Thursday, October 12, 2006


Photo: A man cries over the coffin of a relative slain when assailants fired into a van in Baqubah. Two other people were also killed. Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced the deaths of one American soldier and three Marines in Iraq. (Associated Press)

Babel Province

Mohammad Al-Mousawi Al-Qasimi, Secretary General of the Islamic Unity Party, was assassinated Thursday when he was targeted by a bomb in Babel province. The party's political office condemned the assassination and claimed that Iran was behind it. The political activist was known for his efforts to expose secret foreign agendas in the country.


Gunmen raided the offices of al-Shaabiya Iraqi satellite television channel in Baghdad and killed 11 people, including guards, technicians and administrative staff, the station manager said. The Interior Ministry said nine were killed in the raid.

A synchronized bomb attack killed five and wounded 11 others. A bomb in a car parked in central Baghdad's Qurtaba Square exploded, followed shortly afterward by the detonation of second device planted on the roadside nearby. One policeman was among the dead.

In eastern Baghdad Thursday, four people were killed and eight wounded when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle ran into a police patrol. Two policemen were among the dead.

A bomb exploded at 7 a.m. near a Shiite mosque in the Qahira neighborhood of northeastern Baghdad. Two minutes later, another bomb exploded, wounding four people who had gathered after the initial explosion.

A U.S. soldier died yesterday from a roadside bomb while patrolling in Baghdad. That brought to 40 the number of Americans killed across Iraq the past 11 days -- a pace not seen since the U.S. attack on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah in November 2004.

Police said the family of a 29-year-old Kurdish radio reporter who was abducted a week ago had identified his body in the Baghdad morgue. Azad Mohammed Hussein was kidnapped in northeastern Baghdad by unidentified gunmen while on his way to Dar al-Salam radio headquarters in the capital's Shaab neighbourhood. His body was turned into the morgue Tuesday and identified by his family on Wednesday.

A roadside bomb near a petrol station wounded four people in northern Qahira district of the capital, an Interior ministry source said.

Police continued to collect the bodies of murder victims slain in Baghdad's sectarian dirty war between rival Sunni and Shiite death squads. A US military spokeswoman said that 16 corpses had been found so far on Thursday.


A total of 12 people were killed in different districts of the religiously mixed city of Baquba.


Gunmen attacked a police station on Wednesday, killing a policeman and freeing 10 detainees near Diwaniya, 180 km south of Baghdad.

Diyala Province

In Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, nine people were killed in four separate attacks, including the director of the provincial department for children's affairs who was shot dead by unidentified gunman with his son in their home.


In Fallujah authorities found the severed head of a kidnap victim dumped at the side of a street in a black sack. The victim was identified as a local man who had been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from outside his home on Tuesday.


Outside Hilla an insurgent was killed when the roadside bomb he was planting detonated.


An insurgent was killed while he was trying to plant a bomb near Iskandariya.


A U.S. soldier was killed and two others were wounded on Wednesday by insurgents while conducting operations in Kirkuk.


Bodies of 11 suspected victims of sectarian slayings were found around the southern city of Kut.


Police in the northern city of Mosul discovered the beheaded corpse of a priest.


In Samarra a bomb attack in a residential district killed a woman and wounded six other people.


In Suwayrah, 25 miles downriver from Baghdad, authorities fished four bodies out of the Tigris that showed signs of torture. Two of the victims had their throats cut and two others had been shot. All were blindfolded and had their hands and legs bound.

Eleven more bodies were found in the same area later, all with hands and legs bound, blindfolded and showing signs of torture.

In Country

Four Shiite Turkmen were found dead on the road between Kirkuk and Baghdad Wednesday. Sources said that militants stopped a civilian car Wednesday afternoon between Toz Khomato and Azeem and killed the four passengers. When their families went to recover the bodies accompanied by an Iraqi army patrol a roadside bomb detonated, killing one soldier. On the same road, two Iraqi soldiers were killed while six others were injured when a roadside bomb exploded targeting their patrol.

