Monday, December 18, 2006


Anbar Province

The military has announced two more American combat deaths in Iraq. Both occurred in western Anbar province. A Marine died Saturday and a soldier died Friday. At least 59 Americans have been killed in Iraq this month.


A car bomb killed five people and wounded at least 19 in the southern Sunni area of Sadiya, near a vegetable market. No one immediately claimed responsibility.

Four bodies were found blindfolded, handcuffed and shot execution-style off a highway in western Baghdad. Two roadside bombs killed one person and wounded seven others during the morning rush hour, and two mortar shells killed one person and wounded two others. A sniper killed a guard at the gate of the University of Technology.

Police say 36 bodies have been found in the Baghdad area, some of them showing signs of torture. In other violence, two policemen, an Iraqi soldier and a municipal official were killed in Baghdad, and a police officer was killed southeast of the capital.

Iraqi security forces said 98 corpses were found in Baghdad during the weekend and three bombs killed at least five more people in the capital Monday.

The general manager of Iraq's power networks and his bodyguard died and three other people were wounded when a bomb exploded under the general manager's car.

A roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad hit an Iraqi police patrol and three officers were injured.

A roadside bomb wounded seven people when it exploded in a wholesale vegetable market in the southern Doura district of Baghdad. A bomb planted in a car carrying Electricity Ministry officials killed the driver and wounded two in eastern Baghdad. Balad

At least seven mortar rounds landed in the town of Balad and wounded six people.


Five civilians were killed in the Baquba area, north of Baghdad, with one attack targeting mourners accompanying bodies to the Shiite south of the capital for burial.

Diyala Province

In Diyala province gunmen killed two civilians and wounded another. A roadside bomb killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded another, and a mortar round killed one villager and wounded 12 others.


Gunmen kidnapped three truck drivers and set their trucks on fire in the town of Dour, near Tikrit. Hawija

A roadside bomb killed a person and wounded another in the town of Hawija, 70 km south west of Kirkuk. Kirkuk

A civilian was killed by a makeshift bombing in the region.

Gunmen killed a policeman on his way to work in Kirkuk. Mahmudiya

A car bomb killed a person and wounded two others in a bus station in the town of Mahmudiya, about 30 km south of Baghdad.


In Mosul, police found two bodies, and gunmen shot and killed a civilian.

A Sunni Arab member of the Nineveh provincial council, Khairi al-Dabagh, was shot and killed on his way to work in Mosul.


One insurgent and a civilian were killed in clashes between U.S. forces and insurgents on Saturday in Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad. Rutba

Police found the bodies of five people, shot and tortured, near Rutba, about 500 km northwest of Baghdad.


Gunmen kidnapped police Captain Nihad Khalid, the head of emergency police in Samarra after storming his house. A curfew was imposed afterwards in the city. Tikrit

A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded another near Tikrit.

Roadside bombings: US troops in Iraq are dying in roadside bombings at a higher rate than any period since the war began -- some in follow-up attacks in the same locations -- but commanders still have no effective means to monitor the deadliest routes for patrols, according to Pentagon officials and documents.

Military deaths from roadside bombs have hit an all-time high in recent months: In October, 53 US troops died from improvised explosive devices, while in November, 49 troop deaths were blamed on so-called IEDs -- the second and third highest monthly tolls of the war, official statistics and casualty reports show.

That is far higher than the overall monthly average of 28 IED-related deaths since July 2003, when the data were first compiled. And in the three previous months, between 22 and 29 soldiers and Marines died from roadside bombs.

But the Pentagon office charged with solving the problem is still a step behind the bombers.

Officials at the Joint IED Defeat Organization admit that most of the billions of dollars they get each year goes to developing high-tech gear to detect or disarm bombs rather than addressing the root of the problem: finding out where the bombs come from and who is planting them.

Collective punishment: People living in areas where resistance to U.S.-led occupation is mounting are facing increased levels of collective punishment from the occupation forces, residents say. Siniyah town 200 km north of Baghdad with a population of 25,000 has been under siege by the U.S. military for two weeks. IPS had earlier reported unrest in Siniyah Jan. 20 when the U.S. military constructed a six-mile sand wall in a failed attempt to check resistance attacks. Located near Beji in the volatile but oil-rich Salahedin province, Siniyah has become a vivid example of harsh tactics used by occupation forces, who have lost control over most of the country. "Thirteen children died during the two-week siege due to U.S. troops' disallowance for doctors to open their private clinics as well as closure of the general medical centre there," a doctor from the city reported to IPS via satellite phone.

Shiites: Iran has effectively created a Shi'ite "state within a state" in Iraq providing both logistical support of armed groups and funds for social programs, The Washington Times reported on Monday citing a security report commissioned by the Saudi government.

The 40-page report says Iranian military forces are providing Shi'ite militias with weapons and training and that Tehran is actively supporting pro-Iranian Iraqi politicians, the newspaper said.

