Sunday, July 31, 2005

War News for Sunday, July 31, 2005 Bring 'em on: Four US soldiers killed in a bomb attak in southern Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Five killed and ten injured in car bomb attack on police patrol in Haswa. Bring 'em on: Four Marines injured in suicide bomb attack on their convoy in Hit. Bring 'em on: American soldier and Iraqi civilian killed by roadside bomb in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: A least five Iraqis killed in suicide bomb attack at police checkpoint in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Two British security guards killed in bomb attack on their convoy in Basra. Bring 'em on: Senior Iraqi civil servant kidnapped in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Senior Sunni who is part of the constitutional drafting committee escaped assassination attempt in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Iraqi civilian killed and three wounded by roadside bomb in Mahmudiya. Updated update: The death toll in the Rabiah attack has now reached 48. As was linked in the comments yesterday. Some survivors of a suicide bombing targeting Iraqi army recruits were shot and wounded immediately afterward when U.S. and Iraqi soldiers opened fire at the scene, police, doctors and witnesses said Saturday. Fallujah: US and Iraqi security forces have virtually sealed off the former rebel bastion of Fallujah, but insurgents continue to stage hit-and-run attacks in this Sunni stronghold, according to a top US marine. "Fallujah remains fatal as insurgents continue to carry out attacks against security forces," Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph L'Etoile, commanding officer of the US marines in southern Fallujah, told AFP. Constitution: The framers of Iraq's constitution appear likely to enshrine Islam as the main basis of law in the country — a stronger role than the United States had hoped for and one some Iraqis fear will mean a more fundamentalist regime. One million signatures: Radicals within Iraq’s Shia majority community said on Friday that they had collected one million signatures demanding the withdrawal of US-led troops. “We obtained the Iraqi signatures demanding the withdrawal of the occupation troops as asked for by Sayyed Moqtada Sadr,” said Sheikh Abdel Zahra Al Suwaidi, an aide of the Shia radical leader. USA, not leaving Iraq, for quite some time yet:
But this will be a long-term project. And the reality is that if the Americans want the Iraqi Army to take responsibility for a large swath of country next year, the United States will have to provide the supplies, the transportation, and the logistics know-how. General Sattler says that when his force returns to Iraq, its priorities will be different from what they were before. Rather than fighting insurgents, his marines' top priorities will be training the Iraqis and providing them logistics support. That, Sattler says, could mean that his marines bring fewer riflemen and more logisticians and other "combat enablers." Says Sattler: "As Iraqis come on line, our commitment should come down. We may have to increase these enablers at the same time we decrease some of the infantry." Given that even the best military minds don't know what the state of the insurgency will be next spring, predicting the level of troops needed is still largely a guessing game. But Iraqi leaders made clear last week that securing a troop reduction is a political imperative for them. It probably won't be bad politics in America, either.
Permanent Bases: American troops have established the first long-term military base along a major smuggling route near the Syrian border in a new effort to block potential suicide bombers from reaching targets in Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities. A force of 1,800 U.S. soldiers, responding to continuing concerns that foreign fighters are crossing the Syrian border into Iraq, recently began an operation that includes setting up a base 3miles from the crossroads town of Rawah. Too little too late?
"I can see the fear in the eyes of some of these soldiers," said Harith Sulaiman, a former member of Iraq's Republican Guard who has participated in more than 20 U.S. military exercises. "Some of them hadn't left their small towns. They don't know nothing about Iraq." Sulaiman has played a farmer, a religious leader and a general. He said the role players never break character. "You can't laugh," he said. "We're trying to make it most realistic so that when they go there they won't get shot." William Donnelly, a historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History, said it is the first time the Army has done such realistic training and on such a large scale.
Eviction notice confirmed: Uzbekistan has formally evicted the United States from a military base that has served as a hub for its combat operations in Afghanistan, a move confirmed by the US State Department. "I can confirm that our embassy in Tashkent received a diplomatic note from the Uzbek government late last week to terminate the agreement for use of the K-2 air field," Nancy Beck, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said on Saturday. Opinion and Commentary Sham:
This week's talk of "withdrawal in 2006" (20,000 troops, possibly, if the Constitution gets finished, things go well with the elections, the insurgents convert to Tibetan Buddhism, etc.) is a sham, as the New York Times' Bob Herbert points out. The long-term goal was, and still is, to establish a permanent base of operations in Iraq to control the world's last great oil reserves. That doesn't mean there couldn't very well be troop reductions next year. But they may have more to do with human resources than human rights.
Balls of Brass:
Even his most bitter rivals exhibit a grudging admiration for Chalabi's phoenix-like ability to reinvent himself, though some complain he deals without principle to advance himself. "This is his problem," said Sheik Homam Hamoodi, a senior Shiite politician who leads the drafting committee for the Iraqi constitution. "This comes from his background as a banker. ... He sells and buys without a specific strategy." Chalabi rejects claims that he lacks popular support. While he said it's "too early" to talk about his plans for the December elections, he's obviously hard at work on his latest makeover. This time, he's fashioning himself as an Iraqi patriot able to reach across Iraq's sectarian lines. He's even become something of a populist, as one of the very few leaders to live outside the U.S.-guarded Green Zone compound or to risk the perilous roads leading out of the capital. Last week, he made a dangerous foray south along a route where gunmen had previously ambushed his convoy. Chalabi wanted a firsthand look at the aftermath of the inferno in Musayyib, a tiny, mostly Shiite village where a suicide bombing killed nearly 100 people this month. He pored over maps with local Iraqi authorities, recreating the bomber's path. He comforted survivors in a rank hospital. He paused to gaze at the shimmering Euphrates River. He glad-handed two American soldiers stationed in the area, thanking them for helping to get rid of Saddam. Then he was gone. "Um, who did I just meet?" asked a bewildered Lt. Col. John Rhodes of the 155th Separate Armored Brigade. "Remember the guy the CIA cut off, the one pumping the bad intelligence that got us over here in the first place? That was him," the other soldier replied. "Oh, yeah. That guy," Rhodes said with a shrug.
