Wednesday, September 06, 2006



Gunmen rampaged through a Sunni Arab neighborhood in western Baghdad, killing at least 12 people in another spasm of sectarian bloodshed. Police officer Husam Ali said members of the Mahdi Army, a militia controlled by anti-U.S. Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr, carried out Monday's attack on Sunnis in the Baiaa neighborhood to avenge the assassination a day earlier of the militia's local leader, Abu Moqtada. Ali said 10 Sunni civilians were kidnapped Sunday night as part of the retaliation.

Eight people were killed and at least 38 wounded when a car bomb blasted a busy road in the mainly Shi'ite Qahira district of northern Baghdad at the morning rush hour, said police, who also fear a surge in violence later this week when hundreds of thousands of Shi'ites mark a religious festival.

Police found the bodies of 19 people across Baghdad on Tuesday. Some of them had been bound and blindfolded.

Iraqi police found 15 bodies across Baghdad on Wednesday, most were bound, blindfolded with some showing signs of torture.

In Baghdad, a car bomb on Monday morning wounded five civilians.

On the outskirts of Baghdad, two suicide bombers slammed into a checkpoint, killing an Iraqi soldier and wounding eight.


Two people were killed in an ambush, another five were injured when an unknown assailant opened fire on them in a village south of the city, and a policeman was wounded in a roadside bomb attack on a police patrol in Baqouba.


Mortars killed two people and wounded six when they landed on a main road in Mahmudiya.

Five suspected insurgents and a child were killed and a second child was wounded during a raid in Muqdadiyah. The raid targeted "an individual with ties to movement of terrorist finances and foreign fighters into Iraq," the military said in a statement.


Gunmen killed two people from the Yezidi religious minority in the northern city of Mosul. It was not clear whether they were targeted because of their beliefs.


In Ramadi, 70 miles northwest of Baghdad, gunmen shot and killed Maj. Gen. Mohammad Thumeil, who served in former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's military.


A car bomb killed six members of Iraq's border police and wounded six others in the northern town of Sinjar, close to the Syrian border.

Unmanageable: The number of killings in the Iraqi capital escalated last week despite an American-led crackdown, with morgue workers receiving as many bodies as they had during the first three weeks of August combined. At least 334 people, including 23 women, were slain in Baghdad Aug. 27 to Sept. 2, according to morgue figures provided by Ministry of Health officials. Most of the victims were kidnapped, tortured, hogtied and shot.

During the week, at least 394 other people were killed around Iraq in other types of violence, including bombings, mortar attacks and gunfights, Iraqi authorities said. The spike in violence followed an announcement by U.S. and Iraqi officials at the beginning of the week that the number of killings in the capital had fallen dramatically during August, from more than 1,800 in July. Although August as a whole was less violent than the month before, last week's killings suggested that death squads are still able to move about Baghdad despite checkpoints and curfews.


"We can't stop the killings and the kidnappings," said Capt. Michael Baka, from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. "All we can do is to prevent as many as we can." In the past, Americans have turned over control of certain areas to Iraqis only to see violence flare up once they leave. Iraqi forces "lack training and weapons," said a high-ranking Iraqi army officer, who wanted to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue. "The terrorists have more powerful weapons." He added that the Iraqi army "can't accomplish all the missions but depends on the multinational forces to do most of the tasks." Disagreements continued over the hand-over of Iraq's armed forces command from the U.S.-led coalition to the Iraqi government, and the Defense Ministry said a ceremony to mark the transition was postponed indefinitely.

Maybe getting that second in command guy didn’t make much difference after all: An Iraqi militant group led by al Qaeda posted a Web video on Wednesday showing the killing of two Iraqi national guardsmen whom it branded collaborators with the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

The video by the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group led by al Qaeda in Iraq, showed two men in military uniforms giving their personal details on camera while holding military identification cards.

Their comments were barely audible, but one man could be heard saying: "I call on my brothers in the national guard to cooperate with the mujhaideen ... This is a message to my colleagues in the national guard, the collaborators."

