Saturday, September 09, 2006



Two passers-bys died after a car bomb explosion struck a US military convoy in Baghdad's Maysaloun Square. The US military command did not immediately release any information on whether there were any US casualties, although five other people were wounded.

A car bomb exploded in the city's eastern neighborhood of al-Ghadeer. At least two pedestrians were killed and five were wounded, while the blast also struck a passing U.S. military convoy. U.S. soldiers cordoned off the area around a burned-out Humvee, and there was no word on whether there were any U.S. casualties. (This and the incident above are probably the same. I can’t tell by my map if Maysaloun Square is in al-Ghadeer. –m)

Insurgents set off a bomb against a US Humvee jeep in Baghdad's eastern Jadida neighbourhood in which three soldiers were wounded. An AFP photographer at the scene of the blast said that the Humvee was completely destroyed.

A bomb exploded at a generator near Baghdad's al-Kindi intersection, wounding two civilians.

Police foiled an attempted car suicide bombing against a police station near a mosque in Baghdad's northern Azamiyah neighborhood. Police shot and killed the suicide bomber, detonating the explosives in his car, before he reached the police station. The blast killed one policeman and wounded 10 civilians.

A roadside bomb targeting a police foot patrol in east Baghdad wounded two policemen.

Two Iraqi soldiers were wounded by another roadside bomb which had apparently been intended to strike a U.S.-Iraqi convoy in the northern part of the capital.

The Interior Ministry announced that police had arrested a suspect planting a roadside bomb in the Dora neighborhood and had found a bomb factory in a subsequent search of the man's house.

In the center of Baghdad a bomb exploded as a man planted it by the side of a road, killing the man and wounding another person, and damaging two civilian cars.

Gunmen opened fire on a technician of Iraq's government-run newspaper in Baghdad, killing him and wounding his driver. Abdul Karim al-Rubaiei was heading to work through the Karradah district in downtown Baghdad when gunmen opened fire from another car. Al-Rubaiei was killed and his driver, Sami Ahmed, was seriously wounded.

Al-Hamiyah area South of the capital, Iraqi police arrested a man found with 400 hand grenades and four bombs in his car in the al-Hamiyah area about 40 miles south of Baghdad.


One man was murdered in front of his home in Baquba.

The body of a man shot who had been shot to death was found in Baquba.

Diyala Province

In the province of Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, four civilians were shot dead in separate attacks.


A car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in Haswa, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Baghdad. According to eyewitnesses, a mortar round landed when people rushed to the scene, killing two people and injured 13.


Two civilians were shot dead in Khalis.

Provincial police said they had recovered a severed head from the roadside in the town of Khalis.

Kirkuk In Kirkuk a roadside bomb killed three policemen and wounded 11.

Twin blasts killed four people and wounded 16 in Kirkuk. The bombers detonated the second device as a police patrol arrived on the scene of the first blast, killing one officer and wounding two. Mahmudiyah

Authorities discovered the bodies of six people who had been shot dead in Mahmudiyah.

Suwayah Police found an unidentified body which was blindfolded and had its hands and feet bound, in the Tigris River in Suwayah. The body had been shot several times.

Authorities discovered the bodies of four people who had been shot dead in the town of Suwayrah, which has become a common dumping ground for victims of sectarian killings.


In Tikrit one civilian was killed by gunmen.

A slight discrepancy: Updated figures from Iraq's Health Ministry show there was no significant decline in violent deaths in Baghdad last month, but the U.S. military insisted Thursday the murder rate in the capital had fallen by 52 percent.

Baghdad recorded more than 1,500 violent deaths in August, according to final figures released this week by the Health Ministry. The final count was roughly the same as the figure the ministry released for July, before the U.S.-led security crackdown began in the Baghdad area.

The final figure also was nearly three times the preliminary count released by the same ministry last week.

If accurate, the final figures cast doubt on U.S. and Iraqi claims of a significant reduction in the level of violence here since the crackdown was launched Aug. 7.

Asked about the latest Iraqi figures Thursday, U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson refused to provide an explanation, merely referring The Associated Press to a statement on a U.S. military Web site that said the murder rate in Baghdad dropped 52 percent from the daily rate for July.

It’s easy to make casualties go down – just don’t count them!: U.S. officials, seeking a way to measure the results of a program aimed at decreasing violence in Baghdad, aren't counting scores of dead killed in car bombings and mortar attacks as victims of the country's sectarian violence.

In a distinction previously undisclosed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Friday that the United States is including in its tabulations of sectarian violence only deaths of individuals killed in drive-by shootings or by torture and execution.

That has allowed U.S. officials to boast that the number of deaths from sectarian violence in Baghdad declined by more than 52 percent in August over July.

But it eliminates from tabulation huge numbers of people whose deaths are certainly part of the ongoing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Not included, for example, are scores of people who died in a highly coordinated bombing that leveled an entire apartment building in eastern Baghdad, a stronghold of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

I wonder how Lt. Col. Barry Johnson can look at himself in the mirror each morning…-m

It’s so much better since Saddam was overthrown: The senior commander of U.S. and Iraqi forces in northern Iraq said Friday that a small number of "torture chambers" apparently used for sectarian violence were discovered along the Diyala River.

Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner II, whose area of responsibility stretches from the Iranian border north to Turkey and west to the Syrian border, told reporters at the Pentagon that two or three small rooms were found in May or June. He mentioned them as examples of sectarian strife that has spread from Baghdad to other parts of Iraq.

$3.47 billion dollars. What does an IED cost, a couple hundred bucks?: Roadside bombs in Iraq rose to record numbers this summer -- to about four times as many as in January 2004 -- as tips from Iraqi citizens warning of the bombs and attacks have dropped sharply amid a flaring of sectarian violence, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

About 1,200 improvised explosive devices (IEDS) -- the leading killer of U.S. troops in Iraq -- were detonated in August as insurgents continue to invent new ways to design and hide the lethal munitions, according to retired Army Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, which is spearheading efforts to curb the bombs.

"We're making slow, grudging progress," Meigs said in a briefing with reporters. "We're not going to bat a thousand." But he predicted his organization -- which has grown from a small Army initiative of 12 people in 2003 to a Pentagon entity with 269 employees and a fiscal 2006 budget of $3.47 billion -- will "do better" over time.

Call to arms: Iraq’s rival Muslim communities went to their mosques Friday amid fears of new violence after the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq urged the country’s Sunni minority to rise up and kill Americans.

In an Internet address rebroadcast on satellite television networks, Al Qaeda’s chief in Iraq and car bomb expert Abu Hamza Al Muhajer told his followers to each kill at least one American within two weeks.

Sunni preachers distanced themselves from the message, but it stirred tensions as violence killed 11 people around the country and the health ministry confirmed that 1,584 people were killed in Baghdad last month.

Juan Cole analysis: The ongoing ethnic cleansing and piecemeal partition of Iraq most often takes place along ethnic and sectarian lines. Kurds fight Arabs, Sunnis fight Shiites, and so on. The recent battles in Diwaniyah, Karbala and Basra, however, raise the specter of Shiite-on-Shiite violence, and on a level that may pull in coalition troops and further imperil the U.S. mission in Iraq.

The provincial elections of January 2005 brought Shiite religious parties to power in 11 of Iraq's 18 provinces. Nine of those provinces are dominated by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. SCIRI was formed in Iran in the early 1980s by Iraqi Shiite expatriates who had fled the repression of Saddam Hussein. Its paramilitary wing, the Badr Corps, was trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Its leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, remains close to the hardliners in Iran, who were his generous hosts for more than two decades. He is dedicated to the creation of a huge, nine-province regional confederacy in the Shiite south, a super-province on the model of Kurdistan in the north.

But since the elections, the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr has spread like wildfire throughout the south. The appeal of the beefy, strident young Shiite cleric is mysterious to most Americans. In Iraqi terms, however, he has staked out a clear position as a champion of the poor and a nationalist. He urges that local neighborhoods organize branches of his Mahdi army for self-protection from the depredations of the Sunni guerrilla movement. He has expanded from his initial base in the vast slums of east Baghdad, which were renamed Sadr City after the U.S. invasion in honor of his sainted father, into the small towns of the southern Shiite heartland.

A conflict is therefore brewing between SCIRI, which controls the provincial governments (including that of Baghdad itself), and the Sadr movement, which increasingly represents the current thinking of the electorate.

Antiquities: There is mounting concern among scholars that the appointment of religiously conservative Shiite Muslims throughout Iraq’s traditionally secular archaeological institutions could threaten the preservation of the country’s pre-Islamic history.

Donny George’s recent departure as chairman of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and his flight to Syria with his family, is among the latest results of a transformation that began in December when a Shiite-dominated government was elected in Baghdad. The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who commands his own militia, emerged with enough seats in Parliament to take control of four ministries and to create a Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, traditionally under the Ministry of Culture, now reports to this new ministry as well.

“The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities wants to control Iraq’s archaeological heritage by demolishing this institution, one of the oldest institutions in Iraq,” Dr. George said in a telephone interview from Damascus. “This will be a disaster for this field, and for the cultural heritage of the country.”

Iraq and Iran

Visit planned: Iraq’s prime minister announced plans to visit Iran on Monday, just days after his deputy returned from the country, accompanied by several top officials.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will spend two days in Iran, the Cabinet said in a statement Saturday.

The trip “is to confirm the establishment of friendly and balanced relations based on common interest and respect of the sovereignty of the two countries without any interference in internal affairs,” the statement said.

Here's something else they can talk about: The Iranian military seized five Iraqi soldiers after a cross-border skirmish Thursday, Iraqi authorities said Friday.

The captured troops were part of a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol that trekked on Thursday afternoon to a border post near Mandali, a town of 13,000 located about 75 miles northeast of Baghdad, to investigate reports that a large number of Iranians were crossing into Iraq there, according to Brig. Gen. Subhi Bairam, commander of the Mandali police.

