Monday, November 27, 2006


Imagine the scenario where an Al Qaida-type organization uses Iraq as an arsenal, a place to get weapons, a place to be trained to use the weapons. – George W. Bush, Remarks by the President at Arkansas Welcome, White House (11/4/2002).

Yeah, just imagine…


Bring ‘em on: Three U.S. Army soldiers were killed and two wounded during combat operations in Baghdad, the military said today. The Multinational Division soldiers died at about 9 a.m. Sunday, the command said, without providing any details about what had happened.

In central Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on a crowded street, killing six Iraqis and wounding three, some of whom were sitting in a parked car.

A police commando was killed and another wounded when gunmen attacked their patrol in west Baghdad.

One policeman was killed and four were wounded when gunmen attacked their checkpoint in west Baghdad.

The bodies of five people were found with gunshot wounds and bearing signs of torture just north of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.

Police captain Abdul-Qadir Abbas was kidnapped outside the Sheikh Zayid hospital in central Baghdad.

Gunmen attacked a Baghdad municipal office in central Baghdad and killed a guard and abducted three others.

Police in western Baghdad found the bodies of two Iraqis who had been kidnapped, blindfolded and shot.

A tortured body was found in the Tigris River. A total of 43 people were killed or found dead in Iraq on Sunday, police said.

At least 17 bodies with bullet holes in their heads were recovered in various places around the city.

The head of the Sunni bloc, Adnan Dulaimi, came under attack in Baghdad's Adel neighborhood. For an hour, his guards held off armed men who had already lobbed mortar shells toward his house but missed. Eventually, Iraqi and American forces arrived and the gunmen fled.

Several mortar rounds landed in the Shiite neighborhood of Al Mustansiriya in eastern Baghdad, wounding seven people.

In Baghdad, two mortar shells hit a U.S. military post in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Baladiyat.

Three mortar rounds landed on a residential district and killed three people and wounded 15 others in the southeastern Diyala Bridge area of Baghdad.

In the southern district of Dora, one of the city's most violent areas, armed men in two cars attacked a police patrol at 8:30 a.m., wounding six policemen.

Five mortar rounds exploded in the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhood of Ghazaliya, wounding five.

Residents in Ghazaliya described a harrowing scene in which Shiite militiamen opened fire with machine guns and lobbed mortars and grenades at the al-Hadithi and al-Muhajirin Sunni mosques and at a nearby market. They said the militiamen were aided in the attack by Iraqi security forces. As many as 45 people were killed and several houses destroyed, residents said.

In Hurriya, one neighborhood where Shiite militias have driven out most of the Sunni residents, Iraqi police and soldiers stood by Friday as other uniformed men in police vehicles launched rocket-propelled grenades into houses and fired their guns at Sunni mosques, according to a policeman who was present. A mortar shell exploded in Hurriya, killing a woman and wounding three other people.

Police and witnesses said U.S. soldiers shot and killed 11 civilians and wounded five on Sunday night in Husseiniya, a suburb about 13 miles outside northeast Baghdad. The U.S. military said it could not immediately confirm that such an attack had taken place. The police and witnesses spoke with Associated Press Television News on condition of anonymity to protect their own security.

In the mainly Shiite neighborhood of Karada, two mortar shells killed four civilians and injured five, including the imam of the Zuwiya Mosque. The wounded were taken to Ibn Nafis Hospital, where armed men later tried to break in. Police guarding the hospital fought the attackers, eventually repelling them as reinforcements arrived.

Two shells fell on a house across the street from a Shiite mosque in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada, not far from the Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government are located. Four people were injured in the attack.

In Mashtal, a mixed area in eastern Baghdad, a mortar shell injured four.

At least one mortar round fell in Sadr City, wounding a woman.

Gunmen killed one man in the mainly Shi'ite Talbiya district of east Baghdad and kidnapped four of his brothers.


A police major was killed while he was trying to dismantle a roadside bomb in the oil refinery city of Baiji.

Iraqi soldiers arrested the imam of a Shi'ite mosque in the village of Bani Tamim near Balad Ruz, in Diyala province north of Baghdad. Four others were arrested with the imam, Hassan Attiya.

Baquba and Diyala Province

Update to Sunday’s post: At least 47 Sunni Arab insurgents were killed Saturday during long gun battles with Iraqi security forces in and around Baquba, the capital of Diyala Province, a police spokesman in Baquba said. In the largest and deadliest fight, scores of insurgents, using assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, laid siege to several government buildings in the center of the city, according to the spokesman. At least 36 of the Sunni Arab insurgents were killed in that clash, which raged for about four hours, according to the official, who said he did not yet know if any Iraqi security forces had been wounded.

After nightfall, clashes broke out between gunmen and Iraqi Army troops in the Al Tahrir neighborhood in Baquba. At least 11 insurgents were killed in the fighting.

In Baquba, north of Baghdad, Iraqi security forces battled Sunni insurgents for a second day. Southwest of Baquba, armed men took over a police station and burned six vehicles as police fled. They replaced the Iraqi flag with that of a Sunni Arab insurgent group.

In Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province north of Baghdad, police said the area was mostly quiet on Monday morning after two days of fierce fighting. On Sunday, at least 17 insurgents were killed and 15 detained, police said. Twenty civilians were kidnapped and three bodies found in the province. The mayor of a municipality also narrowly escaped an assassination attempt that killed one of his guards and wounded three.

In the Sunni city of Baqubah, seven teenagers were found handcuffed, blindfolded and executed with bullets to their forehead. Gangs also looted the city's library, stealing computers, books and furniture.


An Iraqi security detainee died at a U.S. prison in southern Iraq two days after being taken to a hospital after suffering chest pains, the military said. The detainee, whose name was not given, died Saturday "from what appears to be natural causes" at Camp Bucca near Basra, the military said.

France's Defence Ministry said a French intelligence officer was killed by a local militia during an inspection at a checkpoint in Basra on Nov. 21.


Gun battles broke out in Buhruz, a predominantly Sunni village just south of Baquba, when gunmen assaulted the main police station from three directions using mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles. The gunmen began their attack using the cover of date palm orchards that surround the village and retreated after two hours of fighting. No immediate word of casualties on either side was available.

Dujayl Twelve police officers were kidnapped after they ran out of ammunition during a shootout at a checkpoint near the Shiite village of Dujayl.

