Monday, January 31, 2005

Iran – Discussion Thread, 31 January 2005 It was agreed between YD, Matt and myself that I would do the blog today. I started work on this thread yesterday morning. I had planned the follow the usual format but when I read this in the Los Angeles Times, I decided to change format and do a discussion thread on the possibility that the US and/or Israel will take pre-emptive military action on Iran. The LA Times article that I refer to reports that Halliburton will pull out of Iran after its current contracts there are wound down, Chief Executive Dave Lesar said: "The business environment currently in Iran is not conducive to our overall strategy and objectives." Halliburton provided no details on when its current contracts in Iran would be completed or on the value of the work. The company generated about $80 million in revenue in Iran in 2003. Our regular readers here know all too well that Seymour Hersh, the reporter that broke the Abu Ghraib torture story last year, wrote a few weeks back that the United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, and that secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites. Hersh quoted one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon as saying: "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible." Hours before he and Bush were sworn in to a second term, Dick Cheney, ex CEO of Halliburton said: "You look around the world at potential trouble spots, Iran is right at the top of the list," he also added, “that the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward." So will Bush decide to take pre-emptive military action against Iran? This is the question that I pose to our readers. Regarding the policy, or should I say “doctrine” of pre-emption, Bush in his State of the Union address in January 2002, labelled Iraq, Iran and North Korea an "axis of evil" and warned that he would not allow them to threaten the United States with weapons of mass destruction. Well Iraq never had WMD, as reported by the experts prior to the invasion that the Secretary General of the UN subsequently deemed to be illegal. Well this weekend we now have the farce of “democratic” elections and God knows what the outcome will be in Iraq in the coming months. But what about Iran in the coming months? Well the major issue is Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It is a known fact that Iran has a nuclear programme, and it is also well know that Israel acted unilaterally in 1981 and destroyed the Osirak reactor 18 miles south of Baghdad, on the orders of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. In September 2004, it was reported in the Economist that that Israel was planning to buy 500 “bunker-buster” bombs from America, capable of penetrating six feet of concrete and destroying underground facilities. The Iranians, learning the lesson from neighbouring Iraq have spread out their nuclear sites across the country and has undertaken most of its’ nuclear progamme underground. This weekend the Financial Times had an editorial about the possible diplomatic options that might be available and it states that US and the EU together need to devise compelling incentives and sanctions and enlist regional allies. To forswear the nuclear option Iran needs security guarantees that ultimately only the US can provide. For instance, US allies in the Gulf are tentatively discussing security architecture that would bind in the Saudi-led Gulf Co-operation Council with Iran and a sovereign Iraq. If the US and the EU were to back this, that could advance desperately needed regional and international stability. But for that the second Bush administration would need to recognise the limits of US military power and revive its under-employed diplomacy. It will take the combined clout of the two to make any headway with Iran. But facts are that US and EU diplomatic relations have still not recovered since the illegal invasion in March 2003, there is no sovereign Iraq and there is unlikely to be any real sovereignty there in the foreseeable future, so the possibility of a diplomatic solution to Iran seems very remote at present. So why is Iran of such strategic interest to the USA? Well, writing in the January 2005 issue of Le Monde Diplomatique, Walid Charara explains: “Behind the ideological window-dressing of the new ‘democratic messianism,’ there are two main reasons for the Bush administration’s uncompromising determination. First, there is Iran’s geo-strategic status. It is an independent and middle-ranking regional power that has engaged in military cooperation with Russian and China...[T]his makes it the last bastion still to be holding out against a permanent U.S. takeover of the Middle East. [Second,] Iran is the last surviving ally in the region of those states and organizations still opposed to Israel.” Like Iraq in 2002, will we be subjected to a plethora of scare stories about the Iranian bomb, Iranian support for the resistance in Iraq and Iranian backing for terrorism? Well it has already started, last week the BBC was called to account by Media Lens, over its’ biased news coverage of an Iranian threat. Media Lens say: “Even as the staggering catastrophe that has befallen Iraq continues to be played out, the BBC and other media are yet again preparing the public mind for war. If the public can be convinced that this latest 'threat' is real, then politicians can again unleash their bombers with impunity. How many more innocent people have to die before journalists wake up to their moral responsibility to protect human life, to treat Third World nations as something more than Western playthings, to challenge warmongering propaganda, and to develop their powers of independent, rational thought?” But maybe there is hope, last week the Editorial Board of the New York Times warned the US administration against military intervention in Iran, insisting it would do "more harm than good," they go on to say “these hawkish rumblings eerily recall the months before the American invasion of Iraq, when some of the same officials pressed hardest for military action" and "we hope that this time, wiser heads in the administration will intervene before it is too late."


Sunday, January 30, 2005

Note to Readers It’s apparent that today is a particularly violent and bloody day across Iraq. The list of incidents posted below is incomplete and inaccurate due to the confusion generated by such overwhelming violence. Anyone who has ever been in a combat command post will tell you, “The first report is always wrong.” Obviously, the insurgents have long prepared to disrupt this election and the US and Iraqi security forces have long prepared to prevent disruption. I don’t think we’ll get a clear picture of what is happening today for at least a few more days. War News for Sunday, January 30, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis killed by mortar fire at Sadr City polling station. Bring ‘em on: Two Americans killed, four wounded in mortar attack on US embassy in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Explosion reported at polling station in Basra. Bring ‘em on: Suicide bomber kills one Iraqi, wounds four at Baghdad polling station. Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed fighting in al-Anbar province. Bring ‘em on: Eight suicide bomb attacks reported at Baghdad polling stations. Exit Strategy. “The Bush administration has for now ruled out creating a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq after today's elections, but military commanders have charted a plan to have Iraqi security forces begin taking the lead in combat operations in certain parts of the country as early as spring. U.S. officials have identified areas in southern and northern Iraq that have remained relatively free of violence as the best candidates for a piecemeal shift in military responsibilities over the months ahead. Under this approach, as Iraqi forces take on more of the counterinsurgency mission, some U.S. troops would assume an emergency backup role or shift to training Iraqi units, and others might leave the country, according to administration officials and others familiar with the plan. Under optimal conditions, commanders anticipate possibly being able to withdraw, sometime this spring or summer, three of 20 brigades in Iraq, or about 15,000 troops. That would lower the level of U.S. forces in Iraq to where it was before it was raised to 150,000 troops last month.” Our American media. Boston Globe headline: “Voting held in Iraq's first free election in a half-century, attacks on polling stations kill 31” Wouldn’t the fact that at least 31 voters have been killed in attacks on polling stations indicate that this election is somewhat less than “free.The schools. “Another car bomb in Baghdad. But this time it wasn’t aimed at an American military patrol. Its target: the Moutassim Primary School. Car bombs, rockets and machine gun fire have ripped through dozens of classrooms across Iraq, putting schools that were to be used as polling stations on the front line of insurgents’ efforts to derail today’s landmark elections.” Election coverage. “The media boys and girls will be expected to play along with this. ‘Transition of power,’ says the hourly logo on CNN's live coverage of the election, though the poll is for a parliament to write a constitution, and the men who will form a majority within it will have no power. They have no control over their own oil, no authority over the streets of Baghdad, let alone the rest of the country, no workable army or loyal police force. Their only power is that of the American military and its 150 000 soldiers whom we could all see on the main intersections of Baghdad yesterday. The big television networks have been given a list of five polling stations where they will be "allowed" to film. Close inspection of the list shows that four of the five are in Shi'ite Muslim areas - where the polling will probably be high - and one in an upmarket Sunni area, where it will be moderate.” Al-Anbar. “Election organizers set up two polling centers on Saturday afternoon in Iraq's previously rebel-controlled Fallujah, but only found them bombed shortly after. The two centers, in Fallujah's al-Risala and al-Shurta districts, were installed only hours before election day in an effort to showcase the idea that no place is absent from the elections. The two are among the only four voting centers in Anbar province west of Baghdad, a restive area where elections were thought to be impossible. A third is located in Anbar's capital city of Ramadi and is heavily guarded by US and Iraqi troops. The fourth one is said to be opened early Sunday in Fallujah, a virtual ghost town after US Marines and Iraqi forces stormed it last November. Unlike the south and the north of Iraq, there has been virtually no trace of elections in Anbar despite repeated calls for participation from the authorities.” PTSD. “In an effort to better identify soldiers suffering serious psychological problems as a result of combat duty in Iraq, the Defense Department plans to perform an additional health assessment of servicemen and women three to six months after they come home, officials said on Friday. The new policy, to begin this spring, will add a third health questionnaire to those given to troops before and immediately after deployments. Military health officials have found that soldiers leaving the war zone often minimize or cover up mental issues for fear that admitting any problem could delay their return home.” Commentary Opinion: “Alas, there were no Fox News cameras to capture what may have been the week's most surreal ‘salute’ to the troops, the ‘Heroes Red, White and Blue Inaugural Ball’ attended by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The event's celebrity stars included the Fox correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who had been booted from Iraq at the start of the war for compromising ‘operational security’ by telling his viewers the position of the American troops he loves so much. He joked to the crowd that his deployment as an ‘overpaid’ reporter was tantamount to that of an ‘underpaid hero’ in battle. The attendees from Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital, some of whose long-term care must be picked up by private foundations because of government stinginess, responded with ‘deafening silence,’ reported Roxanne Roberts of The Washington Post. Ms. Roberts understandably left the party after the night's big act: Nile Rodgers and Chic sang the lyrics ‘Clap your hands, hoo!’ and ‘Dance to the beat’ to ‘a group of soldiers missing hands and legs.’” Opinion: “It is time to enact a draft. This would not be a popular move by President Bush, but it is the responsible thing to do. This is his war and he should take care of it. The discussion of this issue has been monopolized by the wrong people for too long. Now, as much as ever, the saying "Wars are started by old men, and fought by young men" holds true. Senators and other politicians in Washington, D.C., who will be affected in no way other than politically, have been the ones debating whether we need to have a vote on the draft. There should be more voices heard from those whom this would affect most: men between 18 and 25. I am one of them, a 21-year-old college student with graduation looming.” Casualty Reports Local story: Three Louisiana Guardsmen killed in Iraq.


