Sunday, December 17, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2006 An Iraqi goes through debris after a car bomb explosion in Mahmoudiya, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006. A parked car bomb went off in Mahmoudiya injuring four people. setting several cars on fire and damaging shops nearby, police said. (AP Photo/Haide Fatihi) This is yet another of those incidents that is reported only in a photo caption. The AP report for the day did not mention this. -- C And, here's an interesting contrast. I guess the tissues are for when they get all choked up over how much they love each other. -- C British Prime Minister Tony Blair, fourth from left, has talks with his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki, sixth from right at table, in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, Iraq, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006. Blair urged international support for al-Maliki's 7-month-old Shiite-dominated government, saying there was a 'very strong obligation for all countries in the region to be supportive of the Iraqi prime minister and his government.' (AP Photo/Ali Haider, Pool) An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing three Soldiers north of the Iraqi capital yesterday. The combat patrol was conducting a route clearance mission in order to free the roads of any possible dangers so that a follow-on unit could move through the area without harm. Mercenary from New Zealand killed in rocket attack on convoy, location not not specified. Steve Gilchrist, 33, joined the Australian army before beginning work in Iraq with private British security firm Armor-Group. (Here we learn that the incident happened on Wednesday. Note that it was not publicly reported at the time. We happen to learn of it only because his death is reported in Australia and New Zealand. This is just one more evidence of the extent of violence that never becomes part of the public record. Were any Iraqis killed in that incident? We'll never know. -- C) Baghdad Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms kidnap 20-30 employees of the Iraqi Red Crescent. A Red Crescent official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, said the gunmen left women behind. . . .The abduction comes just days after the organization's vice president, Dr. Jamal al-Karbouli, said American forces represented a greater danger to its work than insurgents. ``The insurgents, they are Iraqis, a lot of them are Iraqis, and they respect the Iraqis. And they respect our (the Red Crescent's) identity, which is neutrality,'' al-Karbouli said Friday. Note: Other services say the attackers wore police uniforms. No way to resolve the discrepancy. (Golly, what a coincidence! The organization's leadership criticizes the occupation and two days later, Iraqi security forces attack them. What could it possibly mean? -- C) Meanwhile, a short distance away another gang -- again in the uniforms of the Shiite-dominated security forces -- shot dead one Sunni local councillor and kidnapped three more from their car, a security official said. Vaguely described locations The country endured a fresh round of shootings on Sunday that left two security officials dead and at least 10 bodies dumped in Baghdad and the northern oil capital of Kirkuk, different officials said, according to AFP. This is rather disappointing, they're usually specific. I second Whisker's suspicion that Blair's visit (not to mention the "reconciliation" conference) may be contributing to a news blackout. -- C Mussayab Police found the bodies of two people shot dead on Saturday in Mussayab, 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. Jurf Al-Sakhar Police found the bodies of two people, shot dead and tortured, in Jurf al-Sakhar, 85 km (53 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. Iskandariya Gunmen killed Alaa Muhsin, a Sunni sheikh from the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, on Saturday in Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. Sheikh Ismail al-Khanfashi, deputy head of an Iraqi NGO, was killed on Saturday by gunmen. Al-Khanfashi took part in a national reconciliation conference in Baghdad. Indeed, the reporters seem distracted today, or officials are unusually close-mouthed. AP's 10:15 EST update just gives us this: Among those killed in violence were two policeman, an Iraqi soldier and a municipal official in Baghdad; and a police officer in Kut, southeast of the capital. OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY Tony Blair pops in on Maliki, pledges full support, also says British troops would stay in Iraq "until the job is done". Meanwhile, according to The Guardian, British and Iraqi troops in Basra are conducting a neighborhood-by-neighborhood sweep aimed at rooting out weapons and militants and launching reconstruction projects. Its completion in the new year will likely trigger an announcement that Britain is slashing its troop numbers. Whatever. Iraqi and Syrian Interior Ministers meet to discuss border security. Gee, this is strange. When I read newspapers in the U.S., they always say that Syria is causing all the problems in Iraq, and there's no use trying to talk to them. Apparently the news is different in different countries. - C
Indo-Asian News Service: Damascus, December 17, 2006 Iraqi and Syrian interior ministers held talks and discussed ways of improving security along their border. In preparation of a bilateral memorandum on security issues, Iraq's Interior Minister Jawad al-Boulani and his Syrian counterpart Bassam Abdul-Majid met here on Saturday and talked of steps to "activate cooperation and coordination in the fields of immigration, exchange of expertise and information in combating terrorism and crime", Syria's official news agency SANA reported. They agreed to set up joint committees on these issues. The Iraqi minister's visit follows the recent resumption of diplomatic relations between Iraq and Syria after a gap of more than 24 years. Syria had stepped up border controls with monitoring posts in a bid to help Iraq achieve security and stability, Abdul-Majid was quoted as saying. Iraq "will never be a base for any (actions) that threaten security and stability in Syria," al-Boulani said, adding Iraq was willing to use Syria's anti-terrorist experience. Both the US and Iraq have accused Syria of failing to take sufficient steps to stop militants from infiltrating into Iraq to join insurgents fighting the US-led forces and Iraqi government troops. Syria has repeatedly denied the charge, complaining that it could not completely seal its border with Iraq.