Alternate version: Gunmen attacked a checkpoint near Dujail and kidnapped eight policemen, police said. A ninth policeman was wounded but managed to escape. One policeman was killed and another wounded when their patrol arrived at the scene and was ambushed.


A U.S. F16 warplane crashed northwest of Baghdad with one pilot on board, the U.S. military said. A spokeswoman said she had no information on the fate of the pilot or the cause of the crash. Residents said they saw the pilot eject but that he was killed, and television footage filmed by a local journalist appeared to show the pilot dead near the crash site.

Haswah In fighting elsewhere, Iraqi authorities reported that a car bomb in Haswah, about 40 miles south of Baghdad, killed seven civilians.

South of the capital, near the town of Haswa, police found four bodies of people who had been shot in the head. They had been blindfolded and their hands tied behind their back. The four, who police of Babil province estimated had been killed on Monday, also showed signs of torture.


Two local council members were gunned down by drive by assassins in Hillah, about 55 miles south of the capital.

Kanan In a raid near Kanan on Saturday night, men wearing Iraqi military uniforms seized 25 Shiite men.


A mortar attack set ablaze oil storage tanks in northern Iraq on Monday, police said, and a source at the state North Oil Company said the attack may mean a protracted cut in output from oilfields in the region. The blaze in the oil facility at Arafa in the north of the city of Kirkuk will, however, not affect crude exports via pipeline to Turkey, the source said. Iraqi police said there were no casualties from the blast.


Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces were dispatched to the scene of an oil pipeline fire just north of Al Mahmudiyah this morning and secured the area. The cause of the fire is unknown and is currently under investigation.


Gunmen killed an off-duty policeman along with his mother in the northern city of Mosul. It was his wedding day and he was heading to his bride's house when he was shot.


U.S. forces killed two suspected insurgents on Sunday after observing them loading weapons from a cache into a vehicle Ramadi.

The U.S. military said four Iraqi civilians were wounded, including three boys aged 6, 13 and 16, when mortar bombs fired by U.S. forces against insurgents hit them. The wounds were not life-threatening, a statement said.

Tal Afar

Clashes erupted between gunmen and police during the night, killing three policemen and one gunman in Tal Afar, about 420 km (260 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

More War News

Casualty counts: The estimates of Iraqi civilians killed since the U.S.-led invasion on March 20, 2003, are indeterminate and controversial. Last week, a report from the United Nations estimated that violence in Iraq takes an average of 120 lives each day. A couple days spent with Ahmed brings home the magnitude.

On Oct. 21, 54 corpses were brought to Yarmouk's morgue. The following day, 46 more arrived before lunch, including six members of a Sunni family and a 10-year-old Sunni boy who was shot twice in the head outside his house.

I’ve run across a lot of stuff from war supporters, including some who comment here, to the effect that there is no way the Lancet’s estimate of over 600,000 Iraqi civilian war dead could be accurate because there couldn’t be that many deaths that weren’t reported. Well, Today in Iraq puts a lot of effort into reporting Iraqi civilian deaths. We look at sources from all over the world. And on October 21, we reported 61 deaths from around the country, none from Yarmouk. Yet here we have a first-hand report of 54 corpses brought to one morgue that day in Yarmouk alone. I’ve long said that, for all our efforts here, we miss the majority of the daily carnage. I would have guessed we report a quarter to a half of the actual death toll. Now I’m wondering if we’re getting even a tenth. -m

Tension mounts: In the aftermath of one of the deadliest spasms of violence, a new level of fear and foreboding has gripped Baghdad, fueled in part by sectarian text messages and Internet sites, deepening tensions in an already divided capital.

In interviews across Baghdad on Saturday, Sunnis and Shiites said they were preparing themselves for upheaval, both violent and psychological. They viewed the bombings that killed more than 200 people Thursday in the heart of Baghdad's Shiite Muslim community of Sadr City as a trigger for more reprisal killings.

Total polarization: The bloodiest bombings in Baghdad since the U.S. invasion in 2003, and the reprisals that swiftly followed, show that Iraq's sectarian conflict may be too far gone for leaders to stop, even if they want to.

The killings of some 250 people in just a few days last week marked a "high-water mark", analysts said. It demonstrated with savage clarity how little control Iraq's government exercises, with a security force accused of sectarian bias and a series of peace plans doing little to slow the pace of killing.

"This violence shows that sectarian bitterness between Sunnis and Shi'ites has gone deep down into ordinary people. They are totally polarised," said Mohamed el-Sayed Said of al- Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

Civil war: Sectarian violence has turned Baghdad into a deadly jigsaw puzzle of contested neighborhoods where armed bands of Shiite and Sunni Muslims battle daily for control in fighting that is far more similar to an organized military campaign than is generally acknowledged.

For the most part, the Tigris River is still the shimmering blue line that divides Baghdad's predominantly Sunni west, the Karkh, from the majority Shiite east, the Risafa.

But over the past several months, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, often backed by government security forces, has pushed into the western side of the capital and is driving Sunnis from their homes in the east.

Sunni forces -- neighborhood youths, former Baath Party members, Islamist extremists -- are conducting their own purges to expand their grip on the west and defend their brethren across the river.

Residents trapped in the capital's most fiercely contested districts braced Sunday for a new wave of bloodshed when a 24-hour curfew ends today. Reached by telephone, they all offered the same grim assessment: Civil war has begun.

Arguing definitions while the blood soaks the sand: Though the Bush administration continues to insist that it is not, a growing number of American and Iraqi scholars, leaders and policy analysts say the fighting in Iraq meets the standard definition of civil war.

The common scholarly definition has two main criteria. The first says that the warring groups must be from the same country and fighting for control of the political center, control over a separatist state or to force a major change in policy. The second says that at least 1,000 people must have been killed in total, with at least 100 from each side.

American professors who specialize in the study of civil wars say that most of their number are in agreement that Iraq’s conflict is a civil war.

In the United States, the debate over the term rages because many politicians, especially those who support the war, believe there would be domestic political implications to declaring it a civil war. They fear that an acknowledgment by the White House and its allies would be seen as an admission of a failure of President Bush’s Iraq policy.

(My emphasis. We are ruled by craven cowards and fools. –m)

Three civil wars: Jordan's King Abdullah, who will host President Bush this week during emergency talks on Iraq, said yesterday that the Middle East faces the prospect of three simultaneous civil wars erupting.

