Monday, October 30, 2006
DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2006
PHOTO: An Iraqi man cries over his relative's body at Baghdad's al-Sadr hospital in Shiite enclave of Sadr City Monday, Oct. 30, 2006. A bomb tore through a collection of food stalls and kiosks Monday morning, killing at least 31 people and injuring more than 50 others. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) (Karim Kadim - AP)
Security Incidents for October 30, 2006
A bomb tore through food stalls and kiosks in a sprawling Shiite slum Monday, killing at least 31 people. The 6:15 a.m. explosion in Sadr City targeted poor Shiites who gather there each morning hoping to be hired as construction workers. At least 51 people were wounded, said police Maj. Hashim al-Yasiri.
On Monday, unknown gunmen killed Essam al-Rawi, head of the University Professor's Union and a senior member of the hardline Sunni group, the Association of Muslim Scholars. One of his bodyguards was also killed. At least 154 university professors have been killed since the March 2003 U.S. invasion, Education Ministry spokesman Basil al-Khatib said Monday.
Also in Baghdad five Iraqis were killed and 18 wounded when mortar shells inside a parked car exploded, witnesses said Monday. Witnesses told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the explosion took place in a commercial street in the Baiyagh district of south-west Baghdad.
A civilian was killed and five others wounded when a car bomb went off near a hospital in western Baghdad, the third car bombing on Monday, a Interior Ministry source said. A car parking near the Yarmouk Hospital detonated around 2:00 p. m. (1100 GMT), killing a civilian and wounding five others, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The British consulate in Basra will evacuate its heavily defended building in the next 24 hours over concerns for the safety of its staff. Despite a large British military presence at the headquarters in Basra Palace, a private security assessment has advised the consul general and her staff to leave the building after experiencing regular mortar attacks in the last two months.The move will be seen as a huge blow to progress in Iraq and has infuriated senior military commanders. They say it sends a message to the insurgents that they are winning the battle in pushing the British out of the southern Iraqi capital, where several British soldiers have died and dozens have been injured.
A roadside bomb killed three people traveling in a private security company convoy near Basra on Monday, police and the British military reported. Following the blast, the convoy came under heavy attack from gunmen and an Iraqi girl was killed in the ensuing gunbattle, said Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a spokesman for British forces in Basra, the southern city that is headquarters for Britain's 7,200 soldiers in Iraq. Burbridge said no British or other international troops took part in the fighting, but said British forces who set up a security cordon around the disabled vehicle were struck by stones and bricks thrown by local children.
A suicide bomber has detonated a bomb belt outside a police station in the northern Iraqi town of Kirkuk, killing two officers and a child and wounding 11 more people. Brigadier General Torhan Yusuf told AFP that five of the wounded were police officers, who were hurt when the bomber hit the main police headquaters in this divided and restive northern city, a hub of Iraq's oil industry. "The child was the son of one of our cleaners," he said Monday.
Al Anbar Prv:
Elsewhere Monday six Iraqi policemen were killed by a car bomb on the Syrian border, reported Iraqi official television. The explosion took place near the Waleed compound on the Syrian border, 550 kilometres west of Baghdad.
A suicide car bomber hit an Iraqi army checkpoint at a border pass near Syria, killing four soldiers and wounding one. An hour earlier, another suicide bomber attacked the same checkpoint, causing no casualties, army Colonel Nuri Hiyad al-Esawi said.
NOTE: A BIG THANKS TO WHISKER FOR PUTTING TOGETHER THE SECURITY INCIDENTS IN IRAQ AND FORWARDING THEM TO ME.
REPORTS – Everyday Life in Iraq Today
AUDIO: Shi’ite Neighborhood Disrupted by Search for US Soldier Residents of Sadr City, a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, complain they are under siege. The U.S. military has installed roadblocks in the area as part of their search for a missing U.S. Soldier. [They said that Iraqi TV filmed Iraqis protesting the road blocks in this area, and I could clearly hear that they were chanting “Saddam” and some other things. – dancewater]
American military police backed by Iraqi troops maintained their cordon of Baghdad's Sadr City on Sunday, manning barricades and checkpoints in and around the Shiite slum in an operation to find a kidnapped U.S. soldier and to capture the man considered Iraq's most notorious death squad leader. The soldier, an Iraqi American translator whose name has not been released, has been missing for six days. He was abducted by armed men while making an unauthorized visit to see relatives in the Karrada neighborhood of central Baghdad last Monday. U.S. forces have effectively sealed off Sadr City and its 2.5 million residents from the rest of Baghdad, and within Sadr City, they have isolated the neighborhood around the home of alleged death squad leader Abu Deraa, according to an Iraqi Interior Ministry official who would not be named because he was not authorized to release the information. U.S. officials have refused to comment on whether they believe that Abu Deraa is holding the missing soldier, and it was unclear whether the two goals of the U.S. operation -- finding the soldier and capturing Abu Deraa -- are related.