Juan Cole provides a summary in English of Al-Hayat's report on the reconciliation conference.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Baathist guerrilla leaders, who were not invited, are saying that al-Maliki has gone back on his earlier promises to them. Al-Hayat says that the Association of Muslim Scholars (hardline Sunnis), the Congress of the Iraqi People of Adnan Dulaimi (fundamentalist Sunnis), and Salih Mutlak's Dialogue Front (ex-Baath secularists) all boycotted. Moreover, opposition figures living abroad, who had been invited, mostly declined to come. And Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shiite clerical leader, turned down an invitation. So it doesn't sound to me as though this conference will amount to anything. The Baathists were miffed and said that the conference "does not concern them." Guerrilla leader Abu Wisam al-Jash'ami told al-Hayat that he thought he had an agreement with al-Maliki, that the PM would ask parliament to debate the question of debaathification. Instead, al-Maliki foreclosed the debate by just asking parliament to consider abolishing the debaathification law. (Most Sunni Arabs had a connection to the Baath Party, which has been used by triumphant Shiites and Kurds to throw them out of government and military service.) Al-Hayat also says that Secretary of State Condi Rice has sent envoys to the major Arab countries informing them that Washington will not talk with Syria about Iraq (with the quid pro quo that Damascus gets a free hand in Lebanon), and will not talk to Iran (with the quid pro quo that they get a pass on the nuclear research program).
There's a sucker born every minute Department. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Reid says U.S. troop surge OK, but only for a few months. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON: Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday he would support a temporary increase of U.S. troops in Iraq only if it were part of a broader strategy to bring combat forces home by early 2008. "If the commanders on the ground said this is just for a short period of time, we'll go along with that," said the Democratic senator, citing a time frame such as two months to three months. But a period longer than that, such as 18 months to 24 months, would be unacceptable, he said. "The American people will not allow this war to go on as it has. It simply is a war that will not be won militarily. It can only be won politically," Reid said. "We have to change course in Iraq." President George W. Bush is considering several options for a new strategy in Iraq, such as a proposal backed by Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen.Joseph Lieberman that would send tens of thousands of additional troops for an indefinite period to quickly secure Baghdad. There are presently about 134,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. That plan would run counter to recommendations by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which set a goal of withdrawing combat troops by early 2008 in support of more aggressive regional diplomacy. On Sunday, retired Gen. Jack Keane, a former Army vice chief of staff who is advising Bush to send an additional 30,000 to 40,000 U.S. troops, said it would take at least 1 1/2 years to secure Iraq. "It's impossible," Keane said, responding to Reid's suggestion that the troop surge be limited to two months to three months. "It will take a couple of months just to get forces in," he said.
