Wednesday, December 27, 2006



A car bomb killed eight people near an Iraqi army checkpoint in eastern Baghdad on Wednesday, police said. They said all of the dead were civilians. Ten people were wounded.

In an attack on Tuesday, a bomb hidden in a CD player exploded in a busy Baghdad market district after a man dropped it off at an electronics repair shop. The bomb killed five people and wounded 14 others.

Police found 49 bodies bearing signs of torture dumped across the country, mostly in Baghdad.

Clashes broke out in Sadiya, a mainly Sunni Arab district of Baghdad which also has some Shi'ite residents, after gunmen attacked police checkpoints in the area, residents said. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.

A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded five people, three policemen and two civilians, in Camp Sara district in eastern Baghdad.

Gunmen attacked a bus carrying employees of the Ministry of Higher Education and wounded two of them in a drive-by shooting in Yarmouk district in western Baghdad.

Iraqi army troops killed 32 insurgents and arrested 39 others during the last 24 hours in different parts of Iraq, the Defence Ministry said.


In Kirkuk a roadside bomb killed three civilians — including an 8-year-old girl — and wounded six other people.


Gunmen killed a policeman on Tuesday night in Kut, 170 km southeast of Baghdad.


A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded four civilians on Tuesday in the northern city of Mosul.


An official in radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's office in the holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, was killed early on Wednesday, a Sadrist official and police said. U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver categorically denied accusations by the Sadrist official that U.S. forces were involved, saying: "We did not conduct any operations in Najaf." U.S. forces officially handed over security control of the province to Iraqi forces this month and have withdrawn all but a handful of their troops from the area. (We can categorically state that Lt. Col. Garver is a lying dick. See the Najaf story three or four entries down. –m)


A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed three soldiers in the town of Suwayra, 40 km south of Baghdad.

The war is a failure: After years of optimistic claims from Washington, Iraq is ending 2006 with the American strategy in shambles and a politically weakened Bush administration struggling for a way out of the impasse.

Sectarian slaughter rages in Baghdad and religiously mixed areas, carried out by shadowy militias and death squads thought to be linked to Shiite and Sunni politicians and clerics. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has done little to curb the militias -- some linked to his fellow Shiite allies.

In the dusty towns of Anbar province, Sunni Arab insurgents ambush American and Iraqi forces daily. An estimated 100,000 Iraqis flee the country every month to escape the violence, according to the Washington-based Refugees International. The U.S. death toll neared 3,000 this month.

As the year drew to a close, the Pentagon reported that attacks against U.S. and Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians had jumped to the highest level since Iraq regained its sovereignty in June 2004, with the worst violence in Baghdad and in the western province of Anbar.

Gone is talk of "staying the course," a phrase which President Bush himself has disowned. Gone too is the hope that the mere establishment of a democratically elected government of national unity would be enough to stem the bloodshed.

We also don’t hear much of the ‘as they stand up we’ll stand down’ stuff anymore: U.S. military commanders in Iraq are attempting to get under control the Facilities Protection Service, whose 150,000 members are paid to guard the 26 Iraqi ministries and serve as personal security to ministers and important government officials, but also provide manpower for sectarian party militias and death squads.

The Iraq Study Group highlighted the problem earlier this month, describing members of the FPS, an Iraqi force, as having "questionable loyalties and capabilities," and quoting an unnamed senior U.S. official saying they are "incompetent, dysfunctional and subversive."

We just handed over Najaf! Now we’re going to screw things up there too?: Tension was mounting in the Iraqi city of Najaf today after an American soldier killed a senior ally of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr during a raid on his house.

Sadr supporters and local police told Agence France-Presse that US and Iraqi soldiers last night stormed the family home of Sahib al-Ameri, the president of a pro-Sadr political foundation in the holy city of Najaf, and shot him dead.

The US military confirmed a coalition soldier killed a suspect, whom it said was implicated in recent bomb attacks on US and Iraqi forces, after he fled to the roof of the house and aimed an assault rifle at an Iraqi soldier.

"The coalition soldier observed the man's hostile intent against the Iraqi soldier and shot the man, neutralising the threat and resulting in his death," it said in a statement, without naming the suspect.

Hundreds of mourners marched from Sadr's office in Najaf to the revered shrine of Imam Ali, chanting anti-American slogans and denouncing Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as a traitor for working with US officials.

Wish we could get a recording of this discussion: British officials are to explain to the authorities in Basra why coalition troops demolished the headquarters of the city's Serious Crime Unit.

UK forces say Iraqis are still supporting them despite anger over the raid on a police station, and discussions will follow.

A British officer said the destruction of the base has made Basra safer.

Mohammed al Abadi, head of the city's council, had said the raid was illegal and threatened to stop co-operation.

Blame it on the home front: The commander of embattled British troops in southern Iraq has appealed for more support and resources from home, warning that currently he can only offer a "60 percent solution".

Major General Richard Shirreff also rebuffed criticism Wednesday of an operation this week in which his troops shot dead seven Iraqi gunmen and demolished the headquarters of an Iraqi police unit.

