Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Bring ‘em on: Ten U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq on Tuesday, one of the bloodiest days of the war for American forces outside of major combat operations.

The toll included four soldiers killed by a single bomb in Baghdad, and another soldier killed by small-arms fire in the Iraqi capital, the U.S. military said.

North of Baghdad, a soldier was killed when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by an improvised-explosive device, the military said.

Three soldiers died in the northern province of Diyala and one Marine in the western province of Anbar. The U.S. military gave no details of those deaths, saying only that they came in "enemy action.''


A pair of car bombs exploded in Baghdad Wednesday morning, injuring at least eight people.

A car bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol in central Baghdad wounded five civilians. A roadside bomb killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded two others on Tuesday in Baghdad's western Yarmouk district. Near Hilla

Police found the body of a police officer shot dead in an area between Kerbala and Hilla, 100 km south of Baghdad.


Gunmen shot dead a policeman as he was leaving his house in the town of Suwayra, 40 km south of Baghdad.

Gunmen killed a former member of Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath party in the town of Suwayra.

Southern Iraq

A roadside bomb killed a provincial police intelligence chief in southern Iraq early Wednesday. The bomb planted on the main highway between the cities of Amarah and Basra killed Ali Qassim al-Tamimi, head of intelligence for the Maysan provincial police force, along with four bodyguards.

Statistics: The death toll for coalition military forces in Iraq hit 3,000 Monday, according to a CNN tally.

The combined death toll includes 2,759 U.S. troops and seven American civilian contractors of the military.

Other coalition deaths include 119 British, 32 Italians, 18 Ukrainians, 17 Poles, 13 Bulgarians, and 11 Spaniards, as well as service members from Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Holland, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Romania, Salvador, Slovakia, and Thailand.

The milestone was reached after U.S. military officials announced the deaths of five U.S. soldiers and Marines over the weekend.

Our man Whisker’s count hit this particular milestone on the 15th and on the whole I trust his figures more than CNN’s. But hey, who’s counting? Just because Bush’s war has killed more Coalition troops than the number of people who died on 9-11 shouldn’t be anything to get excited about. It’s not like we’re talking some crazy figure like 600,000 corpses or something . -m

Balad: Police and black-clad Shiite militiamen toting machine guns sealed off the predominantly Shiite city of Balad on Tuesday, guarding against attacks by Sunni insurgents flooding into towns just north of Baghdad, vowing revenge for four days of violence in which dozens of Sunnis were killed.

Calm largely returned to Balad by Tuesday, with Iraqi army troops forcing Shiite militia fighters out of police cars that the militiamen had commandeered for the attacks, said residents reached by telephone in the cut-off town. American troops patrolled the city and guarded one end of a Tigris River bridge that links Balad with Duluiyah, a Sunni farm town also at the epicenter of the outburst of sectarian conflict.

On the Duluiyah end of the bridge, angry Sunni insurgents gathered in force, clutching their PKC machine guns and rocket launchers, standing their tense watch. Abu Achmed, a fighter in the Islamic Army, a Sunni insurgent movement, held a machine gun but wished for more.

"If I had a nuclear bomb, I would wipe it out," the insurgent fighter, who refused to give his full name, said as he stared at Balad across the bridge. "I would level it."

Sectarian violence: For centuries, from the Ottoman Empire to the British-installed monarchy to the republic eventually ruled by Saddam Hussein, Sunnis were the elite who got the bulk of government jobs. Shiites, in Hussein's time, were badly persecuted.

Yet in daily life hardly anyone cared about telling Sunnis and Shiites apart. It was considered rude to ask a person's sect, and it is practically impossible to discern from their looks, speech or dress. For generations, the two sects intermarried, making it difficult to differentiate them by surnames. They attended the same schools and lived in mixed neighborhoods.

Now, in the fourth year after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Hussein, a struggle for power is unfolding between Sunnis and Shiites in the political arena and in the streets of Baghdad. Since the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra in February, sectarian strife and lawlessness have escalated.

