Friday, September 29, 2006


PHOTO: Children stand outside their tent in a refugee camp for displaced Sunnis in Baghdad, July 22, 2006. A quarter of a million Iraqis have fled their homes and registered as refugees in the past seven months, data released on Thursday showed. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani [That would be equivalent to 3 million displaced Americans. And, not mentioned here, there are a half million Iraqis who have left Iraq. That would be equivalent to 6 million Americans moving to Canada and Mexico. Plus, I figure at least a quarter of a million Iraqis have died in all this violence in the last three and a half years, and again that would be equivalent to 3 million Americans killed. Imagine what our country would be like with 12 million Americans who were here in March of 2003 now either dead, internally displaced, or living in Canada or Mexico. That would be one in every 25 people. Imagine what a strain and what a state of confusion we would be living in with those realities in our country. – dancewater]

Security Incidents for September 29, 2006


An Iraqi traffic policeman was killed and 11 others wounded when two roadside bombs went off on Friday morning in a central Baghdad neighborhood, a police source said. "Two roadside bombs detonated in a quick succession in the Nidhal Street in Karrada neighborhood at 9:00 a.m. (0500 GMT), killing a traffic policeman who was on duty, and injuring eleven civilians," the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. The blasts damaged several nearby cars and buildings, he said.

Separately, unknown gunmen shot dead Shiekh Terky al-Tayies, a tribal leader of al-Marasma tribe at the al-Doura district, the source added.

Iraqi soldiers found nine bodies inside a booby- trapped vehicle in the western Mansour district of Baghdad on Tuesday, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The corpses of seven men and one woman were all found in east Baghdad neighborhoods. They were blindfolded, and had their hands and legs bound, police said.

Unknown gunmen killed on Thursday two relatives of Al-Anfal trial's Judge Mohammad Al-Oraibi, said an Iraqi security source. Speaking to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), the source said the judge's brother-in-law Ali Kadhem Abdul-Husain and his seven-year-old son were killed in Al-Ghazaliyah district as they were moving their furniture to relocate into a different area. There are also unconfirmed reports that Abdul-Husain's wife was also killed, added the source. Al-Oraibi is presiding over the trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Husain and six of his aides.

Two policemen were killed and two women wounded when gunmen clashed with police forces in the Doura district of southern Baghdad, police said.


The Iraqi military said it had launched a major security operation in Baquba, capital of the volatile ethnically- and religiously-mixed Diyala province northeast of the capital. It said 60 suspected insurgents were arrested in door-to-door sweeps.


Two more corpses, riddled with bullets and also bound, were pulled from the Tigris River in Suwayrah, 25 miles south of Baghdad. They showed signs of torture, said Maamoun al-Ajili, an official with the Kut morgue.


In Anah, about 160 miles northwest of the capital, two Iraqi soldiers were killed and another two injured when a roadside bomb hit their convoy.


Six gunmen in a truck were killed when they attempted to attack an army checkpoint in Hawija, 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, the army media office said.


Gunmen firing from a car killed three Iraqi soldiers, two of them brothers, in the small town of Rashad, 20 km (12 miles) southwest of the northern oil city of Kirkuk, police said. The soldiers were driving to join their unit when the gunmen's car blocked their way.


Meanwhile in Mosul, unknown militants killed a policeman east of the city, while two policemen were wounded when an explosive device went off as their patrol vehicle was passing by the area.


Four soldiers were killed and three others wounded when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in the restive city of Fallujah on Thursday, local police said. "A roadside bomb exploded near passing an Iraqi army patrol at about 9:15 a.m. (0515 GMT) in the Garma area near Fallujah," a source from Fallujah police told Xinhua. The blast was followed by gunfight between the attackers and the Iraqi soldiers, the source added.

Infrastructure Protection? Reconstruction Activities? HUH?

U.S. Central Command Air Forces officials have released the airpower summary for Sept. 29. In Iraq, Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons provided close-air support to troops in contact with anti-Iraqi forces near Kirkuk, Baghdad and Tall Afar. Navy F/A-18Cs provided close-air support to troops in contact with anti-Iraqi forces near Baghdad and Balad, and RAF Tornado GR-4s provided close-air support to troops in contact with anti-Iraqi forces near Al Taji and Baghdad. In total, coalition aircraft flew 40 close-air support missions for Operation Iraqi Freedom. These missions included support to coalition troops, infrastructure protection, reconstruction activities and operations to deter and disrupt terrorist activities. Additionally, 17 Air Force, Navy, Army and RAF ISR aircraft flew missions in support of operations in Iraq.



“They killed my mother! God help me, they killed my mother!"

