Monday, January 01, 2007


Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s hoping it’s better than the last. But I fear that if today’s carnage report seems a bit light it’s only because the news services are obsessing on the execution of the dictator, not because there has been any decrease in violence. -m


The country experienced yet another day of violence on Sunday with a car bomb killing one and injuring at least six in Baghdad's northern Hurriyah neighbourhood.

U.S. forces said they were fired on from an office building belonging to a leading Sunni Arab politician during a raid on a suspected al Qaeda safehouse in Baghdad on Monday in which six insurgents were killed. Saleh al-Mutlaq, an outspoken member of parliament whose Iraqi National Dialogue group is part of the U.S.-backed political process, said U.S. forces had targeted his office, killing two security guards and wounding two more. Speaking to Reuters by telephone from outside Iraq, Mutlaq also said a family of four, including two children, were killed in an adjacent building during the raid on Monday.

The U-S military says it's looking into a report that U-S aircraft bombed houses near the west Baghdad office of a leading member of a key Sunni political bloc. Police say four members of a family were killed and a guard at the house of a former Shiite member of parliament was wounded. The ex-member of parliament abandoned her home after escaping an assassination attempt last year.

A series of 16 explosions, apparently from large mortar rounds, rang out in central Baghdad before sunrise. No word on any casualties.

Police reported finding 12 bodies dumped in Baghdad as well as 12 other violent deaths nationwide.

Police found 40 bodies in Baghdad in the past 24 hours, including 15 in one place near the Sheikh Maa'rouf cemetery in western Baghdad.


The Multinational Forces in southern Iraq confirmed on Monday that British bases in Basra were attacked overnight and this morning, without reports of casualties. Media reports quoted the forces' spokesman Captain Tane Dunlop as saying that the British military base in Basra Airport was hit by eight Katyushas last night while the one in al-Shweiba was attacked by two this morning. Meanwhile, the British base in central Basra in the area housing presidential palaces was also hit by rockets at night and the one in Shat al-Arab Hotel was slammed by two mortars this morning, said the spokesman. No one was reportedly harmed and there was no word of damage at any of the four sites, he added.

Diyala Province

Bring ‘em on: Two U.S. soldiers were killed in an explosion in Iraq's Diyala province northeast of Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said in a statement on Monday. Their deaths took to at least 112 the number of soldiers killed in December, the deadliest month for Americans in Iraq for more than two years and to at least 3,001 the number killed since the invasion in March 2003. (Reuters reports two US soldiers were also wounded in this attack. –m)


Three Iraqi soldiers were killed in clashes with insurgents in Fallujah, 50 km west of Baghdad. "Fierce clashes broke out Sunday afternoon in al-Askari neighborhood in Fallujah when insurgents attacked an Iraqi army headquarter, killing three soldiers and wounding two others," the source said on condition of anonymity, adding the attack also damaged the headquarter building.


A mortar attack killed an Iraqi woman and wounded another civilian on Thursday northwest of Habaniya, 85 km west of Baghdad.


A bomb planted aboard a minibus exploded in a fish market south of Baghdad on Saturday, killing 15 people. The explosion occurred in Kufa, 100 miles south of the Iraqi capital. The 15 dead included three women and four children, said Haidr Nahi, service director of the al-Furat al-Awssat Hospital. Some 25 others were wounded, he said.


A roadside bomb exploded near Mahmudiya, about 30 km south of Baghdad, near an Iraqi army patrol, killing one soldier and wounding three.


A further four corpses - two women and two men - were also reported to have been found in the northern city of Mosul.

Prisoners in a jail near Mosul in northern Iraq smashed cell doors, burned furniture and broke cameras during a riot that left at least seven guards and three inmates injured before Iraqi police and army ended the fighting.

Freedom of the press: The Iraqi government ordered the closure of a popular independent television channel on Monday for inciting sectarianism, two days after the hanging of Saddam Hussein sparked anger among his fellow Sunni Arabs.

Sharkiya is owned by a London-based Iraqi businessman and says it takes an independent editorial line, though many viewers see it as leaning toward a minority Sunni Arab viewpoint.

The channel was still showing programming on Monday, as it broadcasts from Dubai, and it was not immediately clear what impact the government's order would have.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Abdul Karim Khalaf said the government had ordered the channel to close indefinitely.