Hundreds of residents of Baghdad's Sadr City demonstrated on Sunday against what they branded the siege of their notorious district by US forces searching for a kidnapped comrade. American troops set up a cordon around Sadr City, a huge slum and a bastion of Shia militia fighters, after one of their number was abducted by gunmen in another city district on Monday night. Traffic into and out of the area has been delayed by searches and US forces have made two incursions into the flashpoint suburb, at one point clashing with militants and calling in an air strike that left four civilians dead. "No, no to America! No, no, to Israel! Yes, yes to Islam! Yes, yes to unity!" ran the chant as more than 2,000 flag-waving protesters marched through the area from the office of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's movement. Sadr City is a stronghold of Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and, while no weapons were openly on display, black-uniformed cadres from its political wing the Office of the Martyr Sadr policed the march and searched participants. "The reason for this demonstration is to lift the siege on this city, this bleeding city, this city that was oppressed under Saddam and is now oppressed under the Americans," said Sheikh Rahim al-Alak, a Sadr supporter. "We demand that the siege be lifted immediately. If it's not lifted in the next few days, we'll declare a general strike. We'll shut down the ministries," he declared, complaining about the nightly roar of US jets and helicopters. Alak was dismissive of talk of the kidnapped US soldier. "This story is a lie and, if he was really kidnapped, it happened in Karrada, not here. We're a peaceful city," he said. A local cleric, Haider al-Saedi, complained: "For several days the city has been under siege because of the alleged kidnapping. We can't move around. When we want to get someone sick or injured to the hospital we can't get out." US commanders have said that they had intelligence information that the missing soldier was held in a Sadr City mosque, where they arrested three suspects earlier this week after a gunbattle left 10 activists dead. They have yet to find the captive-an American of Iraqi descent who left his base to see a secret Iraqi wife in the city-but say that the cordon around Sadr City may have contributed to a city-wide fall in violence.
Private security firms operating in Iraq are committing human rights abuses, a charity has claimed. A report by War on Want says no prosecutions have been brought despite hundreds of complaints of abuse. And the charity is calling on the government to introduce legislation to ban private security in war zones. Lt Col Tim Spicer, whose Aegis security firm operates in Iraq, said they worked under "very strict rules" and could be prosecuted if they did anything wrong. War on Want claims UK ministers are increasingly using private security firms with a total of 48,000 employees in Iraq - six to every British soldier. John Hilary, the group's campaigns and policy director, said the Iraq war "has allowed British mercenaries to reap huge profits". "But the government has failed to enact laws to punish their human rights abuses, including firing on Iraqi civilians. "How can Tony Blair hope to restore peace and security in Iraq while allowing mercenary armies to operate completely outside the law? "We call on the government to introduce tough legislation as a matter of urgency to ban the use of mercenaries in these conflict situations." The report is published on the opening day of the first annual conference of the British Association of Private Security Companies in London. Earlier this year the US army launched an inquiry after a video posted on the internet showed an Aegis Defence Services contractor firing at civilian cars in Iraq. But it said no charges should follow and an investigation by Aegis found that the incident was within the rules on the use of force by civilian personnel. [Seems like the more accurate term would be "killing Iraqis" rather than "abusing Iraqis". - dancewater]
REPORTS – Iraqi Politicians and Power Brokers and Militias
The Iraqi government must move quickly to prosecute all Ministry of Interior personnel responsible for "death squad" killings in Baghdad and elsewhere, the New-York based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Saturday. "Evidence suggests that Iraqi security forces are involved in these horrific crimes, and thus far the government has not held them accountable," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW's Middle East division. "The Iraqi government must stop giving protection to security forces responsible for abduction, torture and murder." Sectarian violence between the majority Shi'ite Muslims and Sunni Muslims in Iraq has been steadily escalating since a revered Shi'ite shrine was bombed in the northern city of Samarra in February. Since then, local and international sources say thousands of ordinary Iraqis have been killed and the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) says some 365,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the Iraqi interior ministry's spokesman, said that the ministry and the Supreme Judicial Council have begun investigating all officers and employees suspected of collaborating in the ongoing sectarian violence. "Those who committed crimes will be punished 100 percent and the ministry will not hesitate to punish anyone for any wrongdoing he did," Khalaf told IRIN. Khalaf said that as part of the interior ministry's restructuring plan, which started in October, 3,000 policemen were fired on corruption or rights abuses charges. A total of 600 of the 3,000 personnel fired will face prosecution, according to Khalaf. Khalaf added that the Shi'ite-dominated ministry also sacked two officers in charge of commando units that have been accused by Sunnis of running death squads that kill Sunnis. On 15 October, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim, pledged in a nationally televised address to crack down on militias. "The state and the militias cannot coexist. Arms can only be in the hands of the government and no one has the right to be above the law," al-Maliki said. However, analysts say that government rhetoric is not being matched by action. "He [al-Maliki] has issued repeated statements against illegal armed groups, but he is not able to take any concerted action against these militias because of their political weight in his government," said Emad al-Janabi, a Baghdad-based political sciences professor at the University of Mosul.
