Wednesday, August 30, 2006


"Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean. Bring 'em on' is the classic example, when I was really trying to rally the troops and make it clear to them that I fully understood, you know, what a great job they were doing. And those words had an unintended consequence.” George W. Bush, January 13, 2005

Well…I guess that’s ok, then. Because his intentions were good. And when a good man has good intentions, you can’t really blame him for unintended consequences, right? -m


A bomb exploded in the Shorja wholesale market in Baghdad’s Bab al-Sharji district, killing 24 people and wounding 35.

Two civilians were killed and 21 wounded, including five policemen, when a nearby car bomb exploded after police responded to a small bomb blast near a petrol station.

Baghdad’s Yarmuk hospital received the body of a first lieutenant in the Iraqi army and the bodies of two gunmen killed in clashes in Dura this morning. Dura is one of a group of flashpoint Baghdad neighborhoods that have be chosen by US and Iraqi forces for special protection.

Five bodies washed up on the banks of the Tigris south of the capital. They had been blindfolded and shot in the head in the trademark style of the capital's sectarian death squads.

Four members of one family were killed when mortar bombs hit their house in south Baghdad’s neighbourhood of Al Amel.

An Iraqi army officer was killed and two wounded in a roadside bombing between the central city of Kut and Baghdad. Buhriz

A roadside bomb killed five members of one family including three women and a child and seriously wounded another woman and child as they travelled in their car near the town of Buhriz.


A bomb targeting a crowd of men outside an army recruitment office killed 12 people and wounded 38.


Clashes between Iraqi police and insurgents wounded four civilian bystanders in Mosul.


Gunmen killed three brothers in the Iraqi town of Numaniya, 120 km south of Baghdad, police said. The men were Shi'ites who had previously fled a Sunni region further north.


Police in the western Iraqi town of Qaim said they found the bodies of two civilians with gunshot wounds to the head and torture marks. It was unclear who the victims were but tribes that control Qaim regularly clash with al Qaeda militants in the region.


Clashes between Iraqi police and civilians turned away from an army recruitment centre killed one civilian and wounded nine, including five policemen. Iraqi police said hundreds hoping to land jobs turned violent after they were turned away and threw rocks at policemen, who fired at the crowd.

Bring ‘em on: U.S. military losses in Iraq and Afghanistan are expected in coming weeks to surpass the death toll of 2,973 victims killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The two conflicts, which have lasted longer than most U.S. wars, have now claimed the lives of at least 2,941 troops, a toll that changes daily.

Next month, the duration of combat operations in Iraq will exceed the length of time that U.S. forces fought in Europe during World War II. Operations in Afghanistan have lasted longer than the Civil War and World War II -- with only the Revolutionary War and the Vietnam War lasting longer.

We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation: Hard-pressed Iraqi government forces were forced to strike a truce with Shia militia fighters yesterday, as fierce fighting followed by a pipeline explosion left 155 people dead.

Officials said that 81 people died in Diwaniya in Monday’s clashes between security forces and militiamen and that yesterday, a few hours after a peace deal was reached, a fire at a fuel pipeline outside the town killed 74 more.

Bring ‘em on: In a city with few real refuges from sectarian violence -- not government offices, not military bases, not even mosques -- one place always emerged as a safe haven: hospitals.

So Mounthir Abbas Saud, whose right arm and jaw were ripped off when a car bomb exploded six months ago, must have thought the worst was over when he arrived at Ibn al-Nafis Hospital, a major medical center here.

Instead, it had just begun. A few days into his recovery at the facility, armed Shiite Muslim militiamen dragged the 43-year-old Sunni mason down the hallway floor, snapping intravenous needles and a breathing tube out of his body, and later riddled his body with bullets, family members said.

Authorities say it was not an isolated incident. In Baghdad these days, not even the hospitals are safe. In growing numbers, sick and wounded Sunnis have been abducted from public hospitals operated by Iraq's Shiite-run Health Ministry and later killed, according to patients, families of victims, doctors and government officials.

As a result, more and more Iraqis are avoiding hospitals, making it even harder to preserve life in a city where death is seemingly everywhere. Gunshot victims are now being treated by nurses in makeshift emergency rooms set up in homes. Women giving birth are smuggled out of Baghdad and into clinics in safer provinces.

In most cases, family members and hospital workers said, the motive for the abductions appeared to be nothing more than religious affiliation. Because public hospitals here are controlled by Shiites, the killings have raised questions about whether hospital staff have allowed Shiite death squads into their facilities to slaughter Sunni Arabs.

"We would prefer now to die instead of going to the hospitals," said Abu Nasr, 25, a Sunni cousin of Saud and former security guard from al-Madaan, a Baghdad suburb. "I will never go back to one. Never. The hospitals have become killing fields."

We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation: Iraqi Defence Minister Abdel Qader Jassim Mohammed has said that the security situation in the southern oil city of Basra was getting worse despite the presence of British troops.