The commander singled out shortfalls in key areas including training, infrastructure and accommodation for soldiers on duty.

"The nation needs to understand that the quality work done by these courageous men and women out here only happens and can only continue if these people, our soldiers, are properly supported back home," he told BBC television.

Hussein al-Taakhi, personal testimony: I'm a 39-year-old former prisoner of the al-Jamiyat police station in Basra, and have been severely tortured for crimes that I did not commit. I have also been a witness to some of the terrible treatment prisoners have had to suffer, and have seen many prisoners killed.

I'm a Shi'ite and have lived peacefully in Basra for more than 20 years raising my four sons aged 12, 15, 16 and 18 years. I've worked hard to be able to feed them.

Things changed two months ago when members of a militia [armed Shi'ite group] and police officers raided my home and arrested me, accusing me of being a supporter of the insurgents [the armed groups fighting the US forces and the Iraqi government].

I am sure they knew I was not an insurgent, but the real reason for arresting me was that I'm from a tribe which is against local militias, and I was one of the dozens of men arrested as revenge on our tribe.

When I reached the prison I knew that if someone didn't help me, I would die because I would not be able to survive being tortured.

The day I arrived at the prison they [police officers] took me away for interrogation. I have never felt as humiliated in my life as I did on that day.

The police officers stripped me naked and started to shout at me; they hit me on the face and kicked me in the stomach with their boots. Later they started to put out their cigarettes on my body, especially on my arms and legs.

They then forgot all about me for two days, leaving me in a cell with 15 other prisoners. We had to take turns to sleep on the bare floor because the space was too small for everybody to lie down at the same time.

After two days, I was again called for interrogation. That was the most terrible day of all my 48 days in prison. In addition to beating me, two officers tried to rape me, and when I resisted they started to use an electrical device until I lost consciousness.

Everyday they told me that if I didn't identify the people who were against the militia groups in Basra, they were going to hang me or shoot me with all the bullets they had.

What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they appreciate freedom?: The number of suicides in war-ravaged Iraq is increasing due to psychological stress caused by relentless violence, medical experts said.

"We see more cases of suicide each month and all evidence shows that the main reason for the suicides has been the stress and pressure caused by the continuing violence," said Dr. Muhammad Hamza, a specialist in suicide medical investigation at the Ministry of Health.

Hamza said that he found that 70 percent of suicide victims chose to poison themselves using rat and cockroach poison. Others either shot or hanged themselves.

"Some of them leave letters to their parents and the most common excuse given for their act is that they can no longer bear the violence," Hamza said.

"This week I had two cases of suicide. One person committed suicide because of the daily threats to his life which he had been receiving, and the other one because her husband had been killed and she became so desperate that she killed herself too," Hamza added.

Due process Ameri...er, Kurdish style: The Kurdish prison population has swelled to include at least several hundred suspected insurgents, and yet there is no legal system to sort out their fates. So the inmates wait, a population for which there is no plan.

The Kurdish government that holds the prisoners says they are dangerous, and points out that the population includes men who have attended terrorist or guerrilla training in Iraq or Afghanistan. But it also concedes to being stymied, with a small budget, limited prison space and little legal precedent to look back on.

“We have not had trials for them,” said Brig. Sarkawt Hassan Jalal, the director of security in the Sulaimaniya region. “We have no counterterrorism law, and any law we would pass would not affect them because it would not be retroactive.”

But is this evidence as credible as the WMD evidence? It needs to be at least that good if we want a new war!: The American military said Tuesday that it had credible evidence linking Iranians and their Iraqi associates, detained here in raids last week, to criminal activities, including attacks against American forces. Evidence also emerged that some detainees had been involved in shipments of weapons to illegal armed groups in Iraq.

In its first official confirmation of last week’s raids, the military said it had confiscated maps, videos, photographs and documents in one of the raids on a site in Baghdad. The military confirmed the arrests of five Iranians, and said three of them had been released.

The Bush administration has described the two Iranians still being held Tuesday night as senior military officials. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell IV, the chief spokesman for the American command, said the military, in the raid, had “gathered specific intelligence from highly credible sources that linked individuals and locations with criminal activities against Iraqi civilians, security forces and coalition force personnel.”

Saddam Verdict News

Appeal rejected: Iraq's highest court rejected Saddam Hussein's appeal Tuesday and said the former dictator must be hanged within 30 days for his role in the 1982 slayings of 148 Shiite Muslims from a town where assassins tried to kill him.

"From tomorrow, any day could be the day" Saddam is sent to the gallows, the chief judge said.

The ruling could stoke Iraq's sectarian rage, with the Shiite majority demanding Saddam's death and most in the formerly dominant Sunni Arab community calling the trial tainted.

Controversial: Many Iraqis said on Wednesday they would welcome a swift execution of Saddam Hussein but others expressed fears that carrying out the death sentence now would further fuel sectarian violence.

