Wednesday, September 27, 2006


"We'll let history judge all the different finger-pointing and all that business. I don't have enough time to finger-point." George W. Bush, September 26, 2006

"History. We don't know. We'll all be dead." George W. Bush, as quoted by Bob Woodward (Woodward Shares War Secrets, CBS News, 60 Minutes, April 18, 2004)

Anbar Province

Two American troops have been killed in fighting in Anbar province on Monday. One was a soldier with the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, and the other is a Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7.


Two passers-by were wounded when the al-Ashra al-Mushara mosque in Baghdad’s al-Amel district was stormed about 4:30 p.m. by gunmen in black uniforms. About 15 minutes later, black-clad gunmen attacked Sunni homes in the same western neighborhood. Residents fought back, wounding five of the militants, while three civilians and a police officer were also injured. The wounded attackers were captured and identified as Mahdi Army members.

Three gunmen died in an attack on the Sunnis' al-Kheyr mosque in Khadra, another western neighborhood of Baghdad. No other details were released.

On the eastern side of Baghdad the bodies of 23 men were found dumped in streets, all with bullet wounds and most showing signs of torture.

The bodies of five people, shot in the head and bearing signs of torture, were found in different areas of Baghdad. Two of the bodies were found in the mostly Shi'ite district of Bayaa, southern Baghdad. Fifteen bodies were found on Monday.

Gunmen kidnapped Abdul Kareem al-Talgani, the mayor of al-Zuhour district on the northern outskirts of Baghdad, and wounded three of his bodyguards.

A bomb attached to a booby-trapped body exploded, wounding four policemen in the southern Doura district of Baghdad.

A roadside bomb wounded two people in al-Nahdha district in central Baghdad. The target of the explosion was not clear.

In Baghdad, a police detective was killed in a morning attack, when a bomb hidden in his car detonated. The blast on the city center's Rasheed Street also wounded one passer by.

In the capital's Dora district, an official of the neighborhood power station and a friend were killed. The two were shot by unknown assailants while driving through the area.

Two roadside bombs exploded in quick succession in Karrada district, south-central Baghdad, killing one passerby and wounding three others.

Nima al-Yaseen, the sister of Shi'ite MP Liqaa al-Yaseen, was shot dead on Tuesday as she headed to work in western Baghdad.


Police found the corpse of a man in Baiji, 180 km north of Baghdad.


Four terrorist suspects and four civilians were killed by American soldiers and airstrikes during a morning raid in Baquba. U.S. forces targeting a terrorist linked to leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq came under heavy fire from a building and shot back, killing two terrorist suspects, the military said in a statement. Airstrikes were called in due to the heavy volume of fire from the building and U.S. aircraft fired multiple rounds at the building. When troops moved through the building, they found two other terrorist suspects and four women had been killed in the airstrike.


A civilian was injured in Hillah when a gunman opened fire from a moving car.


In Karma, 50 miles west of Baghdad, an Iraqi soldier on foot patrol was gunned down by a sniper.


Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and three wounded when unidentified people opened fire on them in their car in an area south of Kirkuk.


More apparent victims of death squads were found south of Baghdad and were turned over to the Kut morgue. The corpses of nine people were pulled out of the Tigris river. They had been blindfolded, had their hands and legs tied, and showed signs of torture. The body of a civilian kidnapped the night before was also turned in to the morgue after being found in an industrial area of the city.


A roadside bomb killed five people and wounded eight in Mahmudiya.

Four mortar rounds landed on a residential district, killing a boy and wounding five other people in Mahmudiya.

At least seven civilians died and 11 were injured when a series of explosions rocked a predominantly Shiite apartment building in Mahmudiya. The explosions gutted a series of apartments.


In clashes between gunmen and an Iraqi army patrol in the northern city of Mosul, one insurgent was killed and three others arrested.


A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol exploded in Mussayab, about 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, wounding three policemen.


Mortar rounds landed on and around an Iraqi army checkpoint in the small town of Rashad south of Kirkuk, killing two soldiers and wounding three others.

Suiciders: With the Islamic holy month of Ramadan under way, insurgent attacks in Iraq have risen in the past two weeks, particularly in Baghdad, a U.S. military commander said Wednesday.