Saturday, January 29, 2005

War News for Saturday, January 29, 2005 Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed by small arms fire in Baghdad ambush. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi soldiers killed, four wounded in rocket attack near Duluiyah. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi soldiers, five civilians killed by suicide bomber near Khanaqin. Bring ‘em on: Three US soldiers killed, one wounded by roadside bomb in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqis killed by car bomb at Baghdad power plant. Bring ‘em on Six Iraqi soldiers killed in Ramadi ambush. Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, three wounded by roadside bomb in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Heavy fighting reported in Samarra. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi policeman killed in multiple attacks on Kirkuk polling stations. Bring ‘em on: Mosul election center heavily damaged by car bomb. Bring ‘em on: Insurgents execute three Iraqi contractors near Balad. Bring ‘em on: Four polling stations in Basra bombed. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi soldier killed, one wounded in mortar attack near Suwayrah. Two US soldiers killed in helicopter crash near Baghdad. Lowering expectations. “Violence in Iraq is unlikely to subside after Sunday's election and may well get worse before it gets better, U.S. and British officials say, a sentiment seconded by many Iraqis. But the officials maintain the mainly Sunni Muslim insurgency against American and British troops and their Iraqi government allies is cracking and will be defeated in time.” How many times have we heard this crap? First they told us the insurgency would crack when we rounded up all the “dead-enders” in Rummy’s deck of cards. It got worse. Then, they said it would crack after the deaths of Saddam’s two sons. It got worse. Next, it was supposed to crack after Saddam was captured in his “spider hole.” It got worse. Then there was a barrage of yapping about how the insurgency would crack after sovereignty was transferred to Allawi’s regime. It got worse. Then they promised that elections would crack the insurgency. Looks like that statement is no longer operative. Election preparations. “As fast as butcher Shakir Salman can hang the skinned, headless sheep from hooks in his shop, customers scurry away with armloads of fresh meat. Homemaker Manar Shumari is frantically stocking up on diapers for her 2-year-old. ‘I bought some yesterday, but I came again today, just to be sure,’ she said. At Medical City in Baghdad, doctors are dragging mattresses into their offices and bunking in vacant nursing-home beds, preparing for the possibility of widespread bloodshed.” More election preparations. “The stuff of democracy arrived Friday at Iman Elhadi Girls Primary School: plywood, 2-by-4s, sandbags and lots of concertina wire. As Sunday's election neared, Marines trained as combat engineers were deployed throughout this violence-racked city, the capital of Al Anbar province, to erect barriers to keep insurgents from sneaking into polling places.” Some good news. “Feith, who serves as undersecretary of defense for policy, announced Wednesday he would leave his position this summer. He told Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld he was leaving for ‘personal and family reasons.’ Sources close to Feith said he was in fact leaving for personal reasons and was not asked to leave by the administration.” Of course the Bushies wouldn’t ask this idiot to leave. “Why is Feith involved with all these foul-ups? How could one man be so consistently in error? Nearly every critique of the Pentagon's plan for Iraq's occupation blames the blinkers imposed by ideology. For example, The New Yorker reported last fall that Feith intentionally excluded experts with experience in postwar nation-building, out of fear that their pessimistic, worst-case scenarios would leak and damage the case for war. In the Atlantic earlier this year, James Fallows told a similar story: The Pentagon did not participate in CIA war games about the occupation, because "it could be seen as an 'antiwar' undertaking" that “weakened the case for launching a 'war of choice.' " The State Department's Future of Iraq Project, an effort that accurately predicted some contingencies that the Pentagon overlooked, was dismissed by Feith and company out of hand.” Lieutenant AWOL says Iraqis want US troops to remain after election. A Zogby poll says otherwise. Commentary Opinion: “We should tell the Iraqi leadership now that we draw a distinction between the security threat which they face (as a result of what we have done and left undone) and their central political problem. That political problem of bringing together Shias, Sunnis and Kurds must be for Iraqis to sort out. Our troops cannot be expected to police relations between the majority and a rejectionist minority. British and American troops are no substitute for a political process. The latest allegations of human rights abuse by the Iraqi security services sharpen the dangers to us of too close an identification.” Casualty Reports Local story: New York soldier wounded in Iraq. Local story: Wisconsin soldier wounded in Iraq.