"Where the Americans have failed, the Iranians have stepped in," it said, quoting the report.

The findings were submitted to the Saudi government in March but have not been publicly distributed, The Washington Times said.

The report described the Badr organization, the armed wing of the biggest party in Iraq's government SCIRI, as the "key vehicle Iran is using to achieve its military security and intelligence aims," the newspaper said.

Hard to say how much credence to give this report. That there is a Shiite state within a state is certainly true, but the degree to which it's a creatior or tool of Iran is another question. On the one hand, this story is from the Moonie Times quoting a Saudi intelligence report, neither one exactly a reliable or unbiased source. On the other, the scenario it describes is certainly plausible. An interesting detail is that it identifies the Badr organization as Iran’s cat’s paw, not Bush’s choice for villain de jour, Sadr and the Mahdi army. Given that the WT has at times acted as Pravda to the Bush politburo, that seems odd. Hmmm. -m

Sunnis: An Iraqi militant group linked to al Qaeda urged Iraq's Sunni Muslims in a Web recording posted on Sunday to wage war on the country's Shi'ite Muslims.

"Stand like one man ... and cut their (Shi'ites') throats, spill their blood, burn the ground underneath them, and rain bombs on them," said the speaker, who said he was the official spokesman of "the Islamic state in Iraq".

Iraqi Sunni militant groups including al Qaeda announced in October the creation of what they described as an Islamic state in Iraq.

"They (Shi'ites) have done more than the crusaders (U.S.-led forces) have been doing. They killed men, rendering women widows and children orphans, burned houses of God and tore his book."

Too little too late: The U.S. military plans to speed up the training of Iraq's army by tripling its number of embedded trainers to about 9,000, while keeping a close eye on units' sectarian loyalties, a U.S. general said on Sunday.

Brigadier General Dana Pittard, whose Iraqi Assistance Group oversees training of Iraq's security forces, also said each of the nine police brigades would be taken off the streets over the next nine months for one month-long training.

A number of police units have been accused of colluding with, or being infiltrated by Shi'ite militia death squads targeting minority Sunnis. An explosion of sectarian violence since February has pushed the country towards all-out civil war.

Humanitarian aid suspended: Iraqi Red Crescent aid workers suspended work in war-torn Baghdad on Monday after two dozen of their colleagues fell victim to the latest mass kidnap to shock a city plagued by sectarian violence.

"We have frozen or stopped temporarily activities in Baghdad, but this is not affecting civilian needs. This was logical because our main staff is still kidnapped," the Iraqi Red Crescent's secretary general Mazen Abdallah said.

"We are the only organization working in all of Iraq. We don't want to stop," he added, emphasizing that the closure applied only to the capital.

In addition to the main branch targeted in the kidnapping, the Iraqi Red Crescent has closed another 40 subsidiary offices in Baghdad, affecting more than 600 staff, a large proportion of them security guards, Abdallah said.

The reconciliation conference: With unrelenting violence on the streets, political consensus in America and Iraq lacking, and the U.S. discussing the possibility of sending thousands more troops here, Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, convened leaders from various communities across the country for talks about how to stem the bloodshed.

Though the conference was billed as an attempt at reconciliation, no one claiming to represent either the Shiite militias or the Sunni extremists, who together are driving the current sectarian strife, attended.

Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric whose militia, the Mahdi Army, has been responsible for much of the sectarian violence, refused an invitation, according to a lawmaker.

In addition, the Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni leaders who were at the gathering did not present any new ideas for how to rein in the militias or insurgents.

Gesture to Baathists, about three and a half years too late: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his Shiite-dominated government reached out to former members of Saddam Hussein's regime Saturday, inviting them to claim government pensions and rejoin the army in a gesture meant to calm the country's sectarian passions. "The Iraqi army opens its doors to officers and soldiers from the former army who wish to serve the country," Maliki said at a national reconciliation conference of politicians and sectarian leaders in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

Maliki has been under increasing U.S. pressure to improve security forces. But, exposing fissures that have plagued his struggling government as the country descended into civil war, several Shiite and Sunni Arab groups rejected the proposal, saying it would reward insurgents and stalwarts of Hussein's regime.


Escape from custody: The former electricity minister — a dual U.S.-Iraqi citizen who was jailed for corruption — escaped police custody with the help of security agents he once hired to protect him, an anti-corruption official said Monday.

Former Electricity Minister Ayham al-Samaraie broke out of a Baghdad detention facility Sunday with the help of a group of private security experts, said Faris Kareem, deputy head of Iraq's Public Integrity Commission, an anti-corruption panel. It was al-Samaraie's second escape since he was convicted in October.

Kareem said the security agents were "foreign," but he had no further details.

Escape from death: Some of the 25 men abducted today from the office of an Iraqi aid group have been released.

