Monday, February 19, 2007

Photo: A U.S. soldier after a car bomb explosion at a market in a neighbourhood known as New Baghdad, southeast of Baghdad, February 18, 2007. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
In a coordinated assault on an American combat outpost north of Baghdad, suicide bombers drove three cars laden with explosives into the base, killing two American soldiers and wounding at least 17 more, according to witnesses and the American military. The suicide bombers who attacked today timed their assault to inflict maximum damage, witnesses said.
Shortly before dawn, two suicide bombers drove into the outer perimeter of the station and detonated them. Then, as American soldiers tried to assess the damage, a third bomber drove his car up to where the Americans had gathered and set it off. There was a heavy exchange of gunfire after the explosions. As the firefight raged, at least four American helicopters swept into the city to evacuate wounded soldiers.
Residents said U.S. forces fought with militants after the suicide bomber tried to break through barriers around the base near Tarmiyah, about 30 miles north of Baghdad. For hours, helicopters were seen landing at the base and leaving.
"It was not just a spontaneous attack. It wasn't just people taking potshots at us," Major Steven Lamb told Reuters.
Bring 'em on: A Marine assigned to Multi-National Force-West was killed Feb. 17 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province. (MNF - Iraq)
Bring 'em on: A Soldier assigned to Multi-National Force-West was killed Feb. 18 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province. (CENTCOM)
(update) The military announced the deaths "in combat operations" of three marines and a soldier over three days in the western province of Anbar. [should be the two above plus another two -- zig]
At least seven Iraqis were killed and 11 others injured, some seriously, when an explosive device detonated aboard a public bus in central Baghdad's Karada district.
Only 100 yards away, a bomb hidden in an open-air market exploded, killing at least five.
A roadside bomb killed three policemen in the area of Zafraniyah in southeastern Baghdad.
Eight Iraqis were killed and 13 others wounded when two explosive devices went off consecutively near a market place in the Zafarana district of south Baghdad.
The area close to a police station in southern Baghdad was bombarded with mortar shells. No causalities were reported.
At least 11 people were killed and ten others were wounded in a mortar attack at a residential area in southern Baghdad, a police source said. "Five mortar rounds slammed today evening on a residential area in Abu-Tisher district in southern Baghdad, killing eleven people and wounding ten others," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The source added "there were women and children among the casualties." The attack also damaged four houses in the area, he added.
A parked car bomb exploded in Al Habibia area in Al Hamza square, two civilians are killed and 11 were injured.
Police found 3 dead bodies allover Baghdad. One in Salihia (central Baghdad not far way from the green zone), one in Al Amil (southwest Baghdad) and one in Abu Disheer (south Baghdad).
Diyala Prv:
In Buhriz, a town about 35 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi soldiers kicked in doors and scoured homes, but most dwellings were eerily empty.
In another house, medical supplies were scattered about - saline bottles, IV bags, syringes - in what soldiers believe was a makeshift aid station for insurgents.
Gunmen killed the head of the al-Saadiya municipality, on Sunday in the town 90 km (55 miles) northeast of Baquba, police said. Bajilan's bodyguards killed two of the attackers.
Police said gunmen killed 2 farmers in Baldrouz city.
Gunmen attacked the municipality director of Al Saddia town, a Kurd and a member of the Kurdish party PUK. 2 men of the attackers were killed.
A car bomb went off among auto repair shops killing two and wounding two in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of the capital.
Police found the bodies of two people shot dead in Mussayab, a town 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad.
A gunman was killed and five others detained during search and raid operations by coalition forces in western Basra, a military spokeswoman said on Monday. "A gunman who was driving his vehicle in al-Hussein neighborhood was killed in a shootout with the checkpoint in this area," Capt. Kitty Brown, the spokeswoman for the coalition forces in the south, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by telephone.
Two British bases at Shatt al-Arab Hotel and the former presidential palaces have come under katyusha attacks on Monday morning.
At least four were killed when a bomb-rigged car exploded in Duluiyah, about 45 miles north of Baghdad.
At least five people were killed and 12 others wounded when a suicide car-bomber attacked the house of an Iraqi military commander in Duluiyah, 70 km north of Baghdad.
The governor of central Salahaddin province escaped unharmed after a roadside bomb targeting his convoy killed three of his bodyguards and wounded four.
The bodies of eight people were found shot dead in the northern city of Mosul.