Friday, January 28, 2005

War News for Friday, January 28, 2005 There are some who, uh, feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."- George W. Bush, July 2, 2003 Bring ‘em on: The children of Iraq Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi National Guards abducted and executed in Ramadi. Five civilians and an Iraqi soldier killed in two separate bombings in Samarra. Four polling centers bombed in Ramadi. Three polling centers bombed in Basra. Three policemen and an Iraqi soldier killed by car bomb in Mahmudiya. One US Marine killed and four others wounded in attack in the same area. Car bombing near US base in Ramadi, no casualties reported. Two bystanders killed in firefight between US forces and gunmen in Ramadi. Policeman killed by car bomb in Baquba. Translator working with US forces killed in roadside bombing in Tikrit. Three other policemen were killed in a separate series of attacks. Bring ‘em on: Videotape posted showing the murder of a candidate from Allawi’s party, Allawi threatened with death. Schools designated as polling places attacked by mortar fire in Basra. US troops and gunmen exchange fire on Haifa Street in Baghdad. One US Marine killed, five wounded in mortar attack on their base in Iskandariyah. Three Iraqis killed and seven injured when roadside bomb misses a US convoy in Mahmoudiyah. Three Iraqi civilians killed in car bombing in Samarra. Polling place mortared in Samarra. Seven polling stations in Kirkuk attacked by mortar and machine gun fire, one policeman killed. One Iraqi army soldier killed and seven people wounded in suicide car bombing in Baquba. One ING soldier killed in attack on voting center in a school in Ramadi. Iraqi Army chief reports that Iraqi authorities have detained over 2000 suspected insurgents in the past three weeks. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi girl killed in mortar attack on police station in Saba Al-Boor. Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi police killed in Baghdad car bombing. Bring ‘em on: Four people killed in suicide bombing of power station in Baghdad neighborhood of Dura. Some 40 polling stations have been destroyed in attacks as of Thursday. The Elections Sistani: The election in Iraq next Sunday is the result of pressure from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the 71-year-old cleric, who exercises such immense influence over the Shia community who make about 60 per cent of the Iraqi population. US officials never mention today that in the months after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein they were opposed to an election, citing difficulties in identifying voters without a census and lack of security. The real reason the US was so nervous of an election was that it feared that Shia parties, particularly those very religious and close to Iran, would win a majority. It hoped instead to rule Iraq through direct imperial control supplemented by returning Iraqi exiles acceptable to Washington. It did not work. Gradually, the arrogant neoconservatives holed up in the Green Zone in the centre of Baghdad came to realise that the cleric, who seldom left his house down a narrow alley in Najaf, held them in the palm of his hand. Ghost candidates: For the only time in memory, electoral candidates are afraid to be seen in public and are forced to campaign from underground cells, with many afraid to even link their names to their faces in the media. There are no public rallies where voters might glean some information about candidates' positions. As one voter told CNN, he would prefer to vote for George Michael, since he knows more about the singer than about any of the candidates running for office. Those sages interminably repeating that the success of the election will be determined by the level of the turnout do not understand Iraq, or for that matter, elections. No freedom without security: When American troops entered Baghdad and overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein 21 months ago, Raad al-Naqib felt free at last. But Dr. Naqib, a 46-year-old Sunni dentist who opposed Mr. Hussein, will not vote Sunday when Iraqis will have their first opportunity in a generation to participate in an election with no predetermined outcome. It is, he said, far too dangerous when insurgent groups have warned that they will kill anybody who approaches a polling station. Starkly put, Baghdad is not under control, either by the Iraqi interim government or the American military. In the week that ended Sunday, according to figures kept by Western security companies with access to data compiled by the American command, Baghdad was hit by 7 suicide car bombings, 37 roadside bombs and 52 insurgent attacks involving automatic rifles or rocket-propelled grenades. The suicide bombs alone killed at least 60 people and injured 150 others. Will it be enough?: Iraq clamped tough security measures across the country on Friday, sealing land borders and curbing travel to foil insurgents bent on wrecking Sunday's election, but a car bomb killed four people in Baghdad. Iraq's government is imposing extraordinary security restrictions to try to safeguard the polls. Land borders were closed from Friday and travel between provinces inside the country is also banned. An extended curfew has been announced in most cities, from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. (1600-0300 GMT). Vote of no confidence: Baghdad kicked into panic mode three days before the election, with terrified Iraqis stockpiling food and evacuating homes near polling places Thursday for fear that insurgents would make good on threats to disrupt Sunday's vote with violence.At least 15 Iraqis and a U.S. Marine were killed Thursday. Insurgents blew up six polling places, detonated car bombs in three cities, triggered at least three roadside bombs and gunned down several Iraqi policemen, according to the U.S. military and Iraqi authorities.Iraqis who support the parliamentary election and those who oppose it agreed on one thing: They expect such attacks to grow much, much worse. I’ll bet he does too know: U.S. President George W. Bush says he would withdraw troops from Iraq if the new government that is elected on Sunday asked him to do so. But Bush said he expected Iraq's first democratically elected leaders would want the U.S. to remain as helpers — not as occupiers. "I've heard the voices of the people that presumably will be in positions of responsibility after these elections, though you never know," Bush said yesterday in an interview. PR elections: To some extent, Bush's growing challenge in rallying public support for the war could be seen in last week's inaugural speech, which offered what was intended to be an idealistic case for the administration's Iraq policy - casting the spread of democracy as the ultimate antidote to terrorism - but which also never mentioned Iraq by name. Polls taken in the wake of the speech showed it had little impact on public views on the war. Still, the upcoming elections could change all that - either vindicating Bush's policies, or else making success there look unattainable. "As far as the war is concerned, I think Jan 30 is the ultimate tipping point," says independent pollster John Zogby. Exit Strategy But will the UN take it?: The United States must begin to withdraw militarily and politically from Iraq to prevent worsening violence and hand over full responsibility to the United Nations, Sen. Edward Kennedy said on Thursday. "There may well be violence as we disengage militarily from Iraq and Iraq disengages politically from us, but there will be much more violence if we continue our present dangerous and destabilizing course," Kennedy said in a speech to be delivered to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. No guarantee: The top American commander in Iraq on Wednesday said U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces were still not ready to take over the counterinsurgency and there was no guarantee they will ever be able to defeat it on their own. Gen. George Casey said the 130,000 Iraqi police and soldiers still lack leaders to direct them in a fight against rebels, and local police forces who've deserted in the thousands in the face of intimidation and withering assaults by guerrillas remain a key weak point. Support the Troops Five years: The Bush administration is facing new calls from Democrats and Republicans, including some of its staunchest allies, to expand the size of the Army and Marines by tens of thousands of active-duty troops over the next several years. The bipartisan calls reflect burgeoning concerns that the Iraq conflict has so strained U.S. ground forces that the United States could find itself short of forces in the event of an unexpected crisis in the near future. The start-up costs alone of manning and equipping two new divisions -- about 34,000 soldiers -- as favored by some lawmakers, would run as high as $19 billion, according to a September 2003 study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That amount is roughly the equivalent of 20 percent of the annual budget of the Army, which has 10 divisions. It would take up to five years to train and equip the new divisions, which would cost about $6 billion per year to maintain, according to the CBO study. Suck it up, wounded guys: Most patients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington have a lot on their minds: the war they just fought, the injuries they came home with, the future that lies ahead. The last thing a wounded soldier needs to worry about is where the next meal is coming from. But for hundreds of Walter Reed patients, that's a real concern. Starting this month, the Army has started making some wounded soldiers pay for the food they eat at the hospital. Suck it up, veterans: With the combination of aging veterans living longer and new veterans coming home, there are more than 300,000 VA claims still waiting to be processed. Some VA patients wait up to a year to see specialists. "Funding has increased, but it hasn't increased at the same level the veterans themselves are increasing," says Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. "And so healthcare is being basically rationed to our veterans." It's a system under growing pressure, at a time when a new generation of veterans hope the sacrifices they made at war will be remembered — and the promises made to them at home will be kept. Suck it up, soldiers: "The fiscal 2005 Defense appropriations bill contains funding cuts for the Army and other programs that defense analysts say were made to cover the cost of nearly $9 billion in congressional pork projects added to the bill." While Congress was larding on the pork, "Defense appropriators trimmed $300 million from the Pentagon's procurement accounts, including those that fund armor for Humvees and other vehicles in Iraq, and another $411 million was taken from the Defense Department's operations and maintenance and research and development accounts," according to the report. The article quotes Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate Budget Committee staff member: "We know from the proportionate, across-the-board cuts (required to cover congressional pork spending) that body armor and armor kits for Humvees and trucks were affected." Anger builds, part 1: US military officials are becoming increasingly vocal in their criticism of the war in Iraq, telling Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that more troops are needed to prevail over the insurgents. Moreover, recruitment is down and more reservists and members of the National Guard are being sent to Baghdad. A revolt seems to be taking place within the ranks. Even though daily bomb attacks in Iraq and the latest death toll of 1,361 US soldiers have yet to trigger any significant reversal in US public opinion, and even though President Bush reiterated last week that the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein, Bush's soldiers and officers seem increasingly convinced that the opposite is true. Almost without warning, America's armed forces, superior