The video, posted on an Internet site often used by militant groups, then showed the blindfolded men being killed by a single shot in the head. One of the men could be seen shaking and sobbing before the shooting.

I think they’ll need longer than that: The Iraqi parliament voted on Tuesday to extend the country's state of emergency for 30 more days.

The measure has been in place for almost two years and grants security forces greater powers. It affects the entire country apart from the autonomous Kurdish region in the north.

On the other hand, maybe not: Iraq's leaders have just months to mend their differences or see their country collapse, the speaker of parliament told wrangling deputies on Wednesday after a car bomb caused dozens of casualties in the morning rush hour.

Ethnic Kurds in the chamber demanded a new national flag to end a row over the Saddam-era version that has raised talk of Kurdish secession. But some members complained parliament's agenda, on its first full session after a summer recess, failed to address urgent issues that may affect the nation's survival.

Silencing one angry dissenter, Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani told the assembly: "Let's start talking the same language.

"We have three to four months to reconcile with each other," Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, said of a national reconciliation aimed at averting ethnic and sectarian civil war.

"If the country doesn't survive this, it will go under."

Tensions grow with Kurds: The angry debate over a ban on Iraq's national flag in the Kurdish region grew increasingly rancorous yesterday as tempers frayed along the ethnic fault line dividing the war-torn country.

The controversy and threats of secession by Kurdish provinces in the north come even as the Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict in Baghdad creeps toward civil war.

Sunni Arab politician Saleh al-Mutlak, standard bearer for the pro-flag movement, described the ban as an insult to the nation's honor and a violation of the sanctity of the constitution. He called on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to defend the sovereignty of the country he had sworn to uphold.

Kurdish tensions could set off something bigger: Little is known about the KFF. It is thought to consist of several hundred militants who dismiss the PKK's readiness to give up the armed struggle. Turkish authorities believe the split is a sham and the two groups are linked; some analysts believe the PKK directs the KFF. Thus far, there is a key difference between the groups: while the KFF targets tourists, the PKK sticks to military targets. The PKK has condemned the KFF's attacks.

The Turkish government is convinced the militants enjoy sanctuary across the border in Iraq under the protection of the Peshmerga, Iraqi Kurds who fought with the U.S. against Saddam Hussein and administer northern Iraq. The Peshmerga have condemned the recent attacks too, but that has not convinced Turkey's government. Ankara is massing troops on its southern border with Iraq and has threatened to attack Kurdish bases if the U.S. does not use its influence to close them down. In response, the U.S. has appointed a special envoy to coordinate engagement between the U.S., Turkey and the government of Iraq.

The Peshmerga sympathize with Turkey's Kurds, even if they do not overtly support them. The dream of a Kurdish homeland -- Kurdistan -- is shared by Kurds worldwide. Their dispersion throughout the Middle East makes Kurdistan a real threat. If Kurds carve out a piece of one state, their brethren in others will want to join and no country will retain its existing borders. Thus it's better, argue some regional governments, to exploit the instability in Iraq and nip the problem in the bud.

Please note that the first full story posted above says this ceremony was postponed indefinitely. I hope someone from the Iraq government shows up: After what a U.S. official called an "embarrassing" delay at the weekend, a spokesman for the U.S. military, Major General William Caldwell, said the U.S. commander would formally hand over command of Iraqi troops to Iraq's government on Thursday.

"Tomorrow is gigantic," Caldwell said of the significance of the prime minister taking charge of the nation's armed forces.

Iraqi Defense Minister Abdel Qader Jassim said a dispute over a text outlining the new working relationship between the U.S. military and Iraqi armed forces had been resolved. The government had sought more independence from U.S. control.

Three hundred and sixty?: Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett has visited the restive southern Iraqi city of Basra, as the military announced it was sending 360 extra troops to protect reconstruction projects.

Two British soldiers were killed just north of Basra on Monday when a roadside bomb ripped apart their lightly-armoured Land Rover, and there is increasing concern in London over a surge in violence around the city.