Two suicide car bomb attacks hit two police stations in Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad, on Monday, killing and wounding 20 policemen, a local police source said. A suicide bomber drove an explosive-laden vehicle into the police station of al-Jazeera area in eastern Ramadi, killing and wounding at least 15 policemen, the source said. Minutes later, another suicide car bomb attack rocked the police station of Albu Diyab village near Ramadi, wounding five policemen, the source said.
A car bomb in Ramadi killed at least nine bystanders congregated at a police checkpoint in the aftermath of a failed suicide attack.
In Monday's deadliest attack, 13 members of one family ambushed near Falluja on their way home from a funeral. suspected al Qaeda militants pulled the family of mourners from a minibus in daylight and gunned them down, including two young boys, after finding out they were from a Sunni tribe opposed to al Qaeda, police said.
A U.S. Hummer was damaged when an explosive charge went off at a U.S. vehicle patrol in Falluja, an eyewitness said. "An explosive charge was detonated today afternoon at a U.S. vehicle patrol near al-Hasa village in south of Falluja," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The eyewitness added "the blast damaged a U.S. Hummer." "The U.S. forces cordoned off the scene after the blast and some Marines raided the village houses that were near the explosion location," he said.
Unknown gunmen launched on Monday an attack with mortars, RPGs and small arms against an Iraqi army barrack in Falluja, a security source said. "Fierce clashes broke out today afternoon as gunmen launched an attack on an Iraqi army barrack in al-Askari district in east of Falluja," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
The source added "the attack occurred today at 3:30 pm and lasted for almost 20 minutes." "The gunmen used small arms, RPGs and mortars in their assault against the barrack," the source added. The source said "there were casualties among the Iraqi soldiers," but he did not give a specific figure. The Iraqi security forces cordoned off the scene after gunmen fled the area, he said.
Tal Afar:
A policeman was killed and three others wounded when explosives inside a booby-trapped house they were searching detonated in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar.
In Country:
The Associated Press is reporting the death of a Mississippi Army National Guardsman from a non-hostile, unspecified cause in Baghdad on Saturday, February 17th. Sergeant 1st Class William C. Spillers, 39, of Terry, Mississippi, was assigned to the 230th Finance Detachment out of Jackson, MS. This is a new death, not previously reported by CENTCOM.
al-Maliki ordered an investigation into allegations by a Sunni Arab woman that she was raped by three members of the Shiite-dominated police force after she was detained over the weekend. A top police official disputed the allegation.
The allegations are potentially explosive at a time of rising tensions between Shiites and Sunnis as the United States begins a security operation to restore order in the capital.
From a thriving middle income economy in the 1970's and 1980's, one third of today's Iraqi population lives in poverty with more than 5 per cent living in extreme poverty, a new United Nations-backed study says.
Prepared by the Iraqi Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology with the support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the statistics show that a high percentage of people in Iraq live under various levels of poverty and human deprivation despite the country's huge economic and natural resources.
The policies applied to transform the Iraqi economy to a free market, such as the lifting of subsidies and the dismantling of state instruments, are exacerbating deprivation levels, UNDP said.
read in full...
In Baqoubah, in the Iraqi province of Diyala, unpleasant questions get answered very quickly. There is a startling pop, and then: 'Who fired that shot? Did you fire that shot?'
One of the American soldiers of Bravo Company of the 1/12 Cavalry is shouting at the accompanying Iraqi army troops, hoping against hope, it appears, that a weapon has been accidentally discharged. We are standing in a narrow dirt street lined with single-storey houses. In places sewage has pooled in oily green puddles on the road's surface and there is a nasty smell.
The tense soldiers had been advancing in a column down the street, hugging the walls on either side, while the Iraqi troops tried to engage householders in conversation, handing out 'tip-off' cards with numbers to call anonymously with information on suspected terrorists and asking for the home of the mayor of Burhiz. The welcome is almost friendly at first. People come out. But no one strays far from the doors of their homes.
A second shot, closer and sharper in tone. It was no accident but sniper fire that quickly turns into something more dangerous still as the soldiers advance, beginning to jog towards the source of the shooting. The first group bunch and duck behind an Iraqi Humvee for cover, as the firing intensifies into repeated blasts. Fifty or so metres down the road, at a garbage-strewn crossroads, it is suddenly clear that they have been led towards a crossfire and, perhaps, a trap.
Watch the remarkable events unfold and listen to Peter Beaumont describe what happened when he was caught under fire with American forces in Iraq on our audio slideshow.
read in full...
