Sunday, January 28, 2007
Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007. Mortar shells rained down Sunday on a girls secondary school killing four pupils and wounding 21, witnesses and police said. (AP Photo / Asaad Mouhsin) Note: Death toll now reported as five
Reuters reports the deaths of two U.S. soldiers, MNF releases not yet up on the web as of this posting:
A U.S. soldier was killed on Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded near his patrol north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
A U.S. soldier in the military police died on Saturday from wounds suffered when a roadside bomb hit his vehicles in northern Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
Mortar attack on girls' school kills five, injures more than 20. School principal says six mortar rounds landed on al-Khulood secondary school for girls in al-Adel neighborhood as girls mingled in the school yard following a mid-term exam.
Ministry of Industry official Adel Abdel-Mohsen is gunned down in Yarmouk, his two daughters and three other companions (Security guards?) also killed. Earlier, in the same district, an Agriculture Ministry official and four members of his entourage were killed.
- One Iraqi killed, seven wounded, when an explosive device blew up inside a mini-bus in the east of the capital.
- Near al-Nedaa, a Sunni mosque in northern Baghdad, one killed and nine wounded when an explosive-laden car, parked on the side of the road, blew up. The street was busy with laborers looking for day jobs.
- In Sadr city, a vehicle exploded, killing at least four people and wounding 32 others.
Reuters reports a Marine KIA on Saturday. Again, MNF release not up as of this posting.
Iraqi forces attempt to arrest militia leader Ahmed al-Hassan in Najaf, call for U.S. assistance after meeting resistance. In the ensuing battle, Najaf governor's office says six gunmen arrested; medical sources say 17 Iraqi soldiers injured.
McClatchy reports a U.S. apache helicopter shot down in the fighting. McClatchy's correspondent reports seeing the helicopter struck by a rocket and crashing in flames. McClatchy also has further details on the fighting, saying Iraqi officials describe the targeted militants variously as religious extremists and Sadaamists (Note: They can't possibly be both -- C) who had planned to attack the shrine in Karbala. (Note: The earliest report on the shoot-down came from al-Jazeera, but I gave this link because it has more detail. The U.S. military has not confirmed this.-- C) Reuters also confirms the shoot-down, says Iraqi police officer says two crewmen dead.
DPA reports that similar clashes took place in the nearby town of Kufa, and that U.S. helicopters provided support.
. Soueira, 45 kilometres south of Baghdad
Iraqi forces cordon off the village and perform house-to-house searches, apparently seeking "Islamic militants." Three Iraqi soldiers or police killed, four injured in ensuing clashes, one militant said "accidentally wounded." (An odd claim suggesting the "militant" may not have been? -- C) Earlier in the day, the joint Iraqi forces had asked for urgent assistance from the US military, "who carried out an air raid on the village," causing some damage in the process. A day earlier, a police station in the same village was attacked by mortar shells. Reportedly, those responsible for the incident are among those targeted in Sunday's raid.
Reuters also reports:
- A roadside bomb killed a man and wounded two others
- Police found the bullet-riddled body of a man in a town near Kirkuk, police said. The victim's body showed signs of torture.
OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY
Sadrists and Sunni VP Tareq al-Hashimi of the Iraqi Accordance Front sign agreement to set up joint security committees in mixed areas of Baghdad, plan further negotiations, according to Sadrist delegate Bahaa al-Aaraji. Negotiations were mediated by Pres. Talabani. Of course, it remains to be seen whether these political moves will translate into differences on the ground, but this is certainly consistent with the non-sectarian Iraqi nationalist position al-Sadr has always espoused publicly. - C
Army has opened up to 50 criminal inquiries into battlefield contracting, according to AP's John Heilprin, and confirmed by a CIC spokesman. Cases involve Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.
Anfal trial continues, Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed says he did order Kurdish villages destroyed and their residents displaced, but it was a legitimate military action.