Mrs Ali:
Glad to see Saddam ousted, Mrs. Al Ali’s family welcomed the American invasion and still supports the basic tenets that led to it. But like many other Iraqis, some of her family members are growing impatient with the occupation. The problem as she saw it was poor planning after the war. "The Americans didn’t do their best," she said. "They have bad post-war policy. Everything could be in better shape if they had a better post-war policy." As an example, she said in Baghdad there is only one hour out of every seven when the electricity works, the garbage is not collected and schools are not operating regularly. Recently she spoke to a niece in Baghdad who was lamenting these facts. Mrs. Al Ali counseled patience, which was hard for her niece to accept. "You are sitting in an air-conditioned house and you say ‘be patient,’" her niece scolded. Recalling the conversation, Mrs. Al Ali shrugged, acknowledging the rebuke and the truth behind it. The frustration is hard to explain because the whole country is not wracked with the violence that has consumed Baghdad under the American occupation. According to Mrs. Al Ali, one sector of the country occupied by Japan was much safer than American areas because the Japanese got garbage trucks on the streets, immediately started rebuilding schools and have been very sensitive to the locals. It’s a fact that Mrs. Al Ali was not sure most Americans were aware of. "Americans need to know what is going on on the ground there," she said.


Saturday, July 30, 2005

War News for Saturday, July 30, 2005 Bring 'em on: Two security contractors killed by roadside bomb near Basra. Bring 'em on: One Iraqi killed in roadside bomb ambush of US convoy in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Insurgents blow up Iraqi police station in Fallujah. Bring 'em on: US convoy ambushed by roadside bomb in Kirkuk. Bring 'em on: Health Ministry official kidnapped in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Bodies of three kidnapped airport employees found in Baghdad. Update. "The death toll rose Saturday to 40 in the Friday suicide bomb attack outside a military conscription center in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the Iraqi police said. An Iraqi police source said in a press statement that up to 60 people were wounded in the blast." Inclusive politics. "One of the few senior Sunni officials who had urged Sunni Arabs to join Iraq's political process has been fired, the government said Saturday. The death toll from a suicide attack on Iraqi army recruits rose to 44. Adnan al-Dulaimi was dismissed July 24 as head of the Sunni Endowment, the government agency in charge of the upkeep of Sunni mosques and shrines, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's office said. It declined to speak further on the matter. Al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press he was fired for defending Sunnis, who dominated Iraqi politics under Saddam Hussein but feel marginalized by the current U.S.-backed, Shiite-dominated government. Drawing Sunnis into the political process is seen as key for legitimizing any Iraqi government. 'I think that the reason behind my dismissal is that they want to silence a voice that is speaking against unjustified practices against Sunnis such as arrests, torture in the prisons, and also for my calls to release innocent detainees and to save Iraq from sectarianism, insecurity and divisions,' al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press." Police training: "Hundreds of Iraqis are demonstrating in Baghdad for a second day against alleged police brutality and arbitrary arrests. The demonstration, called by the Iraqi Islamic Party, followed Friday prayers and was staged outside the Green Zone, a heavily protected area which is home to the Iraqi US-backed government, the US army and the US embassy. The zone was the site of the Iraqi republican palace, built in the 1960s. Protesters, who included many women, carried banners urging the authorities to respect human rights and acted out scenes depicting Iraqi soldiers torturing a Muslim cleric. They also called on the Iraqi government and the US army in Iraq to release Iraqi detainees. Reports suggest that thousands of Iraqis are being detained for indefinite periods and without trial. 'It is shameful to see our innocent fellow citizens being arrested, tortured and even killed by some in the security services which claim to be acting in the name of the law,' Aala Makki, an Islamic Party official, told the crowd." Good work if you can get it. "In May 2004, Jochim, who has lived in Orange County for 30 years, most recently in Orange, reported for duty in the Green Zone - the heavily fortified U.S. administrative headquarters in Baghdad. His title: chief auditor for the Iraq Commission for Public Integrity. His job: teaching Iraqis how to detect corruption. The job comes with a 'danger bonus' - 25 percent on top of his salary, which he wouldn't disclose, although it ranges between $70,000 and $120,000 a year. But Jochim said the perils of Baghdad don't bother him. 'I have less stress over there because I am not driving on California freeways,' he said." PFC Johnson. "The father of Army Pfc. LaVena L. Johnson says his daughter had a disfigured lip, loose teeth and a wound on the left side of her head when he reviewed her body this week. John Johnson said those discoveries are key reasons why he fears that foul play may have been involved in his 19-year-old daughter's death July 19 near Balad, Iraq." Waveflux has more. Over at JWN, Helena contrasts the British reaction to 7/7 and Bush's actions after 9/11. She also has some interesting observations on the practical efficacy of torture policy. Prohibition enacted. "Iraq's transportation minister, a Shiite Muslim, has ordered a ban on alcohol sales at Baghdad International Airport, declaring that the facility is "a holy and revered" piece of Iraq, a spokesman said Friday. The airport duty-free shop so far has refused to comply with the order by Salam Maliki. Airport officials said Maliki threatened to have the store's $800,000 supply of alcoholic beverages destroyed." Baghdad Sheraton. "For the past seven months, barely any guests have stayed in the sand-coloured concrete block that occupies a corner of a central Baghdad square, across from the Palestine Hotel. On Friday, just 9 of the Sheraton's 307 rooms were occupied. Some nights it is empty. The staff sit around disconsolate. The bell captain smokes with his feet up. The pool is drained. 