Read in Full IN-DEPTH REPORTING AND ANALYSIS Two pieces today about the situation of women in Iraq, with interesting contrasting emphasis. The first is from Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily at IPS News. Excerpt:
Nobody is safe. Taysseer Al-Mashadani, the Sunni woman minister from the al-Tawafuq political party was abducted by members of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army militia July 1 this year. After being held for nearly three months, she was only released after much pressure was applied from both the U.S. and Iraqi governments. Thousands of other women have not been so lucky. Many have been executed, assaulted, or released only after their families paid considerable ransom money. Few women like to talk about what they have to go through. "I was taken by Americans for three days recently," Um Ahmed said in Baghdad. "They told me they would rape me if I didn't tell them where my husband was, but I really didn't know." She said that she was turned over to the Iraqi National Guard "who were even worse than the Americans." Her husband eventually surrendered to the U.S. military, but she continued to be held "to apply pressure on him to confess things he never did," she said. "They told him they would rape me right in front of him if he did not confess he was a terrorist. They forced me to watch them beat him hard until he told them what they wanted to hear." The Organisation for Women's Freedom in Iraq has estimated from anecdotal evidence that over 2,000 Iraqi women have gone missing in the period from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 until spring 2006. But numbers are not always reliable here. Thousands of cases of abduction of women are never reported for fear of public disgrace. According to a study published by the Washington-based Brookings Institute Dec. 4, between 30 to 40 Iraqis were being kidnapped every day as of March this year. "The numbers on this table may be lower than the actual number of kidnappings as the Iraqi Police suggest wide underreporting," the study noted. These estimated numbers have drastically increased from a reported rate of two kidnappings a day in Baghdad in January 2004, and are up from the 10 a day reported in the capital city in December 2004 according to this study. Untold numbers of women, believed by many to be in the thousands, have been abducted for money, and others have been abducted for sectarian reasons. "My family had to pay 30,000 dollars to have me released," a 25year-old woman said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Several abducted women have later been found dead, sometimes beheaded. Others are never seen again. Fifty-two-year-old Um Wasseem from Baghdad was abducted by U.S. forces and held at the Baghdad airport detention camp, her family said. She was eventually released after political pressure from family and friends who had some political muscle. "I wish she had not been released," her 20-year-old son said. "Militias then abducted her, and we found her body torn to pieces in March this year." Many Iraqi academics and aid workers say most of those being kidnapped now are women. "Women in Iraq used to go to work, participate in social activities and even take part in politics," sociologist Shatha al-Dulaimy said in Baghdad. "Iraqi women studied and worked side by side with men, and they formed at least 35 percent of the national working power in various fields of work until the U.S. occupation came. The occupation has brought nothing but suffering, death or kidnapping to women here now." The U.S. administration promised Iraqi women a better life with new opportunities, but the reality after three-and-a-half years of occupation is far different. Iraqi women were promised 25 percent of the seats in parliament. As it turned, out, the Iraqi National Assembly has 85 women in a total of 275 members following elections held Dec. 15, 2005. But that has not translated into more rights for women across Iraq. "We are just a part of the décor arranged by Americans who wanted to convince the world of the 'tremendous' change in Iraq," a female member of the Iraqi parliament said on condition of anonymity. "Our (women's) voice is never heard inside or outside parliament."
Read in Full Wa Po's Nancy Trejos doesn't notice anything untoward going on regarding the occupation or the Iraqi government, but she does note the growing oppression of women by religious fundamentalism. Excerpt:
BAGHDAD -- Browsing the shelves of a cosmetics store in the Karrada shopping district, Zahra Khalid felt giddy at the sight of Alberto shampoo and Miss Rose eye shadow, blusher and powder. Before leaving her house, she had covered her body in a billowing black abaya and wrapped a black head scarf around her thick brown hair. She had asked her brother to drive. She had done all the things that a woman living in Baghdad is supposed to do these days to avoid drawing attention to herself. It was the first time she had left home in two months. "For a woman, it's just like being in jail," she said. "I can't go anywhere." Life has become more difficult for most Iraqis since the February bombing of a Shiite Muslim mosque in Samarra sparked a rise in sectarian killings and overall lawlessness. For many women, though, it has become unbearable. As Islamic fundamentalism seeps into society and sectarian warfare escalates, more and more women live in fear of being kidnapped or raped. They receive death threats because of their religious sects and careers. They are harassed for not abiding by the strict dress code of long skirts and head scarves or for driving cars. For much of the 20th century, and under various leaders, Iraq was one of the most progressive Middle Eastern countries in its treatment of women, who were encouraged to go to school and enter the work force. Saddam Hussein's Baath Party espoused a secular Arab nationalism that advocated women's full participation in society. But years of war changed that. In the days after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, many women were hopeful that they would enjoy greater parity with men. President Bush said that increasing women's rights was essential to creating a new, democratic Iraq. But interviews with 16 Iraqi women, ranging in age from 21 to 52, show that much of that postwar hope is gone. The younger women say they fear being snatched on their way to school and wonder whether their college degrees will mean anything in the new Iraq. The older women, proud of their education and careers, are watching their independence slip away.