At checkpoints set up by police or by sectarian militias, Iraqis said in interviews, it is common to hear questions such as "What is your sect?" or "What is your tribal name?" A wrong response could prove deadly.

On July 9, in Baghdad's al-Jihad neighborhood, Shiite militiamen allegedly killed 40 Sunnis after erecting checkpoints and checking identity cards. Three days later, unknown gunmen attacked a bus station in the northeastern town of Muqdadiyah and separated Sunni men from Shiites. They blindfolded and handcuffed the Shiites, then shot them in the head.

Another sect’s problems: Christianity took root here near the dawn of the faith 2,000 years ago, making Iraq home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. The country is rich in biblical significance: scholars believe the Garden of Eden described in Genesis was in Iraq; Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, a city in Iraq; the city of Nineveh that the prophet Jonah visited after being spit out by a giant fish was in Iraq.

Both Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians, the country’s largest Christian sects, still pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

They have long been a tiny minority amid a sea of Islamic faith. But under Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s million or so Christians for the most part coexisted peacefully with Muslims, both the dominant Sunnis and the majority Shiites.

But since Mr. Hussein’s ouster, their status here has become increasingly uncertain, first because many Muslim Iraqis framed the American-led invasion as a modern crusade against Islam, and second because Christians traditionally run the country’s liquor stories, anathema to many religious Muslims.

Over the past three and a half years, Christians have been subjected to a steady stream of church bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and threatening letters slipped under their doors.

Estimates of the resulting Christian exodus vary from the tens of thousands to more than 100,000, with most heading for Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

Is anyone but the poodle left in the Coalition of the Willing?: The Slovak government greed on Wednesday to pull its soldiers from Iraq in February, joining several other European Union nations that have withdrawn troops from the country following a government change.

Slovakia was a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq under the centre-right government of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda.

He lost power in a June election and the new leftist administration of Prime Minister Robert Fico has long opposed Slovakia's presence in Iraq. Fico campaigned hard in the election on a pledge to bring troops home as soon as possible.

Slovakia has 110 army engineers and security personnel in Iraq.

Iraqi Politics

Reassurance: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki told President Bush on Monday that U.S. officials have been undermining his government, and sought reassurance that the administration was not preparing to abandon him. During a 15-minute morning phone call, Maliki said he was concerned that U.S. officials had openly suggested imposing a two-month deadline for him to gain control of militias and quell sectarian violence, said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.

Maliki said that calls for such a deadline, and proposals for a three-way partition of Iraq, "were undermining his government," Snow said. Snow said that Bush, who initiated the phone call, encouraged the prime minister "to ignore rumors that the United States government was seeking to impose a timeline on the Maliki government." But when asked whether Bush had "total confidence" in Maliki's Shiite-dominated government, Snow said the president "believes the prime minister is doing everything in his power" to stem the country's raging violence, adding, "There has to be more to be done. The violence levels are absolutely unacceptable."

Does anyone seriously think W will let Jim Baker tell him what to do?: The White House also suggested that it would not necessarily accept the recommendations of an independent commission reviewing Iraq policy. “We’re not going to outsource the business of handling the war in Iraq,” said Mr. Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow.

The president’s remarks to Mr. Maliki came during a 15-minute telephone conversation, Mr. Snow said. During the call, initiated by Mr. Bush, Mr. Maliki expressed concern about news reports that there would be an attempt to replace him if he was unable to assert control over Iraq within two months, Mr. Snow said.

“There was a rumor that there were going to be attempts to replace him if certain things don’t happen in two months,” Mr. Snow said. “And the president said, the rumors are not true; we support you.”

Is Maliki Bush’s boy or Sadr’s?: Iraqi prime minister Nouri Maliki has ordered the release of a senior figure in the organisation headed by radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

The man, Sheikh Mazin Saedi, had been detained by American troops in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Tuesday.