Some Good News For A Change

No major attacks: Millions of Shiite pilgrims thronged the streets of the holy city of Karbala Saturday for a religious festival, and Iraqi army and police deployed to prevent possible infiltration from suicide bombers. About 4 million people were in Karbala for the festival observing the birthday of Imam al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, a 9th-century religious leader, said Iraqi armed forces general command spokesman Brig. Qassim al-Musawi. Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Samir Abdullah said Friday that security forces "have tightened their control on the ground and our only concern now is rockets launched from a far distance." Cars have been banned since Wednesday.

But the underlying tensions remain: Pilgrims left the Shiite holy city of Karbala after the peaceful end of a major festival where their leaders reaffirmed controversial calls for an autonomous region like that of the Kurds in northern Iraq.

Prominent Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim used the celebration of the birth of the Mahdi, a 9th century Shiite imam, to renew his call for an autonomous Shiite region in central and southern Iraq -- something the nation's once dominant Sunni Arab minority fears.

US Politics

China gets to loan us more: The Senate agreed to spend an additional $63 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as lawmakers on Thursday passed a massive bill that funds the Pentagon.

The bill sailed through by a vote of 98-0 after senators added money to help track down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and fight the opium trade in Afghanistan that is helping fuel the Taliban's resurgence.

The overwhelming support for the overall bill and the money to support U.S. troops in harm's way came despite increasing criticism by Democrats of the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq.

The bill now totals $469.7 billion. It grew by more than $16 billion during a debate that began in July before it was suspended during lawmakers' four-week August recess.

How pathetic: Democratic and Republican senators engaged Wednesday in a made-for-the-campaign debate over President Bush's Iraq policy during a nonbinding Democratic resolution calling for the dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

But the outcome was known even before the start of the talking, which stretched more than four hours. The Senate's Republican leaders said in advance that they would rule the minority's resolution out of order as an amendment to a $468.4 billion military spending bill on the Senate floor.

With polls showing a majority of Americans opposed to the war that has killed more than 2,600 U.S. troops, Democrats believe their criticism of the president's policy in Iraq will help them capture a majority in the House or the Senate in the Nov. 7 midterm elections. During Wednesday's debate, Democratic senators repeatedly called for changes in the war policy and in the Pentagon's leadership, listed what they called Rumsfeld's numerous mistakes prosecuting the war, and chastised their Republican colleagues for failing to oversee the Bush administration's policy.

Republicans used the debate to paint Democrats as naive defeatists who would endanger the United States by abandoning Iraq. They accused the Democrats of pursuing Rumsfeld solely to score points with voters.

This is just sick: The Senate on Wednesday rejected a move by Democrats to stop the Pentagon from using cluster bombs near civilian targets and to cut off sales unless purchasers abide by the same rules.

On a 70-30 vote, the Senate defeated an amendment to a Pentagon budget bill to block use of the deadly munitions near populated areas. The vote came after the State Department announced last month that it is investigating whether Israel misused American-made cluster bombs in civilian areas of Lebanon.

Finally, a Republican worth some respect: Mr. Paton, running for his second two-year term in the Arizona House, is one of four Republicans in his district’s primary on Sept. 12 who are competing for two seats. The balloting occurs five days after Lieutenant Paton, an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve, is due at Fort Benning, Ga., to prepare for a five-month to six-month tour in Iraq and, maybe, Afghanistan.

An untold number of mayors and city council members in the National Guard and the Reserves have served in the war, along with, according to a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a handful of the 57 state legislators nationwide who are in the military.

Five members of Congress serve in reserve branches. But by law and Defense Department policy their status as federal officeholders automatically places them in the Standby Reserve, making it less likely that they will be called to combat duty.

Mr. Paton, 35, stands out. Unlike most of the others, he has asked to go, a decision that surprised and shocked some family members and friends, though he said most had expressed support.

Mr. Paton said he did not want his status as an elected official to excuse him from combat, something instructors in a training program he attended last year suggested would happen. He decided that his full-throated support of the war would seem contradictory if he was not willing to serve.

“I had to put my money where my mouth is,” said Mr. Paton, who first asked to go last year, after a stateside active-duty deployment, and received word in late July that he would.

So, Did This Story Make The Front Page Of Your Paper?

The disaster was our policy: Today, via Orin Kerr, comes a remarkable interview with Brigadier General Mark Scheid, chief of the Logistics War Plans Division after 9/11, and one of the people with primary responsibility for war planning. Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan, he says, Donald Rumsfeld told his team to start planning for war in Iraq, but not to bother planning for a long stay:

"The secretary of defense continued to push on us ... that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we're going to take out the regime, and then we're going to leave," Scheid said. "We won't stay."

Scheid said the planners continued to try "to write what was called Phase 4," or the piece of the plan that included post-invasion operations like occupation.

Even if the troops didn't stay, "at least we have to plan for it," Scheid said.

"I remember the secretary of defense saying that he would fire the next person that said that," Scheid said. "We would not do planning for Phase 4 operations, which would require all those additional troops that people talk about today.

"He said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war."

...."In his own mind he thought we could go in and fight and take out the regime and come out. But a lot of us planners were having a real hard time with it because we were also thinking we can't do this. Once you tear up a country you have to stay and rebuild it. It was very challenging."