A delegation of Iraq lawmakers met with a newly formed group of Iraqi political activists in the Jordanian capital on Monday and agreed to hold a national reconciliation conference next month, a leader of the advocacy group said. The conference will take place on Nov. 15 in Baghdad under the auspices of the Iraqi prime minister, said Hassan al-Bazzaz, the secretary general of the Patriotic and National Forces Movement opposition group. The movement was formed by both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and includes Iraqi politicians, former military officers, former leaders of Saddam's Baath party, intellectuals and tribal chiefs representing most of Iraq's ethnic and religious factions. Created in Amman in August, it is headed by prominent tribal leader Hamid al-Gaoud of Anbar province _ where many insurgents are based _ and aims at helping maintain Iraq's unity and ending the bloodshed. Its leader has denounced the U.S.-led occupation and called for the "liberation of Iraq." However, al-Gaoud also said in August the movement was willing to establish ties with the United States, Britain, Europe and Arab countries based on "mutual understanding and peaceful means." The group held two-day talks that ended Monday at Iraq's embassy in Jordan with a government delegation, which was headed by lawmaker Saleh al-Fayadh, said al-Bazzaz, a professor of political sciences at Baghdad's university. The reconciliation conference was initiated by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss a 24-point plan to heal the nation's severe political wounds. Al-Bazzaz said his group, called Heqooq _or "rights"_ in Arabic, supported the prime minister's initiative and sensed that the Iraqi government had "true intentions of reconciliation."
REPORTS – US/UK in Iraq
President George W. Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley has arrived in Baghdad for talks with the Iraqi government, a U.S. embassy spokesman said on Monday. The spokesman gave no further details.
The British consulate in Basra will evacuate its heavily defended building in the next 24 hours over concerns for the safety of its staff. Despite a large British military presence at the headquarters in Basra Palace, a private security assessment has advised the consul general and her staff to leave the building after experiencing regular mortar attacks in the last two months. The move will be seen as a huge blow to progress in Iraq and has infuriated senior military commanders. They say it sends a message to the insurgents that they are winning the battle in pushing the British out of the southern Iraqi capital, where several British soldiers have died and dozens have been injured. The evacuation also comes halfway through Operation Sinbad, which has experienced some success in restoring control in Basra. The operation ends early next year but Basra will need massive investment by the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development to build on its successes. Without the British officials' presence the stability of the city's fragile economy and political infrastructure could unravel, paving the way for Iranian-influenced militias to take control. There are about 200 staff at the impressive consulate building - formerly one of Saddam's palaces - including a team of bodyguards and ex-Gurkha guards. There were 12 full-time staff, some hand-picked by Tony Blair. A handful have already left by helicopter and the rest are expected to go this week, some of them to Basra air station eight miles outside the city and the rest back to Britain. A skeleton staff will continue to man the building until it is deemed safe enough for the rest to return. A Foreign Office spokesman insisted last night that its officials were "not bailing out". "This is a temporary measure as a response to increased mortar attacks," the spokesman said. "Core staff will remain at Basra Palace and the consulate will continue to maintain a full range of activities."
Thousands of weapons the United States has provided Iraqi security forces cannot be accounted for and spare parts and repair manuals are unavailable for many others, a new report to Congress says. The report, prepared at the request of the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., also found that major challenges remain that put at risk the Defense Department's goal of strengthening Iraqi security forces by transferring all logistics operations to the defense ministry by the end of 2007. A spokesman for Warner said the senator read the report over the weekend in preparation for a meeting Tuesday with Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Warner, who requested the report in May, "believes it is essential that Congress and the American people continue to be kept informed by the inspector general on the equipping and logistical capabilities of the Iraqi army and security forces, since these represent an important component of overall readiness," said Warner spokesman John Ullyot. The inspector general's office released its report Sunday in a series of three audits finding that nearly one of every 25 weapons the military bought for Iraqi security forces is missing. Many others cannot be repaired because parts or technical manuals are lacking.
US policy in Iraq is not working and George W Bush should consider radical changes, according to a panel of advisors trying to find politically face-saving ways for Bush to slowly extract the United States from war. The panel of "wise men" includes James Baker, the old Texan Republican with a network that stretches all the way from the West Sahara to Azerbaijan. He represents, via the Carlyle Group, the most pragmatic, "commercial" exit options from this failed neo-con adventure. On the ground, the pace of events on the resistance and political fronts is ever accelerating. It all echoes events of 40 years ago. In late-July 1965 President Lyndon B Johnson consulted with advisors on the future of American forces in Vietnam. He was informed that the situation was worse than a year before. The South Vietnamese were failing to make progress and the North Vietnamese refused to negotiate on his terms. The idea of dispatching more troops depressed him. One advisor, Undersecretary of State George Ball, was against the idea of escalating the war. He told Johnson that: "There is no assurance that we can achieve our objectives by expanding US forces in South Vietnam." Ball believed that it was the last chance for the US to leave Vietnam. Johnson knew it was the right advice to follow, but he chose to stay the course. It took the US another 10 years to withdraw its soldiers from Vietnam. Three million Vietnamese were killed, 15 million were displaced, over one million persons had to flee the country, infrastructure was destroyed and 58,000 Americans killed, and far more injured.
The same is happening in occupied Iraq now.