Osama Rumani sobbed into his cell phone before handing it to his brother Ali, who was crying even harder. At the other end of the line were relatives in Canada. As Ali spoke to them, Osama cursed the unknown killers through his tears: "May God orphan you. May you lose your mother and go through this pain. Shoot her once, shoot her twice, break her leg, her arms, but why this?" Osama covered his face as he cried. His mother, Umm Luma, was an ordinary citizen, well-loved in the neighborhood where she was gunned down in front of her home. In recent months, terrorists and death squads in Iraq have increased attacks on civilians. Though the Pentagon says the sectarian violence is not tantamount to civil war, it concedes that the swelling sectarian strife has produced an upsurge in attacks, kidnappings and execution-style killings. According to a Pentagon report, Iraqi casualties jumped 51 percent this summer, and the Baghdad coroner's office reported receiving 3,400 bodies in June and July. Ninety percent of them had been killed execution-style, the report said. Umm Luma lost her husband to illness two years ago, after she had reared four sons and two daughters. "She had a strong personality, she was our leader at home," said her niece, Rafal Abbas. But beneath Rafal's calm façade, she is haunted not only by the murder she witnessed, but also by the fear that the killers might come back. Before Umm Luma's death, the family says it had received two written threats in a year. Wrapped in the second was a bullet. The message was chilling. "The time has come to bring down fair punishment on you traitors, you half men, by chopping off your rotten heads that sold religion, honor and the country to the occupation," it began. "Where will you escape Umm Luma? Await the rage, the slaughter and the murder. Our swords are on the necks of every traitor, agent and coward." The threat was signed by the Brigades of Death, a Sunni extremist group. Like similar organizations, it claims Iraqi Shiites are conspiring with the Americans. But Umm Luma had no political affiliations and neither do they, her relatives said. They said they had no enemies. The family fled nonetheless, even though no one -- least of all Umm Luma -- thought the note-writers would kill a woman. The false sense of security led Umm Luma home after a week. On September 16, she left the house to buy bread for breakfast and a car drove up. Someone inside called her name. Her niece remembers well how the events unfolded. "Are you Umm Luma?" asked a man in the car. "Yes, dear. What would you like?" Umm Luma responded. The first bullet ripped through her arm, knocking her to the ground, said Rafal. The man, who couldn't have been older than 18, then exited the car and shot Umm Luma four more times. "It is something that I will never forget," Rafal said. As Rafal cradled her aunt's body in her arms, another car -- similar to the attackers' -- passed before a stranger on a motorcycle pulled up and asked what happened. "He approached her and slapped her on the cheek, asking, 'Are you Umm Luma?' " Rafal recalled. "Yes. Leave her alone. What do you want?" Rafal shot back. "I wanted to see if she was dead or alive," he replied before following Rafal into the house. "I was baffled by this guy. No one in the area had seen him before. He asked weird questions, 'Where are the boys? Where do they live? Tell the boys to come,' " Rafal said. She did not respond to the stranger.

VIDEO: Falsely Arrested and Beaten in Ramadi

Five Killed In Air Strike

Iraqi police and hospital officials said a woman and two children were among five people killed in an air strike on a car on Thursday, but the U.S. military said it was unaware of any such incident. Captain Ahmed Ali of the Jazeera police station in Ramadi, a bastion of the Sunni insurgency, said the bodies of two men, two children and a woman had been recovered at the scene, in the Albu Ubeid area, 10 km (six miles) northeast of the city. Raed Mohammed, a doctor at a local clinic, also said he saw the five bodies. Ramadi, 110 km (70 miles) west of Baghdad, is the capital of Anbar province. "There are no reports that match anything like this," a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said in response to an inquiry.

Reporting in Iraq

"We have first-hand experience of US soldiers shooting our staff and we have been ourselves publicly critical of their investigation process. A year ago one of our TV cameramen was shot dead by American soldiers, but the official investigation exonerated the US soldiers. We have very strong evidence the US soliders did break their own rules. We have lost four people since the start of the war, all of them to American fire — although with one of them there was some doubt. We've raised concerns about the extent to which the US military is holding their soldiers accountable. We are very conscious of how much goes unreported. One thing we can be absolutely sure of, as the people doing most reporting from Iraq, is most stuff goes under-reported, because we don't have the resources to be everywhere. Virtually every journalist I speak to has had some kind of threat — a lot of Iraqi journalists have been killed or threatened coming out of their houses. People get menacing phone calls, people get named on websites. Reuters has been criticised by pretty much every faction at some stage. A lot of people don't get bylines because they want to be anonymous, people are permanently at risk of being followed to where they live, and they have to be extremely discreet about what they do. The risk of a journalist being a victim of one of the dozens of daily assassinations is much bigger than for someone not doing our job — there is the risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and just being blown up. We've had a number of people shot and wounded in the last few weeks alone. We make use of publicity trips when offered by embassies and the military. If that was the only reporting we did from Iraq we'd have a very strange view of things, but it means we can have the opportunity to go in a helicopter and see somewhere else in Iraq. The US embassy were very pleased to show us the refurbishment of Baghdad Central railway station. Unfortunately, security is so bad that there are no trains, so our story was about the railway station that can't go anywhere."

