Tuesday, October 31, 2006
US death toll hits 103 in Iraq in OctoberOTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: A suicide car bomber struck a wedding party in Baghdad killing 10 people, including four children, and wounding 12, police reported. The bomber drove an explosives-rigged sedan into a crowd of celebrants preparing to board vehicles outside the bride's home in the capital's northeastern Shaab neighborhood. A car bomb detonated in the neighbourhood of Sadr City, killing three people. Nine others were also wounded in the blast, which occurred outside a family court on the area's Palestine Street, close to the entrance of the neighbourhood. One Iraqi policeman was killed and three others were wounded when an explosive device targeting their patrol was detonated in eastern Baghdad's al-Gadeedah district. Clashes were reported between Iraqi army and police forces and militants in the al-Khadraa district in western Baghdad. Sources said the firefight continued for 30 minutes until US forces were deployed in the area. No information on casualties was however immediately available. Five unidentified bodies were found in Baghdad bearing bullet wounds and evidence of torture. Police commando unit commander Ali Abdul-Kadhim was killed by unknown gunmen in a car while standing near his home in eastern Baghdad. One Baghdad-based soldier died at about 5:00 p.m. on Monday after being hit by small arms fire in a western district of the capital. Baqubah: Clashes between gunmen and police left a policeman dead and three others wounded in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad. Gunmen suspected of belonging to a militia run by Moqtada al-Sadr shot and wounded the owners of two shops in Baquba. The bodies of eight people were found, bound and gagged, in Baquba. All the victims were shot in the head. An Iraqi policeman and a young boy were killed while 4 other policemen were wounded when militants opened fire on a police patrol in al-Mafraq district in western Baquba. A police officer was killed and two others wounded when a roadside bomb targeted their patrol in the city's southern Kanaan district. Six Iraqis were meanwhile killed by militants in the al- Moallemeen, al-Garage al-Mowahhad, Abu Sida and al-Tahrir districts of Baquba. Suwayra: The bodies of three people were retrieved from the Tigris river in the town of Suwayra. Five more bodies in similar condition were floating in the Tigris River near Suwayrah, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Baghdad. The bodies of five gunmen were found in an orchard which was the scene of clashes between gunmen and the police several days ago near the town of Suwayra, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad. Basra: One Iraqi coastguard soldier was killed while another was wounded in an exchange of fire with offshore smugglers in Basra, 550 kilometres south of Baghdad. Security sources said clashes with the smugglers were ongoing since since Monday night in an area called Shalhat al-Aghwat, near the border with Iran. Ten smugglers were arrested and 100 cars and boats used to smuggle fuel and goods in an out of the country were confiscated. Tarmiya: More than 40 people are missing after armed kidnappers ambushed minibuses travelling to Baghdad on a main road north of the Iraqi capital on Tuesday, police in the city of Tikrit said. An Iraqi spokesman for the Joint Coordination Centre of the Iraqi police and U.S. forces in the mainly Sunni Arab province of Salahaddin said "about 42" people were missing after the incident near Tarmiya, 30 km (20 miles) north of Baghdad. Unidentified gunmen ambushed a convoy of some 16 minibuses and kidnapped up to 42 people, including tribal leaders and prominent persons from the towns of Balad and Dujail. The convoy was carrying a delegation heading to Baghdad to meetIraq's top officials, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, when they were attacked by gunmen in Tarmiya area, some 40 km north of Baghdad. Mosul: Police found four bodies, including that of a policeman, in different parts of Mosul, north of Baghdad. A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army convoy injured one soldier in Mosul. Three Iraqis were reportedly killed when a US patrol opened fire on their car as it approached their patrol in Mosul. The incident occurred in the al-Mithaq district in eastern Mosul, security sources said, adding that the US soldiers suspected that the occupants of the car were militants. Fallujah: An Iraqi army soldier died in clashes with gunmen in Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad. Tal Afar: Four gunmen and an Iraqi army soldier were killed in clashes in the town of Tal Afar, about 420 km (260 miles) north of Baghdad. >> NEWS Iraq is to ask the UN Security Council to renew the mandate governing the presence of US-led forces in the country for another year, said Hoshiyar Zebari, its foreign minister. Zebari said that despite differences between the US and Iraq over security, there was "no rift whatsoever" between the two over the ultimate goal of a democratic Iraq. "We believe still there is a need and the presence of the multinational force is indispensable for the security and stability of Iraq and of the region at the moment." "At the same time, the Iraqi government is ... willing to take more security responsibilities from these forces to do its part." UN Security Council resolution 1637, which mandates the US-led presence, expires on December 31. Tony Blair faced the possibility of a damaging defeat in parliament in a vote on whether he should order an inquiry into how Britain joined the war in Iraq. In a stormy debate ahead of the evening vote, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett defended the government's opposition to the move, saying it would signal uncertainty and endanger Britain's 7,000 troops in the war-torn country. (…) The call for an immediate investigation by a committee of senior MPs was proposed by the minority Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties, who used the debate to lash the US-led war as a "monumental catastrophe." >> REPORTS Arab Links: TRIBAL GROUP PLANS MOBILIZATION AGAINST FEDERALISM Something called the Central Council for Iraqi and Arab Tribes, headed by Ali al-Faris al-Dulaimi, and a related group called the Republican Gathering, described their current activities as the start of a nation-wide mobilization for national unity, and reported on the first two general meetings, the first for tribes in the area around Baghdad, and the second in Karbala, with participation of a lot of tribes in the Middle Euphrates district, stressing that in both cases the consensus was opposition to any form of federalism. The statement said those promoting federalism as a cover for their narrow interests will earn nothing but disappointment and loss, because the tribes of Iraq have prepared themselves for the sacrifices that will be necessary in the struggle for the preservation of the unity of Iraq, its honor, and its sovereignty. read in full… Arab Links: ONE US-COUP CANDIDATE TAKEN TO AMMAN FOR SAFEKEEPING As noted a couple of days ago, Azzaman reported on the weekend details of what Washington had in mind as a possible military government for Iraq, and one of the points was there could be nine to eleven military people involved. Today's Al-Quds al-Arabi (Tuesday October 31) tells what happened to one of these persons already, Muhammad Abdullah al-Shahwani, described as head of Iraqi intelligence. Citing sources close to Shahwani in London, the paper says US forces had to suddenly airlift him to Amman after learning of a plan to assassinate him, along with members of his group. The Americans told Shahwani to stay in Amman until further notice, and someone else has been appointed to replace him as head of Iraqi intelligence. This report says the supposed assassination plot was involved "armed militia tasked with the protection and escort of senior officials in the government and ministers, and the protection of their houses in the Green Zone". The journalist adds: Shahwani's name has been one of those repeatedly mentioned as one of the "American candidates for an role in the military government "which Washington is rumored to be planning to set up in Baghdad at the end of this year." The latter point about rumored timing is new. The Azzaman item cited above implied this might be a November 7 thing. read in full… BBC: LANCET AUTHOR ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS A recent report published in the medical journal The Lancet estimated that around 655,000 people have died in Iraq as a result of the 2003 invasion. This figure, which is far higher than those reported in Iraq, resulted in claims that the survey had been exaggerated. Les Roberts, one of the report's authors, answered some of your questions on the methodology and findings. How do you know that you are not reporting the same fatality multiple times? For example, if you were to ask people in the UK if they know anyone who has been involved in a traffic accident most would say they do. Applying your logic that means there are 60 million accidents every year. _Andrew M, London, UK To be recorded as a death in a household, the decedent had to have spent most of the nights during the three months before their death "sleeping under the same roof" with the household that was being interviewed. This may have made us undercount some, but addressed your main concern that no two households could claim the same death event. It seems The Lancet has been overrun by left-wing sixth formers. The report has a flawed methodology and the counting process shows signs of deceit. _Ian, Whitwick, UK This study was the standard approach for measuring mortality in times of war, it went through a rigorous peer-review process and it probably could have been accepted into any of the journals that cover war and public health. Can you explain, if your figures are correct, why 920 more people were dying each day than officially recorded by the Iraqi Ministry of Health - implying huge fraud and/or incompetence on their behalf? _Dan, Scotland It is really difficult to collect death information in a war zone! In 2002, in Katana Health Zone in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) there was a terrible meningitis outbreak where the zone was supported by the Belgian Government, with perhaps the best disease surveillance network in the entire country. A survey by the NGO International Rescue Committee showed that only 7% of those meningitis deaths were recorded by the clinics and hospitals and government officials. You and your colleagues claim to have used the same method to estimate deaths in Iraq as is used to estimate deaths in natural disasters. Is there any evidence that the method is accurate?