The Only Milestones Bush Can Reach In His Vanity War

A new big even number: The day after Saddam Hussein's execution, the death toll for Americans killed in the Iraq war reached 3,000 as President Bush struggles to salvage a military campaign that has scant public support.

The death of a Texas soldier, announced Sunday by the Pentagon, comes as the administration seeks to overhaul its strategy for a conflict that shows little sign of abating. The tally of 3,000 members of the U.S. military killed was a figure compiled by The Associated Press since the war's beginning in March 2003.

IEDs: Of the 3,000 American GIs lost in Iraq as of midday Sunday, more have been killed by roadside bombs - improvised explosive devices (IEDs) - than any other cause. More than by rifle fire, mortar attack, or car bomb.

It's a danger that has bedeviled Pentagon war planners for months, one to which they've responded with a high-level task force headed by a retired four-star general, $6.7 billion in research and development, new high-tech equipment and vehicles, and - perhaps most important - intelligence efforts to get inside the decisionmaking of an insurgency that is sophisticated, if largely low-tech.

If anything, the danger is increasing despite efforts to counter it.

IEDs are "the enemy's most effective weapon," Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of all US forces in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services committee last March. "They are the perfect asymmetric weapon - cheap, effective, and anonymous."

Improvised bomb attacks on US troops now top 1,000 a month, four times the rate in 2004. Insurgents have become more sophisticated in their bombmaking, placement, and means of detonation. The British military has determined that there are enough stocks of illegal explosives to continue the same level of attack for years without resupply, reports DefenseNews.com.

War Nerd from Nov. 2005 - nothing has changed: The insurgents have decided to do it the easy way. As long as they can use IEDs, their low-tech standoff weapon, why should they risk close combat?

The real question is why they can get away with it. And here-well, I hate to keep saying this, but somebody needs to. The reason they can do it is because we still have NO INTEL on them. It's the biggest failure of the war, and nobody talks about it. CI warfare is about people, not hardware. We're all hardware and no intelligence, like a Tim Allen show. Makes me sick.

That makes the decision to go with IEDs a no-brainer for the insurgents. In the standard ambush, the kind we were facing a year ago, the insurgents detonated an IED under a convoy, then opened up on the stalled survivors with RPG and small arms fire. It probably made them feel good, sort of their version of shock and awe, but the rifle fire was ineffective and by concentrating their forces, the insurgents made themselves vulnerable to our air power.

The problem in any guerrilla battle is the getaway. Anybody can pull a trigger; the trick is getting your men home safe, while enemy choppers zoom through the sky and every street is full of troops and armor looking for men of military age. That's the tough part.

An IED ambush has none of those risks. Only one man needs to be on the spot-the triggerman. He detonates the IED from a car parked down a side street and drives away before the occupiers can even start their search. No risk. No casualties. Very demoralizing for the occupiers, especially since they know damn well that everybody in the neighborhood was in on the attack but they can't level the locals' shacks like they're dying to.


The US countermeasures have been pretty lame so far. Convoys travel with jammers that make it harder to detonate the IED by cell phone or garage door opener-Nokia and Genie sales are going to drop in the Sunni Triangle. But like I said, low-tech is the guerrilla's friend. These days they've gone back to wires, and I hear some are even using string. You can't jam a string.

Beyond that, Bush policy is to blame Iran, or Syria, or Satan or whoever.

Iran? Maybe. Syria? No way. Syria's scared to death, ready to do anything to make Uncle Sam happy. And if it is Iran, what can we do about it? There are still a few neocons so totally out of their little gourds they want us to invade Iran. I have to wonder if they're agents of Dr Evil, programmed to destroy America. Because invading Iran would do it, it'd end us once and for all.

This blame stuff is a sign of frustration. Nobody knows how to stop IEDs, even with all the Popular Mechanics geeks sending in their garage-tech brainstorms. That's because-damn, how many times do I have to repeat it?-guerrilla war has no technical solution. Or even military solution. The only effective CI techniques are torture, reprisal and, ultimately, genocide.

Profiles In Cowardice

Republicans with newfound skepticism about the war: Two prominent Senate Republicans bucked the White House on Sunday, expressing skepticism about more U.S. troops in Iraq and support for greater dialogue with Iran, Syria and others in the region.

Sen. Richard Lugar, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged the president to consult with lawmakers before announcing a new strategy on Iraq that could call for additional troops in Iraq.