A Red Crescent official says about two dozen people were abducted from the group's Baghdad office by gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms. The official says the gunmen left women behind, and that six workers were later released.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry says three Iraqi security guards at its embassy building in Baghdad were kidnapped along with the Red Crescent employees, and that one was later released.

Escape from Iraq: An estimated 100,000 Iraqis leave their country each month, part of more than 1.6 million who have fled since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, including many of Iraq's best educated professionals. The Syrian government on Wednesday said it had taken in more than 800,000 Iraqis so far. Jordan has about 700,000, and hundreds of thousands more have scattered across the Arab world since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. They have carried Iraq's civil strife into the incendiary politics of a region that is also navigating Iran's nuclear aspirations and turmoil in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

Iraqi refugees are accumulating much like the estimated 3 million displaced Palestinians who have flowed across the region for decades. Iraqis began trickling out during Saddam Hussein's regime, but their numbers steadily increased as their nation tumbled into civil war. The newest refugees are finding that compassion is fraying, prejudice growing and host countries, such as Jordan, are less welcoming.

Escape from a life he didn't want to leave: Omar Sattar Hussein - an Iraqi working as a translator for the US army - goes by the nickname "Lucky", having survived, by his count, 37 shootings, 30 bombings and 11 mortar strikes.

He's also lost everything he ever cared about in the world: his family, his fiancee and his friends.

"I didn't choose my nickname. Everyone just started to call me that," he said. "Yeah, I'm lucky with my job. I've survived many attacks, but I'm very unlucky with my private life."

The life of an interpreter for the US army in Iraq is not an easy one. From social ostracism to death at the hands of insurgents, the job is fraught with risk.

"Everybody in Baquba knows my job - I work for the Americans," said Lucky, who, alone among his translator colleagues, does not wear a mask to conceal his identity.

"I have no family anymore. My grandfather told me that I didn't belong anymore, so America is all I have."

Saddam Trial

Step down: The chief investigator on the 10-judge panel that sentenced Saddam Hussein to death said Saturday that he has relinquished that role, allowing another judge to take over the post for the Iraqi High Tribunal.

Raid Juhi said he will remain as a judge and spokesman on the tribunal, which handles the proceedings against the ousted dictator and other former regime members.

Juhi has been a high-profile figure in the trials against Saddam, who was sentenced to death for the killing of 148 Shiites in Dujail, north of Baghdad, after a 1982 assassination attempt there against the ousted leader. Two other senior members of Saddam's regime were also sentenced to death in the Nov. 5 ruling by the tribunal.

Evidence: The chief prosecutor in Saddam Hussein's trial for genocide against the Kurds on Monday implicated the deposed Iraqi leader directly in chemical attacks against his Kurdish population — the most serious evidence against him to date.

Munqith al-Faroon showed the Iraqi court trying Saddam and six other former regime members about 25 documents, including some presidency letters instructing the army to use "special ammunition" — identified as "mustard gas" — to quell a Kurdish rebellion in 1987.

One 1987 letter, signed by Iraq's military intelligence, asked Saddam's presidential office for permission to strike Kurdish rebels with the "special ammunition," al-Faroon said, reading parts of one of the documents, which was briefly shown in a television clip broadcasting trial proceedings.

Blair Visit

The poodle speaks: Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain pledged his support for the Iraqi government in a surprise visit here on Sunday. Less than a mile from where he spoke, gunmen in police uniforms seized 25 employees of an Iraqi aid organization.

Mr. Blair said the preparations to give control of Basra, the southern city where the British military is based, to Iraqi troops were “going well.” But he added that British troops would remain in Iraq “until the job is done” and the Iraqi Army could stand on its own.

“We stand ready to support you in every way,” Mr. Blair said at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in the Green Zone. He flew to Basra later on Sunday.

Breaking The US Military

Interview: POWELL: Let’s be clear about something else, Bob, that gets a little confusing. There are really no additional troops. All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you about that because… do we have the troops? You seem to be suggesting that we don’t.

POWELL: I’m suggesting that what general Shoemaker said the other day before a committee looking at the reserve and national guard, That the active army is about broken. General Shoemaker is absolutely right. All of my contacts within the army suggest that the army has a serious problem in the active force. (h/t Think Progress for the transcript)

Women And The War

ICRC Conference: "In times of conflict women face specific challenges. Issues such as missing persons and the implications for their families, detention and reintegration into society following release, sexual violence, access to reproductive health and means of maintaining family links are all difficulties they have to cope with in their daily lives", said Florence Tercier Holst-Roness, who is in charge of the ICRC’s "Women and war" project. "The plight of women could be alleviated if the rules of international humanitarian law were fully respected". In a rather emotional atmosphere, those present described their experiences and gave their views on the current humanitarian situation. One participant from Baghdad underlined the crucial role played historically by Iraqi women, "a role that has been simultaneously strengthened and undermined by successive wars and years of sanctions, violence and social constraints".

