke said at a news conference in Bremen, Kurnaz's home town. "He was returned home in chains, humiliated and dishonored to the very end."

Defense Department officials said they agreed to free Kurnaz on the condition that Germany treat him humanely and that it ensure he would no longer pose a security threat. The U.S. government still considers Kurnaz an enemy combatant, said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler, a Pentagon spokesman.

Declassified records in his case made public last year show that he was kept behind bars and designated an enemy combatant even though U.S. military intelligence and German law enforcement officials had largely concluded that there was no information tying him to al-Qaeda or terrorist activities.

Contractor News

Blackwater: A North Carolina-based security contractor lost a federal appeal Thursday in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the families of four men killed and publicly mutilated in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.

The decision by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., means that after a year and a half of motions and appeals, the lawsuit can move forward in Wake County Superior Court and that Blackwater Security Consulting will likely have to give up records and oral depositions about the incident, said Marc Miles, an attorney for the families.

The families had long sought these things, saying that the company has told them almost nothing about how their relatives were killed.

Custer Battles: They say that America's increasingly right-wing courts are bent on halting the forward march of civil rights, but that's a typical liberal canard. Why, just last week, a federal judge - appointed by Ronald Reagan, no less - issued a bold ruling that offers shield and succor to a small, despised minority on the fringes of American society. War profiteers. In a little-noticed decision unsealed on August 18, US District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III overturned a $10 million fraud verdict against Custer Battles LLC, one of the many crony conquistadors who gorged on the vast porkfest known as "Iraqi reconstruction" during the high and palmy days of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Ellis's judgment effectively provides blanket immunity for the many politically-wired gorgers who made off with almost $9 billion in "unaccounted-for" taxpayer money during the CPA's misrule of Iraq from April 2003 to June 2004 - one of the greatest heists in world history.

Why will the mammoth fraudsters go free? Because of the iron illogic behind the decision. Although the CPA was created, funded, staffed and directly controlled by the US government, Ellis declared it was not, in fact, an entity of the US government. Therefore, Custer Battles - and by extension any other accused grafter from the CPA's golden age - cannot be sued under the federal False Claims Act for defrauding the US government. For even if massive fraud was committed - and Ellis, who also presided over Custer Battles's jury trial in May, clearly indicated that it was - the "victim" no longer exists: the CPA has dissolved into air, into thin air, like the "baseless fabric" of Prospero's vision in The Tempest. So, case dismissed - and the blood money stays safely in corporate coffers.

Profiles in Courage

Lieutenant Ehren Watada: We have all seen this war tear apart our country over the past three years. It seems as though nothing we've done, from vigils to protests to letters to Congress, have had any effect in persuading the powers that be...It is time for change and the change starts with all of usThe idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.

Now it is not an easy task for the soldier. For he or she must be aware that they are being used for ill-gain. They must hold themselves responsible for individual action. They must remember duty to the Constitution and the people supersedes the ideologies of their leadership. The soldier must be willing to face ostracism by their peers, worry over the survival of their families, and of course the loss of personal freedom. They must know that resisting an authoritarian government at home is equally important to fighting a foreign aggressor on the battlefield. Finally, those wearing the uniform must know beyond any shadow of a doubt that by refusing immoral and illegal orders they will be supported by the people not with mere words but by action.

The American soldier must rise above the socialization that tells them authority should always be obeyed without question. Rank should be respected but never blindly followed. Awareness of the history of atrocities and destruction committed in the name of America - either through direct military intervention or by proxy war - is crucial. They must realize that this is a war not out of self-defense but by choice, for profit and imperialistic domination. WMD, ties to Al Qaeda, and ties to 9/11 never existed and never will. The soldier must know that our narrowly and questionably elected officials intentionally manipulated the evidence presented to Congress, the public, and the world to make the case for war. They must know that neither Congress nor this administration has the authority to violate the prohibition against pre-emptive war - an American law that still stands today. This same administration uses us for rampant violations of time-tested laws banning torture and degradation of prisoners of war. Though the American soldier wants to do right, the illegitimacy of the occupation itself, the policies of this administration, and rules of engagement of desperate field commanders will ultimately force them to be party to war crimes. They must know some of these facts, if not all, in order to act.

The oath we take swears allegiance not to one man but to a document of principles and laws designed to protect the people. Enlisting in the military does not relinquish one's right to seek the truth--neither does it excuse one from rational thought nor the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. 'I was only following orders' is never an excuse.