"This has been a tough week," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said. "This week's suicide attacks were at their highest level of any given week."

About half of those attacks targeted security forces, Caldwell said.

He said around 50 percent of car bombings were suicide strikes, blaming "terrorists" and "illegal armed groups" for attacks during Ramadan, which began Saturday.

But Caldwell said murders and executions were the largest cause of civilian deaths in Baghdad and attributed them to sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shiites.

Arrests: The Iraqi army arrested 73 suspected insurgents during the last 24 hours in different parts of Iraq, the Defence Ministry said.

More arrests: Iraqi security forces have arrested another leader of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, a group accused of numerous attacks on U.S. forces, the General Command of the Armed Forces said Wednesday.

The man was arrested Tuesday night in the village of al-Jazira, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, said Brig. Qassim al-Mussawi. The operation follows the arrest of another leader of the group and seven aides early Saturday in the same area.

Authorities have not released the insurgents' names, citing security.

Operation Sinbad: British and Iraqi forces have launched a major drive in Basra city aimed at purging the police of the militias that have infiltrated their ranks.

About 1,000 British troops and 2,300 Iraqis have begun to deploy as part of what the Army labels Operation Sinbad.

The UK military said the operation, to last until February 2007, was intended to prepare for the expected handover of power to Iraqi officials next year.

Shia militias have effectively seized control of the police in some areas.

Operation Sinbad will see small "transition teams" of Royal Military Police being inserted into police stations throughout the southern Iraqi city for 30 days at a time.

Kurd vs Arab: The fate of Mosul, the largest city in Iraq in which Sunni Arabs are in the majority, may determine how far Iraq survives as a single country. The proportion of Arabs to Kurds in the province and city is much disputed.

There is no doubt that the Arabs are in a majority of around 55 per cent in the province, but they angrily dispute the Kurdish claim to make up a third of the 2.7 million population. When an Arab MP in parliament in Baghdad claimed this week that the Kurds made up only 4 per cent of the population of the city, all the Kurdish MPs staged a walk-out in a fury.

At the moment nobody wholly controls Mosul, one of the oldest urban centres on the planet, sprawling along both banks of the Tigris river. The 2nd Iraqi Army Division is based in the city, and the 3rd Division is outside, each 15,000-strong, and both of them are at least 50 per cent Kurdish, and with Kurdish commanders. But the Americans, fearful of the Sunni Arab reaction, have forbidden the army to patrol too aggressively.

If the Kurds have the army, the Arabs have the police. There are 16,000 policemen in the province, and 6,000 in the city. The Kurds regard them with the greatest suspicion.

More Kurd vs Arab: Kurdish militiamen seized a police station in northern Iraq on Monday to prevent its transfer to a new Sunni Arab commander, igniting a daylong standoff that echoed the parliament's continuing unease over territory-sharing in the final administrative map of Iraq. The clash in the town of Jalawla underscored the potential for violence as parliament prepared to study the contentious issue of creating autonomous regions in this multiethnic and heavily armed nation.

Though most of the biggest political disputes are likely to center on the oilfields in the south, in largely Shiite Muslim areas, and the northern city of Kirkuk, another oil-rich area claimed by the Kurds, the clash in Jalawla marked an early warning of what many fear could be a turbulent battle for the frontiers of a future Kurdish zone.

Federalism protests: A Sunni Arab heading a parliamentary committee that reviews new legislation resigned to protest the Shiite-sponsored federalism bill, warning it would lead to further instability and bloodshed.

The move by Dahfir al-Ani deepened a crisis in the Sunni Arab community and his Iraqi Accordance Front, the minority's largest political coalition and the group that brokered a compromise with Shiite and Kurdish groups to allow introduction of the federalism bill.

"Putting this issue under discussion at this time would open the door for political crisis that would more threaten the security situation," al-Ani said. "As for me, I will try along with my brothers who share with me the same opinion to foil the voting in favor of this bill."

Another member of the Accordance Front accused the political bloc of betraying the Sunni Arab community. "This law will lead to the division of Iraq, and the Accordance Front has carried out an act of treason," Abdul Nasser al-Janabi told parliament.

Iraq's second-largest Sunni group, the National Dialogue Front, already rejected the deal and says it will fight any effort to set up more self-rule regions like the autonomous Kurd area in the north.