Some 5,000 Shia protesters marched in Baghdad on Wednesday calling for his release, the Associated Press reported.

The Mehdi army, a militia controlled by Mr Sadr, has been widely accused of involvement in sectarian violence.

The United States military declined to identify individuals it had recently detained.

But it said it had captured "the alleged leader of a murder and kidnapping cell" in east Baghdad.

More maneuvers: The Iraqi government removed the country’s two most senior police commanders from their posts on Tuesday, in the first broad move against the top leadership of Iraq’s unruly special police forces.

The two generals had led Iraq’s special police commandos and its public order brigade, both widely criticized as being heavily infiltrated by Shiite militias. Their removal comes at a crucial time for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who has come under intense American pressure to purge Iraq’s security forces of the militias and death squads that operate within their ranks.

The two generals, Rasheed Fleyah and Mahdi Sabeh, both Shiites, had been in their posts since the previous government, under which abuses by largely Shiite police forces began. Iraq’s Sunnis deeply fear the police commandos that grew out of control soon after a coalition of Shiite parties came to power last year.

Mr. Maliki faces a nearly impossible task in weeding out the militias. Their influence runs deep in Iraqi society; they are present in the guard forces of Iraqi politicians, at the doors of mosques and even on college campuses.

Now this is a bit of a turnaround: The Bush administration is pressing the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki to issue a “broad” and “painful” amnesty for insurgents in spite of intense opposition to the proposal from politicians both in Iraq and the US, according to a senior administration official.

Amid growing anxiety in Washington over Iraq’s escalating sectarian violence, the US is advocating more determined moves towards a national reconciliation with the Sunni community that dominates Iraq’s insurgency. It also wants a tougher line on the Shia militias.

“You need the government to move forward with a programme – it should include an amnesty in a broad fashion, a comprehensive amnesty proposal,” the senior US official, who asked not to be named, told the Financial Times. The official was not explicit about the terms of the proposed amnesty, but he said: “No successful amnesty is not painful or sweeping.”

Notes From The Bizarro Universe

“It is difficult, no question about it, but we’ve now got over 300,000 Iraqis trained and equipped as part of their security forces. They’ve had three national elections with higher turnout than we have here in the United States. If you look at the general overall situation, they’re doing remarkably well.” – Richard B. ‘Dick’ Cheney, interview by Rush Limbaugh, October 18, 2006

No shit, Sherlock: Former US secretary of state James Baker was visibly shocked when he last visited Iraq, and said the country was in a "helluva mess", the BBC reported today.

Mr Baker is leading a review of the situation in Iraq by a bipartisan US committee of experts, and is expected to recommend a change in US strategy for rebuilding Iraq.

Citing a unnamed close friend and ally of Mr Baker's, himself a top politician, the BBC reported that Mr Baker said "there simply weren't any easy solutions".

One perk of being VP is you only smoke the very finest crack: With just 22 days before key November elections in which the unpopular war in Iraq may cost Republicans control of the US Congress, Mr Cheney again rejected setting a precise timetable for bringing US forces home.

And, at a time when some US political leaders are worried about public opinion polls showing simmering Iraqi anger at the US occupation, Mr Cheney said US soldiers were actually winning over Iraqi support.

"Members of our military have worked diligently to make sure that more Iraqi families have police protection, and electricity, and water, and sanitation for their homes," he said.

"By your openness and your decency, by your honour and your kindness to others in thousands of interactions, you've built bonds of friendship that are very important to our two countries," said Mr Cheney.

DefSec gets good dope too: U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday the U.S. military is too strong to lose the war in Iraq, but ultimately political solutions will be needed to win.

"You've got a situation where it's not possible to lose militarily," Rumsfeld said. "It's also going to require more than military power to prevail."