'We have gone from 95 or 100 percent occupancy to less than three percent,' Mohanid Tamween, the reservations supervisor, said this week as he stood forlornly behind the front desk, wearing a threadbare jacket with a Sheraton emblem sewn on." Editorial:
General Rives and the other military lawyers argued strongly against declaring that Mr. Bush was above the law when it came to antiterrorism operations. But the president's team ignored them, offering up a pretzel logic that General Rives and the other military experts warned would not fool anyone. Rear Adm. Michael Lohr, the Navy's judge advocate general, said that the situation at the American prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba might be so legalistically unique that the Geneva Conventions and even the Constitution did not necessarily apply. But he asked, "Will the American people find we have missed the forest for the trees by condoning practices that, while technically legal, are inconsistent with our most fundamental values?" General Rives said that if the White House permitted abusive interrogations at Guantánamo Bay, it would not be able to restrict them to that single prison. He argued that soldiers elsewhere would conclude that their commanders were condoning illegal behavior. And that is precisely what happened at Abu Ghraib after the general who organized the abuse of prisoners at Guantánamo went to Iraq to toughen up the interrogation of prisoners there. The White House ignored these military lawyers' advice two years ago. Now it is trying to kill the measure that would define the term "illegal combatants," set rules for interrogations and prohibit cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The president considers this an undue restriction of his powers. It's not only due; it's way overdue.
Casualty Reports Local story: Wisconsin soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Missouri soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Two Ohio Marines killed in Iraq. Local story: California soldier dies in Iraq. Local story: Wisconsin soldier dies in Iraq. Rant of the Day It was the best of times. "Those with much to gain from the repeal include the President and his Cabinet. Based on estimates of the net worth of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and each of the Cabinet members, the President, Vice President, and the Cabinet are estimated to receive a total tax benefit of between $91 million and $344 million if the estate tax repeal is made permanent. The President himself is estimated to save between $787,000 and $6.2 million, while Vice President Cheney is estimated to save between $12.6 million and $60.7 million." It was the worst of times. "Sweethearts since their days at Lincoln County High School, the couple had moved to McDuffie County seven years ago to raise their family. Sunday night, Spc. Kinlow - a reservist with the Georgia National Guard - died while on patrol in Iraq, the victim of a roadside bomb that demolished the Humvee he was in. His death came just weeks before the 35-year-old soldier was set to return to McDuffie County on a two-week hiatus from the rigors of battlefield life. 'I feel like I've just been cheated out of my life,' his wife said through tears Tuesday night. 'We were supposed to grow old together. ... When you can finally smooth out the edges and you are supposed to have the American dream, he's gone. You are supposed to buy your house and your white picket fence and ... he's gone.' Spc. Kinlow is survived by his wife and two children - Chauncey, a rising sophomore at Thomson High School, and Chelsea, a rising fifth grader at Norris Elementary School in Thomson. His parents, Alchester and Carrie Mae Kinlow, his sister, Sophia, and his niece, Kendra, live in Lincoln County." It was the age of wisdom “Senior military lawyers lodged vigorous and detailed dissents in early 2003 as an administration legal task force concluded that President Bush had authority as commander in chief to order harsh interrogations of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, newly disclosed documents show. Despite the military lawyers' warnings, the task force concluded that military interrogators and their commanders would be immune from prosecution for torture under federal and international law because of the special character of the fight against terrorism. In memorandums written by several senior uniformed lawyers in each of the military services as the legal review was under way, they had urged a sharply different view and also warned that the position eventually adopted by the task force could endanger American service members.” It was the age of foolishness. "Study after study has replicated the findings that human activity is the cause. Americans, with our exponentially disproportionate consumption of fossil fuels and our resulting belch of pollution, bear prime responsibility for it. Yet Barton, the House member most beholden to energy interests, keeps telling us to wait a few hundred more years and it will get cold again. He wants to probe the financial records, study methods, sources, proof of objectivity