A contractor working in Iraq for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers support center in Huntsville died Wednesday when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by a bomb. The name of the contractor is being withheld until his relatives are notified. Two other contractors were injured in the same incident. There have been 32 contractors killed while working for the Coalition Munitions Clearance program since September 2003.

A Brooksville man working in Iraq has been killed during a roadside bomb attack near Takrit. Gerald Lambert Jr., 46, was killed about 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 11. Two others were also injured when their truck was hit by an improvised bomb while on a security detail for an American company assisting the military in the war-torn nation. Lambert was in the second truck of a two-vehicle convoy when they came under attack. Lambert was a security specialist working for SOC-SMG, a Minden, Nev., company. He was hired last Feb. 6 to work in the company’s mobile security element contract in Iraq. Initial reports from the field indicate that the convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) that wounded Meier, who was then rescued by his comrades. The second vehicle was attacked by another IED, killing Lambert. The two wounded men are receiving medical attention. (Same incident as entry above? Probably. But read the article about half a dozen entries below about the number of contractors who have died in Georgie’s vanity war – maybe these are two different incidents after all. –m)

The Iraqi army arrested 13 "terrorists" and 50 suspected insurgents in different parts of Iraq during the last 24 hours, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

Rising numbers: More than 2,660 Iraqi civilians were killed in the capital in September amid a wave of sectarian killings and insurgent attacks, an increase of 400 over the month before, according to figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry. The increase came despite an intensified U.S.-Iraqi sweep of Baghdad that was launched in mid-August to try to put down the wave of violence that has swept over the capital. The violence consists of a deadly combination of bombings and shootings by Sunni insurgents, and slayings by Shiite and Sunni death squads.

Security crackdown failure: The number of sectarian killings each month in Baghdad has more than tripled since February, and the violence has not slowed despite a major offensive in the capital.

Death squads killed 1,450 people in September, up from 450 in February, according to U.S. military statistics. In the first 10 days of October, death squads have killed about 770 Iraqis.

The increase in death squad killings reflects the level of religious warfare that is now the largest threat to security in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a military spokesman, acknowledged violence in Baghdad is at an "all-time high" and said U.S. commanders, in coordination with their Iraqi counterparts, are continuing to adjust the security plan to try to reduce the violence. "We've been working to keep it peaceful, and we've been frustrated that the extremists keep perpetuating the number of attacks," Garver said.

U.S. forces are also caught in the violence. At least 37 American troops have been killed in combat this month, about half of them in or around Baghdad, where Iraqi and U.S. forces are attempting to loosen the grip of armed militias. The weekly average of U.S. deaths since President Bush declared the end of major combat operations in May 2003 has been about 14.

1,200,000 refugees: More than 300,000 Iraqis have fled their homes to other parts of Iraq to escape violence since the 2003 fall of former President Saddam Hussein, with the rate swelling in the past six months of sectarian Shiite-Sunni conflict, Minister of Immigration and Displacement, Abdul-Samad Sultan said Tuesday.

In addition, some 890,000 Iraqis have moved to Jordan, Iran and Syria since Saddam's fall, Sultan, told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.

Contractor fatalities: The war in Iraq has killed at least 647 civilian contractors to date, according to official figures that provide a stark reminder of the huge role of civilians in supporting the U.S. military.

The contractor death toll is tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor on the basis of claims under an insurance policy, the Defense Base Act, that all U.S. government contractors and subcontractors working outside the United States must take out for their civilian employees.

In response to questions from Reuters, a Labor Department spokesman said there had been 647 claims for death benefits between March 1, 2003, and September 30, 2006. The Defense Base Act covers both Americans and foreigners, and there is no breakdown of the nationalities of those killed. The Pentagon does not monitor civilian contractor casualties.

The death toll of civilians working alongside U.S. forces in Iraq compares with more than 2,700 military dead and, experts say, underscores the risks of outsourcing war to private military contractors.

