Wednesday, December 13, 2006



Gunmen stormed the house of a Shi'ite family and killed nine people, four men, two women and three children, in al-Hesna village, 35 km south of Baghdad.


A car bomb exploded near a crowded bus stop in eastern Baghdad during morning rush hour on Wednesday, killing 11 people and wounding 27 in a mostly Shiite area, police said. The bus stop blast in Baghdad's Kamaliyah neighborhood went off about 50 yards from the Shiite al-Rasoul mosque but did not damage the small building, according to police Capt. Mohammed Abdul-Ghani and police Maj. Mahir Hamad

Two cars loaded with explosives were detonated in quick succession along a commercial street in the New Baghdad district of eastern Baghdad at about 1 p.m.. Five people were killed and 10 others were wounded. The car bombs exploded near a group of day laborers waiting for work. It was a scenario similar to a truck bomb attack Tuesday morning in central Baghdad that killed 71 Iraqis and wounded 220, mostly day laborers seeking jobs.


Police found the bodies of four people, shot and tortured, near the Sunni stronghold of Falluja.


A mortar round killed one person and wounded three others on Tuesday in Iskandariya, 40 km south of Baghdad.


Police found a body with gunshot wounds in Kirkuk.


Police found the bodies of two people, shot and bound, in the town of Mahmudiya, in an area dubbed 'the Triangle of Death' south of Baghdad.


A cameraman working for The Associated Press was shot to death by insurgents while covering clashes Tuesday in the northern city of Mosul. Aswan Ahmed Lutfallah, 35, was having his car repaired in an industrial area in the eastern part of the city when insurgents and police began fighting nearby and he rushed to cover the clash. Insurgents spotted him filming, approached him and shot him to death. Lutfallah had not reported any prior threats against him.


Nine Iraqi soldiers were killed and 10 others wounded when two suicide bombers rammed their trucks into an Iraqi military base housing a unit that protects Iraq's oil infrastructure. The base is close to pipelines carrying crude to the massive Baiji refinery. The trucks smashed in quick succession into the camp near the town of Riyadh, some 50km from the oil centre of Kirkuk, and exploded.


Marine Maj. Megan M. McClung, of Coupeville, Wash., has died in Iraq, becoming the top-ranking female Marine officer to be killed in the conflict. She was in charge of working with journalists embedded with the Marines. The circumstances surrounding McClung's death were not immediately released, but Camp Pendleton spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr Cliff Carnes said she was escorting media when she was killed. The journalists she was with were not seriously injured, he said. The Orange County Register, however, reports that "a roadside bomb blew up the truck she was riding in" around Ramadi. Two others were killed then.


A roadside bomb killed three people on Tuesday travelling in a car in Tikrit.

In country

At least 59 other Iraqis were also killed or found dead.

Another milestone: With four more deaths reported today, at least 2,939 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to the Associated Press count. The AP count is six higher than the Defense Department's tally, which often gets updated. The most often cited number for those killed in America on Sept. 11, 2001, is 2,973, leaving the Iraq tally just 34 short. At the current rate, the 9/11 number will be eclipsed within a week. Since the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq, 22,229 U.S. service members have been wounded, according to a Defense Department tally. Of the total killed in Iraq, only 139 died in the invasion in 2003.

Security Issues

Al-Hashemi: Iraq's Sunni vice president said he plans to tell President Bush of his "dismay" over the Shi'a-led government's handling of security during their meeting today in the White House.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi accused the government of not doing enough to deal with militia attacks and said he was especially concerned about Baghdad, where Sunni-Shi'a violence has flared in several neighborhoods in recent days.

Hashemi, one of two vice presidents, has been a sharp critic of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government. He recently has been joined by senior Kurdish and Shi'a politicians, some from within the ruling coalition, in what is by far the most intense anti-government campaign since Maliki took office in May.

US out of Baghdad by March? Wanna buy a bridge?: The New York Times reported Wednesday that Iraq's government has presented the United States with a plan that calls for Iraqi troops to assume primary responsibility for security in the city of Baghdad by March.

The official quoted in the article, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday morning, but U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said American and Iraqi officials have been weighing proposals about the transfer of power over security in Iraq for several months.

"Where Baghdad falls into that — the details of an operational turnover — we won't discuss ahead of time. But turnover of the security of Baghdad is obviously a piece of the turnover of responsibility of security in all of Iraq to the Iraqi government," Garver said in a telephone interview.

Speaking of pacified cities…: While their weapons were ready, this was a mission about charity. The US Marines weren't entering a hospital in downtown Fallujah to root out insurgents, they were going there simply to help.

But any interaction with American forces can prove deadly for Iraqis, and these marines received an uneasy welcome.

Death threats - and increasingly murder - are common against anyone seen to be cooperating with the US. And already, the presence of a Marine observation post, built adjacent to hospital grounds just days before the mission, had cut the number of patients coming to the hospital from 35 a day to just five.

The wariness that greeted this civil affairs unit two weeks ago points to the difficulty faced by US forces as they search for a balance between rebuilding and bringing security to a city where insurgent attacks are on the rise.

Iraqi And Regional Politics

More stresses in the government: With 30 lawmakers and five Cabinet ministers loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr boycotting the government and parliament for nearly two weeks, Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani added to Maliki's troubles yesterday.

A Sunni Arab and a sharp government critic, Mashhadani suspended his membership in a top-level state policy council. He walked out of a council meeting yesterday after a heated argument with President Jalal Talabani over the Iraq Study Group report, according to the speaker's spokesman, Mohannad Abdul-Jabar. The specifics of their disagreement were not disclosed.

This might not be so easy: Iraqi politicians are discussing the formation of a new alliance designed to isolate the radical young Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

The alliance would bring together some of the main Shia, Kurdish and Sunni groups, but the party of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has not decided whether to join.

One of the central, and most difficult, questions in Iraqi politics is what to do about Moqtada Sadr and his powerful militia, the Mehdi Army.

Sunni Arabs accuse the militia of carrying out sectarian attacks, and the Americans have long been pressing Prime Minister Maliki to dismantle it.

There’s also the problem that Sadr doesn’t necessarily fully control his own forces: The day seemed tranquil at Muqtada al Sadr's headquarters for western Baghdad. Pigeons swooped down to perch on palm trees that dotted the courtyard. Uniformed Iraqi policemen and soldiers sipped tea with rugged militiamen or exchanged customary kisses with black-turbaned clerics. Women came to plead for assistance.