Distrust Breaks The Bonds of a Baghdad Neighborhood

It began with a dispute over the price of ice and erupted into full-scale violence over the sighting of two strange cars cruising the neighborhood. A week later, the scars of sectarian strife were visible everywhere in Tobji. Short concrete blocks and long coils of razor wire barred entry into every block. Stores stood shuttered, and black banners mourned the dead. Women and children stayed inside their sunbaked houses. And young men stood on corners, their eyes darting suspiciously at every car that drove through their divided neighborhood. The scars were also heard in the perplexed voice of Ibrahim Abdul Sattar, a Sunni Arab whose mother and wife, as well as three-quarters of his friends, are Shiite Muslims. He and so many others in Tobji are trapped in a war that is reshaping the identity of their neighborhood and their shared way of life. "We have been living together for 30 years. We've never had such tensions like this before," he said. "We are fearing for our future." Across the capital, mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods have become battlegrounds of sectarian hostilities. West of the Tigris River, hundreds of Shiite families have fled mostly Sunni neighborhoods such as Amiriyah and Ghazaliya. In the east, hundreds of Sunni families have fled mostly Shiite areas such as Amin and Shaab. Increasingly, the strife is spreading into central Baghdad. In still-mixed neighborhoods such as Tobji, nestled in north-central Baghdad,political and militant Islam is clashing with tribal customs and a shared Arab and Muslim identity that have bonded Sunnis and Shiites for decades.

Quarter Million Iraqis Flee Sectarian Violence

A quarter of a million Iraqis have fled their homes and registered as refugees in the past seven months, data released on Thursday showed, amid an upsurge in violence that has accompanied the Ramadan holy month. The sectarian killing continued in Baghdad, where police said they had found the bodies of 40 victims -- bound, tortured and murdered -- in the last 24 hours. The United States says violence in Iraq has surged in the last two weeks, with this week counting the most suicide bombs of any week since the war began in 2003. The registered refugee figures showed 40,000 families -- 240,000 people -- claiming assistance, up from 27,000 families in July. The figures do not include an uncounted number of Iraqis who have moved home without claiming aid.

At Checkpoints in Baghdad, Disguise is a Lifesaving Ritual

One Web site, http://www.iraqirabita.org , offers a 12-point plan for Sunnis to disguise themselves as Shiites. The No. 1 tip: "Get a forged ID card, especially if your name is Omar or Othman." Other tips include keeping a poster of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Muhammad, and a copy of a Shiite prayer book inside your house; keeping a set of black clothes, like those Shiites wear to commemorate special religious occasions; and learning the dates of the births and deaths of the 12 imams.

Alternative Medicine Is Booming in Iraq

Conventional medicine is a mess in Iraq, but business is booming for the Hijamma man. Doctors have fled the country, and others have been assassinated - a U.N. report says at least 102 have been killed, with 250 more kidnapped. Sunnis are afraid to go to hospitals in Shiite neighborhoods. There hasn't been a new hospital built in Baghdad since 1986. But in the Inbaryeen district of northern Baghdad, Ammar Mohammed Shubbar's office is crammed with people seeking his help. Shubbar practices the ancient craft of Hijamma, or cupping. In 21st-century Baghdad, this ancient medical skill, long tied to Islamic tradition with a history in Africa and ancient Egypt, has grown more popular out of necessity. Using small glass-like jars and a surgical knife, Shubbar makes small cuts in one of 123 areas of the body, depending on his patients' complaints: high blood pressure; blood sugar; migraines; back, hand or leg pain; and even some conditions of sterility.

…… Iraq's Ministry of Health recently reported that the country has lost 720 doctors and health employees since April 9, 2003. Informal statistics estimated that more than 2,000 doctors have left the country. Recognizing the problem, the ministry recently announced that it would allow doctors to open private clinics in state hospitals without paying rent as a way of protecting them. In addition to the 102 doctors that the U.N. found had been murdered in Iraq from April 2003 to May 31, 2006, 164 nurses have been killed and 77 wounded. Lack of consistent electricity hampers medical services, as does corruption. Militias and other security forces intimidate medical staff into prioritizing patients who are their members. The decline in medical care is readily evident on Al Saddon Street in the center of Baghdad. It was once known as Doctors' Street and was filled with doctors' offices and clinics. Iraqis from throughout the country's 18 provinces used to go there to find specialists, many of whom had degrees from Western universities. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, however, it became an easy venue for kidnappings and assassinations, and now there are few doctors working there. The rise in sectarian violence has taken its toll as well. People in the Ghazaliya neighborhood in west Baghdad, for instance, no longer go to Al Hakeem hospital in nearby Shula. Ghazaliya is mainly a Sunni neighborhood, and its residents are afraid of being killed or kidnapped if they go to Al Hakeem in Shiite Shula. "Some armed militia members check IDs and they kidnap any Sunni people," said a 35-year-old man who didn't want his name used because of security reasons. The closest safe hospital is 18 miles away.