An Iraqi appeals court on Tuesday upheld Saddam's death sentence for crimes against humanity and said he should hang within 30 days. It comes amid raging violence between Saddam's fellow Sunni Arabs and majority Shi'ites.

"This is a just sentence because Saddam oppressed the Iraqi people but I think it came at the wrong time because we're living through a cycle of violence," said Baghdad resident Mohammed Nasir.

Edward Iskander, a 37-year-old shopkeeper, agreed.

"I just hope they let him die naturally because if we execute him, his followers will unleash mayhem," Iskander said as he opened his small food store in central Baghdad's Karrada district.

Threats: Saddam Hussein's Baath Party threatened Wednesday to retaliate if the ousted Iraqi leader is executed, warning in an Internet posting it would target U.S. interests anywhere.

The statement appeared on a Web site known to represent the party, which was disbanded after U.S.-led forces overthrew Saddam in 2003. The site is believed to be run from Yemen, where several exiled Baathists are based.

…"Our party warns again of the consequences of executing Mr. President and his comrades," the statement said.

"The Baath and the resistance are determined to retaliate, with all means and everywhere, to harm America and its interests if it commits this crime," the statement added, referring to Baath fighters as "the resistance."

"The American administration will be held responsible for any harm inflicted on the president because the United States is the decision-maker (in Iraq) and not the puppet Iraqi government."

The New Way Forward ™

Umm...doesn't 'rethinking' imply he thought once already?: President Bush went to his ranch Tuesday to rethink U.S. involvement in Iraq as his spokesman hailed a Baghdad court's decision upholding the death sentence for former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

…At the Pentagon, officials said Secretary Robert Gates isn't likely to offer a single solution but, rather, a broad set of recommendations for changing the course in Iraq. A senior Defense Department official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because Gates' advice to Bush is secret, said the recommendations "would involve many aspects of how we can do things differently."

Bush, saddled with low approval ratings for his handling of Iraq, will host a National Security Council meeting on Thursday at the ranch, but is not expected to make any final decision on what he says will be a new way forward in Iraq.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley will attend the meeting.

Stanzel said there could be other National Security Council meetings before the president makes up his mind and delivers a speech to announce his decisions. The speech is expected before the State of the Union address on Jan. 23

Great idea about four years too late: The White House is expected to announce a reconstruction package for Iraq as part of a plan for a “surge” of up to 30,000 troops into Baghdad when President George W Bush unveils America’s new strategy next month.

Bush is being urged to give up to $10 billion (£5.1 billion) to Iraq as part of a “New Deal” that would create work for unemployed Iraqis, following the model of President Franklin D Roosevelt during the 1930s depression.

At the Pentagon, the joint chiefs of staff are insisting on reconstruction funds as part of a package of political and economic measures to accompany the armed forces. They fear the extra troops will be wasted and more lives lost if Bush relies purely on the military to pacify Iraq, according to sources close to General Peter Schoomaker, the army chief of staff.

How to take ownership of defeat: After years of playing a marginal role in the Iraq war, congressional Democrats plan to move quickly next month to assert more control and undercut any White House effort to increase troop levels.

As President Bush prepares to outline his own plan for Iraq in a major speech in the next few weeks, Democratic leaders will counter with weeks of oversight hearings, summoning military officers, administration officials, academics and foreign policy experts to Capitol Hill.

The Democratic plans put Congress on a collision course with Bush over the direction of the nearly four-year-old war. And they signal a new phase in a war that has been directed almost exclusively by the White House with little dissent from a GOP-controlled Capitol.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that he intends to call key administration officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to testify at as many as a dozen hearings.

At the same time, the chairmen of both armed services committees and the House International Relations Committee also plan to hold hearings.

US Military News

Recruitment woes: After struggling in 2004, the Army missed its recruiting target in 2005. To meet its recruiting goal of 80,000 new soldiers in 2006, the Army loosened rules for those it is willing to accept. Commanders have allowed an increase in so-called Category 4 recruits, enlistees who score the lowest on military aptitude tests, and have raised the enlistment cutoff age from 35 to 42. According to Army data, the service also has issued more than 13,600 medical or "moral character" waivers to recruits in 2006, up more than 2,500 over last year's levels. Waivers given to recruits with "serious misconduct" in their past--crimes, repeated instances of substance abuse or misconduct involving weapons--nearly doubled, going from 630 to 1,017. Waivers for recruits with misdemeanors on their records went from 4,587 to 6,542. Another change in the military is that economic disparity has grown. The National Priorities Project reported that recruits from wealthy neighborhoods keep declining. Although wealthy ZIP codes have long been underrepresented in the armed forces, the numbers dropped further still from 2004 to 2006, said Dancs, the group's research director.

Here's an idea: The armed forces, already struggling to meet recruiting goals, are considering expanding the number of noncitizens in the ranks -- including disputed proposals to open recruiting stations overseas and putting more immigrants on a faster track to US citizenship if they volunteer -- according to Pentagon officials.