Read in Full NYT's Michael Moss reports that Iraqi kangaroo courts are sentencing people captured and accused by occupation forces to long prison terms and death, in farcical trials. (Let Freedom Reign. Excerpt:
BAGHDAD — In a cavernous room that once displayed gifts given to Saddam Hussein, eight men in yellow prison garb sat on the floor facing the wall, guarded by two American soldiers. Among them was Abdulla Sultan Khalaf, a Ministry of Industry employee seized by American troops who said they found 10 blasting caps and 100 sticks of TNT. When his name was called, he stood, walked into a cagelike defendant’s box and peered over the wooden slats at a panel of three Iraqi judges of the central court. The judges reviewed evidence prepared by an American military lawyer — testimony from two soldiers, photographs and a sketch of the scene. The evidence went largely unchallenged, because Mr. Khalaf had no lawyer. The judges appointed one, but Mr. Khalaf had no chance to speak with him. Mr. Khalaf told the judges that the soldiers were probably chasing a rogue nephew and denied that the explosives were his or ever in his house. “Let me examine the pictures,” he insisted. The judges ignored him. His lawyer said nothing, beyond declaring Mr. Khalaf’s innocence. The trial lasted 15 minutes. The judges conducted six trials of similar length and depth before lunch, then deliberated for four minutes. Five defendants were found guilty; one was acquitted. “The evidence is enough,” Judge Saeb Khorsheed Ahmed said in convicting Mr. Khalaf. “Thirty years.” The United States established the Central Criminal Court of Iraq three years ago, envisioning it as a pillar of a new democracy. But like the faltering effort to create effective Iraqi security forces, the system for detaining, charging and trying suspects has instead become another weak link in the rule of law in Iraq, according to an examination of the justice system by The New York Times. The stakes are rising. The court has begun sentencing American-held detainees to death by hanging, 14 this year. Almost every aspect of the judicial system is lacking, poorly serving not just detainees but also Iraqi citizens and troops trying to maintain order. Soldiers who have little if any training in gathering evidence or sorting the guilty from the innocent are left to decide whom to detain. The military conducts reviews to decide whom to release, yet neither Iraqi detainees nor defense lawyers are allowed to attend, according to military documents and interviews.
Read in Full WaPo's Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright portray White House inner circle as dazed and confused over the future of the Maliki government: Excerpt:
Sunday, December 17, 2006; Page A32 Even as the White House contemplates a faster turnover of responsibilities to the Iraqi government, severe doubts remain within and outside the Bush administration over whether Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki can execute the steps necessary to stabilize the country, according to sources familiar with the ongoing policy review. President Bush has cast his lot with Maliki, reiterating his support in a half-hour conversation with the prime minister via video link to Baghdad on Friday, and officials apparently see no viable alternative to the veteran Shiite politician. The White House said it was heartened by Maliki's call yesterday for national reconciliation and for bringing private militias under control; the prime minister also called for the return to the military of officers in the army of ousted president Saddam Hussein. Sources familiar with the government deliberations said the Bush administration's review keeps coming back to whether the leader of Iraq's fragile government has the capability of following through on steps he has so far resisted in the six months he has been in power, such as seeking a broader reconciliation among Iraq's feuding sects and cracking down on the violent militias responsible for much of the mayhem in Baghdad. Maliki's perceived weakness puts in doubt the ability of the United States to turn over greater responsibility for security to Iraqis and move into more of a support role -- and eventually withdraw its 140,000 troops from the country. U.S. intelligence thinks Maliki is under enormous pressure and is therefore unpredictable. American military commanders think they can deal with him, but only with a lot of work and patience. State Department officials are uncertain about his prospects but contend that it is time for Maliki to take control -- and for the United States to keep the Baghdad government at arms length, according to officials familiar with the deliberations. The shared fear, however, is that any new U.S. strategy might shift greater control to Maliki and that then he might be unable or unwilling to take the tough steps needed. The United States would be back to square one. "What if we rely on Maliki and then he disappoints?" asked one official familiar with the deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the review is not over. "That's an outcome we have to avoid."