Iraqi Politics

Federalism: Parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial law that will allow Iraq to be carved into a federation of autonomous regions, after Sunni Arabs and some Shiite Muslims stormed out of the session in protest.

The bill passed the 275-member parliament by a vote of 141 to 0, despite a nearly successful attempt by opponents to prevent a quorum by walking out, said Mohanned Abdul Jabbar, an aide to parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani.

The measure, introduced by a powerful Shiite group last month, creates a mechanism that many believe will lead to a predominantly Shiite zone in southern Iraq that would parallel the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north. Sunnis vehemently oppose such a division, which would leave them with an area in central Iraq that lacks the vast oil wealth of the north and south.

Under a compromise worked out two weeks ago, the bill includes a provision that prevents the formation of federal regions for 18 months. In exchange for that delay and the creation of a panel to review the constitution, the Sunnis agreed to call off a boycott that had prevented the federalism bill from being introduced.

Kurdish airport: There's at least one optimist in Iraq these days.

The Kurds are building a new $300 million airport in Irbil that will take the biggest aircraft in the world, including the Russian Antonov 225 cargo plane and the American C-5 Galaxy, which is so big that the Wright brothers could have made their entire flight within its cargo bay.

The Kurds are hoping their dramatic mountain region, the one tranquil part of Iraq, will become a tourist haven as well as a transit refueling stop for international carriers between Europe and Asia or Australia.

But Kurdistan Regional Government Civil Aviation Director Zaid Zwain hopes the airport, scheduled for completion next year, will intrigue another potential customer: NASA.

Iraqi sovereignty: Former electricity minister Aiham al-Sammarae was convicted of corruption and sentenced to two years in prison. Afterward, U.S. troops took custody of Sammarae, who holds dual Iraqi-American citizenship, because he feared being killed if he was placed in jail, said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.

Dabbagh said that the Iraqi government had demanded his return and that the Americans agreed. "The government of Iraq expects that the Americans will respect Iraqi juridical authority," he said.

Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said he could not comment because "federal privacy law prohibits us from releasing information concerning U.S. citizens in the absence of a Privacy Act waiver."

This Does Not Compute

How does this help them stand up?: The Bush administration plans to shut down a highly successful Iraqi police academy in Jordan even as security in Iraq worsens, the Daily News has learned.

The Jordan International Police Training Center near Amman will stop training Iraqi police recruits this year, having already graduated 40,000 cops from its eight-week course since 2004, U.S. officials confirmed.

"The word we have is that JIPTC completes its mission on Dec. 31, and we are proceeding on that basis," said academy spokesman Iver Peterson.

President Bush has said American troops can come home from Iraq when Iraqi forces can secure their own country.

The $120 million Jordan academy is safe and has police trainers from 15 nations. It graduates a staggering 1,800 Iraqi cops and border guards each month. Fewer than 4% have washed out.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) expressed shock when told by The News that the facility will soon close.

"It is mystifying and maddening that they would shut this down while violence in Iraq is spiraling out of control and in the face of an urgent shortage of trained police officers," said Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Senate subcommittee overseeing Iraq reconstruction funding.

How does this help us stand down?: For planning purposes, the Army is gearing up to keep current troop levels in Iraq for another four years, a new indication that conditions there are too unstable to foresee an end to the war.

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, cautioned against reading too much into the planning, which is done far in advance to prepare the right mix of combat units for expected deployments. He noted that it is easier to scale back later if conditions allow, than to ramp up if they don't.

"This is not a prediction that things are going poorly or better," Schoomaker told reporters. "It's just that I have to have enough ammo in the magazine that I can continue to shoot as long as they want us to shoot."

Even so, his comments were the latest acknowledgment by Pentagon officials that a significant withdrawal of troops from Iraq is not likely in the immediate future. There are now 141,000 U.S. troops there.