Hildi Halley: I just got off the phone with Hildi Halley, a woman from Maine whose husband is a fallen soldier. Yesterday President Bush met with her privately, and news of their meeting was reported in a local Maine paper, the Kennebec Journal. The paper shared few details of the meeting, saying simply that Halley objected to Bush's policies and that she said Bush responded that there was no point in them having a "philosophical discussion about the pros and cons of the war."

But Halley has just given me a much more detailed account of her meeting with Bush. She told me that she went much farther in her criticism of the President, telling him directly that he was "responsible" for the deaths of American soldiers and that as a "Christian man," he should recognize that he's "made a mistake" and that it was his "responsibility to end this." She recounted to me that she was "very direct," telling Bush: "As President, you're here to serve the people. And the people are not being served with this war."

Maj. Gen. John Batiste (Ret.): Donald Rumsfeld is still at the helm of the Department of Defense, which is absolutely outrageous. He served up our great military a huge bowl of chicken feces, and ever since then, our military and our country have been trying to turn this bowl into chicken salad. And it’s not working.

An Excellent Idea

From someone who should know: A chief prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg has said George W. Bush should be tried for war crimes along with Saddam Hussein. Benjamin Ferenccz, who secured convictions for 22 Nazi officers for their work in orchestrating the death squads that killed more than 1 million people, told OneWorld both Bush and Saddam should be tried for starting "aggressive" wars--Saddam for his 1990 attack on Kuwait and Bush for his 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"Nuremberg declared that aggressive war is the supreme international crime," the 87-year-old Ferenccz told OneWorld from his home in New York. He said the United Nations charter, which was written after the carnage of World War II, contains a provision that no nation can use armed force without the permission of the UN Security Council.

Ferenccz said that after Nuremberg the international community realized that every war results in violations by both sides, meaning the primary objective should be preventing any war from occurring in the first place.


Fubar: One way to think of the U.S. approach to the Middle East is to imagine one of those trick pool shots -- you know, where the cue ball hits a ball which bangs into three others each of which slam into a half-dozen others which all simultaneously fall into the pockets. Here's the shot alignment:

Iraq: get out without looking like the Soviets did after Afghanistan.

Iraq: Sectarian Civil War.

Iraq: Handing over the political keys to the country over to Shiite militia.

Lebanon: Israeli invasion in the south and destruction of its infrastructure.

Lebanon: Hezbollah.

Syria: Hezbollah support.

Israel: Gaza.

Palestinian territories: Hamas-led government.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, et al: Al-Qaeda and Islamic militants.

Afghanistan: Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Iran: Nuclear buildup.

Iran: Influence on Iraq.

Iran: Influence on Afghanistan.

Iran: Support for Hezbollah.

Nevermind the bubbling-below-the-surface trouble in the former Soviet Republics and Kurdish unrest in the mountains. The Bush administration eager to retain its control of Congress and mindful of the waning power of the 9/11, 9/11, 9/11 mantra over the electorate, seems to be going for the ultimate trick: a single shot that sinks every other ball on the table.

Glenn Greenwald: When speaking about Iraq at his Press Conference this week, the President seemed to make rather clear that he believes Congress has no role to play in decisions concerning when wars begin and end:

”And any sign that says we're going to leave before the job is done simply emboldens terrorists and creates a certain amount of doubt for people so they won't take the risk necessary to help a civil society evolve in the country.” ”This is a campaign -- I'm sure they're watching the campaign carefully. There are a lot of good, decent people saying, get out now; vote for me, I will do everything I can to, I guess, cut off money is what they'll try to do to get our troops out. It's a big mistake. It would be wrong, in my judgment, for us to leave before the mission is complete in Iraq.”

That is very deliberate wording; he went out of his way to point out that the only thing Congress could do to "try" to compel a withdrawal of troops is to cut off funding. The President clearly has been involved in discussions where it was told to him that he does not need Congressional authorization to fight wars and that Congress cannot force him to end a war by voting, for instance, to revoke the 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq. Clearly, the President believes he can stay in Iraq even if such authorization is revoked.

Brian Cooney: "Freedom" has been the slogan of George W. Bush's presidency. In his second inaugural address (2005) he used the words "free," "freedom" or "liberty" 49 times in a 21-minute speech. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was called "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

About 42,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since we "freed" their country. Iraq now has an elected government dominated by Shia, representing the majority of that country's population. Its interior ministry is infiltrated by Shiite militia; it sponsors death squads and runs torture chambers.