"The security situation in Basra is deteriorating because of political differences, organised crime and clan feuds," he admitted at a joint news conference with visiting British Defence Minister Des Browne Monday.

The Iraqi minister said that the solution to the problems in Iraq's second city, where there have been a number of recent armed clashes and bombings, would be a political rather than a military one.

Bring ‘em on: Pumping their fists in the air, the men and boys inside the colonnaded mosque shout loyalty to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

“Hasten the coming of the Mahdi!” thousands chant in the baking sun. “And curse his enemies!”

“Muqtada! Muqtada!” martial voices intone over the loudspeakers as Shiites gather for Friday prayers. “Even the child in the mother’s cradle cries: ”‘Muqtada! Muqtada!’

Al-Sadr’s followers answer as one when his movement calls, making him Iraq’s most pivotal force after the United States.

A leaked cable from departing British Ambassador William Patey warned recently:

“If we are to avoid a descent into civil war and anarchy, then preventing the Jaish al-Mahdi from developing into a state within a state, as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a priority,” Patey wrote, using the Arabic term for Mahdi Army.

Worrisome parallels with Hezbollah are apparent.

We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation: Armed groups of Sunni and Shiite Muslims battled Tuesday for control of several neighborhoods in southwest Baghdad, residents of those areas reported. It was another sign that security is deteriorating in the capital and that Iraq may be moving closer to a full-fledged civil war.

Fighting between armed groups of Shiites and Sunnis isn't uncommon in Baghdad, but the extent of Tuesday's fighting was unprecedented, and it raised troubling questions about the U.S. and Iraqi government effort to bring order to the capital.

The U.S. military has been touting the effectiveness of its so-called Baghdad security plan in recent days, under which beefed-up American and Iraqi forces have cordoned off some neighborhoods and searched them in an effort to rid them of gunmen. U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Monday that attacks in Baghdad had dropped in August and the homicide rate was down 46 percent over July.

None of the neighborhoods where fighting flared Tuesday has been part of that plan, suggesting that as U.S. and Iraqi government forces crack down in one place, violence flares in another.

And we better damn well hope we got the force necessary to deal with the security situation because these other guys don’t seem to be getting hang of it: About 100 Iraqi Shiite soldiers refused to go to Baghdad to support the security crackdown there, marking the second time a block of Iraqi soldiers have balked at following their unit's assignment, a U.S. general said Monday.

U.S. Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard, commander of the Iraqi Assistance Group, said the problems stem from the Iraqi Army's regional divide, because soldiers are recruited in their home area and expect to train and serve there.

Pittard said about 100 members of a battalion in the 4th Brigade, 10th Iraqi Army Division, who were serving in the southern Maysan province, refused to deploy to Baghdad.

So who are the terrorists here?: The evening light was fading as they came to a point on the river bank where six bloated bodies floated face-down in waist-deep water. They recognised the clothing on one as Muthanna's and they confirmed his identity by two tattoos.

The brothers used a blanket to haul his remains up the embankment, laying him at his mother's feet. His hands were tied behind his back, there were two bullet wounds to the back of his head and he had been beaten.

But there was no time for grieving. Suddenly the sky was lit by a parachute flare and they were under attack. Saad said: "As we loaded the body onto a pick-up, they started firing mortars; they raked our cars with Kalashnikov fire."

As Saad explains his mother's strength "comes from the God", she cuts across him: "I couldn't wait - this was my son. Now I wait for God to avenge his death."

Not quite. Wabila Felehi Hussein is already exacting her own temporal revenge with a cold-bloodedness that, even by Iraqi standards, is unnerving. Out of earshot of the family, the friend in whose house we meet admonishes the Herald: "You didn't ask who told them the body was in the river."

He said that after fleeing Hoorijab, the mother set her sons working their mobile phones, calling the few who they could still trust in Hoorijab to get the name of the alasa who might have given Muthanna's name to the insurgency.

"They got the name of the son of a local tribal sheik who lived near their house," he says.

"When she sent the boys, she insisted he must be brought back to Sadr City alive, because no one was to be killed unless they had proof of their involvement in Muthanna's death.

"He was interrogated and gave up nine more names. Eight of them were abducted and brought back for interrogation … and then they killed them with guns, knives and by bashing some of them. Adel killed six; Saad killed three.

"One of them escaped to Syria. He is a Shiite, but Saad is getting ready to go after him too."

The family friend is more impressed than shocked: "In the history of Iraq, no single family has done this. No one knows them in Sadr City, but Muthanna’s funeral lasted three days and thousands came to pay condolences … they brought much water, Pepsi and kebabs."

But as she slip-slapped her hands in disgust, the avenging grandmother was contemptuous of what Washington bills as the new Iraq: "This is not democracy ... we have no stability, no future. It would be better if we all were dead ..."

Tears streaming down her face, she hit bottom: "We were happy when the Americans came. They lifted the Saddam darkness, but now they have led us into a new, blacker darkness."

Hey, so the security situation isn’t everything Bush said it would be. What the hell. His intentions were good! And when a good man has good intentions, you can’t really blame him for unintended consequences, right? -m

But We’re There To Help!