US military death toll: …as important as women have been to the military in wartime, historically we've never had to get accustomed to many of them dying.

But Iraq is different. So far, 41 female U.S. military personnel in Iraq have been killed by hostile fire – more than the number of American servicewomen killed in actual combat in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf combined – and another 21 women have died from "non-hostile" causes such as vehicle accidents.

Let me repeat that: More U.S. women service members have been killed by enemy action in Iraq than in our four previous "major wars" combined.

True, the female troops who have died in Iraq represent a small percentage of U.S. deaths overall – about 2 percent of the almost 3,000 dead so far, while about 15 percent of all U.S. troops in Iraq are women. And women troops are still barred from direct ground combat units such as infantry, armor and artillery.

But unlike in previous wars, there are no front lines or even fully pacified areas in Iraq. Anyone, male or female, who ventures "outside the wire" of an American military base, including truck drivers, public affairs officers, military police and so on – all military job specialties that are open to women – runs the risk of encountering snipers, suicide bombers and IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

And they don't care about gender.


Mixed blessing: As incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates plots a fresh path through Iraq, he is also expected to chart a different course for Pentagon intelligence programs, rolling back some of Donald Rumsfeld's aggressive expansion of intelligence operations that rankled agencies such as the CIA.

Gates, a former CIA director, signaled to Congress in December that he would be willing to cede some Pentagon intelligence responsibilities to Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

It’s good to hear the Pentagon may divest some of its intelligence roles, but giving more power to Death Squad John? Yeesh. -m

Keystone cops: U.S. Special Forces teams sent overseas on secret spying missions have clashed with the CIA and carried out operations in countries that are staunch U.S. allies, prompting a new effort by the agency and the Pentagon to tighten the rules for military units engaged in espionage, according to senior U.S. intelligence and military officials. The spy missions are part of a highly classified program that officials say has better positioned the United States to track terrorist networks and capture or kill enemy operatives in regions such as the Horn of Africa, where weak governments are unable to respond to emerging threats.

But the initiative has also led to several embarrassing incidents for the United States, including a shootout in Paraguay and the exposure of a sensitive intelligence operation in East Africa, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter. And to date, the Special Forces espionage effort has not led to the capture of a significant terrorism suspect. Some intelligence officials have complained that Special Forces teams have sometimes launched missions without informing the CIA, duplicating or even jeopardizing existing operations. And they questioned deploying military teams in friendly nations -- including in Europe -- at a time when combat units are in short supply in war zones.

US Military Affairs

Outsourcing: The Air Force is looking for a private contractor to fly caskets out of Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Earlier this year, Congress mandated that as of Jan. 1, the Air Force will be responsible for transporting caskets and human remains from Dover to funeral locations. Dover is the air hub where most troops who die overseas are brought before being returned to their families.

The military was using commercial airlines to transport caskets as part of their cargo. However, some grieving families and lawmakers thought the practice didn’t respect the service members’ sacrifices. The law now mandates the military handle the mission.

According to the request issued in late November, Air Mobility Command is looking for a firm that can provide crews and four aircraft able to carry two caskets each and their military escorts. The planes could make up to 110 flights a month.

Lemmee see…Four planes time two caskets times 110…hmm. Sounds like some lucky contractor is going to get a growth business. -m

Didn’t we learn all this in Vietnam?: The U.S. military's new counterinsurgency doctrine takes issue with some key strategies that American commanders in Iraq continue to use, most notably the practice of concentrating combat forces in massive bases rather than dispersing them among the population. The 282-page counterinsurgency field manual, unveiled Friday, seeks to bring together the best practices in fighting sustained insurgencies that the United States has learned during the Iraq war. It also lists tactics that have tripped up American forces, such as trying to make local security forces act like the U.S. military and overemphasizing killing or capturing enemies rather than providing for the safety of the population. Although the military has moved away from some of these tactics, others are widely used in Iraq. Most special operations forces in Iraq spend the bulk of their time and resources trying to kill or capture Al Qaeda members and insurgents. But the manual says the best use of those troops is not hunting enemies but training Iraqi security forces or police. Perhaps the most controversial section may be the manual's warning about large, sprawling bases, the very kind the Army has erected in Baghdad. The manual warns that such military bases could suggest "a long-term foreign occupation."