U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to struggle with explaining her vote to authorize war in Iraq, refuses to call for an end to the occupation, appears to link Iraq with "war on terrorism", expects next president will have to deal with issue of withdrawal. Excerpt:
Her initial foray in Iowa was far different from the traditional caucus campaigning, with a few people in a living room. More than 1,500 people jammed a high school gymnasium for a town-hall-style meeting. Some 150 reporters and photographers chronicled the event. Earlier, she met with state Democrats at the party's headquarters.
Attention focused on Iraq and her vote to authorize the use of force ahead of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Presidential rivals such as former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards say the vote in support was a mistake.
"There are no do-overs in life," Clinton said. She said Congress received bad information going into the vote and that she would have voted differently given what she knows now.
"As a senator from New York, I lived through 9/11 and I am still dealing with the aftereffects," she said. "I may have a slightly different take on this from some of the other people who will be coming through here."
Clinton said her view was that the nation was engaged in a deadly fight against terrorism, a battle that she contends President Bush has botched. "I do think we are engaged in a war against heartless, ruthless enemies," she said. "If they could come after us again tomorrow they would do so."
Clinton has urged a cap to the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, but has refused to go along with suggestions that Congress use its power of the purse to bring the war to a halt. "This will be a problem that will be left to the next president," the senator said.
We'll need to keep an eye on this. Fair trial, anyone? (There may also be a question in some people's minds whether an act of war in a foreign country can be a crime in the United States. Think about the implications of this. Just saying. -- C)
Dutch authorities say an Iraqi-born Dutch citizen, suspected of plotting attacks on American forces in Iraq, has been extradited to the United States. Wesam al-Delaema was put on a plane and flown to an undisclosed location in the US after losing his final appeal against extradition in December.
He is set to become the first suspect tried in a US court for allegedly plotting attacks on US forces in Iraq. Mr Delaema denies charges of "possessing a destructive device".
Authorities say the evidence against him includes a videotape he made of Iraqi insurgents preparing a roadside bomb. In Dutch court hearings, he argued that he was kidnapped and forced to make the video on pain of death.
Mr Delaema was arrested in May 2005 in the Dutch city of Amersfoort in following a tip from US authorities. His lawyers have argued that the US has no right to try him. They say they fear he could be tortured and will not get a fair trial.
But a Dutch judge said there was "no reason to believe that the US authorities will not abide by the commitments they have given or... deprive the suspect of his fundamental rights". The US has given assurances that he will be tried in a federal court, not by a military commission, and can serve any sentence in the Netherlands.
Iraq is in negotiations with San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. to build a new $3 billion petrochemical facility, and is in talks with several other Western companies over industrial projects. In an interview Thursday, Fowzi Hariri, Iraq's minister for industry and minerals, said the discussions with Chevron and Exxon began this week in Washington and are at an early stage.
"It will be one or the other company for this new facility, not both," he said. "We're hoping to have a (Memorandum of Understanding) in place by about July." The minister, who has been in his post since June, said the issue of security was a prominent feature of the discussions, given the sectarian conflict that has come to characterize Iraq over the past year. He said he emphasized to the companies that much of the violence has been in Baghdad. The discussions with the companies have been greatly aided by an Iraq foreign investment law that won final approval last October, he said.
This is interesting: Sunni Accordance Front deputy condemns U.S. arrest of Iranians in Iraq. Rather surprisingly, United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite) deputy seems more supportive. Excerpt:
Baghdad- An Iraqi Sunni deputy said Sunday that it was unacceptable for US forces to arrest Iranian diplomats on Iraqi territory and charged that it only served US "hegemony" interests. "This act comes as a result of the American hegemony over Iraq and the US occupation of the country," MP Harith al-Obeidy told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. Al-Obeidy belongs to the Iraqi Accord Front, which has 44 seats in parliament.
"The Iranian interference in Iraq's internal affairs is undeniable," al-Obeidy said, pointing to what he considered "Iran's role in facilitating the entry of US forces into Afghanistan and Iraq."