Reconstruction: Wars, sanctions and looting have left Iraq's infrastructure in ruins.

Reconstruction efforts have been hampered by insurgent attacks, with many projects stalled and funds diverted to meet rising security costs. US officials say the total reconstruction bill is likely to spiral well above the $55bn estimated in 2003.

Electricity generation at best meets half of estimated demand and fell below pre-war levels in early 2006. A 2004 survey found just over half of households had a stable supply of safe drinking water.

In the first two years after the war, only a fifth of the money pledged was disbursed, but three years on nearly half the available funds have been spent.

Even with all debt restructuring and relief taken into account, Iraq still owes more than $50bn in external debt.

Security: The US announced major combat operations were over in Iraq in May 2003, but violence has continued in Iraq, despite the transition to an elected Iraqi government.

No-one knows exactly how many Iraqi civilians have died in acts of war since the invasion. By March 2006, most unofficial estimates ranged from 17,000 to 38,000, although one study in October 2004 put the figure close to 100,000. In the same period, more than 1,800 US troops had died in hostile incidents.

About 150,000 coalition troops, together with 230,000 Iraqi security forces, are struggling against insurgent groups which include former Baathists, nationalists, Sunni Muslims and foreign Islamists.

The violence has become increasingly sectarian. Insurgent attacks on Shia targets and killings which some blame on Shia death squads have formed a cycle of revenge and reprisal prompting fears of civil war.

Education: War and economic decline have taken their toll on Iraq's once-admired education system. Literacy levels are lower among 15-year-olds than among 35-year-olds.

An estimated 25% of primary-age children do not attend school, according to the World Bank, although US figures show primary school enrolment up 20% since 2000.

In 2003, half of Iraq's 15,000 schools needed major rehabilitation or complete rebuilding, according to the ministry of education.

USAid said it had rehabilitated nearly 3,000 schools by late 2005, the number it had aimed to upgrade in six months.

Hey, so, a few jillion DoD and State Department press releases aside, the reconstruction situation isn’t everything Bush said it would be. What the hell. His intentions were good! And when a good man has good intentions, you can’t really blame him for unintended consequences, right? -m

Stories About Oil

Well, here’s some good news: Iraq’s prime minister yesterday declared that a four-month-old fuel shortage was over, on the same day 74 people were killed when a disused pipeline exploded as they attempted to siphon off fuel. "We have controlled the fuel crisis in the country through immediate tactical solutions and putting in place a strategic plan to end the crisis for good," Nuri al-Maliki told reporters at the oil ministry in Baghdad.

Yes, it’s good that pesky fuel crisis is over: Seventy-five people were killed in Iraq late on Monday when a blast ripped through scavengers siphoning petrol from pools around a breach in a disused pipeline. The explosion in Diwaniya, 180kms south of Baghdad, wounded 26 people, who were taken to area hospitals with severe burns. “Some of the wounded have burns in 75 per cent of their bodies,” a health official said, adding the death toll is expected to climb. Witnesses said the blast, which is under investigation, occurred while a group of impoverished people were scooping fuel from two large pools. Despite having the world’s third largest proven reserves of oil, Iraq is gripped by a fuel crisis blamed on sabotage attacks, ageing infrastructure and rampart corruption. Fuel prices have soared as the Iraqi government phases out subsidies under an International Monetary Fund deal.

This isn’t going to help: A 48-hour strike led by oil and gas workers in Basra, Iraq, last week signals a growing impatience with the U.S. occupation of Iraq, said a spokesperson for the Iraq Freedom Congress. The strike shut down the country's main refined oil pipeline. The workers presented four demands to the Ministry of Oil: higher pay, wages must be paid when due, workers must be paid for overtime work and ambulances must be provided to transport injured workers. About 350 oil workers and 200 gas workers walked off the job the morning of Aug. 22. "Their basic demands for higher pay were met," said the IFC's Housan Mahmoud. "If the government doesn't deliver on the rest of the demands, the strikes will resume."

A bit of history: In October 2002, the State Department established a working group on oil and energy, as part of its "Future of Iraq" project. The project brought together influential exiled Iraqis with US government officials and international consultants. Later, some members of the group became part of the Iraqi government. The result of the project's work was a draft framework for Iraq's oil policy. Despite Iraq being rich in oil and technical expertise, the group recommended a major role for foreign companies, through long-term contracts--an approach which would set Iraq at odds with the rest of the Middle East, where major oil producers keep their oil in the public sector.

In January 2003, the wheels started to turn as the Coalition Provisional Authority appointed the former head of Shell USA as senior oil adviser, in daily contact with the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. He was joined by an executive from ExxonMobil, and after six months, the post was rotated to former managers of ConocoPhillips and BP.

