Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Al-Anbar Province

The number of US servicemen and women killed in Iraq in October hit 104 with the announcement of the death of a soldier fighting in the west of the country, the heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency against American forces. "One soldier assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died due to injuries sustained from enemy action Tuesday while operating in Al-Anbar province," a US military statement said.

Two U.S. troops died on Tuesday in Anbar province, one in combat and another in a non-hostile incident, the military said Wednesday. The soldier killed in combat was assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7; the other who died was a Marine with the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 11. This brings the number of U.S. troop deaths in October to 105, the fourth-highest monthly total since the war began.


Update from yesterday’s post: The death toll from a suicide bombing at a wedding party rose to 23, including nine children. (Another report puts the death toll at 25. -m)

More than 40 Shiites were abducted along a notoriously dangerous highway just north of Baghdad.

In fresh attacks Wednesday, unknown gunmen riding in a private car shot dead police officer Izzaddin Abbas in central Baghdad as he rode his motorcycle home.

A clerk with the Ministry of Industry was shot and killed in northeastern Baghdad as he was driving to work.

The bodies of three people who were shot after being blindfolded and bound at the wrists were found dumped in the capital's eastern districts.

Two court officials were killed when a their jeep exploded as it crossed a bridge leading over the Tigris from a city centre district housing the defense and interior ministries and the main gate into the fortified Green Zone. Attackers had attached a timed bomb to the fuel tank, security officials said Wednesday. The explosion ripped the car apart just metres from the most secure buildings in Iraq in a very public display of the chaos gripping the capital.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, a car bomb and a mortar attack killed two police officers and six civilians.

An explosives-laden car was detonated near a police patrol, killing five policemen and two civilians and wounding at least 10 others. The car was parked on the side of the road in central Baghdad.

In a separate attack, two people were killed and 10 wounded by a bomb in one of the city's biggest commercial marketplaces. The device was placed in the trunk of a taxi and caused extensive damage to nearby vehicles.

In the west of the capital, two policemen were killed when mortar shells were fired at their patrol. The source of the hostile fire is not yet known.

And early Wednesday morning, police say a bomb placed in a minibus killed three people and wounded seven others in Baghdad's western district of Bayaa. Witnesses gave a different account of the incident, saying that US forces fired on the minibus after coming under attack by a roadside bomb while driving in Bayaa.

In eastern Baghdad, a parked car bomb exploding near a police patrol, killing a police officer and four civilians. Seven people were wounded.

One police officer was killed and two others wounded by a mortar round in eastern Baghdad, the official said.

Separately, police recovered 10 unidentified bodies across the capital, some with gunshots to the head and showing signs of torture.

Violence in western Baghdad Wednesday claimed the lives of two civilians. An explosive device was detonated on a commuter bus, killing two passengers, wounding three and causing damage to nearby vehicles. Police cordoned off the blast site, and ambulances rushed the wounded to nearby hospitals, sources said. Clashes between police and gunmen killed a policeman and wounded three others in southern Doura district of Baghdad.

A car bomb targeting a police patrol killed five people, including a policeman, and wounded seven, including two policemen, in central Baghdad.

A bomb in a minibus killed three people and wounded seven in Baghdad's southern Bayaa district.

A roadside bomb killed two people and wounded 10 in the Shorja district of central Baghdad.

Gunmen wounded Hazim al-Hemedawi, head of the little-known Iraqi National Party, after ambushing his convoy. Two of his bodyguards were also hurt.

The Iraqi army has arrested seven "terrorists" and 52 suspected insurgents in the last 24 hours in different parts of Iraq, the Defence Ministry said.

West of Baghdad

Iraqi television announced that a university professor of history was shot dead by unknown gunmen west of the capital. The professor formerly taught at the university of al-Anbar, a province in the western part of the country.

South of Baghdad

South of Baghdad, coalition forces early Wednesday launched an airstrike on a bomb-making facility, a strike described by the U.S. military as part of the effort "to dismantle the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network." "According to ground forces, there was explosive paraphernalia along with an estimated 70 to 80 barrels of unknown chemicals in the factory," a military statement said.


A roadside bomb exploded near the convoy of the security advisor of the Governor of Sallaheddine Province in the oil city refinery of Baiji. He was unharmed but two of his guards were wounded.