But calm is always fleeting in Baghdad. At midday, about 50 gunmen stormed the courtyard and ordered everyone inside to stay put and to stay silent.

Sadr's Mahdi Army militiamen responded immediately, drawing automatic rifles and pistols from under their winter coats and gathering in a cluster to face the unidentified gunmen. The assailants closed ranks, brandishing shiny revolvers and battered machine guns.

The groups walked toward each other as if in a high-noon duel. A voice from the crowd called for blessings in the name of Islam's Prophet Mohammed. Sadr's soldiers shouted age-old prayers for the prophet and his descendants, then added the Sadr camp's innovation: ``Bring salvation soon, and damn their enemies!''

With the air filled with the clicking sound of weapons being prepared, visiting McClatchy journalists fled.

The sudden intrusion of the gunmen into one of Sadr's most secure strongholds exposed a paradox that dogs the Sadr movement and contributes to the daily bloodletting here: The Mahdi Army is growing larger and more sophisticated, with politicians in the government and a vast social-services network that serves thousands of poor Shiites, but the anarchy of the streets makes it hard for the militia's commanders to rein in their men, much less prevent attacks from rival factions.

Saudi rumblings: Saudi Arabia has warned it could decide to provide financial support to Iraqi Sunnis if the U.S. pulls its troops out of Iraq, where sectarian violence between the minority Sunnis and majority Iraqi Shiites has threatened to tear apart the country, The New York Times reported.

Saudi Arabia is a majority Sunni country and up to now has promised U.S. officials that it would not intervene to assist Iraq's Sunni insurgency, according to the report, appearing in Wednesday's edition of The Times and citing anonymous American and Arab diplomatic sources.

But that promise might not hold if U.S. troops leave Iraq, the newspaper said. The Bush administration has repeatedly said there are no plans for the immediate pullout of U.S. troops.

The George W. Bush Dog And Pony Show

It’s all PR: President Bush, eager to show he can take advice on Iraq, embarked on a round of public outreach Monday and promised Americans the unpopular war eventually would make their lives safer.

Preparing for a major speech on the war's future, Bush took the short trip to the State Department to review options with advisers there, then hosted a handful of experts on Iraq policy in the Oval Office.

"Like most Americans, this administration wants to succeed in Iraq because we understand success in Iraq would help protect the United States in the long run," Bush said after his State Department briefing.

The White House remained tightlipped on how Bush is likely to change strategy, saying the president is awaiting reports from his national security team before announcing a plan to the nation. That is expected to happen before Christmas.

It sounds like he’s hearing something new but nothing will change: President Bush heard a blunt and dismal assessment of his handling of Iraq from a group of military experts yesterday, but the advisers shared the White House's skeptical view of the recommendations made last week by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, sources said.

The three retired generals and two academics disagreed in particular with the study group's plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat troops in Iraq and to reach out for help to Iran and Syria, according to sources familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was private.

The White House gathering was part of a series of high-profile meetings Bush is holding to search for "a new way forward" amid the increasing chaos and carnage in Iraq. Earlier in the day, Bush met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other high-ranking officials at the State Department, where he was briefed on reconstruction and regional diplomatic efforts in Iraq.

He'll waste some time, wait for people to be distracted by the holidays: President Bush, facing intense pressure to craft a new blueprint for the Iraq war, said Tuesday the U.S. is holding fast to its objectives and commitment. The White House said he knows the general direction he wants to move U.S. policy but won't announce it until next month.

Bush gave no hints of a change in direction after a meeting with Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, one of several Iraqi powerbrokers he's recently hosted in the Oval Office.

"Our objective is to help the Iraqi government deal with the extremists and the killers, and support the vast majority of Iraqis who are reasonable, who want peace," Bush said.

"We want to help your government be effective," he said. "We want your government to live up to its words and ideals."

Sending more troops is a policy shift? More smoke and mirrors: CNN’s John King reported this afternoon that President Bush is planning a “substantial policy shift” on Iraq and is “very seriously considering…agreeing with Sen. John McCain and increasing U.S. troop levels in the short-term.”

King said the White House has postponed the announcement of the policy shift to January because Bush “has asked for more advice about” how he could send 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, and administration officials “need more time to put all that on the table.”

King said the White House sees a political benefit to delaying the announcement. “If you are going to disagree with the Iraq Study Group and not accept its major recommendations, then let some time go by, let the American people forget about that a little bit” and “buy some time for critics” to attack the ISG.

The real message is no withdrawal: President Bush has decided the general direction he wants to take U.S. policy on Iraq and has asked his staff to work out the details as he wraps up a highly public review of the war and its aims.

Military commanders who met Tuesday with Bush sought more advisers to train the Iraqis, not more U.S. combat troops in Iraq. They also urged the administration to pour significantly more funding into equipment for Iraqi security forces, according to a defense specialist familiar with the meetings.

Gen. John Abizaid, top U.S. commander in the Middle East, and Gen. George Casey, the top general in Iraq, want more armored vehicles, body armor and other critical equipment for the Iraqis, said the defense specialist, who requested anonymity because the discussions were private.

Abizaid has told the Senate Armed Services Committee that troop levels in Iraq need to stay fairly stable and the use of military adviser teams expanded. About 140,000 U.S. troops and about 5,000 advisers are in Iraq.

The message to Bush, the defense specialist said, is that the U.S. cannot withdraw a substantial number of combat troops by early 2008, as suggested in the Iraq Study Group report, because the Iraqis will not be ready to assume control of their country. Bush is delaying making public his new Iraq policy plan in part to allow officials to work out the funding, he said.

Cynical and oh so true: Ask to explain the delay, until at least January, of the president’s new plan for Iraq, Snow said, “there's urgency, but not panic. And I don't want to tell you it's not going to happen before State of the Union.” When one reporter suggested that Bush might want a troop buildup, but is afraid to announce it before Christmas, Snow called this notion, “Cynical, but false.” But asked repeatedly about the hint of a troop buildup, when polls show the public wants a drawdown, Snow refused to comment or rule it out and cited polls that he asserted showed possible public support for that move. In what might send a chill through war opponents, he seemed to suggest that the president will ignore widespread opposition to a buildup, believing that this would turn around after certain “victory.” Snow said, “Ultimately, victory is what will fully restore public faith. As you also know, in any time of war, there are going to be times when a war is popular and times when it's deeply unpopular. And every war we've won has also been, at some point, deeply unpopular."