"We're juggling with the strong potential of three civil wars in the region, whether it's the Palestinians, that of Lebanon, or of Iraq," the Jordanian king said on ABC's "This Week."

He said that as a result, "something dramatic" had to come out of this week's Amman meetings between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "I don't think we're in a position where we can come back and revisit the problem in early 2007," he told interviewer George Stephanopoulos.

Iraqi Politics

Shouting into the hurricane: Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders called Sunday for an end to Iraq's sectarian conflict and vowed to track down those responsible for the war's deadliest attack.

But as they went on national television to try to keep Iraq from sliding into an all-out civil war, fighting between Iraqi security forces and Sunni Arab insurgents raged for a second day in Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province north of Baghdad.

True, but so what: Iraq's prime minister says politicians, rather than insurgents, are the ones ultimately responsible for the deteriorating security situation.

Taking an unusually tough stance, Nouri Maliki said only an end to political wrangling could end the bloodshed which on Thursday saw 200 killed in Baghdad.

Curfew lifted: Authorities lifted a three-day curfew in the capital and reopened the international airport Monday, clearing the way for President Jalal Talabani to make an official visit to Iran.

Talabani had been scheduled to visit neighboring Iran on Saturday, but he had to postpone his trip because of the security clampdown imposed across Baghdad after Sunni insurgents killed more than 200 people in Sadr City on Thursday in the deadliest attack by militants since the war began in March 2003.

The most remarkable thing about this entry is that it means all the casualties listed above occurred while the curfew was in effect…-m

If the US military can’t do it, how is Maliki going to?: President George W. Bush meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki this week to press Iraq's government to suppress the sectarian militias that are fueling a new surge of bloodshed and political conflict there.

The hastily scheduled meeting in Amman, Jordan, was tacked on to the end of Bush's travel to a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Riga, Latvia. It will be the first face- to-face talks between Bush and Maliki since the Nov. 7 U.S. elections, when public dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq carried Democrats to majorities in the House and Senate.

Life In The Civil War

Why babbling about disarming the militias is just so much meaningless noise: On Thursday afternoon, bombs in six parked cars began detonating at 15-minute intervals in three sections of Sadr City, including the crowded Jamila Market. Mahdi Army militiamen quickly spread out around the vast slum, residents said.

They helped the injured into cars and carted the dead to funeral homes, where the corpses would be cleansed according to Muslim rituals. Some donated blood and helped fire fighters douse flames. Other militiamen, some clutching AK-47 assault rifles or rocket-propelled grenades, searched for the perpetrators of the bombings. They found one more car, filled with explosives, and took the driver into custody.

At Khadisiya Hospital, militiamen assisted doctors and nurses, carrying patients into emergency rooms, Abid said. With hospital supplies thin, Sadr officials sent over syringes, medicines and other equipment donated by merchants. And with only four ambulances in circulation, most of the wounded were being brought in cars.

"Most of the cars were Mahdi Army, or Mahdi Army men were inside to carry in the wounded," Abid said.

Others fanned out to protect their neighborhoods. On nearly every street, heavily armed militiamen stood guard, residents said. Concrete barriers and barbed wire were quickly erected, closing off streets to unfamiliar cars to prevent further attacks.

Entry and exit into Sadr City were controlled. When he learned of the bombings, Hendul said, he rushed to Sadr City. But the militiamen at the checkpoints refused to let him enter. He showed his Sadr identification cards, but they wouldn't budge.

"They prevented me from coming inside until they made phone calls to check who I was," Hendul recalled Friday. "Yesterday was a good example of how we can handle security. Our city can protect itself better than the government."

Disarm militias with what? These guys?: …in Fallujah, the Iraqi Army is made up largely of Shiites, and deeply distrusts the police - which are all local Sunnis. The first boot camp earlier this year, aimed at ushering Sunnis into the Iraqi Army and staged in Al-Anbar Province which includes Fallujah, was "disastrous," says one senior US marine officer.

Of nearly 800 recruits in the five-week course, up to 500 decided to leave when they learned they could be deployed anywhere in Iraq, and not just Sunni areas, says the officer. The two or three subsequent classes have had higher rates of retention, but US advisers say many more troops are needed.

"They don't have enough soldiers," says Major Mundell, noting that the 2,500 Iraqi soldiers in Fallujah - at least, that is the number deployed on paper - should have double the strength to be effective. "We need another brigade in this city; another two brigades to clean it out [of insurgents]."

But those numbers are not likely to change before US forces pull out of Fallujah in coming months. Except for the 11-man US training teams, less than 300 US marines now work in Fallujah. And already, for months, insurgents have targeted policemen - many of which have been slain - and Army units.

The army positions are routinely mortared. A popular company commander was killed by a roadside bomb a few weeks ago, which shook up some units. One captain did not return to duty last week, after his family was threatened. A battalion surgeon was recently murdered, and when an officer went to identify the body, he, too, was shot.

A policeman’s life: The 22-year-old police officer wraps a black scarf around his face when on patrol. He sleeps in the station and sees his new bride only a few hours a month. He watches his colleagues get shot and blown to pieces and wonders if he will be next.

"I have to wear a mask because I'm from the city. When I do my duty the guerrillas can recognize me," said Kalid, who said having his last name appear in print would put his life in danger.

"If they find out who I am, they will kill me within the hour. I hope they don't do it in front of my wife. I hope they don't make her watch."

Medical care: Iraq's top doctors are under threat and are fleeing the country, leaving hospitals in the hands of medical students or junior physicians, an Iraqi lawmaker said Wednesday.

Doctors have been kidnapped and killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that toppled ex-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, said Dr. Rajaa al-Khuzai, an obstetrician who is an elected member of the Iraqi National Council.

"They have been targeted since the fall of the regime," she told The Associated Press during a visit to Austria. "Some of them have been kidnapped and found dead in the streets, some have been released after paying a ransom."

Death work: In another life or time, these four men might have found different callings. Maybe as laborers. Maybe teachers. Maybe even doctors.

Instead, their work is death.

One man cleans human flesh from the streets and disposes of body parts no one can identify.

Another works at a mosque, where his job has evolved into full-time funeral planner.

Another makes his living by reading verses from the Quran at funerals.

And one, Hamid Ahmed, lines up outside the morgue each day. A taxi driver for the departed, he drives bodies to a cemetery outside of town.

"All Iraqis living here now are going to be killed," Ahmed says matter-of-factly. "When the fighting is over, all the Iraqis who left will return and inherit everything left in the country."