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend: Are the Sunni leaders in Iraq's al-Anbar province finally coming around to joining the US counterinsurgency war? That's how the New York Times portrayed the situation last week. Times reporters quoted a Sunni tribal leader in Anbar as saying that 25 of 31 tribes in the province had banded together to fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Iraqi insurgents allied with them. The newspaper said US officials, who had "tried to persuade the Sunni Arab majority in Anbar to reject the insurgency and embrace Iraqi nationalism", saw the announcement as an "encouraging sign". But careful readers of the Times report would have noticed that something was missing from the picture of the political-military situation in Anbar that is crucial to making sense of the tribal leader's announcement, as well as the spin put on it by the unnamed US officials. The missing piece is the home-grown Sunni armed resistance to the US occupation, which enjoys the strong support of the Sunni population and tribal leaders in the province and has been at war with the foreign terrorists of al-Qaeda for many months.

Resistance crosses sectarian lines: Hardline Iraqi Sunni and Shiite factions denounced calls by President Jalal Talabani for a long-term US military presence in the country.

"We condemn these irresponsible proposals," the hardline Sunni Muslim Scholars' Association said after Talabani told the Washington Post that "I think we will be in need of American forces for a long time ... 10,000 soldiers and two air bases would be enough."

While the rest of the Iraqi press was largely silent, the Scholars said that in making the comments during a visit to the US Talabani had done "nothing more than express an American demand to keep Washington from having to do it".

Talabani, who is Kurdish, suggested that the bases could be located in the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, adding that some Sunnis were in favor of the presence to counteract the influence of Iran.

The association, however, pointed out that even with 140,000 US soldiers here, Iranian influence is at an all time high. "How can Talabani convince us that 10,000 soldiers and two bases can possibly end this?"

"These statements ignore the anger of the Iraqi people against the US presence, with its deaths, arrests, torture and destruction," said the association.

What Do Iraqis Want?

The swift departure of foreign troops: A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.

In Baghdad, for example, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout, according to polling results obtained by the Washington Post.

Another new poll, scheduled to be released today by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that 71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believe the U.S. government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled saying the United States intends to keep permanent military bases in the country.

The stark assessments, among the most negative attitudes toward U.S.-led forces since they invaded Iraq in 2003, contrast sharply with views expressed by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Last week at the United Nations, President Jalal Talabani said coalition troops should remain in the country until Iraqi security forces are "capable of ending terrorism and maintaining stability and security."

"Only then will it be possible to talk about a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational force from Iraq," he said.

To resist the occupation: The US Department of Defense has now provided another measure of the problem it faces. Its latest opinion poll carried out in Iraq indicates that, among the five million Sunni Muslims there, about 75% now support the armed insurgency against the coalition.

This compares with 14% in the first opinion poll the Defense Department carried out back in 2003. It is a catastrophic loss of support, and there is no sign whatever that it can be effectively reversed.

The rise in hostility to the US forces is clearly linked to the onslaught against the town of Falluja in 2004.

This, we are told, was ordered directly by the White House and the Department of Defense after the bodies of four American defence contractors were hung from a bridge in April 2004.

The ferocity of the attack by the US marines persuaded large numbers of Iraqi Sunnis that the Americans were their enemies.

The situation in the country as a whole has never seriously improved since then, and Falluja itself has still not been entirely subdued.

To recover their country: Reliable surveys show that the percentage of Iraqis favoring a withdrawal timeline has risen from thirty percent in February 2004 to 76 percent in February 2005 to 87 percent earlier this year. [NYT, Mar. 19, 2006] of 70 to 82 percent, Moreover, 47 percent of all Iraqis, including 88 percent of Sunnis and 41 percent of Shiites, approved attacks on American forces in a January 2006 survey. [Knight Ridder, Jan. 30, 06, posted on www.worldpublicopinon.org] Only the pro-Western Kurdish minority want the US troops to stay. Perhaps in response to this overwhelming popular sentiment, large numbers of elected Iraqi parliamentarians have been trying to force the US pullout by legislation.