In Balad a suspected terrorist was killed and another detained on Tuesday in a coalition raid, the U.S. military said on Wednesday. The raid targeted a person linked to a "suspected senior leader of an al Qaeda in Iraq network" known for connections to "foreign terrorists and IED attacks in the area," the military said.


The bodies of eight people were found bound and gagged in Baqouba.


An Iraqi translator with U.S. forces, Haidar Muhsin, was shot dead late Tuesday in front of his home in Diwaniyah, the second translator killed in the southern city in recent days.


Police found the bodies of five people, with gunshot wounds and bearing signs of torture, in and around the Sunni stronghold city of Falluja.


A car bomb exploded at an Iraqi police checkpoint south of Baghdad on Sunday, killing seven people and wounding 12, police said. The attack occurred about 50 km south of Baghdad near the town of Haswa. The explosives-packed vehicle had been left by the side of the road, near the checkpoint, and was detonated remotely. All of those killed were civilians. Three of the wounded were policemen.


The bodies of seven people, including that of a policeman, were found in different districts of Mosul. One of the victims was burned and others had gunshot wounds.

Gunmen killed a policewoman in the northern city of Mosul.

A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded two policemen in Mosul.

A police officer was among three people shot dead in the northern city of Mosul, said Brig. Sa'eed Ahmed of the provincial Police Information Office. Mosul police also discovered the charred body of an apparent murder victim.

In the main northern city of Mosul, six people were shot dead in separate incidents.


Police found the body of a man in the town of Numaniya.


In Samara a senior judge in a Tikrit court was kidnapped near his private residence Tuesday. Judge Saadoon Hassan al-Azawi was abducted by an armed group as he was preparing to leave for work. The incident marks the third attack on an Iraqi judge in the Salah el-din governorate.

Southern Iraq

In southern Iraq, which has been more stable than central regions, a roadside bomb blew up as a British consular convoy was passing, killing two British security guards.


Downriver of the capital in Suweira, where water is drawn from the Tigris to irrigate fields, the bodies of 10 murder victims, one of them beheaded, were washed up, mortuary manager Mamun Ajil said.

Statistics I: The number of attacks on American forces increased in October to unprecedented levels, U.S. military officials said. "There has been a much more considered effort to specifically target coalition and Iraqi security forces," Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Iraq, told reporters in Baghdad as the month wore on. "There has been a steady increase in the number of attacks specifically against security forces." There were 224 Iraqi security forces and 1,315 civilians killed in October. It was a month in which U.S. forces were shot by snipers, struck by rocket-propelled grenades or lured into ambushes where they were sprayed with automatic-weapon fire from the AK-47s found in so many Iraqi homes. But improvised explosive devices left along roads remained the weapon of choice for Iraq's anti-American insurgency. Despite jamming devices, tactical adjustments and the increased armoring of military vehicles, at least 51 of the U.S. deaths resulted from makeshift bombs detonated by remote control from a comfortable distance.

Statistics II: Nearly one-third of the 102 U.S. troops killed in Iraq in October were on extended tours or on their second or third tours, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

October was the fourth deadliest month of the war, and the soldiers' prolonged exposure to danger underscored national anxiety over a conflict more protracted than anyone expected, the newspaper said.

The Tribune said its analysis of U.S. Department of Defense information and interviews with family members showed all but 10 of those killed in October were enlisted - an enlisted rank is generally any rating below that of a commissioned officer - and their average age was 24. Of those who died, 58 were killed by mines and makeshift bombs, eight fell to sniper fire and 30 more died in skirmishes on missions. Another six died in accidents and non-hostile incidents.

Statistics III: The number of Iraqi civilians killed in violence may have jumped to another record high in October, data from the Iraqi government indicated on Wednesday.

Statistics issued by the Interior Ministry for Iraqis killed in political violence put civilian deaths last month at 1,289, nearly 42 a day and up 18 percent from the 1,089 seen in September, itself a record for this particular series of data.

Uppity puppet: Exploiting GOP vulnerability in the Nov. 7 elections, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flexed his political muscle Tuesday and won U.S. agreement to lift military blockades on Sadr City and another Shiite enclave where an American soldier was abducted.