NY Times Editorial: The claims of calm deliberation emerging from the White House this week are maddening. The search for a new plan for Iraq seems to be taking place with as much urgency as the deliberations over a new color for the dollar bill.

In Baghdad yesterday, a suicide bomber killed at least 70 people, most of them Shiite laborers whose only sin was looking for work. In Washington, meanwhile, President Bush held a series of carefully stage-managed meetings with officials and outside experts whose common credential appeared to be their opposition to the recommendations of James Baker’s Iraq Study Group.

To top it off, White House aides told reporters that — despite earlier promises of a pre-Christmas speech by Mr. Bush — the country now should not expect any announcement of a new strategy until early next year. The president’s spokesman, Tony Snow, said that “it’s a complex business, and there are a lot of things to take into account,” adding that Mr. Bush “wants to make sure it’s done right.”

We are more than eager for this White House to finally get something right on Iraq. But we find it chilling to imagine that Mr. Bush and his advisers have only now begun a full policy review, months after Iraq plunged into civil war and years after experts began warning that the administration’s strategy was not working.

But look! A New Way Forward ™!: As Iraq descends further into violence and disarray, the Pentagon is turning to a weapon some believe should have been used years ago: jobs.

Members of a small Pentagon task force have gone to the most dangerous areas of Iraq over the past six months to bring life to nearly 200 state-owned factories abandoned by the Coalition Provisional Authority after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Their goal is to employ tens of thousands of Iraqis in coming months, part of a plan to reduce soaring unemployment and lessen the violence that has crippled progress.

Defense officials and military commanders say that festering unemployment -- at 70 percent in some areas -- is leading Iraqi men to take cash from insurgents to place bombs on roads or take shots at U.S. troops. Other Iraqis are joining sectarian attacks because their quality of life has slipped dramatically, officials say.

Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the top U.S. field commander in Iraq, said that tackling unemployment could do far more good than adding U.S. combat troops or more aggressively pursuing an elusive enemy. He said the project to open the factories and stimulate local economies is long overdue and was born "of desperation.

Born of desperation – he got that right. -m

But don’t go thinking there isn’t a plan: As George W.Bush agonises over which bits of last week’s Baker-Hamilton re­port to adopt for his forthcoming “new way forward in Iraq” announcement, an­other consensus is emerging in Washington on how to handle the situation: blame the Iraqis.

Although informed observers say that the writ of the Iraqi government stops at the perimeter of the Green Zone – the heavily fortified enclave in the centre of Baghdad – leading Republican and Democratic politicians are increasingly blaming Nouri al-Maliki’s friable coalition government for a lack of progress.

It is a consensus that was crystallised last week by the Iraq Study Group, which called on Mr Bush to withhold US assistance from Baghdad unless it made progress on fulfilling a long list of US-imposed “milestones”. It is also shared by many senior officials in the Bush administration, which had already drawn up an earlier list of milestones for Mr Maliki.

“You could call it ‘blame and run’,” said Zbigniew Bzrezinski, a former national security adviser now at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “It is based on a pervasive illusion that there is such a thing as an Iraqi government. The more we blame it for doing things it cannot do, the more impotent it will become. ‘Blame and run’ is self-fulfilling.”

Now He Tells Us

Screw you, Don: In a new interview posted on Townhall.com, conservative columnist Cal Thomas asks outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “With what you know now, what might you have done differently in Iraq?” Rumsfeld offers a remarkable response:

“I don’t think I would have called it the war on terror. I don’t mean to be critical of those who have. Certainly, I have used the phrase frequently. Why do I say that? Because the word ‘war’ conjures up World War II more than it does the Cold War. It creates a level of expectation of victory and an ending within 30 or 60 minutes of a soap opera. It isn’t going to happen that way. Furthermore, it is not a ‘war on terror.’ Terror is a weapon of choice for extremists who are trying to destabilize regimes and (through) a small group of clerics, impose their dark vision on all the people they can control. So ‘war on terror’ is a problem for me.”

Rumsfeld not only used the phrase ‘war on the terror’; he repeatedly criticized anyone who questioned the validity of it.

Good Luck, Nancy

Don’t hold your breath: Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told cheering supporters Saturday that Democrats would move the nation in "a new direction ... for all Americans, not just the chosen few,'' and pledged an ambitious agenda on subjects ranging from House ethics to foreign policy.

Speaking in San Francisco the day after adjournment of the Republican-controlled 2005-06 Congress, Pelosi declared -- as she had throughout her party's successful November election campaign -- that "my highest priority, immediately, is to stop the war in Iraq.''

In that effort, she added, "We extend a hand of friendship and cooperation to the president. We hope we can work together."

Those Who Sacrifice

PTSD: Nothing was stranger for Mary Jane Fernandez than the events of last Christmas, which had her 24-year-old son, newly returned from the war in Iraq, downing sedatives, ranting about how rich people were allowed to sit in recliners in church, and summoning the Waterbury police to come arrest him. This Christmas may top that.

Despite being diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and rated 70 percent disabled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Damian Fernandez has been called back to duty and told to prepare for another deployment to Iraq.

Show support for our wounded veterans…: Can you help out and bring some holiday cheer to America's veterans this year?

Working Assets, Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK, Iraq Veterans Against The War, and Gold Star Families for Peace are teaming up to deliver phone cards to vets stuck at Veterans Administration hospitals, so they can call their loved ones over the holidays. (The VA generally doesn't cover the cost of these calls.)

First, please consider a gift to support this project. Even just a few dollars will go a long way towards helping vets reconnect with their families over the holidays.

But second, can you help deliver the phone cards to a Veterans Administration hospital near you? Please click on the appropriate link to the right, and sign up to be a part of the small group that delivers the cards on December 18th. Your local coordinator will contact you with specific instructions on where & when to meet for the visit.

Because some of the people we are paying to support them could give a fat rat’s ass: Honorable Dan Cooper, Presidential Appointee “[attending Bible Study is] more important than doing the job. The job’s gonna be there whether I’m there or not.”

Dan Cooper, Dan Cooper… Well, Our Dan directs the Veterans Benefit Administration.

The Lies That Led Us To War And The Battles To Expose Them

Plamegate: A federal judge all but resolved the protracted legal fight over classified information in the CIA leak case Monday, helping ensure the dispute would not derail former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's perjury and obstruction trial.