In December 2003, the framework was set out in more detail when USAID commissioned a report by the privatisation specialists BearingPoint entitled "Options for developing a sustainable, long-term Iraqi oil industry." The report reinforced the "Future of Iraq's" report, recommending long-term contracts with foreign companies. Pointing to the "success" of this model, BearingPoint used Azerbaijan's privatization model as an example. The report commented approvingly that Azerbaijan's high corruption and lack of democracy had not impeded investment--the government had simply given away a higher share of revenues, in order to attract companies. The implication was that Iraq, which has a nascent democracy and chronic corruption, might follow the same approach.

After the handover to the interim government in June 2004, senior oil advisers--now based within the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office (IRMO) in the U.S. Embassy--continued work closely with the Oil Ministry in shaping policy. Post holders included executives from ChevronTexaco and Unocal.

In 2006, these efforts intensified. In February, the IRMO advisers accompanied eight senior officials from the Oil Ministry on a trip to the U.S., sponsored by the U.S.' Trade and Development Agency. On the trip, they met oil company representatives to discuss the future structure of the Iraqi oil industry.

The same month, at the request of the State Department, USAID provided an adviser to the Oil Ministry, again from BearingPoint, to work directly on a new oil law, providing "legal and regulatory advice in drafting the framework of petroleum and other energy-related legislation, including foreign investment."

The U.S. campaign on the fledgling Iraqi government has been successful. Following his appointment in May, new Oil Minister Husayn al-Shahristani announced that one of his top priorities would be the writing of an oil law to allow Iraq to sign contracts with "the largest companies."

This would be the first time in more than thirty years that foreign companies would receive a major stake in Iraq's oil. Oil was brought into public ownership and control back in 1975.

But with the ink not yet on the paper, the U.S. has maintained its pressure. On his visit to Baghdad in July 2006, U.S. Energy Secretary Bodman insisted that the Iraqi government must "pass a hydrocarbon law under which foreign companies can invest." But the work to make this case had already been done: "We got every indication that they were willing and also felt a necessity to open the sector," he commented, after meeting with the Oil Minister and Iraqi officials.

Mr. Bodman did not stop at reviewing the draft law himself in Baghdad: he also arranged for Dr. Al-Shahristani to meet with nine major oil companies - including Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips - for them to comment on the draft as well, during the Minister's trip to Washington DC the following week.

Given the pressures involved, perhaps the Minister felt he did not have much choice. His promise to pass the law through parliament by the end of 2006 was set in Iraq's agreement with the International Monetary Fund last December. According to that agreement, IMF officials would also review and comment on a draft in September.

And still, the draft law has not been seen by the Iraqi parliament. Meanwhile, an official from the Oil Ministry has stated that Iraqi civil society and the general public will not be consulted at all.

It’s good to see from this last article that at least something is going the way it was planned. Not all consequences are unintended, are they. -m

US Military News

Support the troops!: Brain damaged soldier? Who cares...not the government, that's for sure. More than any other war in American history, the war in Iraq is sending home young men and women who suffer from closed-head trauma. IEDs, mines, urban combat, traffic accidents: all these things can lead to head trauma, and are, in increasing numbers. As a result, an entire generation of soldiers is returning home suffering from the sometimes baffling effects of head injuries. And your government is slashing the funding for their treatment. Sayeth the Republican Party to America's wounded vets: "Thanks for your service. Screw you." Whether through the incompetence of Secretary Rumsfeld's Pentagon number-crunchers, or through the heartlessness of the Republican Congressional majority, it is now clear that the U.S. Military's cutting-edge brain-injury research and treatment centers could have their budget slashed by over 50% this year.

But maybe Bush can swing through the trauma ward and give some of them a hug – not the ones that are messing themselves, come on, but one or two of the cleaner, more photogenic ones – because he’s a caring guy. And well intentioned, too. -m

Women’s issues: More than 1,500 women have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan and sought some type of help from veterans hospitals in Wisconsin, northern Illinois and Iron Mountain, Mich., ranking the region third-highest in the country. Milwaukee’s Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center alone has seen more than 200 women since March 2003. “Women are the fastest growing veteran population in the nation,” said Gundel Metz, coordinator for female veterans’ issues with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. Some deal with problems that parallel those of their male counterparts. They’ve lost limbs, eyesight and hearing. They have digestive disorders, nightmares, anger and relationship problems. But female veterans returning from war face ailments and traumas of other sorts: More than 400 military women working in Iraq, Afghanistan and the region have reported they were victims of sexual assault from 2003 through May, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. More female soldiers report mental health concerns than their male comrades: 24 percent compared with 19 percent, according to a Pentagon study released in March. Roughly 40 percent have musculoskeletal problems that doctors say likely are linked to lugging too-heavy and ill-fitted equipment. A considerable number — 28 percent — return with genital and urinary system infections. There are gender-related societal issues that make transitioning tough, psychologists who work with female veterans say. Women are more likely to worry about body image issues, especially if they have visible scars, and their traditional roles as caregivers in civilian life can set them back when they return. “Men come back and they have women fluttering around them taking care of them,” said Molly Carnes, a professor in the department of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of the women veterans health program at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison. “Women come back and suddenly they’re thrust into the caregiving role, taking care of their children and supporting their husbands. “Who takes care of the woman veteran?”