U.S. forces, who had set up the checkpoints in Baghdad last week as part of an unsuccessful search for the soldier, drove away in Humvees and armored personnel carriers at the 5 p.m. deadline set by al-Maliki. Iraqi troops, who had manned the checkpoints with the Americans, loaded coils of razor wire and red traffic cones onto pickup trucks.

Their departure set off celebrations among civilians and armed men in Sadr City, the sprawling Shiite district controlled by the Mahdi Army militia loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Small groups of men and children danced in circles chanting slogans praising and declaring victory for al-Sadr, whose political support is crucial to the prime minister's governing coalition.

Now Bush is letting US troops answer to a foreign command?: Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki demanded the removal of American checkpoints from the streets of Baghdad on Tuesday, in what appeared to be his latest and boldest gambit in an increasingly tense struggle for more independence from his American protectors.

Mr. Maliki’s public declaration seemed at first to catch American commanders off guard. But by nightfall, American troops had abandoned all the positions in eastern and central Baghdad that they had set up last week with Iraqi forces as part of a search for a missing American soldier. The checkpoints had snarled traffic and disrupted daily life and commerce throughout the eastern part of the city.

The language of the declaration, which implied that Mr. Maliki had the power to command American forces, seemed to overstep his authority and to be aimed at placating his Shiite constituency.

The withdrawal was greeted with jubilation in the streets of Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite enclave where the Americans have focused their manhunt and where anti-American sentiment runs high. The initial American reaction to the order, which was released by Mr. Maliki’s press office, strongly suggested that the statement had not been issued in concert with the American authorities.

‘Edging toward chaos’: A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict.

A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in terms of sectarian fighting.

The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an “Index of Civil Conflict.” It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad.

In fashioning the index, the military is weighing factors like the ineffectual Iraqi police and the dwindling influence of moderate religious and political figures, rather than more traditional military measures such as the enemy’s fighting strength and the control of territory.

The conclusions the Central Command has drawn from these trends are not encouraging, according to a copy of the slide that was obtained by The New York Times. The slide shows Iraq as moving sharply away from “peace,” an ideal on the far left side of the chart, to a point much closer to the right side of the spectrum, a red zone marked “chaos.” As depicted in the command’s chart, the needle has been moving steadily toward the far right of the chart.

US troop levels up: With the US death toll in Iraq passing 100 this month and mid-term elections just days away, the Pentagon said the US force in Iraq has grown to 150,000 troops, the biggest it has been since January.

A Pentagon spokesman attributed the growth to overlapping unit rotations, but it came amid surging violence that so far this month has claimed the lives of 101 US troops and many more Iraqis.

"Several units are transitioning out as several are transitioning in," said Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ballesteros, who said that as of Monday the number of US troops in Iraq was 150,000.

Another Baghdad offensive?: President Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, arrived in Baghdad on Monday on an unannounced trip to discuss how to pull the country back from the brink.

Though American officials would describe Mr. Hadley’s talks only in the vaguest of terms, one option widely discussed in Washington and Baghdad in the days before his arrival, according to American and Iraqi officials, is a substantial increase in the number of American and Iraqi troops patrolling Baghdad. It would signal yet another effort to reassert control over the Iraqi capital, which officials in both governments said remains their top priority.

Those officials cautioned that no decision had been made about that option, which would amount to a third effort this year to contain the spreading violence in Baghdad.

Maybe they need a 700 mile fence: U.S. and Iraqi officials have been trying for years to crack down on foreign fighters and funds moving across the border from Syria. But training efforts for Iraqi Border Patrol officers have picked up steam only over the past year. Better equipment such as new pickup trucks arrived only months ago.

U.S. trainers say the Iraqis are getting much better at their jobs but still lack vital resources, have far too few men to adequately monitor this stretch of desert and farmland, and are up against a furtive smuggling culture that has been in place for centuries.

"At night, it's impossible to cover all this terrain," said Army Maj. Bill Tomlin, 37, of Kennedy, Ala., who is a border transition team leader in Rabiyah.

With allies like this who needs enemies: The signs of the militias are everywhere at the Sholeh police station.