"However, the arrests are part of the US' aims, anticipations and interests. The US did it in order to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear programme," he added.
Agreeing with his Sunni counterpart, Shiite MP Abbas el-Biaty of the United Iraqi Alliance, which currently dominates Parliament, said that "the arrests are indeed a form of great pressure on Iran." El-Biaty, however, also said that the main reason for this was to force Iran into a dialogue over its involvement in - and influence on - Iraqi politics.
IN DEPTH REPORTING, COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle examines the unexamined assumptions about what would ensue if the U.S. were to withdraw its armed forces for Iraq. Remember the dominoes that were going to fall and the world historic holocaust that was bound to happen when the U.S. left Vietnam? Today, Vietnam is just a major supplier of coffee and shrimp to the United States, nary a domino even got wobbly. -- C. Excerpt:
Bush said Tuesday night that if the United States withdraws, the result will be an "epic battle" between Sunni and Shiite extremists and the creation of a haven for oil-fueled al Qaeda terrorists. Out of the chaos, Bush said, "would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of Sept. 11 and invite tragedy."
Terrible things cannot be ruled out, said Michael Mandelbaum, head of the foreign policy program at Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies. "But the relevant question for American foreign policy is, would they be terrible for us? Would we be worse off than we are now? And I don't think that goes without saying."
Many of the dark scenarios sketched as future prospects already exist, even critics of a withdrawal readily acknowledge. Refugee flows are large and growing -- nearly 4 million Iraqis have either been internally displaced or have fled abroad. Ethnic cleansing is altering the makeup of Baghdad. A civil war is underway. Populations have become radicalized. Al Qaeda terrorists have established a base in Anbar province. Iran is intervening, aiding Shiite militias. Syria is allowing militants over its border. American standing is damaged.
But there is no reason to automatically assume, many experts said, that the situation will improve if U.S. troops stay -- or get worse if they leave. "When you go through the analysis -- even though I am prepared to concede that there can be dark scenarios coming out of a withdrawal from Iraq -- it's not at all clear to me that they are any worse than staying," said Rand Beers, a former national security official through the last four administrations, including the current Bush administration.
Josh Marshall trashes Dems on the Senate Intelligence Committee for letting the administration off the hook for its lies about Iraq. Excerpt:
I was just reading over a few of the articles about the Libby trial and Vice President Cheney's central role in orchestrating the attack on Joe Wilson in order to cover-up Cheney's complicity in and essential authorship of one of the central lies at the core of the Bush administration's case for war. The truth, though, is that we are not really examining the cover-up in this case so much as we are still living within it. Most of the key facts of this episode either remain entirely concealed or buried under a mass of government produced misinformation. The Senate intelligence committee report, authored by Republicans, but shamelessly and with great cowardice okayed by senate Democrats? I've been asked many times why the Democrats signed off on this fraudulent document. I think there are two basic reasons -- or two categories of reasons.
First, as hard as it is to say, shallow and poor staff work on the Democratic side, abetted, caused and hopelessly bound up with senators unwilling to get their noses dirty or their ribs bruised. Second, there was a more specific and complex error. In so many words, the Democrats agreed to let the Republican authors of the report lie and deceive as much as they wanted on the Niger/Uranium and Wilson/Plame fronts in exchange for allowing a semi-revealing look at other instances of flawed Iraq intelligence. For the minority party to bargain for lies in some areas and portions of the truth in others is a tactic with rather inherent drawbacks. But in this case it displayed a telling obliviousness to the political context of that moment.
Credit where it's due department. Rep. Senator John Warner, who was Secretary of the Navy during the Vietnam War, translates his regrets over Vietnam into forceful opposition to escalation in Iraq. (But will he take the next step and call for withdrawal?). Excerpt:
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Virginia Sen. John Warner's words betray the guilt he still carries about the Vietnam War and help explain why this pillar of the Republican establishment is leading a bipartisan revolt against the war plans of a president in his own party. "I regret that I was not more outspoken" during the Vietnam War, the former Navy secretary said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office. "The Army generals would come in, 'Just send in another five or ten thousand.' You know, month after month. Another ten or fifteen thousand. They thought they could win it. We kept surging in those years. It didn't work."