Libby is accused of lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters regarding a CIA operative. He says he had more pressing issues on his mind and wants to discuss classified intelligence about terrorist threats and foreign nuclear programs to bolster that argument.

Prosecutors had accused Libby of demanding so much sensitive information that the government could not safely release it _ leading to a dismissal _ but U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton appears to have resolved that dispute.

Walton, who rankled Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald last month by ruling that Libby must be allowed to discuss intelligence on Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, terrorism and other issues at trial, accepted Fitzgerald's proposal to limit the details Libby and his attorneys can discuss.

The details of those limitations are sealed but, because it was Fitzgerald's proposal, it's unlikely he would come back to court later this month and argue that the limitations did not go far enough to protect government secrecy.

British judges say no public inquiry: The mothers of two soldiers killed in Iraq have vowed to battle on after their bid for an inquiry was thrown out.

Grieving Rose Gentle and Beverley Clarke won only sympathy from judges yesterday as their attempt to force a probe into the legality of the war was dismissed.

Master of the Rolls Sir Anthony Clarke said the mothers' suffering over the deaths of their sons "must be unbearable".

But, sitting with two other judges, he ruled their grief was not enough to justify a public inquiry into the March 2003 invasion.

You Can’t Fool All The People All The Time

CBS poll: Americans believe the war in Iraq is going badly and getting worse, and think it's time for the U.S. either to change its strategy or start getting out, according to a CBS News poll. Forty-three percent say the U.S. should keep fighting, but with new tactics, while 50 percent say the U.S. should begin to end its involvement altogether. Only 4 percent say the U.S. should keep fighting as it is doing now.

Just 21 percent approve of President Bush's handling of the war, the lowest number he's ever received, and an 8-point drop from just a month ago. Most of that drop has been among Republicans and conservatives. Three-quarters of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling Iraq.

USA Today/Gallup poll: As President Bush weighs options for changing course in Iraq, Americans are more pessimistic on the war and most support a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup poll.

More than half of the respondents, or 55 percent, want most U.S. troops withdrawn within a year, but only 18 percent believe that will happen, USA Today reported on Tuesday. Seven in 10 disapproved of his handling of Iraq and 61 percent said the war was not worth fighting, it said.

Can’t Keep Up

We know the feeling: The toll of war is measured here on an acre of Pacific sand, where each Sunday volunteers array handmade wooden crosses in regimental columns to honor U.S. service members lost in Iraq.

The white crosses -- each with a small American flag at its base, some decorated with photographs of the fallen -- recall the gravestones of Arlington National Cemetery in a place usually reserved for sunbathers and tourists.

Now, as the nation approaches the grim milestone of 3,000 war fatalities, the seaside memorial in one of California's most popular coastal destinations has reached a crossroads of its own.

The group of veterans that organizes the weekly tribute has decided to stop adding crosses because it is struggling to keep pace with the tally of death.

Innocent Lives

In this post I’ve noted the rising US death toll, asked you to show support to wounded American vets, and highlighted an article about a Veteran’s group running out of crosses to honor our dead. These are sad stories. And every time I post I try to find local stories that put names to some of our dead, that show a little of who they were and how their loss has devastated those who loved them. Reading those stories is hard. There is no question that what George W. Bush’s war of choice has done to this country is tragic.

But what it has done to the people of Iraq is unforgiveable.


Refugees: Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 as many as two million civilians searching for sanctuary have fled into neighbouring countries like Syria, Jordan and Iran.

They are ill-equipped to cope. The pressure group Refugees International calls it the fastest growing humanitarian crisis in the world.

Just up the road from the stranded Palestinians, the Syrian border crossing at al-Tanaf feels like a safe haven for Iraqis who make it this far.

Cars and trucks are packed with possessions. But for most people, escaping into exile, the future is uncertain.

"I'll find a place to stay, anywhere I can afford," Mohammed Abu Muhy says. "Everyone is leaving Iraq."

And they bring everything they can carry. Expressionless faces look on as border guards rummage through their worldly goods.

The numbers are staggering - at least three quarters of a million Iraqis have fled to Syria alone. And every month the rate of arrival is higher than it has been before.

The richest nation in the world, the one that created the crisis, will take…500: Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have fled their homeland are likely to seek refugee status in the United States, humanitarian groups said, putting intense pressure on the Bush administration to reexamine a policy that authorizes only 500 Iraqis to be resettled here next year.

The official US policy has been that the refugee situation is temporary and that most of the estimated 1.5 million who have fled to Jordan, Syria, and elsewhere will eventually return to Iraq. But US and international officials now acknowledge that the instability in Iraq has made it too dangerous for many refugees, especially Iraqi Christians, to return any time soon.

A legacy of maiming and death: In just one week in October, a series of bomb scares swept across Germany. Outside of Hannover, 22,000 people were evacuated when three bombs were discovered. A few days later in the same city, a weapons removal squad defused a 500-pound bomb found near the highway. Finally, a highway worker was killed when his cutting machine hit a buried bomb on the main highway into Frankfurt.

The bombs hadn’t been planted by terrorists, and they weren’t the opening salvos of the next war. The culprit was unexploded ordnance left over from a war fought more than 60 years ago. “We’ll have enough work to keep us busy for the next 100 to 120 years,” the owner of a bomb-defusing company told the New York Times.

The submunitions dispersed by cluster bombs are a lot smaller than 500 pounds, but their use in every major conflict since World War II ensures that bomb clearers the world over will have work for decades—even centuries—to come. From Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, to the countries of the former Yugoslavia, and onto Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, modern battlefields are littered with bombs that continue to kill long after wars have ended. Ninety-eight percent of those killed or injured by cluster bombs are civilians. And yet international efforts to restrict the use of cluster bombs—modeled after landmine treaties of previous years—are being undermined by lack of U.S. participation. Worse, instead of destroying old cluster bomb stockpiles, the United States is exporting them to allies around the world.

Where feeding your family is Russian roulette: Workers know a trip to the square could mean death, and still they go.

Every day, laborers crowd downtown Tayaran Square, the scene of nine bombings in the past three years, according to Iraq's Interior Ministry. But with unemployment as high as 60 percent, the Iraq Study Group said, men survive on the jobs they find here -- jobs that pay an average $10 a day.