_Rickard Loe, Stockholm, Sweden That is a good question. In 1999, again in Katana Health Zone in the Congo, I led a mortality survey where we walked a grid over the health zone and interviewed 41 clusters of five houses at 1km spacings. In that survey, we estimated that 1,600 children had died of measles in the preceding half year. A couple of weeks later we did a standard immunization coverage survey that asked about measles deaths and we found an identical result. Why is it so hard for people to believe The Lancet report? I am an Iraqi and can assure you that the figure given is nearer to the truth than any given before or since._S Kazwini, London, UK I think it is hard to accept these results for a couple of reasons. People do not see the bodies. Secondly, people feel that all those government officials and all those reporters must be detecting a big portion of the deaths. When in actuality during times of war, it is rare for even 20% to be detected. It seems to me that the timing of the publication of the 2004 and 2006 reports - in both cases shortly before a U.S. election - was a mistake. _Mik Ado, London, UK Both were unfortunate timing. As I said at the time of the first study, I lived in fear that our Iraqi colleagues and interviewers would be killed if we had finished a survey in mid-September and it took two months for the results to get out. I think in Iraq, a post-election publication in 2004 would have been seen as my colleagues knowing something but keeping it hidden. read in full… >> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS LOSING HOPE AND POWER IN IRAQ With the death toll among the U.S. military in Iraq for October hitting 100 and the American President's current approval ratings stuck below 40 per cent, the Bush administration, struggling to win the public support ahead of the country's mid-term congressional elections, seems re-thinking its Iraq war strategy. Also political experts say that the American President seems to have given up his alleged mission of bringing democracy to Iraq; instead he's looking for an honourable exit strategy. The Washington Post reported yesterday that October 2006 may be remembered as the month that "the U.S. experience in Iraq hit a tipping point, when the violence flared and shook both the military command in Iraq and the political establishment back in Washington". read in full... CATAPULTING THE PROPAGANDA WITH THE WASHINGTON POST The ever persipacious Angry Arab, As'ad AbuKhalil, plucks out the hidden (or not-so-hidden) propaganda in a passing phrase in an otherwise unremarkable Washington Post story about Syria. Let the good doctor tell it in his own words:
[From the WP]: "Horror at the bloodshed accompanying the U.S. effort to bring democracy to Iraq has accomplished what human rights activists, analysts and others say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been unable to do by himself: silence public demands for democratic reforms here." (Notice the casual language of the Washington Post. Notice how they insert propaganda lines into articles. "US effort to bring democracy in Iraq"? Are you kidding me? Does the writer of the article really believe that this was what it was about?)Here we see the falsity of the supposed "objectivity" fetish of the mainstream media laid bare. The fetish is entirely focused on the word "objectivity," never on its practice. There is nothing remotely objective about using "the U.S. effort to bring democracy to Iraq" as a standard descriptor of the war and occupation. It is not an any way a neutral reflection of reality. It simply parrots a Bush Administration propaganda point without question, without nuance. You can see what the reporter, Ellen Knickmeyer, is trying to do here, I suppose. The article deals with the collapse of reform movements in Syria because "advocates of democracy are equated now with supporters of America, even 'traitors,' said Maan Abdul Salam, 36, a Damascus publisher who has coordinated conferences on women's rights and similar topics...'The people are not believing these thoughts anymore. When the U.S. came to Iraq, it came in the name of democracy and freedom. But all we see are bodies, bodies, bodies.'" So Knickmeyer wants to set up an ironic contrast: the Americans say they're in Iraq to bring democracy to the Middle East, but the bloody quagmire they've created is having the opposite effect, which is a demonstrable, undeniable reality. She could have done this easily, while remaining well within the dogma of the "objectivity" word cult, simply by attributing the war motive of "bringing democracy" to the Bush Administration, rather than embracing it as an unquestioned fact. But to do that would mean breaking with the iron-clad conventional wisdom of Beltway journalism: the war in Iraq is yet another noble cause gone FUBAR because it "wasn't done right." (This is also the prevailing wisdom of much of the Democratic Party as well.) read in full... IRAQ'S DEFIANT BUT DOOMED DEMOCRACY The Bush administration is finding out the hard way that a democratic Iraq is not likely to be cowed or bullied into following the priorities of congressional elections that will be held on November 7 in the United States. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has started to act in the manner of a proud democratically elected leader who will do what is best for Iraq. President George W Bush wanted democracy in Iraq; now he is getting a taste of how the head of a democracy deals with another democracy, even when one of the parties is also an occupying force. (...) With regard to Maliki and the issue of a timetable for curbing violence, two points should be made. First, the primary audience of Khalilzad's comments at his briefing, along with the top commander of US forces in Iraq, General George Casey, was not Iraqis or anyone else in the Middle East. They were an attempt to reassure US voters, who are increasingly questioning Bush's Iraq policies. Second, the event was also an attempt to show that the administration is really on top of things, and this includes trying to stamp out Shi'ite militias, which are now being blamed for most of the sectarian violence. The US wanted to twist Maliki's arm into giving a timetable for this, as if this would resolve everything. Maliki was on to the American game. He used a nationally televised press conference of his own to publicize his agenda to Iraqis. Thus it seems two campaigns are in progress to win hearts and minds. While Khalilzad and Casey are attempting to influence Americans, Maliki has started his own campaign of defiance, which has a high probability of winning support from a majority of Iraqis. read in full... THE U.S. FEAR OF LOSING POWER WHICH IT DOESN'T HAVE So, it is not the U.S. administration that has failed [in Iraq]. It is those who presented the war as a noble project and sold it to the public as such have failed. The question is, where does the U.S. go from here? Will it fail? Will it withdraw from Iraq? Should the Western governments go into sobering reassessments and launch contingency plans for the consequences of a possible American failure in Iraq? The simple answer to these questions is that the United States is going nowhere. Despite the much publicized time tables for withdrawal, the U.S. will never leave Iraq. It will never admit defeat until it is removed from its imperial pedestal. So, will the Iraq war leave the United States in a position in which former Soviet Union found itself after its war in Afghanistan? The answer is no. Iraq is not capable of doing so, but the United States is. It can undermine itself. That will happen as a result of the next wars on the U.S. agenda. America's inability to learn from history is unlikely to be remedied by the humiliation of failure in Iraq, which is not considered as a failure in the myopic circles which are busy planning next wars. But if one simple lesson is too hard for Washington to grasp, perhaps the rest of the world can hold the following idea in mind and use it to restrain the United States from any future efforts to impose its ignorance on others. In a contest between foreign power and native resistance, foreign power - however much material and military strength it can wield - will always lose regardless of staying in the Urban center or outside in the deserts and mountains. Even in an era when a sense of racial superiority and colonial entitlement led Western nations to have few qualms about subjugating others, eventually native power based on native knowledge and determined resistance would reassert itself. Nowadays the reclamation of power asserts itself much more quickly but it always rises out of the same awareness: this is our land, not yours; it is our life and we must live our way of life. The tragedy is that American leadership, both democrat and republican, does not seem to be in a position to understand and recognize that vis-à-vis the world suffering under its de facto colonization, the United States does not now possess the power that it fears losing. This denial of the reality will keep pushing it into more wars regardless of who is in power in Washington. That will ensure the actual failure of the United States and total destruction in the rest of the world it is trying to conquer completely. FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER MELTS DOWN. TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY. And they call us deranged.