Read in Full Sumedha Senanayake reviews the tensions over Kirkuk. This is going to get uglier -- C Excerpt:
New York -- As 2007 approaches, one of the more contentious issues in Iraq looks likely to come to the fore: the status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. In the Iraqi Constitution approved by the Shi'a and Kurds, Article 140 calls for a three-step process to normalize Kirkuk by reversing the "Arabization" policy implemented under former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Upon completion of the normalization process, which has seen thousands of Kurds return to the city and it surroundings, a census and referendum is to take place sometime in 2007 to determine whether or not Kirkuk will be assimilated into the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. However, as Iraq prepares itself for what is expected to be a difficult and sensitive process, the recommendations by the U.S. Iraq Study Group and increased warnings by Turkey to postpone the referendum have alarmed Kurdish leaders. Kurdish officials have recently issued warnings that any postponement of the referendum could plunge the relatively peaceful Kurdish north into chaos. Kurds Fear Another Betrayal The Iraq Study Group described the Kirkuk situation as a "powder keg" and recommended that the referendum planned for 2007 be delayed. Kurdish leaders reacted angrily and assailed the group's recommendation, calling it an affront to Iraq's sovereignty, particularly since the Kirkuk referendum is enshrined in the constitution "The issue of Kirkuk will be resolved in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution Article 140. Consequently, this constitutional question will be resolved by the Iraqis themselves. No one can interfere in that," Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said in a December 9 statement on the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan website. The Iraq Study Group's recommendations concerning Kirkuk have awakened the Kurds' fear of betrayal. The Kurds have been enthusiastic supporters of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the removal of the Hussein regime. In fact, the Kurdish north has been the only region in the country where U.S. soldiers do not regularly face hostile actions. The Kurds believe that by supporting the U.S. effort in Iraq, they in turn will be given the opportunity to take back what is rightfully theirs, the semi-autonomous north with Kirkuk, and its massive oil fields, as its crown jewel. Therefore, for the United States to even suggest postponing the resolution of Kirkuk's status reminds the Kurds of the last time they felt betrayed by U.S. promises. In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, the United States called on Iraq's Kurds and Shi'a to rebel against Hussein's rule, and promised U.S. support that never came. The rebellion was crushed by the Iraqi Army, and millions of Kurds abandoned their cities and villages and sought refuge along the Turkish and Iranian borders. Indeed, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani directly referred to this incident when reacting to the Iraq Study Group report. "We smell in this report the attitude of James Baker in the aftermath of the war in Kuwait," he said, referring to the U.S. decision not to assist the Kurds during the rebellion nor to overthrow Hussein when Baker was secretary of state under former President George Bush. Tensions Rise With Turkey On December 10, at a conference held by the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Manama, Bahrain, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said Kirkuk's future status carried significant implications for Turkey, AP reported on December 11. In addition, he called on Iraq's government to avoid imposing an "unrealistic" future on Kirkuk, a veiled threat that Turkey would not sit idly by and watch the city fall under the control of the Kurds. In response, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, warned Turkey not to meddle in Iraq's internal affairs. "You speak of Kirkuk as if it is a Turkish city. These are matters for Iraq to decide," he said. Turkey has repeatedly expressed its unease over the Iraqi Kurds' bid to annex Kirkuk, which the Turks believe could form the foundation for a strong economy that could eventually fund the Iraqi Kurds' bid to establish an independent Kurdish state. Ankara fears that a Kurdish state would become a focal point of Kurdish nationalism and incite its own Kurdish population to seek autonomy. Threats Of Secession, War Ghafur Makhmuri, a member of the Kurdish regional parliament, told "The Kurdish Globe" on December 12 that if the recommendations by the Iraq Study Group concerning the fate of Kirkuk are implemented, then the Kurds might be forced to secede from Iraq.
Read in Full And this train is coming down the track. The petition for the independence of Kurdistan COMMENTARY Harold Myerson tries to figure out the war aims. You may question some of the conventional wisdom that he takes at face value, but this is worth noting as a standard Democratic perspective. Excerpt:
Where do the Republicans' likely 2008 presidential candidates come down on Iraq? You might think that a decent regard for the opinions of their fellow citizens, as registered in last month's elections, would rouse them from their Bushian dreams of victory in what has become a savage intra-Islamic war where the very notion of an American triumph makes no sense whatever. You might think that, with the president's approval rating now sunk to near-Nixonian depths, Republican leaders, for their own good as well as their country's, might want to withdraw our men and women from Iraq before the next election. But that would require the Republicans -- leaders and rank-and-file both -- to become a reality-based party. If their leading candidates are any indication, however, they're not yet willing to make that leap. Front-runner John McCain, for instance, calls for a major increase in the size of the U.S. force and, with his fellow neoconservatives, rejects the Baker-Hamilton report because it rules out victory as a plausible option. "There's only one thing worse than an overstressed Army and Marine Corps," McCain said, "and that's a defeated Army and Marine Corps." Rudy Giuliani, who was originally a member of the Baker-Hamilton commission but resigned midway through its proceedings (to be replaced by Ed Meese), called some of the commission's ideas "useful," but also told talk show host Dennis Prager that, "the idea of leaving Iraq, I think, is a terrible mistake." Newt Gingrich, attacking the report even before it was released, wondered whether Washington would ever have crossed the Delaware if waffling Jim Baker had been whispering in his ear. McCain's position, at least, is sincerely held, as befits a candidate whose calling card is his integrity. Still, integrity in the pursuit of fantasy is no virtue. Lee Hamilton's estimate that we'd need to deploy an additional 50,000 to 100,000 troops "on a sustained basis" to reestablish order in Iraq sounds about right -- putting aside the question of what the Sunnis and Shiites would do when the troops finally left. But we don't have the troops. Some Army and Marine units in Iraq are on their third deployment. Who else, exactly, would McCain deploy? Customs agents? The Woodcraft Rangers? The editors of the Weekly Standard?