Maybe he could hug some of them, too – well, maybe not the rape victims, that could get awkward, but some photogenic little thing who still has all her limbs. To show he cares. -m

Meanwhile, as the Individual Ready Reservist Marines pack their bags and say goodbye to the wife and kids…: The Pentagon has done little to recover about $900,000 mistakenly paid to 75 Army reservists who have not reported for duty since late 2001, Congressional investigators said in a report on Monday.

Fewer than two dozen of the deserters have surrendered or been arrested, the report said.

The number of improper payments and the money involved was probably significantly understated, the investigators said. The report said the Army and the Army National Guard and Reserve had acknowledged being unaware of the extent of the problem because there is no system to track such records.

Some comments from noted leftist moonbat US Army General Barry McCaffrey (Ret.): We’ve got 135,000 troops, a lot of power on the ground. Having said that, there’s 27 million people. Dr. Nasr, I think, accurately articulated the political problem we’re facing. It’s not going to be solved—the battle of Baghdad won’t be solved by the United States Army. We’ve had 22,000 killed and wounded, two-thirds of our brigades, the ones that aren’t deployed, in the United States Army National Guard now, are not ready to fight. So the surge capability to deal with this from a military perspective is not there.

The Army is $23 billion short, our equipment’s coming apart, we’re drafting 42-year-old grandmothers to be privates in the Army. I shouldn’t have said draft, asking for volunteers. So I don’t think the combat power is there in the Army and the Marine Corps to solve this problem militarily.

These Iraqi security battalions have 20, 30 light trucks, light automatic weapons. There’s no plan to build a force which would be capable of, of replacing us. So I think our strategy is flawed. Lieutenant General Marty Dempsey and Joe Peterson, the people on the ground, are doing a great job recruiting, training, fielding, but—and so far the Iraqi security forces have not come apart. We haven’t seen them go to the streets and battle with each other. But I think this is, this is an inadequate strategy right now to prepare the Iraqis to defend themselves.

(Via Anonymous Liberal)

But yes, it’s true, we do prosecute some war criminals: Two Camp Pendleton Marines are set to appear today at a military hearing on murder and other charges in a case that has drawn international attention and criticism from some prominent U.S. lawmakers.

Pfc. John Jodka III, a former UCR student, and Cpl. Marshall Magincalda will hear for the first time in public a Marine Corps prosecutor outline the allegations against them.

Today's hearing is the first of what promises to be several in the coming weeks for the group that some Internet blogs and talk radio programs are calling "The Camp Pendleton 8."

Jodka, 20, and Magincalda, 23, are among seven Marines and a Navy corpsman accused in the April 26 shooting death of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdaniya, north of Baghdad. The men, all younger than age 25, face charges of murder, kidnapping, assault, housebreaking and conspiracy. Conviction could carry the death penalty.

Prosecutors contend the men broke into Hashim Ibrahim Awad's home in the insurgent-riddled town, forced him to the ground, bound his hands and feet, took him from his home, killed him and tossed a shovel and AK-47 nearby to make it appear the dead man was planting a roadside bomb.

Other soldiers get commendations: The platoon commander for the squad of Marines who killed as many as two dozen Iraqi civilians during an attack in Haditha last year recommended later that the sergeant who led the attack receive a medal for his heroism that day, according to military documents.

Lt. William Kallop wrote in a praise-filled memo that the incident on Nov. 19, 2005, was part of a complex insurgent ambush that included a powerful roadside bomb followed by a high volume of automatic-weapons fire from several houses in the neighborhood. He lauded Sgt. Frank Wuterich for his leadership in the "counterattack" on three houses while the unit received sporadic enemy fire.

The proposed citation indicates that Kallop -- the only Marine officer at the scene as the incident unfolded -- believed the unit was under a coordinated insurgent attack when Marines stormed civilian homes and opened fire, killing women and children. Whether Marines felt threatened and believed the homes to be hostile is a central element of their defense against potential criminal charges.

The documents offer one of the first public accounts of the incident from Kallop, 25, a University of Virginia graduate and New York City native. Kallop does not explicitly address the civilian deaths in his summary of the incident, which gives detailed support for Wuterich's combat actions from September to December 2005.

Representatives for Kallop, who was promoted to first lieutenant in May, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He is one of numerous Marines who are the subject of a Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation into civilian deaths in the Haditha attack, which has alternately been characterized as a vengeful massacre and as the unfortunate collateral damage of war. None has been charged so far.

It’s Sharing Time

Abu goes to Baghdad: U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales arrived in Baghdad to discuss the rule of law yesterday, a day when 21 bodies were found in the capital, all bearing signs of torture and execution.

Flying into the capital's heavily guarded Green Zone, Gonzales discussed detainee issues and interrogation tactics with top Iraqi security officials.

Afterward, Gonzales told reporters he had discussed the use of "extraordinary measures" in the handling of detainees, but he added that the Iraqis will have to decide for themselves what will be permissible.