On September 12, 104 Iraqi parliamentarians signed a petition calling for a withdrawal timetable. There are 275 members of the Iraq parliament, and frequently as many as eighty are not present. The constitution allows a measure to become law if supported by a majority of those present and voting. So the withdrawal proposal suddenly would have become law if it wasn't arbitrarily ordered to a committee for "review".

A similar scenario occurred in July 2005 when at least 82 parliamentarians signed a petition for the "speedy departure of the occupation", and denounced the Iraqi executive for failing to consult parliament as required by law.

Since this year's parliamentary election, when large numbers of Sunnis chose to vote rather than abstain, the number of anti-occupation parliamentarians inevitably grew. According to one Iraqi analyst I have interviewed, between 140 and 160 members would vote for a timetable if one was proposed. That would end the United Nations authorization of the occupation, and presumably force the withdrawal of American troops. It would be the signal the international community is looking for before engaging in a stabilization process.

A chance for a normal life: In Baghdad these days, having a child requires a vast amount of faith.

Children grow up nourished by the sounds of gunfire, tanks and Black Hawk helicopters. Parents struggle to meet the rising prices of food, clothes and housing. At the back of everyone’s mind is the fear that they may not see another day.

There are so many reasons not to have a child. Sometimes, though, the hope that things will get better beats them all.

Yasser looks at his baby girl, Rand, less than a month old, as she crawls on a blue blanket. He marvels at the way her puffy cheeks rise in a smile and how she sleeps oblivious to the danger outside. Yasser knows that her innocence will not last long. He simply cherishes this time because he knows that soon the bombs, death squads and soldiers will intrude.

What Are Iraqis Going To Get?

State-of-the-art prisons in permanent bases: Camp Cropper itself turns out to be an interesting story, but one with a problem: while the emptying of Abu Ghraib made the news everywhere, the filling of Camp Cropper made no news at all. And yet it turns out that Camp Cropper, which started out as a bunch of tents, has now become a US$60 million "state-of-the-art" prison. The upgrade, on the drawing boards since 2004, was just completed and hardly a word has been written about it. We really have no idea what it consists of or what it looks like, even though it's in one of the few places in Iraq that an American reporter could safely visit, being on a vast US military base constructed, like the prison, with taxpayer dollars. Had anyone paid the slightest attention - other than the Pentagon, the Bush administration, and whatever company or companies had the contract to construct the facility - it would still have been taken for granted that Camp Cropper wasn't the business of ordinary Americans (or even their representatives in Congress) - despite the fact that the $60 million, which made the camp "state of the art", was surely Americans', no one in the United States debated or discussed the upgrade and there was no serious consideration of it in Congress before the money was anted up, any more than Congress or the American people are in any way involved in the constant upgrading of US military bases in Iraq. While Iraq and future Iraq policy are constantly in the news, almost all the US facts-on-the-ground in that country - of which Camp Bucca is one - have come into being without consultation with the American people or, in any serious way, Congress (or testing in the courts). Camp Bucca is a story you can't read anywhere in the United States - and yet it may, in a sense, be the most important American story in Iraq right now. While arguments spin endlessly here at home about the nature of withdrawal "timetables", and who's cutting and running from what, and how many troops the US will or won't have in-country in 2007, 2008 or 2009, on the ground a process continues that makes mockery of the debate in Washington and in the country. While the "reconstruction" of Iraq has come to look ever more like the deconstruction of Iraq, the construction of an ever more permanent-looking American landscape in that country has proceeded apace and with reasonable efficiency.

Open-ended occupation: U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Wednesday that American operations in Iraq would end when Iraqi security forces were able to take over the job, but he would not estimate when that might be.

"Our view has been that it's for the Iraqi people to provide for their government, for the Iraqi people to provide for their own security, and our task has been to assist them during this period, the early days of their free system, so they can develop the security forces capable of providing for security in the country," he told reporters in the Albanian capital Tirana.

He said Iraqi security forces were making progress and beginning to take on additional responsibilities. But he would not estimate when the transfer of authority for security in all provinces could happen.

"One can't predict with perfect certainty the pace at which that will happen," Rumsfeld said. "We do know it is happening."

"Trying to set a specific date just isn't manageable," he said, speaking after a meeting of southeast European defense ministers.