In a way, this is old news. As much as it beggars the imagination, there's been plenty of evidence all along that Bush never took the idea of rebuilding Iraq seriously. The plan was to remove Saddam from power, claim victory, and get out.

However, this is the clearest evidence I've seen yet. The guy who was actually in charge of logistics has now directly confirmed that Rumsfeld not only didn't intend to rebuild Iraq in any serious way, but threatened to fire anyone who wasted time on the idea.

Ancient History: The Lies That Led Us To War

Bush knew our intelligence disputed Saddam-Osama links: A declassified report released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence revealed that U.S. intelligence analysts were strongly disputing the alleged links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda while senior Bush administration officials were publicly asserting those links to justify invading Iraq.

Far from aligning himself with al-Qaeda and Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Hussein repeatedly rebuffed al-Qaeda's overtures and tried to capture Zarqawi, the report said. Tariq Aziz, the detained former deputy prime minister, has told the FBI that Hussein "only expressed negative sentiments about [Osama] bin Laden."

Bush is still making those links today: Saddam Hussein regarded al-Qaida as a threat rather than a possible ally, a Senate report says, contradicting assertions President Bush has used to build support for the war in Iraq.

Released Friday, the report discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that before the war, Saddam's government "did not have a relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward" al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or his associates.

Saddam told U.S. officials after his capture that he had not cooperated with Osama bin Laden even though he acknowledged that officials in his government had met with the al-Qaida leader, according to FBI summaries cited in the Senate report.

"Saddam only expressed negative sentiments about bin Laden," Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi leader's top aide, told the FBI.

As recently as an Aug. 21 news conference, Bush said people should "imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein" with the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction and "who had relations with Zarqawi."

The DIA told Bush that the INC was penetrated by the Iranians in 2002: The report, one of two newly declassified reports released by the Senate Intelligence Committee, drew on a previously undisclosed October 2005 CIA assessment as Americans prepared to mark the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States by al Qaeda.

The reports quickly became part of a political battle on Capitol Hill where Democrats and Republicans are wrestling over national security issues before congressional elections in November.

The other report said the administration chose to provide funding to the Iraqi National Congress, or INC, exile group in 2002 over a warning by the Defense Intelligence Agency that the INC had been penetrated by "hostile intelligence services" and was intent on influencing U.S. policy toward Saddam.

But will any of this get through to the 40% of Americans who think Saddam directed 9-11?: The Central Intelligence Agency last fall repudiated the claim that there were prewar ties between Saddam Hussein’s government and an operative of Al Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to a report issued Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The disclosure undercuts continuing assertions by the Bush administration that such ties existed, and that they provided evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The Republican-controlled committee, in a second report, also sharply criticized the administration for its reliance on the Iraqi National Congress during the prelude to the war in Iraq.

The findings are part of a continuing inquiry by the committee into prewar intelligence about Iraq. The conclusions went beyond its earlier findings, issued in the summer of 2004, by including criticism not just of American intelligence agencies but also of the administration.

A blast from the past – Friday, June 18, 2004: President Bush yesterday defended his assertions that there was a relationship between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, putting him at odds with this week's finding of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission.

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," Bush said after a Cabinet meeting. As evidence, he cited Iraqi intelligence officers' meeting with bin Laden in Sudan. "There's numerous contacts between the two," Bush said.

However, since Mr. Bush has not, to our knowledge, received oral sex in the Oval Office, there is no need to discuss impeachment. That should be reserved for truly serious transgressions. -m

The 9-11 Anniversary

Thank goodness Bush would never politicize it: President George W. Bush scheduled a prime-time speech on the fifth anniversary of September 11 on Monday amid acrimonious election-year debate over whether America is safer and who is to blame for the attacks.

The Oval Office address, marking five years to the hijacked plane attacks that killed almost 3,000 people, is the latest in a series in which Bush has insisted the United States is more secure while still facing an al Qaeda threat.

Bush has been trying to frame a debate on national security to political and policy advantage and keep his Republicans from losing control of the U.S. Congress to Democrats in the November election.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the Monday speech would not be political and that Bush was not trying to rekindle the warm glow he got from Americans of all political stripes after the attacks, only to lose it along with his high popularity ratings as a result of the Iraq war.

The unholy symbiosis: With the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks fast approaching, President Bush took to the podium Tuesday to speak to Americans about his administration's global war on terror.

Three things can be expected from Bush's speech, according to a new study by three Columbia University researchers: The media will repeat the president's remarks. Public fear of terrorism will increase. And the president's poll numbers will rise.

Those have been the effects of presidential pronouncements on terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to political scientists Brigitte Nacos, Yaeli Bloch-Elkon and Robert Shapiro, in a report prepared for this month's annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.

"These are interesting findings, and confirm what many of us had suspected," said Mark Juergensmeyer, director of Global and International Studies at UC Santa Barbara, who reviewed the research at the request of The Chronicle.

"This public panic benefits the terrorists whose work is made easier by an overactive government response that magnifies their efforts. In an odd way this puts the government and the terrorists in league with one another," he said. "The main loser, alas, is the terrified public."