I hate the Democrats who, in support of this strategy, spout lie after lie: that the president knew in advance there were no WMD in Iraq; that he lied to Congress to gain its support for military action; that he pushed for the democratization of Iraq only after the failure to find WMD; that he was a unilateralist and that the coalition was a fraud; that he shunned diplomacy in favor of war.Jesus. Sombody give the little twerp a good smack. He's obviously suffering from Impending Electoral Smackdown Derangement Syndrome. link THE SUBJECT THAT REFUSES TO BE CHANGED From the Associated Press this morning:
The American death toll for October climbed past 100, a grim milestone reached as a top White House envoy turned up unexpectedly in Baghdad on Monday to smooth over a rough patch in U.S.-Iraqi ties. At least 80 people were killed across Iraq, 33 in a Sadr City bombing targeting workers. A member of the 89th Military Police Brigade was killed in east Baghdad Monday, and a Marine died in fighting in insurgent infested Anbar province the day before, raising to 101 the number of U.S. service members killed in a bloody October, the fourth deadliest month of the war. At least 2,814 American forces have died since the war began.And with that, another couple of million dollars in Republican negative ads over the weekend just went to waste. link "WELL, I WOULDN'T BE HAPPY" A friend of mine in Baghdad wrote to me a few days ago about a conversation he'd had with an elderly lady from West Virginia who was seated next to him on an airplane between Los Angeles and Washington earlier this year. The subject under discussion was how Iraqis generally view the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, and my friend was trying to find an analogy that would work for a sweet eighty-five-year-old grandmother who had never traveled anywhere beyond the USA in her life. He came up with this:
Imagine you are visiting with one of your daughters who is married to a man who is a bit of a brute. He beats the kids occasionally and has knocked her about from time to time as well. You don't like it, she doesn't like it, the kids don't like it, but at the end of the day he's Dad, he works hard, he provides, and no one's going to break up the family after all this time - besides, the monster's mellowing with age and hasn't hit anyone very hard in a long while. So there you all are, watching TV one night, the kids doing their homework or playing downstairs, your daughter preparing dinner in the kitchen, the son-in-law having his beer and reading the sports page....When all of a sudden, the front door is smashed open, there are loud explosions all around the house, and five men come crashing in through the windows on ropes, as another five pour through the broken door firing guns. One of the kids is killed, another staggers around covered in blood screaming, a third lies groaning somewhere nearby, then flames erupt from the kitchen as your daughter runs out, her body on fire, and you feel something smash into your knee breaking the leg. Before anyone can work out what's happening, there's another terrifying explosion above and the house rocks from side to side as the roof caves in and the whole structure collapses around you in rubble and dust. As you wipe the gravel and concrete from your face, you see that some of the intruders have handcuffed the son-in-law and are dragging him away at gunpoint. One of these gunmen then comes over and identifies himself as a representative of the Chinese Children's Aid Society of Beijing, saying they would have come sooner but they had trouble getting visas. They were here now, though, and your family was at last free of the brute and you could finally relax. Another gunman sweeps a bit of rubble to one side with a broom and apologizes for the mess, giving you the business card of a local contractor who also happens to be a friend of his brother and specializes in fixing houses reduced to rubble for a reasonable price. The men then say in a chorus, Have a nice day! They throw the brute into a van and are off leaving you sitting there alone in the dark with raindrops starting to pitter-patter on your head. How do you think you would you feel about all this? "Well, I wouldn't be happy," the old lady apparently replied. "And that's pretty much how we feel," said my friend.read in full... ARE RATS AIRLIFTED OFF A SINKING SHIP? The Republicans can't decide whether they should renovate him [Bush] or pull him down. They have to build another one anyway, but is it credible to hang him out to dry so soon? Should he seem to have a plan for Iraq? Should he actually have a plan? What happens when rats leave a sinking ship? Are they okay? How do they leave it anyway? On another ship? Or are they airlifted off? What's wrong with leaving a sinking ship? Doesn't it make sense to leave it? Is it only the rats that leave? Doesn't that make the rats the smart ones? Rats really get a bad rap, don't they? Hey, boys: Can we get some spin for rats? Yeah, 'Nature's Sanitary Engineers' --- I love it! read in full… IMPERIAL DEFAULT FOR DUMMIES (...) As for a Strongman [for Iraq], there is one available who would be perfect for the job - in fact his credentials are impeccable - but someone will have to unlock his jail cell before he can apply for the position. There is, however, a somewhat better solution to providing the opportunity for "redeployment" of US forces in Iraq under an aura of dignity, if not precisely victory. You can called it whatever you like, but a retreat is still a retreat. Leaders of the Sunni resistance have apparently tabled an offer that will not make anyone happy, but will make most of the people in the region less unhappy than they would be with any other solution. Put us back in charge, say the Sunni, and we guarantee to keep the country western-leaning, keep the oil deals in place, keep the Iranians out, and keep ourselves from killing all the Shia, whom we promise henceforth to treat equitably as full citizens of Iraq's democracy, a shining example to the Arab world. No one in Kerbala or Teheran is going to like this, of course, but the Saudis, Jordanians, Israelis, Syrians and Turks are going to breath a great sigh of relief to find anything implemented that prevents a Shia theocracy opening for business on their doorsteps. And there is wiggle room for Washington to call it a mission accomplished -- if they have to. The Sunnis also have a little-discussed yet very persuasive additional bargaining chip. Syria is supplying them with new hi-tech Russian rifles equipped with digital telescopic sighting devices that allow trained snipers to pick off coalition soldiers regardless of body armour from distances so great that any defense against them or detection of the assassins is impossible. They do not have many rifles or trained snipers yet, but they will be getting more, and Syria's only condition for supplying them is that the targets not be Muslims. Every day for some weeks now, two or three US soldiers have been shipped out in body bags with high-velocity bullet wounds to the neck or face. Sunni leaders have stated grimly yet realistically that these numbers will only increase -- along with all the other more low-tech horrors now wearyingly familiar to life as usual in hell. These men, it must also be remembered, are mainly ex-Republican Guard commanders, and their fighters are the highly-trained elite core of Saddam's old army, not some undisciplined rabble. Just as the Romans liked to portray zealot forces during the Jewish Wars as if they were roaming bands of disorganized brigands, the Americans have never wanted it known that their "Sunni insurgency" is really a legitimate and ongoing war of resistance by members of Iraq's former army, who are merely keeping the oath they once swore to defend their country. Knowing this explains why the resistance is so organized, sustained, well-trained and formidable, just as knowing the zealots were actually a highly-trained, disciplined and brilliantly commanded army explains how they managed at one point to drive out all Roman legions from Palestine and raise the Jewish flag over Jerusalem again. But in the world of electric communications, the victor may no longer be able to remain the one who gets to write the history. Things change. (...) From deals that were done by US commanders with Iraqi generals like Ahmed Hussein to betray Saddam and avoid a Stalingrad at the gates of Baghdad, Washington has long known that the actual plan for Saddam's defense of Iraq consisted of a guerrilla war to be fought during the occupation, not any Mother of All Battles that would have achieved nothing except a battlefield of martyrs and a paragraph in the histories of military disaster. For this purpose, secret caches of weapons, explosives and ammunition had been concealed all over the Sunni Triangle, the locations known only to a handful of generals. The pretence of an "insurgency" has only served to keep those poor grunts, the sons and daughters of American poverty, from the hideous urban ghettoes, hopeless tenements and deserted factories along the shores of the Great Lakes, and from the tarpaper shacks and moonshine stills in the rolling hills of Tennessee, from knowing the "violence is going to go on for a long time". (…) Whether it is eternal damnation they know they will face, or whether it is a knowledge of what it really means to destroy something so precious and unique it can never be replaced and the world will always mourn its absence, doesn't really matter. They know they have done the most terrible thing it is possible to do in life, and they are fully aware that the universe's immutable need for balance, for order to be restored, has now bound them to a karmic wheel of fire that will never again allow them to know peace or joy until that same awful deed is done to them. Ask anyone who has killed without cause how it really feels, because no Battleground America video game is going to let you know. read in full… >> BEYOND IRAQ Afghanistan: A roadside bomb killed two NATO soldiers and wounded two others on patrol in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, the alliance said. The roadside bomb struck the soldiers' vehicle in Nuristan province, NATO said. The two wounded soldiers were taken to a U.S. military facility in Asadabad in neighboring Kunar province. NATO did not release the nationalities of the soldiers, but U.S. troops are the primary NATO component in eastern Afghanistan. (update) More than 15,000 armed Pakistani tribesmen protested over a Pakistan Army helicopter attack on an al-Qaeda-linked religious school that killed around 80 suspected militants. Chants of "Down with America" and "Down with Musharraf" rang out as the tribesmen gathered in Khar, main town in the Bajaur tribal region close to the Afghan border, in anger at the air strike. "Our jihad (holy war) will continue and Inshallah (God willing), people will go to Afghanistan to oust American and British forces," Maulana Faqir Mohammad, a pro-Taliban cleric, told the crowd of turbaned tribals, many carrying Kalashnikovs and wearing bandoliers, and a few shouldering rocket launchers. While the government claimed the madrasa school at Chenagai was being used to train militants, protesters said the dead, mostly young men aged between 15 and 25, were merely students. NATO warplanes killed 12 insurgents in southern Afghanistan after spotting a group of rebels. The strike occurred in the southern province of Kandahar on Monday (October 30)