But no matter how good Don and Dick’s drugs are, this guy has better: On Feb. 9, 2006, House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-NY) spoke at the Merrick Jewish Center in Merrick, NY. King told his constituents that “the situation [in Iraq] is more stable than you think.” He cited “bumper to bumper traffic,” shopping centers, restaurants, video stores, vendors, and hotels to conclude that being in Baghdad is “like being in Manhattan.”

Life in Baghdad is nothing like life in Manhattan. There have been 441 murders in New York City so far this year. In contrast, approximately 14,458 Iraqis have died in the war this year according to iCasualties, which counts casualties based on media reports. A study in the British medical journal Lancet suggests the real number may be much higher.

Meanwhile, Back In The Real World

Liquid black wet dream: Depending on how Iraq's petroleum law shakes out, the country's enormous reserves could break the back of OPEC, a wet dream in Western capitals for three decades. James Paul predicted that "even before Iraq had reached its full production potential of 8 million barrels or more per day, the companies would gain huge leverage over the international oil system. OPEC would be weakened by the withdrawal of one of its key producers from the OPEC quota system." Depending on how things shape up in the next few months, Western oil companies could end up controlling the country's output levels, or the government, heavily influenced by the United States, could even pull out of the cartel entirely.

Both independent analysts and officials within Iraq's Oil Ministry anticipate that when all is said and done, the big winners in Iraq will be the Big Four -- the American firms Exxon-Mobile and Chevron, the British BP-Amoco and Royal Dutch-Shell -- that dominate the world oil market. Ibrahim Mohammed, an industry consultant with close contacts in the Iraqi Oil Ministry, told the Associated Press that there's a universal belief among ministry staff that the major U.S. companies will win the lion's share of contracts. "The feeling is that the new government is going to be influenced by the United States," he said.

Part Two: With 140,000 U.S. troops on the ground, the largest U.S. embassy in the world sequestered in Baghdad's fortified "Green Zone" and an economy designed by a consulting firm in McLean, Va., post-invasion Iraq was well on its way to becoming a bonanza for foreign investors.

But Big Oil had its sights set on a specific arrangement -- the lucrative production sharing agreements that lock in multinationals' control for long terms and are virtually unheard of in countries as rich in easily accessible oil as Iraq.

The occupation authorities would have to steer an ostensibly sovereign government to the outcome they desired, and they'd have to overcome any resistance that they encountered from the fiercely independent and understandably wary Iraqis along the way. Finally, they'd have to make sure that the Anglo-American firms were well-positioned to win the lion's share of the choicest contracts.

Snow Job

We don’t know either but we have our opinion: At his daily briefing today at the White House, Press Secretary Tony Snow fielded a barrage of questions related to the recent upsurge in U.S. deaths in Iraq and worries that the Iraqi government is failing to stem the tide of violence. Suddenly one reporter put the issue squarely: “Sorry. Just the simple question: Are we winning?” Snow punted. “We're making progress,” he replied. “I don't know. How do you define ‘winning’?”

Trust us, we’re the government: In today’s edition of the daily press briefing at the White House, Press Secretary Tony Snow appeared to suggest that the CIA’s “secret prisons” could be back in business – and closed a lengthy discussion of interrogation techniques by threatening to get “snarky” before deciding “that’s not worthy of me.” The White House had acknowledged that the CIA secret prisons were emptied, under orders, when high-profile prisoners were transferred to Guantanomo, and presumably remained closed. But with the new terror interrogation law signed by the president today, Snow was asked if those prisons were still empty. He refused to answer, and hinted that perhaps the administration felt it was now free to change course, saying, “I am not at liberty to divulge any further details about what may have happened in the last two hours since the law was signed -- or hour and a half.” The second line of questioning that produced the “snarky” reference concerned how Americans could know that “torture” guidelines were being followed. Snow bristled at questions, suggesting that reporters were “impugning” CIA officers and military personnel instead of trusting them to act responsibly.

Speaking Of Torture…

Goodbye, America. It’s been nice knowing you: President Bush yesterday signed into law new rules on interrogating detainees and prosecuting suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, calling the measure ``one of the most important pieces of legislation in the war on terror."