Is that a lesson for what's going on in Iraq? "Well, you don't forget something like that," he answers. There is a long pause, he closes his eyes and his voice gets softer. "No. You don't forget those things."
More than 30 years after Vietnam, Warner is once again watching as generals propose additional troops. But this time, he's not staying silent. In a rebuke to President Bush, Warner is leading an effort to have the U.S. Senate declare a lack of confidence in the administration's plans to send 21,500 additional soldiers into the Iraqi war zone.
White House officials were taken aback by the move, which is striking because of Warner's stature, both in the Republican Party and as one of the country's most ardent supporters of the military. But Warner, who once was married to Elizabeth Taylor, has an almost mythic popularity, which has made it impossible for Bush allies to demonize him on the issue.
IRIN reports health care system in Baghdad is in disastrous state (This is not news, of course, but it's always worth repeating. Excerpt:
BAGHDAD, 28 Jan 2007 (IRIN) - Hospitals and Primary Health Care Centres (PHCC) in Baghdad are facing a major crisis as a result of lack security and a shortage of medicine, equipment and specialised staff, say health specialists. A major problem affecting [Iraq's] health sector is definitely the country's desperate security situation, said Nada Doumani, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Armed men storm the operating theatres forcing doctors to treat their own patients, as a priority. Some patients insist on keeping their arms and masks, while being treated. This creates a traumatising situation for the doctors, she said. Doumani added that as a result of insecurity, more than half of the 34,000 registered doctors have recently left Iraq and hundreds have been killed. Medical staff are often considered soft targets by kidnappers.
Ministry of Health officials have also said that the number of doctors asking for prolonged unpaid leave was dramatically increasing. We are getting desperate with the number of doctors and pharmacists fleeing Iraq for security reasons or because the infrastructure is not offering them the necessary equipment and they lack security. We have urged them to assist in rebuilding our country but their response has not been positive. Instead, more professionals leave Iraq every day, said a spokesperson at the Ministry of Health who spoke on condition of anonymity.
My wife died three months ago because of shortage of medicine at the hospitals and because I couldn't afford to buy her the required medicines from private pharmacies. We are a poor family and my salary is sometimes not enough to buy even food for my children. Today my daughter is at the hospital in need of urgent help and medicines, said Abu Zaineb, 42, a rubbish collector in Baghdad.
I just pray that she doesn't become the next victim of our country's deteriorated health situation. People are dying everyday from violence but now from a bad health system too, Abu Zaineb added.
Some of the hospitals' infrastructure, especially sewage and water system, have also deteriorated and all hospitals in the city are in dire need of potable water. "Our sewage system is not working properly and sometimes the bad odour seeps through into the patient's room. In the coming summer the situation will get much worse if the central government does not take action," said Dr Fauzi Ali, a cardiologist at Kadhmiyah Hospital.
Quote of the Day
Every president has sought greater authority, but Bush – whose father lost his position as forty-first president in a fair and open election – appears to believe that increasing presidential authority is both a birthright and a central component of his historical legacy. He is supported in this belief by his vice president and chief adviser, Dick Cheney.
In pursuit of more power, Bush and Cheney have unilaterally authorized preventive war against nations they designate as needing “regime change,” directed American soldiers to torture persons they have seized and imprisoned in various countries, ordered the National Security Agency to carry out illegal “data mining” surveillance of the American people, and done everything they could to prevent Congress from outlawing “cruel, inhumane, or degrading” treatment of people detained by the United States. Each of these actions has been undertaken for specific ideological, tactical, or practical reasons, but also as part of a general campaign of power concentration.