It’s about time someone at this level said this: "The absolute cynical manipulation, deliberately cynical manipulation, to shape American public opinion and 69 percent of the people, at that time, it worked, they said 'we want to go to war,'" Rockefeller told CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. "Including me. The difference is after I began to learn about some of that intelligence I went down to the Senate floor and I said 'my vote was wrong.'" Rockefeller went a step further. He says the world would be better off today if the United States had never invaded Iraq — even if it means Saddam Hussein would still be running Iraq. He said he sees that as a better scenario, and a safer scenario, "because it is called the 'war on terror.'"

Does Rockefeller stands by his view, even if it means that Saddam Hussein could still be in power if the United States didn't invade? "Yes. Yes. [Saddam] wasn't going to attack us. He would've been isolated there," Rockefeller said. "He would have been in control of that country but we wouldn't have depleted our resources preventing us from prosecuting a war on terror which is what this is all about."

Thanks, Senator Rockefeller, and I mean that sincerely. But why did it take you three years to point out what has been obvious all along? -m

A Brief Look At Our Ally In The War On Islamofascism

Equality: Officials are considering an unprecedented proposal to ban women from performing the five Muslim prayers in the immediate vicinity of Islam's most sacred shrine in Mecca. Some say women are already being kept away.

The issue has raised a storm of protest across the kingdom, with some women saying they fear the move is meant to restrict women's roles in Saudi society even further. But the religious authorities behind the proposal insist its real purpose is to lessen the chronic problem of overcrowding, which has led to deadly riots during pilgrimages at Mecca in the past.

Fred Phelps would love these guys: Saudi Arabia's religious police - who routinely admonish women to cover themselves and men to attend mosque prayers - have issued a decree banning the sale of cats and dogs.

The prohibition on dogs isn't too surprising, since conservative Muslims consider dogs unclean.

But even though cats and dogs are often seen as a sign of Western affluence, Islamic tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad loved cats.

Not Directly Pertinent To Iraq

But check out number eight!: The San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper has printed a list of stories we in the media seem to have largely ignored over the past year. The story is gleaned from an annual list developed by Project Censored, a media research group out of Sonoma State University that tracks the news published in independent journals and newsletters.

Here are the Top 10 most ignored stories.

1. The Feds and the media muddy the debate over Internet freedom

2. Halliburton charged with selling nuclear technology to Iran

3. World oceans in extreme danger

4. Hunger and homelessness increasing in the United States

5. High-tech genocide in Congo

6. Federal whistleblower protection in jeopardy

7. U.S. operatives torture detainees to death in Afghanistan and Iraq

8. Pentagon exempt from Freedom of Information Act

9. World Bank funds Israel-Palestine wall

10. Expanded air war in Iraq kills more civilians

How much of our Iraq news is from guys like these?: At least 10 Florida journalists received regular payments from a U.S. government program aimed at undermining the Cuban government of Fidel Castro, The Miami Herald reported on Friday.

Total payments since 2001 ranged from $1,550 to $174,753 per journalist, according to the newspaper, which said it found no instance in which those involved had disclosed that they were being paid by the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting.

That Liberal Mainstream Media

Quite a trick – cover your ass and suck up at the same time: In a New York Times article (9/6/06) on George W. Bush's September 5 speech concerning terrorism and Iraq, reporters David Sanger and John O'Neil included a striking revision of Bush's reasoning for going to war:

“The possibility that Saddam Hussein might develop 'weapons of mass destruction' and pass them to terrorists was the prime reason Mr. Bush gave in 2003 for ordering the invasion of Iraq.” Of course, the drive to war rested firmly on Bush's repeated and emphatic claim that Hussein had already developed WMDs, which he possessed and was prepared to use—a bogus claim that the mainstream media, led by the Times' own Judith Miller, largely accepted as an article of faith and bolstered with credulous reports based on faulty information. […]

The New York Times' revision of the record, maintaining that Bush only presented Iraqi WMDs as a "possibility," threatens to erase one of the most significant chapters of recent history, in effect clearing the Bush administration—and the Times—of their role in misleading the country into war. ACTION: Tell the New York Times to correct the record on the Bush administration's prime reason for invading Iraq. CONTACT: New York Times Byron Calame, Public Editor public@nytimes.com Phone: (212) 556-7652


The Economist Special Report: The bipartisan feelings that followed September 11th could hardly have lasted for ever. But it is still surprising how far the warm courage of national unity has turned into fiery partisanship. The change was first seen in Howard Dean's revolt against the Democratic establishment as he sought the party's presidential nomination—an establishment which, in his view, had allowed Mr Bush to turn the terrorist attacks into a carte blanche for his party. And it continues to drive not just politics but also popular culture. Neil Young, whose 2001 song “Let's Roll” paid tribute to the bravery of the passengers who stormed the hijackers on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania, is now singing about impeaching the president.