Posters celebrating Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, dot the building's walls. The police chief sometimes remarks that Shiite militias should wipe out all Sunnis. Visitors to this violent neighborhood in the Iraqi capital whisper that nearly all the police officers have split loyalties.

And then one rainy night this month, the Sholeh police set up an ambush and killed Army Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., a 20-year-old budding journalist, his unit said. At the time, Stanton and other members of the unit had been trailing a group of Sholeh police escorting known Mahdi Army members.

"How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don't even trust them not to kill our own men?" asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad. "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we're ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence."

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., predicted last week that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control of the country in 12 to 18 months. But several days spent with American units training the Iraqi police illustrated why those soldiers on the ground believe it may take decades longer than Casey's assessment.

(My emphasis – m)

Greg Mitchell adds to the story: USA Today revealed in a front page story on Monday that a study of several hundred American deaths in Iraq turned up at least seven cases where families were given the wrong information about how their loved ones died (most of them, it turned out, were killed by friendly fire). Now, on Tuesday, The Washington Post reveals that a U.S. soldier was ambushed and murdered by our friends in the Iraqi police. My additional digging now shows that the military willfuly covered up this significant detail in releasing the news of his death to his family and to the press.

Life In Iraq

Their piercings are different than ours too: Ali Abbas decided that his upper right thigh was the best place for a tattoo because no one gets tortured there.

He'd seen hundred of bodies in the city morgue and dozens of hospitals during his 18-day search for his missing uncle. He'd seen drill marks in swollen, often unrecognizable heads, slash marks across necks, bullet holes in backs, abdomens and swollen hands. He'd seen bodies that had been thrown into the river, so swollen they'd barely looked human. But by and large, the thighs had been intact.

So that's where he decided to have his name, address and phone number tattooed, in case the day comes when someone is searching for his body.

Tattoos are considered a sin in Islam, which holds that believers shouldn't deface their bodies. And tattoo shops are difficult to find in Baghdad. They're often in the basements of more reputable shops.

But at least some tattoo shops are seeing more and more Iraqis who, like Abbas, are willing to risk offending Islam to ease their families' grief in the event of their deaths. The owner of one tattoo shop in central Baghdad admitted that he'd done such tattoos, but said he didn't want to talk about it for fear that he'd be killed.

Baghdad ER: Doctors, nurses and even the Christian chaplain at the U.S. military hospital in Baghdad say they treat all patients the same, from U.S. combatants to Iraqi children, soldiers or suspected insurgents.

The only difference is the "bad guys" are blindfolded so they can't inform on Iraqis working in the hospital as translators, medical liaison officers or cleaners whose lives would be in danger if it was known they work there.

Your Tax Dollars At Work, or – What’s That Flushing Sound?

Well, if you can’t get it right with the first ten billion…: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday endorsed a proposal to spend at least $1 billion to expand the size and accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces.

While the plan still must get final approval from the White House and the money would have to be approved by Congress, Rumsfeld's support underscores the Bush administration's effort to shift more of the burden of Iraq's security to that country's forces.

…So far, the U.S. government has spent roughly $10 billion on developing the Iraqi security forces, according to the latest report released by the Pentagon special inspector general who audits U.S. work in Iraq. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the proposed extra money as more than $1 billion, but would not offer specifics.

$50,000,000,000 to transport dead and wounded? Holy cow: The U.S. Air Force is asking the Pentagon's leadership for a staggering $50 billion in emergency funding for fiscal 2007 -- an amount equal to nearly half its annual budget, defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute said on Tuesday.

The request is expected to draw criticism on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are increasingly worried about the huge sums being sought "off budget" to fund wars, escaping the more rigorous congressional oversight of regular budgets.

Another source familiar with the Air Force plans said the extra funds would help pay to transport growing numbers of U.S. soldiers being killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But we don't seem to be spending much on new troops: The 3rd Infantry Division, which led the initial attack on Iraq little more than three years ago, is headed back to the combat zone for the third time.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the division commander, said Tuesday that the more than 20,000 soldiers in the unit are preparing for yet another trip to Iraq less than a year after they returned from the second tour in January.

The Tribulations Of Tony Blair

Accountability is objectively pro-terrorist: MPs made angry demands for an inquiry into the Iraq war as they lambasted the Government over its handling of the invasion during the first full debate on the war in more than two years.