UN Report: Al-Qaeda Activity in Iraq Remains Disproportionate

Al-Qaeda's activity in Iraq remains disproportionate to its size, and Afghanistan's Taliban rebels continue to benefit from a close relationship with the network and other foreign terrorist groups, according to a U.N. report. As an indication of the close relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against the two groups said "new explosive devices are now used in Afghanistan within a month of their first appearing in Iraq." "And while the Taliban have not been found fighting outside Afghanistan/Pakistan, there have been reports of them training in both Iraq and Somalia," the committee's terrorism experts said. By contrast, it said, al-Qaeda is not only operating in Iraq but there have been many attacks elsewhere that have promoted al-Qaeda objectives, "even if mounted by unconnected groups or individuals with narrowed sectarian or political aims." The new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq purportedly said in an audio message posted online Thursday that more than 4,000 foreign militants have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 – the first apparent acknowledgment from the insurgents about their losses. The Internet message was posted by a man who identified himself as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir – also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri – the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The voice could not be independently identified. The U.N. report examined gains and losses in the last six months for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Despite serious damage to al-Qaeda's leadership, the experts said Taliban gains in Afghanistan are evident in the surge of violence that has led to more than 2,000 deaths between January and July. "While ideological support for the Taliban may be low, high levels of unemployment, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and a general sense of insecurity have made farmers vulnerable to Taliban inducements on the one hand and intimidation on the other," the experts' report said. "By murdering non-Taliban imams, school teachers and tribal and community leaders who might have encouraged a new generation of Afghans to believe in the possibility of peace, the Taliban have managed to undermine earlier progress and have further highlighted the huge problems that face the Afghan government," it said. On the down side for al-Qaeda, the report noted that several intelligence and security agencies said fewer foreign fighters have been killed or captured in Iraq in the last few months, "suggesting that the flow has slackened." On returning home, they noted that some fighters had expressed dissatisfaction that they were asked to kill fellow Muslims rather than foreign soldiers and that the only role for them was to be suicide bombers. "As Iraq continues to slide towards civil war, al-Qaeda may paradoxically see more losses than gains," it said. "It has gained by continuing to play a central role in the fighting and in encouraging the growth of sectarian violence; and Iraq has provided many recruits and an excellent training ground," the report said. But it said "the prominent role of al-Qaeda may diminish as the violence escalates between communities, and distinctions blur between sectarian attacks on markets and places of worship, or purely criminal kidnapping and protection rackets on the one hand, and the fight against Iraqi and non-Iraqi forces on the other."

US Says Attacks Cost Iraq $16 Billion In Oil Exports

Iraq lost $16 billion in oil export revenue for about a two-year period and has not been able to maintain adequate electricity supplies due, in part, to insurgent attacks on the country's energy infrastructure, the U.S. government's independent inspector on Iraqi reconstruction said in a new report. "A number of factors, including attacks, aging and poorly maintained infrastructure and criminal activity are adversely affecting Iraq's ability to develop a viable energy sector," said Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen. "These factors have combined to hold down Iraq's oil exports and the availability of electricity," Bowen said in an unclassified summary released on Thursday of a still-classified audit report prepared in late July. The report said Iraq lost a potential $16 billion in revenue from oil exports between January 2004 and March 2006. Iraq's oil sector, which the Bush administration hoped would be a big revenue raiser to help rebuild Iraq, has been subjected to repeat attacks on its pipelines and oil export facilities. Iraq has the world's third largest crude oil reserves at 115 billion barrels.

Iraq Granted $6.6 Million For Census From World Bank

Iraq has been granted $6.6 million to finance its first nationwide census since 1993 so it can draft a poverty reduction plan, the World Bank said on Thursday. The World Bank-administered multi-donor Iraq Trust Fund offered two grants: $5.1 million to finance the survey on income, spending and living standards and $1.5 million for training on analyzing the results. One generation ago Iraq's income and education and health indicators were high compared with regional averages, but they have since fallen to among the lowest in the region, the World Bank said. A bitter insurgency against U.S. forces in Iraq and rising sectarian violence have stunted economic development [The invasion and occupation and sanctions stunted Iraq's economic development FAR MORE than any insurgency. – dancewater] and made it hard for the government to assess social needs. Earlier on Thursday the Iraqi Migration Ministry said about 80,000 people had fled their homes and registered as refugees in the past two months amid sustained sectarian killing after the destruction of a major Shi'ite shrine in February. "Modern systems for data collection and dissemination are essential for providing Iraq's policymakers with reliable information on which to base their decisions," said World Bank country director Joseph Saba. "This project will enable Iraq's government to establish a poverty line, develop policies to reduce poverty and increase employment, and target social assistance to the neediest." The results should also help Baghdad set the best sequence of reforms to ease poverty and improve employment, Saba said. The World Bank's Iraq Trust Fund has funded 13 projects amounting to nearly $400 million. [Is this money a GRANT or a LOAN? I really cannot tell, but I do hope it is a grant and that the World Bank lets them obtain the data the Iraqis want and allows them to use it for what they want – but I sincerely doubt that will happen. – dancewater]

Turkey: Jailed Kurdish Rebel Chief Makes Ceasefire Call

Jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan issued a call for his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants to implement a ceasefire in a statement faxed to Reuters on Thursday. PKK guerrillas have previously declared several unilateral ceasefires in their separatist conflict with the Turkish state in which more than 30,000 people have died since they took up arms in 1984.