Foreign citizens serving in the US military is a highly charged issue, which could expose the Pentagon to criticism that it is essentially using mercenaries to defend the country. Other analysts voice concern that a large contingent of noncitizens under arms could jeopardize national security or reflect badly on Americans' willingness to serve in uniform.

The idea of signing up foreigners who are seeking US citizenship is gaining traction as a way to address a critical need for the Pentagon, while fully absorbing some of the roughly one million immigrants that enter the United States legally each year.

Hey! Suppose we recruit all those unemployed Iraqi soldiers from when we disbanded their army and - this is the good part - we deploy them to Iraq! Then we sneak out all the Americans. Think about it. It would be the best of both worlds. We'd still occupy the country but no one would know because all the soldiers would be Iraqis! Isn't that a great idea? I can't believe no one at the Heritage Foundation thought of it already. -m

Your tax dollars at work: The Defense Department paid two procurement operations at the Department of the Interior to arrange for Pentagon purchases totaling $1.7 billion that resulted in excessive fees and tens of millions of dollars in waste, documents show.

Defense turned to Interior, which manages federal lands and resources, in an effort to speed up its contracting. Interior is one of several government agencies allowed to manage contracts for other agencies in exchange for a fee.

But the arrangement between Interior and Defense "routinely violated rules designed to protect U.S. Government interests," according to draft audit documents obtained by The Washington Post.

More than half of the contracts examined were awarded without competition or without checks to determine that the prices were reasonable, according to the audits by the inspectors general for Defense (DOD) and Interior (DOI). Ninety-two percent of the work reviewed was awarded without verifying that the contractors' cost estimates were accurate; 96 percent was inadequately monitored.

In one instance, Interior officials bought armor to reinforce Army vehicles from a software maker.

The grunts on the ground: Like most of his squad, K-Roc, the slender Lance Cpl. Adam Koczrowski, is barely out of his teens. He and many of his guys are veterans of one or two tours in Iraq where their unit, Charlie Company, has lost 22 dead. They got back from Iraq in May, and they're about ready to go again.

With no hand in its making, they nonetheless are stuck with taking whatever new strategy emerges and making it work in the gritty, murderous landscape of Iraq. That's a tall order. Neat solutions to Iraq have so far eluded Washington's senior policymakers, still struggling to sort out Iraq's complexities and corruptions, its shifting sectarian allegiances and mindless violence.

These Marines and tens of thousands of other U.S. troops about to rotate into Iraq will have to figure it out on the street, making near-instantaneous decisions that carry deadly consequences. "Stand by to take casualties and be confused," K-Roc says sardonically as dawn breaks on another long training day.

His squad of seven men - it is supposed to have 12 - will travel through a mock Iraqi city here, a dread zone of concrete rubble, narrow streets and burned-out cars. Instructors will try to rattle the Marines with deafening explosions simulating roadside bombs, snipers firing blanks and insurgents firing simulated rocket-propelled grenades that are launched out of dark alleys with unnerving abruptness.

Treating the severely wounded and evacuating the dead are major preoccupations.

What Is It That We're Fighting For Again?

Damn...it’s right on the tip of my brain…: The Iraqi government is working on a new hydrocarbons law that will set the course for the country's oil sector and determine where its vast revenues will flow. The consequences for such a law in such a state are huge. Not only could it determine the future shape of the Iraqi federation -- as regional governments battle with Baghdad's central authority over rights to the riches -- but it could put much of Iraqi oil into the hands of foreign oil companies.

Political differences could still derail the legislative process. The Kurdish and Shia populations want to control their oil-rich territories without Baghdad's help. Meanwhile Sunni Arabs located in the oil-poor center of the country want the federal government to guarantee they're not excluded from the profits.

That hasn't stopped the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), though. The KRG has already signed agreements of its own with oil companies. But Baghdad has declared the contracts invalid, and the new draft law states that Iraq's oil exploration, production and transport would be handled by the central government in Baghdad, according to excerpts of the draft published by Dow Jones Newswires.

Nevertheless, the draft law lays the ground work for private oil companies to take large stakes in Iraq's oil. The new law would allow the controversial partnerships known as 'production sharing agreements' (PSA). Oil companies favor PSAs, because they limit the risk of cost overruns while giving greater potential for profit. PSAs tend to be massive legal agreements, designed to replace a weak or missing legal framework -- which is helpful for a country like Iraq that lacks the laws needed to attract investment.

It's also dangerous. It means governments are legally committing themselves to oil deals that they've negotiated from a position of weakness. And, the contracts typically span decades. Companies argue they need long-term legal security to justify huge investments in risky countries; the current draft recommends 15 to 20 years.

Nevertheless, Iraq carries little exploratory risk -- OPEC estimates Iraq sits atop some 115 billion barrels of reserves and only a small fraction of its oil fields are in use. By signing oil deals with Iraq, oil companies could account for those reserves in their books without setting foot in the country -- that alone is enough to boost the company's stock. And, by negotiating deals while Iraq is unstable, companies could lock in a risk premium that may be much lower five or ten years from now.