ISAF announced late on Monday its soldiers had killed 55 rebels in an intense battle in the neighbouring province of Zabul.HMM. THE PAKISTAN STORY CHANGES... Well, either ABC was wrong in their report this morning, or there's some major ass-covering going on here. Now the story is it was the Pakistani military that attacked the school this morning, not an American drone. The Pakistani military said today that it had destroyed a religious school used for training militants in the Bajur tribal area, which straddles the border with Afghanistan. The attack killed at least 80 people, the military said, describing them as militants. [...] Pakistani officials dismissed any suggestions that the United States was behind the attack. Tasnim Aslam, a spokesman for Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a news conference that the attack was not carried out under foreign pressure. Got that? We had nothing to do with it. Nothing. And even if we did, we'll deny it. Because Pakistan is a, you know, sovereign nation and all. link Robert Fisk: MYSTERY OF ISRAEL'S SECRET URANIUM BOMB Did Israel use a secret new uranium-based weapon in southern Lebanon this summer in the 34-day assault that cost more than 1,300 Lebanese lives, most of them civilians? We know that the Israelis used American "bunker-buster" bombs on Hizbollah's Beirut headquarters. We know that they drenched southern Lebanon with cluster bombs in the last 72 hours of the war, leaving tens of thousands of bomblets which are still killing Lebanese civilians every week. And we now know - after it first categorically denied using such munitions - that the Israeli army also used phosphorous bombs, weapons which are supposed to be restricted under the third protocol of the Geneva Conventions, which neither Israel nor the United States have signed. But scientific evidence gathered from at least two bomb craters in Khiam and At-Tiri, the scene of fierce fighting between Hizbollah guerrillas and Israeli troops last July and August, suggests that uranium-based munitions may now also be included in Israel's weapons inventory - and were used against targets in Lebanon. According to Dr Chris Busby, the British Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, two soil samples thrown up by Israeli heavy or guided bombs showed "elevated radiation signatures". Both have been forwarded for further examination to the Harwell laboratory in Oxfordshire for mass spectrometry - used by the Ministry of Defence - which has confirmed the concentration of uranium isotopes in the samples. read in full... THREE BILLION YEARS FROM AMOEBAS TO HOMELAND SECURITY
"The Department of Homeland Security would like to remind passengers that you may not take any liquids onto the plane. This includes ice cream, as the ice cream will melt and turn into a liquid."This was actually heard by one of my readers at the Atlanta Airport recently; he laughed out loud. He informs me that he didn't know what was more bizarre, that such an announcement was made or that he was the only person that he could see who reacted to its absurdity. This is the way it is with societies of people. Like with the proverbial frog who submits to being boiled to death in a pot of water if the water is heated very gradually, people submit to one heightened absurdity and indignation after another if they're subjected to them at a gradual enough rate. That's one of the most common threads one finds in the personal stories of Germans living in the Third Reich. This airport story is actually an example of an absurdity within an absurdity. Since the "bomb made from liquids and gels" story was foisted upon the public, several chemists and other experts have pointed out the technical near-impossibility of manufacturing such a bomb in a moving airplane, if for no other reason than the necessity of spending at least an hour or two in the airplane bathroom. read in full... PRESS FREEDOM AROUND THE WORLD In October 2006, Reporters Sans Frontiers (Reporters Without Borders or RSF) published their 2006 worldwide press freedom index. (…) there were a few surprising findings:
- The U.S. slipped down to just 53rd. In 2005, they ranked 44th, and in 2004, they ranked 22nd which were not good, anyway; - France also slipped (to 35th), from 30th, in the previous year; - U.K. ranked just 27th, down from 24th the previous year, and behind Benin, a small nation in Africa which the United Nations classifies as being one of the poorest nations in the world, Jamaica, and Namibia, other very poor countries; - Italy and Spain ranked just 40th and 41st, respectively (they were both only 42nd and 40th, respectively in 2005, and joint 39th the year before). - Japan slipped to as low as 51st1 Finland 0,50 — Iceland 0,50 — Ireland 0,50 — Netherlands 0,50 5 Czech Republic 0,75 6 Estonia 2,00 — Norway 2,00 8 Slovakia 2,50 — Switzerland 2,50 10 Portugal 3,00 — Hungary 3,00 — Latvia 3,00 — Slovenia 3,00 14 (…) Canada 4,50 19 (…) Germany 5,50 27 (…) United Kingdom 6,50 35 (…) Australia 9,00 — France 9,00 50 Israel 12,00 51 Japan 12,50 53 United States of America 13,00 119 United States of America (extra-territorial) 31,50 168 North Korea 109,00 read in full… QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I am now prime minister and overall commander of the armed forces, yet I cannot move a single company without coalition approval because of the U.N. mandate. If anyone is responsible for the poor security situation in Iraq, it is the coalition." -- Iraq Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki UN-QUOTE OF THE DAY: (No audible response.) -- transcript of the DoD News Briefing at the Pentagon, October 26, 2006 after Rumsfeld was asked "Are the people of Baghdad safer than they were six months ago?",
Monday, October 30, 2006
DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2006
PHOTO: An Iraqi man cries over his relative's body at Baghdad's al-Sadr hospital in Shiite enclave of Sadr City Monday, Oct. 30, 2006. A bomb tore through a collection of food stalls and kiosks Monday morning, killing at least 31 people and injuring more than 50 others. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) (Karim Kadim - AP)
Security Incidents for October 30, 2006
A bomb tore through food stalls and kiosks in a sprawling Shiite slum Monday, killing at least 31 people. The 6:15 a.m. explosion in Sadr City targeted poor Shiites who gather there each morning hoping to be hired as construction workers. At least 51 people were wounded, said police Maj. Hashim al-Yasiri.
On Monday, unknown gunmen killed Essam al-Rawi, head of the University Professor's Union and a senior member of the hardline Sunni group, the Association of Muslim Scholars. One of his bodyguards was also killed. At least 154 university professors have been killed since the March 2003 U.S. invasion, Education Ministry spokesman Basil al-Khatib said Monday.
Also in Baghdad five Iraqis were killed and 18 wounded when mortar shells inside a parked car exploded, witnesses said Monday. Witnesses told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the explosion took place in a commercial street in the Baiyagh district of south-west Baghdad.
A civilian was killed and five others wounded when a car bomb went off near a hospital in western Baghdad, the third car bombing on Monday, a Interior Ministry source said. A car parking near the Yarmouk Hospital detonated around 2:00 p. m. (1100 GMT), killing a civilian and wounding five others, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The British consulate in Basra will evacuate its heavily defended building in the next 24 hours over concerns for the safety of its staff. Despite a large British military presence at the headquarters in Basra Palace, a private security assessment has advised the consul general and her staff to leave the building after experiencing regular mortar attacks in the last two months.The move will be seen as a huge blow to progress in Iraq and has infuriated senior military commanders. They say it sends a message to the insurgents that they are winning the battle in pushing the British out of the southern Iraqi capital, where several British soldiers have died and dozens have been injured.
A roadside bomb killed three people traveling in a private security company convoy near Basra on Monday, police and the British military reported. Following the blast, the convoy came under heavy attack from gunmen and an Iraqi girl was killed in the ensuing gunbattle, said Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a spokesman for British forces in Basra, the southern city that is headquarters for Britain's 7,200 soldiers in Iraq. Burbridge said no British or other international troops took part in the fighting, but said British forces who set up a security cordon around the disabled vehicle were struck by stones and bricks thrown by local children.
A suicide bomber has detonated a bomb belt outside a police station in the northern Iraqi town of Kirkuk, killing two officers and a child and wounding 11 more people. Brigadier General Torhan Yusuf told AFP that five of the wounded were police officers, who were hurt when the bomber hit the main police headquaters in this divided and restive northern city, a hub of Iraq's oil industry. "The child was the son of one of our cleaners," he said Monday.
Al Anbar Prv:
Elsewhere Monday six Iraqi policemen were killed by a car bomb on the Syrian border, reported Iraqi official television. The explosion took place near the Waleed compound on the Syrian border, 550 kilometres west of Baghdad.
A suicide car bomber hit an Iraqi army checkpoint at a border pass near Syria, killing four soldiers and wounding one. An hour earlier, another suicide bomber attacked the same checkpoint, causing no casualties, army Colonel Nuri Hiyad al-Esawi said.
NOTE: A BIG THANKS TO WHISKER FOR PUTTING TOGETHER THE SECURITY INCIDENTS IN IRAQ AND FORWARDING THEM TO ME.
REPORTS – Everyday Life in Iraq Today
AUDIO: Shi’ite Neighborhood Disrupted by Search for US Soldier Residents of Sadr City, a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, complain they are under siege. The U.S. military has installed roadblocks in the area as part of their search for a missing U.S. Soldier. [They said that Iraqi TV filmed Iraqis protesting the road blocks in this area, and I could clearly hear that they were chanting “Saddam” and some other things. – dancewater]
American military police backed by Iraqi troops maintained their cordon of Baghdad's Sadr City on Sunday, manning barricades and checkpoints in and around the Shiite slum in an operation to find a kidnapped U.S. soldier and to capture the man considered Iraq's most notorious death squad leader. The soldier, an Iraqi American translator whose name has not been released, has been missing for six days. He was abducted by armed men while making an unauthorized visit to see relatives in the Karrada neighborhood of central Baghdad last Monday. U.S. forces have effectively sealed off Sadr City and its 2.5 million residents from the rest of Baghdad, and within Sadr City, they have isolated the neighborhood around the home of alleged death squad leader Abu Deraa, according to an Iraqi Interior Ministry official who would not be named because he was not authorized to release the information. U.S. officials have refused to comment on whether they believe that Abu Deraa is holding the missing soldier, and it was unclear whether the two goals of the U.S. operation -- finding the soldier and capturing Abu Deraa -- are related.