Killings by Shi'ite Militias Detailed

Iraq's two most deadly Shiite Muslim militias have killed thousands of Sunni Arabs since February, with the more experienced Badr Brigade often working in tandem with Al Mahdi army, collecting intelligence on targets and forming hit lists that Al Mahdi militia members carry out, a senior U.S. military official said Wednesday. In some cases, death squads have been accompanied by a "clerical figure to basically run" an Islamic court to provide "the blessing for the conduct of the execution," the official said. The disclosures came during a U.S. intelligence briefing that included details about Shiite militia death squad operations and links to Iranian finance and weapons networks. The military official said there were corrupt Iraqi security officers who allowed Shiite militia members to kill Sunni Arabs in Baghdad neighborhoods that had been secured by joint U.S.-Iraqi military sweeps aimed at quelling sectarian violence. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, but was one of a series of high-ranking American officials who gave detailed briefings to reporters this week, at a time when the U.S. military is struggling to restore order to Baghdad and to press the Iraqi government to move decisively against Shiite militias. The Badr Brigade, the military wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq — a member of the leading Shiite political bloc with 30 seats in parliament — was responsible for most of the Shiite death squad killings last year, the official said. That changed in February, when Sunni Arab insurgents bombed the Shiite shrine of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, and Al Mahdi army, a militia loyal to radical anti-Western Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, moved to the front of a rising sectarian bloodbath. Sadr's political organization also holds 30 parliamentary seats and controls several government ministries. The hallmarks of the Shiite death squads have been mass killings in which the victims are found with their "hands bound, shot in the back or head," and their bodies showing signs of torture, the U.S. official said. Mosques and safehouses in Sadr City, a huge poor Shiite neighborhood that is the Al Mahdi stronghold in Baghdad, have been the base for many death squad operations, the official said. The official also said that Iraq's Interior Ministry, known to be heavily infiltrated by both Shiite militias, was complicit in many of the killings. Militia members have used Iraqi security forces' uniforms and vehicles during assassinations and checkpoint sweeps. American military officials have arrested at least 30 death squad members, the official said, all of them associated with extreme Al Mahdi militia elements. Death squad cells within the Badr Brigade still carry out killings, the official said, but the number of slayings by Al Mahdi extremist cells has far outstripped them.

US Warns Time Short for Iraq PM to Curb Killers

The United States is stepping up pressure on Iraq's prime minister to stop sectarian killers allied to his own government and is stressing its patience is limited for keeping US troops in Iraq to prevent a civil war. Over the past week, several senior U.S. commanders and a top diplomat from the U.S.-led Coalition in Iraq have underlined in background media briefings their support for Nuri al-Maliki's pledge to disarm the militias loyal to fellow Shi'ite Islamists. All said they appreciated the delicacy of Maliki's position and the need to give him time to succeed. But they also voiced mounting frustration at gross corruption and sectarian rivalries within his four-month-old national unity coalition and what they said were continued death squad operations within the police. [Probably put there by Negroponte. I imagine it will take awhile to clean that up. – dancewater] "We have to give it time," one senior U.S. military official said. But he added: "We have, wherever we can, to use what pressure, what influence we have to get them as quickly as possible to clear these places out ... There is going to come a time when ... we are going to have to force this issue." …….U.S. commanders accept that Maliki has his work cut out and that some of the problems with sectarian gangs in the police are the result of the quick-fix U.S. move to bolster security for last year's elections by drafting militiamen on to the payroll. "He's just trying to sort out his own game plan," a senior U.S. intelligence official said, saying Maliki was trying to get to grips with rival Shi'ite groups in his coalition. U.S. policy is not to destroy Sadr politically, he said, noting that the young cleric had a popular base and 30 of the 275 seats in parliament, but to "get the militants off the list ... and get Moqtada Sadr back in the box". Officials describe the task of establishing workable government in Iraq as tackling a "Gordian knot", and some worry that Maliki will fail to impose himself. "In every single ministry ... they're using that ministry to fill up the coffers of the political parties," a senior U.S. military official said, describing corruption as a legacy of Saddam Hussein and cautioning that even if the worst is averted, Washington expects Iraq to fall short of an exemplary democracy. {Legacy of Saddam? How about legacy of the republican-only-no-qualifications-necessary appointees of the Bremer administration? Or legacy of the vast corruption by the "reconstruction" contractors? – dancewater]