to any of the world's other militaries but faced with severe personnel shortages, are suddenly encountering almost insurmountable obstacles -- politically, strategically and financially. Anger builds, part 2: Soldiers recently returned from Iraq gave an unfiltered and unflattering assessment of the war's human toll as they detailed their war experiences to a crowd of Oakton Community College students and faculty Wednesday in Des Plaines. One officer lost more than 38 pounds in the Iraqi desert when his unit ran low on food and water. Another was sent to the front lines without body armor. They witnessed soldiers blown to bits and mourned the loss of others who killed themselves when they returned home -- often excluded from the government's official body count. And they've been frustrated with buddies who have had to wait months for medical services or for their claims to be decided by the Veterans Affairs Department. Anger builds, part 3: The Pentagon doesn't like to talk about it. But as the war in Iraq becomes ever more violent and prolonged, an increasing number of soldiers are opposing the war -- up to and including refusing to fight. Thus far, the numbers, compared to Vietnam, are still small. The Pentagon estimated in 2003 that nearly 3,000 soldiers had deserted -- that is, had been AWOL for more than a month -- and the number has since grown. The Pentagon says it is not actively trying to track the cases down. A number of things have changed since Vietnam: the volunteer army replaced the draft, conscientious objector criteria are much narrower, Canada is not (yet) an option (although at least a half-dozen soldiers are petitioning for refugee status there; in one case, an effort to have the Iraq war declared illegal has already failed). But what is the same as Vietnam is a growing sense among soldiers that the civilian politicians making the decisions are prosecuting a pointless, unjust war -- and lying about their reasons for it. Due Process 500 more: While anti-terrorism police were yesterday interviewing the four Britons released from Guantánamo Bay further details emerged of the alleged treatment of the men by their US captors. The US lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, who saw his client, Moazzam Begg, in Guantánamo Bay this month, said the captive had alleged persistent beatings, death threats and psychological torture first at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, then at the Cuba base. The US-based Centre for Constitutional Rights welcomed the news of the men's release last night but said there were hundreds more being held without charge. The centre's spokeswoman, Rachel Meeropol, a lawyer, said: "It's very important that people understand the implications of this release. The fact that they have been released indicates there was no justification for holding them in the first place. These men lived for three years in torturous conditions, and there are still some 500 being held." Commentary Opinion: Operation Iraqi Freedom. I sometimes wonder who came up with that name for the invasion of Iraq because it certainly doesn't seem like that is the case. In fact, why didn't they start out calling it Operation Oust Saddam because that's certainly all the Bush administration cared about. Or, how about Operation Devastation? Because Iraq is left in shambles now. Furthermore, Operation Oops We Messed Up seems appropriate, but the Bush administration will never fess up to making a mistake. (Note to readers: It is always good to see examples of young people who are involved in the critical issues of the day and are unafraid of speaking their minds. If you have a moment, please visit this article and leave some feedback. All young writers need encouragement. Thanks!) Is the world safer now? As war ended, correspondents examined key questions about Iraq's future. With the elections looming, the updated answers highlight the global impact of the conflict. Viewpoint: "The story today is going to be very discouraging to the American people," President Bush said at a news conference Wednesday, hours after 37 American troops died in Iraq. "I understand that. We value life. And we weep and mourn when soldiers lose their life." How long will the U.S. news media continue to indulge that sort of pious talk from the White House without challenge? The evidence is overwhelming that the president and his policy team are quite willing to devalue -- in fact, destroy -- life when it gets in their way. And if they "weep and mourn when soldiers lose their life," the grief is rigorously selective. Opinion: After the body bags are removed from the tarmac and the dead are buried; after children have said farewell to a father or mother and parents bid goodbye to a son or a daughter; after seriously injured soldiers are shuffled off to understaffed rehabilitation facilities and others are left to deal with their wounds on their own; and after soldiers that escaped physical harm return home with severe mental health problems, America will reap a whirlwind it hasn't seen since the end of the Vietnam War. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed that 17 percent of troops returning from Iraq "met the screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety, or PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]." The New England Journal's figure may be on the low side. According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Julian Guthrie, "Military officials and mental health providers predict that up to 30 percent of returning soldiers will require psychiatric services -- a number not seen since the end of the Vietnam War." Speech by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX): America’s policy of foreign intervention, while still debated in the early 20th century, is today accepted as conventional wisdom by both political parties. But what if the overall policy is a colossal mistake, a major error in judgment? Not just bad judgment regarding when and where to impose ourselves, but the entire premise that we have a moral right to meddle in the affairs of others? Think of the untold harm done by years of fighting-- hundreds of thousands of American casualties, hundreds of thousands of foreign civilian casualties, and unbelievable human and economic costs. What if it was all needlessly borne by the American people? If we do conclude that grave foreign policy errors have been made, a very serious question must be asked: What would it take to change our policy to one more compatible with a true republic’s goal of peace, commerce, and friendship with all nations? Is it not possible that Washington’s admonition to avoid entangling alliances is sound advice even today? (And why is it that the only Congressman asking these questions is a Republican from Texas?) Comment – Scott Ritter: The White House's acknowledgement last month that the United States has formally ended its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq brought to a close the most calamitous international deception of modern times. When one looks at the situation in Iraq today, the only way that it would be possible to justify the current state of affairs - a once secular society now the centre of a global anti-American Islamist jihad, tens of thousands of civilians killed, an unending war that costs almost £3.2bn a month, and the basic principles of democracy mocked through an election process that has generated extensive violence - is if the invasion of Iraq was for a cause worthy of the price. The threat to international peace and security represented by Iraqi WMD seemed to be such a cause. We now know there were no WMD, and thus no justification for the war. And yet there are no repercussions. Interview with John Lee Anderson: It was in 1963 that Allawi, then about eighteen years old, formed a relationship with Saddam Hussein, who was about eight years older and had returned to Iraq after several years in exile following an abortive assassination attempt against the former President. As Allawi describes it, the relationship was formed while Allawi was in a group whose members were mostly wellborn and well educated, and Saddam Hussein was the thug, the enforcer, the guy they sent to go buy kebabs when they were having a clandestine meeting. Saddam was also a killer; he was a triggerman for the Party. Now, Allawi denies having had anything to do with some of the more hallmark and well-known atrocities committed by the Baathists at the same time that he was one of them. But there are people who dispute that. Interview with Naomi Klein: The first task is to develop a positive agenda with progressive forces in Iraq — to support deep democracy and genuine sovereignty in that country, which would make the demand for troop withdrawal credible. The second goal is to have an international strategy to increase the pressure on the U.S. military so that continued U.S. presence becomes increasingly untenable. That means trying to further break the coalition and identifying points of vulnerability. The coalition is very vulnerable – particularly in countries like Italy, Japan and even the UK, where a majority of the population is clearly against the war. Increasing the pressure there for withdrawal then increases the burden on U.S. troops and makes the demand for troop withdrawal stronger. In Canada I think we have a role to play by supporting the war deserters who have come here, particularly the push for a legal precedent to be set for American soldiers claiming refugee status in Canada. If we win a couple of these legal cases, there will be many more American soldiers who will want to come. The goal should be to get the Bush administration to the point where they have to choose between staying in Iraq and bringing in the draft. Interview with Seymour Hersh: There's a lot of anxiety inside the -- you know, our professional military and our intelligence people. Many of them respect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as much as anybody here, and individual freedom. So, they do -- there's a tremendous sense of fear. These are punitive people. One of the ways -- one of the things that you could say is, the amazing thing is we are been taken over basically by a cult, eight or nine neo-conservatives have somehow grabbed the government. Just how and why and how they did it so efficiently, will have to wait for much later historians and better documentation than we have now, but they managed to overcome the bureaucracy and the Congress, and the press, with the greatest of ease. It does say something about how fragile our Democracy is. You do have to wonder what a Democracy is when it comes down to a few men in the Pentagon and a few men in the White House having their way. Casualty Reports Local story: Twenty-six Marines and one Navy medic based in Hawai’i killed in helicopter crash near Rutbah. Local story: Canyon Lake, TX, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Four Ohio Marines killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Six Texas Marines killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Three Ohio Marines killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Two Illinois Marines killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Simi Valley, CA, sailor killed in helicopter crash. Local story: San Diego, CA, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Merrimack, NH, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Bethlehem, NJ, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Salt Lake City, UT, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Roseburg, OR, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Orange County, FL, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Carmel Valley, NC, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Clinton Township, MI, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Pitman, NJ, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Clinton County, IA, soldier critically injured for the second time in RPG attack in Duluiya. Local story: Hendersonville, NC, soldier killed in RPG attack in Duluiya. .