Preparing To Blame The Victims

Stating the obvious: The Bush administration charged yesterday that the escalating violence in Iraq committed by both Shiites and Sunnis over the past two days is a "brazen effort" to bring down the fragile government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The White House also said President Bush has no intention of backing out of talks next week with the Iraqi leader, despite threats yesterday from a powerful Shiite militia to pull out of the government if Maliki goes ahead with the meeting. The talks, set for Thursday in Amman, Jordan, have suddenly taken on the air of a crisis summit, as Iraq slides closer to all-out civil war.

Gee, Trent, that’s a real stumper: The situation in Iraq is reaching a "critical point," said Sen. Trent Lott, the Senate's second-ranking Republican - as President Bush begins a new round of diplomacy to try to stanch the bloody conflict there.

"I think the circumstances have to change . . . We're reaching a critical point," said Lott. "I think the president, the vice president and the administration, the commission that's working on this issue know that. Do they know that in Iraq? And that's what has got to be determined."

Do the Iraqis know that they’re at a critical point? Damn, Trent, I dunno. I’ll be sure to ask, though, if I can find one that’s not dead or too busy dodging bombs and bullets to answer. -m

Damn that lazy Maliki anyway: Congressional leaders displayed eroding patience in the Iraqi government on Sunday, adding pressure on President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to find a faster path to peace when they meet this week.

…As the U.S. involvement in Iraq surpassed the length of America's participation in World War II, lawmakers have dwindling confidence in the U.S.-supported Iraqi government. It was the deadliest week of sectarian fighting in Baghdad since the war began in March 2003.

Stupidity is bipartisan: American support for the fledgling Iraqi government is not unconditional, and Iraq should expect changes in the U.S. role, incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Saturday.

"In the days ahead, the Iraqis must make the tough decisions and accept responsibility for their future," Hoyer, D-Md., said during the weekly Democratic radio address. "And the Iraqis must know: Our commitment, while great, is not unending."

Gee, Steny, maybe if we just got out of there and LET the Iraqis take responsibility for their future they wouldn’t be in this mess. You voted for this war, Steny. Why don’t you take responsibility? -m

More on the Baker commission sham: A draft report on strategies for Iraq, which will be debated here by a bipartisan commission beginning Monday, urges an aggressive regional diplomatic initiative that includes direct talks with Iran and Syria but sets no timetables for a military withdrawal, according to officials who have seen all or parts of the document.

While the diplomatic strategy appears likely to be accepted, with some amendments, by the 10-member Iraq Study Group, members of the commission and outsiders involved in its work said they expected a potentially divisive debate about timetables for beginning an American withdrawal.

Another Bush administration first: In the history of U.S. foreign policy, there's been nothing like it: a panel outside government trying to bail the United States out of a prolonged and messy war.

The innocuously titled Iraq Study Group, which has evolved into a parallel policy establishment over the past eight months, is also unique in the way it operates. For one thing, it's even more secretive than the Bush administration.

Forty experts -- on warfare, the Middle East, reconstruction and Islamic militancy -- were asked to craft options for the commission but have nary a clue what proposals will come out of the 10-member panel, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former representative Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.).

Foreign News

Britain prepares to bug out: Britain expects to be able to withdraw "thousands" of its troops from Iraq by the end of 2007, Britain's Defence Minister Des Browne said on Monday.

Browne refused to give specific numbers, but said: "By the end of next year I expect numbers for British forces in Iraq to be significantly lower by a matter of thousands."

Schadenfreude: Iran said Sunday it is willing to help Washington calm Iraq's escalating sectarian violence if the U.S. drops its "bullying" policy toward Tehran, but denied organizing a summit with the leaders of Iraq and Syria to discuss the troubles in its neighbor.

Hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran is "ready to help" the United States, saying the Americans are "trapped in a quagmire" in Iraq.

"The Iranian nation is ready to help you to get out of the quagmire — on condition that you resume behaving in a just manner and avoid bullying and invading," he said while addressing members of the Basij paramilitary group, which is affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

US Military

Rotations: This week, U.S. troops will have been fighting in Iraq longer than they did in World War II, with no relief in sight. Soldiers from 1st Brigade preparing at Fort Stewart for their third Iraq tour have been spending as much time in Iraq as at home. The rotations -- a year in Iraq followed by a year at home -- dictate soldiers' most intimate decisions: They mandate when troops can marry and have children. They sever relationships that cannot sustain the stress of absence or danger. And they lead some couples to pray for the war to end.

Amputees: Ryan Kelly wanted to be a firefighter. Iraq changed that. Kelly returned from war in 2003 missing his left leg, which had been blown off by a roadside bomb. He endured more than a year of hospital treatments, numerous counseling sessions and battles with the federal bureaucracy. He tried out more than a dozen artificial legs before finding a few that fit well.

These days, Kelly, 25, is a helicopter pilot instructor in Arizona realizing a boyhood dream by flying above the mountains with students hard-pressed to notice his disability. He flies not over Baghdad, Iraq, but Bagdad, Ariz. …In a toll not seen since the Vietnam War, Kelly is one of more than 550 war amputees in various stages of adjusting to life back in America. And unlike many of those who returned from Vietnam, they are getting a warm welcome home and can get help from support groups.

Profiles In Scumbaggery –The Ideologues, Posers And Thugs Who Are Shaping This War

Gates: Robert M. Gates, President Bush's nominee to lead the Pentagon, advocated a bombing campaign against Nicaragua in 1984 in order to "bring down" the leftist government, according to a declassified memo released by a nonprofit research group. The memo from Gates to his then-boss, CIA Director William J. Casey, was among a selection of declassified documents from the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal posted Friday on the website of the National Security Archive, http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/ . In the memo, Gates, who was deputy director of the CIA, argued that the Soviet Union was turning Nicaragua into an armed camp and that the country could become a second Cuba. The rise of the communist-leaning Sandinista government threatened the stability of Central America, Gates asserted. Gates' memo echoed the view of many foreign policy hard-liners at the time; however, the feared communist takeover of the region never materialized.

Baker: Everyone in Washington knows that President Bush has a lot riding on the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel searching for a fresh strategy in Iraq. But so has the man whose name has become synonymous with the group: its Republican co-chairman, James A. Baker III.