But as Bush and a group of key Republican senators hailed the compromise that led to the passage of the new rules last month, the American Civil Liberties Union called it ``one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history." Groups of defense lawyers vowed to fight the new law in court, calling it ``blatantly unconstitutional" because it denies detainees the right to challenge their detention in court.

The lawyers' vows assure that the battle over the treatment and prosecution of detainees -- which consumed Congress for much of September and sparked a brief Republican rebellion against the administration -- will continue in courtrooms in the coming years, almost certainly finding its way to the Supreme Court.

Oh, but if we’re going to torture ‘terrorists’ we better find some first: Disaffected people living in the United States may develop radical ideologies and potentially violent skills over the Internet and that could present the next major U.S. security threat, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Monday. "We now have a capability of someone to radicalize themselves over the Internet," Chertoff said on the sidelines of a meeting of International Association of the Chiefs of Police. "They can train themselves over the Internet. They never have to necessarily go to the training camp or speak with anybody else and that diffusion of a combination of hatred and technical skills in things like bomb-making is a dangerous combination," Chertoff said. "Those are the kind of terrorists that we may not be able to detect with spies and satellites."

How will we know they’re ‘terrorists’? Maybe if they…disagree: Yesterday Fox News host Bill O’Reilly asked President Bush whether the “anti-Bush press” is responsible for the American public turning against the war in Iraq. Bush agreed with O’Reilly, stating that he’s “disappointed that people would propagandize to that effect because the stakes are too high for that kind of illogical behavior.”

Or commit more serious provocations: There is no public evidence that Sami al-Hajj committed any crime other than journalism for a television network the Bush administration doesn’t like. But the U.S. has been holding Mr. Hajj, a cameraman for Al Jazeera, for nearly five years without trial, mostly at Guantánamo Bay. With the jailing of Mr. Hajj and of four journalists in Iraq, the U.S. ranked No. 6 in the world in the number of journalists it imprisoned last year, just behind Uzbekistan and tied with Burma, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

A Tale Of Two Budgets

His: With a long list of caveats, President Bush signed a bill Tuesday authorizing $532.8 billion in defense spending, including a 2.2 percent pay raise for members of the military.

The measure, for the 2007 fiscal year that began Oct. 1, authorizes $70 billion in supplemental funding to support the war on terror's operation costs, personnel expenses, equipment needs and other costs.

The White House released two pages of administration disagreements and reservations about provisions that lawmakers put in the bill.

Hers: Kawkab Sami wakes up at 5 o'clock every morning to clean her house and feed her four children breakfast before getting them off to school. As a resident of Baghdad, the 35-year-old widow says she lives in constant fear of a bomb killing her children and herself at any moment. Her husband was killed by US troops in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Her children are between the ages of 4 and 10. With only a few hours of power a day at home, no clean water, and broken sewer pipes in the road outside, Sami cries every night, worried about how long she will be able to take care of her family and keep them healthy. "I cannot afford a generator and special filter for the water because my salary is hardly enough for the main needs of my children," said Sami who, as a primary school teacher, earns US $200 a month. "People tell me that I have to boil the [tap] water before I drink it, but I will need to use gas to do that and it is so expensive. The only thing I can do is pray my children do not get sick from it," she added. Sami's basic costs add up quickly. She pays US $80 a month to rent a small house in a suburb of the capital; $30 a month for milk for the children and US $16 a month on cooking gas. That leaves her with less than $3 a day to feed, clothe and buy other necessities for herself and her children.

But what does she have to complain about – at least her kids go to school: Thousands of students have been forced to stay at home due to escalating violence across the country. Attendance rates for the new school year, which started on 20 September, are a record low, according to the Ministry of Education.

Recently released statistics from the Ministry indicate that only 30 percent of Iraq's 3.5 million students are currently attending classes. This compares to approximately 75 percent of students attending classes the previous year, according to UK-based NGO Save the Children.