So we can expect this percentage to rise: Nearly one in five soldiers leaving the military after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan has been at least partly disabled as a result of service, according to documents of the Department of Veterans Affairs obtained by a Washington research group.

The number of veterans granted disability compensation, more than 100,000 to date, suggests that taxpayers have only begun to pay the long-term financial cost of the two conflicts. About 567,000 of the 1.5 million American troops who have served so far have been discharged.

“The trend is ominous,” said Paul Sullivan, director of programs for Veterans for America, an advocacy group, and a former V.A. analyst.

Mr. Sullivan said that if the current proportions held up over time, 400,000 returning service members could eventually apply for disability benefits when they retired.

Our Polymath President

Now he’s an epidemiologist. Or a statistician. Or both!: President Bush says he doesn't believe it. Some experts have a problem with it. But several others say it seems sound. Such was the varied reception for a controversial new study that estimated the Iraq war has led to the deaths of nearly 655,000 Iraqis as of July.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad derived that estimate from a door-to-door survey, conducted by doctors, of 1,849 households in Iraq. Taking the number of deaths reported by household residents, they extrapolated to a nationwide figure.

The researchers, reflecting the inherent uncertainties in such extrapolations, said they were 95 percent certain that the real number lay somewhere between 392,979 and 942,636 deaths.

Even the smaller figure is almost eight times the estimate some others have derived.

The new study — which attributes roughly 600,000 of the deaths directly to violence and 55,000 more to other war-related causes — was released Wednesday on the Web site of The Lancet, a respected medical journal. But just how good is its conclusions?

"I don't consider it a credible report," President Bush said Wednesday.

A response from someone who knows what he's talking about: The steady increase in violent death rates is quite appalling, from 3.2/1,000/year in March 2003-April 2004; to 12/1,000/year from June 2005-June 2006. Not surprisingly, the deaths are concentrated in Baghdad and the predominantly Sunni Arab areas of the country. The three provinces of autonomous Kurdistan have been peaceful. 31% of violent deaths were caused by coalition forces, 24% by other actors, and in 45% of cases the perpetrators were unknown to the respondents. Even if none of these were caused by coalition forces, it results that U.S. troops have killed about 200,000 Iraqis, with perhaps a modest contribution from the British. Are these results reliable? They are in fact the most reliable information we have about this subject. Particularly powerful confirmation comes from the very close match in this survey between deaths reported to have occurred in 2003-2004; and the results from a similar study conducted by the team in 2004. That of course had an entirely different sample of households, but used the same methods. People often misunderstand the concept of the confidence interval. It is far more likely that the true number of violent deaths is close to 600,000, than that it is close to 427,000. People also do not understand how a sample consisting of such a small percentage of the population can give us confidence in saying something about the entire population. But that results from the laws of probability, which assure that state lotteries and casinos will always win. Was the release of this report politically motivated? Possibly the authors made a special effort to get it out before the election, but that has no relation to its truth. Finally, as I have said many times, Iraq Body Count should go out of business. They are doing positive harm to the reality based community by giving the perpetrators of this world historical crime cover for saying that the death toll is only 10% of what it really is. That is not helping the Iraqi people. UPDATE: Thanks to a tip from Whisker, here's an article that shows that innumerable violent deaths in Iraq go unreported.


Bet he’s not the last: A California-born convert to Islam, accused of making a series of al Qaeda propaganda videos, became on Wednesday the first American charged with treason since the World War Two era, U.S. Justice Department officials said.

Fugitive Adam Gadahn, 28, who is believed to be in Pakistan, was accused of treason, which carries a maximum punishment of death, and providing material support to al Qaeda, they said.

According to the charges, Gadahn appeared in five videos broadcast between October 2004 and September 11, 2006, giving al Qaeda "aid and comfort ... with the intent to betray the United States."

"Gadahn gave himself to our enemies in al Qaeda for the purpose of being a central part of their propaganda machine," Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told a news conference.

"By making this choice, we believe Gadahn committed treason -- perhaps the most serious offense for which any person can be tried under our Constitution," he said.