Hundreds of residents of Baghdad's Sadr City demonstrated on Sunday against what they branded the siege of their notorious district by US forces searching for a kidnapped comrade. American troops set up a cordon around Sadr City, a huge slum and a bastion of Shia militia fighters, after one of their number was abducted by gunmen in another city district on Monday night. Traffic into and out of the area has been delayed by searches and US forces have made two incursions into the flashpoint suburb, at one point clashing with militants and calling in an air strike that left four civilians dead. "No, no to America! No, no, to Israel! Yes, yes to Islam! Yes, yes to unity!" ran the chant as more than 2,000 flag-waving protesters marched through the area from the office of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's movement. Sadr City is a stronghold of Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and, while no weapons were openly on display, black-uniformed cadres from its political wing the Office of the Martyr Sadr policed the march and searched participants. "The reason for this demonstration is to lift the siege on this city, this bleeding city, this city that was oppressed under Saddam and is now oppressed under the Americans," said Sheikh Rahim al-Alak, a Sadr supporter. "We demand that the siege be lifted immediately. If it's not lifted in the next few days, we'll declare a general strike. We'll shut down the ministries," he declared, complaining about the nightly roar of US jets and helicopters. Alak was dismissive of talk of the kidnapped US soldier. "This story is a lie and, if he was really kidnapped, it happened in Karrada, not here. We're a peaceful city," he said. A local cleric, Haider al-Saedi, complained: "For several days the city has been under siege because of the alleged kidnapping. We can't move around. When we want to get someone sick or injured to the hospital we can't get out." US commanders have said that they had intelligence information that the missing soldier was held in a Sadr City mosque, where they arrested three suspects earlier this week after a gunbattle left 10 activists dead. They have yet to find the captive-an American of Iraqi descent who left his base to see a secret Iraqi wife in the city-but say that the cordon around Sadr City may have contributed to a city-wide fall in violence.
Private security firms operating in Iraq are committing human rights abuses, a charity has claimed. A report by War on Want says no prosecutions have been brought despite hundreds of complaints of abuse. And the charity is calling on the government to introduce legislation to ban private security in war zones. Lt Col Tim Spicer, whose Aegis security firm operates in Iraq, said they worked under "very strict rules" and could be prosecuted if they did anything wrong. War on Want claims UK ministers are increasingly using private security firms with a total of 48,000 employees in Iraq - six to every British soldier. John Hilary, the group's campaigns and policy director, said the Iraq war "has allowed British mercenaries to reap huge profits". "But the government has failed to enact laws to punish their human rights abuses, including firing on Iraqi civilians. "How can Tony Blair hope to restore peace and security in Iraq while allowing mercenary armies to operate completely outside the law? "We call on the government to introduce tough legislation as a matter of urgency to ban the use of mercenaries in these conflict situations." The report is published on the opening day of the first annual conference of the British Association of Private Security Companies in London. Earlier this year the US army launched an inquiry after a video posted on the internet showed an Aegis Defence Services contractor firing at civilian cars in Iraq. But it said no charges should follow and an investigation by Aegis found that the incident was within the rules on the use of force by civilian personnel. [Seems like the more accurate term would be "killing Iraqis" rather than "abusing Iraqis". - dancewater]
REPORTS – Iraqi Politicians and Power Brokers and Militias
The Iraqi government must move quickly to prosecute all Ministry of Interior personnel responsible for "death squad" killings in Baghdad and elsewhere, the New-York based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Saturday. "Evidence suggests that Iraqi security forces are involved in these horrific crimes, and thus far the government has not held them accountable," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW's Middle East division. "The Iraqi government must stop giving protection to security forces responsible for abduction, torture and murder." Sectarian violence between the majority Shi'ite Muslims and Sunni Muslims in Iraq has been steadily escalating since a revered Shi'ite shrine was bombed in the northern city of Samarra in February. Since then, local and international sources say thousands of ordinary Iraqis have been killed and the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) says some 365,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the Iraqi interior ministry's spokesman, said that the ministry and the Supreme Judicial Council have begun investigating all officers and employees suspected of collaborating in the ongoing sectarian violence. "Those who committed crimes will be punished 100 percent and the ministry will not hesitate to punish anyone for any wrongdoing he did," Khalaf told IRIN. Khalaf said that as part of the interior ministry's restructuring plan, which started in October, 3,000 policemen were fired on corruption or rights abuses charges. A total of 600 of the 3,000 personnel fired will face prosecution, according to Khalaf. Khalaf added that the Shi'ite-dominated ministry also sacked two officers in charge of commando units that have been accused by Sunnis of running death squads that kill Sunnis. On 15 October, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim, pledged in a nationally televised address to crack down on militias. "The state and the militias cannot coexist. Arms can only be in the hands of the government and no one has the right to be above the law," al-Maliki said. However, analysts say that government rhetoric is not being matched by action. "He [al-Maliki] has issued repeated statements against illegal armed groups, but he is not able to take any concerted action against these militias because of their political weight in his government," said Emad al-Janabi, a Baghdad-based political sciences professor at the University of Mosul.
A delegation of Iraq lawmakers met with a newly formed group of Iraqi political activists in the Jordanian capital on Monday and agreed to hold a national reconciliation conference next month, a leader of the advocacy group said. The conference will take place on Nov. 15 in Baghdad under the auspices of the Iraqi prime minister, said Hassan al-Bazzaz, the secretary general of the Patriotic and National Forces Movement opposition group. The movement was formed by both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and includes Iraqi politicians, former military officers, former leaders of Saddam's Baath party, intellectuals and tribal chiefs representing most of Iraq's ethnic and religious factions. Created in Amman in August, it is headed by prominent tribal leader Hamid al-Gaoud of Anbar province _ where many insurgents are based _ and aims at helping maintain Iraq's unity and ending the bloodshed. Its leader has denounced the U.S.-led occupation and called for the "liberation of Iraq." However, al-Gaoud also said in August the movement was willing to establish ties with the United States, Britain, Europe and Arab countries based on "mutual understanding and peaceful means." The group held two-day talks that ended Monday at Iraq's embassy in Jordan with a government delegation, which was headed by lawmaker Saleh al-Fayadh, said al-Bazzaz, a professor of political sciences at Baghdad's university. The reconciliation conference was initiated by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss a 24-point plan to heal the nation's severe political wounds. Al-Bazzaz said his group, called Heqooq _or "rights"_ in Arabic, supported the prime minister's initiative and sensed that the Iraqi government had "true intentions of reconciliation."
REPORTS – US/UK in Iraq
President George W. Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley has arrived in Baghdad for talks with the Iraqi government, a U.S. embassy spokesman said on Monday. The spokesman gave no further details.
The British consulate in Basra will evacuate its heavily defended building in the next 24 hours over concerns for the safety of its staff. Despite a large British military presence at the headquarters in Basra Palace, a private security assessment has advised the consul general and her staff to leave the building after experiencing regular mortar attacks in the last two months. The move will be seen as a huge blow to progress in Iraq and has infuriated senior military commanders. They say it sends a message to the insurgents that they are winning the battle in pushing the British out of the southern Iraqi capital, where several British soldiers have died and dozens have been injured. The evacuation also comes halfway through Operation Sinbad, which has experienced some success in restoring control in Basra. The operation ends early next year but Basra will need massive investment by the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development to build on its successes. Without the British officials' presence the stability of the city's fragile economy and political infrastructure could unravel, paving the way for Iranian-influenced militias to take control. There are about 200 staff at the impressive consulate building - formerly one of Saddam's palaces - including a team of bodyguards and ex-Gurkha guards. There were 12 full-time staff, some hand-picked by Tony Blair. A handful have already left by helicopter and the rest are expected to go this week, some of them to Basra air station eight miles outside the city and the rest back to Britain. A skeleton staff will continue to man the building until it is deemed safe enough for the rest to return. A Foreign Office spokesman insisted last night that its officials were "not bailing out". "This is a temporary measure as a response to increased mortar attacks," the spokesman said. "Core staff will remain at Basra Palace and the consulate will continue to maintain a full range of activities."
Thousands of weapons the United States has provided Iraqi security forces cannot be accounted for and spare parts and repair manuals are unavailable for many others, a new report to Congress says. The report, prepared at the request of the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., also found that major challenges remain that put at risk the Defense Department's goal of strengthening Iraqi security forces by transferring all logistics operations to the defense ministry by the end of 2007. A spokesman for Warner said the senator read the report over the weekend in preparation for a meeting Tuesday with Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Warner, who requested the report in May, "believes it is essential that Congress and the American people continue to be kept informed by the inspector general on the equipping and logistical capabilities of the Iraqi army and security forces, since these represent an important component of overall readiness," said Warner spokesman John Ullyot. The inspector general's office released its report Sunday in a series of three audits finding that nearly one of every 25 weapons the military bought for Iraqi security forces is missing. Many others cannot be repaired because parts or technical manuals are lacking.