The “Oversight Hearing”

More fruitloop lefties: Three retired military officers who served in Iraq called today for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, telling a Democratic "oversight hearing" on Capitol Hill that the Pentagon chief bungled planning for the U.S. invasion, dismissed the prospect of an insurgency and sent American troops into the fray with inadequate equipment.

The testimony by the three --two retired Army major generals and a former Marine colonel -- came a day after disclosure of a classified intelligence assessment that concluded the war in Iraq has fueled recruitment of violent Islamic extremists, helping to create a new generation of potential terrorists around the world and worsening the U.S. position.

This has been all over your local news, right?: Retired military officers on Monday bluntly accused Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of bungling the war in Iraq, saying U.S. troops were sent to fight without the best equipment and that critical facts were hidden from the public.

"I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq," retired Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste told a forum conducted by Senate Democrats.

A second military leader, retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, assessed Rumsfeld as "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically."

"Mr. Rumsfeld and his immediate team must be replaced or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision-making," Eaton added at the forum, held six weeks before the Nov. 7 midterm elections, in which the war is a central issue.

Shell game: Adding to criticism of the Bush administration's prosecution of the war in Iraq, a retired senior general who commanded an infantry division in the conflict said Monday that requests by commanders for more soldiers were repeatedly turned down. "Many of us routinely asked for more troops," retired Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste said, contradicting statements by President Bush and his senior aides that the administration had given the military all the resources it had asked for.

"There simply aren't enough troops there to accomplish the task," said Batiste, who has previously called for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign. "It's a shell game we're playing in Iraq, and we've been doing it since day one. And we're still doing it today."

The Republican response: Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) is threatening to punish Democrats for using an Appropriations Committee room for an unofficial hearing on Iraq oversight if it happens again.

“They better stop this,” the Mississippi Republican said. “This will be the last one or there will be retribution.”

Yeah, Trent, keep your eye on the ball. Stay focused on what’s important. Don’t let the Dems score any political points – that’s a hell of a lot more critical than trivial bullshit like the following articles describe. Glad to see you using your time to better the nation. -m

Breaking The Army

Third tour in three years: The pressures that the conflict in Iraq is putting on the Army are apparent amid the towering pine trees of southeast Georgia, where the Third Infantry Division is preparing for the likelihood that it will go back to Iraq for a third tour.

Col. Tom James, who commands the division’s Second Brigade, acknowledged that his unit’s equipment levels had fallen so low that it now had no tanks or other armored vehicles to use in training and that his soldiers were rated as largely untrained in attack and defense.

The rest of the division, which helped lead the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and conducted the first probes into Baghdad, is moving back to full strength after many months of being a shell of its former self.

But at a time when Pentagon officials are saying the Army is stretched so thin that it may be forced to go back on its pledge to limit National Guard deployment overseas, the division’s situation is symptomatic of how the shortages are playing out on the ground.

The enormous strains on equipment and personnel, because of longer-than-expected deployments, have left active Army units with little combat power in reserve. The Second Brigade, for example, has only half of the roughly 3,500 soldiers it is supposed to have. The unit trains on computer simulators, meant to recreate the experience of firing a tank’s main gun or driving in a convoy under attack.

“It’s a good tool before you get the equipment you need,” Colonel James said. But a few years ago, he said, having a combat brigade in a mechanized infantry division at such a low state of readiness would have been “unheard of.”

Other than the 17 brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan, only two or three combat brigades in the entire Army — perhaps 7,000 to 10,000 troops — are fully trained and sufficiently equipped to respond quickly to crises, said a senior Army general.

Suck it up soldier: The Army is stretched so thin by the war in Iraq that it is again extending the combat tours of thousands of soldiers beyond the promised 12 months — the second such move since August.

Soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division had been expecting to return to their home base in Germany in mid-January. Instead, they will stay an extra 46 days in Iraq, until late February, the Pentagon announced Monday. The soldiers are operating in western Anbar province, one of the most violent parts of Iraq.

The Pentagon also announced that the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division will deploy to Iraq 30 days earlier than scheduled, starting in late October. The announcement did not say why the speedup was deemed necessary, but three officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said it is part of a plan to beef up forces in Baghdad, where U.S. and Iraqi troops are struggling to contain insurgent and sectarian violence.