Those Who Stay Behind

Hidden casualties: Children left behind when their mother or father, or sometimes both, are sent away to fight are the hidden casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cuba Gooding hosts "When Parents Are Deployed," a PBS special airing Thursday with advice on how families can hold together during wartime separations. It is both a practical guide and window into a world that many Americans are unfamiliar with.

"I don't think most of the American public realize how big a sacrifice this is," said Gary Knell, president and CEO of Sesame Workshop, which produced the show. "Whether you are pro-war or anti-war, the fact is we have to help these children in need."

This holiday season, an estimated 700,000 children younger than 5 (! -m) are separated from a parent who is overseas in the military, the most since World War II, according to the show's creators.

An empty space never to be refilled: The first telephone call on Mother’s Day was always from him.

“He would be the first of my kids to call me,” Delain Johnson of Sturgis said. On the other end of the phone was the voice of her son, Chris, always with the same greeting. “He’d say, ‘My gift to you is me,’” his mother laughs through her tears. “That’s because he was always broke.” The tears will flow freely today as she marks her third Mother’s Day without him. Capt. Christopher Soelzer’s last Mother’s Day phone call came from Iraq, seven months before he and two other members of his Army unit were killed on Dec. 24, 2003, when an improvised explosive device blew up their Humvee while on combat patrol. For Betty Welke of Rapid City, today will be much like Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other holiday since Nov. 20, 2004. All of those occasions are hard for Welke since the day her son, Lance Cpl. Joe Welke, was killed in combat in Fallujah, Iraq. “I don’t do holidays,” Welke said.

This really pisses me off: After her son Justin was killed serving in Iraq, a grieving Jan Johnson resolved to see the place where he died and to better understand why it happened.

Johnson and her husband, Joe, who also served in Iraq, were among a group of seven parents who lost children in the war who were picked to travel to northern Iraq in November as a scout team for a bigger trip next year.

"I wanted to go see where my son died," she said. "You hear in the news how bad Iraq is, that it isn't worth saving. ...I wanted to go find out for myself."

Family members of U.S. casualties of war have made pilgrimages in the past to Vietnam and other war zones where their sons and daughters died.

But the fighting in Iraq was far from over, so a similar journey seemed unlikely until a nonprofit organization called America Moving Forward decided to organize a trip. (My emphasis –m) By the time plans had been made, Joe had returned from an eight-month tour in Iraq and was willing to return for his wife's sake.

…The group left in early November for Amman, Jordan, where they spent a day before arriving in Iraq. A few shell-shocked security guards staying at a hotel begged Joe Johnson to rethink their trip into a war zone, but Jan was determined to press on.

The next morning, a plane flew the families into Arbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.

The Johnsons were never able to go to Sadr City, the rough-and-tumble Baghdad neighborhood where Justin Johnson was killed by a roadside bomb in April 2004.

Far from the strife of Baghdad and other violent regions, the group's members said they nevertheless found a cause worth fighting for in Arbil.

There, they said, their sons were treated as liberators and the parents welcomed as heroes.

As guests of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the parents visited a parade of politicians and government ministers who thanked them for their visit -- and their sacrifice. (My emphasis –m)

So what is this ever-so-benevolent group America Moving Forward? Google it and you won’t get anything by that exact name. What you will get is a whole bunch of entries on these guys (via SourceWatch):

Move America Forward (MAF) is a conservative organization founded and headed by California Republican activists, talk show hosts and staff members of the public relations firm Russo Marsh & Rogers, which has strong ties to the Republican Party. (My emphasis -m)

According to its website, MAF "is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization committed to supporting America's efforts to defeat terrorism and supporting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces." MAF identifies their domestic opponents as "self-loathing liberal journalists and 'Blame America First' politicians" (June 29, 2005 email, titled "The War at Home - in America").

MAF's founding "vice chairmen are conservative radio talk show co-host Melanie Morgan and National Tax Limitation Committee founder Lew Uhler," reported PR Week in mid-2004. The organization later identified Morgan and former Republican California State Assembly member Howard Kaloogian as its co-chairs, with Uhler as an advisory board member." The MAF website also lists Lt. Col. Robert B. "Buzz" Patterson as a board member and Sal Russo as its "chief strategist." MAF's former executive director is Siobhan Guiney, who previous to MAF worked as a California Assembly Republican staffer.

MAF strategist Sal Russo is also the founder and principal at the Republican-leaning public relations / public affairs firm Russo Marsh and Rogers (RM&R) - although the firm is not listed in his MAF bio. (My emphasis –m)

MAF and RM&R have been closely linked since MAF's inception. The MAF website address was initially registered to RM&R (see below). MAF and RM&R offices are located in the same building, and calls to the two organizations are answered by the same receptionist, according to several reports.

Melanie Morgan is chairman (sic) of Move America Forward. She is a columnist for WorldNetDaily, author of the book America Mourning, and is also a conservative radio talk personality at KSFO in San Francisco, California. Melanie Morgan gained national notoriety in the summer of 2006 when she suggested that Bill Keller, an editor of the New York Times, be killed in a "gaschamber" for the crime of "treason" after the Times' reporting on US government spying on Americans.