Global counterinsurgency: In the December 18, 2006, issue of The New Yorker, George Packer reports on a radically new approach to fighting the war on terror (“Knowing the Enemy,” p. 60). A small group of social scientists within the State Department, Packer reveals, is working to redefine the way in which the U.S. military responds to the growing number of insurgent groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. He previews an ambitious new counterinsurgency field manual that the Army and the Marine Corps will release on December 15th—the first in more than two decades. Packer talks to a remarkable theorist named David Kilcullen, an Australian anthropologist who is also a lieutenant colonel in his country’s Army and the chief strategist in the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Coördinator for Counterterrorism. Kilcullen, who is “on loan” to the U.S. government, claims that the notion of a “global war on terror” is fundamentally misguided, and argues that America is in fact facing a “global counterinsurgency.” As Packer writes, “The change in terminology has large implications . . . The notion of a ‘war on terror’ has led the U.S. government to focus overwhelmingly on military responses. In a counterinsurgency, according to the classical doctrine . . . armed force is only a quarter of the effort; political, economic, and informational operations are also required.” In other words, America can’t simply win battles; it must win the political support of the civilian populations that feed radical Islamic movements.

Kilcullen argues that, by framing the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Taliban, the Iranian government, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda in terms of one big war, Administration officials and ideologues have made Osama bin Laden’s job much easier. “You don’t play to the enemy’s global information strategy of making it all one fight,” Kilcullen says. “You say, ‘Actually, there are sixty different groups in sixty different countries who all have different objectives. Let’s not talk about bin Laden’s objectives—let’s talk about your objectives. How do we solve that problem?’”

The surge: After one of the deadliest months yet for American troops in Iraq, the U.S. military could be preparing for a short-term surge of forces to stabilize the violence.

The 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division is expected in Kuwait shortly after the new year, a senior Defense Department official said Friday. The official requested anonymity because the plans had not yet been announced.

The 2nd Brigade, made up of roughly 3,500 troops, is based at Fort Bragg, N.C., and would be deployed in Iraq early next year if needed, the official said. The move would be part of an effort to boost the number of U.S. troops in Iraq for a short time, the official said.

A surgee: With two combat tours under his belt, and another fast approaching, Sgt. Steve Butcher gets asked a lot of questions about Iraq.

Butcher’s 6-year-old daughter, Molly, started asking about the war when he returned from his second deployment a year ago.

Do men use guns? Yes.

Do people get killed? Yes.

She told him, “Daddy, that’s stupid.”

New recruits in Butcher’s infantry unit have questions as well. Why are U.S. troops still in Iraq? Should they be going back?

Butcher, 27, says nothing he’s heard from his little girl or his brothers in arms has shaken his resolve as he prepares to leave for a third tour in Iraq next month. He sees the war in terms of simple economics: time, money and effort spend by terrorists fighting American forces in Iraq leaves them with fewer resources to plot another Sept. 11 back home.

What a brave, ignorant man. But his daughter is pretty sharp. -m

Is This Why We Ask Sgt Butcher To Risk His Life? Is This What His Little Girl Might Lose Her Daddy For? Are These The American Values We Fight To Defend?

Indefinite imprisonment, torment, and no right to appeal?: One night in mid-April, the steel door clanked shut on detainee No. 200343 at Camp Cropper, the United States military’s maximum-security detention site in Baghdad.

American guards arrived at the man’s cell periodically over the next several days, shackled his hands and feet, blindfolded him and took him to a padded room for interrogation, the detainee said. After an hour or two, he was returned to his cell, fatigued but unable to sleep.

The fluorescent lights in his cell were never turned off, he said. At most hours, heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor. He said he was rousted at random times without explanation and made to stand in his cell. Even lying down, he said, he was kept from covering his face to block out the light, noise and cold. And when he was released after 97 days he was exhausted, depressed and scared.

Detainee 200343 was among thousands of people who have been held and released by the American military in Iraq, and his account of his ordeal has provided one of the few detailed views of the Pentagon’s detention operations since the abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib. Yet in many respects his case is unusual.

The detainee was Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago who went to Iraq as a security contractor. He wound up as a whistle-blower, passing information to the F.B.I. about suspicious activities at the Iraqi security firm where he worked, including what he said was possible illegal weapons trading.

But when American soldiers raided the company at his urging, Mr. Vance and another American who worked there were detained as suspects by the military, which was unaware that Mr. Vance was an informer, according to officials and military documents.

At Camp Cropper, he took notes on his imprisonment and smuggled them out in a Bible.

“Sick, very. Vomited,” he wrote July 3. The next day: “Told no more phone calls til leave.”

Nathan Ertel, the American held with Mr. Vance, brought away military records that shed further light on the detention camp and its secretive tribunals. Those records include a legal memorandum explicitly denying detainees the right to a lawyer at detention hearings to determine whether they should be released or held indefinitely, perhaps for prosecution.

A nation that makes people disappear?: Once more let’s do some very simple arithmetic:

We know that we’re holding thousands of prisoners (estimates range from 7,000 to 35,000).

Gitmo holds only 500.

So, where are the missing thousands? The only alternatives I can think of:

They’ve been released

They’re still in jail

They’ve been disappeared.

Barring divine intervention, the bodies of the missing thousands occupy time and space in this world. Where are they?