Just one in three say the war has been worth it: The generally negative attitude of likely voters nationwide was also reflected in their view toward the Iraq war, the poll shows. Just 34% said they thought the war has been worth the loss of American lives, down from 40% two weeks ago. Among Republicans, 59% said it has been worth it, while just 15% of Democrats agreed. Among independents, 25% said it has been worth it, while 65% said it has not been worth the loss of U.S. lives.

Heading into the mid–term congressional elections, likely voters have consistently said the war is one of the top two issues facing the nation today.

This story makes me sad: The Dinglers’ eldest son, Joshua, was 19 and fresh out of high school when he and two other soldiers died in a Humvee accident in Iraq. Just over a year later his parents are still coming to terms with their loss.

“You live in denial for a long time,” says Mrs Dingler, leafing through a photograph album. “Eventually you force yourself to say, ‘The rest of the guys have come home and he’s not coming back’.”

As domestic opposition to the Iraq war edges higher with each month of bloodshed, the Dinglers have more reasons than most to voice dissent.

Instead, they remain ­passionate supporters both of President George W. Bush and the cause for which they believe their son died.

“Joshua understood that if we didn’t take the fight to them, they would bring the fight to us,” says Mr Dingler, linking Iraq to the broader US war against terrorism. Whether you want to split hairs about whether the Iraqi situation is part of the war on terror is irrelevant to me. We are fighting an ­ideology.”

What? Real Christians? Didn’t know there were any left: Weighing in on Connecticut's hotly contested congressional races, a group of religious activists have unveiled a giant billboard off busy Interstate 95 that accuses four candidates of voting to allow torture. The billboard in Stratford names Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and Republican Reps. Christopher Shays, Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson as supporters of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The legislation, which President Bush was expected to sign into law Tuesday, allows military commissions to prosecute suspected terrorists and spells out violations of the Geneva Conventions.


Molly Ivins: One reason despair is not an option is because things can always get worse, and then what'll we do? I was actually trying to figure that out when I came across a remarkable article written for the The Nation magazine (known for its liberalism for 141 years) by Richard J. Whalen -- a conservative in good standing, a former Nixon staffer. Whalen has undertaken the singularly valuable task of talking to dissenting generals about the war in Iraq.

I suppose one could argue, and I am sure someone will, that these are mostly retired generals. Some, like Lt. Gen. William Odom, are calling Iraq "the worst strategic mistake in the history of the United States." And they are retired precisely because of their opposition to Iraq.

"The only question is whether a war serves the national interest," one retired three-star told Whalen. "Iraq does not."

Greg Mitchell: With mass killings occurring every day in Iraq, and Americans falling at one of the highest daily rates of the entire war, it’s no wonder that support for the conflict in the U.S. continues to slip. What the American press, public and political figures have yet to grasp or acknowledge, however, is the true human catastrophe in Iraq, a 21st century holocaust, if I may put it that way. This inconvenient truth -- suggested, if not proven, by the Johns Hopkins study released last week -- seems to be too horrible for many to face, considering the mild or negative reaction to the report in the days following the broad attention it did receive at first. Would it surprise you to learn that if the Johns Hopkins estimates of 400,000 to 800,000 deaths are correct -- and many experts in the survey field seem to suggest they probably are -- that the supposedly not-yet-civil-war in Iraq has already cost more lives, per capita, than our own Civil War (one in 40 of all Iraqis alive in 2003)? And that these losses are comparable to what some European nations suffered in World War II? You'd never know it from mainstream press coverage in the U.S.

Dr. Curren Warf: Last week, the medical journal The Lancet released an epidemiological study concluding that 655,000 Iraqis died from war-related injury and disease from March 2003 to July 2006. This shockingly high figure has drawn attacks from the Bush administration and right-wing pundits.