In a heated three-hour debate, Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, faced repeated calls for a full investigation to learn the lessons of the war and its aftermath.

Mrs Beckett insisted that it was not the time to hold a "backward looking" inquiry, saying it would send the wrong signal to insurgents in Iraq and the Iraqi people, and that it would undermine the armed forces.

Labour rebellion: Tony Blair came close to suffering a damaging Commons defeat last night as a dozen Labour rebels backed Scottish and Welsh Nationalists' demands for a parliamentary inquiry into the Iraq war.

The SNP and Plaid Cymru lost their motion for a wide-ranging investigation by only 25 votes, as rebels and opposition parties slashed the government's usual majority of 67.

The people speak: A vocal crowd brought an anti-war message yet again to Westminster last night as MPs debated inside, and they took heart that the need for an inquiry into the Iraq war was at last being discussed in Parliament.

"Two million marched in protest against the war. It is important they know we have not gone away, we have not forgotten," said Alan Chick, 57, a computer programmer, whose wife Diane, a nurse, stood near by, wrapped in a peace flag.

A slight backdown: British Prime Minister Tony Blair Wednesday offered the prospect of a parliamentary inquiry into his government's handling of the Iraq war but insisted that 'this is not the right time' for a decision on such a delicate probe.

Diplomatic initiative: British Prime Minister Tony Blair dispatched his senior foreign policy adviser to Damascus to press Syria to play a role in bringing stability to Iraq amid U.S.-led coalition attempts to quash unrelenting sectarian violence, officials said Wednesday.

Blair’s Downing Street office said Nigel Sheinwald, a high-ranking foreign policy adviser and envoy, had met Syrian diplomats on Monday in the first official talks between the two nations since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The unannounced visit came as the United States and Britain sought ways to reduce bloodshed in Iraq, Syria’s neighbor. Damascus is alleged to have influence with the insurgents.

Opinion - Simon Tisdall: Tony Blair's decision to send his most senior foreign policy adviser to Damascus for talks with President Bashar al-Assad is the most significant diplomatic development since the end of Israel's summer war against Hizbullah in Lebanon. The move, if it bears fruit, potentially touches all the Middle East bases.

By opening a direct line of communication with the Syrian leader, Mr Blair has increased the chances that western concerns about Syrian support for Hizbullah, including Damascus's supposed connivance in the rearming of the movement, will be heeded.

The UN-brokered and policed ceasefire left many issues unresolved, despite US insistence at the time that the basis of a lasting settlement must be established. If Syria can be induced to take a more cooperative line, the prospect of a second Lebanon flare-up may recede.

Syria can also help Britain and the US by taking additional measures to prevent infiltration of its border with Iraq by foreign jihadis bent on fighting coalition forces. Mr Assad has already been helpful in this regard but Washington remains suspicious that he is not doing all he could.

US Politics

Desperate and despicable: Campaigning for Republicans, President Bush said Monday that "terrorists win and America loses" if opponents of his Iraq policy triumph in next week's elections. Undeterred, House Democrats countered with television ads critical of the war in several competitive races.

"There's a big national debate in this country about the direction of this war set by President Bush, Defense Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney, and Democrats think we need to change that policy," said Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel (news, bio, voting record), who heads the Democratic campaign committee.

As the death toll for U.S. troops in Iraq passed 100 for the month, officials said ads criticizing Republican candidates for following the president's lead on the war would air in the campaign's final week in Connecticut, New Mexico, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa and other areas they declined to name.

Another big step toward the gulag: In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law (1). It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President's ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.

Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder." President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that he signed the equally odious Military Commissions Act of 2006. In a sense, the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and detention abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home, preparing to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember, the term for putting an area under military law enforcement control is precise; the term is "martial law."

Lie by Lie: The Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline (8/1/90 - 6/21/03): In this timeline, we've assembled the history of the Iraq War to create a resource we hope will help resolve open questions of the Bush era. What did our leaders know and when did they know it? And, perhaps just as important, what red flags did we miss, and how could we have missed them? This is the second installment of the timeline, with a focus on how the war was lost in the first 100 days.