and proof of ethical independence of climate change researchers. He asked them: ``In the area of climate or paleoclimate research, are you aware of any violation of requirements or obligations concerning the sharing and dissemination of data and research, pursuant to applicable agency and federal policies? If so describe each violation.'' It was the epoch of belief. "There is still no indication that the Bush administration recognizes the utter folly of its war in Iraq, which has been like a constant spray of gasoline on the fire of global terrorism. What was required in the aftermath of Sept. 11 was an intense, laserlike focus by America and its allies on Al Qaeda-type terrorism. Instead, the Bush crowd saw its long dreamed of opportunity to impose its will on Iraq, which had nothing to do with the great tragedy of Sept. 11. Many thousands have paid a fearful price for that bit of ideological madness." It was the epoch of incredulity. "It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile." It was the season of light. "Even as Maxwell recovers physically and psychologically, he patrols military hospitals and barracks to comfort and counsel a handful of the U.S. service members injured in Iraq, which number about 14,000. Sometimes Maxwell's speech is halting, and often his right foot 'flops,' as he puts it. He struggles to recall mundane words, like 'strawberry' or 'compass.' But Maxwell, who has endured depression and self-doubt during his recovery, says he is determined to make sure that no wounded Marine is left alone to sink into depression or despair. 'People who haven't been wounded can't possibly understand the sense of loneliness and abandonment you feel,' Maxwell, a slender, sharp-featured figure in a tan Marine uniform, said as he hustled through the therapy ward. Maxwell, one of the highest-ranking U.S. service members wounded in Iraq, recalls encountering a 20-year-old Marine sitting alone inside a Camp Lejeune barracks in May. 'The kid couldn't use his arm. He'd seen his buddy killed. His family was in Florida,' Maxwell said. 'And he told me he felt so lonely and lost. I decided no Marine was going to be left all alone like that.'" It was the season of darkness. "Iraq was supposed to be a first step. Iran was also in the neoconservatives' sights. The neocons envisaged U.S. control of the region (and its oil), to be followed inevitably by the realization of their ultimate dream, a global American empire. Of course it sounds like madness, which is why we should have been paying closer attention from the beginning. The madness took a Dr. Strangelovian turn in the summer of 2002, before the war with Iraq was launched. As The Washington Post first reported, an influential Pentagon advisory board was given a briefing prepared by a Rand Corporation analyst who said the U.S. should consider seizing the oil fields and financial assets of Saudi Arabia if it did not stop its support of terrorism. Mercifully the briefing went nowhere. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it did not represent the 'dominant opinion' within the administration." It was the spring of hope. "Marsh & McLennan Cos. the world's largest insurance broker, on Friday said it will pay Chief Executive Michael Cherkasky at least $3.5 million in salary and bonus for 2005 under a new three-year employment contract. Cherkasky became chief executive last October, replacing Jeffrey Greenberg less than two weeks after New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer accused Marsh of conspiring with other insurers to rig bids. Marsh in January agreed to pay $850 million to settle the bid-rigging probe." It was the winter of despair. "But the miracle metamorphosis didn't happen. Ayad thought he was going to get a new eye; instead he got a contact lens. And the laser surgery that was promised to erase his facial scars will only lighten them, unless he can receive follow-up treatment in the United States or another modern country, which is highly unlikely once he leaves behind the silky sheets and first-class hotels for his mud hut. Just the sight of an Iraqi flag yesterday, at the Iraqi mission to the United Nations, jolted his father back to reality. 'Can't I stay here and work?' he asked Ambassador Samir Shakir M. Sumaida'ie, Iraq's permanent representative to the United Nations. When the ambassador gently shook his head, Ayad's father covered his face and cried." We had everything before us. "The Senate agreed to shield gun manufacturers and dealers from liability lawsuits on Friday, as Congress broke for a monthlong recess after sending President Bush energy and transportation bills that had been years in the making. Long sought by the gun lobby, the Senate measure - approved 65 to 31 - would prohibit lawsuits against gun makers and distributors for misuse of their products during the commission of a crime. Senate supporters said the plan was needed to protect the domestic firearms industry from a rash of lawsuits that threatened its economic future." We had nothing before us. "According to the Marine Corps League, one Bush administration 2006 budget proposal would have charged one group of veterans a $250 application fee. Another would have doubled individual prescription medication costs from $7 to $15. A Veterans Affairs study in 2002 showed that nationally 310,000 veterans were waiting for appointments, half for more than six months, and veterans filing disability claims waited an average of six months for service - and sometimes as long as two years. Steve Robertson, legislative director of the American Legion, said of Bush administration VA proposals in a Washington Post write-up earlier this year: 'Their policies are inconsistent with a nation at war" and violate the basic military value of "an army of one, teamwork, taking care of each other.'"