They faced their latest challenge Tuesday when attackers staged a suicide attack that left at least 76 people dead and more than 200 injured, the Interior Ministry reported. The nation's leaders condemned the attack and promised to investigate, but workers complain that the government offers little relief from a cycle of poverty and violence that is pushing them toward extremism.

Ali Naji, 32, avoided the square as long as he could. He returned Tuesday because he desperately needed the money. One of the car bombs exploded as he watched a group of fellow laborers eating breakfast.

``I saw their flesh shattered,'' Naji said.

Congressional Hearing on Civilian Casualties in Iraq - Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Of the many tragedies in Iraq, the massive rise in Iraqi deaths -- there's not good enough attention in the United States. We are rapidly approaching the grave number of 3,000 dead U.S. service members. But as painful as that is -- and it's very painful -- the estimated 650,000 deaths attributed to hostilities in Iraq is an overwhelming number to comprehend. While it is natural and appropriate for Americans to first focus upon the deaths of American service members in Iraq, it's astounding to consider that for every service member killed, 200 Iraq civilians have been killed. According to the United Nations, the population of Iraq was 25 million in 2003, and we have now learned that since then, an estimated 650,000 have perished to violence. Now, if such a rate of violence were to be inflicted against the U.S., we would have lost about 7.8 million Americans. Such a level of violence is unimaginable, but this is the level of violence that the civilians in Iraq are subjected to. Consider the massive psychological impact the 9/11 attacks and resulting deaths have had on our nation. Imagine the impact we'd feel as a nation if, over a period of three years, 7.8 million of our citizens died in ongoing, uncontrollable violence. Consider the political impact of violence at that scale. Are we closer to a stable transition in Iraq, or are we closer to collapse? How would we react if this was happening here? With the help of Congressman Paul, I've assembled a panel of experts to help us grasp the civilian situation in Iraq and its impact on Iraq's society. I hope to explore many vexing questions by leading a discussion with the experts who are here with us today. What confidence do we have in the U.S. administration responses on the number of Iraqi fatalities? Who is getting killed by whom, and why? What does this violence do to the prospects of peace in Iraq? What are the short-term and long-term implications of this massive number of deaths to Iraqi civil society? Will the millions of Iraqi children who have lost a parent ever forgive our country for igniting this violence? How do we make peace with the generations of Iraqis severely harmed by this unnecessary war of choice? We have to ask these questions. We have to understand what the Iraqi citizenry thinks and feels to understand why this violence has escalated far beyond our control.

Commentary, Analysis and Opinion

The Minnesota Daily: A day after a high-level U.S. commission heavily criticized America's current strategy in Iraq, President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair talked U.S./U.K. involvement in Iraq at the White House. After their meeting, Bush announced that America and Britain will continue standing together to try bringing peace to Iraq. But the past year in Iraq has left many, especially the British, asking how much influence the British government actually has over the Bush administration, if any. It seems like the longstanding historic "special relationship" between the two countries is reaching its end.

Blair, increasingly known around Britain as Bush's lap dog, is currently facing heavy pressure from home to distance himself from Bush and American foreign policy. His decisions pertaining to Iraq have heavily embarrassed the British people. They are pushing for Britain to become the top leader in Europe and stop focusing on its partnership with the United States. For once we are seeing the British demanding to be a part of United Europe, one that they hope can act as a sanity check to U.S. foreign policy.

It is hard to dispute British claims that the relationship between our two countries entails Britain being subordinate to the United States, due mostly to the economic power the United States wields. Furthermore, current ideologies diverge between the two powers. Unlike during the Cold War, the alliance is economic and only vaguely cultural. Now, the controversy and the international backlash over British supported American actions in Iraq have enraged the British, all but severing the relationship between the two countries.

The relationship between the United States and Britain will never be the same again, courtesy of Bush and Blair. After a rich partnership captured beautifully in the relationship between Eisenhower and Churchill, the times of the British- American Laurel and Hardy are over.

William Bennett Turner: Unlike in Sweden, where the right of access to government documents is enshrined in the Constitution, our 1966 information act is solely a legislative creation. Unlike in South Korea, where the Supreme Court decided in 1989 that the right of access to government documents was an integral part of the constitutional freedom of the press, the U.S. Supreme Court held (in a case I lost, Houchins vs. KQED) that there is no such thing as a First Amendment right of access to government information or facilities. Consequently, Americans' right to know what their government is up to is not as well recognized as it is in some other countries.

Nor is government propaganda healthy for a free press or the citizenry. The Bush administration did not advance press freedom by producing and canning favorable "news" stories with fake reporters and peddling them to television stations, or by clandestinely paying friendly columnists for publishing opinions supporting administration policies.

Other recent U.S. government actions also cut into press freedom. The Federal Communications Commission's campaign to stamp out "indecency" and "profanity" in the broadcast media, with congressionally increased fines of $325,000 per violation for allowing a breast to be glimpsed or a dirty word uttered, has intimidated broadcasters.

The campaign may initially have been aimed at Howard Stern, but it puts at risk serious programming like a CBS documentary on 9/11 in which strong language escapes from the lips of firefighters and others in the inferno, "Saving Private Ryan" and even Masterpiece Theater's "Prime Suspect." Other countries like Sweden are bemused by American prissiness about sex and impose no comparable restrictions on their broadcasters.

The press is free in countries that trust the people to make wise decisions when they're fully informed, countries that remain willing to take the risks of dissent, rude discourse, instability and some insecurity, that tolerate eccentricity and unorthodox ideas. The erosion of press freedom in the United States, relative to other nations around the world, is disheartening. We have always had high expectations of freedom, which we now don't live up to.

It is hard to stomach the hypocrisy of claiming to spread democracy abroad while restricting at home the very freedoms that make democracy possible.

Bill Berkowitz: In the information age, psyops, or the effective manipulating of information or spinning stories for political gain knows no borders. A Defense Department document titled "Information Operations Roundup," approved in 2003, acknowledged that "information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and vice-versa. PSYOP messages disseminated to any audience ... will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public."

"Some $400 million in media consulting contracts has been awarded during the past few years by the Pentagon, for the purpose of helping 'to effectively communicate Iraqi government and Coalition goals with strategic audiences,'" Alvin Snyder pointed out. "Thus far both the Pentagon and its contract psy-op journalists have experienced a painful learning curve, but the most recent contract award will show how much each has learned. The outlook is not promising."