Security Efforts in Baghdad Failing

U.S. commanders have focused their efforts on the capital Baghdad over the past two months and say they have managed to reduce the number of sectarian death squad killings in the scattered neighbourhoods they have targeted. But the killers seem to have moved to other neighbourhoods and violence has not subsided in the city as a whole. Death squads were returning to one of the areas the Americans had cleared, Ghazaliya, because police were allowing the killers back in, said a senior U.S. military official who briefed reporters under condition he not be named. "We would ascribe that to probably some measure of some element in MoI [Minister of the Interior - dancewater] facilitating the re-entry of folks into the area," said the official, referring to the Ministry of the Interior which oversees the police. He described a surge in death squad killings since February by militants within the Mehdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, including some who had become "rogue" and were no longer under Sadr's control. The death squads have been seeking out victims using lists of targets and placing them before clerics who give religious sanction to their killings, he said, giving one of the most detailed descriptions of U.S. intelligence on the violence. Since June they have carried out mass kidnappings, often of dozens of people stopped at a roadblock and separated out by their religion. They are held, tortured and killed. "The hallmark we looked at frankly was individuals who had been hands bound, shot in the back or head, often, very often, indicated signs of torture on the body," he said.

US Says Iran Buys Iraq Militia With Arms, Cash

Iran is funnelling weapons and cash to buy the loyalty of armed groups in Iraq, but its long- term influence is bound to wane as Iraqis focus more on their own interests, a senior U.S. military official said. The United States and Britain have in the past accused Iran of fostering violence in Iraq. The Islamic Republic denies it. But the official gave far more detail, and said the latest weapons finds -- including explosives bearing factory stamps indicating they come from Iran -- show that the policy of arming Iraqi militia is supported at high levels in Iran and not the work of rogue Iranian operatives. "You see them enabling all comers," he said. "And by the way, nobody in this country stays bought. You're rented." The senior military official was discussing intelligence issues under condition he not be named, in a briefing with journalists in Baghdad on Wednesday, the transcript of which was made available on Thursday. He estimated that Iran has sent "millions of dollars" to the Mehdi Army militia of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, including rogue elements that had slipped out of Sadr's direct control. [If you read this article and an article under News About Afghanistan, you will see a pattern: the US authorities who started this mess are convinced that it is other people's fault that it is a bloody failure. – dancewater]

US: Iraq Failing To Tackle Death Squads

Senior United States officials have accused the new Iraqi government -- which they previously championed -- of failing to deal with the scourge of sectarian death squads, which are dragging the country into civil war. Fresh figures published on Thursday show that more than 250 000 Iraqis have been displaced by the sectarian violence since February. The details emerged in a week which, say US officials, has seen the highest number of suicide bombings recorded -- half of them aimed at US-led forces. As thousands of Iraqi and US troops continued to conduct cordon-and-search operations across the capital, a senior US officer for the first time publicly questioned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's tactics for quelling the sectarian violence. "We have to fix this militia issue. We can't have armed militias competing with Iraq's security forces. But I have to trust the prime minister to decide when it is that we do that," said Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, the second-highest-ranking American military official in Baghdad. His comments echoed those of Major General James Thurman, commander of US military forces in Baghdad, who said last week he believed the question of militias was "a problem that the [Iraqi] government must deal with immediately". [Hey, maybe if the US authorities in Iraq had done something to stop the death squads in 2004 or 2005 this would be such a huge problem now. But, I think history will show, rather than try to stop the death squads, it was Negroponte and his gang that actually started them up. I thing I do know for sure: in September 2005 when I visited all 100 US Senators office to address this issue, about 95% of them DIDN’T GIVE A DAMN. That tells you something, doesn’t it? – dancewater]

Cleric Said To Lose Reins of Parts of Iraqi Militia

The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has lost control of portions of his Mahdi Army militia that are splintering off into freelance death squads and criminal gangs, a senior coalition intelligence official said Wednesday. The question of how tightly Mr. Sadr holds the militia, one of the largest armed groups in Iraq, is of critical importance to American and Iraqi officials. Seeking to ease the sectarian violence raging across the country, they have pressed him to join the political process and curb his fighters, who see themselves as defenders of Shiism — and often as agents of vengeance against Sunnis. But as Mr. Sadr has taken a more active role in the government, as many as a third of his militiamen have grown frustrated with the constraints of compromise and have broken off, often selling their services to the highest bidders, said the official, who spoke to reporters in Baghdad on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak publicly on intelligence issues. "When Sadr says you can't do this, for whatever political reason, that's when they start to go rogue," the official said. "Frankly, at that point, they start to become very open to alternative sources of sponsorship." The official said that opened the door to control by Iran. Mr. Sadr's militia — dominated by impoverished Shiites who are loosely organized into groups that resemble neighborhood protection forces — has always operated in a grass-roots style but generally tended to heed his commands. It answered his call to battle American forces in two uprisings in 2004, and stopped fighting when he ordered it. But as the violence in Iraq has spread, evidence of freelancing Shiites has accumulated.