Which door would you choose? (a), released? (b), still in jail? Or (c), disappeared?

Censorship to prevent political embarassment?: Middle East analyst Flynt Leverett, who served under President Bush on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the New America Foundation, revealed today that the White House has been blocking the publication of an op-ed he wrote for the New York Times. The column is critical of the administration’s refusal to engage Iran.

Leverett’s op-ed has already been cleared by the CIA, where he was a senior analyst.

Illegal spying on our fellow citizens?: Who knows how long Bush's NSA warrantless wiretapping has been going on, but it was a year ago today that Bush 'fessed up to it:

“On Dec. 17, 2005, Bush publicly acknowledged for the first time he had authorized the NSA to monitor, without approval from a judge, phone calls and e-mails that come into or originate in the U.S. and involve people the government suspects of having terrorist links.”

“Bush said he had no intention of halting what he called a "vital tool" in the war on terror.”

It's up to the Dems now. Will they have the spine and the wherewithal to put an end to it...without passing more laws that increase the executive's power to order spying on more of us without adequate judicial oversight?

An Executive above the rule of law?: Federal agents continue to eavesdrop on Americans' electronic communications without warrants a year after President Bush confirmed the practice, and experts say a new Congress' efforts to limit the program could trigger a constitutional showdown.

High-ranking Democrats set to take control of both chambers are mulling ways to curb the program Bush secretly authorized a month after the Sept. 11 attacks. The White House argues the Constitution gives the president wartime powers to eavesdrop that he wouldn't have during times of peace.

"As a practical matter, the president can do whatever he wants as long as he has the capacity and executive branch officials to do it," said Carl Tobias, a legal scholar at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Lawmakers could impeach or withhold funding, or quash judicial nominations, among other measures.

The president, however, can veto legislation, including a law demanding the National Security Agency obtain warrants before monitoring communications. Such a veto would force Congress to muster a two-thirds vote to override.

"He could take the position he doesn't have to comply with whatever a new Congress says," said Vikram Amar, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings, and a former Supreme Court clerk.

The destruction of the basic principles of American jurisprudence?: The Military Commissions Act of 2006 further defies the Supreme Court's June decision by stripping all "enemy combatants" held in our prisons of habeas corpus rights to protest their conditions of confinement. And those conditions—as documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, and often this column—are allowed to continue under the Military Commissions Act, swallowing up the increased numbers of enemy combatants it can haul into Guantánamo, and other warehouses, for indefinite detentions.

This brazenly un-American law will get to the Supreme Court, where I expect the justices will be shown a devastating new report, based on Defense Department data, that reveals the persistent, systemic lawlessness of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo all these years. Compiled and written by professor Mark Denbeaux of the Seton Hall University School of Law; his son Joshua Denbeaux, counsel to two Guantánamo detainees; and law students at Seton Hall, this detailed account of the cover-up of war crimes at Guantánamo by this administration is titled "No-Hearing Hearings." It provides a thorough analysis of the so-called "combatant status review tribunals" at Guantánamo, the means by which the government determines whether detainees can be prosecuted for war crimes.

…Among the findings in the Seton Hall report:

"The government's classified evidence [which the prisoner was not allowed to see] was always presumed to be reliable and valid. . . . When considering all the hearings, 89% of the time no evidence was presented on behalf of the detainees. . . . Instead of a lawyer, the detainee was assigned a 'personal representative'. . . who was not his advocate and whose role, both in theory and practice, was minimal. . . . At the end of the hearing the personal representative failed to exercise his right to comment in 98% of the cases."

As Andrew Cohen, the Washington Post's regular columnist on legal matters, concludes: "If a regular trial court proceeding were this shoddy, this unwilling to perform a truth-seeking function, this unable to achieve a fair process, the judge presiding over it would be impeached."

But no member of the Bush administration has been charged with war crimes under our law or the Geneva Conventions as a result of these hearings—or anything else since 2002, including the CIA's "renditions" of suspects to be tortured in other countries. Under the Military Commissions Act, the "renditions" can continue.

Indefinite detentions based on lies?: The Pentagon called them "among the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the Earth," sweeping them up after Sept. 11 and hauling them in chains to a U.S. military prison in southeastern Cuba. Since then, hundreds of the men have been transferred from Guantanamo Bay to other countries, many of them for "continued detention."

And then set free. Decisions by more than a dozen countries in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia to release the former Guantanamo detainees raise questions about whether they really were as dangerous as the United States said or whether some of America's staunchest allies have set terrorists and militants free.

Denial of due process to United States citizens?: A federal judge in Miami will soon make one of the most important rulings in the Bush administration's war on terrorism and decide whether to publicly explore evidence that an accused terrorist was brutally mistreated for years inside a one-man isolation cell.

The allegations involve Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen once portrayed as one of the most dangerous al-Qaida operatives ever arrested. Padilla's lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke to set him free because of the abuse they say he suffered.