McNulty acknowledged that Gadahn appeared to be involved only in propaganda for the Islamic militant group, not in planning any attacks.

Justice Department officials denied the case was timed to deflect attention from the fallout over lewd computer messages sent by a former Republican congressman to young male aides, a scandal that may help Democrats seize control of Congress in the November 7 elections.

Presented Without Comment

This just in from the Green Zone in Baghdad: The hot new polo shirt in the zone is white with a diplomatic security badge on it and stitching below that says "Resistance Is Futile."


LA Times Editorial: At his news conference Wednesday, President Bush expressed not once but three times his view that if the U.S. does not defeat the terrorists "over there" in Iraq, it will have to fight them here in the United States. This crude formulation is tiresome and insulting to Americans' intelligence. "I firmly believe that the American people understand that this is different from other wars because in this war, if we were to leave early, before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here," Bush said. This conjures up improbable images of Shiite death squads and Sunni insurgents stuffing bomb-making manuals into their backpacks and booking flights to LAX while U.S. troops march out of Baghdad.

There are good reasons not to withdraw from Iraq hastily. But Bush's assertion about a good offense being the best defense undermines his own credibility.

NY Times Editorial: In 2003, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift was assigned to represent Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni citizen accused of being a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda — for the sole purpose of getting him to plead guilty before one of the military commissions that President Bush created for Guantánamo Bay. Instead of carrying out this morally repugnant task, Commander Swift concluded that the commissions were unconstitutional. He did his duty and defended his client. The case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in June that the tribunals violated American law as well as the Geneva Conventions.

The Navy responded by killing his military career. About two weeks after the historic high court victory in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Commander Swift was told he was being denied a promotion. Under the Navy’s up-or-out system, that spelled the end of his 20-year career, and Commander Swift said last week that he will be retiring in March or April.

With his defense of Mr. Hamdan and his testimony before Congress starting in July 2003, Commander Swift did as much as any single individual to expose the awful wrongs of Guantánamo Bay and Mr. Bush’s lawless military commissions. It was a valuable public service and a brave act of conscience and his treatment is deeply troubling.

The law creating military tribunals for terror suspects, passed by Congress in a pre-election panic, leaves enormous room for the continued abuse of prisoners and for the continued detention of scores of men who committed no crime. If their military lawyers are afraid to represent them vigorously, their hopes for justice dim even further.

The Navy gave no reason for refusing Commander Swift’s promotion. But there is no denying the chilling message it sends to remaining military lawyers about the potential consequences of taking their job, and justice, seriously.

Scot Lehigh: It’s long been apparent that many US citizens would watch fundamental rights be swept away with hardly a shrug. But it's stunning that our congressmen, elected officials sworn to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution, would actually vote to strip US courts of the power to protect essential rights.

And yet that's exactly what happened when Congress recently approved the Military Commissions Act to govern the treatment and trial of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay and other US detention facilities abroad.

In denying the writ of habeas corpus to noncitizens detained by the United States outside the country, Congress has turned its back on one of the most venerable of Constitutional protections: A prisoner's ability to go to court to challenge the lawfulness of his detention.

It's hard to overstate the importance of that right.

''It really is the fundamental underpinning of the rule of law,'' says Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate, a well-known civil libertarian. ''If the president can just pick anyone up and hold them, tell me what meaning there is to a court system. That is what the rule of law is all about: that an independent judiciary can deter mine whether or not you are being held legally.'' Indeed, the establishment of habeas marks the historical transition away from the whims of a despot and toward constitutional government.