"It's difficult to decide what is appropriate and what is allowed under law," said Gonzales.

In a series of memos, Gonzales helped draft the U.S. administration's torture and detention policies that contributed to abuses of military prisoners in Cuba and Iraq, critics charge. He dismissed Geneva Convention protections for prisoners detained in Afghanistan.

Last year, he also acknowledged taking part in a meeting at which participants discussed the legality of interrogation techniques including the threat of live burial and simulating the sensation of drowning.

He’s a rule of law kinda guy: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday that Iraq's future would depend on its enforcing the rule of law, but only its people and political leaders could decide what type of law that would be.

Gonzales said after meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh that they had discussed the use of "extraordinary measures," referring to policies toward prisoners and detainees. He added that the U.S. would not tell Iraq how to handle the issue.

"It is difficult to decide what is appropriate now and what is allowed under the law. This decision will be made by the Iraqi government," Gonzales said. He did not offer specifics or elaborate.

Gonzales is an architect of U.S. policy on the treatment of prisoners abroad and the author of a 2002 memo saying President Bush had the right to waive anti-torture laws and treaties that protect prisoners of war. Critics say that helped lead to abuses in Iraq, an allegation he has denied.

Well, geez, guys. If we do it, by definition it’s not torture!: Gonzales played a key role in drafting detention policies that many critics say led to the torture of terrorism suspects and other detainees. He wrote a 2002 Justice Department memo that narrowed the definition of torture and argued that President Bush could override anti-torture laws in some cases.

When asked to distinguish between the kinds of torture he authorized and the kinds being carried out in Iraq by militias with ties to governing parties, Gonzales appeared taken aback.

``It is against the law,'' he said. ``We have a domestic law prohibiting torture. There are international prohibitions against torture. We are a party to the convention against torture. The president has been very, very clear: This government does not engage in torture.''

Yes, and even if Bush’s government did engage in torture it would be ok because their intentions are good. Right? -m

Pot, Kettle. Kettle, Pot.

Oooh, scary: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday compared critics of the Bush administration to those who sought to appease the Nazis before World War II, warning that the nation is confronting "a new type of fascism." Speaking at the American Legion convention here, Rumsfeld delivered his most explicit and extended attacks yet on administration opponents — leading Democrats to accuse him of "campaigning on fear."

By likening today's U.S. foreign policy to that during World War II and the Cold War, Rumsfeld sought to portray skeptics of the Bush administration as being on the wrong side of history. He ridiculed American officials who had hoped to negotiate with Adolf Hitler. "Once again, we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism," Rumsfeld said. "But some seem not to have learned history's lessons."

Gee, Don, since you brought it up, let’s have a little chat about fascism: "The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact," Wallace wrote. "Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy."

In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism the Vice President of the United States saw rising in America, he added:

"They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."

Finally, Wallace said, "The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. ... Democracy, to crush fascism internally, must...develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels."

This liberal vision of an egalitarian America in which very large businesses and media monopolies are broken up under the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act (which Reagan stopped enforcing, leading to the mergers & acquisitions frenzy that continues to this day) was the driving vision of the New Deal (and of "Trust Buster" Teddy Roosevelt a generation earlier).

As Wallace's President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said when he accepted his party's renomination in 1936 in Philadelphia:

"...Out of this modern civilization, economic royalists [have] carved new dynasties.... It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction.... And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man...."

Speaking indirectly of the fascists that Wallace would directly name almost a decade later, Roosevelt brought the issue to its core:

"These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power."

But, he thundered in that speech:

"Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!"

In 2006, we again stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II. Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself "compassionate conservatism," and "the free market" in a "flat" world. The RNC's behavior today eerily parallels the day in 1936 when Roosevelt said:

"In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for."

President Roosevelt and Vice President Wallace's warnings have come full circle. Thus it's now critical that we reclaim the word "fascist" to describe current-day Republican policies, support progressive websites that spread the good word, and join together this November at the ballot box to stop fascist election fraud and this most recent incarnation of Republican-fascism from seizing complete and irretrievable control of our nation.

But don’t worry – they’ll never act like totalitarians. Right? Because Bush is a good man!: A bill that expands President Bush's ability to wiretap American phones and conduct other forms of domestic surveillance will likely appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Thursday, RAW STORY has learned.

The bill, which was written by judiciary chairman Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), and which has been widely and publicly excoriated by Democratic members of the committee, contains provisions—such as the institution of program-wide warrants, and warrants that do not expire for a year—that would weaken the strict limits that currently govern the FISA courts.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was written nearly 20 years ago and offers guidelines about the legal use of wiretaps on phones inside the United States. It includes provisions for the use of courts to issue warrants if the government’s case against a suspect meets legal scrutiny.

The judiciary committee originally sought to bring the NSA wiretapping program into compliance with FISA, but in practice, critics claim, Specter’s FISA amendments actually give the president freedom to expand his wiretapping activities.