US policy in Iraq is not working and George W Bush should consider radical changes, according to a panel of advisors trying to find politically face-saving ways for Bush to slowly extract the United States from war. The panel of "wise men" includes James Baker, the old Texan Republican with a network that stretches all the way from the West Sahara to Azerbaijan. He represents, via the Carlyle Group, the most pragmatic, "commercial" exit options from this failed neo-con adventure. On the ground, the pace of events on the resistance and political fronts is ever accelerating. It all echoes events of 40 years ago. In late-July 1965 President Lyndon B Johnson consulted with advisors on the future of American forces in Vietnam. He was informed that the situation was worse than a year before. The South Vietnamese were failing to make progress and the North Vietnamese refused to negotiate on his terms. The idea of dispatching more troops depressed him. One advisor, Undersecretary of State George Ball, was against the idea of escalating the war. He told Johnson that: "There is no assurance that we can achieve our objectives by expanding US forces in South Vietnam." Ball believed that it was the last chance for the US to leave Vietnam. Johnson knew it was the right advice to follow, but he chose to stay the course. It took the US another 10 years to withdraw its soldiers from Vietnam. Three million Vietnamese were killed, 15 million were displaced, over one million persons had to flee the country, infrastructure was destroyed and 58,000 Americans killed, and far more injured.
The same is happening in occupied Iraq now.
With the carnage going on in Iraq, together with Bush, Blair, Maliki and their propaganda machine, IBC’s Sloboda is arguing methodology, when the scientific world in this field is unanimously supporting the Lancet study. Why has IBC decided to be so active to discredit this Lancet study that the scientific world unanimously supports? What does this have to do with counting the Iraqi deaths reported by the English language media? American historian and activist Howard Zinn titled his bio “You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train”. The Lancet study is a train bringing us 655,000 bodies of Iraqis slaughtered with our money and in our name by people we have elected to power. And that train is still running.
STOP FUNDING THE WAR: Progressive Democrats of America is committed to cutting off all funding for deployment of US troops in Iraq and for the removal of all funding for the occupation of Iraq. The PDA will be collecting 100,000 signatures over the upcoming weeks so Rep. McGovern may deliver them personally to House and Senate leaders shortly after the November 2006 election.
PEACE ACTION: Take the voters’ peace pledge. "I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign.”
SUPPLEMENT TO POST FOR MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2006
Peak: U.S. military deaths in Iraq climbed to 100 on Monday, making October the deadliest month for American troops in a year as militias and al Qaeda stage fierce battles in Baghdad and elsewhere.
Violence had been blamed on the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when attacks generally rise, and on increased patrols in tense areas. The Pentagon also said insurgents are stepping up attacks to influence U.S. elections in November, but a spokesman said he had not seen intelligence to confirm that.
The Salvador Option: Iraq's savage sectarian war is now regarded as a greater obstacle to any semblance of peace returning than the insurgency, and was the main reason for the Americans recently pouring 12,000 troops into the capital - an operation that, they now acknowledge, has failed.
Yet, ironically, the death squads are the result of US policy. At the beginning of last year, with no end to the Sunni insurgency in sight, the Pentagon was reported to have decided to train Shia and Kurdish fighters to carry out "irregular missions". The policy, exposed in the US media, was called the "Salvador Option" after the American-backed counter-insurgency in Latin America more than 20 years ago, which led to 70,000 deaths and countless instances of human rights abuse.
Some of the most persistent allegations of abuse have been made against the Wolf Brigade, many of whom were formerly in Saddam's Baathist forces. Their main US adviser until April last year was James Steele, who, in his own biography, states that he commanded the US military group in El Salvador during the height of the guerrilla war and was involved in counter-insurgency training.
Kidnapping: As if the atrocities committed by terrorists and sectarian death squads in Iraq weren't bad enough, kidnapping has become one of the country's most common forms of crime since the fall of Saddam Hussein. U.S. officials say that up to 40 people are kidnapped every day, a phenomenon highlighted last week when a U.S. soldier in Baghdad went missing, an apparent abduction victim. With ransoms ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than a million and with the police often unwilling or unable to even register such cases, officials say kidnapping has become an increasingly lucrative business. It helps the kidnappers that their criminal activity is often confused with the routine hostage taking by both sides in the Shi'ite-Sunni civil war. "Kidnapping for ransom is an industry," says Dan O'Shea, former coordinator of the U.S. embassy's Hostage Working Group. "It is governed by the profit motive, not religion or race or politics."
Resignation threatened: Political tension deepened in Baghdad when Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country's highest-ranking Sunni politician, threatened to resign if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not act quickly to eradicate two feared Shiite militias.
Al-Maliki, a Shiite, depends heavily on the backing of the two Shiite political parties that run the militias and has resisted American pressure to eradicate the private armies — the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Badr Brigade, the military wing of Iraq's biggest Shiite political bloc, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Shiite gunmen, especially those of the Mahdi Army, are deeply involved in the sectarian killings that have brutalized Baghdad and central Iraq for months.
Mandate extension: Iraq plans to ask the United Nations Security Council to extend the mandate governing the presence of U.S.-led forces in Iraq for another year, Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Monday.
He said a continued foreign troop presence under the mandate, which expires on Dec. 31, remained "indispensable" for Iraq's security despite the government's desire to expedite the training of its own security forces.
Hadley trip: President George W. Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley took an unannounced trip to Baghdad for talks with leaders of the Iraqi government and U.S. military to assess the situation on the ground on Monday, as the American death toll climbed to 100 for October.
Hadley met with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki following strains between his Shi'ite-led government and U.S. officials over political and security steps intended to restore stability to Iraq and allow U.S. troops to withdraw.
Life In The Civil War
Dancing as an act of courage: The members of the national dance troupe of Iraq are performers without an audience. They rehearse daily, but hardly ever put on a show.
Yet each turn of the hip and dip at the waist in their choreographed pieces has become weighted with a dangerous new reality, even as they wait for the chaos around them to subside so they can perform again. In today’s Iraq, with conservative religious parties and radical militias exerting growing influence over every aspect of life, even dancing is an act of bravery.
“Society is overwhelmed by these religious ideologies,” said Tariq Ibrahim, a male dancer in the Baghdad troupe, the Iraqi National Folklore Group. “Now a woman on the street without a head scarf attracts attention. What about a woman onstage dancing?”
Together they are a band of 10 women and 15 men from varied religious backgrounds. Once they toured the world together. Today they are simply trying to survive, hoping one day to thrive again as a troupe. But the religiosity sweeping Iraq does not bode well for their future.
Blair troubles: Tony Blair faces a humiliating blow to his Iraq policy after the Tories threatened to withdraw their support in the first Commons vote on the issue since the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
On Tuesday the Scottish Nationalist Party is to lead a debate on the crisis. MPs will vote on a motion calling for senior MPs to lead an inquiry into all aspects of the run-up to the war in Iraq and the handling of the conflict, including the aftermath and occupation.
Some 33 Labour MPs have already put their name to an identical motion tabled last November, and if they support it on Tuesday they will reduce Blair's 67-seat majority to a single vote at a stroke.
Lipstick, meet pig: Bush and Maliki…agreed to create a top-level committee to come up with recommendations for speeding up the training of Iraq's security forces, moving ahead on efforts to put Iraq in control of those forces, and making the Iraqi government responsible for the country's security. Maliki's spokesman, Ali Dabbagh, said the recommendations would include timelines.
The proposed commission, which is to include Iraqi government ministers, U.S. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, will be at least the second high-level U.S.-Iraqi commission established here since the summer of 2005 to try to speed up Iraq's takeover of security and the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Since formation of the first panel, sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shiites has exploded, taking Iraqi civilian casualties this summer to the highest level of the war and helping to push American combat deaths this month to their third-highest figure since U.S. troops entered Iraq in March 2003.
For the Bush administration, Saturday's accord gave hope of closing an embarrassing rift that broke open just as Bush was trying to show that his much-criticized Iraq policy was adapting to the increasing violence. Congressional elections, just 10 days away, are focused heavily on the unpopular 3 1/2 -year-old war.
Cole interview: TIME.com: The U.S. is demanding that Prime Minister al-Maliki tackle sectarian militias, but Prime Minister al-Maliki is pushing back against deadlines and castigating the U.S. for military operations against some of those militias. Are Washington and Maliki on a collision course?
Juan Cole: Maliki is protecting himself by being feisty, showing Iraqis that he is not taking orders from Washington. But he also has a serious policy dispute with the U.S., and a sense of betrayal. They promised him, last summer when they launched the major security offensive to retake Baghdad, that the U.S. would take care of Sunni guerrilla movement in Baghdad before moving against Mahdi Army [the Shi'ite militia of Moqtada al-Sadr, whose stronghold is in Baghdad]. That way, Maliki could to go to the Shi'ite elders in Baghdad and say, you are safe, you no longer need militias and they are a source of discord, so they must be disbanded. But the Americans failed to dislodge the Sunni insurgents, and then they go after the Mahdi army anyway — and that enrages Maliki because it weakens his government in such a way that it could fall.