Glenn Greenwald: Even a quick review of the pro-Bush blogosphere reveals what a tender nerve has been struck by this study. They can't hurl enough furious invective at the study's proponents and those reporting its findings, but it's not entirely clear why that is. In fact, the more one thinks about this study, the less remarkable and surprising its findings seem to be. After all, it's self-evident that if you invade a country which was essentially stable, and you then proceed to bomb it, shatter its infrastructure, remove its government, and replace all of that structure with anarchy, chaos, and civil war, the mortality rate is going to increase dramatically. Beyond just the number of people who will die directly from the fighting, it is much harder to stay alive -- and much easier to die -- in a chaotic and violence-plagued society than in an orderly and structured one. That's just obvious. And if you then perpetuate those conditions of chaos and violence over the course of three-and-a-half years -- where the mortality rate increases over that time -- the number of "excess deaths" (meaning deaths that would not have occurred had the stability not been overturned) is going to accumulate and eventually be quite high. That's what has happened in Iraq. I've never perceived Bush followers as being shy about admitting that the wars they cheer on cause lots of civilian deaths. Usually, they wave away those sorts of concerns with inspiring and cleansing phrases like "birth pangs" and tell you that while it's really too bad that so many civilians have to die, it's all really worth it. Usually, in response to effete, whiny concerns that their wars are resulting in the deaths of huge numbers of innocent people, one hears the defiant Stalinist resolve about the need to break some eggs in order to make beautiful democratic omelettes. Yet here, they seem to be a in veritable panic, screaming with their hands over their ears that this study is all just fabricated lies from Bush-hating ideologues. It seems emotionally important to them to deny the study's conclusions and the only explanation as to why that would be -- at least the only explanation I can see -- lies in the sheer numbers. The phrase "600,000 excess deaths" packs a pretty big wallop. Even the most morally monstrous person would not want the responsibility of having advocated a war that resulted in the deaths of that many human beings (or at least would not want to be perceived as has having that responsibility). And thus, even though they have nowhere near the information, knowledge or expertise they would need to deny the conclusions of this study, they are doing so vigorously, even hysterically. It's one thing to whimsically order up some wars knowing in the abstract that you're going to eradicate some distant, fuzzy innocent lives by doing so. Usually, our society is poilte enough not to talk about such things too much, let alone to crudely count the bodies, so war advocates won't be harassed too much by the deaths they cause. But here it has been quantified -- their war has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings who would be alive today in the absence of their invasion. That number -- 600,000 -- just sounds so mammoth, almost Holocaust-like in magnitude (hopefully, it goes without saying that I'm not to comparing the Iraq war to the Holocaust, but merely pointing out why I think this study prompted such an intense reaction). Like children who want what they want without having to pay any price for it, these Bush followers refuse to accept the consequences for their war. So with blind irrationality, they insist that this study is false without having any real idea of whether it is, all because they want it to be false, because they are incapable of accepting the consequences (including, perhaps predominantly, the political costs) for their actions. A refusal to recognize unpleasant facts is hardly a new phenomenon for them, but in this instance, the need to deny facts seems particularly acute. One other observation: if it could be demonstrated that the findings of this study were accurate, would that change the mind of a single war proponent? Would they suddenly stand up and announce that the war was not worth the costs? I don't think there's much doubt about the answer.

Casualty Report

A North Wales soldier was last night recovering in hospital after being injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Trooper Craig Roberts is serving with the First Queen’s Dragoon Guards, Welsh Cavalry. The 19-year-old is expected to be flown back to Britain later this week. Craig only returned to Iraq around a fortnight ago after spending three weeks leave at home in North Wales with mum Wendy and other family members. They found out about the attack on Monday night. At the time the teenager was said to be in a critical condition at a military hospital in Shaiba, near Basra. But an army spokesman said Craig’s condition had improved considerably.

Quote Of The Day

"Part of empire is the way it's penetrated our society, the way we've become dependent on it… The military budget is starting to bankrupt the country. It's got so much in it that's well beyond any rational military purpose. It equals just less than half of total global military spending. And yet here we are, stymied by two of the smallest, poorest countries on Earth. Iraq before we invaded had a GDP the size of the state of Louisiana, and Afghanistan was certainly one of the poorest places on the planet. And yet these two places have stopped us." – Chalmers Johnson


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