The Pentagon said troop rotations could be changed even further "based upon changes in the security situation." Sectarian killings in Baghdad and continuing insurgent violence elsewhere in Iraq have foiled Pentagon plans to begin a troop reduction this fall.

"The Army is coming to the end of its rope in Iraq," said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a private research group. "It simply does not have enough active-duty military personnel to sustain the current level of effort."

Building The Terrorists

Boy, this was hard to predict: The war in Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. that probably will get worse before it gets better, federal intelligence analysts conclude in a report at odds with President Bush's portrayal of a world growing safer.

In the bleak report, declassified and released Tuesday on Bush's orders, the nation's most veteran analysts conclude that despite serious damage to the leadership of al-Qaida, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread both in numbers and in geographic reach.

Bush and his top advisers have said the formerly classified assessment of global terrorism supported their arguments that the world is safer because of the war. But more than three pages of stark judgments warning about the spread of terrorism contrasted with the administration's glass-half-full declarations.

"If this trend continues, threats to U.S. interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide," the document says. "The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups."

But who needs an Army – we’ve got PR!: A public relations company known for its role in a controversial U.S. military program that paid Iraqi newspapers for stories favorable to coalition forces has been awarded another multimillion dollar media contract with American forces in Iraq. Washington-based Lincoln Group won a two-year contract to monitor a number of English and Arabic media outlets and produce public relations-type products such as talking points or speeches for U.S. forces in Iraq, officials said Tuesday. The contract is worth roughly $6.2 million per year over a two-year period, according to Johnson.

Legal Affairs

Murder: Three Marines were referred to general courts-martial yesterday on charges of premeditated murder stemming from the death of an Iraqi man last spring in the town of Hamdaniya.

Based on recommendations of investigating officers, Lt. Gen. James Mattis ordered the courts-martial of Pfc. John J. Jodka III, 20, of Encinitas; Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda, 23, of Manteca in the Central Valley; and Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate, 21, of Matlock, Wash.

Five other Camp Pendleton service members also are expected to be referred to courts-martial in connection with the April 26 death after their preliminary hearings, called Article 32 hearings, conclude next month.

Manslaughter: An Iraqi civilian said he believed he was going to die while being beaten by British soldiers in Basra in 2003.

Ahmad al-Matairi told the hearing at Bulford Camp, Wilts, that soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment took bets on who could make him fall down.

Hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, 26, was arrested during the raid and later died while in British custody.

Seven soldiers have been charged variously with treating Iraqi civilians inhumanely and manslaughter.

Drugs and guns: A newspaper in Britain reported Sunday that British soldiers had smuggled stolen guns out of Iraq and exchanged them on the black market for cocaine.

A spokesman for the Defense Ministry said Sunday that soldiers had been investigated for the "unlawful possession" of weapons and that prosecutors would decide whether there was enough evidence to file charges. He would not comment on the report that small arms had been exchanged on the black market for drugs.

According to the Sunday Times, the soldiers transported handguns from Iraq to Germany and exchanged some of them for cocaine with a street value of $4,700. The drugs were then sold to soldiers fighting in Iraq, the newspaper reported.


E.J. Dionne: What could prove to be the most important factor in the 2006 elections is overlooked because it is unseen: The Republicans cannot try to curry favor with a "silent majority" that favors the Iraq war because a majority of Americans, both vocal and quiet, have come to see the war as a mistake.

President Bush's defenders have cast opponents of the war as weak on terrorism. Yesterday, Vice President Cheney accused Democrats of "resignation and defeatism." But the charges have not taken hold, because most Americans don't agree with the premise linking the war on terror with the war in Iraq.

And blame for the failures in Iraq has fallen not on some liberal coterie supposedly holding our generals back but on the choices of civilians in a conservative administration. Those civilians, and their allies outside the administration, find themselves under increasing fire from leaders of the military and the intelligence services for bad planning, flawed analysis and unrealistic expectations.