Beckett visited Basra and spoke in support of the efforts of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's efforts to reconcile Iraq's warring factions and build security forces capable of controlling the war torn country.

"I had some good meetings with senior Iraqi politicians yesterday," she said on the second day of her visit to Iraq, where 7,200 British troops remain three years after they helped overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime.

"We discussed the national reconciliation programme for the whole of Iraq and for the south, and the pressing need to address the security environment throughout the country," she said in a press statement.

British forces have overall charge of security in Basra and the surrounding province -- a bastion of lawless Shiite militias -- but hope to hand more and more responsibility to Maliki's embattled government in the coming months.

What’s in a name: The country’s Sunni-Shiite bloodletting is driving many Iraqis to bury the very essence of their identity: their names.

To have to hide one’s name is considered deeply shameful. But with sectarian violence surging, Iraqis fear that the name on an identification card, passport or other document could become an instant death sentence if seen by the wrong people.

That is because some first names and tribal names indicate whether a person is Sunni or Shiite. A first name of Omar is popular among Sunnis, for example, as is Ali among Shiites.

Stories abound of Iraqi civilians being stopped at checkpoints by militiamen, insurgents or uniformed men and having their identification cards scrutinized. They are then taken away or executed on the spot if they have a suspect name or a hometown dominated by the rival sect. In Baghdad, Shiite death squads — sometimes in police uniform — operate many of the illegal checkpoints, Iraqi and American officials say.

If it’s the truth it sure won’t be welcome: Bush administration policymakers and their congressional backers may get some unwelcome news from a new analysis on Iraq that the office of intelligence czar John Negroponte will soon produce. In late July, leading Senate Democrats asked Negroponte to come up with a new Iraq National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, a secret study that is supposed to reflect the views of all 16 U.S. intel agencies. The most recent Iraq NIE, produced two years ago, was generally pessimistic about the future of the country. In a letter to Negroponte, the Senate Dems asked for U.S. analysts' best assessment on a sheaf of awkward issues, including: Is Iraq in a civil war or close to it? How effective are new Iraqi security forces? Is the Iraqi government stable?

The contents of the report may have been foreshadowed in a recent series of closed-door briefings given to Congress by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The Pentagon's intelligence arm painted a scenario in which Iraq could dissolve into civil war if Iraqi security forces don't soon get their act together. One official familiar with the briefing, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive subject matter, said that the picture it painted was dire, although another official—who requested anonymity for the same reason—insisted it was not entirely despairing, since Iraqi security forces were beginning to improve. Though NIEs are normally classified, Dems are already pressing the administration to make public a summary of the upcoming study. The officials said intel agencies are under some pressure to produce the new report before the November midterm elections.

Corporate Vultures

And this is just the top ten: Halliburton has become synonymous with war profiteering, but there are lots of other greedy fingers in the pie. We name names on 10 of the worst.

The history of American war profiteering is rife with egregious examples of incompetence, fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement, bribery and misconduct. As war historian Stuart Brandes has suggested, each new war is infected with new forms of war profiteering. Iraq is no exception. From criminal mismanagement of Iraq's oil revenues to armed private security contractors operating with virtual impunity, this war has created opportunities for an appalling amount of corruption. What follows is a list of some of the worst Iraq war profiteers who have bilked American taxpayers and undermined the military's mission.

What? Corporations don’t always act in the national interest? Mercy sakes!: He's tackled Wal-Mart and Fox News with his scathing documentaries. Now, filmmaker Robert Greenwald is releasing a documentary which argues that private companies helping to fight the war in Iraq don't have the nation's best interests in mind.

"Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers" debuts in limited release this week, and presents an assault on companies that provide the kinds of services in Iraq that the military once handled itself, such as supplying food, water and mail delivery for the reconstruction.

In the film, former KBR/Halliburton water purification specialist Ben Carter is interviewed and says when a motor went out on a truck, they would "buy a new truck … and bill the government."