With the carnage going on in Iraq, together with Bush, Blair, Maliki and their propaganda machine, IBC’s Sloboda is arguing methodology, when the scientific world in this field is unanimously supporting the Lancet study. Why has IBC decided to be so active to discredit this Lancet study that the scientific world unanimously supports? What does this have to do with counting the Iraqi deaths reported by the English language media? American historian and activist Howard Zinn titled his bio “You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train”. The Lancet study is a train bringing us 655,000 bodies of Iraqis slaughtered with our money and in our name by people we have elected to power. And that train is still running.
STOP FUNDING THE WAR: Progressive Democrats of America is committed to cutting off all funding for deployment of US troops in Iraq and for the removal of all funding for the occupation of Iraq. The PDA will be collecting 100,000 signatures over the upcoming weeks so Rep. McGovern may deliver them personally to House and Senate leaders shortly after the November 2006 election.
PEACE ACTION: Take the voters’ peace pledge. "I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign.”
SUPPLEMENT TO POST FOR MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2006
Peak: U.S. military deaths in Iraq climbed to 100 on Monday, making October the deadliest month for American troops in a year as militias and al Qaeda stage fierce battles in Baghdad and elsewhere.
Violence had been blamed on the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when attacks generally rise, and on increased patrols in tense areas. The Pentagon also said insurgents are stepping up attacks to influence U.S. elections in November, but a spokesman said he had not seen intelligence to confirm that.
The Salvador Option: Iraq's savage sectarian war is now regarded as a greater obstacle to any semblance of peace returning than the insurgency, and was the main reason for the Americans recently pouring 12,000 troops into the capital - an operation that, they now acknowledge, has failed.
Yet, ironically, the death squads are the result of US policy. At the beginning of last year, with no end to the Sunni insurgency in sight, the Pentagon was reported to have decided to train Shia and Kurdish fighters to carry out "irregular missions". The policy, exposed in the US media, was called the "Salvador Option" after the American-backed counter-insurgency in Latin America more than 20 years ago, which led to 70,000 deaths and countless instances of human rights abuse.
Some of the most persistent allegations of abuse have been made against the Wolf Brigade, many of whom were formerly in Saddam's Baathist forces. Their main US adviser until April last year was James Steele, who, in his own biography, states that he commanded the US military group in El Salvador during the height of the guerrilla war and was involved in counter-insurgency training.
Kidnapping: As if the atrocities committed by terrorists and sectarian death squads in Iraq weren't bad enough, kidnapping has become one of the country's most common forms of crime since the fall of Saddam Hussein. U.S. officials say that up to 40 people are kidnapped every day, a phenomenon highlighted last week when a U.S. soldier in Baghdad went missing, an apparent abduction victim. With ransoms ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than a million and with the police often unwilling or unable to even register such cases, officials say kidnapping has become an increasingly lucrative business. It helps the kidnappers that their criminal activity is often confused with the routine hostage taking by both sides in the Shi'ite-Sunni civil war. "Kidnapping for ransom is an industry," says Dan O'Shea, former coordinator of the U.S. embassy's Hostage Working Group. "It is governed by the profit motive, not religion or race or politics."
Resignation threatened: Political tension deepened in Baghdad when Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country's highest-ranking Sunni politician, threatened to resign if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not act quickly to eradicate two feared Shiite militias.
Al-Maliki, a Shiite, depends heavily on the backing of the two Shiite political parties that run the militias and has resisted American pressure to eradicate the private armies — the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Badr Brigade, the military wing of Iraq's biggest Shiite political bloc, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Shiite gunmen, especially those of the Mahdi Army, are deeply involved in the sectarian killings that have brutalized Baghdad and central Iraq for months.
Mandate extension: Iraq plans to ask the United Nations Security Council to extend the mandate governing the presence of U.S.-led forces in Iraq for another year, Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Monday.
He said a continued foreign troop presence under the mandate, which expires on Dec. 31, remained "indispensable" for Iraq's security despite the government's desire to expedite the training of its own security forces.
Hadley trip: President George W. Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley took an unannounced trip to Baghdad for talks with leaders of the Iraqi government and U.S. military to assess the situation on the ground on Monday, as the American death toll climbed to 100 for October.
Hadley met with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki following strains between his Shi'ite-led government and U.S. officials over political and security steps intended to restore stability to Iraq and allow U.S. troops to withdraw.
Life In The Civil War
Dancing as an act of courage: The members of the national dance troupe of Iraq are performers without an audience. They rehearse daily, but hardly ever put on a show.
Yet each turn of the hip and dip at the waist in their choreographed pieces has become weighted with a dangerous new reality, even as they wait for the chaos around them to subside so they can perform again. In today’s Iraq, with conservative religious parties and radical militias exerting growing influence over every aspect of life, even dancing is an act of bravery.
“Society is overwhelmed by these religious ideologies,” said Tariq Ibrahim, a male dancer in the Baghdad troupe, the Iraqi National Folklore Group. “Now a woman on the street without a head scarf attracts attention. What about a woman onstage dancing?”
Together they are a band of 10 women and 15 men from varied religious backgrounds. Once they toured the world together. Today they are simply trying to survive, hoping one day to thrive again as a troupe. But the religiosity sweeping Iraq does not bode well for their future.