Friday, July 29, 2005

War News for Friday, July 29, 2005 Editorial:
For 15 months now the Bush administration has insisted that the horrific photographs of abuse from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were the result of freelance behavior by low-level personnel and had nothing to do with its policies. In this the White House has been enthusiastically supported by the Army brass, which has conducted investigations documenting hundreds of cases of prisoner mistreatment in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but denies that any of its senior officers are culpable. For some time these implacable positions have been glaringly at odds with the known facts. In the past few days, those facts have grown harder to ignore. The latest evidence has emerged from hearings at Fort Meade about two of those low-level Abu Ghraib guards who are charged with using dogs to terrorize Iraqi detainees. On Wednesday, the former warden of Abu Ghraib, Maj. David DiNenna, testified that the use of dogs for interrogation was recommended by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the former commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison who was dispatched by the Pentagon to Abu Ghraib in August 2003 to review the handling and interrogation of prisoners. On Tuesday, a military interrogator testified that he had been trained in using dogs by a team sent to Iraq by Gen. Miller. In statements to investigators and in sworn testimony to Congress last year, Gen. Miller denied that he recommended the use of dogs for interrogation, or that they had been used at Guantanamo. "No methods contrary to the Geneva Convention were presented at any time by the assistance team that I took to [Iraq]," he said under oath on May 19, 2004. Yet Army investigators reported to Congress this month that, under Gen. Miller's supervision at Guantanamo, an al Qaeda suspect named Mohamed Qahtani was threatened with snarling dogs, forced to wear women's underwear on his head and led by a leash attached to his chains -- the very abuse documented in the Abu Ghraib photographs. The court evidence strongly suggests that Gen. Miller lied about his actions, and it merits further investigation by prosecutors and Congress. But the Guantanamo commander was not acting on his own: The interrogation of Mr. Qahtani, investigators found, was carried out under rules approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Dec. 2, 2002. After strong protests from military lawyers, the Rumsfeld standards -- which explicitly allowed nudity, the use of dogs and shackling -- were revised in April 2003. Yet the same practices were later adopted at Abu Ghraib, at least in part at the direct instigation of Gen. Miller. "We understood," Maj. DiNenna testified, "that [Gen. Miller] was sent over by the secretary of defense." The White House and Pentagon have gotten away with their stonewalling largely because of Republican control of Congress. When the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted, GOP leaders such as Sen. John W. Warner (Va.) loudly vowed to get to the bottom of the matter -- but once the bottom started to come into view late last year, Mr. Warner's demands for accountability ceased. Mr. Rumsfeld and other senior officials have never been the subject of an independent investigation. A recommendation by the latest Army probe that Gen. Miller be reprimanded for his role in the Qahtani interrogation was rejected by Gen. Bantz Craddock of Southern Command. Emphasis added.
War News Bring 'em on: Twenty-five Iraqis killed, 35 wounded by suicide bomber at recruiting center in Rabia. Bring 'em on: Two US Marines killed in heavy fighting near Haditha. Bring 'em on: Six Iraqi soldiers killed in two attacks near Baquba. Bring 'em on: US convoy attacked by roadside bombs near Ramadi. Bring 'em on: Iraqi civilian translator killed in convoy ambush near Tikrit. Bring 'em on: Five Iraqi policemen, two civilian translators found beheaded near Mahmudiya. Report from Rummyworld.
The distinction between resistance and terror is an important one—and one not often made by U.S. officials in Iraq. Take, for example, the daily press releases from the U.S. military via their combined public information center, a.k.a. CPIC—here in Baghdad. A military operation in Mosul: 10 terrorists captured, is a typical comment. A firefight in outside Baghdad: three terrorists killed. A security sweep based on good intelligence—a terrorist operation thwarted. It all sounds pretty clear. But it's not. The vast majority of these so-called terrorists that the U.S. military brags about killing and capturing are actually insurgents fighting the American occupation and the fledgling Iraqi government. Categorizing them as terrorists has probably played well with a gullible American public—indeed, it probably makes them feel safer—but factually speaking it's wrong. The vast majority of attacks against U.S. and Iraqi security forces are perpetrated by former members of Saddam Hussein's regime and Sunnis fearful of being politically marginalized by the Kurds and majority Shiites. Then there are the foreign Muslims coming into Iraq to wage jihad against the United States and its allies, primarily through suicide bombings. The first group sees itself as resisting an army of occupation, the second neither cares about the Iraqi people nor the country's political status, wanting only to thwart the Americans by creating fear and chaos. The latter group can fairly be called terrorists.
Recruiting crisis. "The Army National Guard has fallen 23 percent behind its recruiting goal so far this year and is unlikely to meet its annual quota - largely because of a dramatic drop in recruits from the South. With tens of thousands of Guardsmen deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan during hurricane and wildfire seasons, some experts worry the Guard is being stretched thin while unable to fill the ranks. The Pentagon announced last week that the Army National Guard has fallen about 10,500 enlistees behind its goal. So far, nearly 34,600 have enlisted." Mission creep. The US military is to consider protecting foreign diplomats in Baghdad after al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the killing of three Algerian diplomats this month, the new American ambassador said. US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Thursday told reporters in Baghdad: 'Coalition forces... are planning to look at this problem and see what could be done to fix the security for the diplomats.'" Philippines evacuates diplomatic mission from Baghdad to Amman. Reconstruction costs.
Efforts to rebuild water, electricity and health networks in Iraq are being shortchanged by higher-than-expected costs to provide security and by generous financial awards to contractors, according to a series of reports by government investigators released yesterday. Taken together, the reports seem to run contrary to the Bush administration's upbeat assessment that reconstruction efforts are moving vigorously ahead and that the insurgency is dying down. The United States, Iraq and international donors have committed more than $60 billion to run Iraq and revive its damaged infrastructure. But security costs are eating away a substantial share of that total, up to 36 percent on some projects, the Government Accountability Office reported yesterday. The higher security costs are causing reconstruction authorities to scale back efforts in some areas and abandon projects in others. For instance, in March, the U.S. Agency for International Development canceled two electric power generation programs to provide $15 million in additional security elsewhere. On another project to rehabilitate electric substations, the Army Corps of Engineers decided that securing 14 of the 23 facilities would be too expensive and limited the entire project to nine stations. And in February, USAID added $33 million to cover higher security costs on one project, which left it short of money to pay for construction oversight, quality assurance and administrative costs.