Who says we haven’t taught the Iraqis anything about American government: It has been three years since the fall of the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's government and Iraqis are still lacking basic facilities such as power, clean potable water and sanitation, problems some experts blame on corruption.

"Corruption has become common in Iraq. Every government department is plagued by some type of corruption and the problem has become endemic countrywide," said Judge Radhi al-Radhi, head of the Commission on Public Integrity (CPI), which is tackling corruption.

So far, some 3,500 corruption cases have been investigated by the CPI, of which 780 cases have been lodged in court but fewer than 50 have been tried, according to officials.

Department of Things We Can Be Sure Will Work Out Well

Because government is evil and privatization is always good!: For more than a year, Schulz, 59, has worked for Serco Inc., a company hired by the Army to test how well private headhunters do compared with the enlisted men and women who do the job. If the sales pitch works, the Army gets a new recruit, Serco gets paid and Schulz is rewarded. In July, he received a bonus of nearly $10,000 from Serco after signing up nine recruits, a company record that also earned him an invitation to speak to a group of military recruiters about his success.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan made military recruiting, which was already difficult, even tougher. The Army and Army Reserve increased new soldiers' signing bonuses for some jobs, raised the maximum age for enlistees and stopped some soldiers from retiring. A recent government report noted that many military recruiters were unhappy with their jobs and that recruiting violations -- such as instructing applicants not to disclose medical conditions -- increased 50 percent in one year.

By turning to the private sector, advocates argue, the Army can save money and free soldiers to fight. Critics say it pushes the limit to what military jobs should be outsourced, furthering a trend that has already drawn record numbers of private contractors into roles as central as interrogating prisoners.

"The use of contractors for this sensitive purpose, dealing with the lives of young people, is troublesome," said Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who has often criticized the government's reliance on contractors. "There is a notorious lack of oversight in all contracts, so why would we expect that in this very sensitive area it would be any better?"

9/11 + 5

Of course, Iraqi civilians broke this record in the first week of the war…: As the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States approaches, another somber benchmark has just been passed.

The announcement Sunday of four more U.S. military deaths in Iraq raises the death toll to 2,974 for U.S. military service members in Iraq and in what the Bush administration calls the war on terror.

The 9/11 attack killed 2,973 people, including Americans and foreign nationals but excluding the terrorists. The 9/11 death toll was calculated by CNN.

Some poll results: 9/11 + 5 finds a nation badly divided as GOPers back U.S. war on terror, wiretapping, and Saddam's role in 9/11; Dems, Indies suspicious of all three

Five years after 9/11, the bitter division between Republicans and Democrats on key issues is as intense as ever, with the two at loggerheads over the War in Iraq, wiretapping and surveillance, and what role, if any, Saddam Hussein played in the 2001 terror attacks, new polling by Zogby International shows.

The dramatic polarization highlighted by the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks in New York and Washington comes as a bitter midterm election season looms over control of both houses of Congress. The lack of national unity on the issue stands in stark contrast to the near–universal feelings of goodwill that stretched across American political lines immediately after the attacks.

The Zogby America telephone poll of 1,014 likely voters conducted over Labor Day weekend finds members of the two parties diametrically opposed on key issues, while independents line up more closely to Democratic viewpoints.

In one key measurement in the survey, a 58% majority says the Iraq War has not been worth the loss of American lives, while 36% say it has. But the partisan breakdown shows a very different story. Among Republicans, 58% say the war has been worth the cost in lives, while among Democrats, just 20% hold this view—a number that improves to 28% among independents.

Also note that 65% of Republicans believe there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9-11 attacks. How in the world do you reason with people who are so impervious to reality? -m

The Joke’s On You

Wait for the punch line: Quoting repeatedly from Osama bin Laden, President Bush said Tuesday that pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq would fulfill the terrorist leader's wishes and propel him into a more powerful global threat in the mold of Adolf Hitler.

With two months until an Election Day that hinges largely on national security, Bush laid out bin Laden's vision in detail, including new revelations from previously unreported documents. Voters were never more united behind the president than in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, and his speech was designed to convince Americans that the threat has not faded five years later.