Thursday, January 27, 2005

War News for Thursday, January 27, 2005 There are some who, uh, feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." - George W. Bush, July 2, 2003 Bring ‘em on: Bombing near police academy in Kirkuk as US military convoy passes by, no casualties reported. Three polling stations near Kirkuk bombed. Two civilians injured in mortar attack on police station in Kaza. One policeman killed, another wounded in bomb attack on police car in Tikrit. At least one person killed in bombing attack on governor’s office in Baquba. Two voting centers near Fallujah bombed within twelve hours of their opening by US troops. Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed, four wounded in mortar attack on their base near Iskandariyah. Eight Australian soldiers injured in car bombing on Baghdad’s airport road. Three Iraqis killed and seven injured in roadside bomb attack on passing US military convoy near Mahmoudiya. Iraqi bystander killed in roadside bombing attack on passing US military convoy in Tikrit. School administration building scheduled to be used as voting center blown up in Samarra. One Iraqi civilian killed and another injured in firefights between US troops and insurgents in Samarra. Continued fighting between insurgents and US troops in Ramadi. Body of former colonel in Saddam’s intelligence services found in Baquba, after his abduction two days ago. One Iraqi police officer killed, four injured by suicide bombing in Baquba. US soldier killed by ‘accidental gunshot wound’ near Tikrit. US soldier injured in roadside bombing near Kirkuk. Three Iraqis wounded in mortar attack near Khalis. Four ING soldiers and one officer kidnapped in Baghdadi. The Elections The Iraq Election Primer: In the first of a series of dispatches from Baghdad, David Enders lays out an essential guide to the Iraqi elections. Threats: “Leave your work in the election commission immediately or you will be killed and your house blown up,” read the letter addressed to Abu Ahmed. Soldiers are wary: "A lot of guys might tell you they're not afraid," he said. "I'll admit it. We're scared as hell of the elections." By April All Will Be Well Rumsfeld speaks: "You're looking at, I would guess, well into March, possibly into April, for these things to sort themselves.” Lawyers Seven Senators worthy of praise: By early evening, seven Democrats had spoken against Ms. Rice's nomination. Torturer: US-based Human Rights Watch said it opposes Alberto Gonzales' nomination as US attorney general because he "played a key role in providing legal justification for policies that led to torture and abuse of detainees in US custody." Good riddance: Douglas Feith would be the highest-ranking Pentagon official to leave the administration. The No. 2 official, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, has said he plans to remain. Guns Breaking the Army: The force level has been maintained by the Pentagon only by "stop-loss" orders that coerce soldiers to remain in service after their contractual enlistment expires - a back-door draft. Money Fox finds a year-old story: Investigations into how the U.S-led coalition spent Iraq’s oil revenues after the fall of Baghdad in 2003 have found several problems. Report of the International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Development Fund for Iraq (PDF file). Rule of Law Hoffman is a hero: In a scathing personal ruling, one of the Law Lords, Lord Leonard Hoffman, dismissed government arguments that such detention was needed to protect Britain. "The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these," he said. Perceptions Poll results: Pew found that 76 percent of Democrats but just 32 percent of Republicans agree that "good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace." The Human Cost War story: Sprinting toward the burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Sgt. Blake Quebedeaux sees a man in his squad, wounded and covered in oil, struggling to pull another soldier out of the back. Knocks on 31 doors: And 31 families on the other side who don't want to answer. Commentary Profile of Joseph Galloway Analysis: With suspicion, uncertainty and dread, governments across the Middle East are waiting for Sunday's landmark parliamentary election in Iraq. Briefing Report: The election will succeed in one important respect: it will confer greater legitimacy on the Bush administration's project in Iraq. (Thanks to Carl Conetta of The Project on Defense Alternatives for sending us this report.) Boondocks Opinion: If the cost of this war, which most Americans blandly oppose, were added to the property tax or the sales tax, maybe we'd pay more attention to what we're doing. Analysis: The liberation of Iraq was to have been the war that paid for itself in spades and gave U.S. corporations the inside track on the greatest energy bonanza of the 21st century. Analysis: An analysis of five decades of modern terrorism reveals two unexpected and disconcerting truths: that the engine of the armed struggle is money, and that the deregulation of finance has allowed terror networks deeply to penetrate legitimate institutions of the international financial system. Opinion: The failure of the American Dream has only been highlighted by the country's foreign-policy failures, not caused by them. The true danger is that Americans do not realize this, lost in the reveries of greatness, speechifying about liberty and freedom. Opinion: Iraq is Vietnam on speed - the false endings of that tragic decade re-enacted and compressed in jump cuts, a quagmire retooled for the MTV attention span. Casualty Reports Local story: Northumberland County, PA, soldier killed in Baghdad. Local story: Pitman, NJ, Marine killed in helicopter crash near Rutbah. Local story: Martinsville, VA, Marine killed in Anbar province ambush. Local story: New Orleans, LA, Marine killed in Fallujah. Local story: Wheelersburg, OH, Marine killed in helicopter crash near Rutbah. .


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Daily War News for Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi policeman killed in Baquba. Gunmen open fire on headquarters of the Communist Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Baquba.

Bring ‘em on: Joint US/Iraqi patrol in hour long firefight with insurgents in Ramadi, no casualties reported.

Bring ‘em on: Four US Marines killed in combat in Al Anbar province. One US soldier killed, two wounded in insurgent attack near Ad Duluiyah. Four multinational soldiers wounded in car bombing on Baghdad’s airport road. City council leader shot to death in drive by shooting in Baghdad. Three other government employees were shot and killed in attacks on Tuesday. Three Baghdad schools to be used as polling centers were attacked and a bomb was defused at a fourth.

Bring ‘em on: Seven US soldiers wounded in two separate bombing attacks on Baghdad’s airport road.

Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi police, two soldiers and three civilians killed and at least twelve others wounded in three suicide car bomb attacks on sites in Riyadh, southwest of Kirkuk. Two US soldiers wounded by small arms fire while heading to the scene.

Bring ‘em on: At least 20 people killed or injured in suicide bombing attack on the Sindar office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

US Marine helicopter crashes near Rutbah, at least 31 people killed, all believed to be US Marines. At this writing the cause of the crash has not been announced.

Helicopters: The U.S. military has lost at least 33 helicopters since the start of the war, including at least 20 brought down by hostile fire, according to a study by the Brookings Institution.

The Elections That Will Bring Freedom To The Middle East

They got it down: The concept of democracy appears to have taken root in the dusty town of Karma, a predominantly Sunni community of 75,000 people about nine miles (15 kilometers) northeast of Falluja.

Although most say they don't know who the candidates are or where to go to vote, they say they will vote come January 30.

(Nice catch alert reader Cervantes)

That last 20 percent is a bitch: The government said Wednesday it would ban travel between provinces and extend the hours of a curfew as part of heightened security before Iraq's weekend elections.

Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said security in four tense provinces, where it had been said that elections would be difficult, has improved by 80 percent.

"We have been able to go past this," he added, apparently referring to the provinces of Baghdad, Anbar, Salaheddin and Ninevah.

Someone should tell these guys: The black sedan made its way down Madaris Street, the young men inside tossing leaflets out the window.

"This is a final warning to all of those who plan to participate in the election," the leaflets said. "We vow to wash the streets of Baghdad with the voters' blood."

The leaflets, like many turning up on sidewalks and doorsteps across the capital, were chilling in their detail: they warned Iraqis to stay at least 500 yards away from voting booths, for each would be the potential target of a rocket, mortar shell or car bomb. The leaflet suggested that Iraqis stay away from their windows, too, in case of blasts.

Pity the Sunnis who are peaceful: Mishaan Jubouri does not dare set foot in his home district in Mosul to campaign for a seat in Iraq's National Assembly. His posters are torn down - if anyone is emboldened to put them up. Stores do not sell the newspaper he runs, and some post large signs on their windows saying so. Even in Baghdad, where Jubouri lives now, his wife and family are afraid to leave their home, which is guarded by 54 armed security men.

In another northern city, Kirkuk, things are almost as bad. Ethnic strife looms over the coming vote, politicians have been kidnapped, mortar fire punctuates campaign debate, candidates are scared and their staff members are hunkered down in their homes. A Sunni leader there, Abdul Rahman Asi, took stock of the situation and chose to do the opposite of what Jubouri is doing.

The two men - both leaders of large Sunni Arab tribes - represent the dilemma for Iraq's once-dominant branch of Islam. The Sunnis are the targets of an intimidation campaign by insurgents using violence to disrupt the elections. Under threat of death, they have been warned not to vote, not to run, not to participate. If they stay away from the polls, the attackers' logic goes, the elections will be seen as invalid, the fragile sectarian balance in Iraq will be upset, and Iraq might sink into a civil war among Sunni Arabs, the majority Shiite Muslims and the Kurds, who also are Sunnis but are ethnically distinct from Iraq's more numerous Arabs.

Interesting times: The anticipation is palpable. After more than 80 years on the margins, the Shiites of Iraq will finally get their due: a controlling stake in the government commensurate with their majority status.