BAGHDAD - As part of its national reconciliation plan, the Iraqi government said in a statement it had released 120 prisoners to mark the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Iraq Central Court Announces Convictions of 22 Suspected Insurgents

Iraq's Central Criminal Court said Thursday it had convicted 22 suspected insurgents of a range of crimes, including weapons violations and illegally entering the country. The defendants were convicted in proceedings from Sept. 8 to Sept. 14, and sentences ranged from one year in prison to 15 years, the court said. Those convicted of passport violations and entering the country illegally included men from Syria, Yemen and France. A Lebanese man, Muhammed Ahmad Salah, also admitted coming to Iraq to fight coalition forces, the court said. An Iraqi man, Abdul-Elwareth Al-Said Abdul-Elwareth Al-Maghrabi, was sentenced to 10 years on illegal weapons violations. The court said he was found in possession of weapons including 28 rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) warheads, five SKS machine guns, three AKS assault rifles, 10,000 AK-47 rounds, and 400 14.5 mm anti-aircraft rounds.

Is Saddam Hussein Getting a Fair Trial?

The trial of the former Iraqi dictator charged with some of the worst human rights crimes of recent times has been adjourned until October 9. The latest chief judge, Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa, suspended proceedings when Saddam Hussein and his six co-defendants were thrown out of court this week after a shouting match which almost drowned the judge's orders. Ten months after it began under the most intense of media spotlights, the trial is in chaos, with little hope of improvement until it finally staggers to a close. Contrary to the practice of justice elsewhere in the world, the verdict appears not to be in doubt - the former President of Iraq will almost certainly be convicted of a number of crimes which carry the death penalty. The Iraqi Government has publicly declared him guilty and has removed judges who did not overtly support this belief. There have even been discussions among politicians on whether he is entitled to die by firing squad, a privilege of the Iraqi officer corps, or hanging, the fate of more common criminals. No one knows when proceedings will end as the prosecutors say they are still considering further charges. In January, chief judge Rizgar Amin resigned after complaints that he failed to keep order. Five weeks later his successor, Sayeed al-Hammashi, was removed after it was disclosed he was a former Ba'ath Party member. Next came Judge Abdel-Rahman who, despite being from Halabjah, was deemed to be impartial. He left complaining of political interference and was succeeded by Abdullah al-Amiri, who caused consternation by telling Saddam, "You were never a dictator." Seven people connected with the trial have been killed and one lawyer has fled abroad.


Heralded Iraq Police Academy a "Disaster"

A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found. The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

Contractor's Work in Iraq Under Scrutiny

The contractor that botched construction of a $75 million police academy in Baghdad so badly that it was deemed a health risk has produced shoddy work on 13 out of 14 projects reviewed by federal auditors, the top official monitoring Iraq's reconstruction told Congress today. The projects managed by California-based Parsons Corp. are at the heart of the $21 billion U.S.-led Iraq reconstruction program, including fire stations, border forts and health care facilities. The one project for which construction work met standards -- a prison -- was cancelled by the government before it was completed because of escalating costs.

Contactor’s Work is Further Criticized

The contractor that botched construction of a $75 million police academy in Baghdad so badly that human waste dripped from the ceilings has produced shoddy work on 13 out of 14 projects reviewed by federal auditors, the top official monitoring Iraq's reconstruction told Congress yesterday. In a House hearing on what has gone wrong with reconstruction contracts in Iraq, Parsons Corp. quickly became the focus, taking bipartisan heat for its record of falling short on critical projects. The Pasadena, Calif., firm was supposed to build facilities at the heart of the $21 billion U.S.-led reconstruction program, including fire stations, border forts and health-care centers. But inspectors have found a litany of flaws in the firm's work. The one project reviewed by auditors that was being constructed correctly, a prison, was taken away from Parsons before its completion because of escalating costs.


Cost of Iraq and Afghanistan Wars (to US Taxpayers)

The total cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and enhanced security at military bases since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks could reach $549 billion this year, a new report to Congress concludes. The projection by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service is based on an update in July from the White House Office of Management and Budget, which estimated that war costs will total $110 billion for fiscal year 2007, which begins Sunday. In fiscal year 2005, the Pentagon spent an average of $6.4 billion a month in Iraq and $1.3 billion a month in Afghanistan. During fiscal year 2006, it's projected that those costs will have increased to about $8 billion a month in Iraq and $1.5 billion per month in Afghanistan.