What are MAF’s priorities? Here are some examples:

* Following U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (Democrat from Northern California) calling President Bush an "incompetent leader," … MAF launched its first action. On May 26, 2004, MAF declared Pelosi "one of the worst examples of a 'Domestic Enemy' . . . certainly up there with the ranks of Senator Ted Kennedy and America-bashing filmmaker, Michael Moore."

* On June 4, 2004, MAF called the [all-Democrat Asian Pacific Islander] Caucus "left-leaning politicians [who] cannot find any words of praise for our brave troops fighting the War on Terrorism," but who "honor former accused spy Wen Ho Lee." Kaloogian questioned whether "Asian caucus members might be violating their oaths of office to defend against domestic enemies by honoring Lee." Russo told the San Francisco Chronicle, "People are innocent until proven guilty, but just because something was not proven, that's no reason to celebrate."

* MAF garnered substantial media attention with its campaign to dissuade cinemas from showing Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 (movie 2004). Its website published names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of what it said were cinema company executives, and urged its members to ask them not to show Fahrenheit 9/11…

* Leading up to the Democratic National Committee's convention in Boston in July 2004, MAF called the event "nothing more than a 'Blame America First' pep rally." Party leaders and convention speakers Senator Hillary Clinton, former Vice-President Al Gore, Senator Ted Kennedy and Reverend Al Sharpton "have used some of the most irresponsible language in seeking to advance their liberal political goals by trying to divide our nation and erode support for our military and the war effort," MAF wrote in an email to members.

* A November 10th MAF email celebrating George Bush's electoral win stated, "Americans both rejected the defeatist mantra of the 'Blame America First' crowd and also made it clear that we would not bow to the threats of terrorism." The same message offered T-shirts for sale that featured a red and blue electoral map and read, "Democracy Beats Terrorism."

* On June 29, an MAF email from Melanie Morgan announced, "From July 7th to July 17th, I will join with Move America Forward Co-Chair, Howard Kaloogian, in leading a delegation of radio talk show hosts to Iraq to report the truth from our troops - the truth that the liberal news media isn't reporting." A few weeks later, O'Dwyer's PR Daily reported that the PR firm Russo Marsh and Rogers, which is closely associated with MAF, was hired by the Kurdistan Regional Government to "get 'free media' to promote the interests of the Kurds in the post-Saddam Hussein Iraq." (My emphasis –m)

The journalist Jackson Thoreau has obtained MAF's articles of incorporation with the California Secretary of State. They show that MAF was registered by Siobhan Guiney as a non-stock, non-profit body on the 2nd June 2004. The registration address was that of Russo Marsh and Rogers. Note that the address given on the website is, however, a postal box in Sacramento. Also note that Russo Marsh and Rogers clearly had been intending to set up MAF for a long time before June 2004, since its internet address was registered in November 2003.

So: MAF is a far-right organization whose chairperson believes that journalists who publish factual articles that embarrass the government should be executed, that brands people who disagree with their policies ‘domestic enemies’, and that equates support for the Democratic Party with support for terrorism.

This organization funds an Iraq trip for grief-stricken parents of soldiers who have died in the war. Where do they go? Kurdistan, the only place in Iraq that is both safe enough that chances are good they won’t get killed and the only place in Iraq where Americans are likely to be welcomed. The parents are feted as guests of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

But it turns out that MAF’s chief strategist is also the founder of a public relations firm that has been hired by the Kurdistan Regional Government to get ‘free media’ to promote their interests. Coincidence? The question answers itself.

You almost have to admire the thinking here. Who has more credibility than a parent mourning their child? The MAF can take these poor people to the one place in Iraq where genuine non-English-speaking dark-skinned people will tell them their sacrifice was worthwhile – never mind that it was for the cause of an independent Kurdistan, not the ‘liberation’ of Iraq – and get them to say that their children died in ‘a cause worth fighting for’. The MAF’s far right agenda is advanced, they get painted as some wonderful non-profit organization that out of the blue in the spirit of sweet charity brought grieving parents to a place where they could get some closure, the Kurds get free publicity and, best of all, Sal Russo gets paid.

This is utterly disgusting. These pukes are preying on parents who lost their children. I have come to expect complete heartless cynicism from neocons but this really takes the cake.

If we had a functioning media this kind of crap would be far less likely to happen because a real reporter would do the same Google search I did and make the connections between MAF and the KRG a part of the story. But fortunately for Mr. Russo and associates, GREG BLUESTEIN of the Associated Press, is not a real reporter, or if he is, he sure as hell doesn’t act like one, and he was perfectly willing to retype MAF’s press handout and pass it off as news. Or at least that’s what I assume he did, since I can’t explain this pile of dog shit otherwise. -m

Opinion, Analysis, Commentary

Juan Cole on the Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2006 1. Myth number one is that the United States "can still win" in Iraq.