So Maliki's outrage over attacks on the Mahdi Army are not a matter of principle; it's about the fact that the U.S. hasn't first done what it said it would do, which was to eliminate the threat of the Sunni insurgents in Baghdad. The reason Shi'ite communities believe they need militias is to protect them from the Sunni guerrillas, which they say the government and the U.S. are not doing. And Maliki can't go and tell them to get rid of their militias while they remain vulnerable to attack by Sunni guerrillas.
Flailing: As congressional Republicans peeled away from the president, the White House grew more isolated. Debate over a National Intelligence Estimate's conclusion that Iraq had become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists and several books critical of the administration's handling of the war kept interfering with the White House message.
Democrats, once deeply divided over the war, coalesced around the idea of a phased withdrawal and aired television ads on Iraq in most of the competitive races around the country. Republican candidates, on the other hand, started ignoring Karl Rove's advice to talk about the war. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) told an interviewer that "the challenge is to get Americans to focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issue."
Other conservatives grew more skeptical that there is anything the United States can now do to fix Iraq. "I don't know what the new course would be," said Richard N. Perle, former head of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and an early supporter of the war. "The options are extremely limited now. The new course that's necessary is new Iraqi leadership."
The last full week of October underscored the fitful attempts by the White House to get on top of the situation. U.S. officials announced plans for benchmarks for Iraqis to assume more security duties, but Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said his government had not agreed to any deadlines. Bush called his second news conference in as many weeks to assure the American public that he is "not satisfied" with the way things are going, while still asserting that "absolutely, we're winning."
Rumor: MARK SHIELDS: The highest ranking or certainly one of the highest ranking men in the United States military today has recommended that we remove all troops from Baghdad, all American troops from Baghdad.
JIM LEHRER: Who's this?
MARK SHIELDS: I cannot tell you.
JIM LEHRER: Move all of the troops?
MARK SHIELDS: All of the troops out of Baghdad, secure the road to the airport, secure the oil fields and the borders, and say that the pacification and the maintaining of order in Baghdad is the responsibility of the Iraqis. That is the recommendation of probably one of the most -- probably the most respected man in uniform today.
JIM LEHRER: You mean in uniform, serving on active duty today?
MARK SHIELDS: That's right.
JIM LEHRER: So who did he make this recommendation to?
MARK SHIELDS: He made it to the civilian leadership of the United States.
Sharing responsibility: Senior and mid-level officers — all of whom either fought in Iraq or were involved in operations there, and none of whom were willing to be identified by name — are beginning to assert privately that Abizaid and other top generals must inevitably share responsibility for the setbacks in Iraq. Many of those officers have lost men on the battlefield in Iraq and saw their requests for more troops go unheeded. Others worked in positions where they saw the planning for Iraq or the execution of the war go wrong. "Iraq will go down as the greatest military and strategic blunder since Vietnam," says a former officer who dealt with Iraq planning. "And no one has ever been held accountable — including senior military leaders."
In a culture that values accountability and leadership, the military has been slow to look inward on Iraq. The fact that no senior officer has admitted to any serious mistakes, or been reprimanded or sidelined for tactical, operational or strategic errors, is troubling to many officers. In contrast, they point to the example of Israel, which had barely withdrawn all its troops from southern Lebanon before it launched investigations into the conduct of the war against Hizballah.
There have been previous suggestions of military missteps. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice touched a nerve in April when she said the U.S. had made "thousands of tactical errors" in Iraq. But many officers dismissed her comments as coming from a civilian politician. Others have criticized the military leaders for failing to dispute the flawed war plan set in motion by the President and his top advisers. "Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon's military leaders is quite another," former Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold wrote in TIME last spring. "Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard."
The Incompetence Is Staggering
Lost weapons: The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded.
… The American military did not even take the elementary step of recording the serial numbers of nearly half a million weapons provided to Iraqis, the inspector general found, making it impossible to track or identify any that might be in the wrong hands.
Exactly where untracked weapons could end up — and whether some have been used against American soldiers — were not examined in the report, although black-market arms dealers thrive on the streets of Baghdad, and official Iraq Army and police uniforms can easily be purchased as well, presumably because government shipments are intercepted or otherwise corrupted.
…The inspector general’s office, led by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., also a Republican, responded to Mr. Warner’s query about the Iraqi Army’s logistical capabilities with another report released at the same time, concluding that Iraqi security forces still depended heavily on the Americans for the operations that sustain a modern army: deliveries of fuel and ammunition, troop transport, health care and maintenance.
Mr. Bowen found that the American military was not able to say how many Iraqi logistics personnel it had trained — in this case because, the military told the inspector general, a computer network crash erased records. Those problems have occurred even though the United States has spent $133 million on the weapons program and $666 million on Iraqi logistics capabilities.
No support for vets: For America's veterans, plus the thousands of soldiers now returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the investigation identified three points where cases often go wrong: the selection of a special representative called a veterans service officer, the review by a regional VA office and the filing of an appeal.
Among Knight Ridder's findings:
* Many of the VA-accredited experts who help veterans with their cases receive minimal training and are rarely tested to ensure their competence. These veterans service officers work for nonprofit organizations such as the American Legion, as well as states and counties, but their quality is uneven, and that often means the difference between a successful claim and a botched one.
* The VA's network of 57 regional offices produces wildly inconsistent results, which means that a veteran in St. Paul, Minn., for example, is likely to receive different treatment and more generous disability checks than one from Detroit.
* Veterans face lengthy delays if they appeal the VA's decisions. The average wait is nearly three years, and many veterans wait 10 years for a final ruling. In the past decade, several thousand veterans died before their cases were resolved, according to an analysis of VA data.
The New American Values
Official lies: A U.S. military propaganda program used in the Iraq war was legal under the rules for psychological operations, a Pentagon investigation has concluded.
A classified Defense Department inspector general's report said regulations were followed when the military paid to have favorable stories about coalition forces planted in Iraqi newspapers, according to the unclassified executive summary obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
"Psychological operations are a central part of information operations and contribute to achieving the ... commander's objectives," the summary said. They are aimed at conveying "selected, truthful information to foreign audiences to influence their emotions ... reasoning, and ultimately, the behavior of governments" and other entities, it said.
It faulted only one contract, saying the military hadn't maintained required documentation.
Death of due process: In a jail cell at an immigration detention center in Arizona sits a man who is not charged with a crime, not suspected of a crime, not considered a danger to society.
But he has been in custody for five years.
His name is Ali Partovi. According to the Homeland Security Department, he is the last to be held of about 1,200 Arab and Muslim men swept up by authorities in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
There has been no full accounting of these individuals. Nor has a promised federal policy to protect against unrestricted sweeps been produced.
Human rights groups tried to track the detainees; members of Congress denounced the arrests. They all believed that those who had been arrested had been deported, released or processed through the criminal justice system.
Just this summer, it was reported that an Algerian man, Benemar "Ben" Benatta, was the last detainee, and his transfer to Canada had closed the book on the post-9/11 sweeps.
But The Associated Press has learned that at least one person — Partovi — is still being held. The Department of Homeland Security, which enforces immigration law, insists he really is the last one in custody.
Treaty violations: Washington's new anti-terrorism law could end up violating international treaties protecting detainees, with some provisions denying suspects the right to a fair trial, a key UN rights expert said today. Martin Scheinin, the United Nations' expert on protecting human rights in the fight against terrorism, said the Military Commissions Act signed into law earlier this month by US President George Bush contains provisions "incompatible" with US obligations to adhere to treaties on human rights and humanitarian law.
Life as a rendition star: The Marriott Son Antem was not the only luxury hotel in Palma frequented by CIA agents. The rendition crews also liked to stop off at the Gran Melia Victoria, a five-star hotel in the centre of the Majorcan capital. On one occasion, they ordered three bottles of fine Spanish wine, and five crystal glasses from Mallorcair, one of the plane's ground handling agents - refreshments for the flight home, all charged to the CIA's bill.
Agents displayed a similar taste for luxury in Milan where Italian prosecutors accuse the CIA of involvement in the seizure and rendering of Abu Omar, a radical Egyptian cleric, to Cairo in 2003. Italian investigators found the CIA agents spent nearly $150,000 (£80,000) on accommodation. Two spent nearly $18,000 during a three-week stay at Milan's Savoy hotel.
Suskind interview: SPIEGEL ONLINE: With all your access to high-level sources, have you come across anyone who still thinks it is a good idea for the US to torture people?
Suskind: No. Most of the folks involved say that we made mistakes at the start. The president wants to keep all options open because he never wants his hands tied in any fashion, as he says, because he doesn't know what's ahead. But those involved in the interrogation protocol, I think are more or less in concert in saying that, in our panic in the early days, we made some mistakes.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Because they could have gotten information through normal interrogations ...
Suskind: ... yes, and without paying this terrific price, namely: America's moral standing. We poured plenteous gasoline on the fires of jihadist recruitment.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the average interrogator at a Black Site understands more about the mistakes made than the president?