Speaking as a medical doctor, I wish to set the record straight. The Lancet study is superb science. The study followed a strict, widely accepted methodology to arrive at its sobering conclusion. The study is being attacked not on scientific grounds, but for ideological reasons. People may not realize that The Lancet is the world’s most prestigious medical journal. Prior to publication, the Iraq study was subjected to a thorough peer-review by specialists in the field of epidemiology. Three of the study's authors, Gil Burnham, Shannon Doocy, and Les Roberts, are doctors at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. The fourth author, Riyadh Lafta, is on the faculty of Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. Under dangerous conditions, researchers conducted a cross-sectional cluster sample survey involving a total of 1849 Iraqi households. The survey documented a four-fold increase in the crude mortality rate from the pre-invasion to the post-invasion periods and, in addition, characterized the causes of death. The investigators followed the same methodology in Iraq that has had been used in estimating death and disease in other conflicts such as the Congo -- where the Bush administration uncritically accepted their results. The public health tool they employed -- cluster surveys -- has been demonstrated time and again to be the best method of estimating rates of death in areas where vital statistics are not scrupulously maintained.

Gareth Porter: George W. Bush continues to use the rhetorical device of linking the occupation of Iraq with the war on terrorism, warning in his most recent press conference that “the terrorists would take control of Iraq” if the U.S. withdrew its forces. But for many politicians and pundits the argument that has kept them supporting the occupation is that withdrawing too soon would make sectarian violence even worse. This argument for continued occupation is not based on the real political-military situation in Iraq, and it is important to understand why.

When U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad gave a speech in Washington his main argument against a “precipitous” withdrawal was that it “could unleash a sectarian civil war, which inevitably would draw neighboring states into a regional conflagration…” That was also the main theme of Sen. Joe Lieberman in arguing against Democratic amendments calling for a timetable for withdrawal in June.

It is not that the civil war won't get worse in Iraq; it now seems very likely that it will. But the United States is not militarily capable of preventing the worse war yet to come, and trying to do so would only start a new war between the United States and the Shiites who want the U.S. to leave. Since we cannot prevent sectarian violence, the only question is whether we leave before the inevitable confrontation with Shiites—a battle U.S. troops would certainly lose.

The Rude Pundit: A Quick and Easy Test to Determine Where You Stand on the Iraq War:

Let's say we line up, oh, hell, a couple hundred thousand American soldiers, fine men and women in combat uniform, officers, non-coms, grunts, and we put them on TV. Then George W. Bush walks in with a loaded glock. Now let's say that the President puts the gun to the temple of the first soldier and says, "If I shoot this Army private dead, there's a chance America will be victorious and democracy will bring peace to Iraq. Do you want me to do it?" There's no guarantees, though - just the chance. What would you say? For the sake of argument here, let's say that you answer, "Yes, it's worth a soldier for the chance for peace in Iraq." So George W. Bush shoots the soldier in the temple and turns to his advisors, who check reports and, no, still no peace. Then the President says, "If I cut off one limb or the genitals of the next ten soldiers, there's a chance America will be victorious and democracy will bring peace to Iraq. Do you want me to do it?" What would you say? For the sake of argument here, let's say that you answer, "Yes, it's worth ten wounded soldiers for the chance at peace in Iraq." So George W. Bush cuts off arms, legs, testicles, and turns to his advisors, who check reports and, no, still no peace. Then the President says, "If I beat the next ten soldiers in the head with a hammer so that their brains are damaged, there's a chance America will be victorious and democracy will bring peace to Iraq. Do you want me to do it?" What would you say? For the sake of argument here, let's say that you answer, "Yes, it's worth ten brain-damaged soldiers for the chance at peace in Iraq." So George W. Bush uses a hammer to crack the skulls of the next ten soldiers and turns to his advisors, who check reports and, no, still no peace. Then the President starts the cycle all over again. He places the gun to the temple of the next soldier. How many soldiers would you let George W. Bush shoot dead? One? 3000? More? How many would you let him injure? 10? 20,000? More? If you think the test is biased, unfair, and overly emotional, then you haven't been paying attention. For, really, and come on, is the current U.S. policy in Iraq any more wishful than a lottery of death and mutilation. Feel free to play with friends. For big fun, substitute Iraqis and multiply by a couple hundred.