"A practical question is whether psy-ops journalism can work at all. It is a cross between what is accepted as the mainstream journalism of print and TV (and many journalists now blog) and what is known as psy-ops, or psychological operations, those engaged in mind control warfare, to gain military advantage by fooling the enemy."

Over the past three-plus years, the Pentagon has initiated an endless stream of public relations efforts aimed at stemming the tide of negative news from Iraq. As "The Best War Ever" points out, "much of the U.S. propaganda effort" -- from manipulating events, such as the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein after the U.S. marched into Baghdad, creating heroic stories for domestic consumption, sitting on negative information as evidenced by the slow initial response to torture at Abu Ghraib prison -- "is aimed not at tactical deception of enemy combatants but at influencing morale and support for the war in the United States."

Many observers appear to agree with Alvin Snyder's assertion that the millions spent by the Pentagon have basically come to naught. It hasn't won the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, it has failed to win support abroad for the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, and it has ultimately failed to convince the American public that the war in Iraq is winnable.

Antonia Juhasz: The Iraq Study Group Report offers a few important recommendations that will help address problems with the U.S. reconstruction debacle in Iraq. However, the Report thoroughly misses the mark on identifying the sources of failure—U.S. corporations and the Bush administration, and therefore the best way to solve the situation, which is to end the U.S. corporate invasion of Iraq.

The Report correctly notes that basic services in Iraq are still provided below or just hovering around prewar levels and that in Baghdad and other particularly war-ravaged areas, the situation is far worse.

The Report also correctly cites the Bush administration’s decision—executed by L. Paul Bremer, head of the former Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq—to fire 120,000 of Iraq’s highest-ranking government bureaucrats from every ministry as one obvious reason for this failure. However, the Report attributes the bulk of the blame to Iraqi government corruption and sectarian bias in the distribution of services and a failed Iraqi judiciary. While each of these critiques may be accurate, they are beyond the purview of the United States to correct. Well within our purview, however, are the past and future actions of our corporations and our government.

After firing Iraq’s senior bureaucrats, Bremer’s next law in Iraq allowed for, among other things, the privatization of Iraq's state-owned enterprises—excluding oil—and for American companies to receive preferential treatment over Iraqis in the awarding of reconstruction contracts. These laws were part of a series of economic policies implemented by Bremer, virtually all of which remain in place today, to "transition [Iraq] from a … centrally planned economy to a market economy" virtually overnight and by U.S. fiat. The laws reduced taxes on all corporations by 25 percent, opened every sector of the Iraqi economy (except oil) to private foreign investment, allowed foreign firms to own 100 percent of Iraqi businesses (as opposed to partnering with Iraqi firms), and to send their profits home without having to invest a cent in the struggling Iraqi economy. Thus, Iraqi laws governing banking, foreign investment, patents, copyrights, business ownership, taxes, the media, and trade were all changed according to U.S. goals, with little participation from the Iraqi people.

What followed was a U.S. corporate invasion of Iraq.

Bernard Weiner: This isn't even a lame-duck presidency. It's on artificial life-support and there is no guarantee it can last through the next two years without infecting the entire body politic with its dangerous dementia. It may be time for the powers-that-be in the Republican party elite to contact political hospice. If they don't want the entire party, economy, reputation in the world, and ability to control the agenda domestically to go down with Bush and Cheney, a major intervention is in order. Since Bush will never resign -- to him, it would be the equivalent of ego suicide -- that means the economic and political forces behind his administration will encourage the Democrats to finish him off, perhaps through impeachment. This would give the Republican string-pullers some time to resurrect the image of the party and locate another, more popular front man to run for President in 2008. As a temporary stop-gap measure, it's possible that the Republican heavies might lean on Cheney to resign ("for health reasons") in the near-future, so that a more acceptable person might be appointed that could be groomed for 2008. If both Bush and Cheney serve out their terms into January 2009, given the political carnage they could cause in the interim, the Republicans might have to deal with Democrats in the White House and in charge of Congress for the next eight years and perhaps even beyond. True, it's possible for the forces of deep-pocket commerce to greatly influence Democrats, but it's a bit more difficult and it's hard work, with few guarantees that, if the country goes more populist or progressive, that the relationship would stick. No, better for the Republican powers-that-be to have their "wise men" visit the White House in the very near future and urge a resignation or, if that doesn't work, to somehow engineer a pre-2008 transition to more able and intelligent GOP leadership. And what should or will the Democrats do in the next two years, as they move into control of Congress? With a modicum amount of courage, they could effectively veto Bush's wildest domestic schemes and, through the investigatory and funding processes, somewhat rein in the Administration's penchant for reckless foreign adventurism. The Democrats won't be able to get everything they want, but they can at least start to limit, and even reverse, the immense damage of the past five years.

Jonathan Chait: Consider a story in the latest Time magazine, recounting the efforts - before the commission was approved by Congress - of three supporters to enlist Condoleezza Rice to win the administration's approval for the panel. Here is how Time reports it:

"As the trio departed, a Rice aide asked one of her suitors not to inform anyone at the Pentagon that chairmen had been chosen and the study group was moving forward. If Rumsfeld was alerted to the study group's potential impact, the aide said, he would quickly tell Cheney, who could, with a few words, scuttle the whole thing. Rice got through to Bush the next day, arguing that the thing was going to happen anyway, so he might as well get on board. To his credit, the President agreed."

The article treats this exchange in a matter-of-fact way, but, what it suggests is completely horrifying. Rice apparently believed that Bush would simply follow the advice of whoever he spoke with. Therefore the one factor determining whether Bush would support the commission was whether Cheney or Rice managed to get to him first.

And now that the Baker-Hamilton report is out, the commissioners are carefully patronizing the commander in chief. As this newspaper reported, "Members of the commission said they were pleased that Bush gave them as much attention as he did, a full hour's worth. 'He could have scheduled us for 20 minutes plus 10 minutes for the cameras,' said former Atty. Gen. Edwin M. Meese III." Wow, a commission devoted hundreds or thousands of man-hours to addressing the central conundrum of U.S. foreign policy, and the president gave them a whole hour of his time!

Thomas M. DeFrank: For a wounded President locked in a lethal downward spiral ever since his reelection, it was the cruelest week of all.

Not since Bill Clinton forlornly insisted that "the President is still relevant" after being trounced in the 1994 mid-term elections has a President struggled so hard to salvage his political traction.