Arriana Huffington: Stumping in Georgia yesterday, President Bush connected the dots: "The Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: the terrorists win and America loses."

There you have it: pull the lever for anyone with a (D) next to their name and it's as good as handing the Stanley Cup, the Super Bowl trophy, the Masters green jacket, and the keys to Baghdad to al Qaeda.

Can you think of anything more absurd than that? Other than accusing Michael J. Fox of faking his symptoms or trying to score political points by implying that Joy Behar is an al Qaeda appeaser.

Indeed, it was actually Behar who provided the most cogent response to the "Do you want America to win?" nonsense -- one that all Democratic candidates should pick up -- when she turned the tables on O'Reilly and asked: "What does it mean to win?"

That should be the defining question of the next 7 days.

Let's just stipulate that everyone in America not in a straight jacket or part of a terrorist sleeper cell wants America to "win" -- and center the debate on what, exactly, the president and the GOP mean by victory.

And please, Mr. President, don't give us the usual bromides about stable democracy or Iraq security forces standing up so we can stand down. It's become all-to-clear that those are benchmarks that won't be met in the foreseeable future.

On Monday Bush said, "The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq."

Hmm, I know what Democrats reaching their supposed goal would look like -- but can't say the same for the Republican goal.

What does it mean to win? Republicans clearly don't have an answer. That's why they are throwing the trash-the-media Hail Mary. And why the rest of us should keep demanding an answer to the question of what winning is.

Dennis Drewes: If we were truly brave, wouldn't we insist on safeguarding our rights under the Constitution over protecting our physical safety and property? And if we were truly free, wouldn't we require our government to listen to us, rather than corporate and industry lobbyists?

When we suspend habeas corpus, when alternate opinions are routinely eliminated from public debate and decisions, when our library records can be examined, in short, when we allow our liberties to be scaled back, especially by appeals to our fears and anxieties, how can we claim to be either free or brave -- at least to the extent our forebears expect of us?

Before heading into the voting booth Nov. 7, sing the anthem with all the gusto you can muster, answer the question it poses with a resounding "YES" and vote for the people and propositions that represent true freedom and real bravery!

Traverse City, MI, Record-Eagle: At a time when influential members of his own party are sending out cautionary signals that the nation is on the wrong course, the president and his advisors are digging into their tired old bag of tricks: playing the fear card once again, bullying opponents into submission, summarily rejecting any proposal aimed at a political solution.

Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Warner, to name just two, have said things aren't going well.

"If I had known then what I know now about the weapons of mass destruction, which was a key reason that I voted to go in there, I would not vote to go into Iraq the way we did," Hutchison said recently.

Certainly, the case continues to mount that there was, in fact, no confirmed evidence whatsoever that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq.

The entire argument for invading Iraq was a hard-sell charade devoid of reason.

Soon the Iraq war will be longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II.

And what do we have to show for it? More body bags filled with young Americans.

Sorry, lost the link. Damn I hate it when that happens. -m

Robert Parry: Many Americans are cynical about what they hear from politicians – and often with good reason – but perhaps no U.S. political leader in modern history has engaged in a pattern of lying and distortion more systematically than George W. Bush has.

Bush’s lies also aren’t about petty matters, such as some personal indiscretion or minor misconduct. Rather his dishonesty deals with issues of war and peace, the patriotism of his opponents, and the founding principles of the American Republic.

They are the kinds of lies and distortions more befitting the leader of a totalitarian state whipping up his followers to go after some perceived enemy than the President of the world’s preeminent democracy seeking an informed debate among the citizenry.

Ray McGovern: The president did say that too many children "won't ever see their mom and dad again," and that he owes it "to them and to the families who still have loved ones in harm's way to ensure that their sacrifices are not in vain." He owes to people like the family of Jeremy Shank. In a small town in Missouri last month, Rev. Carter Frey eulogized young Shank, who was killed while on patrol in Iraq. Frey stressed that Shank was one of those who "put themselves in harm's way and paid the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I can have freedom to live in this country."