Now the question is: What will the Shiites do when they finally ascend to power? King Abdullah II of Jordan and interim Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shalaan, himself a Shiite, have issued dark warnings of a hidden agenda to establish an Iran-style theocracy — one that would only reveal itself once it's too late.

Shiite politicians dismiss the charges as either unfounded hysteria or electoral scare tactics.

A man on the street speaks: Remarkably, over the course of seven weeks of interviews throughout Iraq, not one Sunni Arab, other than those in secular political parties such as those led by Mukhlis, bin Hussein and former exile Adnan Pachachi, said they would definitely participate in the vote.

"Let them have their elections and win," said a Sunni Arab engineer of 38 who insisted on going by the name Abu Abdullah.

"It will be an illegitimate government. Legitimate elections cannot be held because the previous government has not yet stepped down. I voted for Saddam. When he says he has resigned, I'll take part in elections."

Turks, Kurds, Arabs, and Kirkuk

Kirkuk: In the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where Turkish and Kurdish interests collide, provincial elections that are part of Sunday's polling could trigger an ethnic war and wider regional instability, an international conflict-resolution group has warned.

In a report scheduled for release on Wednesday, the International Crisis Group, an independent organization that tries to prevent and resolve global conflicts, described Kirkuk as a powder keg set to explode if Kurds sweep the election for a new regional council, creating a situation that might tempt Turkey to intervene to protect the city's ethnic Turkmen population.

Ethnicities: The ethnic mix - Kirkuk also contains a Turkoman minority - makes the city volatile ground ahead of the poll. Leaders of the semi-autonomous Kurdish provinces of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk threw in their lot with the Americans and now want Kirkuk included as part of a federal state. The stakes are high. The province yields 40 per cent of Iraq's oil and 70 per cent of its petroleum products.

But the passions aroused by the poll are already proving volatile. Hana al-Sawaf, of the Iraqi Republican Gathering, said: "We don't object to the original people of Kirkuk returning. We object to people coming here who are not from here and squatting in buildings."

Ishraq Hassan Ali, who is married to a Kurd who fought against Saddam, said: "These people are coming back and squatting as their houses have been stolen and they've been kicked off their land. Where were Arabs when Kurdish children were fleeing Saddam's wrath and froze to death in the snow?"

Warnings from Kurds: Iraq's Kurds are not actively seeking independence but will be unable to remain Iraqis if the Baghdad government fails to observe their key demands, a top Kurdish official has warned.

"There are three red lines for us... If they are crossed, we will no longer be Iraqis," Noshirwan Mustafa, an aide of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani, told AFP in an interview.

"If the Arabs do not accept the principle of federalism, we will no longer be Iraqis. If they insist on a theocratic regime, we will no longer be Iraqis. And Kurdish terrorists must be returned to Kurdistan," he said.

Warnings from Turks: Turkey's military warned Wednesday that the migration of large numbers of Kurds into the oil rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk could sway the results of the upcoming elections and possibly lead to clashes that could draw Ankara into the dispute.

Turkey has repeatedly warned that Kurdish control of the city would make an independent Kurdish state more viable, a development that Ankara has repeatedly said it won't accept. Turkey fears that a strong Kurdish entity in northern Iraq could inspire Kurds in Turkey, where Kurdish rebels have battled the Turkish army since 1984.

Another man on the street speaks: Iraq's two main Kurdish political parties have put aside their differences for the January 30 election. Like the Shi'ites in the south, they have organized a single, sectarian ticket for which they hope all Kurds will vote. Surprisingly, that list includes some prominent members of the Ba'ath Party of Saddam Hussein's regime. Ask any Kurds in northern Iraq whom they plan to vote for and they will give you the same answer as peshmerga (Kurdish paramilitary) Ali Karem Mohammed, who lives in a refugee shantytown on the edge of Kirkuk in the Kurdish north of Iraq. Like so many refugees around Kirkuk, Ali is a victim of Saddam's brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds. "I am Kurdish," he told Inter Press Service, as he cocked the pistol in his left hand. "Till I die I'm Kurdish and I vote for Kurds."

Good Thing Those Elections Are Going To Plant Freedom in The Middle East

Err…well…: Regardless of the turnout for Sunday's election, U.S. officials are no longer predicting the swift vanquishing of the insurgents, who have stymied the world's most potent military machine with bombings, assassinations, abductions and infrastructure attacks.

"I think it is unlikely that these elections will do much to bring violence down; let's be honest about it," said one Western official here, who, like several others interviewed, declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. "I think the elections are a huge step for the credibility of the government, the legitimacy of the government, and will contribute to a solution over the medium and long term. But there's not going to be a short-term answer in March or April…. Ending the violence is going to take a long time."

Zowie! Only 185,000 to go!: U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed or captured 15,000 people over the past year in their fight against an insurgency ravaging Iraq, the commander of U.S. forces in the country said Wednesday.

Speaking on the deadliest day for U.S. troops since the invasion in 2003, Casey said the insurgency was limited to just four of Iraq's 18 provinces.

But he conceded that the number of car and suicide bombs had increased and that Iraqi security forces were not capable of dealing with the violence themselves.

But it’s 80 percent safer!: After two years of war and hundreds of U.S. deaths on Iraqi highways and streets caused by roadside bombs and suicide car bombings, the simple task of driving from point A to point B has become a forbidding challenge

Along the long desert stretches of Al Anbar province or the clogged streets of Ramadi, travel by convoy is a highly choreographed event conducted at high speed. As Sunday's election approaches and rumors spread of insurgent plans for mass attacks, attention to detail is at its height.

The Wolfowitz metric, part one: In this city south of Baghdad, the Marine-led training program illustrates what the future of U.S. military involvement in Iraq may look like: Marines not only helping draw growing numbers of recruits, but eating, sleeping, working and fighting alongside the newly trained Iraqi police and National Guard building Iraqis' expertise and confidence to do the jobs themselves.

However, the great majority of those filling the ranks nationwide are members of Iraq's long-suppressed Shiite Muslim and Kurdish communities, with relatively few Sunni Muslims joining up.

The lopsided security force in the making raises questions about whether the U.S. military inadvertently and maybe unavoidably might be arming factional armies for any future civil strife.

The Wolfowitz metric, part two: The Iraqi force's performance has been inconsistent at best. They are typically trained in weeks rather than months, and many are poorly equipped. In Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, the 5,000-member security force dissolved under an insurgent assault Nov. 10. It has yet to reconstitute. The police force in restive Ramadi also collapsed under attack. About half of the 1,600 officers reportedly have returned. In one January week, more than 80 Iraqi security troops were killed.

Whose fault is this?

A recent report by the independent Center for Strategic and International Studies puts much of the blame on the Pentagon. Iraqi forces, the report says, were given "grossly inadequate training, equipment, facilities, transport and protection."

Suck It Up

Suck it up, reservists: One reason that the National Guard and Reserve have been used so heavily over the past three years is that the active-duty Army is too small to meet the demands of war — particularly in Iraq, where troop levels have far exceeded original predictions — while also maintaining a presence in traditional areas of influence such as Europe and the Korean peninsula.

The Army now has about 660,000 troops on active duty, of which about 160,000 are members of the Guard and Reserve.

The Army wants them to be eligible for an unlimited number of call-ups, so long as no single mobilization lasts more than 24 months, the official said.

Suck it up, ladies: The U.S. Army for the first time is placing women in support units at the front lines of combat because of a shortage of skilled male soldiers available for duty in Iraq and is considering repealing the decade-old rule that prohibits women from being deployed alongside combat forces, according to Pentagon officials and military documents.

The army maintains that it has not changed the overall Pentagon policy regarding women in combat, which limits women to serving on surface ships and in attack aircraft. But internal army documents indicate the service is ignoring a 1994 regulation barring women from serving alongside units that conduct offensive operations.

Suck it up, you Republican bozos: Some of President Bush's bedrock supporters -- Southerners and rural residents -- have lost confidence in the likelihood of a stable, democratic Iraq.

Some of the larger declines in optimism came among Southerners, Northeasterners, rural Americans and women 45 and over. Other groups that showed a significant decline were those with incomes between $25,000 and $50,000 a year, young men, those without college educations -- groups very likely to know people serving in Iraq.

I Love This Headline

Bush Urges Iraqis to Vote, Lowers Expectations

George, my expectations for you couldn’t get any lower if we were at the center of the earth.