Blair troubles: Tony Blair faces a humiliating blow to his Iraq policy after the Tories threatened to withdraw their support in the first Commons vote on the issue since the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
On Tuesday the Scottish Nationalist Party is to lead a debate on the crisis. MPs will vote on a motion calling for senior MPs to lead an inquiry into all aspects of the run-up to the war in Iraq and the handling of the conflict, including the aftermath and occupation.
Some 33 Labour MPs have already put their name to an identical motion tabled last November, and if they support it on Tuesday they will reduce Blair's 67-seat majority to a single vote at a stroke.
Lipstick, meet pig: Bush and Maliki…agreed to create a top-level committee to come up with recommendations for speeding up the training of Iraq's security forces, moving ahead on efforts to put Iraq in control of those forces, and making the Iraqi government responsible for the country's security. Maliki's spokesman, Ali Dabbagh, said the recommendations would include timelines.
The proposed commission, which is to include Iraqi government ministers, U.S. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, will be at least the second high-level U.S.-Iraqi commission established here since the summer of 2005 to try to speed up Iraq's takeover of security and the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Since formation of the first panel, sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shiites has exploded, taking Iraqi civilian casualties this summer to the highest level of the war and helping to push American combat deaths this month to their third-highest figure since U.S. troops entered Iraq in March 2003.
For the Bush administration, Saturday's accord gave hope of closing an embarrassing rift that broke open just as Bush was trying to show that his much-criticized Iraq policy was adapting to the increasing violence. Congressional elections, just 10 days away, are focused heavily on the unpopular 3 1/2 -year-old war.
Cole interview: TIME.com: The U.S. is demanding that Prime Minister al-Maliki tackle sectarian militias, but Prime Minister al-Maliki is pushing back against deadlines and castigating the U.S. for military operations against some of those militias. Are Washington and Maliki on a collision course?
Juan Cole: Maliki is protecting himself by being feisty, showing Iraqis that he is not taking orders from Washington. But he also has a serious policy dispute with the U.S., and a sense of betrayal. They promised him, last summer when they launched the major security offensive to retake Baghdad, that the U.S. would take care of Sunni guerrilla movement in Baghdad before moving against Mahdi Army [the Shi'ite militia of Moqtada al-Sadr, whose stronghold is in Baghdad]. That way, Maliki could to go to the Shi'ite elders in Baghdad and say, you are safe, you no longer need militias and they are a source of discord, so they must be disbanded. But the Americans failed to dislodge the Sunni insurgents, and then they go after the Mahdi army anyway — and that enrages Maliki because it weakens his government in such a way that it could fall.
So Maliki's outrage over attacks on the Mahdi Army are not a matter of principle; it's about the fact that the U.S. hasn't first done what it said it would do, which was to eliminate the threat of the Sunni insurgents in Baghdad. The reason Shi'ite communities believe they need militias is to protect them from the Sunni guerrillas, which they say the government and the U.S. are not doing. And Maliki can't go and tell them to get rid of their militias while they remain vulnerable to attack by Sunni guerrillas.
Flailing: As congressional Republicans peeled away from the president, the White House grew more isolated. Debate over a National Intelligence Estimate's conclusion that Iraq had become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists and several books critical of the administration's handling of the war kept interfering with the White House message.
Democrats, once deeply divided over the war, coalesced around the idea of a phased withdrawal and aired television ads on Iraq in most of the competitive races around the country. Republican candidates, on the other hand, started ignoring Karl Rove's advice to talk about the war. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) told an interviewer that "the challenge is to get Americans to focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issue."
Other conservatives grew more skeptical that there is anything the United States can now do to fix Iraq. "I don't know what the new course would be," said Richard N. Perle, former head of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and an early supporter of the war. "The options are extremely limited now. The new course that's necessary is new Iraqi leadership."
The last full week of October underscored the fitful attempts by the White House to get on top of the situation. U.S. officials announced plans for benchmarks for Iraqis to assume more security duties, but Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said his government had not agreed to any deadlines. Bush called his second news conference in as many weeks to assure the American public that he is "not satisfied" with the way things are going, while still asserting that "absolutely, we're winning."
Rumor: MARK SHIELDS: The highest ranking or certainly one of the highest ranking men in the United States military today has recommended that we remove all troops from Baghdad, all American troops from Baghdad.
JIM LEHRER: Who's this?
MARK SHIELDS: I cannot tell you.
JIM LEHRER: Move all of the troops?
MARK SHIELDS: All of the troops out of Baghdad, secure the road to the airport, secure the oil fields and the borders, and say that the pacification and the maintaining of order in Baghdad is the responsibility of the Iraqis. That is the recommendation of probably one of the most -- probably the most respected man in uniform today.
JIM LEHRER: You mean in uniform, serving on active duty today?
MARK SHIELDS: That's right.
JIM LEHRER: So who did he make this recommendation to?
MARK SHIELDS: He made it to the civilian leadership of the United States.
Sharing responsibility: Senior and mid-level officers — all of whom either fought in Iraq or were involved in operations there, and none of whom were willing to be identified by name — are beginning to assert privately that Abizaid and other top generals must inevitably share responsibility for the setbacks in Iraq. Many of those officers have lost men on the battlefield in Iraq and saw their requests for more troops go unheeded. Others worked in positions where they saw the planning for Iraq or the execution of the war go wrong. "Iraq will go down as the greatest military and strategic blunder since Vietnam," says a former officer who dealt with Iraq planning. "And no one has ever been held accountable — including senior military leaders."
