Monday, December 27, 2004

<>War News for Monday, December 27, 2004 Bring ‘em on: Fifteen Iraqis killed and at least 50 wounded by car bomb outside the home of the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's most powerful Shiite political group. One US soldier killed and another wounded in roadside bomb explosion in Samarra. Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqi officials killed in three separate assassination attacks. Three US soldiers injured in roadside bombing of a military convoy in Mosul. (scroll down). <>Bring ‘em on: One of Turkey’s richest businessmen and an employee kidnapped in vicinity of Basra. Professor at Baghdad University's medical school shot dead on Haifa street. Governor of eastern Diyala province attacked by roadside bomb, four wounded. Bring ‘em on: Twenty one ING soldiers abducted between Haditha and Qaim. Five policemen found shot dead in Ramadi. Let’s hope it never goes badly: Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, made a surprise visit to a small group of soldiers here at Forward Operating Base Danger and said in an interview that the war in Iraq was "going pretty well." Schoomaker was the third top Pentagon official to visit troops here in recent days. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld stopped in Tikrit during his whirlwind Christmas Eve tour on Friday, and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ushered a USO troupe through Iraq earlier this month. A Brief Pause to Shake Our Heads in Amazement: So…the war in Iraq is “going pretty well.” Uh…ok. I guess the only question that needs to be asked is, ‘For who?’ We can probably rule out the 27 dead, 58 wounded and 23 kidnapped people in the ‘Bring ‘em on’ section... So who’s it going so 'pretty well' for? Let’s look at the news and find out! Probably not these guys: "Adam" is supposed to be the Iraqi face at a key U.S. military checkpoint south of Baghdad, but he is so fearful for his life that he wears a black ski mask to hide his identity. Dressed in camouflage fatigues, he is part of an army of translators that serves as a vital link for occupiers short on Arab speakers needed for manning roadblocks, mounting patrols and interrogating suspects<>. But because of their highly visible jobs, they also face an especially high risk from Iraqi insurgents who have branded them traitors and collaborators and marked them for death. These guys might not see it that way either: Members of the fledgling Iraqi army and the Iraqi National Guard, who are stationed with U.S. soldiers at this heavily fortified outpost in western Mosul, have come under new suspicion after a man apparently dressed in an Iraqi security forces uniform detonated a bomb in a crowded dining hall Tuesday, killing 22 people and wounding dozens. As difficult as it is for the Americans who work with them, the Iraqis clearly face even more danger from insurgents. While the U.S. military scrambles to make sure all its vehicles in Iraq are armored, no such plan is in place for Iraqi security forces, who drive soft-skinned Jeeps or crowd into the backs of small pickups. Americans use high-tech weapons, while the Iraqis are armed with old-school Russian AK-47s, some held together with duct tape. Iraqi troops were on patrols last month when the first of many bodies of their own security forces began turning up along major roadways. Dozens of Iraqi soldiers quit that first day, according to their commander, and many have since fled. Iraqi soldiers in Mosul said they had friends who were killed by insurgents and had been threatened themselves. One said he disguises himself on patrols and when he goes home; others don't go home at all anymore. National Guard Sgt. Mahday Khalil has seen bodies of his comrades in the streets. Still, he and his friends stay in the national guard, he said, "because we have nothing else to do." <>Or these: While many Texas families spent Sunday snapping up post-Christmas bargains, nearly 500 soldiers on this post enjoyed a last meal with their loved ones before shipping out for a year in Iraq<>. Most of the soldiers are Army reservists assigned to the 228th Combat Support Hospital. Their ranks include doctors, nurses, X-ray technicians and other medical support specialists<>. They are ultimately heading to two of Iraq's most dangerous areas: the northern city of Mosul and Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown in the so-called Sunni Triangle. <> Maybe Schoomaker just, you know, redefined ‘going pretty well’: In a week that saw the deadliest single attack on Americans in Iraq - and the first major US contractor to pull out - more and more military experts are warning that drastic changes are needed to both US strategy and American public expectations if there's to be success there. Steps once potentially capable of turning the situation around "in all likelihood" would now fail, the ICG says in its new report. "If the [Bush] administration does not take the measure of what has changed ... it may well meet its desired end-date, but at the cost of a highly dangerous end-state." The US hopes Iraq will adopt a new constitution and elect a full legislature by the end of 2005<>. "Part of the effort has to be to redefine what success means,'' says Malley at ICG. "The original notion that Iraq was going to be a model for the region, of open government, of a liberal, free-market economy, isn't an achievable goal anymore."<> Or maybe this made him feel more confident: The only country in the Western Hemisphere besides the United States still fielding soldiers in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq may extend its troop deployment beyond a scheduled return early next year, El Salvador's president said Saturday<>. Salvadoran forces have been in Iraq since August 2003, with 380 troops currently serving there. The contingent is scheduled to come home in February after a six-month tour.<> Now, these guys might agree with him: The deadly suicide attack on a US military base in Mosul this week was an "inside job" carried out by insurgents who are part of the Iraqi armed forces, Asia Times Online has been told.<> Sources said a strong nexus between Iraqi forces and the resistance is what allowed them to carry out the most devastating attack on US troops since the beginning of the invasion. US forces have imposed a curfew in Mosul and have launched a military operation in the city, but, the sources say, this will have little effect on the problem, for the simple reason that the US-trained Iraqi military is heavily infected with people loyal to the resistance groups.