If Bush were to act with without involving the new Democratic-controlled Congress, he can anticipate "a lot of hearings, a lot of study, a lot of criticism," Lugar said.

…Sen. Arlen Specter, just back from a trip to the region, also questioned the wisdom of sending in more troops, saying he has not seen an administration plan that would justify it. "If there is a road map to victory, then I would be prepared to listen to what the president has to say about more troops," he said.

The Pennsylvania Republican described the situation in the Mideast as the most serious he has seen in his 26 years in the Senate.

Saddam Related Stuff

The news and wire services are doing an even worse job than usual today at getting out news on the situation inside Iraq. But there’s tons of verbiage on Saddam’s execution. Here’s a more-or-less random selection of news and opinion.

Catholic perspective: The execution "is tragic news … that risks feeding the spirit of revenge and sowing new violence," said Pope Benedict XVI's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi. "Even though this is a person guilty of grave crimes," Lombardi told Vatican Radio on Saturday morning, the execution "is a motive for sadness." "The killing of a guilty party is not the way to build justice nor to reconcile society."

The Saudi Gazette: Supported by the Bush Administration, the breathtaking audacity and sheer disrespect of the Iraqi government in executing Saddam Hussein on Eid Al-Adha managed to insult the entire Muslim community in one fell swoop.

Like a sacrificial lamb, Iraq executed Hussein at the time of Fajr (morning) prayers after he was convicted of crimes against humanity.

An execution at the start of Eid is highly symbolic. The feast commemorates the sacrifice that the Prophet Abraham [the first Jew] was prepared to make - the slaughter of his son -at God's command. While many Iraqis might regard Saddam's death as a gift from God, such symbolism will only further inflame most of the rest of the Muslim World.

International law: Despite this application of international law against Mr. Hussein, experts say, his conviction for crimes against humanity has not significantly reinforced efforts to apply concepts of international human rights law around the world. They argue that the trial has been too widely perceived, both in Iraq and abroad, as a chaotic and politicized process with many serious flaws carried out by inexperienced judges. “It's highly doubtful that courts elsewhere might cite this judgment, given its poor credibility,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s international justice program.

Although domestic courts are now trying cases that include violations of international human rights law, the credibility of the Baghdad tribunal was also questioned by some because it was organized by the United States. European countries that had been asked for help said they could not participate because they had abolished the death sentence.

Rights groups and some international lawyers have deplored the execution as hasty. Some said the execution, based on a comparatively small case involving the killing of 148 civilians, cut short Mr. Hussein’s second and far weightier trial for genocide, the gravest charge.

“Such a rapid execution before the conclusion of the genocide trial is a serious legal setback and harms the credibility of the court,” said Antoine Garapon, director of the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies in Paris. He and some other lawyers argued that even if others were to stand trial for genocide against the Kurds in 1988, the person deemed most responsible would never face judgment.

Josh Marshall: If you watch the video of the moments leading up to Saddam Hussein's execution, am I wrong that it bears a certain resemblance to the terrorist snuff films we've watched out of Iraq over the last three years? A dark, dank room. The executioners wear not uniforms of any sort, either civilian or military, but street clothes and ski masks. We now learn that the executioners were apparently taken from the population of southern Iraq, the country's Shi'a heartland, where Saddam's repression was most severe. And in an apt symbolic statement on what the Iraq War is about, two of the executioners who saw Saddam off started hailing Moktada al Sadr in Saddam's face as they prepared to hang him. Remember, al Sadr's Mahdi Army is the force the 'surge' of new US troops is meant to crush next year. That's where we are.

Michael Daly: The execution of Saddam Hussein brings justice for thousands of innocents murdered in Iraq during his regime.

Someday, we might even see justice for the 2,749 innocents murdered in downtown Manhattan five years ago.

The man behind the Manhattan murders was cornered in the mountains of Afghanistan three months after the attack on the World Trade Center. Osama Bin Laden was so certain he would not see the New Year that he drafted what he thought was his last will and testament.

"If it were not for treason, I would have triumphed," Bin Laden reportedly wrote.

Apparently, nobody was more surprised than Bin Laden when we sent in paid Afghani proxies rather than a detachment of readily available U.S. troops to grab him. He slipped away along with the tattered remnants of his organization.

And nobody could have been more pleased than Bin Laden when the Bush administration used 9/11 as a pretext to send a good part of our army into Iraq.