In a culture that values accountability and leadership, the military has been slow to look inward on Iraq. The fact that no senior officer has admitted to any serious mistakes, or been reprimanded or sidelined for tactical, operational or strategic errors, is troubling to many officers. In contrast, they point to the example of Israel, which had barely withdrawn all its troops from southern Lebanon before it launched investigations into the conduct of the war against Hizballah.
There have been previous suggestions of military missteps. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice touched a nerve in April when she said the U.S. had made "thousands of tactical errors" in Iraq. But many officers dismissed her comments as coming from a civilian politician. Others have criticized the military leaders for failing to dispute the flawed war plan set in motion by the President and his top advisers. "Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon's military leaders is quite another," former Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold wrote in TIME last spring. "Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard."
The Incompetence Is Staggering
Lost weapons: The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded.
… The American military did not even take the elementary step of recording the serial numbers of nearly half a million weapons provided to Iraqis, the inspector general found, making it impossible to track or identify any that might be in the wrong hands.
Exactly where untracked weapons could end up — and whether some have been used against American soldiers — were not examined in the report, although black-market arms dealers thrive on the streets of Baghdad, and official Iraq Army and police uniforms can easily be purchased as well, presumably because government shipments are intercepted or otherwise corrupted.
…The inspector general’s office, led by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., also a Republican, responded to Mr. Warner’s query about the Iraqi Army’s logistical capabilities with another report released at the same time, concluding that Iraqi security forces still depended heavily on the Americans for the operations that sustain a modern army: deliveries of fuel and ammunition, troop transport, health care and maintenance.
Mr. Bowen found that the American military was not able to say how many Iraqi logistics personnel it had trained — in this case because, the military told the inspector general, a computer network crash erased records. Those problems have occurred even though the United States has spent $133 million on the weapons program and $666 million on Iraqi logistics capabilities.
No support for vets: For America's veterans, plus the thousands of soldiers now returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the investigation identified three points where cases often go wrong: the selection of a special representative called a veterans service officer, the review by a regional VA office and the filing of an appeal.
Among Knight Ridder's findings:
* Many of the VA-accredited experts who help veterans with their cases receive minimal training and are rarely tested to ensure their competence. These veterans service officers work for nonprofit organizations such as the American Legion, as well as states and counties, but their quality is uneven, and that often means the difference between a successful claim and a botched one.
* The VA's network of 57 regional offices produces wildly inconsistent results, which means that a veteran in St. Paul, Minn., for example, is likely to receive different treatment and more generous disability checks than one from Detroit.
* Veterans face lengthy delays if they appeal the VA's decisions. The average wait is nearly three years, and many veterans wait 10 years for a final ruling. In the past decade, several thousand veterans died before their cases were resolved, according to an analysis of VA data.
The New American Values
Official lies: A U.S. military propaganda program used in the Iraq war was legal under the rules for psychological operations, a Pentagon investigation has concluded.
A classified Defense Department inspector general's report said regulations were followed when the military paid to have favorable stories about coalition forces planted in Iraqi newspapers, according to the unclassified executive summary obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
"Psychological operations are a central part of information operations and contribute to achieving the ... commander's objectives," the summary said. They are aimed at conveying "selected, truthful information to foreign audiences to influence their emotions ... reasoning, and ultimately, the behavior of governments" and other entities, it said.
It faulted only one contract, saying the military hadn't maintained required documentation.
Death of due process: In a jail cell at an immigration detention center in Arizona sits a man who is not charged with a crime, not suspected of a crime, not considered a danger to society.
But he has been in custody for five years.
His name is Ali Partovi. According to the Homeland Security Department, he is the last to be held of about 1,200 Arab and Muslim men swept up by authorities in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
There has been no full accounting of these individuals. Nor has a promised federal policy to protect against unrestricted sweeps been produced.
Human rights groups tried to track the detainees; members of Congress denounced the arrests. They all believed that those who had been arrested had been deported, released or processed through the criminal justice system.
Just this summer, it was reported that an Algerian man, Benemar "Ben" Benatta, was the last detainee, and his transfer to Canada had closed the book on the post-9/11 sweeps.
But The Associated Press has learned that at least one person — Partovi — is still being held. The Department of Homeland Security, which enforces immigration law, insists he really is the last one in custody.
Treaty violations: Washington's new anti-terrorism law could end up violating international treaties protecting detainees, with some provisions denying suspects the right to a fair trial, a key UN rights expert said today. Martin Scheinin, the United Nations' expert on protecting human rights in the fight against terrorism, said the Military Commissions Act signed into law earlier this month by US President George Bush contains provisions "incompatible" with US obligations to adhere to treaties on human rights and humanitarian law.