McClatchy Baghdad Bureau: AT THE MORGUE
We were asked to send the next of kin to whom the remains of my nephew, killed on Monday in a horrific explosion downtown, can be handed over. The young men of the family, as was customary, rose to go.
"NO!" cried his mother. "Isn't my son enough?? Must we lose more of our youth?? You know there are unknowns who wait at the Morgue to either kill or kidnap the men who dare reach its doors. I will go."
So we went, his mum, his other aunt and I.
I was praying all the way there.
I never thought a day would come when it was the women of the family, who would be safer on the roads. All the men are potential terrorists it seems, and are therefore to be cut down on sight. This is the logic of today, is it not? To kill evil before it even has a chance to take root.
When we got there, we were given his remains. And remains they were. From the waist down was all they could give us. "We identified him by the cell phone in his pants' pocket. If you want the rest, you will just have to look for yourselves. We don't know what he looks like."
Now begins a horror that surpasses anything I could have possibly envisioned .We were led away, and before long a foul stench clogged my nose and I retched. With no more warning we came to a clearing that was probably an inside garden at one time; all round it were patios and rooms with large-pane windows to catch the evening breeze Baghdad is renowned for. But now it had become a slaughterhouse, only instead of cattle, all around were human bodies. On this side; complete bodies; on that side halves; and EVERYWHERE body parts.
We were asked what we were looking for, " upper half" replied my companion, for I was rendered speechless. "Over there". We looked for our boy's broken body between tens of other boys' remains'; with our bare hands sifting them and turning them.
We found him millennia later, took both parts home, and began the mourning ceremony.
Can Hollywood match our reality?? I doubt it.
The shocking toll of six American helicopters shot down in Iraq within three weeks has sparked a Pentagon inquiry into the use of surface-to-air (Sam) missiles against the aircraft.
"Is there a concern? Yes, there is definitely a concern," said a Pentagon official about the helicopter downings. "Are we looking at it closely? You bet." Air power is crucial to American military strategy in Iraq - roads have become too dangerous to travel along because of roadside bombs that can penetrate even the armour of a US Abrams battle tank.
The shooting down of six helicopters with the loss of 27 lives is an unprecedented success for the Iraqi insurgency, and coincides with the "surge" operation of increased American troops in Baghdad backed up by Iraqi police and army. (...)
Yesterday, Iraqi security forces found 50 Russian-made Sam missiles in a weapons cache near Baghdad. The discovery, the largest of its kind since 2003, has confirmed suspicions that insurgents are using more sophisticated munitions.
The Pentagon has confirmed that a CH46 Sea Knight shot down 11 days ago in Al-Anbar province west of Baghdad, the heartland of the Sunni insurgency, was the victim of a Soviet-designed Sam.
They had earlier claimed it had crashed because of mechanical failure. Sea Knights are troop transport vehicles, highly identifiable because of their huge size and twin rotors. They can carry up to 24 troops, with four crew.
British, American and Iraqi sources said the missile used was a version of the "Strela" series - a Sam designed in Russia and copied by countries as diverse as North Korea and Egypt.
Investigators are focusing on which version of the Strela was used. The Sam 7 (Strela 2) is cheap, available in Iraq on the black market for £500, and easy to use. One source said yesterday: "I could teach you to use it in one day. You just wait for the green light and the growling noise, and pull the trigger."
The Sea Knight is more likely to have been shot down by the advanced Strela 3, or Sam 14, that locks on to the target more efficiently, but in Iraq they would cost up to £25,000 and would be used only by specially trained insurgents.
The Pentagon is concerned that the insurgents may also have access to the next-generation missile, the Igla, which can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and is highly accurate.
It is a sensitive issue for the US military. While the Bush administration is pointing the finger at Iran for supplying weapons to Iraqi rebels, the Iranians are unlikely to be behind these helicopter attacks.
Most of the Shi'ite attacks are sectarian, on their Sunni enemies, while all the attacks on American helicopters have come from Sunni areas. The missile technology is believed to have fallen into the hands of former Saddam supporters or their Al-Qaeda allies.
read in full...
There is something ludicrous about the attempt by the US military in Iraq to persuade the world that the simple but devastating roadside bomb or IED (improvised explosive device) is a highly developed weapon requiring Iranian expertise.