In 72 hours last week, a bipartisan commission harshly repudiated Bush's Iraq policy. Incoming Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told senators the U.S. isn't winning the war. Then a British journalist snarkily asked at a White House press conference if Bush weren't "in denial" about Iraq.

For good measure, a new poll found only 27% of Americans back his Iraq policy, a new low. And a moderate GOP senator termed the policy "absurd" and possibly criminal.

"He'll be fine but he can't be doing very good," said a well-placed Bush source who talks with the President often. "It's been a terrible year, and it keeps getting worse."

Yet Bush is described by another recent visitor as still resolutely defiant, convinced history will ultimately vindicate him.

"I'll be dead when they get it right," he said during an Oval Office meeting last week.

Geov Parrish: Okay, so Iraq is a disaster. James Baker III and Lee Hamilton have told us so. We can finally end that debate. They've been all over the Sunday talk shows making that point, and, of course, they are right.

But then, their report is a disaster, too.

Why? Because it's a political document, one designed to get a delusional president to take a few baby steps (which he has already dismissed out of hand) to try to mitigate the disaster. The Iraq Study Group (ISG)'s understanding of the scope of the disaster is understated compared to how it really is playing out in Iraq, but at least it's a fair attempt at an objective assessment (i.e., telling us what we already know). But its prescriptions are all non-starters (Privatize Iraqi oil! Inject more advisers and train an Iraqi army! Say, I wonder why nobody's tried all that?) (Or, to reprise a childhood taunt, you and what army?) And while such inanities are soberly and endlessly bandied about, nobody, but nobody in the Beltway political and media elite has been able to get it through their thick head that as we endure this tedious process of trying to get American decision-makers to acknowledge reality, nobody in the rest of the world is waiting for them.

The decisions on the future of Iraq are being made right now in Iraq, not Washington, and on this point the ISG is as clueless as everyone else inside the self-important Beltway. Every two-bit politician in Washington has been asked what they think of the report, but almost nobody has asked Iraqis. Over there, the response frequently bordered on contempt. A representative response, from Iraq's President, Jalal Talibani: "The report has a mentality that we are a colony where they impose their conditions and neglect our independence." Exactly. And Talibani is a Kurd, the closest thing America has to an ally in Iraq.

Greg Mitchell: In the wake of the November elections, the release of the Baker-Hamilton report, and the latest surge in American fatalities in Iraq, a familiar phrase has resurfaced in the press. It’s an updating of John Kerry’s famous question in 1971, as a Vietnam veterans’ leader, now reading something like, “How do you ask someone to be the last American soldier to die in Iraq for a mistake?” Indeed, today’s Washington Post features an article by Christian Davenport and Joshua Partlow about the emerging split among military families over that very question.

…How many will die from now until the last American perishes in Iraq? Gallup and other polls show that a clear majority of American have already labeled the Iraq invasion a "mistake." We are at a haunting juncture in the Iraq war. Forgive me for another “back in the day” reference, but I recall very well that the public only turned strongly against the Vietnam conflict with the mass realization that young American lives were not only being lost but truly wasted. Now, a woman named Beverly Fabri says in today’s Washington Post, almost three years after her 19-year-old son, Army Pvt. Bryan Nicholas Spry, was killed, "I'm beginning to feel like he just died in vain, I really am.” That’s because she believes, "We are not going to win this war. And we shouldn't have gotten involved with it in the first place." Another echo of Vietnam: press reports of military officers in Iraq saying, off the record, that they are cutting down, or eliminating, certain patrols because they no longer think the effort is worth the death of any of their men. What’s next in this Vietnam flashback? Fragging of officers who do send their men foolishly into harm’s way?

Damn, lost the link. Sorry. It's at Editor and Publishers somewhere... -m

Digby: This is why accountability is so important. It is the epitome of injustice that allows war criminals and sociopaths like Pinochet to go unpunished for their deeds, allowing detestable apologists like Fred Hiatt to rationalize away the horrors he inflicted on his own people in the name of this abstract godhead "free-markets." Just as it is wrong to have allowed Pinochet to die a free old man, the leadership of this country should not be allowed to continue their comfortable lives without suffering any consequences in the here and now for their ongoing rationalization of American perfidy in Iraq. History will not redeem them any more than it has redeemed Pinochet and they should not be allowed to sit in the comfort of their riches and power like a bunch of decadent potentates and live as if it already has.

Josh Marshall: Many readers have written in to say that there's just no way we're going to let ourselves take sides in what would likely be at least a borderline genocidal civil war between Iraq's Sunni minority and Shi'a majority. To which, I can only say, why not? Is there anything we've seen in the last six years that makes you think we wouldn't pull the trigger on a ridiculously foolish new plan? I don't just mean that as trash talk. I think it's the only sensible way to approach the case at hand.

The main mistakes I've made thinking about foreign policy over the last half decade were, I think, all cases where there were certain outcomes I just didn't find credible because they were just too stupid and dangerous for anybody in a position of power to try. Good luck on that.

Another point, and one I'm not sure is widely appreciated. The folks who brought you the Iraq War have always been weak in the knees for a really whacked-out vision of a Shi'a-US alliance in the Middle East. I used to talk to a lot of these folks before I became persona non grata. So here's basically how the theory went and, I don't doubt, still goes ... We hate the Saudis and the Egyptians and all the rest of the standing Arab governments. But the Iraqi Shi'a were oppressed by Saddam. So they'll like us. So we'll set them up in control of Iraq. You might think that would empower the Iranians. But not really. The mullahs aren't very powerful. And once the Iraqi Shi'a have a good thing going with us. The Iranians are going to want to get in on that too. So you'll see a new government in Tehran. Plus, big parts of northern Saudi Arabia are Shi'a too. And that's where a lot of the oil is. So they'll probably want to break off and set up their own pro-US Shi'a state with tons of oil. So before you know it, we'll have Iraq, Iran, and a big chunk of Saudi Arabia that is friendly to the US and has a ton of oil. And once that happens we can tell the Saudis to f$#% themselves once and for all.

Now, you might think this involves a fair amount of wishful and delusional thinking. But this was the thinking of a lot of neocons going into the war. And I don't doubt it's still the thinking of quite a few of them. They still want to run the table. And even more now that it's double-down. I don't know what these guys are planning now. But there's plenty of reason to be worried.