More CPA follies. "Stuart Bowen, the special inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction, said on Thursday that the US Justice Department was looking into fraud that he had uncovered. Giving details of his latest report, which is to be released on Saturday, Bowen also told National Public Radio (NPR) that US-backed reconstruction projects in Iraq were speeding ahead. 'The reconstruction for Iraq is peaking, 1000 projects are completed and 1000 more are ongoing,' he said. The US has allocated $23 billion for new infrastructure and Bowen's previous reports have already highlighted huge sums of missing money. He said his latest report looks at four water projects and 'the results are all over the map'. He also told how $7 million intended for the troubled Hilla region south of Baghdad had disappeared. The money came from the Development Fund for Iraq, money from oil sales that the US-run former Coalition Provisional Authority used for development projects." A tale of two cities. "At 11 a.m. in the Iraqi capital, the popping of automatic-weapons fire broke out from one end of a Tigris River bridge to another. Pedestrians jaded by gunfire walked for cover. It was Baghdad's equivalent of a car horn -- guards shooting into the air to clear the way for some dignitary. Across the Tigris, gray smoke billowed over the city from a bomb. Under the bridge, ski-masked Shiite Muslim commandos cruised through checkpoints in pickups mounted with machine guns. Nearby, a man stood in the middle of the street holding a gun to the head of another man in a car. Other drivers steered around them. No one stopped to help, or looked that carefully. After more than two years of war, Baghdad's people have learned to choose their battles, and this one didn't qualify. On the city's streets, the daily reality involves death, random violence and routine deprivations for people who are beyond anger. But a different view has been presented in the Green Zone, the concrete-barricaded headquarters for U.S. troops, diplomats and contractors, and the interim Iraqi government. There, the situation is described as progressing toward a gradual handover from U.S. forces to Iraqi control. During a visit to Baghdad this week by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey, said a partial troop withdrawal might begin in early spring. His assessment was repeated Thursday at a weekly briefing. 'Every day you see the Iraqi people going about their lives -- sometimes under challenging circumstances -- gives confirmation we've got a good program,' said the military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Donald Alston." Burn out.
The frequency with which troops are being sent back to combat is unprecedented in the all-volunteer U.S. military, which was created in 1973 after the draft ended. To boost morale, commanders draw comparisons to the sacrifices of Greatest Generation, those who fought for the duration of World War II. But that war is dust-covered history to those fighting here, and defense researchers concede that they do not yet know what back-to-back-to-back tours of duty will do to this military — or to those fighting. "It's an open question as to how much we can ask of them," says James Hosek, a RAND Corp., specialist on military retention. The Marines send troops to Iraq more frequently than the Army, but do so for shorter combat stints that don't last longer than seven months. Three Marine battalions, including the one in which Welter serves, are now fighting for the third time; two more are preparing for third combat hitches. The Army deploys units for longer periods — usually 12 months — but less often. Some Army units are starting a second tour in Iraq this year. Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a spokesman for the Army's personnel division, says re-enlistments have held steady so far. "But we are keeping an eye on that," he says. Studies about Vietnam veterans are of little use because the nation had a larger, conscript military then and combat was typically limited to a single 12- or 13-month tour. Hosek testified before Congress last year that what limited data exist suggest a third tour could sour the troops and their families and hurt re-enlistments. Interviews with two dozen Marines in Ramadi, their commanders, and friends and family back home reveal the cost in human terms. Like Jimmy Welter, some Marines in this unit enlisted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But that patriotic fervor now seems spent. And what the Marines have endured — Welter's story is typical — speaks to the changes that come with war. During their first tour, Welter and his unit were greeted as liberators. During the second, they fought a growing rebellion. Now, on the third, many say they are angry to be back, shaken by the loss of more friends and feeling old beyond their years. "I'm 22 years old. It really feels like I'm 30," Welter says. "I've seen more and done more things at 22 than most people have in 40 years."
Veterans' health. "Thirty percent of U.S. troops surveyed have developed stress-related mental health problems three to four months after coming home from the Iraq war, the Army's surgeon general said Thursday. The survey of 1,000 troops found problems including anxiety, depression, nightmares, anger and an inability to concentrate, said Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley and other military medical officials. A smaller number of troops, often with more severe symptoms, were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a serious mental illness. The 30 percent figure is in contrast to the 3 percent to 5 percent diagnosed with a significant mental health issues immediately after they leave the war theater, according to Col. Elspeth Ritchie, a military psychiatrist on Kiley's staff. A study of troops who were still in the combat zone in 2004 found 13 percent experienced significant mental health problems." Commentary Editorial:
The background noise to all this, of course, comes from the insurgents' bombs going off every day. The stepped-up pace of ambushes and suicide bombings has killed hundreds of Iraqis this month. A U.S. Army report found that ill-trained Iraqi police officers were being thrown into the front lines like so much cannon fodder. It also said the likelihood that insurgents have infiltrated the police is very high. At the same time, it is also clear that Iran is strengthening its ties to the Shiite leadership and redoubling its influence in Baghdad. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Shiites' tolerance of the mostly Sunni insurgency has about run out. More militias are being set up, amid more calls for active self-defense. Sunni politicians, in turn, have complained about secretive Shiite death squads. When the constitution is put up for a referendum, the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds will each have the power to reject it, because the voting will be organized by region. That will tend not to foster compromise, as might be expected, but to strengthen ethnic or sectarian identification. The process is more apt to increase violence than reduce it. The likelihood, in other words, that U.S. troops will start coming home next spring, as predicted Wednesday by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., is small. He himself acknowledged that if the security situation does not improve, all bets are off. Similarly, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he wants American troops out as soon as possible - but that was chiefly rhetorical. His government would be lost without U.S. firepower. It could happen that Iraqis of every description decide to give the constitution a try. It seems likely that Washington, which tried to influence the last elections under the table (but failed), will try again. At best, Iraqis will be at each other's throats but not killing each other. That's the rosy view. The American invasion of Iraq let loose an avalanche, or set up a train wreck, or started a chain reaction - choose your metaphor - and the danger is that it will end with a bitter and intractable sectarian bloodletting.