Bob Geiger: With just six weeks until the 2006 midterm elections, one would never know to look at the media -- or by where the White House or Republican Congress direct their focus -- that the United States is still involved in a bloody war that has continued almost as long as our country's entire involvement in World War II. September 20 marked three years and six months since America invaded Iraq under the pretense of weapons of mass destruction and the imminent threat the Bush administration claimed Saddam Hussein posed to us. All of that and the contrived links between Iraq and Osama bin Laden have since been proven false and yet no oversight or investigations have been performed by the Republican-led, do-nothing Congress and, to watch the news and the actions of the GOP in Washington, one could easily miss how much American and Iraqi blood is still being shed for nothing. Almost 2,700 Americans troops have been killed in Iraq and 20,000 have been wounded -- many with limbs missing and life-changing brain injuries -- and Iraqi civilians continue to die at a horrifying clip that I guess, at this point, is just too boring for the American media to cover. It must be nice for Team Bush to be able to start a war for no reason, be responsible for such hideous, ongoing violence and not be held accountable by Congress or an American press that, amazingly, some idiots still have the nerve to say operates with a liberal bias. Do the American people want to be so numb to all of this that they simply forget our troops are in the middle of a civil war, on a mission that does not have -- nor did it ever have -- a damn thing to do with our national security? If the corporate media won’t cover it, we in the blog world should and I believe most Americans do care about the horrible losses we continue to sustain. In the first three weeks of September alone, 44 of our troops have been killed in the Iraq war. That's 44 American families forever changed, wives and husbands who will never again feel the embrace of their spouse and children who will never feel the love of a Mommy or Daddy forever lost.

Imagine the constant, JonBenet Ramsey-like media coverage that would occur if Al-Qaeda killed 44 Americans by bombing a Burger King in Peoria. And yet the same number of Americans dying for absolutely nothing -- and similar bloodshed guaranteed for next month -- disappears almost entirely from view, garnering less ink and broadcast time than an appearance of Suri Cruise or the box office ranking of 'Jackass Number Two.' We have an election coming up in six weeks and why these 44 people died, at an average age of 25, is not a "single issue" this campaign season -- it is the only issue.

Casualty Reports

Tonight the military has identified the two Hawaii-based troops killed in Iraq on Saturday. Twenty-five-year-old Private Kenneth Kincaid of Georgia was killed in action along with 29-year-old Sgt. Velton Locklear III. Locklear and Kincaid each had two young children.

The funeral service of a Lancashire soldier killed in Iraq has just begun. Gunner Stephen Wright - aged just 20 - was killed in the line of duty near Basra earlier this month. Members of his community in Leyland lined the streets today (Wednesday) to pay their final respects. The flower-laden funeral cortege followed the childhood route he used to walk with his devoted late mother, Elaine Wright who died last October.

The first member of West Point's "Class of 9/11" to die in combat was buried at the military academy Tuesday, two weeks after she was killed by a bomb at the head of a convoy in Iraq. 2nd Lt. Emily Perez, 23, was leading a platoon when a roadside bomb exploded Sept. 12 south of Baghdad. She was the first female West Point graduate to die in Iraq and the highest-ranking black and Hispanic woman cadet in the school's history.

Sgt. 1st Class Charles J. Jones, 29, Lawrenceburg, Ky.; died Sept. 20 in a non-hostile incident; assigned to the Army National Guard's 149th Brigade Combat Team; Louisville, Ky.

Sgt. David J. Davis, 32, Mount Airy; killed Sept. 17 in Baghdad by an explosive; assigned to the Army's 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team; Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Sgt. Adam L. Knox, 21, Columbus, Ohio; killed Sept. 17 in Baghdad by small-arms fire; assigned to the Army Reserve's 346th Psychological Operations Company; Columbus, Ohio.

Petty Officer 2nd Class David S. Roddy, 32, Aberdeen, Miss.; killed Sept. 16 in combat in Anbar province; assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two; Norfolk, Va.

Another U.S. Army soldier with El Paso ties has been killed in action in Iraq. The Defense Department said 20-year-old Spc. Windell J. Simmons died from injuries he suffered on Saturday in Taji. An improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations.

On Tuesday, two days after Marine Lance Cpl. Howard S. March Jr., 20, was killed during combat operations in Iraq, his mother wouldn't speculate about the next rung he might have climbed.

Marine Sgt. Christopher Zimmerman was killed in a gunfight with Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah last Wednesday. Zimmerman, 28, was a member of a reconnaissance unit based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was a graduate of McNeil High School, where he also played football.


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