A. Alexander: George W. Bush is a disaster on a scale never before known to an American Presidency. The President has willfully undermined the freedoms and liberties of the American people; he has abused the Constitution; he is dismissive of the will of the people; he floundered pitifully while New Orleans literally dissolved; through utter incompetence and stupidity, he bungled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; he has mismanaged and lost two wars; he has undermined American democracy; and both he and his administration have bankrupted -- morally and financially -- the peoples' government. It is time now, either for George W. Bush and his administration to resign or Congress to act. All of this, of course, says nothing of the hell and chaos that he has unleashed upon an unsuspecting and undeserving planet. George W. Bush's asinine refusal to address global warming has endangered the world; his ignorance, dishonesty, and stubbornness have thrown the entire Middle East into a bloody fit of death, destruction, and constant turmoil; his obsessive preoccupation with "bringing freedom" to the Middle East -- code for securing the oil -- has allowed Africa, most specifically Somalia, to grow into a tinderbox on the brink of erupting into an inferno, i.e. the entire Horn of Africa is about to explode into conflict; and the President's policies have ensured that no citizen of the world, not even Americans, are beyond the reach of his global network of secret prisons and torture . It has moved well beyond the obvious - George W. Bush and his entire administration must either leave office or be removed from power.

Medal Awarded

Pfc. Ross McGinnis, of Knox, Pa., who was killed in Iraq on Dec. 4, has been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for saving the lives of four other soldiers and sacrificing his own, according to a U.S. military statement released in Iraq.

The military said McGinnis, 19, was in the gunner's hatch of a Humvee when a grenade sailed past him and into the truck, where four other soldiers sat during a mission in Baghdad. McGinnis shouted a warning to the other soldiers before hurling himself onto the grenade shortly before it blew up.

Local Stories

Pomp, pageantry and a grateful nation had to patiently wait in a parking lot on a cloudy Tuesday, while emotional family, friends and neighbors said goodbye to Sgt. Dustin Adkins. Old Friendship Baptist Church, designed to hold about 150, was filled to the walls 45 minutes before services began for the 22-year-old Finger native. Adkins was killed earlier this month in a helicopter crash in Iraq, where he was on his second tour of duty with the U.S. Army.

An inquest resumes today into the death of a retired Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer in Iraq. Kenneth Hull, 48, from Belfast was working as a security contractor guarding British Consulate staff when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in July last year.

Flags will be at half-staff on Wednesday for the funeral service of an Aroostook County man who was killed in Iraq. Marine Cpl. Dustin Libby was killed a week ago when he was shot during a firefight in the Anbar Province, the site of some of the bloodiest street fighting in the war.

A 2004 graduate of Chemawa Indian School in Salem who was killed Dec. 3 in Iraq is remembered by school officials as a smiling, laughing student -- and regarded by his hometown community in Arizona as a local hero. Army Cpl. Billy B. Farris, 20, was killed in Taji when an explosive detonated near his vehicle. Farris was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

A Fulton soldier who was killed while on his second tour of duty in Iraq, was laid to rest Tuesday morning. Specialist Kenneth W. Haines, a 25-year-old Fulton resident was killed Dec. 3 when an improvised explosive device detonated in the area he was patrolling.

Hundreds of friends, fellow church members and supporters packed into the Life Church of Mobile on Tuesday for the funeral of 32-year-old Army Cpl. Chris Mason, who was remembered as "a patriot" and "a soldier's soldier," as well as "a great Christian." Mason -- a member of the famed 82nd Airborne Division -- was killed Nov. 28 while on patrol with his unit in Iraq.

On July 3, Paul Pabla was killed by a sniper in Mosul. He arrived in Iraq at the first of the year as part of the Indiana National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 150th Field Artillery, known as the Raiders.

Photos of a Greenfield Marine killed in Iraq on Monday show him hamming it up for the camera in the deserts of Iraq, proof that he died doing what he loved, family members said. Lance Cpl. Clinton Jon "C.J." Miller, 23, was killed by a roadside bomb at 4:15 p.m. Iraq time. Miller was patrolling with an improvised explosive device detection team when the bomb went off, killing four Marines in the Humvee and three Iraqis, said his father, Kerby Miller of Greenfield.

Within hours of hearing her love had been killed in Iraq, a soldier's fiancée got an engagement ring, his family said. Sgt. Yevgeniy Ryndych, 24, died Wednesday in Ramadi, the Defense Department said. His family and fiancée were told on the same day she got a package with the engagement ring, said the soldier's brother, Ivan Ryndych.

On Saturday, December 2nd, Sergeant Keith Fiscus was killed near Baghdad. On Tuesday, people who knew him, and who didn't, came to pay their respects to the fallen soldier. Flags flew at half-staff at the Middletown volunteer fire company in honor of the 26-year-old Townsend man.

Under a bitter sky, Renee McDonough accepted the flag from her son's casket. The moment was too much for most to bear. Sobs engulfed those mourning Bryan McDonough, the 22-year-old Minnesota National Guard specialist who was killed Dec. 2 in Iraq and was buried in Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Tuesday.

A somber service for a local Marine killed in Iraq took place in Tiffin and Green Springs-Clyde, his hometown. Flags were lowered in the hero's hometown, Lance Corporal Jeremy Shock, 22, who died in Fallujah on Nov. 19. Then crowds poured into the cemetery in Green Springs to honor a man who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Marine Pvt. Heath D. Warner, lauded for his dedication to America, was laid to rest amid the sounds of Marine riflemen firing volleys and a bugler playing "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday. Warner was praised as a man who loved God, his family and country during the interment attended by about 30 family members and friends, including his parents, Scott and Melissa Warner, and his brothers, Chandler, 14, and Ashton, 7. The 19-year-old McKinley High School graduate was killed in Iraq on Nov. 22.

A soldier from Springfield is the latest Oregon casualty of the Iraq war, his family said Tuesday. Army Sgt. Brennan Gibson, a 1997 graduate of Thurston High School, died Sunday when a roadside bomb struck his Humvee, said Ken Brown, a pastor and family spokesman.

The salutes began before the Anderson family stepped onto the tarmac. They came from baggage workers and Transportation and Security Agency employees, from passengers and the flight crew Tuesday evening, as a flag-draped casket made its way down the conveyor belt carrying the body of Navy Hospital Corpsman Christopher Anderson. The salutes continued from firefighters standing before their flashing firetrucks at Denver International Airport, their arms locked in salutes. Then more than a dozen flags, held by the motorcycle group Patriot Guard, again saluting as the black hearse whisked by.


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