Life as a rendition star: The Marriott Son Antem was not the only luxury hotel in Palma frequented by CIA agents. The rendition crews also liked to stop off at the Gran Melia Victoria, a five-star hotel in the centre of the Majorcan capital. On one occasion, they ordered three bottles of fine Spanish wine, and five crystal glasses from Mallorcair, one of the plane's ground handling agents - refreshments for the flight home, all charged to the CIA's bill.
Agents displayed a similar taste for luxury in Milan where Italian prosecutors accuse the CIA of involvement in the seizure and rendering of Abu Omar, a radical Egyptian cleric, to Cairo in 2003. Italian investigators found the CIA agents spent nearly $150,000 (£80,000) on accommodation. Two spent nearly $18,000 during a three-week stay at Milan's Savoy hotel.
Suskind interview: SPIEGEL ONLINE: With all your access to high-level sources, have you come across anyone who still thinks it is a good idea for the US to torture people?
Suskind: No. Most of the folks involved say that we made mistakes at the start. The president wants to keep all options open because he never wants his hands tied in any fashion, as he says, because he doesn't know what's ahead. But those involved in the interrogation protocol, I think are more or less in concert in saying that, in our panic in the early days, we made some mistakes.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Because they could have gotten information through normal interrogations ...
Suskind: ... yes, and without paying this terrific price, namely: America's moral standing. We poured plenteous gasoline on the fires of jihadist recruitment.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the average interrogator at a Black Site understands more about the mistakes made than the president?
Suskind: The president understands more about the mistakes than he lets on. He knows what the most-skilled interrogators know too. He gets briefed, and he was deeply involved in this process from the beginning. The president loves to talk to operators.
The Idiots Who Lead Us
Bestest thing: STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me just ask one more question on this. Your own senators, I said Mike DeWine, thinks Rumsfeld has to go. Do you agree?
BOEHNER: I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best thing that’s happened to the Pentagon in 25 years. This Pentagon and our military needs a transformation and I think Donald Rumsfeld is the only man in America who knows where the bodies are buried at the Pentagon, has enough experience to help transform that institution. Let’s not take the problems in Iraq, the tough fight that we’re in there and blame it on anyone. We’re in a tough fight. Al Qaeda is doing everything they can to disrupt our efforts in Iraq, to disrupt the new government, creating more violence than anyone can imagine and defeating al Qaeda there is important, because if we were to pull out before we win, we will embolden every terrorist in every corner of the world and then instead of fighting them in Iraq, we’ll be fighting them on every street in America.
A key section of this memo offers the Bush administration’s strategy for “Public Diplomacy to Counter Insurgency in Iraq.” Far from “thinking bigger,” the recommendations for defeating the insurgency are small-minded, unambitious, and disconnected from reality. Here are Hughes’ three ideas:
– Substantially expand…[the] “Micro scholarship” program…targeted at youth in key disadvantaged areas in Iraq, such as Sadr City or Anbar Governorate.”
– Create a fund to support media projects by Iraqis, such as documentaries, short films, animation, audio-visual productions and other material that would show Iraq’s reality to pan-Arab and pan-Islamic audiences.
– Revive book publishing in Iraq to fill the intellectual vacuum…and support…Iraq’s hard-pressed intellectuals.
See the full memo HERE.
Reality: Even if Democrats win control of Congress in elections next week, an immediate change of course in Iraq policy is unlikely, the party's chairman said on Sunday.
Countering Republican campaign charges that Democrats would "cut and run" from Iraq, chairman Howard Dean said the party did not believe there should be a sudden pullout of all U.S. troops.
"The president will still be in charge of foreign policy and the military ... I don't imagine we're going to be able to force the president to reverse his course," he told the CBS "Face the Nation" program.
"But we will put some pressure on him to have some benchmarks, some timetables and a real plan other than stay the course," he added.
Dr. Sayyar Al Jamil: The numbers published by The Lancet are staggering, and should galvanize all of those who wish to see Iraq survive. To stand in silence is to ignore those who day and night are being killed like flies. A colleague of mine has written that the number of Iraqis killed in this savage war is now multiple times more than the number of Japanese killed at the end of World War II in the nuclear bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The entire world sympathized with the Japanese, but today, few care about the fate of the Iraqis. Even if President George Bush doubts the credibility of the numbers, they didn't appear out of the void. The report was produced by a team that willingly risked their collective lives to go into neighborhoods across Iraq to question thousands of families.
I can say that many of those killed every day are never disclosed. The innocent Iraqi people falling like leaves from trees are human beings, not a herd of beasts! There is nothing but silence from the Arabs, and a total Islamic political and media blackout! Trapped under an oppressive occupation with sectarian parties, a weak government, murderous gangs and covert death squads, Iraqis have no one to turn to. I appeal to all people of conscience, whether in or out of the country, to stand up against what is happening to Iraqis.
Linda McQuaig: Much has changed in the way the mainstream media deal with the war in Iraq. Most commentators now acknowledge the war is a disaster and will hurt the Republicans badly in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections.
But one thing hasn't changed — the willingness to believe that the motives for war, however misguided, were basically honourable.
So the criticism centres instead on the Bush administration's inept handling of the war.
Canada's own Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leadership front-runner, tries to slough off his former enthusiastic support for the war by now saying he hadn't "anticipated how incompetent the Americans would be."