Riverbend: It's official. Maliki and his people are psychopaths. This really is a new low. It's outrageous- an execution during Eid. Muslims all over the world (with the exception of Iran) are outraged. Eid is a time of peace, of putting aside quarrels and anger- at least for the duration of Eid. This does not bode well for the coming year. No one imagined the madmen would actually do it during a religious holiday. It is religiously unacceptable and before, it was constitutionally illegal. We thought we'd at least get a few days of peace and some time to enjoy the Eid holiday, which coincides with the New Year this year. We've spent the first two days of a holy holiday watching bits and pieces of a sordid lynching. America the savior… After nearly four years and Bush's biggest achievement in Iraq has been a lynching. Bravo Americans.

The mood in Iraq: As state-sponsored news channels saturated Iraqi airways with images of the noose going around Saddam Hussein's neck early Saturday, residents here offered a surprisingly muted response.

The celebratory crowds were smaller than when the dictator surrendered to U.S. forces three years ago. And the expected promises of reprisal attacks did not come as they did when the trial charging him with crimes against humanity began 14 months ago. Even in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, the rallying around the hometown hero was comparatively barren.

While many here said they were thrilled Saddam had been punished, they also said they did not believe his death would lead to immediate change in their lives, saying that Saddam became largely irrelevant three years ago when American forces found him hiding in a bunker near his hometown.

Experts opine: "It's tawdry," Rosemary Hollis, the director of research at Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, in London, said of the execution. "It's not going to achieve anything because of the way the trial was conducted and the way the occupation was conducted. Life in Iraq has become so precarious that many people are saying it was safer under Saddam Hussein - it makes the whole thing look like a poke in the eye as opposed to closure or some kind of contribution to the future of Iraq. The purpose should have been to see justice done in a transparent manner... the trial was gruesome, occasionally farcical, and failed to fulfil its promise of giving satisfaction."

Chris Doyle, the London-based director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, was equally dismissive, telling the Guardian newspaper that, "For Bush, Blair and their diminishing brotherhood of diehard supporters, Saddam's demise is their sole concrete victory in Iraq in almost four years. This should have been the crowning glory of their efforts, but instead it may pose yet another risk to their demoralised troops. For Iraqis, some will see it as a symbol of the death of the ancien regime. For some Sunnis, Saddam's death represents the final nail in the coffin of their fall from power. But Iraqis may also see this as the humiliation of Iraq as a whole, that their president, however odious, was toppled by outside powers, and is executed effectively at others' instigation."

Doyle's assessment was shared by Iraqi expatriate Kamil Mahdi, an academic who is now associated with the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Britain's Exeter University. "It will be taken as an American decision," Mahdi said of the decision to execute Hussein and the way in which deposed leader was killed. "The worst thing is that it's an issue which, in an ideal situation, should have unified Iraq but the Americans have succeeded in dividing the Iraqis."

Tawdry is the word: A new video that appeared on the Internet late Saturday, apparently made by a witness with a camera cellphone, underscored the unruly, mocking atmosphere in the execution chamber.

This continued, on the video, through the actual hanging itself, with a shout of “The tyrant has fallen! May God curse him!” as Mr. Hussein hung lifeless, his neck snapped back and his glassy eyes open.

The cacophony from those gathered before the gallows included a shout of “Go to hell!” as the former ruler stood with the noose around his neck in the final moments, and his riposte, barely audible above the bedlam, which included the words “gallows of shame.” It continued despite appeals from an official-sounding voice, possibly Munir Haddad, the judge who presided at the hanging, saying, “Please no! The man is about to die.”

The Shiites who predominated at the hanging began a refrain at one point of “Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!”— the name of a volatile cleric whose private militia has spawned death squads that have made an indiscriminate industry of killing Sunnis — appending it to a Muslim imprecation for blessings on the Prophet Muhammad. “Moktada,” Mr. Hussein replied, smiling contemptuously. “Is this how real men behave?”

American officials in Iraq have been reluctant to say much publicly about the pell-mell nature of the hanging, apparently fearful of provoking recriminations in Washington, where the Bush administration adopted a hands-off posture, saying the timing of the execution was Iraq’s to decide.