Keep reading, it’s coming: The Pakistani government and pro-Taliban militants announced that they signed a peace accord Tuesday aimed at ending five years of violent unrest in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

The agreement came as a NATO-led offensive in southern Afghanistan continued for a fourth day, with U.S. artillery and airstrikes killing 50 to 60 suspected Taliban militants Tuesday, a NATO spokesman said.

Under the peace deal, the militants are to halt attacks on Pakistani forces in the semiautonomous North Waziristan region and stop crossing into nearby eastern Afghanistan to attack U.S. and Afghan forces hunting Qaeda and Taliban forces. It came as Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, was set to visit Kabul on Wednesday in a move aimed at improving strained relations between the United States' two key allies in the fight against terrorism.

The accord calls for Pakistani troops to stop their hugely unpopular military campaign in the restive Pakistani region, in which more than 350 soldiers have died, along with hundreds of militants and scores of civilians.

But the agreement, which one official said offered an "implicit amnesty" to foreign and local militants, highlights the Pakistani military's inability to crush a violent pro-Taliban insurgency on its own soil.

Here it is: Osama bin Laden, America's most wanted man, will not face capture in Pakistan if he agrees to lead a "peaceful life," Pakistani officials tell ABC News.

The surprising announcement comes as Pakistani army officials announced they were pulling their troops out of the North Waziristan region as part of a "peace deal" with the Taliban.

If he is in Pakistan, bin Laden "would not be taken into custody," Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan told ABC News in a telephone interview, "as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen."

(Yes, I know the link doesn't work - see below. -m)

Ok, just in the hour or so since I copied the above post the link went down and now there’s a story headlined that Pakistan denies it will leave Osama alone. Here’s the story, you decide if it really means that. But how pathetic is it that five years later Osama is still at large?: The government of Pakistan today denied it would allow Osama bin Laden to avoid capture under terms of a peace agreement it signed with Taliban leaders in the country's North Waziristan area.

"If he is in Pakistan, today or any time later, he will be taken into custody and brought to justice," the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani, said in a statement.

The ambassador said a Pakistani military spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan, had been "grossly misquoted" when he told ABC News Tuesday that bin Laden would not be taken into custody "as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen." The comments were recorded in a telephone interview with ABC News.

Q. ABC News: If bin Laden or Zawahiri were there, they could stay?

A. Gen. Sultan: No one of that kind can stay. If someone is there he will have to surrender, he will have to live like a good citizen, his whereabouts, exit travel would be known to the authorities.

Q. ABC News: So, he wouldn't be taken into custody? He would stay there?

A. Gen. Sultan: No, as long as one is staying like a peaceful citizen, one would not be taken into custody. One has to stay like a peaceful citizen and not allowed to participate in any kind of terrorist activity.

General Sultan said today it was "hair splitting" to speculate whether troops would be sent in if bin Laden was found in North Waziristan.

"If someone is found there, we will see what is to be done," General Sultan said today. "Pakistan is committed to the war on terror, and of course we will go after any terrorist found to be operating here," he said.

Under the terms of the peace agreement, the Pakistani Army promised to cease action in the area and to return captured Taliban weapons and soldiers.

Former White House counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant, said "What this means is that the Taliban and al Queida leadership have effectively carved out a sanctuary inside Pakistan."

General Sultan said today he "rejected" the idea that Pakistan had created a safe haven for terrorists.

Now Why Didn’t Saddam Think Of This?

Retroactively becoming not war criminals: The War Crimes Act was little noticed until the disclosure of Alberto Gonzales's infamous 2002 "torture memo." Gonzales, then serving as presidential counsel, advised President Bush to declare that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to people the United States captured in Afghanistan. That, Gonzales wrote, "substantially reduced the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act."

Noting that the statute "prohibits the commission of a 'war crime' by or against a US person, including US officials," he warned that "it is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges." The President's determination that the Geneva Conventions did not apply "would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution."