Casualty Reports Local story: Michigan soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Virginia sailor killed in Iraq. Local story: Georgia soldier killed in Iraq.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

War news for Thursday, July 28, 2005 Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, five wounded by roadside bomb near Tikrit. Bring ‘em on: US convoy attacked in Samarra; curfew imposed and city blockaded. Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers killed, one wounded by roadside bomb in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Seventeen Iraqis killed as insurgents ambush two busses in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Oil pipeline ablaze near Kirkuk. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi killed, four wounded as railway bomb sets train ablaze near Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqis killed, 37 wounded in mortar attack in central Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi soldier killed, five wounded defusing roadside bomb near Kirkuk. Equipment mismatch. “In the March 15 memo, Gen. Chaves tells top commanders in Baghdad that he does not have the right mix of weapons to fire from the turrets of armored Humvees and other vehicles that guard supply trucks. ‘Previously, reports indicated that excessive use of force, to include unauthorized deadly force, was employed by some convoy escorts,’ Gen. Chaves writes to the commander of all multinational forces in Iraq in a memo stamped ‘secret.’ A copy of the memo was obtained by The Washington Times. ‘While defending combat logistics convoys, soldiers manning heavy crew-served weapons in turrets of gun trucks are challenged to use the appropriate elevation of force toward hostile acts of demonstrated hostile intents,’ he wrote. “The memo does not provide details of excessive-force incidents.” Shinseki tried to tell them. “The report said the critical miscalculation of Iraq war-planning was the conclusion that reconstruction would not require more troops than the invasion itself. Not only are more troops needed but they should be trained for postwar duty, the task force said. In Iraq, the task force said, postwar requirements did not get enough attention, and there were misjudgments, as well. This, the report said, ‘left the United States ill-equipped to address public security, governance and economic demands’ after the war. And this, in turn, undermined U.S. foreign policy and gave an early push to the insurgency in Iraq, the task force said. In Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, the report said, the postwar period has been marked by inefficient operations and billions of dollars of wasted resources.” Business opportunity.
The licenses to operate Iraq's three cell phone companies are running out and potential new operators are assembling in the United Kingdom this week to sort out the risks and rewards involved in what is one of the world's most dangerous, but lucrative business opportunities. The risks are clear. Employees at the three existing Iraq cell phone operations have been kidnapped, according to published reports, and U.S. military forces have had to jam service to prevent insurgent cell phones from detonating bombs along convey routes. But the operations are profitable and offer unbridled growth possibilities to companies willing to take the risk. "You can actually make handsome returns in Iraq despite the risks," said Jonas Lindblad of Pyramid Research in an interview Wednesday. "There's a lot of money chasing around a few deals in the [Middle East] region. In one way or another, they are linked to oil money." Lindblad, senior analyst Middle East for Pyramid, believes the initial licensees probably have already made money on the existing franchises.
Torture policy. “Two Iraqis at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison were bitten by dogs as they were being handled by sergeants who were competing to see who could scare more detainees, a witness testified Tuesday. Pvt. Ivan L. ''Chip'' Frederick II -- himself convicted of abusing inmates at the military prison -- testified by phone in the Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, for Sgts. Santos A. Cardona and Michael J. Smith.” Torture policy. “Senior military lawyers lodged vigorous and detailed dissents in early 2003 as an administration legal task force concluded that President Bush had authority as commander in chief to order harsh interrogations of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, newly disclosed documents show. Despite the military lawyers' warnings, the task force concluded that military interrogators and their commanders would be immune from prosecution for torture under federal and international law because of the special character of the fight against terrorism. In memorandums written by several senior uniformed lawyers in each of the military services as the legal review was under way, they had urged a sharply different view and also warned that the position eventually adopted by the task force could endanger American service members.” Progress report. “The electricity ministry said six attacks in the last 10 days on the power grid has led to a reduction in the electricity supplies to Baghdad and nearby southern provinces, according to government newspaper al-Sabah. Power in Baghdad is down to a half an hour of electricity followed by a six-hour blackout.” Recruiting.
Deep into a four-hour congressional hearing on why the active Army and its reserve components are missing recruiting goals, Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., turned a spotlight on the elephant in the room. The war in Iraq, Snyder said, is unpopular with many Americans, a fact that needs airing, given the all-volunteer nature of the U.S. military. Until that moment in the July 19 House armed services subcommittee hearing, blame for recruiting shortfalls had focused on negative news coverage of the war, an improving economy, the pace of military operations and an unexplained drop in propensity of parents and other “influencers” of American youth to recommend military service. Nothing was said of a nation that, polls show, is souring on a war that was launched to destroy Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and shifted, after none was found, into an open-ended occupation and a Herculean effort to turn a fractionalized Muslim nation into a democracy.