Shia welcomed the religious freedom that followed the downfall of Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime. But now attendance at both Shia and Sunni mosques has declined drastically because mosques are under constant attack from sectarian forces.

Our freedom crusade has had drastic and bloody consequences for Iraq especially, but also for us (with 2,600 American soldiers killed and thousands more seriously wounded). Socrates once said that an unexamined life isn't worth living. I think he would agree that an unexamined ideal is not worth dying or killing for.

So what does "freedom" mean?

Howard LaFranchi: Even before this summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah, American influence in the Middle East was seen to be waning, with the US bogged down in Iraq and the Bush administration's signature vision for the region - democratization - increasingly controversial.

But as the US joins international powers in attempts to bolster a shaky cease-fire in southern Lebanon, American leverage is seen by many to be even weaker. That could have deep consequences in a tinderbox region that has long looked to US leadership to pull it back from the brink, analysts say.

One of those consequences, they add, is that with America no longer setting the agenda as it once did, the way is clearer for other influences - for example, Iran and radical Islam - to move in.

"There was a time when we really led, when we weren't the last ones to the table but were the ones setting the table," says Jon Alterman, a former State Department policy-planning staff member now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

"Now instead of the leading force, we seem to be leading less - and the world and the Middle East in particular seem to be following less." Among other things, he adds, "that allows for rivals like Iran to gain in influence."

Joe Conason: If the neoconservatives were not so adept at claiming the patriotic high ground for themselves -- and convincing the nation that they are interested only in advancing the security of America and Israel and the cause of democracy -- it might be time to start asking which of them are actually agents of Iran. The question is pertinent because "objectively," as they like to say, neoconservative policy has resulted in enormous profit to the Iranian mullahs, at grave cost to the United States and with little or no benefit to Israel.

The most obvious example, of course, is the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, which has conveniently eliminated Iran's chief military rival in the region, and replaced Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime with a weak government dominated by Shiite Islamist parties friendly to Tehran. The only certain outcome of our misbegotten effort is that the Iranians have finally gotten what they could not achieve during eight years of war with Iraq, despite the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars. And we delivered the prize to them at no cost -- except what we have lost in thousands of dead and wounded U.S. troops and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Katha Pollit: What's wrong with "Islamo-fascism"? For starters, it's a terrible historical analogy. Italian Fascism, German Nazism and other European fascist movements of the 1920s and '30s were nationalist and secular, closely allied with international capital and aimed at creating powerful, up-to-date, all-encompassing states. Some of the trappings might have been anti-modernist--Mussolini looked back to ancient Rome, the Nazis were fascinated by Nordic mythology and other Wagnerian folderol--but the basic thrust was modern, bureaucratic and rational. You wouldn't find a fascist leader consulting the Bible to figure out how to organize the banking system or the penal code or the women's fashion industry. Even its anti-Semitism was "scientific": The problem was the Jews' genetic inferiority and otherness, which countless biologists, anthropologists and medical researchers were called upon to prove--not that the Jews killed Christ and refused to accept the true faith. Call me pedantic, but if only to remind us that the worst barbarities of the modern era were committed by the most modern people, I think it is worth preserving "fascism" as a term with specific historical content. Second, and more important, "Islamo-fascism" conflates a wide variety of disparate states, movements and organizations as if, like the fascists, they all want similar things and are working together to achieve them. Neocons have called Saddam Hussein and the Baathists of Syria Islamo-fascists, but these relatively secular nationalist tyrants have nothing in common with shadowy, stateless, fundamentalist Al Qaeda--as even Bush now acknowledges--or with the Taliban, who want to return Afghanistan to the seventh century; and the Taliban aren't much like Iran, which is different from (and somewhat less repressive than) Saudi Arabia--whoops, our big ally in the Middle East! Who are the "Islamo-fascists" in Saudi Arabia--the current regime or its religious-fanatical opponents? It was under the actually existing US-supported government that female students were forced back into their burning school rather than be allowed to escape unveiled. Under that government people are lashed and beheaded, women can't vote or drive, non-Muslim worship is forbidden, a religious dress code is enforced by the state through violence and Wahhabism--the "Islamo-fascist" denomination--is exported around the globe. "Islamo-fascism" looks like an analytic term, but really it's an emotional one, intended to get us to think less and fear more. It presents the bewildering politics of the Muslim world as a simple matter of Us versus Them, with war to the end the only answer, as with Hitler.