2. "US military sweeps of neighborhoods can drive the guerrillas out."

3. The United States is best off throwing all its support behind the Iraqi Shiites.

4. "Iraq is not in a civil war," as Jurassic conservative Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly insists.

5. "The second Lancet study showing 600,000 excess deaths from political and criminal violence since the US invasion is somehow flawed."

6. "Most deaths in Iraq are from bombings."

7. "Baghdad and environs are especially violent but the death rate is lower in the rest of the country."

8. "Iraq is the central front in the war on terror."

9. "The Sunni Arab guerrillas in places like Ramadi will follow the US home to the American mainland and commit terrorism if we leave Iraq."

10. "Setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq is a bad idea."

Roy Hattersley on the mess we’re in: Iraq - which for years has been an unmitigated tragedy - has turned into Grand Guignol, and, true to the traditions of that genre, horror and farce combine in equal measure. No doubt we should rejoice that al-Jamiat police station in Basra has been destroyed and its prisoners taken to the relative security of a compound in which detainees are hopefully not routinely tortured. But if a sick satire on an obscure television channel included a sketch about British troops attacking a unit of the police that they established and with whom they had been theoretically working for nearly four years, the outcry would not have been limited to complaints about undermining the morale of our troops under fire. We would have been told that the whole idea was too fantastical to sustain the lampoon.

But that is what really happened on Monday, and although the sound of the exploding bar-mines should presumably be music to the ears of everyone who supports the rule of law, a number of important questions lie unanswered in the rubble of what was, until Christmas morning, the headquarters of the Basra serious crimes unit. A witty military press officer suggested that the name related to what the 400 associated police officers did rather than what they prevented. But he did not make clear how long the British authorities have known that, among their regular activities, they crushed prisoners' hands and feet, electrocuted them and burned them with cigarettes. You will recall that one of the reasons given to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq was the obligation to save the people from that sort of atrocity. It now appears that, at least in al-Jamiat police station, the arrival of what is bravely described as democracy has not made much difference.

Nearly four years after US-led forces invaded and President Bush declared victory, the British headquarters in Basra could still not be sure where the police's loyalty lay. And General Ali Ibrahim, an Iraq army commander in the area, denounced the decision to clear out the serious crimes unit as illegal. Do we still believe that an orderly transition of power to a genuinely democratic Iraq is possible within the foreseeable future? The gloomy answer to that question is why, although the demolition of al-Jamiat police station is, in itself, a matter of rejoicing, the news also increases the general despair we should all feel about the catastrophe of Iraq. Thanks to George Bush and Tony Blair we are actors in a tragedy that seems to have no foreseeable conclusion. To pull out is to leave the people to the mercies of a hundred other serious crimes units. To remain is to intensify the hatred and bitterness of much of the law-abiding population. The worst diplomatic blunder since Suez? By comparison, Suez had a happy ending.

Will Bunch on the body count: You don't know how people have died in Iraq since this war -- ill-conceived in the flaming embers of 9/11 -- and neither do I, not if you also try to tally the tens upon tens of thousands of Iraqis who died just because they went to a market on a wrong day, or because they live on the wrong side of a street.

We do know this: That 2,978 2,980 American troops have died in Iraq since March 2002, the vast majority in combat. And so a major news story -- and thus a major controversy -- today has been that the U.S. death toll for the Iraq war has now surpassed the 2,973 known victims of 9/11. It is, to many, a grand metaphor and tragic irony, and the easiest way to say it is that in order to prevent another 9/11, the Bush administration has instead caused one of its own.

Except reality is a lot messier than that.

Statistically, it's too simplistic. The 2,980 Iraq casualty number only includes American soldiers who died, and not several hundred British troops or soldiers from allies of the United States, while the 2,973 9/11 death figure does include British and other nationals. The Iraq death toll doesn't include a number of American contractors or journalists who found their way to Iraq because of the invasion, and who died as a result. And it also takes no account for the thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties, many of whom most resemble our 9/11 victims, in that they were good and hard-working people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Also, if the Iraq war was wrong and immoral from Day One, as I and many Americans believe, then the casualty number that matters the most is 1, because one is too many to die for a mistake.

And frankly, it all gets intellectually tangled when you try to compare a one-day terrorist attack, which deliberately targeted civilians in a way that any civilized human should find repulsive, with three and a half years of combat and collateral damage.

Tangled -- and yet I do believe in my gut that the killing fields in Iraq flow directly from the senseless violence of 9/11, and so I believe that stories and blog posts that compare the death tolls are worthwhile -- because for one day they make us think, a little harder and a little more out loud than usual, what Americans should be thinking every single day.

Just what in God's name are we doing over there?

Award Received

A Furness soldier who pulled three comrades from a bombed and burning tank in Iraq is to be honoured by the Queen. Bombardier Paul Ellison saw two of his colleagues die in the attack, north of Basra, but managed to save the driver. Now the Barrow hero is to receive the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery. It will be marked by a special ceremony at his new post in Germany in the new year.