Thuraya El-Kaissi: I was listening on the radio to Mr Blair's Press conference two weeks ago when he went to Basra and declared his full support to the Iraqi PM Mr Nouri al-Maliki. It made me laugh really. All these fine words - but nothing about turning back on the electricity or stopping the corruption that has taken over everywhere.

Did you know that a litre of petrol in Baghdad costs about £1? Our whole country is awash with oil - it's underneath our feet. But the Government has so totally lost control of the oil supply to criminals that it's now cheaper to buy petrol nearly everywhere in the world apart from Iraq - and we've got possibly the world's biggest reserves of it. You tell me if that is progress or not.

It's getting cold here now. The winter has started. We need that oil for heating.

But every time this chaos is raised with Mr Bush or Mr Blair, they start talking about the nightmare called Saddam Hussein and what progress it is that he is not in power.

I would totally agree if things were changed for the better - but in many ways, comparing what we have now to what life was like then, we were living in heaven before the Americans arrived.

Yes, Saddam sent so many people to their death. But what about the hundreds of thousands dead since the war and all those who have fled Iraq to get away from all the madness and the killing? When will the violence stop?

I was watching the news the other day and I saw the Supreme Court decision to refuse Saddam's appeal. That was when the generator was still working.

It didn't really feel like a big thing or hearing big news. Every Iraqi was expecting it. The way the Americans have used Saddam just like a card in a poker game is really pathetic and makes me feel sick.

They said the violence everywhere was orchestrated by Saddam three years ago and it would stop when he was captured. Yeah, right.

And now we kill the guy so that Iraq can live in peace. How mad.

I am against all violence and bloodshed. Why should the government descend to the same level as Saddam? I have been trying to speak to my friends to see what they think about the execution. But the phone system hasn't been fixed since the war. We haven't had emails for ages (though we did under Saddam... censored) and obviously I can't go out.

I can only dictate this copy to you because a friend has arrived with some charge left on a satellite phone.

There was a joke I heard the other day that the Iranian authorities had decided to make a big statue for Mr Bush and place it in the largest square in Tehran for giving Iraq (Iran's historical enemy) to Iran on a golden plate.

So, Saddam Hussein is dead. Fine. But do I feel any safer than yesterday? No.

From where I am writing this, it seems we can kill a dictator, then beam it around the world on TV. But we can't sort out the street lights.

Josh Marshall: This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur -- phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It's a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us.

Try to dress this up as an Iraqi trial and it doesn't come close to cutting it -- the Iraqis only take possession of him for the final act, sort of like the Church always left execution itself to the 'secular arm'. Try pretending it's a war crimes trial but it's just more of the pretend mumbojumbo that makes this out to be World War IX or whatever number it is they're up to now.

The Iraq War has been many things, but for its prime promoters and cheerleaders and now-dwindling body of defenders, the war and all its ideological and literary trappings have always been an exercise in moral-historical dress-up for a crew of folks whose times aren't grand enough to live up to their own self-regard and whose imaginations are great enough to make up the difference. This is just more play-acting.

These jokers are being dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that the whole thing's a mess and that they're going to be remembered for it -- defined by it -- for decades and centuries. But before we go, we can hang Saddam. Quite a bit of this was about the president's issues with his dad and the hang-ups he had about finishing Saddam off -- so before we go, we can hang the guy as some big cosmic 'So There!'

Marx might say that this was not tragedy but farce. But I think we need to get way beyond options one and two even to get close to this one -- claptrap justice meted out to the former dictator in some puffed-up act of self-justification as the country itself collapses in the hands of the occupying army.

Marty Peretz, with some sort of projection, calls any attempt to rain on this parade "prissy and finicky." Myself, I just find it embarrassing. This is what we're reduced to, what the president has reduced us to. This is the best we can do. Hang Saddam Hussein because there's nothing else this president can get right.

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Bush

Glenn Greenwald: President Bush today hailed the critical importance of fair trials and the rule of law . . . . in Iraq:

”Today, Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial -- the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.” ”Fair trials were unimaginable under Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule. It is a testament to the Iraqi people's resolve to move forward after decades of oppression that, despite his terrible crimes against his own people, Saddam Hussein received a fair trial. This would not have been possible without the Iraqi people's determination to create a society governed by the rule of law.”