Unfortunately for top Bush officials, that "solid defense" was demolished this summer when the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruled that the Geneva Conventions were indeed the law of the land.

The Court singled out Geneva's Common Article 3, which provides a minimum standard for the treatment of all noncombatants under all circumstances. They must be "treated humanely" and must not be subjected to "cruel treatment," "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment," or "the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

As David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center pointed out in the August 10 issue of The New York Review of Books, the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rusmfeld "suggests that President Bush has already committed a war crime, simply by establishing the [Guantánamo] military tribunals and subjecting detainees to them" because "the Court found that the tribunals violate Common Article 3--and under the War Crimes Act, any violation of Common Article 3 is a war crime." A similar argument would indicate that top US officials have also committed war crimes by justifying interrogation methods that, according to the testimony of US military lawyers, also violate Common Article 3.

Lo and behold, the legislation the Administration has circulated on Capitol Hill would decriminalize such acts retroactively. Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, told the Associated Press on August 10, "I think what this bill can do is in effect immunize past crimes. That's why it's so dangerous." Human rights attorney Scott Horton told Democracy Now! on August 16 that one of the purposes of the proposed legislation is "to grant immunity or impunity to certain individuals. And these are mostly decision-makers within the government."


Stratfor.com analysis: Talabani, for obvious political reasons, cannot promote Kurdish independence, but he can use moves like Barzani's as a way to pressure other players into yielding some ground to the Kurds, rather than slipping into a complete state of civil war. After all, much of Iraq's oil revenues come from Kurdish-controlled land in northern Iraq -- and the Kurds are preparing for the day when oil moves from the background to the foreground of Iraq's tension-riddled landscape. Then there is the issue of internal security and control of the military forces. Talabani himself has stated that Iraq is not in a state of civil war, despite comments by U.S. military officials and others that civil war, if it has not actually arrived, is not far off. Talabani also said in early August that Iraq's security forces will take control of national security by the end of the year -- and this now appears to be in the works. It is unlikely that the United States intends to simply sign a document handing over responsibility for domestic security to al-Maliki and then pull out of Iraq. The transfer of control is largely symbolic at this stage; Iraqi security forces still are not able to patrol effectively or control Iraq without the assistance of foreign forces. But there are political reasons for the transfer: It can be cited as "proof" of progress in Iraq for Republicans in Washington who are facing congressional elections, and it demonstrates an act of faith in the new Iraqi government. It is no coincidence, then, that the transfer of operational command follows Baghdad's announcement that its forces had captured al-Zarqawi's deputy, al-Saedi, and have him in custody -- even if the actual detention took place long before the announcement. But perhaps the most significant of the political interactions are those involving Iran. Khatami's visit to the United States was a clear signal from Washington that there is room for negotiations, even if the visit had no official purpose and there were no meetings involved. The plans for Iraqi leaders to visit Tehran, and the reciprocal visit by Ahmadinejad to Baghdad, show the growing influence of Iran in the final Iraqi political settlement. Already there have been indications that both Muqtada al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani are losing some ability to turn their supporters on and off. Their diminishing control suggests that another player (read Iran) has expanded its own influence. Nevertheless, Washington appears ready to move forward with further steps to legitimize the Iraqi government, as seen with the transfer of command of security forces. It is not likely that this would be happening without the Iranians' knowledge, and thus suggests that Washington and Tehran are coming to an arrangement of some kind. Just how much Iranian influence Washington is willing to tolerate -- or how much it can actually block -- remains to be seen. But it is apparent that both Washington and Tehran are growing increasingly active in their maneuverings in Baghdad. The situation remains fluid, and merits careful monitoring.

Sean Gonsalves: In a report released last week titled Executive Excess 2006, researchers at the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy provide the numbers to back up what many, if not most of us, suspected, and/or expected for quite some time now. (I know I declared a cease-fire, but this is not direct Iraq debate. The all-consuming "war on terror" in the Iraq theatre is just the backdrop.)