<> But wait! I found it! Hey, it is going pretty well after all!: The United States is helping the interim Iraqi government continue to make major economic changes, including cuts to social subsidies, full access for U.S. companies to the nation's oil reserves and reconsideration of oil deals that the previous regime signed with France and Russia. During a visit here this week, officials of the U.S.-backed administration detailed some of the economic moves planned for Iraq, many of them appearing to give U.S. corporations greater reach into the occupied nation's economy. For example, the current leadership is looking at privatizing the Iraqi National Oil Company, said Finance Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi<>. The government, which is supposed to be replaced after elections scheduled for January, will also pass a new law that will further open Iraq's huge oil reserves to foreign companies. U.S. firms are expected to gain the lion's share of access in a process estimated to be worth billions of dollars.<> That would explain the ‘explosions of joy and relief’…well, explosions, at least: Meanwhile, the words of the Bush regime's third wise man, Paul Wolfowitz, resonate. Set the Wayback Machine to March 24, 2003: Wolfowitz is being interviewed by the BBC during the invasion of Iraq. Asked about the U.S. "preparation for what comes after," Wolfowitz replies: "The focus has got to be on removing this criminal regime. Until the regime is gone it's going to be very hard to do anything. Even in cities that are liberated. I think when the people of Basra no longer feel the threat of that regime, you are going to see an explosion of joy and relief." Fast forward to April 21, 2004, when five car bombs exploded simultaneously in Basra during rush-hour traffic, killing dozens of people, including 20 children. Exactly how many Iraq civilians died isn't known because, as General Tommy Franks noted, "We don't do body counts." Some Polling Related Item<>s Shi'a opinion: Iraq's election body rejected a suggestion in Washington it adjust the results of next month's vote to benefit the Sunni minority if low turnout in Sunni areas means Shi'ites win an exaggerated majority in the new assembly. Speaking of "unacceptable" interference, Electoral Commission spokesman Farid Ayar said: "Who wins, wins. That is the way it is. That is the way it will be in the election." Kurdish opinion: M<>ore than 1.7 million Iraqi Kurds have signed a petition calling for a referendum on independence<>. A Referendum Movement in Kurdistan spokesman says a delegation from their organisation has travelled to the United Nations headquarters in New York to hand over the petition.<> Australian opinion: Amid continuing carnage in strife-torn Iraq – and just days after a suicide bomber killed 22 people, including 19 US soldiers, near Mosul – a clear majority of Australians now believe last year's invasion was not worth the effort<>. Just 32 per cent of the community believe John Howard's decision to send troops into Iraq was justified, according to a Newspoll conducted exclusively for The Australian. This represents a steep fall from the 46 per cent surveyed in February who believed Australia's war effort was justified. <>Commentar<>y Opinion: So let's be absolutely clear: the US, having broken Iraq, is not in the process of fixing it. It is merely continuing to break the country and its people by other means, using not only F-16s and Bradleys, but now the less flashy weaponry of WTO and IMF conditions, followed by elections designed to transfer as little power to Iraqis as possible. This is what Argentinian writer Rodolfo Walsh, writing before his assassination in 1977 by the military junta, described as "planned misery". And the longer the US stays in Iraq, the more misery it will plan.<> Opinion: A great deal has been written about the failure of military strategy in Iraq, but an even more important reason for the failure of the occupation has barely been discussed: the coalition's economic strategy. Following the Second World War, the Allied forces understood that fascism arose in conditions of unemployment, poverty and desperation. That's why there was a massive effort to reflate the German economy; by early 1947, unemployment was down to 10 per cent. In Iraq today, unemployment stands at an incredible 60 per cent. For young Sunni men - the main recruiting pool for the insurgency - it has soared to 80 per cent. This is a recipe for rage and rebellion<>. It would be bad enough if the coalition had simply done nothing to reflate and re-energize the Iraqi economy. Incredibly, the truth is even worse: they have imposed on Iraq a program of ultra-neoliberal reforms that have brought economic collapse to every country they have been inflicted upon. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prize-winning economist and dissident former chief economist at the World Bank, describes the economic policies of the coalition as "a proven and predictable catastrophe". They imposed a form of capitalism more extreme than anything tried in a democratic country: immediate privatization of almost all services (without any debate), non-competitive contracts, and a 15 per cent flat tax. This is not democracy. It is market fundamentalism.<> Opinion: The war in Iraq was the result of powerful government figures imposing their dangerous fantasies on the world. The fantasies notably included the weapons of mass destruction, the links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, the throngs of Iraqis hurling kisses and garlands at the invading Americans, and the spread of American-style democracy throughout the Middle East. All voices of caution were ignored and the fantasies were allowed to prevail<>. The world is not a video game, although it must seem like it at times to the hubristic, hermetically sealed powerbrokers in Washington who manipulate the forces that affect the lives of so many millions of people in every region of the planet. That kind of power calls for humility, not arrogance, and should be wielded wisely, not thoughtlessly and impulsively<>. This latest overreach by Mr. Rumsfeld is a sign that the administration, like a hardheaded adolescent, has learned little or nothing from the tragic consequences of its wrongheaded policies. The second term is coming, so buckle up. It promises to be a very dangerous four years.<> Casualty Report<>s Local story: Three Maine soldiers wounded in insurgent attack in Mosul. Local story: Denham Springs, LA, National Guardsman killed in Baghdad. Local story: Two Maine Army National Guard soldiers killed in Mosul.<> Local story: Porstmouth, ME, soldier survives blast in Mosul. .


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