The main cause of this partisanship is the Iraq war, which is proving even more divisive than Vietnam. Immediately after September 11th Americans were ready to blame Saddam Hussein: in a poll taken two days later 34% of respondents thought it “very likely” that he had been personally involved and 44% thought it “somewhat likely”. Large majorities of both political parties—80% of Republicans and 69% of Democrats—backed the war with Iraq.

But conservative hawks were always keenest on making the link. At a meeting in Camp David just after September 11th Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary, argued three times that America should attack Iraq rather than Afghanistan. And many Democrats were always sceptical: 126 Democratic House members and 21 senators voted against the Iraqi war resolution in October 2002. Democratic opposition to the war expanded as America failed to get UN approval for deposing Mr Hussein. And it turned to fury when America failed to find WMD or to quell the resistance. Today nothing inspires more anger on the left than the belief that Mr Bush exploited September 11th to justify long-laid plans to remove the Iraqi president.

Still, there is more to America's polarisation than Iraq. The partisanship has been partly driven by political opportunism, as the Republicans have tried to turn September 11th into a vote-winner. How could the Democrats forgive the Republicans for branding Max Cleland, a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam, as being too soft on terrorism to be worthy of re-election to his Georgia Senate seat in 2002? But the split has also been driven by deep philosophical differences, briefly suppressed, about America's role in the world.

Robert Dreyfuss: President Bush strutted confidently last year in advance of the December Iraqi elections, brashly predicting that U.S. victory is just around the corner. Then, in the spring, after the bombing of the Golden Dome in Samarra, the president shifted to a kind of gritted-teeth forced optimism as the shaky government of Prime Minister Maliki took shape amid intensifying sectarian violence. Now, as Iraqi deaths mount at the rate of 3,000 per month, Bush has all but abandoned talk of victory and is reduced to issuing scary pronouncements about what failure in Iraq would mean. But most of what the president warns is wrong.

Bush’s argument that Iraq would fall into the clutches of al-Qaida, in particular, is utterly stupid: first, because al-Qaida is only a tiny part of the Sunni-led Iraqi resistance to the U.S. occupation; and second, because the Shiites and the Kurds, who make up perhaps three-quarters of Iraq’s population, would never allow what Dick Cheney calls “al-Qaida types” to seize control of Iraq.

The president’s dire warnings on Iraq come far too late to matter. He might, or he might not, be able to scare voters. But he isn’t scaring the establishment.

What’s happening in Washington now is that the establishment political class—and that includes the military, moderate Republican and Democratic members of Congress, the jabbering pundits and op-ed writers, and the bulk of the thinktank denizens—are coming to grips with the stark fact that the war in Iraq is over. And that the United States has lost. It’s beginning to sink in, but it won’t be confronted directly by the political class until after the November elections. After that, all hell is going to break loose. If the Democrats win back Congress, it will happen faster—but even if the Republicans hang on, the gusting winds on Iraq now buffeting the White House will gather strength to become a full-fledged, Category 5 hurricane.

Michael Gerhardt: Very few Cabinet secretaries have done what Donald Rumsfeld has done. He is both the youngest and oldest person to serve as secretary of Defense (having served previously in the job more than 30 years ago under President Ford), and, at least this time around, he has become one of the most despised Cabinet secretaries ever. In fact, the number of people who have come to hate Rumsfeld has grown so much in the Senate and elsewhere that it's become necessary to take a step back to contemplate by what means the Constitution might allow them to vent their hatred.

The first and most obvious means is through the impeachment process. As a Cabinet secretary, Rumsfeld may be impeached and removed from office under Article 2 of the Constitution for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors." Rumsfeld's critics charge him with a long list of what they say are impeachable offenses, including incompetence and ordering the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other military detention centers. Because historical practices and the weight of legal opinion suggest that impeachable misconduct generally requires not just a bad act but a malicious intent as well, it's not clear that incompetence qualifies as an impeachable offense. Although it's true that one federal judge was removed from office in 1803 for mental incompetence, Congress has never again impeached, much less removed, anyone for incompetence. Before Rumsfeld could be impeached and removed from office in connection with Abu Ghraib or, say, because of the authorized use of torture by Americans or the use of domestic wiretapping, the same rule would apply: He would have to be shown not just to have abused his power but to have done so maliciously. Demonstrating malice would require showing that he knew what the law required and that he deliberately disregarded it. That's a high bar.

Joseph L. Galloway: Debating issues of war and peace and America's role in the world aren't off limits in this fourth year of war in Iraq, and they aren't a sign of anything but the health and vibrancy of our democracy, however much President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld might wish otherwise in a tough election season.

In hopes of furthering that debate, this week I asked more than a dozen top Army and Marine Corps generals - active duty and retired, dissidents and administration loyalists - to address what we should do now in Iraq.

All of them agreed that America's strategy and tactics in Iraq have failed, and that President Bush's policy of "staying the course" in Iraq isn't likely to produce anything but more frustration, more and greater problems for the United States in a dangerous world, and more and bloodier surprises for the 135,000 American troops in Iraq.