Here is the official police report of one IED attack. It reads: "At about 8.25am, 100 men of the X Regt with their colonel in charge, marched with their band from the military barracks at Y to their rifle range via fixed route. When they got to place Z a land mine exploded, killing three outright and wounding 22 others, three of these died shortly afterwards. The mine was connected to an electric battery by about 150 yards of cable. It is believed that there were only two men involved in carrying out this outrage."
This is fairly typical of a roadside bomb. It might have happened in Iraq yesterday - except it didn't. The IED in question exploded in the town of Youghal in County Cork on 21 June 1921. I happen to have read the Royal Irish Constabulary report on the incident, because I was born 29 years later about two miles away from the site.
IEDs have not changed much in the decades that followed. They have been used everywhere from Cyprus to Vietnam. They are cheap and easy to make, and can be detonated by a single person. They came as a nasty shock to the incoming US soldiers who invaded Iraq in 2003 because they were so well equipped to fight the Soviet army - American military procurement long ago detached itself from real conditions on the battlefield.
In early 2004 I met some US combat engineers, or sappers, charged with the lethal job of finding these bombs, which were nicknamed "convoy killers". Because the Pentagon was in a state of denial about their very existence, the sappers had received no training in locating them. A sergeant told me that he had obtained with great difficulty an old but still valid US army handbook, printed during the Vietnam War, about IEDs. The book had not been reissued because to do so might appear to contradict the Pentagon's line that Iraq was not like Vietnam.
The US Army is pretending that "explosively formed penetrators" are a new form of weapon which could only have been obtained in Iran. It claimed last week that the so-called EFPs had been supplied to the Shia militias and had killed 170 US troops. But the US has been primarily fighting a Sunni insurgency, and has had only intermittent clashes with Shia militiamen.
Sophisticated weapons may be obtained in Iraq, if the money is there to pay for them. Until recently smugglers were moving weapons out of Iraq into Saudi Arabia - prices were higher there. A favourite method of moving them was to tie the guns under sheep, so they were concealed by the wool, and to pay the shepherds to drive them across the frontier.
The Bush administration famously based its argument for invading Iraq on best-case assumptions: that we would be greeted as liberators; that a capable democratic government would quickly emerge; that our military presence would be modest and temporary; and that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for everything. All these assumptions, of course, turned out to be wrong.
Now, many of the same people who pushed for the invasion are arguing for escalating our military involvement based on a worst-case assumption: that if America leaves quickly, the Apocalypse will follow. "How would [advocates of withdrawal] respond to the eruption of full-blown civil war in Iraq and the massive ethnic cleansing it would produce?" write Robert Kagan and William Kristol in the Weekly Standard. "How would they respond to the intervention of Iraq's neighbors, including Iran, Syria, and Turkey? And most important, what would they propose to do if, as a result of our withdrawal and the collapse of Iraq, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups managed to establish a safe haven from which to launch attacks against the United States and its allies?" (...)
Not only is the worst-case scenario far from a sure thing in the event of an American withdrawal, but there is also a best-case scenario. Precisely because the idea of all-out civil war and a regional blowup involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey is so horrifying, all the political forces inside and outside Iraq have many incentives not to go there.
Certainly, four years into the war, passions on all sides have been inflamed, communal tensions bared, and the secular, urban Iraqi middle class has either fled or been decimated. The mass terror perpetuated by armed gangs of extremists now occupies center stage. The broken Iraqi state has ceased to exist outside the Green Zone, the economy is devastated, and unemployment is believed to be hovering around 50 percent.
Yet the neoconservatives and the Bush administration weren't entirely wrong in 2003 when they expressed confidence in the underlying strength of the Iraqi body politic. Though things have gone horrendously awry, there are many factors that could provide the glue to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom in Washington, Iraq is not a make-believe state cobbled together after World War I, but a nation united by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, just as the Nile unites Egypt. Historically, the vast majority of Iraqis have not primarily identified themselves according to their sect, as Sunnis or Shiites. Of course, as the civil war escalates, more Iraqis are identifying by sect, and tensions are worsening. But it is not too late to resurrect some of the comity that once existed. The current war is not a conflict between all Sunnis and all Shiites, but a violent clash of extremist paramilitary armies. Most Iraqis do not support the extremists on either side. According to a poll conducted in June 2006 by the International Republican Institute, "seventy-eight per cent of Iraqis, including a majority of Shiites, opposed the division of Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines."