The President is certainly right that it is is a good thing that Saddam Hussein was given a trial, represented by lawyers, with an opportunity to contest his guilt, before being deemed to be guilty. That is how civilized countries function, by definition. In fact, allowing people fair trials before treating them as Guilty is one of the handful of defining attributes -- one could even say (as the American Founders did) a prerequisite -- for countries to avoid tyranny. That is why it is so reprehensible and inexpressibly tragic that the Bush administration continues to claim -- and aggressively exercise -- the power to imprison and punish people without even a pretense or fraction of the due process that Saddam Hussein enjoyed. The Bush administration believes that it has the power to imprison whomever it wants, for as long as it wants, without even giving them access to the outside world, let alone "a fair trial." The power which it claims -- which it has seized -- extends not only to foreign nationals but legal residents and even its own citizens.

The rule of law, Bush style: As the hearing concluded, the detainee, who cannot be identified publicly under military rules, had a question. He is a citizen of Pakistan, he noted. He was arrested on a business trip to Thailand. On what authority or charges was he even being held?

“That question,” a Marine colonel presiding over the panel answered, “is outside the limits of what this board is permitted to consider.”

Under a law passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in October, this double-wide trailer may be as close to a courtroom as most Guantánamo prisoners ever get. The law prohibits them from challenging their detention or treatment by writs of habeas corpus in the federal courts. Instead, they may only petition a single federal appeals court to examine whether the review boards followed the military’s own procedures in reviewing their status as “enemy combatants.”

But an examination of the Guantánamo review boards by The New York Times suggests that they have often fallen short, not only as a source of due process for the hundreds of men held here, but also as a forum to resolve questions about what the detainees have done and the threats they may pose.

Some limitations have long been evident. The prisoners have no right to a lawyer, or to see classified evidence, or even to know the identity of their accusers. What has been less visible, however, is what many officials describe as a continuing shortage of information about many detainees, including some who have been held on sketchy or disputed intelligence.

Behind the hearings that journalists are allowed to observe is a system that has at times been as long on government infighting and diplomatic maneuvering as it has been short on hard evidence. The result, current and former officials acknowledged, is that some detainees have been held for years on less compelling information, while a growing number of others for whom there was thought to be stronger evidence of militant activities have been released under secret arrangements between Washington and their home governments.


Sarah Olson: The U.S. Army has cobbled together portions of my interview with Lieutenant Watada and these statements comprise the foundation of one charge of conduct unbecoming an officer. To substantiate this alleged crime, the Army has subpoenaed me to testify on behalf of their prosecution. The dynamics of the situation are clear. When the military chooses to prosecute a soldier for expressing dissenting political positions to a member of the press, that journalist is unwittingly and inevitably forced into the middle of the conflict. Among multiple issues this raises, it begs one central question: Doesn’t it fly in the face of the First Amendment to compel a journalist to participate in a government prosecution against a source, particularly in matters related to personal political speech? It is my job as a professional journalist to report the news, not to act as the eyes and ears of the government. I am repelled by this approach that jeopardizes my credibility and seeks to compel my participation in muting public speech and dissenting personal opinion. Further, it is stunningly ironic that the Army seeks my testimony – the testimony of a journalist – in a case against free speech itself. What could be more hostile to the idea of a free press than a journalist participating in the suppression of newsworthy speech?

When journalists are subpoenaed to confirm the veracity of their reporting, they typically agree to this limited request. What makes this case different is that the thing in question is the political nature of Lieutenant Watada’s speech. Participating in the U.S. Army’s court-martial forces me to build the case against my source and contribute to an act of suppression against the media’s ability to report the news.

Senator Edward Kennedy: Today, within Iraq, 1.6 million people have already fled or been expelled from their homes. An additional 1.8 million, fleeing sectarian violence, kidnappings, extortion, death threats and carnage, have sought refuge in neighboring countries. At least 700,000 are in Jordan, 600,000 in Syria, 100,000 in Egypt, 54,000 in Iran and 20,000 in Lebanon. Typically they are not living in refugee camps but have relocated in urban areas, where they must draw on their own meager resources to pay for food and shelter, and must depend on the good graces of the host governments.

The neighboring countries, in turn, are under enormous financial stress from the rapidly increasing needs of the refugees. In Jordan, they now make up more than 10 percent of the population -- the equivalent of 30 million people flooding America's shores. These countries are increasingly unable to meet the refugees' basic needs.