Read in Full Whisker's Roundup of the Wounded Jeff Landay was badly injured in Iraq... even falling into a coma during his recovery. In May, his humvee struck a roadside bomb in Fallujah, Iraq. He suffered injuries so serious doctors had to re-construct the left side of his skull. Landay is learning to talk again. Army Sgt. Brad Alexander, 33, was six days short of finishing his second yearlong tour in Iraq and was looking forward to his next assignment. His unit was engaging villagers about 30 miles north of Baghdad when a suicide bomber detonated herself less than five feet from him. he lost his left leg. For about two weeks after being severely wounded Aug. 16, Alexander also dealt with mental wounds, and feared that life would be incomplete as an amputee. On Oct. 26, Lance Cpl. Chris Charette, 21, was shot twice - once in the neck and once in the left hand, which caused him to lose his thumb. His unit, based out of Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., is charged with protecting the waterways and dams near the city of Haditha in the Euphrates River Valley. "When I got hit in the neck, it threw me. It hit me hard and threw me onto my back and it paralyzed my left arm. And when I tried to get back up I couldn't do it because I couldn't move my arm. "[The bullet] went through my neck at an angle so that it hit my collar bone, my clavicle, my scapula and went out through my shoulder. It didn't hit anything important, luckily." It's hard to believe Sgt. Frank Sandoval has anything to smile about. His convoy was attacked in Iraq on Nov. 28, 2005. When an IED exploded near his Humvee, Sandoval, a gunner, was critically injured. Shrapnel was embedded in Sandoval's brain and surgeons removed a third of his brain and half of his skull to save his life. Now, Sandoval, 26, is able to stand, even walk with help. Speech is still difficult but he has regained many of his cerebral functions with the exception of short-term memory. During a Dec. 4 patrol in Baghdad, a roadside bomb destroyed Staff Sgt. Scott Hoover's Stryker combat vehicle, breaking his left shoulder blade, damaging his rotator cuff and sending shrapnel through his left thigh. Pvt. Adam Poppenhouse from Ohio took most of the blast. He lost his right leg at the knee, but surgeons saved his left leg. Six operations later, pins and screws in his shattered arm, he wound up at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Boston police Officer Terrence “Shane” Burke does not remember much about Sept. 4 - the day in Iraq that a bomb exploded his Humvee, severing his left leg and the leg of another Marine - but he could never forget the Boston firefighter who saved his life. O’Brien was with a medical unit attached to Burke’s Marine platoon, which contained three BPD cops and and a city EMT. When O’Brien arrived at the burning Humvee, it was under enemy fire. Army Sgt. James Milano, a forward observer with the 82nd Airborne, was in an Army Humvee with two other soldiers on Dec. 8 when the vehicle struck the mine, said his father, Spackenkill school board President James Milano. Milano said Friday his son sustained lacerations to his right leg and some damage to one of his eyes. Quote of the Day Today's Quote of the Day isn't anything eloquent. It's just straight, dull journalism -- a story which has been largely ignored in the United States. Since the curtain of censorship across North America, keeps this out of your local fishwrapper and off the network news, I figured people might like to read it here. Of course, we aren't supposed to know about this because it might mean we'd have to impeach our own President, and that's off the table. -- C
A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act. In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests." Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been "effectively contained". He also reveals that British officials warned US diplomats that bringing down the Iraqi dictator would lead to the chaos the world has since witnessed. "I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed)," he said. "At the same time, we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that 'regime change' was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos."
Colin Brown and Andy McSmith, The Independent


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