Andrew Greeley: Back in 2004 during the ill-fated Kerry campaign, the senator from Massachusetts laid out for The New York Times Magazine a sketch of how he would deal with terrorism and terrorists. It should be "primarily an intelligence and law-enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world." In effect, he believed that the appropriate model was police work and not military invasions.

He did not go further with this scheme, however, probably because his handlers thought that the Republicans would accuse him of being soft on terror and that such a campaign stance would be grist for Karl Rove's mill. Perhaps that was the right decision because the public had yet to turn against President Bush as it has in the last eight months.

When the English cops broke up the plan to destroy American jets with liquid bombs a few days ago, the White House celebrated the impact of close cooperation among police forces in Pakistan, England and the United States. Conservative columnist George Will, of all people, seems to have been the only journalist who noted that this strange comment sounded pretty much like what Kerry had said. In a recent column, he cited a White House source who told The Weekly Standard after the plot was discovered that Kerry had been wrong: "The law enforcement approach does not work." Will noted ironically that such a response assumes that the war in Iraq does work.

In fact, the President's oft-repeated insistence that the war in Iraq is the central front in the war on terror is just one more of the many White House lies, though one might argue that the President is not smart enough to perceive that the work of the English police had nothing to do with the war in Iraq (save perhaps that the crazies who wanted to blow up the planes to punish the United States for invading Iraq) and therefore was not lying.

Similarly his repeated insistence that the terrorists want to take away our freedom is, on the face of it, false. They don't give a hoot about our freedom. They care only about punishing us. If we have lost some freedom in the last several years, it is the President who has taken it away from us by his claim to have unlimited powers.

Will Bunch: To give Bush a little credit, in this case at least one of his guests was a woman whose husband died in Afghanistan and who, like a majority of Americans, (gasp!) disagrees with Bush's policies in the region. And the president reportedly hugged her when she became emotional -- all well and good.

But we're still troubled by something he told her:

One anti-war widow said she used the opportunity to voice her objections to Bush's policies.

"I said it's time to stop the bleeding," said Hildi Halley, whose husband, Army National Guard Capt. Patrick Damon, died June 15 in Afghanistan. "It's time to swallow our pride and find a solution."

She said Bush responding by saying "there was no point in us having a philosophical discussion about the pros and cons of the war."

Why not? Seriously. Who better to have "a philosophical discussion about the pros and cons of the war" than the one person who, unlike the rest of us mere mortals, can start a war and send off men and women to wage it, to kill or be killed, with a single phone call?

And who better to have that discussion with, than the wife of a man who paid the ultimate price for that presidential order?

People often say that Bush is "sincere" in his religious beliefs, but we'd say more accurately that Bush is sincere in believing that he acts as a man of faith. But how can he reconcile some of the decisions that he has made in the Oval Office with true Christian teachings?

Yes, that's a philosophical discussion. And with the world teetering on the brink, we couldn't think of a better time to have it.

Casualty Reports

U.S. Army Pfc. William E. Thorne of Hospers, Iowa, died Thursday in Baghdad, Iraq.

He suffered fatal injuries after an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations.

Thorne was 26 years old.

The latest identifications reported by the military:

- Marine Staff Sgt. Gordon G. Solomon, 35, Fairborn, Ohio; killed Thursday in Anbar province; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

- Army Spc. Thomas Barbieri, 24, Gaithersburg, Md.; died Wednesday south of Baghdad from small-arms fire; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

- Marine Lance Cpl. James Hirlston, 21, Murfreesboro, Tenn.; died Wednesday in Anbar province; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

- Marine Staff Sgt. Dwayne E. Williams, 28, Baltimore; died Thursday in Anbar province; assigned to 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.

- Army Sgt. Marquees A. Quick, 28, Hoover, Ala., died on Aug 19 in Ramadi; assigned to the 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Friedberg, Germany.

Cemetery officials expect about 300 people to attend today's military funeral for Capt. John J. McKenna IV, a state trooper and Marine who was killed in Iraq last week.

McKenna is to be buried with full military honors at 4 p.m. in Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.

The 30-year-old Marine was killed in action Aug. 16 near Fallujah while conducting combat operations as a platoon commander with Albany-based Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Division.

Lance Cpl. Michael Glover, 28, a University at Albany graduate and native of Queens, also was killed by sniper fire.


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