The last time he dominated the news was in 2000, in Florida, when Mr. Baker — a former secretary of state who has been a friend and a tennis partner of the first President Bush since the current president was 13 years old — led the legal team that delivered the White House to its current occupant. That was Mr. Baker in partisan mode, cementing his reputation as Bush family confidant and Republican fix-it man.

Now, at 76, Mr. Baker is in high diplomat mode, on a mission, friends and supporters say, to aid his country and his president — and, while he is at it, seal his legacy in the realm of statesmen, a sphere he cares about far more than politics.

“I think he’d like to be remembered as a 21st-century Disraeli,” said Leon Panetta, a Democratic member of the group, referring to the 19th-century British statesman and prime minister. “I think deep down he is someone who believes that his diplomatic career, in many ways, helped change the world.”

Abrams: The neocons are reeling, but they're not dead yet. A few stalwarts are digging in their wing-tips. And there's already a small backlash against the backlash. At the State Department, supposedly the bastion of realism, some officials are sounding defiant. "There are a lot of people throughout the ranks who believe in the democracy agenda," says one senior official who would only discuss policy issues anonymously. "If the result of the Baker report is that we have to make any deal necessary ... to get out of Iraq, I don't think that's going to fly." Their hopes, and the hopes of neocons everywhere, may rest on the shoulders of Elliott Abrams, the number-two official at the National Security Council—who remains in charge of promoting democracy in the Middle East, a linchpin of the neocon agenda.

Abrams, who declined an interview request from NEWSWEEK, has his work cut out for him. A Harvard-trained lawyer, Abrams handles the Middle East, though not Iraq. Earlier this year, Abrams pushed for an $85 million expansion of TV and radio programming beamed into Iran to gently promote regime change. Now, toppling the mullahs might be off the table. The same goes for the policy of pushing reforms on Arab allies like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, who has kept a key opposition figure in jail for more than 11 months and scaled back rights. Michael Gerson, who served until recently as Bush's speechwriter (and who is now a NEWSWEEK contributor), says Abrams must be troubled by the swing. "People who support the democracy agenda are deeply concerned that Mubarak is significantly backtracking," Gerson says. And Abrams has to cope with the fallout of his push for Palestinian elections—the rise of Hamas, and the breakdown of the peace process. But Abrams has one powerful advantage. "Bush has enormous regard for him," says a senior administration official who would not speak about their relationship on the record. "One, because he knows Elliott is keeper of the flame. And also, he's the only one who doesn't draw any attention to himself." (Abrams has been somewhat press-shy ever since he admitted to withholding information from Congress about the Iran-contra affair two decades ago; he was later pardoned.)

McCain: You can read 1,000 profiles of GOP presidential front-runner John McCain without encountering a single paragraph examining his core ideological philosophy. His career is filled with such distracting drama — torture at the Hanoi Hilton, noisy conversion to the campaign-finance-reform faith, political suicide on the Straight Talk Express — that by the time you're done with the highlights, and perhaps a few "maverick" anecdotes, time's up. People are forever filling in the blanks with their own political fantasies. Third party candidate! John Kerry running mate! Far-right warmonger! Republican In Name Only! But with the announcement that the popular Arizona senator has formed his presidential exploratory committee, it's time for our long national guessing game to end. Sifting through McCain's four bestselling books and nearly three decades of work on Capitol Hill, a distinct approach toward governance begins to emerge. And it's one that the electorate ought to be particularly worried about right now. McCain, it turns out, wants to restore your faith in the U.S. government by any means necessary, even if that requires thousands of more military deaths, national service for civilians and federal micromanaging of innumerable private transactions. He'll kick down the doors of boardroom and bedroom, mixing Democrats' nanny-state regulations with the GOP's red-meat paternalism in a dangerous brew of government activism. And he's trying to accomplish this, in part, for reasons of self-realization.

al-Sadr: One way to understand Moqtada al-Sadr is to think of him as a young Mafia don. He aims for respectability, and is willing to kill for it. Yet the extent of his power isn't obvious to the untrained eye. He has no standing army or police force, and the Mahdi Army gunmen he employs have no tanks or aircraft. You could mistake him—at your peril—for a common thug or gang leader. And if he or his people were to kill you for your ignorance, he wouldn't claim credit. But the message would be clear to those who understand the brutal language of the Iraqi Street.

…Sadr is a unique force in Iraq: a leader from the majority Shiites who has resisted American occupation from the start. He's a populist, a nationalist and an Islamic radical rolled into one. Part of his power is simply that he's powerful. Large numbers of impoverished Shiites view Sadr as their guardian—the one leader who is willing not just to stand up for them but to strike back on their behalf. "People count on the militias," says Lieutenant Hartley, who deals with Sadr's thugs on a regular basis. "It's like the mob—they keep people safe."

The longer Sadr has survived, the greater his prestige has grown. Iraqis and foreigners who meet him are impressed by the transformation. He's more diplomatic and commands more respect. He used to greet visitors at his Najaf office sitting on pillows on the floor. Now he has a couch set. His concerns are high-minded: he speaks of fuel shortages and cabinet politics. In the past, Sadr was shrugged off as a rabble-rouser and a nuisance. Now he is undeniably one of the most popular leaders in the country. He is also its most dangerous, for he has the means to wage political or actual war against any solution that is not precisely to his liking. He is driven by forces America has long misread in Iraq: religious sentiment, economic resentment and enduring sectarian passions.

Cheney: In July 1987, then-Representative Dick Cheney, the top Republican on the committee investigating the Iran-contra scandal, turned on his hearing room microphone and delivered, in his characteristically measured tone, a revolutionary claim.

President Reagan and his top aides, he asserted, were free to ignore a 1982 law at the center of the scandal. Known as the Boland Amendment, it banned US assistance to anti-Marxist militants in Nicaragua.

"I personally do not believe the Boland Amendment applied to the president, nor to his immediate staff," Cheney said.

Most of Cheney's colleagues did not share his vision of a presidency empowered to bypass US laws governing foreign policy. The committee issued a scathing, bipartisan report accusing White House officials of "disdain for the law."

Cheney refused to sign it. Instead, he commissioned his own report declaring that the real lawbreakers were his fellow lawmakers, because the Constitution "does not permit Congress to pass a law usurping Presidential power."

The Iran-contra scandal was not the first time the future vice president articulated a philosophy of unfettered executive power -- nor would it be the last. The Constitution empowers Congress to pass laws regulating the executive branch, but over the course of his career, Cheney came to believe that the modern world is too dangerous and complex for a president's hands to be tied. He embraced a belief that presidents have vast "inherent" powers, not spelled out in the Constitution, that allow them to defy Congress.