Though federal judges rarely dismiss criminal charges before trial, the allegations are so extreme that they may prompt Cooke to hold a pretrial hearing in what would be the first public court examination into how detainees were handled after the Sept. 11 attacks.


Active duty protesters: For the first time since Vietnam, an organized, robust movement of active-duty US military personnel has publicly surfaced to oppose a war in which they are serving. Those involved plan to petition Congress to withdraw American troops from Iraq. (Note: A complete version of this report will appear next week in the print and online editions of The Nation.)

After appearing only seven weeks ago on the Internet, the Appeal for Redress, brainchild of 29-year-old Navy seaman Jonathan Hutto, has already been signed by nearly 1,000 US soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, including dozens of officers--most of whom are on active duty. Not since 1969, when some 1,300 active-duty military personnel signed an open letter in the New York Times opposing the war in Vietnam, has there been such a dramatic barometer of rising military dissent.

Opinion, Analysis, Commentary

Linda Milazzo: It was the year 2000. The new millennium. It featured a rising new star from a prominent American family. His name was George. George P. Remember George P.? The incessantly publicized and promoted son of Florida's Governor Bush? The most dominant face of George W. Bush's 2000 Presidential campaign? George P. was everywhere. Enticing the wealthy. Hugging the poor. Kissing elderly ladies, winning the hearts of adoring young girls. George P. was the bait. The lure. And America was his catch of the day. In our multi-cultural nation, this blended prince encompassed the best of America's two prominent landscapes: the ever-growing Latino population and the doggedly dominant Anglo. The half that was Anglo spanned generations of wealth and power. The half that was Latin softened his ego, making his combination just "right." The media couldn't get enough of George P. He was the "fourth-coming." The likely successor to the mantle of the multi-generational dynasty whose fortune had amassed in unorthodox ways. Of course the unorthodox ways were of no interest to the press, whose sole focus was on the contentious election for the first President of the new millennium. The 2000 Presidential election was the nation's most divisive in history. It tore at the fabric of its democracy, tarnished the Supreme Court, and damaged the electoral system for decades, if not centuries to come. Still it made a hit out of George P. Bush. For a couple years he was on his way to becoming the family's biggest star. But when Uncle W. took the nation to war, except for a carefully toned down appearance in the election of 2004, and some attention when he got married, George P. was neatly hidden from sight. He had to be. If he remained visible the questions would arise. Why isn't George P. serving in Iraq? George P.'s young enough. If he's a patriot, why doesn't he volunteer for the war? Legitimate questions. So legitimate that the entire brood of military-age Bush grandchildren and cousins are no where to be found. They are hidden. Kept under wraps lest the question of their patriotism be decried.

Hendrik Hertzberg: The Report’s narrative passages add up to a comprehensive condemnation not only of the conduct and consequences of the Iraq war but also of the Administration’s over-all foreign policy, a condemnation all the more stunning coming from a panel led by Baker and including O’Connor, who, perhaps more than any other two people on earth, were responsible six years ago for promoting Bush from loser of the popular vote to President of the United States. But when the Study Group presents its actual recommendations—seventy-nine of them, neatly numbered and italicized—it loses its vigor and coherence. Some of its suggestions are sensible and to the point (use diplomacy, forswear permanent bases), others sensible but beside the point (be honest about budgeting, renew negotiations over the Israel-Palestine problem), and still others so bland as to be risible (“remain in close and frequent touch with the Iraqi leadership”). Yet if the Study Group’s pitiless description of America’s dilemma in Iraq is to be believed—and it is—then the hope of anything resembling a positive outcome is extremely slim. The Report promises no such outcome. It contends only that what it offers is less bad than the alternatives (though its case against one alternative—what it calls, a little tendentiously, “precipitate” or “premature” withdrawal—is more asserted than argued). That Bush’s war in Iraq is an unmitigated catastrophe has been known for some time. What the Iraq Study Group has done is to make it official.

Flynt Leverett: Since leaving government service in 2003, I have been publicly critical of the Bush administration's mishandling of America's Iran policy -- in two op-eds published in the New York Times, another published in the Los Angeles Times, an article published earlier this year in The American Prospect, and a monograph just published by The Century Foundation, as well as in numerous public statements, television appearances, and press interviews.

All of my publications on Iran -- and, indeed, on any other policy matter on which I have written since leaving government -- were cleared beforehand by the CIA's Publication Review Board to confirm that I would not be disclosing classified information.

Until last week, the Publication Review Board had never sought to remove or change a single word in any of my drafts, including in all of my publications about the Bush administration's handling of Iran policy. However, last week, the White House inserted itself into the prepublication review process for an op-ed on the administration's bungling of the Iran portfolio that I had prepared for the New York Times, blocking publication of the piece on the grounds that it would reveal classified information.