Editorial: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did more than step on the CIA’s toes when he set up his own espionage branch two years ago to collect human intelligence.

In conveniently neglecting to inform Congress, Rumsfeld turned what should have been a public decision made by elected leaders into an administrative decree issued in private. That should prompt Congress to hold hearings and reassert control.

Whether the Defense Department or the CIA conducts most of the human-intelligence missions might seem like small potatoes. Nothing could be further from the truth. U.S. law requires the executive branch to provide Congress with timely notification of all intelligence activities, with the exception of intelligence supporting routine military activities. It’s that clause Rumsfeld is spinning in his own favor.

The result is an espionage branch effectively operating beyond Congress’ purview.

Comment: The added $80 billion the White House wants to fight the wars in Iraq and on terrorism would bring the total to more than $300 billion. When adjusted for inflation, that's about half what the United States spent on the Vietnam War. In truth, with security in Iraq still more a dream than reality and with terrorism all too real a threat, Congress has little choice but to approve some spending. The troops in the field deserve it; the people trying to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan need it; the war on terrorism demands it.

But Congress must also demand that the White House deal with the war costs in a realistic manner. That means, for one thing, including them in budget estimates. For another thing, it means providing Americans with a clearer picture of the administration's goals in Iraq and the estimated cost. There can be no free ride on this for the president, not with so many Americans being killed or wounded daily

Comment: I've just had an email from a friend in the Green Zone. He has not set foot outside the compound since he's been there, and probably never will. Helicopter to and from the airport only. Welcome to free Iraq, and especially to liberated Falluja.

The New York Times reported that "Residents trickling back to Falluja . . . enter a desolate world of skeletal buildings, tank-blasted homes, weeping power lines and severed palm trees. Sullen and anxious, tens of thousands of residents have passed through stringent checkpoints to find out . . . whether their homes and shops were reduced to rubble or merely ransacked . . . people have to file through huge coils of razor wire and a gantlet of armed marines to pick up their supplies. On the road . . . Lt. Col Patrick Malay . . . watched the scene with satisfaction. "This is how I like it, just like Disneyland," he said. "Orderly lines and people leave with a smile on their face".

Thanks to alert reader bob for the link.

Opinion: What if the war in Iraq were happening here—say, in New York State? What would it be like? In reality, the numbers are roughly comparable. The state has 19 million people. Iraq has 25 million. Baghdad's population is about 6 million. New York City's is 8 million.

Place such a guerrilla war in New York State, which has about 80,000 state and local police, and apply the military casualty rate. The result would be 800 police killed in the line of duty in the state since the invasion in late March 2003, and 5,530 wounded. If this had taken place, we, like the Iraqis, would be living under martial law, with a night curfew and restricted movement by day, frightened all the time and guarding our children closely—maybe sending them to Canada for the duration. Few Iraqis have the ability to seek asylum anywhere. No reliable count of Iraqi civilian casualties has been kept. But relief workers estimate that it is, at the very minimum, in the low tens of thousands.

Incidentally, the actual police deaths in New York in that time frame were less than 20.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Orange, CT, soldier killed in Ramadi.

Local story: Gaylord, MI, soldier severely wounded in Ramadi.

Local story: Cortez, CO, soldier killed in Ramadi.

This section is going to get even more depressing than usual over the next few days. Please take a quiet moment to reflect on all the young men and women, American and Iraqi, who have died and are going to die in this despicable conflict.



Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Daily War News for Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Bring ‘em on: At least eleven Iraqi police killed in a series of clashes in eastern Baghdad. Secretary general of the judge’s council in the Iraqi Ministry of Justice assassinated, his driver wounded in Baghdad attack. District council worker killed in western Baghdad. Three staffers from Communications Ministry wounded in drive by shooting, one seriously. Son of an Iraqi translator working for the US military shot dead. Police colonel and his 5-year-old daughter gunned down in southern Baghdad. Five US soldiers killed and two injured when their Bradley Fighting Vehicle overturned into a canal near Khan Bani Saad. Another US soldier killed by roadside bomb in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: US soldier killed on patrol in Mosul. Insurgents storm police station in Ramadi and blow up polling station near Hillah. Large explosions and heavy gunfire heard in Mosul. Captured Iraqi army colonel executed in Mosul, video posted on web. Egyptian truck driver executed, video posted on web.

Bring ‘em on: Heavy fighting near Baghdad international airport prevents two Jordanian passenger planes from landing.

Bring ‘em on: American contractor kidnapped in November pleads for his life on video released on Tuesday.

Bring ‘em on: Three policemen and two insurgents killed, three police wounded in attack on police station in eastern Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: 170 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq. Eight are held hostage, 32 were killed, two are missing, and the remainder were freed or escaped.

Gee, this is a surprise: Iraqi authorities routinely torture prisoners, a leading human rights group said Tuesday, citing examples of abuse which will sound all too familiar to those who suffered under Saddam Hussein.

Prisoners have been beaten with cables and hosepipes, and suffered electric shocks to their earlobes and genitals, the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said. Some have been starved of food and water and crammed into standing-room only cells.

The report also said Iraq's intelligence service had violated the rights of political opponents.

It highlighted the systematic use of arbitrary arrest, pre-trial detention of up to four months, improper treatment of child detainees and abysmal conditions in pre-trial facilities.

Good news but so what: Security forces in Iraq have captured two senior aides to the most wanted militant in Iraq, bringing in his top bombmaker and his propaganda chief in the past 10 days, an Iraqi government spokesman said Monday.

The announcements came hours after a suicide car bomb exploded near the headquarters of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's political party, injuring at least 14 people, nine of them police officers, the Interior Ministry said. The bomb detonated at a checkpoint guarded by a special unit of the Iraqi police.

This sounds about right: A suicide bomber from Saudi Arabia, who survived a failed attempt to blow up the Jordanian mission Baghdad in December, alleges that Iraqi police may have captured, and then released, the most wanted terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, two months ago. Both U.S. and Iraqi officials could not confirm the claims made by the suicide bomber.

Our allies lend a hand to the flypaper strategy: Fundamentalist Islamic leaders in Saudi Arabia are telling militants intent on fighting "infidels" to join the insurgency in Iraq instead of taking up Osama bin Laden's call to oust the Saudi royal family at home, say Saudi dissidents who monitor theological edicts coming out of the kingdom. Iraq as a battleground offers the solution to a quandary facing the Saudi clerics who have to both placate the kingdom's rulers and keep their radical base happy. "If they preach that there ought to be absolutely no jihad, they would lose credibility and support among their followers. So what they do is preach jihad -- not in Saudi Arabia, but in Iraq," said Abdul-Aziz Khamis, a Saudi human rights activist in London. "To them, Iraq is the answer to their dilemma."

Our other allies learn to keep their heads down: The helicopter attack sent a wave of dismay throughout the Kurdish autonomous region, where nearly everyone supports the U.S. presence.

Like their leaders, most Kurds are still grateful to the Bush Administration for toppling Saddam Hussein. The vast majority seems to have accepted the U.S. apology. But at the same time, there has been a subtle shift of attitudes here. ”Previously we welcomed the Americans warmly,” says Mohammed Mahmoud, a recent graduate of the university's English department. ”We thought that they had come to liberate us, to help us, and to cooperate with us in governing our region. But now we think the U.S. troops are here just for their own interest. They don't respect the local government of the Kurds..”

GW Bush, friend to fundamentalists everywhere: French journalist George Malbrunot spent 124 days as a hostage of Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq. The experience nearly broke him, but it also offered him stunning insights into the way jihadist groups operate. He returned convinced of one thing: America's policy is doomed.

"These people will not surrender," he said, referring not only to the what he estimated to be the 15,000-17,000 member strong Islamic Army in Iraq which kidnapped him and Chesnot, but also to the dozens of other Islamic fundamentalist groups fighting in the country. "They have time, they have weapons, they have money. And, they are fighting at home. I am afraid it will only get worse, that they will get more and more power. It frightens me." What's worse, he said, is that in US President George W. Bush, "they have a great partner." Neither side is willing to budge.

What 20 billion for infrastructure will buy you: Most of the Iraqi capital - particularly the western districts - has been without water for the past seven days.