Cheney bypassed acts of Congress as defense secretary in the first Bush administration. And his office has been the driving force behind the current administration's hoarding of secrets, its efforts to impose greater political control over career officials, and its defiance of a law requiring the government to obtain warrants when wiretapping Americans. Cheney's staff has also been behind President Bush's record number of signing statements asserting his right to disregard laws.

What Are These American Values We Fight For?

Torture?: Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday.

Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.

Spying on peaceful citizens?: Secret Pentagon documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union provide details of how the organization called "Veterans for Peace" was considered a threat.

Every Sunday for the past three years, members of the Santa Barbara Chapter of Veterans for Peace place a cross in the sand near Stearns Wharf for every American soldier killed in Iraq.

First started in Santa Barbara, the "Arlington West" display has been copied by other chapters of Veterans for Peace in communities all across the country. It's intended to honor and acknowledge those who have lost their lives and to reflect upon the costs of war.

The actions of this veterans organization have not gone unnoticed at the Pentagon. A previously secret intelligence report calls the group a "threat to military installations." The report lists the group's upcoming events and warns that while it's a "peaceful organization," "there is potential that future protests could become violent."

Warrantless wiretapping?: When President Bush went on national television one Saturday morning last December to acknowledge the existence of a secret wiretapping program outside court supervision, the fallout was fierce. Bush's opponents accused him of breaking the law, with a few even calling for his impeachment. His backers demanded that he be given express legal authority to do what he had done. Law professors talked, civil rights groups sued and a federal judge in Detroit declared the wiretapping program unconstitutional. But as Democrats prepare to take over on Capitol Hill, not much has really changed in the last year: The National Security Agency's wiretapping program continues uninterrupted, with no definitive action by either Congress or the courts on what, if anything, to do about it, and little chance of a breakthrough in the lame-duck Congress.

Opinion, Commentary, Analysis

Jonathan Chait: The debate about Iraq has moved past the question of whether it was a mistake (everybody knows it was) to the more depressing question of whether it is possible to avert total disaster. Every self-respecting foreign policy analyst has his own plan for Iraq. The trouble is that these tracts are inevitably unconvincing, except when they argue why all the other plans would fail. It's all terribly grim. So allow me to propose the unthinkable: Maybe, just maybe, our best option is to restore Saddam Hussein to power.

Yes, I know. Hussein is a psychotic mass murderer. Under his rule, Iraqis were shot, tortured and lived in constant fear. Bringing the dictator back would sound cruel if it weren't for the fact that all those things are also happening now, probably on a wider scale. At the outset of the war, I had no high hopes for Iraqi democracy, but I paid no attention to the possibility that the Iraqis would end up with a worse government than the one they had. It turns out, however, that there is something more awful than totalitarianism, and that is endless chaos and civil war.

Don’t you just love these continuing admissions by former war supporters? “I paid no attention to the possibility Iraq would end up with a worse government…”! This bozo is a senior editor at TNR and has a regular column in the LA Times! I know bartenders that had a better handle on the likely outcome of Junior’s little vanity war than this shaper of public opinion. And now this joker wishes it could all just be back the way it was, no doubt so his conscience won’t pang him so, what with all the blood he’s finding on his hands. -m

Ralph Peters: A rash of pop prophets tell us that Muslims in Europe are reproducing so fast and European societies are so weak and listless that, before you know it, the continent will become "Eurabia," with all those topless gals on the Riviera wearing veils.

Well, maybe not.

The notion that continental Europeans, who are world-champion haters, will let the impoverished Muslim immigrants they confine to ghettos take over their societies and extend the caliphate from the Amalfi Coast to Amsterdam has it exactly wrong.

The endangered species isn't the "peace loving" European lolling in his or her welfare state, but the continent's Muslims immigrants - and their multi-generation descendents - who were foolish enough to imagine that Europeans would share their toys.

In fact, Muslims are hardly welcome to pick up the trash on Europe's playgrounds.

Don't let Europe's current round of playing pacifist dress-up fool you: This is the continent that perfected genocide and ethnic cleansing, the happy-go-lucky slice of humanity that brought us such recent hits as the Holocaust and Srebrenica.

Ralph Peters is an interesting mix – half neocon, half reality-based. Nothing he writes should be taken as gospel but it’s noteworthy that someone with his background is willing to challenge this whole ‘new Caliphate’ nonsense, even if his reasons for rejecting it are questionable. -m

Aparisim Ghosh: In the aftermath of the Thanksgiving Day suicide bombings in Sadr City, many residents were asking why the U.S. forces had failed to stop the bombers, generally believed to be Sunni jihadis. After all, American soldiers had recently been raiding the giant Baghdad slum, attacking Shi'ite militias that enjoy a great deal of popular support there. Inevitably, some Shi'ites put two and two together — and got 22: On Saturday a cleric representing Moqtada al-Sadr, who enjoys demigod status in Sadr City, accused the U.S. of ganging up with Sunni insurgents and jihadis against the Shi'ites.

On the other hand, some Sunnis were accusing the U.S. of siding with the Shi'ite-led government to allow, even encourage, the militias to run amok in the wake of the Sadr City bombings. Harith al-Dari, who heads the largest Sunni clerical group, declared: "The government and the occupation forces are preparing the suitable environments to the militias and killing gangs to attack our people."

The overheated rhetoric aside, this much is clear: The Sadr City bombings and their grim fallout again exposed the limitations of the joint U.S.-Iraqi Baghdad security plan, dubbed Operation Forward Together, that began last summer. The plan brought more than 7,200 additional U.S. troops into the Iraqi capital, but it has failed to slow the sectarian killings and kidnappings that are threatening to drag Iraq into a civil war. In the past two weeks alone, Baghdad has seen the most audacious kidnapping (150 men taken captive from a government office in broad daylight) and the deadliest bombing (more than 210 killed in Sadr City) since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

It is hard, now, to escape from the conclusion that Forward Together is a misnomer. But the main reason it's not going 'Forward' is that there's very little 'Together' about it — the Iraqi military is not keeping its end of the bargain. Although there are tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in the city (in addition to the tens of thousands of police) they have, with remarkable consistency managed not to be where they are needed most.

Josh Marshall: Is it just me or has George W. Bush checked out of the stumbling national crisis we know as 'Iraq'?