Local Stories And Casualty Reports

A 20-year-old Hamilton High West graduate, and Township volunteer fireman, died Christmas Day after he was injured while serving in the U.S. Army,stationed in Iraq. The Pentagon announced yesterday that Pfc. Eric R. Wilkus, 20, of Hamilton, was injured in a non-combat related incident on Friday in Baghdad. He died of that injury three days later, on Christmas, at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany.

Corpus Christi soldier John Paul Barta, 25, a graduate of Flour Bluff High School, was killed in action after coming under enemy fire two days before Christmas in Buhritz, Iraq, according to the Fort Hood public affairs office. Spc. Barta was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood and was on his first tour of the Iraq war.

24-year-old Sergeant Jason Denfrund of Cattaraugus was killed on Christmas after an explosive detonated near his unit. Denfrund was assigned to the Second Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, Second Brigade Combat Team.

Specialist Joshua Sheppard of Oklahoma died Thursday after his patrol encountered enemy using small arms fire. The 22-year-old was assigned to the 642nd Engineer Support Company, Seventh Engineer Battalion.

On Friday, 28-year-old Sergeant Curtis Norris of Michigan, died in Baghdad when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle. Norris belonged to the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, Second Brigade Combat Team.

Family members say Army Private Evan Bixler of Racine had to overcome medical barriers to get into the military... and now he's been killed in Iraq only a month after being sent there. The Defense Department says the 21-year-old Bixler was fatally wounded Sunday during security operations. Family members say that Bixler, a 2003 graduate of Park High School, had been in the military less than a year and was sent to Iraq in late November.

U.S. Army Sgt. Scott D. Dykman enjoyed boxing and competing in rodeos and dreamed of becoming a fishing and hunting guide with his brother, his mother said Tuesday. Dykman, 27, was killed Dec. 20 during a patrol in Baghdad. A roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee, and Dykman, team leader for his squad, left the vehicle to secure the area. A second explosion knocked over some power lines, and Dykman was electrocuted, family members said. Four others in his squad were hospitalized in Baghdad. Dykman, a 1998 Harrison High School graduate, was in his third tour in Iraq.

To those who knew him, Joe Luis Baines was a teenager who viewed the Army as his ticket off the streets of Newark. To those who didn't know him, he was another fallen hero, another casualty in a war that is growing increasingly unpopular among Americans. Both of those camps -- relatives and strangers -- gathered yesterday in the city to honor Baines in a 90-minute funeral service suffused with anger, anguish and disbelief over his death in Iraq. Baines, 19, was killed in Taji, north of Baghdad, Dec. 16 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee, according to the military.

At about 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the foothills fell silent in honor of fallen soldier Nick Steinbacher. From Crippen Mortuary on Honolulu Avenue to St. James The Less Catholic Church on Dunsmore Avenue, crowds of people of all ages and from all walks of life lined the streets holding flags and standing in a solemn tribute to one of this area's own. They were there to witness the hearse carrying the young soldier to the church, where a funeral mass began at 3 p.m. Steinbacher, 22, became the 300th Californian killed in Iraq when he suffered fatal wounds from an explosion during a night patrol. According to a spokeswoman at Fort Hood where he was based, Steinbacher was killed on Dec. 10 while serving in Baghdad after an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee vehicle.

The Department of Defense said today that 21-year-old Kyle A. Nolen, of Ennis, died Thursday in Al Anbar Province after his vehicle drove over a land mine. As a boy, Nolen made a pact with his best friends that they'd all join the military. Even his wife couldn't dissuade him from fulfilling that vow when he joined the Navy last year. He became a medic and was deployed in August to Iraq. He also leaves behind a 3-year-old son, a 5-month-old daughter, four sisters and a brother.

The flags went up in Lake Jackson again Tuesday for another service member killed in Iraq. This time the flags were for Marine Lance Cpl. Stephen Lloyd Morris, 21, who was killed Sunday when a bomb blew up the vehicle he was driving in Anbar province. On Friday, parts of the city were lined with flags for the funeral of Army Spc. Philip Cody Ford, 21, who was killed two weeks earlier. The group Military Moms and Wives put more than 100 flags around the home Morris left more than two years ago when he joined the Marines.

Several friends and classmates have come forward with kind words and happy memories of Lance Corporal Myles Sebastien, the 21-year-old Opelousas Marine who was killed while serving in Iraq last week. Details of Sebastien's death have yet to be released by the U.S. Marine Corps and the Department of Defense. What has been published is that Sebastien was killed by hostile fire 60 miles west of Baghdad.

A 19-year-old Fontana man stationed in Iraq died last week in a roadside bombing, military officials said Tuesday. Lance Cpl. Fernando S. Tamayo was killed Thursday while driving a Humvee in Al Anbar province, said 1st Sgt. Bill Toves. An explosive device detonated, killing Tamayo, two other Marines and a sailor, Toves said. Tamayo was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Twentynine Palms. His parents were not ready to talk about their son, Toves said, because they were overwrought with emotion.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?