Borders are being closed to more and more of these men, women and children, with the result that many who are most in need or in danger are trapped in the Iraqi caldron of violence. As it continues to boil, the humanitarian crisis will only worsen.

The recent report of the Iraq Study Group rightly concluded that if this refugee situation "is not addressed, Iraq and the region could be further destabilized, and the humanitarian suffering could be severe." Sadly, as with so many other aspects of the Iraq war -- from the growing threat of the insurgency to the need to provide adequate armor for our troops -- the administration has failed to recognize the breadth of the crisis and to adjust our policy to address the plain facts on the ground.

Frank Davies: As Bush weighs options for a new "way forward," including the possibility of a "surge" of more U.S. forces, the question about more casualties in a failed cause is just as vital as it was toward the end of the Vietnam War.

For U.S. officials, Iraq is that intractable political problem with no good options. At times, there is a disconcerting detachment here from the carnage and the urgency of the crisis, as if the political calendar is more important than the reality on the ground.

The Iraq Study Group, after all, delayed its report until after the election, even though it found the situation in Iraq "grave and deteriorating."

Bush put off his new policy pronouncement until after the holidays.

Perhaps the clearest sign of myopia was when Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials insisted that insurgents were killing Americans in October to affect the election. No such explanation has been given for December's spike in casualties.

Victory in any conventional sense appears unattainable. The best likely outcome is to forestall all-out civil war, and give a weak Iraqi government more time to try to reconcile warring factions, something it has been unable or unwilling to do.

Will the public accept a steady stream of casualties for this limited goal: to keep a disaster from becoming a catastrophe?

John Tirman: For all the talk about the violence in Iraq, Americans are focusing little attention on the human costs to the Iraqis. The Iraq Study Group report, for example, which is a kind of national temperature gauge of the public's mood, fails to express much sympathy or regret for the chaos and colossal loss of Iraqi lives. In this oversight, if that's what it is, an essential lesson is lost about this war. The Iraq Study Group includes a number of references to the hardship and danger for U.S. forces. It speaks of growing violence caused by insurgents, militias and criminals. But where is the analysis of the role of the U.S. military in the violence and carnage suffered by the Iraqi people?

This skewed perspective is reflected among think tank analysts and news commentators. What matters in most of these accounts is that U.S. troops are caught in the crossfire of ancient rivalries within Islam. The major opinion pollsters have not asked about Americans' concerns about the carnage in Iraq except as it relates to Americans. The slew of journalists' reports of the war have essentially ignored Iraqi fatalities as well.


It's understandable that Americans do not want to acknowledge the terrible consequences in Iraq of the U.S. operation there. But if we want to understand the reasons for the daily violence, its astonishing durability and its decentralized nature, we need to ask hard questions about the role of the U.S. military in starting a war and then failing to find a formula for quelling the consequent violence. Denying that large-scale civilian death and suffering has occurred leads us to false assumptions that the violence is wholly internecine and prevents us from learning the most useful lesson of this debacle - that counterinsurgencies relying on force actually produce more insurgents. Among many people in liberal and human-rights circles in early 2003, there was qualified support for the invasion precisely to improve the lot of Iraqis suffering under Saddam Hussein's rule. Now, we hear nothing about a very different kind, and scale, of suffering in Iraq. Peruse the Web sites of major religions in America and you will find nothing prominent about Iraqi deaths. Nor is there a significant peace movement to demand accountability. With few exceptions, Democratic Party leaders have said nothing on the topic. If we were to come to a new self-reckoning and grapple with the painful reality of what our country has done to theirs, we might think differently about sustaining our military role, or, conversely, walking away. It likely would drive us to do everything we could to end the violence and to commit ourselves to a massive and scrupulously accountable reconstruction of the country once the violence subsides. These actions may be the only hope for ending this conflict with the U.S. world reputation even partially intact. For now, however, the silence persists. The regrettable, but unavoidable, conclusion: Americans do not care how many people are killed there. In the end, for us, that may be the biggest tragedy of the war.

Casualty Reports

Spc. Dustin R. Donica, 22, of Spring, died Thursday of wounds from small arms fire. Pfc. Nathaniel A. Given, 21, of Dickinson, died Wednesday when an improvised explosive device detonated near him while he was on patrol.

Sgt. Edward W. Shaffer, 23, of Mont Alto, Pa., died Wednesday at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, of injuries he suffered Nov. 13 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Friedberg, Germany.


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