"Lack of security and lack of governance have pushed Iraq into the rise of a civil war," said one retired senior general. "The message is clear: We have a failed strategy, and we need new leadership and a new strategy to secure (our) interests in the region." The U.S. has important issues in the Middle East - not least of them Iran, he said, "but we cannot do much while bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Jon Ponder: One ever-so subtle element of the “Fear and Smear” campaign the president launched this week has been causing my tinfoil hat to spark and crackle. Osama bin Laden is back.

For years now, poor Osama has been a non-person of interest to the White House political team. His exile from the spotlight abruptly ended after Labor Day when Mr. Bush began a series of “Security September” speeches intended to scare voters into voting for the GOP again in November.

Bin Laden’s sudden return from political Siberia has my electrodes buzzing. Let’s assume he went from being wanted dead or alive to Osama-who? because they simply could not find him.

Conversely, the only reason they would trot Osama out now is that they’ve got him. He’s currently sitting in a cell in a secret prison in Uzbekistan.

Book Review by Walter C. Uhler: Unfortunately, as the contributors to Hitting First persuasively demonstrate, the Bush administration's decision to dupe Americans with "things related and not" proved useful beyond falsely linking Saddam to al Qaeda. Perhaps the two most egregiously dishonest uses of "things related and not" concern the deliberate conflation of "preemptive" war with "preventive" war and the equally deliberate absence of precision when discussing WMD - weapons of mass destruction.

The contributors to Hitting First have criticized the Bush administration's 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSS 2002), because it deliberately confuses "preemptive" war, initiated in the face of an imminent threat and thus considered legal under international law, with "preventive" war, which, under international law, is indistinguishable from naked aggression. As Tom Rockmore notes: "It follows that defensive, or preemptive, war, which is intended to respond to a clear and present danger, including an ongoing or clearly looming attack, is moral, hence licit or justified. But what the Bush administration calls "preemptive" war, which is widely regarded as preventive, or offensive, war, designed for a situation when an attack is not clearly in the offing, when it may not ever take place, is immoral, hence illicit or unjustified." [Ibid, p. 146]

According to Mr. Rockmore, in NSS 2002, "the term 'preemptive' is being used, perhaps deliberately, in a nonstandard way that extends and broadens the justification for the United States to wage war against real or imagined adversaries. The consequence is to turn on its head the very idea that military action should be defensive only." [Ibid, p. 140] Although many Americans might remain confused by such slight of hand, the rest of the world has seen through the ruse.

Admittedly, to many Americans such serious distinctions might appear to be mere picking at nits, especially after the President, Vice President and National Security Advisor already have frightened them out of their wits with warnings about the threat posed by Iraq's nuclear weapons. But as the contributors to Hitting First demonstrate, the Bush administration not only exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq's nuclear program (which we now know was nonexistent), but also conflated that dire, but improbable, threat with the more probable, but less dire, threats posed by chemical or biological weapons.

Thus, as William Keller and Gordon Mitchell put it, "The rhetorical flexibility afforded by the omnibus category "weapons of mass destruction" enabled Bush administration officials to support claims of an Iraqi 'WMD' threat (replete with ominous 'mushroom cloud' imagery) by pointing to evidence of possible Iraqi chemical weapons development." [Ibid, p. 9]

Jonathan Raban: But September 18 is the real date to circle. That day, Congress rushed through its Authorisation For Use of Military Force (AUMF), entitling the President, as the nation's commander in chief, to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against "those nations, organisations, or persons" that "he determines" were responsible for the September 11 atrocities, "...in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organisations, or persons." It's the "such" that's the key, the inclusion of nations, organisations, or persons "of that sort", which nicely covers, for instance, the invasion of Iraq, the arrest and detention of most of the prisoners now languishing in Guantanamo Bay, possible future military action against Iran, or Syria, or both, and heaven knows what else, since "such" is a term of potentially limitless capacity to make hitherto unguessed-at likenesses and connections.

The sloppily-worded AUMF endowed the administration with unique and wide-ranging powers. It has become the licence for the executive branch to wave at Congress and the judiciary whenever its actions are questioned or censured. On September 18 2001, the delicate balance between the three branches of government, as laid out in the American constitution, was thrown severely out of whack; since that day, one branch, the presidency, has enjoyed an unprecedented primacy over the others, and we've been living with the consequences of AUMF ever since.

On the same day that Bush talked of the coming "crusade", Vice-President Dick Cheney told the host of Meet The Press how the new war was going to function. "We... have to work sort of the dark side... We're going to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussions... It is a mean, nasty, dangerous, dirty business out there, and we have to operate in that arena." So it was to be cloak and dagger stuff, top secret, with the administration "working the dark side", out of view of the people. Secrecy has its own romantic allure, and in the shaken and frightened mood of America that September, there was reassurance in the idea of the White House going undercover, stealthily prowling on our behalf in Cheney's arena of shadows. Barely a voice was raised to suggest that a secret presidency might not be entirely compatible with the basic principles of American democracy. On the "You're either with us or against us" principle, enunciated by Bush in November 2001, the few liberals who spoke out against the new-style covert administration were condemned out of hand as siding with terrorists.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel: It's time to stop calling the post 9/11 struggle against terrorism a "war." The struggle against stateless terrorists is not the same thing. And framing it as a war was a conscious decision made by Bush and Karl Rove and others in the first days after 9/11.