This claim is false and, I have come to believe, fabricated by White House officials to silence an established critic of the administration's foreign policy incompetence at a moment when the White House is working hard to fend off political pressure to take a different approach to Iran and the Middle East more generally.

Joe Galloway: The power brokers in Washington spent the week carefully arranging fig leaves and tasteful screens to cover the emperor's nakedness while he was busy pretending to listen hard to everyone with an opinion about Iraq while hearing nothing.

Sometime early in the new year, President Bush will go on national television to tell a disgruntled American public what he has decided should be done to salvage ''victory'' from the jaws of certain defeat in the war he started.

The word on the street, or in the Pentagon rings, is that he'll choose to beef up U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq by 20,000 to 30,000 troops by various sleight-of-hand maneuvers -- extending the combat tours of soldiers and Marines who are nearing an end to their second or third year in hell and accelerating the shipment of others into that hell -- and send them into the bloody streets of Baghdad.

These additional troops are expected to restore order and calm the bombers and murderers when 9,000 Americans already in the sprawling capital couldn't. They're expected to do this even when Bush's favorite (for now) Iraqi politician, Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki, refuses to allow them to act against his primary benefactor, the anti-American cleric Moqtada al Sadr and his Shiite Muslim Mahdi Army militiamen who kill both Americans and Sunni Arabs.

This hardly amounts to a ''new way forward'' unless that definition includes a new path deeper into the quicksand of a tribal and religious civil war where whatever Bush eventually decides is already inadequate and immaterial.

Local Stories And Casualty Reports

The war came home to East Lyme on Saturday, as family, friends and dignitaries crowded into St. Matthias Church to remember Army Capt. Jason R. Hamill, who was killed Nov. 26 in Baghdad by a roadside bomb. Two other soldiers died alongside Hamill, 31, of the 4th Infantry Division.

A 22-year-old Massachusetts native died along with two other soldiers this weekend when a roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad. Spc. Matthew Stanley, of Wolfeboro, was serving his second tour in Iraq, said his stepbrother, James Savage Jr. Stanley would have turned 23 the day after Christmas, Savage said. He got married nearly a year ago and his wife, Amy, lives in Texas, he said.

Funeral arrangements have been finalized for a Vicksburg Marine killed while serving in Iraq. Master Sgt. Brian McAnulty was killed Monday when his helicopter crashed. He will be laid to rest Tuesday in the town of Kernersville, N.C.

Funeral services for a Marine from Iowa who was killed in Iraq have been scheduled for Wednesday. Lance Cpl. Clinton Miller, 23, of Greenfield, died last week while conducting combat operations.

Marine Cpl. Michael Craig Ledsome of Austin, Texas, was killed in Iraq last month. He was 24 years old. Ledsome grew up in Brownwood, a small town about 100 miles northwest of Austin. He went to Brownwood High School, where he's remembered as an excellent student and a bit of a joker.

Pfc. Paul Balint Jr., 22, died Friday in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, after his unit came under attack during combat operations, the Department of Defense announced Saturday. Pfc. Balint was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Friedberg, Germany.

A soldier who was shot and killed in Iraq died because of "unforgivable and inexcusable" delays in providing body armour to troops, a coroner has ruled. Sgt Steven Roberts, 33, from Shipley, West Yorkshire, was shot dead in a "friendly fire" incident as he manned a checkpoint in March 2003. He had been ordered to give up his enhanced combat body armour three days before his death, due to shortages.

The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa will host a golf tournament Monday to raise funds for the family of Maj. Troy Gilbert, an Air Force pilot who was killed in Iraq when his F-16 jet crashed north of Baghdad. A Westin Kierland spokeswoman said the resort developed a special relationship with Gilbert when he and his family stayed there right before he left for Iraq.

Acting Gov. Timothy Villagomez, together with Military Veterans Affairs Office director Ruth Coleman, will fly to Guam this Saturday to pay their respects to Guam's fallen son, Sgt. Jesse J.J. Castro, who was killed in a roadside bomb explosion two weeks ago in Iraq. Castro, 22, was a son of Saipan businessman Jesus Castro and stepson of Ana Demapan-Castro. Castro was one of five Schofield Barracks soldiers killed when a massive bomb tore apart their Humvee in the Sunni Arab city of Hawija, about 30 miles southwest of Kirkuk.

A Connecticut-based soldier has been killed in Afghanistan by a roadside explosive, his wife said Sunday. Military officials notified Michelle Phaneuf, of Eastford, on Saturday that her husband, Connecticut Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Joseph Phaneuf II, 38, died Friday when a vehicle in which he was riding struck a roadside bomb.

People in Leadville are mourning the loss of a 19-year-old Marine killed in Iraq this weekend. Nick Palmer was killed by a sniper in Fallujah on Saturday. His parents, Rachele and Brad Palmer, say he decided to join the Marine Corps when he was a junior in high school.


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