But incompetence is a side issue. The real problem is, and always has been, that it is illegal — not to mention immoral — for a country to invade another country, in other words, to wage a war of aggression.
Noted war and administration critic George F. Will: A surreal and ultimately disgusting facet of the Iraq fiasco is the lag between when a fact becomes obvious and when the fiasco's architects acknowledge that fact. Iraq's civil war has been raging for more than a year; so has the Washington debate about whether it is what it is.
In a recent interview with Vice President Cheney, Time magazine asked, "If you had to take back any one thing you'd said about Iraq, what would it be?" Selecting from what one hopes is a very long list, Cheney replied: "I thought that the elections that we went through in '05 would have had a bigger impact on the level of violence than they have ... I thought we were over the hump in terms of violence. I think that was premature."
He thinks so? Clearly, and weirdly, he implies that the elections had some positive impact on the level of violence. Worse, in the full transcript of the interview posted online he said the big impact he expected from the elections "hasn't happened yet." "Yet"? Doggedness can be admirable, but this is clinical.
Frank Rich: In keeping with the political cynicism that gave birth to this war and has recklessly prolonged it, the only ones being kept in the dark about this inevitable denouement are our fighting men and women. They remain trapped, dying in accelerating numbers in a civil war that is now killing so many Iraqi civilians that Mr. Maliki this month ordered his health ministry to stop releasing any figures. Our troops are held hostage by the White House’s political imperatives as much as they are by the violence. Desperate to maintain the election-year P.R. ruse that an undefined “victory” is still within reach, Mr. Bush went so far at Wednesday’s press conference as to say that “absolutely, we’re winning” in Iraq. He explained his rationale to George Stephanopoulos last weekend, when he asserted that the number of casualties was the enemy’s definition of success or failure, not his. “I define success or failure as to whether or not the Iraqis will be able to defend themselves,” the president said, and “as to whether the unity government” is making the “difficult decisions necessary to unite the country.” Unfortunately, the war is a calamity by both of those definitions as well. The American command’s call for a mere 3,000 more Iraqi troops to help defend Baghdad has gone unanswered. As we’ve learned from Operation Together Forward, when Iraqis do stand up, violence goes up. And when American and British troops stand down, murderous sectarian militias, some of them allied with that “unity” government, fill the vacuum, taking over entire cities like Amara and Balad in broad daylight. As for those “difficult decisions” Mr. Bush regards as so essential, the Iraqi government’s policy is cut and run. Mr. Maliki is not cracking down on rampaging militias but running interference for their kingpin, Moktada al-Sadr. Mr. Maliki treats this radical anti-American Shiite cleric, his political ally, with far more deference than he shows the American president. The ultimate chutzpah is that Mr. Bush, the man who sold us Saddam’s imminent mushroom clouds and “Mission Accomplished,” is trivializing the chaos in Iraq as propaganda. The enemy’s “sophisticated” strategy, he said in last weekend’s radio address, is to distribute “images of violence” to television networks, Web sites and journalists to “demoralize our country.” This is a morally repugnant argument. The “images of violence” from Iraq are not fake — like, say, the fiction our government manufactured about the friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman or the upbeat news stories the Pentagon spends millions of dollars planting in Iraqi newspapers today. These images of violence are real. Americans really are dying at the fastest pace in at least a year, and Iraqis in the greatest numbers to date. To imply that this carnage is magnified by the news media, whether the American press or Al Jazeera, is to belittle the gravity of the escalated bloodshed and to duck accountability for the mismanagement of the war. Mr. Bush’s logic is reminiscent of Jeffrey Skilling’s obtuse view of his innocence in the Enron scandal, though at least Mr. Skilling has been held accountable for the wreckage of lives on his watch.
Joe Galloway: The president declared himself confident that Republicans would sweep to victory and maintain their stranglehold on both houses of a Congress that's done nothing but rubberstamp Bush's war policies and Republican efforts to enrich their fat-cat donors and themselves, of course.
If he's right and that's the result of the Nov. 7 elections, then the American people will finally have fulfilled H.L. Mencken's prophecy that we'd continue choosing the lowest common denominator until, in the end, we get precisely the government we deserve.
Meantime, Vice President Dick Cheney confirmed that some of the senior al-Qaeda terrorists in our custody have been subjected to "water-boarding," a torture that brings the victim within a hair of drowning and suffocation. Cheney declared that it was a "no-brainer." My thoughts exactly: Only people with no brains opt to torture a captive in violation of domestic and international law.
This unseemly circus and its clowns in Congress can't go away fast enough and with enough dishonor and disgrace to suit the circumstances. Their place in America's history is secure: They will go down as the worst administration and the worst Congress we've ever had. Period.
They deserve to lose both the House and the Senate on Nov. 7, and the White House in 2008. They bullied their way into a war that they thought would be a slam-dunk and then so bungled things that the only superpower left in the world has been humbled and hobbled in a world that they've made more dangerous for us.
Thanks, guys. You've done a heckuva job. We won't forget it.
Lance Cpl. Jonathan B. Thornberry, 22, died Wednesday while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq, the Department of Defense said. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve's 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, in Johnson City, Tenn.