Rove understood that if the indefinite struggle against terror was generally framed as a "war," it would become the master narrative of American politics giving the GOP the chance to achieve "a structural advantage, perhaps in perpetuity" over Democrats. That advantage may be coming to an end.

Nevertheless, the "war" metaphor--as retired American Ambassador Ronald Spiers wrote in a provocative piece in March 2004 in Vermont's Rutland Herald, "is neither accurate nor innocuous, implying as it does that there is an end point of either victory or defeat.... A 'war on terrorism' is a war without an end in sight, without an exit strategy, with enemies specified not by their aims but by their tactics.... The President has found this 'war' useful as an all-purpose justification for almost anything he wants or doesn't want to do; fuzziness serves the administration politically. It brings to mind Big Brother's vague and never-ending war in Orwell's 1984. A war on terrorism is a permanent engagement against an always-available tool."

John Dean: The latest orchestrated war-speak from Bush Administration officials, as they ramp up their oratory for the mid-term election, has recast Islamic militants and terrorists as "Islamic fascists." Thus, as we approach the five-year mark since terrorists attacked Americans on our own soil, the Administration is redefining the enemy - once again.

We have gone from the non sequitur of the "war on terrorism" (A war on "the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce for political purposes"?) to the neologism of the "war on Islamic fascists." Or, depending on the speaker, on "Islamofascism." Why the new rhetoric?

The answer is simple: Pure politics. Republicans, for good reason, are worried about losing control of Congress. (For less than rational reasons, many Americans believe Republicans are more effective than Democrats in fighting terrorists.) Should Republicans lose control of Congress, or either chamber, of course, it will mean the effective end of the Bush/Cheney presidency -- with the remaining two years of the presidency likely to be consumed by investigations into the activities of the prior six.

For these reasons, the Administration needs to create a more fearsome enemy. That new enemy is Islamofascists - whoever these people may be, they sound more frightening and important than the previously-named enemy. The Administration is aware that Americans are not sufficiently afraid, and that clear thinking will be its demise.

Robert Parry: As Americans go to the polls in two months, they should have one thought fixed in their minds: they will be voting on whether to commit the nation to fighting World War III against large segments of the world’s one billion Muslims. Beyond the cost in blood and treasure, this war will mean the end of the United States as a democratic Republic.

Those are the stakes that were made clear by George W. Bush in an alarmist speech to an association of U.S. military officers on Sept. 5. He declared that the United States must battle not only likely or even possible threats from terrorists, but the most fantastical dreams of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda about a mystical global “caliphate.”

Adopting some of the most extreme rhetoric favored by his neoconservative advisers, Bush also broadened the “war on terror” beyond al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists and the Sunni-dominated Iraqi insurgency to include the Shiite-run Hezbollah movement in Lebanon and the Shiite government of Iran.

Simon Jenkins: The favourite line from the war on terror's military-industrial complex is that in 2001 Osama bin Laden "changed the rules of the game". (Forgotten is that he attacked the same target in 1993, his only error being one of civil engineering.) George Bush repeated the change thesis again on Wednesday in confirming his secret interrogation camps and excusing the five-year delay in bringing al-Qaida suspects to justice. Tony Blair cites the change with every curb on civil liberty. The "new" terrorism requires a new approach to public safety. The security industry cries amen.

Most of this is self-serving drivel. Nervous rulers have colluded with soldiers and businessmen throughout history to cite some ethnic or religious menace when needing more power and higher taxes. Political violence has become more promiscuous with suicide bombing and a consequent rise in kill rate per incident, but - as Matthew Carr shows in his book on terror, Unknown Soldiers - the change is one of degree.

Forty years after Alfred Nobel's invention of dynamite, Russian terrorists tried to pack a plane with the stuff and fly it into the tsar's palace. In 1883 Chicago-financed Fenians exploded bombs on the London underground, leading the Times to wonder if the tube could ever be safe. There has been little change in the preferred weapon of terror, the explosive device, or in the psychopathology of the bomber. The causes remain the same: separatism, and religious nationalism dressed up as holy war.

What has changed, grotesquely, is the aftershock. Terrorism is 10% bang and 90% an echo effect composed of media hysteria, political overkill and kneejerk executive action, usually retribution against some wider group treated as collectively responsible. This response has become 24-hour, seven-day-a-week amplification by the new politico-media complex, especially shrill where the dead are white people. It is this that puts global terror into the bang. While we take ever more extravagant steps to ward off the bangs, we do the opposite with the terrorist aftershock. We turn up its volume. We seem to wallow in fear.

Casualty Reports

Sgt. Jason L. Merrill, 22, of Mesa, and Pvt. Edwin A. Andino II, 23, of Culpeper, Va., were killed Sunday in the explosion of a roadside bomb near Baghdad, the Defense Department said Friday.

Army Sgt. David W. Gordon, 23, Williamsfield, Ohio; died Friday in Baghdad when an explosive detonated near his vehicle; assigned to 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.


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