Added to a lack of electricity - the national grid is off more than it is on - a crumbling mobile phone network, endless lines to get fuel and a daily dose of bombs and mortars, it has made it next to impossible to even think about the coming election.

Oh, Yeah, The Elections

Love your freedom or we’ll blow your head off: About 2,200 Fallujans daily come through what the U.S. military calls "Dave's Field," a dusty former soccer field in east-central Falluja that has been turned into one of three humanitarian aid sites in the city.

They also line up to get Falluja ID cards, and many talk disparagingly about the upcoming elections. Sunday, Iraqis will cast ballots for the 275-member transitional national assembly, which will be charged with preparing a draft constitution to be put up for a vote.

Abd El-Rahman Al-Zobari, surveying the damage to his house, said he and his friends are not going to vote on Sunday. "Is this what they call democracy?" he said. "We don't want democracy that comes on the back of a tank."

Voting with their feet: So frightened were Iraqi policemen injured in a suicide bomb attack on the offices of the Prime Minister's party yesterday that even in hospital they clutched their sub-machine guns and refused to remove their black ski masks.

Baghdad is increasingly gripped by a mood of terror in the days leading up to the election on 30 January. There are fewer and fewer cars on the streets as people decide to stay at home. The better off have already left for Jordan, Syria and the Gulf.

Well, fear at least: Hope, expectation and fear are the emotions that are coursing through Iraq this weekend. The hope is driven by the fact that opinion polls show that 85% of Iraqis are anxious to vote, balanced by the fact that perhaps only half that number will actually manage to get through to one of the 5000 specially prepared polling stations. The expectation is that, despite all the problems, there will be a sufficiently high turnout to ensure that enough votes are cast to enable the new 275-seat National Assembly to come into being. But everywhere throughout this war-torn country is the fear that insurgents and foreign fighters will attempt to disrupt the process by causing chaos and intimidating the electorate. Speaking after suicide bombers had killed 25 people in two attacks in Baghdad last week, interim prime minister Iyad Allawi admitted yesterday that the attackers would “try to make the political process fail” and that the security forces would be hard pushed to contain them.

The usual Bush competence: Behind the 900 exterior columns and 10-inch-thick granite walls of the ornate Eisenhower Office Building, a senior White House official was holding forth recently on Iraq. After next weekend's election, she explained optimistically, a new assembly will be announced by Feb. 15, a new government by March 1, and a permanent constitution ratified by October. What she did not mention is that this schedule and the painfully negotiated protections for Iraq's minorities that go with it are enshrined in an interim constitution that many experts, and Iraq's most powerful cleric, say will no longer be legally binding once the elections take place.

Rumsfeld’s Raiders

What’s the hurry, it’s just the Constitution burning: The Pentagon sent its top intelligence official to Capital Hill on Monday to explain the mission and makeup of a secret battlefield intelligence group that some lawmakers suggested may have skirted congressional oversight and not been coordinated fully with the CIA.

Some Democrats pressed for hearings, but Republicans said they were in no rush.

John McCain is such a tool: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on a Washington Post report that the Defense Department is reinterpreting U.S. law to give the secretary broad authority over clandestine operations abroad.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has created a new espionage unit called the Strategic Support Branch, according to the news report, but McCain, speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," said he doubts Rumsfeld has broken any laws.

"I'm always sorry to read about things in The Washington Post when they affect a committee that I am a member of," McCain said.

Oh, that’s why they missed it: At the Pentagon, two senior defense officials told reporters that members of Congress had been fully briefed on the intelligence group during last year's budget deliberations. They said lawmakers may not recognize it now because the group's name was changed after their briefings.

The group, now called Strategic Support teams, were previously called Humint Augmentation teams, the officials said, speaking on condition that they not be further identified. Humint refers to human intelligence, or information provided by spies.

Breaking the Army

It’s a problem now: But a deeper look inside the Army National Guard, Army Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve suggests a grimmer picture: At the current pace and size of American troop deployments to Iraq, the availability of suitable reserve combat troops could become a problem as early as next year.

Suck it up, soldiers: Today, nine of 10 regular Army divisions are either in Iraq and Afghanistan or back and preparing for the next deployment. During fiscal year 2004, 19,301 regular soldiers were kept on active duty involuntarily, some up to 18 months past their contractual obligations through "stop-loss" orders. As of Dec. 15, 185,732 Reservists and National Guardsmen from all services are currently mobilized. They are the tip of the iceberg: As of Sept. 30, 247,181 reservists and guardsmen have been deployed in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom; 90,041 of those troops more than once. These figures do not include temporary duty, which can last for up to three months, overseas.

Suck it up, soldiers: The third rotation of American soldiers and Marines into Iraq is under way. The Pentagon is doing the old robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul thing to boost total troop strength temporarily to 150,000 for the coming Iraq elections.

What that means is some outfits find themselves on their way back over after only nine months at home since their last combat tour. In other outfits where they were expected home for Christmas, the troops instead got a two-month extension on top of their "standard" 12-month combat tour.

Suck it up, soldiers: After losing a limb, mobility or eyesight to bullets or bombs in Iraq, some of the most gravely wounded U.S. soldiers face financial devastation.

Some 200 soldiers have lost at least one limb in the Iraq war, veterans' advocates said.

Many of them left the hospital in dire financial straits. In many cases, family members had to quit jobs to be with the disabled soldier, and overextended their credit cards to pay for airfare to Walter Reed and other expenses. Houses were lost, cars repossessed.

Suck it up, America: The Bush administration will announce as early as Tuesday that it will seek about $80 billion in new funding for military operations this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, pushing the total for both conflicts to almost $300 billion so far.

Administration and congressional officials said on Monday that the new request would come on top of the $25 billion in emergency spending already approved for this fiscal year. That means funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will total nearly $105 billion in fiscal 2005 alone -- a record amount that shatters initial estimates of the cost.


Richard Clarke looks back from 2011: The several years without an attack on U.S. soil lulled some Americans into thinking that the war on terror was taking place only overseas. Few corporations increased security spending. Americans increasingly questioned President Bush's security policies, the Patriot Act, and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge's ridiculed color codes. In the 2004 presidential election George W. Bush won a second term in part by dismissing such issues as whether the mishandling of the Iraq War had made us less secure, whether we had paid enough attention to al-Qaeda, and whether we were adequately addressing our vulnerabilities at home.

Then the second wave of al-Qaeda attacks hit America. Since then we have spiraled downward in terms of economic strength, national security, and civil liberties. No one could stand here today, in 2011, and say that America has won the war on terror. To understand how we failed to win, and exactly what has been lost along the way, I want to look at the past seven years in some detail.

Commentary – Ramsey Clark: The United States, and the Bush administration in particular, engineered the demonization of Hussein, and it has a clear political interest in his conviction. Obviously, a fair trial of Hussein will be difficult to ensure — and critically important to the future of democracy in Iraq. This trial will write history, affect the course of violence around the world and have an impact on hopes for reconciliation within Iraq.

The intention of the United States to convict the former leader in an unfair trial was made starkly clear by the appointment of Chalabi's nephew to organize and lead the court. He had just returned to Iraq to open a law office with a former law partner of Defense Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith, who had urged the U.S. overthrow of the Iraqi government and was a principal architect of U.S. postwar planning.

Opinion – Scott Ritter: It is hard as an American to support the failure of American military operations in Iraq. Such failure will bring with it the death and wounding of many American service members, and many more Iraqis.

As an American, I have hoped that there was a way for America to emerge victorious in Iraq, with our national security and honour intact, and Iraq itself a better nation than the one we “liberated”. But it is far too late for this to happen.

We not only invaded Iraq on false pretences, but we perverted the notion of liberation by removing Saddam and his cronies from his palaces, replacing them with American occupiers who have not only kept open Saddam's most notorious prisons, but also the practice of torture, rape and abuse we were supposed to be bringing to an end.

Faced with our inability to come to grips with a popular-based resistance that has grown exponentially over the past year, the best the American policy planners can come up with is to embrace our own form of terrorism, supporting death squads we cannot control and which will only further debase the moral foundation of our nation while slaughtering even more Iraqis.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Kailua, HI, soldier killed by sniper in Mosul.

Local story: Wakefield, VA, Marine killed in northern Iraq.

Local story: Terre Haute, IN, soldier killed in Balad.



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