Suskind: The president understands more about the mistakes than he lets on. He knows what the most-skilled interrogators know too. He gets briefed, and he was deeply involved in this process from the beginning. The president loves to talk to operators.
The Idiots Who Lead Us
Bestest thing: STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me just ask one more question on this. Your own senators, I said Mike DeWine, thinks Rumsfeld has to go. Do you agree?
BOEHNER: I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best thing that’s happened to the Pentagon in 25 years. This Pentagon and our military needs a transformation and I think Donald Rumsfeld is the only man in America who knows where the bodies are buried at the Pentagon, has enough experience to help transform that institution. Let’s not take the problems in Iraq, the tough fight that we’re in there and blame it on anyone. We’re in a tough fight. Al Qaeda is doing everything they can to disrupt our efforts in Iraq, to disrupt the new government, creating more violence than anyone can imagine and defeating al Qaeda there is important, because if we were to pull out before we win, we will embolden every terrorist in every corner of the world and then instead of fighting them in Iraq, we’ll be fighting them on every street in America.
A key section of this memo offers the Bush administration’s strategy for “Public Diplomacy to Counter Insurgency in Iraq.” Far from “thinking bigger,” the recommendations for defeating the insurgency are small-minded, unambitious, and disconnected from reality. Here are Hughes’ three ideas:
– Substantially expand…[the] “Micro scholarship” program…targeted at youth in key disadvantaged areas in Iraq, such as Sadr City or Anbar Governorate.”
– Create a fund to support media projects by Iraqis, such as documentaries, short films, animation, audio-visual productions and other material that would show Iraq’s reality to pan-Arab and pan-Islamic audiences.
– Revive book publishing in Iraq to fill the intellectual vacuum…and support…Iraq’s hard-pressed intellectuals.
See the full memo HERE.
Reality: Even if Democrats win control of Congress in elections next week, an immediate change of course in Iraq policy is unlikely, the party's chairman said on Sunday.
Countering Republican campaign charges that Democrats would "cut and run" from Iraq, chairman Howard Dean said the party did not believe there should be a sudden pullout of all U.S. troops.
"The president will still be in charge of foreign policy and the military ... I don't imagine we're going to be able to force the president to reverse his course," he told the CBS "Face the Nation" program.
"But we will put some pressure on him to have some benchmarks, some timetables and a real plan other than stay the course," he added.
Dr. Sayyar Al Jamil: The numbers published by The Lancet are staggering, and should galvanize all of those who wish to see Iraq survive. To stand in silence is to ignore those who day and night are being killed like flies. A colleague of mine has written that the number of Iraqis killed in this savage war is now multiple times more than the number of Japanese killed at the end of World War II in the nuclear bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The entire world sympathized with the Japanese, but today, few care about the fate of the Iraqis. Even if President George Bush doubts the credibility of the numbers, they didn't appear out of the void. The report was produced by a team that willingly risked their collective lives to go into neighborhoods across Iraq to question thousands of families.
I can say that many of those killed every day are never disclosed. The innocent Iraqi people falling like leaves from trees are human beings, not a herd of beasts! There is nothing but silence from the Arabs, and a total Islamic political and media blackout! Trapped under an oppressive occupation with sectarian parties, a weak government, murderous gangs and covert death squads, Iraqis have no one to turn to. I appeal to all people of conscience, whether in or out of the country, to stand up against what is happening to Iraqis.
Linda McQuaig: Much has changed in the way the mainstream media deal with the war in Iraq. Most commentators now acknowledge the war is a disaster and will hurt the Republicans badly in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections.
But one thing hasn't changed — the willingness to believe that the motives for war, however misguided, were basically honourable.
So the criticism centres instead on the Bush administration's inept handling of the war.
Canada's own Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leadership front-runner, tries to slough off his former enthusiastic support for the war by now saying he hadn't "anticipated how incompetent the Americans would be."
But incompetence is a side issue. The real problem is, and always has been, that it is illegal — not to mention immoral — for a country to invade another country, in other words, to wage a war of aggression.
Noted war and administration critic George F. Will: A surreal and ultimately disgusting facet of the Iraq fiasco is the lag between when a fact becomes obvious and when the fiasco's architects acknowledge that fact. Iraq's civil war has been raging for more than a year; so has the Washington debate about whether it is what it is.
In a recent interview with Vice President Cheney, Time magazine asked, "If you had to take back any one thing you'd said about Iraq, what would it be?" Selecting from what one hopes is a very long list, Cheney replied: "I thought that the elections that we went through in '05 would have had a bigger impact on the level of violence than they have ... I thought we were over the hump in terms of violence. I think that was premature."
He thinks so? Clearly, and weirdly, he implies that the elections had some positive impact on the level of violence. Worse, in the full transcript of the interview posted online he said the big impact he expected from the elections "hasn't happened yet." "Yet"? Doggedness can be admirable, but this is clinical.
Frank Rich: In keeping with the political cynicism that gave birth to this war and has recklessly prolonged it, the only ones being kept in the dark about this inevitable denouement are our fighting men and women. They remain trapped, dying in accelerating numbers in a civil war that is now killing so many Iraqi civilians that Mr. Maliki this month ordered his health ministry to stop releasing any figures. Our troops are held hostage by the White House’s political imperatives as much as they are by the violence. Desperate to maintain the election-year P.R. ruse that an undefined “victory” is still within reach, Mr. Bush went so far at Wednesday’s press conference as to say that “absolutely, we’re winning” in Iraq. He explained his rationale to George Stephanopoulos last weekend, when he asserted that the number of casualties was the enemy’s definition of success or failure, not his. “I define success or failure as to whether or not the Iraqis will be able to defend themselves,” the president said, and “as to whether the unity government” is making the “difficult decisions necessary to unite the country.” Unfortunately, the war is a calamity by both of those definitions as well. The American command’s call for a mere 3,000 more Iraqi troops to help defend Baghdad has gone unanswered. As we’ve learned from Operation Together Forward, when Iraqis do stand up, violence goes up. And when American and British troops stand down, murderous sectarian militias, some of them allied with that “unity” government, fill the vacuum, taking over entire cities like Amara and Balad in broad daylight. As for those “difficult decisions” Mr. Bush regards as so essential, the Iraqi government’s policy is cut and run. Mr. Maliki is not cracking down on rampaging militias but running interference for their kingpin, Moktada al-Sadr. Mr. Maliki treats this radical anti-American Shiite cleric, his political ally, with far more deference than he shows the American president. The ultimate chutzpah is that Mr. Bush, the man who sold us Saddam’s imminent mushroom clouds and “Mission Accomplished,” is trivializing the chaos in Iraq as propaganda. The enemy’s “sophisticated” strategy, he said in last weekend’s radio address, is to distribute “images of violence” to television networks, Web sites and journalists to “demoralize our country.” This is a morally repugnant argument. The “images of violence” from Iraq are not fake — like, say, the fiction our government manufactured about the friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman or the upbeat news stories the Pentagon spends millions of dollars planting in Iraqi newspapers today. These images of violence are real. Americans really are dying at the fastest pace in at least a year, and Iraqis in the greatest numbers to date. To imply that this carnage is magnified by the news media, whether the American press or Al Jazeera, is to belittle the gravity of the escalated bloodshed and to duck accountability for the mismanagement of the war. Mr. Bush’s logic is reminiscent of Jeffrey Skilling’s obtuse view of his innocence in the Enron scandal, though at least Mr. Skilling has been held accountable for the wreckage of lives on his watch.
Joe Galloway: The president declared himself confident that Republicans would sweep to victory and maintain their stranglehold on both houses of a Congress that's done nothing but rubberstamp Bush's war policies and Republican efforts to enrich their fat-cat donors and themselves, of course.
If he's right and that's the result of the Nov. 7 elections, then the American people will finally have fulfilled H.L. Mencken's prophecy that we'd continue choosing the lowest common denominator until, in the end, we get precisely the government we deserve.
Meantime, Vice President Dick Cheney confirmed that some of the senior al-Qaeda terrorists in our custody have been subjected to "water-boarding," a torture that brings the victim within a hair of drowning and suffocation. Cheney declared that it was a "no-brainer." My thoughts exactly: Only people with no brains opt to torture a captive in violation of domestic and international law.
This unseemly circus and its clowns in Congress can't go away fast enough and with enough dishonor and disgrace to suit the circumstances. Their place in America's history is secure: They will go down as the worst administration and the worst Congress we've ever had. Period.
They deserve to lose both the House and the Senate on Nov. 7, and the White House in 2008. They bullied their way into a war that they thought would be a slam-dunk and then so bungled things that the only superpower left in the world has been humbled and hobbled in a world that they've made more dangerous for us.
Thanks, guys. You've done a heckuva job. We won't forget it.
Lance Cpl. Jonathan B. Thornberry, 22, died Wednesday while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq, the Department of Defense said. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve's 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, in Johnson City, Tenn.