Really? Many patrols like the one Shank was on appear to be aimed at stopping Shia and Sunni from killing each other—stopping what the president calls "full-scale civil war." Two months ago Bush’s national security adviser Stephen Hadley told the press, "It's no longer about insurgency, but sectarian warfare." Is that what Jeremy Shank and other young men and women are paying the ultimate sacrifice—or the penultimate one of living the rest of their lives without arms or legs? What else could be their purpose? To continue the pursuit of evidence of weapons of mass destruction or ties between Iraq and al-Qaida? Or is it really, as the Bush administration suggests, to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq and the wider Middle East? Really? How long will we let our young soldiers be mocked and used? How long will we allow President Bush to treat them as disposable soldiers—like toys a rich kid gets for Christmas?

Independent UK: More visibly than at any time in a half century, Iraq stands as the artificial construct that emerged from three Ottoman provinces after the First World War. That now comprises the oil-rich Shia south, with 60 per cent of the population, a predominantly Sunni centre with next to no oil, and the Kurdish north, also oil rich.

The two national elections of 2005 solidified sectarian and ethnic divisions and helped set the stage for the drive the country towards all-out civil war.

Mr al-Maliki's Shia alliance controls 130 of the 275 parliament seats, but it is divided among several factions, two of which - the largest of them headed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the biggest faction, and that of Muqtada al-Sadr - severely constrain his room for manoeuvre. Both men control armed militias; between them they command more seats than Mr al-Maliki's faction, so any move against the militias without their would threaten the al-Maliki power base.

Meanwhile, US-backed plans to create autonomous regions with varying access to Iraq's oil wealth threaten only to make the problem worse, inflaming the dynastic struggles among Shia Muslim clerics who dominate the politics of Iraq as they do in neighbouring Iran.

The scheduled provincial elections next year - ahead of the possible formation of new federal regions in 2008 - will bring those struggles to a head, several officials said.

So what now? Once the 7 November elections are out of the way, Donald Rumsfeld may or may not lose his job. But not only is this President loyal to a fault; to fire the architect of his war would be seen as an admission that his entire Iraq policy has failed. That fact, however, has kept Mr Rumsfeld in office, against all the odds, for the past year.

Last week, in short, was the week when everything changed - and nothing changed at all.

Casualty Reports

An Army sergeant who was awarded a Purple Heart last year was killed in Iraq when he was hit in the neck by a bullet or mortar, his family said. Authorities notified the mother of 26-year-old Kraig Foyteck Tuesday that her son was killed in Mosul in northern Iraq.

Memorial services are Thursday for a North Texas soldier killed in Iraq. Spc. Nathaniel Aguirre's flag draped casket arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Monday. The 21-year-old combat medic from Carrollton was killed last week in Baghdad.

While family, friends and fellow Marines gathered inside Bedford Baptist Church last Thursday to honor the life of First Lt. Joshua Booth, the Bedford community awaited its opportunity to pay tribute as well. As the fallen Marine was transported from the church to Longwood Cemetery, the hundreds lining Oakwood Street held their flags and put their hands over their hearts in a final salute to Booth who was killed in action in Iraq on Oct. 17.

Kristy McNett, center, holds her hands in prayer as the casket of her uncle, Sgt. 1st Class Tony L. Knier, is taken to a memorial service Tuesday in Wellsboro, Pa. Knier was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

A funeral with full military honors will be held today for a western Minnesota soldier killed in Iraq. Staff Sergeant Kevin Witte was killed Oct. 20 when a bomb exploded near his vehicle while he was on combat patrol. Witte was 27.

A Miramar Marine has been killed while serving in Iraq. Pfc. Jason Franco died Tuesday in what the Pentagon called a "non-hostile incident." The Department of Defense said the 18-year-old's death is currently under investigation.

A soldier from Hamilton in southwestern Ohio has been killed while serving in Iraq. The military says First Sergeant Ricky McGinnis was killed Thursday by a roadside bomb. The 42-year-old McGinnis was based at Fort Hood, Texas, and had been in the Army for 23 years. He was serving in Iraq in the same unit as his 19-year-old nephew.

The Canadian killed Monday in an attack south of Baghdad was a dedicated soldier and well aware of the risks of his job with the U.S. Army in Iraq, his mother said Wednesday. When they drove to the airport to say goodbye, Cpl. Michael Seeley would try to prepare his family for the worst, Theresa Seeley said in an interview with CBC News from her home in Fredericton.


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