Brent Budowsky: Never before in the history of our Republic have the military, the moral, the common sense and patriotic factors all told us to do one thing: stop this madness that must never be done in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Stop this madness that creates more enemies that want to kill us. Stop this madness that violates the cardinal morals of our great nation. Stop this madness that offends the commanders and clergy, that violates the most basic principles of common decency, the most basic principles of common sense, the most true ideals common to lovers of freedom and democracy everywhere.

This is different.

George Washington was right, and we must wage this fight until we win, whether it takes hours, or days, or months, or years, or decades because sooner or later we will win, because we are a better and nobler country. A better and nobler people. With a better and nobler mission that will outlast the politics, the polls and the partisans who have done so much damage to this land we love.

It is a dark, cold, day in our capital with the rain of tears from heaven pouring onto the monuments and statues that bear the names of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.

There will never be such monuments in the Mall, within sight of the White House, that will carry the names of Bush, or Cheney, or Rumsfeld.

There will never be walls or monuments within sight of the Oval Office, as we have that honor the heroes of the Great Generation and Vietnam, that will honor our achievements at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

We are not the first generation that faces its challenge.

We will not be the last.

But we will not be treated like the fearful generation by those who believe our legacy should be the torture generation.

We stand with Washington.

We have not yet begun to fight.

We will not stop until we win.

We will not let George Washington down.

We are the people of America, and we will never surrender the Dream, because we pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Casualty Reports

Family and friends are mourning the death of an Alabama soldier from Prattville. Army officials report that 19-year-old Private Stephen Bicknell, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, was killed Sunday in Iraq when the Humvee he was driving was struck by an improvised explosive device.

A Rockport family is in mourning after learning their son was killed in Iraq. 25-year-old Sergeant Jonathan J. Simpson, of Rockport died Saturday during combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar Province.

Army Capt. Mark C. Paine, 32, of Rancho Cucamonga, was killed Sunday in Iraq, officials said. Paine was in Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad, when an improvised explosive device blew up near his vehicle, a U.S. Defense Department news release said.

An Army private from Hemet has died fighting in the war in Iraq. Kenny Stanton, Junior, was killed on Friday in Baghdad after an improvised explosive device blew up near his vehicle. The 20-year-old was assigned to the 57th military police company in Korea.

The Defense Department said Tuesday that three soldiers died Saturday of injuries after a roadside bomb went off near their vehicle in Baghdad. The victims were 35-year-old Staff Sgt. Joseph M. Kane of Darby, Pa., 25-year-old Spc. Timothy J. Lauer of Saegertown, Pa., and 48-year-old 1st Sgt. Charles M. King of Mobile, Alabama.

A Kern County family is in mourning after their only son was killed just days ago in the war in Iraq. Father Craig Harrison of St. Francis Church in Bakersfield, says 33 year old Army Sgt. Lester Domenico Baroncini, Jr. was killed October 15. The details surrounding his death are limited, according to Father Harrison.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremy Monroe, killed in Iraq, was buried here after a simple ceremony reflecting funeral wishes he expressed while home on leave. Monte Monroe said military officials told him his 20-year-old son was one of three Marines killed in action Oct. 8 in Iraq’s western province of Anbar.

Military policeman Pfc. Michael K. Oremus, 21, of Highland Park, N.Y., died Oct. 2 after being shot by enemy forces, according to the Defense Department.

The Department of Defense announced the death of Sgt. Jonathan Lootens, 25, and 1st Lt. Josh Deese, 25, of North Carolina, who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Oct. 15 of injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Kirkuk, Iraq, during combat operations.

Twenty-eight year-old Pfc. Keith Moore was killed in Baghdad in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.


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