A statement released by the office of Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) states that Specter’s bill “gives him even more power than he has asserted under his illegal NSA wiretapping program.”


Gregory Djerejian: Democracy, in my view, cannot be achieved by grotesquely undermanning a nation-building effort after militarily unseating a dictator in a nation riven by sectarian and ethnic tension (see also Iran, as many in the dumbed-down Beltway are urging a repeat there). Put differently, creative destruction is not an approach to sober statecraft. And on the challenge of terrorism more generally, as the London plot showcases, our real challenges are not necessarily presented by under-educated Afghan peasants gravitating to madrassas in Peshawar, say, but rather Muslim middle-class British and French and Dutch youth watching al-Jazeera on their satellite televisions in East London, the banlieu, and Amsterdam--becoming radicalized as they grapple with the vying tensions of disorienting Western liberties, feelings of alienation amidst under-employment and life in stand-alone ethnic ghettos, and not least a sense of humiliation and indignity born of the carnage they see beamed in on news shows from places like Lebanon and Iraq. Another observation, to those who hanker to unseat, say, the Saudi monarchy--is to point out that the Saudis have been much more effective of late in combatting al-Qaeda in their own country, than we have been in reducing the specter of growing extremism in the region and beyond. As former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman recently put it, when asked how Saudi efforts to fight terrorism were going:

“The answer is that they’re [the Saudis] winning. (We, of course, are not.) So what is it that they are doing right? They have essentially discredited the extremist ideology in their own mosques, by driving the radical imams from the pulpits. They have co-opted or seduced or induced to defect a large number of people who were terrorists or were heading in that direction, and who are now going straight. They’re killing anybody who’s left.”

What the Saudis are doing is precisely how the British succeeded against the IRA. By contrast, we are not dealing with the issue of ideology. Worse, our actions are actually provoking and aiding recruitment. We’re killing a lot of people, but a great deal of those we are killing are not at all associated with extremists, they just happen to be in the way.

No, we are not convincingly dealing with the ideological component of this struggle. By refusing to shut places like Guantanamo, or to fire Rumsfeld and raze Abu Ghraib immediately after that horrific scandal, or to be an honest broker in the Arab-Israeli dispute, spearheading and leading forward a peace process no matter how difficult, or to more assiduously work with the Indians to move them towards a resolution of Kashmir with Pakistan, or to better understand that continued chaos in Iraq leads many Arabs to disdain America's role in the region, among so much more, none of us, whether naive post-Wilsonians pining for an end to tyranny in our time, or soft or hard or skeptical or luke-warm or whatever realists, or progressives, or isolationists--none of us are going to achieve our policy goals--which is to say effectively defending America's national interest against the scourge of international terrorism.

E. J. Dionne: The cracking of Republican solidarity in support of Bush on Iraq has short-term implications for November's elections and long-term implications for whether the administration can sustain its policies.

With a growing number of Republicans now echoing Democratic criticisms of the war, Republican strategists will have a harder time making the election a referendum on whether the United States should "cut and run" from Iraq, the administration's typical characterization of the Democrats' view.

And even the war's strongest supporters are offering increasingly critical assessments of past decisions. Last Tuesday Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recited a litany of past administration statements -- "stuff happens, mission accomplished, last throes, a few dead-enders" -- as indications that "we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be." On Friday McCain reiterated his loyalty to the Iraq mission, but he had already made his point.

The Republicans' restiveness suggests that Bush may not be able to stick with his current Iraq policy through Election Day. Even if he does, he will come under heavy pressure from his own party after Nov. 7 to pursue a demonstrably more effective strategy -- or to begin pulling American forces out.

Rob Kall: When you talk about traitors, the word treason has to come up. Here's Webster Dictionary's take on it:

“In law, treason is the crime of disloyalty to one's nation. A person who reneges on an oath of loyalty or a pledge of allegiance, and in some way willfully cooperates with an enemy, is considered to be a traitor. Oran's Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as: "...[a]...citizen's actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the [parent nation]”

Wikipedia describes , another key word, in exploring this realm, as:

“Betrayal, as a form of deception or dismissal of prior presumptions, is the breaking or violation of a presumptive social contract (trust, or confidence) that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship amongs individuals, between organizations or between individuals and organizations. Often betrayal is the act of supporting a rival group, or, it is a complete break from previously decided upon or presumed norms by one party from the others.”