In addition, the country's vast oil reserves, conceivably the world's largest, could help hold Iraq together. Iraqi politicians are currently devising a law that would ratify the central government's control of all of the country's oil wealth. Even the corruption that now cripples Iraq tethers Iraqi political leaders to the central government and to the idea of Iraq as a nation-state. "None of the big players really want civil war," says an Iraqi military official closely affiliated with Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. "None of them want to give up the regular flow of funds that they get now from corruption."
What most Iraqis do seem to want, according to numerous polls, is for American forces to leave. Even within the current, skewed Iraqi political system, a majority of Iraq's parliament supports a U.S. withdrawal. If we add to the mix the powerful Sunni-led resistance, including former Baathists, Sunni nationalists, and tribes, an overwhelming majority wants to end the occupation.
read in full...
After reading one more essay calling everyone who served a hero, I had to let loose some pent up frustrations I have with the antiwar movements political paradox.
One paradox of the antiwar movement:
It is against belligerence and denounces the military-industrial-academic complex, but professes deep admiration and loyalty to the members of a professional, all-volunteer armed forces. Everywhere people fall victim of employing subjectivity instead of objectivity.
Part of the irony within the antiwar movement comes in America's psychological need to personalize the military. The military thus becomes your brother, mother, uncle, and cousin. They are reported to be your friends and family, but rarely members of Congress or their families. Rarely are they depicted as a willing force that carries out the violence and domination of US policy. Very rarely is the system criticized for the WASP patriarchal hierarchy it pushes. Calls for saving the armed forces from Bush are made.
They are the victims? Indeed, with some relative and vague rationalizing one could feasibly argue men and women who sign a contractual agreement to serve are victimized by the President. (Of course, one would also have to overlook the use of US military in Haiti, Somali, Kosovo, Panama, Grenada, Iraq (pre'03), Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, the Philippines....Never mind history, these folks are just ignorant kids, totally unaware of the US policy this President intends to carry out. The military is as much to blame for the torture at GITMO and Abu Ghraib as the President.) (...)
According to the OP all service members are heroes. Talk about a free ticket to idolization. Regardless of their actions, everybody comes home a hero.(All I have to do is survive 2 years in the armed forces, and I get to be a hero?! Imagine the impact that can have on some young person who wants to be connected to things bigger than herself. He/she looks around at his surroundings and thinks I'll never be anyone of importance. But, hey! If I join the army, I'll be a hero! Even people in the lentil eating section will call me a hero. I can be somebody!)
Long after the UN called the actions America carried out against Iraq in 2003 "belligerent", American's are supportive! According to the descriptions for many of the US medals, such as the medal of honor, the silver and bronze star "...is cited for., action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations., ...in which the United States is not a belligerent party" Why are the medals of heroes intended to be awarded when the US is not a belligerent party? The answer seems rudimentary.
American's begin to overlook the crimes committed against Iraq and its people -just like America forgets about the crimes in Central America, and the Philippines.
Whitewash and anoint the brave cliches.
Afghan police on Monday abandoned a volatile western district a day after a roadside bomb killed four officers involved in opium poppy eradication. Gen. Abdul Wahab Walizada, the Afghan army's Western corps commander, said police had left Farah province's Bakwa district on Monday, but would not say whether Taliban militants active in the area had taken control.
Suspected insurgents fired a rocket at a Canadian military's armored vehicle in the city of Kandahar on Sunday, but no troops were injured in the attack.
A Canadian convoy was ambushed twice by Taliban fighters armed with rocket propelled grenades and small arms, a Canadian military official said. The resulting firefights saw one Afghan National Police officer and a civilian mistakenly gunned down by soldiers.
Iran began its largest war games in almost a year Monday, just two days ahead of a U.N. Security Council deadline for Iran to halt uranium enrichment or face further economic sanctions.
The elite Revolutionary Guards began three days of ground maneuvers, state-run media reported Monday. State television said the exercise is the biggest since last March and is taking place in 16 of Iran's 30 provinces. The broadcast said an estimated 60,000 troops are participating in the maneuvers.
"All weapons possessed by the Guards' ground force ... including new weapons, will be tested during the war games," Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, commander of the Guards' ground force, was quoted by the official Islamic Republic News Agency as saying Monday.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If they (the U.S. military) cannot use their helicopters to pinpoint the pockets of resistance, their strategy to defeat the insurgency is in real trouble" -- Mohammad Kadri Said, a retired general now at the Cairo-based Al Ahram Center for Strategic Studies commenting on the "insurgents" new ability to bring down U.S. helicopters


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