Controversial Group Wins US Propaganda Contract in Iraq

A public relations company known for its role in a controversial U.S. military program that paid Iraqi newspapers for stories favourable to coalition forces has been awarded another multi-million dollar media contract with American forces in Iraq. Washington-based Lincoln Group won a two-year contract to monitor a number of English and Arabic media outlets and produce public relations-type products such as talking points or speeches for U.S. forces in Iraq, officials said Tuesday. The contract is worth roughly US$6.2 million per year over a two-year period, according to Johnson. The idea is to use the information to "build support" in Iraqi, Arabic, international and U.S. audiences for what the military describes as its goals in Iraq such as destroying the insurgency and helping Iraqis build a democracy, according to contract documents. The list of media outlets to be watched includes the New York Times, Fox Television and the satellite channel, Al-Arabia. The Lincoln Group was mired in controversy last year when it became known the company had been part of a U.S. military operation to pay Iraqi newspapers to run positive stories about coalition activities. According to the company's Web site, it was created in 2003 to do public relations and communications work in challenging environments such as Iraq.

Bush Misleads On Iraq

Veteran Washington reporter Bob Woodward tells Mike Wallace that the Bush administration has not told the truth regarding the level of violence, especially against U.S. troops, in Iraq. He also reveals key intelligence that predicts the insurgency will grow worse next year. In Wallace’s interview with Woodward, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes this Sunday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. ET/PT, the reporter also claims that Henry Kissinger is among those advising Mr. Bush. According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. "It’s getting to the point now where there are eight-, nine-hundred attacks a week. That's more than 100 a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces," says Woodward. The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. "The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" he tells Wallace. "Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know," says Woodward. "The insurgents know what they are doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn't know? The American public," Woodward tells Wallace. Woodward also reports that the president and vice president often meet with Henry Kissinger, who was President Richard Nixon’s secretary of state, as an adviser. Says Woodward, "Now what’s Kissinger’s advice? In Iraq, he declared very simply, ‘Victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.'" Woodward adds. "This is so fascinating. Kissinger’s fighting the Vietnam War again because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will." President Bush is absolutely certain that he has the U.S. and Iraq on the right course, says Woodward. So certain is the president on this matter, Woodward says, that when Mr. Bush had key Republicans to the White House to discuss Iraq, he told them, "I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me."

Peaceful Iraq War Protests Prompt 71 Arrests

Two Presbyterian ministers were among 71 people arrested during a series of peaceful protests against the Iraq war Tuesday. Demonstrators held sit-ins, prayer services and sing-alongs at four locations in the Capitol complex, including the central atrium of the Senate Hart Office Building. [CNN has a nice video of peace campaigners lying down in the atrium and being arrested, while they are serenaded from one balcony as bemused Senate staffers look on from another.


OPINION: Declassifying the Obvious

THE JUDGMENT OF THE National Intelligence Estimate partly made public this week — that "the Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists" — did not unveil an especially novel viewpoint or theory. So why has the report, assembled by U.S. intelligence agencies in April, caused such a sensation? Partly it's the official pedigree of the document; partly it's the unconvincing attempt by President Bush to explain it away. In announcing Tuesday that he would declassify parts of the report, he testily suggested that the actual language would discredit "speculation" that it had linked the war in Iraq to a heightened terrorist threat. But the material released to the public came to essentially that conclusion (though it also backed Bush's contention that if jihadists failed in Iraq, they would recruit "fewer fighters" in the future).

OPINION: We Came, We Saw, We Made Enemies

Comes the ultimate irony. The nation's 16 intelligence agencies, providing their first comprehensive analysis of the war in Iraq since Bush launched it, conclude that Iraq is indeed a vital target in the war on terrorism — because the attack on Iraq by the United States and some allies has made it so. The war rallied Islamic extremists from around the world to Baghdad and provided a rallying cry and recruiting tool beyond Osama's most fervent prayers. In fact, the National Intelligence Council report, prepared in April, says the continuing bloody war in Iraq provides Islamic extremists with a continuing source of ammunition for diatribes against America and the West. It helps them lure new fighters to their deadly cause in new, unaffiliated networks of fundamentalist extremists linked only by their common enemy: us. Short version: Iraq wasn't a terrorist threat when we attacked it; it is now because we did attack and botched the job so badly that terrorists are dying to go there and learn how to kill Americans anywhere. So the world is safe from Saddam (who was never a threat) but more vulnerable to terrorism, which (back to the beginning) was on the ropes in the early days in Afghanistan.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie, but rather mourn the apathetic throng, the coward and the meek who see the world's great anguish and its wrong, and dare not speak. - Ralph Chaplin

PEACE ACTION: Take the voters’ peace pledge. "I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign."

ANOTHER PEACE ACTION: Progressive Democrats of America has been working and organizing support for HR 4232 since Rep. McGovern introduced this important bill in November of 2005. Rep. McGovern spoke at the PDA "Get out of Iraq" Town Hall meeting the day after he introduced HR 4232. We continue to work for its passage as a top legislative priority. We urge you to continue organizing support for HR 4232 and to ask your Congressional member to co-sponsor the bill. PDA is committed to cutting off all funding for deployment of US troops in Iraq and for the removal of all funding for the occupation of Iraq. Please sign the online petition at www.pdamerica.org and send it to your friends.


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