I know his name shows up in the headlines. He's meeting Iraq Prime Minister Maliki next week in Amman. Vice President Cheney is shuttling to Saudi Arabia. And all of this is being billed as a part of a new and broader 'regional' approach to getting the conflict under some measure of control.

But I don't hear the president. Not his voice. The one thing that's been a constant over the last three and a half years is the president as the voice of American Iraq policy. Whether he's the author of it is another question entirely. But the voice and pitbull of it, always.

And yet since the election he seems to have disappeared from the conversation entirely. Like he's just checked out. It's not his thing anymore.

To a degree, this has been the case since early 2004 -- the point by which it was clear the entire effort was a failure. But politics -- first his reelection and then the 2006 election -- has kept him powerfully in the game, constantly arguing staying the course or cutting and running or how a rebuke for his policies would amount to a win for the terrorists.

But now the rebuke has been given. And what is more than that he validated it, confirmed the rejection by summarily firing his Defense Secretary. By doing so, he admitted (even if he can't quite admit it to himself) that his war policy has been a failure.

With that admission out of the way, there's really no more cheerleading to be done for the whole effort. It's a hard slog, a tortuous battle to find some least bad outcome to the whole affair.

Back when he was riding high President Bush used to say that he 'didn't do nuance' -- a point on which he was unquestionably right. And that being the case, there's just nothing left for him to say. No more chest-thumping or rah-rah or daring his opponents to say he's wrong. So he's just gone silent. Like it's not his problem any more.

Rupert Cornwell: It may or may not go down in Iraq's dreadful recent history as the "Thanksgiving Day massacre". But one thing is certain: the car-bombing that killed more than 130 people in the Sadr City district of Baghdad could not have come at a worse moment for the beleaguered Bush administration as it seeks to end the sectarian violence tearing the country apart and get US troops home.

Like the killing of Pierre Gemayel in Lebanon on Monday, the atrocity might have been timed to expose how the US - its military power and moral authority sapped by the war - has lost most of whatever influence it had to shape events in the Middle East.

Tony Karon: If this week's announcement that President Bush is to meet Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in the capital of neighboring Jordan raised eyebrows, by Friday it was abundantly clear why the meeting couldn't be held in Baghdad — the Iraqi capital is under siege. After a day of open sectarian warfare on the streets had claimed more than 200 lives, the city's airport is closed and its residents are forced to remain indoors under a curfew.

The latest carnage comes as the focus on Iraq's immediate future shifts outside its borders — to U.S. discussions over redefining its strategy, moves by Iran and Syria to stake their own claim to a role in stabilizing Iraq, and perhaps, to competition between the two camps.

President Bush is due to meet Prime Minister Maliki against a backdrop in which U.S. officials are increasingly frustrated over the failure of the Iraqi government to act against the Shi'ite militias, which are answerable to parties in the ruling coalition. Washington views the dismantling of those militias as the key to achieving national reconciliation with the Sunnis and isolating the insurgency.

But following the latest attacks, the pressure on Maliki from his own base to resist U.S. demands will likely be greater than whatever leverage President Bush can bring to bear: The Iraqi leader has long made clear that he can only move against the Shi'ite militias after the Sunni insurgent threat has been removed, and the bloodshed in Sadr City Thursday will only reinforce that point. Indeed, Sadr's party threatened to quit the government if Maliki's meeting with Bush goes ahead next week — and Sadr's support has been critical to keeping him in power.

James Gordon Meek: American troops have become secondary targets in Iraq as insurgents and their Al Qaeda allies are intent on killing Shiites in the hope of igniting a full-blown civil war, experts said.

The Sunni fighters see a civil war and the collapse of the predominantly Shiite government as essential to their survival.

"Al Qaeda knows America is going to leave Iraq," said terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann. "They say that Americans are no longer the issue. It's the 'apostates' - the Shiites - they're leaving behind to try to wipe [Sunnis] out."

While American casualties have escalated in recent months, statistics indicate where the combatants are concentrating their firepower.

I’m not familiar with James Gordon Meek. He writes for the NY Daily News. This analysis conflates Al-Qaeda with the Sunni insurgency which is a warning to take its conclusions with a handful of salt. As always with opinion and analysis pieces, its presence here is not an endorsement of its author’s views. -m

Donald Steinberg: The well-being of children in war and postconflict situations is not just a matter of justice and humanitarianism, some secondary issue we can attend to once the more important issues are dealt with. It is central to achieving lasting peace. Refusal to respect children's rights and hold perpetrators accountable for actions against children undercuts the need for justice and return to rule of law. Most sobering, children without a future form a ready reserve of potential recruits for any fanatic who can lure them with a siren song.

We owe full support and thanks to Mr. Annan, Dr. Coomaraswamy, Ambassador Voto-Bernales, the International Criminal Court, and others for highlighting these issues. Two additional actions can help give meaning to their struggle.

First, incoming UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon should present to the UN Security Council and General Assembly an action plan within the first 100 days of his term that begins on Jan. 1, 2007, to mobilize all United Nations agencies to protect children from armed conflict.

Second, the newly elected US Congress should ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which commits governments to ensure that children are protected from abuse and mistreatment. The United States signed the convention in 1995, but, except for Somalia, is the only country yet to ratify it. The Bush administration has stalled consideration, stating that the convention infringes on US sovereignty - a concern that has not dissuaded 192 other governments from adhering to the convention.

If America will not take leadership in the struggle to protect the most vulnerable in our world from violence, who will?

David Rieff: As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate and as policy makers debate how to extricate the United States honorably from what increasingly appears a war without end, it is worth remembering that all wars do end eventually, and that postwar relationships between the bitterest of enemies can turn out surprisingly well. President Bush’s recent trip to Vietnam, where he attended the annual meeting of APEC — the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organization — illustrates this reality and even offers a measure of hope at a time when battlefront reports are almost unrelievedly bad and when America’s foreign policy seems to lurch from crisis to crisis.

It often seems as if the U.S. presence in Iraq has created so many new enemies in the Muslim world that the clash of civilizations described by Prof. Samuel Huntington has gone from being the hypothesis of a Harvard political scientist to a historical inevitability. Even many of those who resist the notion that Islam and the West are on a collision course still worry that the harm that has been done in Iraq to relations between the U.S. and the Islamic world will be almost impossible to undo.