Although the report examines excessive pay among oil execs, what really caught my attention are the ridiculous salaries being paid to out-of-harms-way CEOs of military contracting companies. Since the "war on terror" began, CEOs of the top 34 military contractors are making twice as much as they made in the four years before 9/11.

In 2005, the top CEOs in the war business were "earning" 44 times more than military generals with 20 years experience, and 308 times more than Army privates.

How do the report's authors know this? They surveyed all publicly held U.S. corporations of the top 100 defense contractors who make at least 10 percent of their revenues in the state socialist economy euphemistically referred to as "the defense industry."

Conservatives and libertarians argue that CEO pay raises merely reflect rising corporate profits. "As a company's fortunes fare, so do the CEOs and other top managers and that is the way it should work in the business world," Charles Pena, director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute told the Boston Globe last week.

To his credit, Pena did acknowledge that "the vast majority of money these people make comes from taxpayer dollars," which are "issues that need to be examined." Indeed.

Karen Kwiatkowski: Using dubious information and a whole lot of propaganda, we launched the destructive power of the world's most expensive and deadliest military on extremely weak fourth rate Middle Eastern countries of narrowly perceived strategic value in the name of promoting “democracy.' If we question this situation on moral, ethical, logical (when they vote freely, aren't we the ones who get voted off the island first?), strategic or constitutional grounds, according to Rumsfeld, we are ourselves the enemies of “freedom.'

But Bush and Rumsfeld are right about one thing. They believe that if Americans think about and assess the Bush administration wars – overseas and at home on the Constitution – Americans will cease any remaining support for continued military actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and potentially Iran. Rumsfeld and Bush believe that if we think, we will oppose their proposed military spending on same, and we will vote against politicians who have advocated such immoral, illegal, illogical, counter-strategic, and unconstitutional policies.

The Bush administration fears a true American legion – that growing multitude of thinking people who love this country and hate what Bush's foreign policy and domestic abuses are doing to it. This is why Rummy needed to chide, to threaten, and to name-call in a crowd of reliable and erstwhile supporters. Even in Salt Lake City, at an American Legion convention, people are increasingly morally or intellectually confused about what the Bush administration is doing around the world, and at home.

Last weeks' speeches indicate that Bush and Rumsfeld both know that if Americans become clear headed and logical, the Bush cabal loses and the party ends. Boldly unhampered by truth and increasingly menacing in tone, their words reveal panic and political desperation.

My prediction is neither earth-shattering nor genius. But between now and the November elections, every opportunity to cause American emotion to trump American intellect will be seized, squeezed and sustained by this administration and its handmaidens.

Philip Gailey: After Cheney and Rumsfeld finished working over the appeasers, President Bush flew to Salt Lake City to tell Legionnaires that the poor souls who advocate a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq "are sincere and they're patriotic, but they could not be more wrong."

Bush said we would be fighting terrorists "in the streets of our own cities" if we withdrew from Iraq without victory. He didn't accuse his critics of appeasement, but the president suggested they fail to see the war as part of the larger struggle against terrorists he called the "successors to fascists, to Nazis, to communists and other totalitarians of the 20th century."

"The war we fight today is more than a military conflict," Bush said. "It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century."

If Bush really believes the stakes in Iraq are as high as they were in World War II, he should mobilize the nation and call for sacrifice. He should institute a military draft and repeal tax cuts to pay for the long and costly struggle against Islamic terrorists. And he should replace Rumsfeld with a defense secretary who is competent in the business of waging war.

With the fifth anniversary of 9/11 and a midterm election coming up, the Bush gang is still trafficking in fear, which is about all they have left. But polls show that a majority of Americans are on to their game. The public no longer believes the invasion of Iraq has made us safer or that it was related to the fight against terrorism. And they no longer trust Republicans more than Democrats to keep the nation safe. Even early supporters of the war now see Iraq for what it is - a colossal foreign policy blunder.