From these definitions, it is not a great leap to suggest that the treasons and betrayals which traitors engage in have evolved, along with the computer, sattellites, the media, the internet to something beyond simple betrayal of one country for another. There are now all kinds of treacherous treasons. The victims are no longer only nations. The betrayers are no longer just spies. They are CEOs, ministers, legislators, talk show hosts, authors, to name a few. They work for organizations, corporations, media that are bought and paid for by traitors and by the enemies I speak of. They profess patriotism while supporting the people and entities hard at working destroying the USA and all the values of freedom, democracy and rights that the USA stands for. The great mass of US citizens are members of the middle class, and the right wing has declared war on the middle class. The people who are supporting this battle are also traitors, fighting to destroy the heart and soul of America. But it is not enough to talk about the problems-- the traitors-- the evil antagonists who are doing all they can to destroy America. We have to talk about heroes, about healing America, rescuing it from the assault the US is currently experiencing. We need to discuss the remedies that will expose the traitors, people, corporations, organizations and groups, put them in their proper places and right the wrongs and damage they've already done, setting the US back on a healthy course. We need heroes to fight the good fight, leaders and advisors who are visionaries, courageous enough to stand up to the firestorm of ugly abuse they will surely receive from the traitors in the media. We already have some. We need more and we need to do more to support and fully empower those we have, for example, among elected legislators, like Conyers, Kucinich, Waxman, Feingold and Dean. We can expect any strong leaders, fighting the traitors to be villifed, abused, framed as extremist, laughable, foolish, angry, crazy... and anyone we see treated that way, we should pay attention to. These are the leaders who the traitors are afraid of. And the people supposedly on our side, who we see the traitor media constantly supporting, telling all they are our most promising leaders-- we should suspect them, unless they stridently support our most prized issues and values and strongly attack the mainstream media's lies and distortions.

Matthew Yglesias: For his latest trick, in a speech to the American Legion, Don Rumsfeld gives the full wingnut monte. America faces an undifferentiated fascist menace. Bush's critics are appeasers who don't understand the lessons of history who blame America first and hate freedom. The media is treasonous and a free press is a luxury we can ill-afford in this time of crisis. Etc.

This, I think we can assume, is the fall campaign. The idea is to psyche the Democrats out. To make them think they can't win an argument about foreign policy. To make them act like they can't win an argument about foreign policy. And to thereby demonstrate to the American people that even the Democrats themselves lack confidence in their own ability to handle these issues.

It's essential that the debate be joined, and joined with confidence. Rumsfeld is a buffoon. A punchline. A well-known liar. He and his bosses -- Bush and Cheney -- are running around the country trying to cite the failures of their own policies as a reason to entrust them with additional authority in order to continue and intensify those same failings. We're witnessing the bitter, bitter fruits of the Iraq War. Other nations learned that they must seek nuclear weapons as soon as possible to safeguard themselves from a newly trigger happy United States of America. Muslim opinion was sharply polarized against us. Iran and Syria were told that their cooperation against al-Qaeda was no longer needed because their governments would topple soon enough. A power vacuum was left on the streets of Baghdad that parties aligned with Iran have rushed to fill. The Arab-Israeli conflict was sidelined as something that would magically resolve itself once Saddam Hussein was out of the way. And America's allies were taught that our government was not to be relied upon -- that we operated with bad intelligence and initiated wars of choice without any real plans or ideas about how to cope with the aftermath.

That's how we got here. By listening to Bush. By listening to Cheney. By listening to Rumsfeld. The idea that we should keep on listening to them is absurd.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Orlando, FL - Carey Robinson, 39, military contractor, died in landmine explosion.

Local story: Cheyenne, WY - Pfc. James Joseph Arellano, 19, KIA August 17 while on foot patrol south of Baghdad.

Local story: Roy, UT – Pfc. Dan Dolan, 19, KIA.

Pfc. William E. Thorne, 26, Hospers, Iowa; killed Thursday when his vehicle was struck by a bomb south of Baghdad; assigned to the Army's 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division; Fort Hood, Texas.

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

Spc. Thomas J. Barbieri, 24, Gaithersburg, killed Aug. 23 near Baghdad by small-arms fire; assigned to the Army's 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division; Fort Bragg, N.C.

Lance Cpl. James D. Hirlston, 21, Murfreesboro, Tenn.; killed Aug. 23 in combat in Anbar province; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force; Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Navy Chief Petty Officer Paul J. Darga, 34, Lansing, Mich.; killed Aug. 22 by an explosive in Anbar province; assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two; serving with the 1st Marine Logistics Group.

Air Force Master Sgt. Brad A. Clemmons, 37, Chillicothe, Ohio; killed Aug. 21 when an explosive struck his vehicle in Taji; assigned to the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron; Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

Sgt. Gabriel G. DeRoo, 25, Paw Paw, Mich.; killed Aug. 20 by small-arms fire in Mosul; assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division; Fort Lewis, Wash.

Cpl. Adam A. Galvez, 21, Salt Lake City, and Lance Cpl. Randy L. Newman, 21, Bend, Ore.; killed Aug. 20 in combat in Anbar province; assigned to 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force; Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Navy Hospitalman Chadwick T. Kenyon, 20, Tucson, Ariz.; killed Aug. 20 when his vehicle was hit by an explosive in Anbar province; assigned to the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force; Twentynine Palms, Calif.

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

Sgt. 1st Class Ruben J. Villa Jr., 36, El Paso, Texas; died Aug. 18 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, of a noncombat-related cause; assigned to the Area Support Group (CFLCC); Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

Local story: Superior, WI - Spc. Kenneth Cross, 21, KIA.


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