And yet the example of Vietnam suggests otherwise. If anything, the trauma of the Vietnam War on the American psyche was and for some still is far deeper than anything the Iraq war has yet produced. These days we speak — probably too glibly — of an America almost evenly divided between so-called red and blue states. But for anyone who remembers what this country was like during the Vietnam era and in its immediate aftermath, these contemporary divisions seem rather shallow. Vietnam truly split the country and brought millions of people into the streets against their own government. People died protesting the Vietnam War on campuses like Kent State. On the battlefield, there was also tremendous savagery. Think of the C.I.A.-run Phoenix program of targeted assassination or the systematic torture of American prisoners of war by the North Vietnamese.

Nevertheless, 30 years after the end of a war that left Vietnam in ruins and America in turmoil and confusion, the issues left over — accounting for the missing in action, reuniting families and even paying compensation for Agent Orange-induced maladies — are far less central to U.S.-Vietnamese relations than issues of trade and investment. America is now Vietnam’s leading trading partner, and Intel has just announced the expansion of its factory near Ho Chi Minh City. While Congress dealt a temporary setback to President Bush’s efforts to promote trade with Vietnam, few doubt that such efforts will succeed. As Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, has put it, Vietnam is “reforming” and “booming.” (Of course, he might have added that it is hardly a paragon of human rights.)

Remarkably, President Bush’s cordial reception to Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in 2005 was accepted with little protest except from small groups of Vietnamese-Americans. On the Vietnamese side, the dour commissars who fought the French and then the Americans, at the cost of more than a million of their own dead — “born in the North, die in the South” was a well-known saying in the North Vietnamese Army at the time — have given way to proud capitalists who, despite their Communist affiliations, are far more interested in deepening trade relations with America and in warding off their historic rival China than in pulling the scabs off old wounds.

Is there a lesson here for Iraq? The answer is that, in fact, there are many. The first, and perhaps the most important, is that history is not predictable and even the most deep-seated enmities can evaporate over time when the conditions are right. As President Bush himself said when he was in Hanoi last week: “History has a long march to it. Societies change, and relationships can constantly be altered to the good.” There is no iron law of history that says that the bad relations between America and the Islamic world, and even between the United States and radical Shiite groups like the one led by the militant cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, are fated to continue this way indefinitely and immutably. Nor is there any reason to believe that an American withdrawal from Iraq will harm these relations any more than the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam permanently damaged U.S.-Vietnamese relations.

Juan Cole: The Iraq Study Group or Baker-Hamilton Commission will urge intensive diplomacy with Syria and Iran to help deal with the Iraqi civil conflict but will not urge a phased pull-out of US troops. If they don't, they should specify the mission. What is the mission of the US military in Ramadi? I hope my readers will press their representatives in Congress and the executive branch to answer this question. What is the mission? When will it be accomplished? At what point will the people of Ramadi wake up in the morning and say, 'We've changed our minds. We like the new government dominated by Shiite ayatollahs and Kurdish warlords. We're happy to host Western Occupation troops on our soil. We don't care if those troops are allied with the Israeli military, which is daily bombing our brethren in Gaza and killing them and keeping them down. We're changed persons. We're not going to bother to set any IEDs tonight and we've put away our sniping rifles.' (You could substitute Tikrit, Samarra', Baquba, and other Sunni Arab cities for Ramadi). It is not going to happen. In fall, 2003, 14 percent of Sunni Arabs thought it was legitimate to attack US personnel in Iraq. Now over 70 percent do. Isn't it going toward 100 percent? How would more or less keeping the people of Ramadi in a cage help things in that regard, especially if they perceive us to be doing it on behalf of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (founded by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran) and the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Israeli army? …The idea that al-Anbar tribal forces will pull the US fat from the fire is a non-starter. Some of the tribes are openly agitating on behalf of Saddam Hussein. Any who are fighting the Salafis or Muslim fundamentalists are doing it as a grudge match. Tribes are notoriously factionalized among themselves and seldom unite for very long. The rural tribes just aren't a big center of power in Iraq any more-- it is largely urban and the power centers are urban political parties and their paramilitaries. Those urban forces have vast hinterlands of practical and monetary support in the region-- Iran for the Shiites, the Oil Gulf and small-town Jordan and Syria for the Sunni Arabs. They are not going to decline in importance. Syria and Iran are not responsible for the resistance in Ramadi or Baquba and probably can't do anything about it. Therefore negotiating with them is not a silver bullet, though it might be useful in its own right. What is the military mission? I can't see a practical one. And if there is not a military mission that can reasonably be accomplished in a specified period of time, then keeping US troops in al-Anbar is a sort of murder. Because you know when they go out on patrol, a few of them each week are going to get blown up or shot down. Reliably. Each week. Steadily. It is monstrous to force them to play Russian roulette every day unless there is a clear mission that could thereby be accomplished. There is not.

Casualty Reports

"Serious failings" by the military led to the friendly fire death of a Royal Marine as he patrolled an Iraqi river, a coroner has said. On March 30, 2003, Christopher Maddison, 24, of the 539 Assault Squadron, was mistakenly fired on by his own side as he patrolled the Khawr Az Zubayr river in southern Iraq and died from shrapnel wounds. It was initially thought he had been killed by Iraqis but the friendly fire incident later came to light.

Family and friends gathered in Thomaston on Sunday to remember a Maine native who died while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq. A roadside bomb killed Sgt. William Jackson II earlier this month in Al Ramadi.

A British SAS soldier who died after a raid to arrest suspected insurgents in Iraq has been named as Sergeant Jonathan Hollingsworth. He was shot on Friday after members of the elite regiment stormed a house in Basra. He was taken to a nearby military hospital by helicopter but later died of his injuries.

Mark Gross recalled a shy 7-year-old boy whose eyes lit up when he played pinball at a Sycamore Mall arcade, who dragged Gross to Disney movies, asking for popcorn and candy, and who played sports. That little boy would later become a U.S. Army noncom - 6-4, 240-pound Sgt. James Musack. Musack died in Samarra, Iraq, on Nov. 21 from injuries sustained during a non-combat incident, the U.S. Department of Defense has reported. The incident is still under investigation, according to a Nov. 23 statement from the Defense Department.

Pvt. Reece D. Moreno, 19, of Prescott, Ariz., died of injuries suffered in a non-combat related incident in Balad, Iraq, on Nov. 24. Moreno was assigned to the 92 Engineer Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.


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