Cynthia Tucker: "It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among Western democracies," Mr. Rumsfeld said of the years preceding World War II. "When those who warned about a coming crisis, the rise of fascism and Nazism, they were ridiculed or ignored. Indeed, in the decades before World War II, a great many argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated. ...

"With the growing lethality and the increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?"

That pronouncement is packed with so much nonsense that trying to defuse it would cause a minor explosion. Suffice it to say that this administration has no intention of owning up to the awful realities of its misguided invasion of Iraq. Indeed, it's now clear that Karl Rove intends to duplicate for the current campaign season the fear-mongering, name-calling tactics he used successfully in earlier campaigns.

The president and his proxies, including Mr. Rumsfeld, are fanning out across the nation to try to scare the voters, once again, into voting Republican. As they've done before, they're conflating Iraq and 9/11, denouncing their critics as cowards and making up facts to fit their storyline.

Those tactics might not work so well this time around. It's hard to persuade voters to disregard the video footage of daily carnage in Iraq, the disintegration of Lebanon or Iraqis marching in support of Hezbollah. Recent polls show that a majority of voters no longer believe in Mr. Bush's favorite fallacy - linking the so-called war on terror with the invasion of Iraq.

But the White House shows few signs of acknowledging reality. Mr. Bush says we can't withdraw because the sacrifices of the men and women in uniform who have died there - more than 2,600 so far - would be in vain. More Americans must die, it seems, because so many have already died - a pernicious bit of circular reasoning.

Patrick Cockburn: Across the Middle East secularist and nationalist regimes are being discredited by the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. Most governments in the region are corrupt patronage machines backed by brutal security services. They are close to the US but have little influence over it. All are becoming unstable in a way not seen since the 1960s.

The attack by a lone gunman in Jordan holds another dangerous message. At the end of 2001 I was able to stroll through the streets of Kabul and Kandahar without fear of being attacked. I drove between the two cities in a taxi. The same was true in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein and during the first months of the occupation. In 2003 I drove down to Basra in southern Iraq and up to Mosul in the far north without incident.

If I tried to repeat any of these journeys in Iraq or Afghanistan today I would certainly be killed. The rest of the Middle East is becoming more dangerous by the day.

The real reason of the increasing violence in the Middle East is the return to imperial control and foreign occupation half a century after the European colonial empires were broken up. This is the fuel for Islamic militancy. This is why fanatical but isolated Islamic groups can suddenly win broader support. Governments allied to the US and Britain have no legitimacy. The attempts by America and Britain to crush Islamic militancy across the Middle East are making sure it will become stronger.

Casualty Reports

A St. Louis man who dedicated himself to saving lives has died while serving as a Navy corpsman assigned to a Marine detachment in Iraq. Before joining the Navy, Christopher Walsh, 30, worked as an emergency medical technician in St. Louis. The Overland Park, Kan. native was continuing his medical training as a corpsman assigned to a Marine detachment. On Monday, his convoy was struck by a roadside bomb.

A 21-year-old Marine reservist from Seekonk, MA, who had been studying engineering at the University of Massachusetts has been killed in Iraq, military officials announced Tuesday. Lance Cpl. Eric P. Valdepenas died Monday when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in the Al Anbar province of Fallujah in Iraq, according to the Defense Department. Two other servicemen were killed in the attack.

The body of a Marine from Burlington, Ky., who was killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber returned home Tuesday afternoon. Cpl. Tyler Warndorf's casket arrived at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and was driven via North Bend Road to the First Church of Christ in Burlington.

The Patriot News is reporting a 22-year-old Selinsgrove High School graduate was killed in Iraq just five weeks after his Army unit deployed to the country. Pfc. Justin Dreese, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, died Saturday morning in a hospital, according to his parents.

The Army says a Fort Campbell soldier from Louisiana was killed in Iraq during combat operations. The military said in a statement that Sergeant Matthew J. Vosbein, a 30-year-old from Metairie, Louisiana, died August 29th in Sadr Al Yusifiyah after an improvised explosive device detonated near his dismounted patrol.


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