Morale indicator. “A company of the California Army National Guard has been put on restricted duty and its battalion plunged into disarray amid allegations that battalion members mistreated detainees in Iraq and extorted money from shopkeepers, according to military officials and members of the unit. Col. David Baldwin, a California state Guard spokesman, confirmed Tuesday that investigations are underway into the allegations of mistreatment of prisoners by members of Fullerton-based Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment. The company, made up of roughly 130 soldiers, is deployed at Forward Operating Base Falcon outside Baghdad. It has been put on restricted duty while the Army reviews its performance, Baldwin said. Baldwin also confirmed the existence of the investigation of the alleged extortion, which involves members of another company in the battalion. The battalion's commander, Lt. Col. Patrick Frey, has been suspended while the investigation is conducted, Baldwin said.” Supply and demand. “Coffin makers are unable to keep up with the demand for caskets in Iraq where tens of people die every day due to the continual armed attacks and bombings.” Via Hairy Fish Nuts. Commentary Editorial:
In spite of expressions of determination by President Bush and members of his administration to stay the course, the flow of bad news out of Iraq indicates that it is a mess which will get worse before it gets better. The fighting has transformed itself largely into civil war. The 170,000 Iraqi security forces, largely Shiite in composition, represent the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. They are opposed and targeted by the largely Sunni insurgents. The Kurds of the north mostly go their own way, except that their autonomy is encouraging Kurds in Turkey and Syria to bestir themselves against their host governments. Mr. al-Jaafari's government is taking steps to improve its relations with the Shiite-dominated Iranian government. Minister of Defense Saadoun Duleimi visited Iran earlier this month and concluded a military cooperation pact that provides for Iranian training of Iraqi military forces. This is a step that is painful to the Bush Administration, given its antagonism with the government in Tehran. Iraqi insurgent attacks focus on Americans, when they can get a crack at them, and on the Shiite security forces. U.S. war losses are climbing toward 1,800, from a force now standing at about 140,000. Mr. Bush claims not to want to set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal because that would encourage the insurgents to wait the Americans out. That is, of course, what they are doing in any case; progressive American withdrawal will give increasingly free rein to intra-Iraqi warfare as the Iraqis dispute post-American control of the country among themselves.
Iraq's military and police forces well may become an instrument of Kurdish and Shi'ite domination of the Sunni minority. Assuming the putative worst case, namely that Shi'ites increasingly wage civil war against a Sunni resistance, their young men will continue to fill uniforms even if casualty rates rise drastically. Iraq's Shi'ites have no choice about it. The alternative would be to capitulate to a combination of Ba'athist remnants and Islamists whose agenda would be to restore the Sunni dominance of the status quo ante. "Iraqification" bears no resemblance to "Vietnamization". Hanoi commanded a regular army of more than half a million men, with a record of conventional military victories going back to the siege of Dien Bien Phu in 1953-1954. It could count upon unlimited Russian materiel. After "Vietnamization", Northern regulars beat the army of the Republic of Vietnam in conventional war. The new Iraqi armed forces, haphazard as their organization might be, face no challenge from regulars, only the constant annoyance of suicide attacks. As noted, the Shi'ites have nowhere else to go. "Iraqification" may turn out to be a dog's breakfast, but no one will have to consume it on the Potomac. Washington is embarrassed by this turn of events, but has no other choice than to adapt to it by removing American troops from the line of fire. Although President George W Bush and his advisors would prefer a stable and democratic Iraq, no degree of violence among Iraqis will undermine American interests. In an earlier era, the British would have encouraged such things. America lacks the sophistication, not to mention the cynicism, to stir the pot, but the pot appears to be stirring itself briskly enough without outside encouragement.
Recent events on Capitol Hill and new resounding statements made by top US administration officials prove that sanity is not much of a priority on the agenda of President George W Bush. On Wednesday, July 20, the House of Representatives resolved that an early withdrawal from Iraq would "embolden terrorists", therefore any such notion must be scrapped. Written off as well by the House decision was the idea of a measurable timetable for any pullout. A withdrawal of the 160,000-strong US forces is only possible when national security goals are met, according to the measure. It also argued that such a move would "undermine the morale" of US and allied forces. Capitol Hill's elite, as ever detached, perhaps willingly, from national and international realities, are determined to disregard or diminish the untold losses suffered by the military, economy, and their country's reputation, not to mention the morale of the entire nation. According to a recently disclosed US Army report, triggered by an inquiry into the alarmingly high suicide rate among American soldiers in Iraq, morale among troops is at its lowest, as is the confidence in their units' ability to perform their mission. Fifty-four percent of soldiers rated their units' morale as low or very low, reported the Associated Press. This dwindling spirit and lack of confidence on the battlefield is met with increasing agitation with Bush's war, as more than half of the American population now believes that the war has made their country "less safe". The tiring argument that terrorists are attacking us because of our freedom and way of life is losing its constituents, and it is becoming clearer by the day that the price for such hollow rhetoric can no longer be swallowed. One must not subscribe to the illusion that the Iraq debacle is just a temporary nuisance that can be weathered by a few billion dollars and a few thousand lives; that questioning the Bush administration's actions is not only unpatriotic, but in fact it provides the enemy with a moral boost and fuels their insurgency; that the insurgents are a bunch of disgruntled Sunnis without a cause, randomly blowing up people because they despise democracy and the spreaders of democracy for marginalizing them, and so forth. Even the US administration finds it difficult to stick to such simplistic views.
Iraq was supposed to be a first step. Iran was also in the neoconservatives' sights. The neocons envisaged U.S. control of the region (and its oil), to be followed inevitably by the realization of their ultimate dream, a global American empire. Of course it sounds like madness, which is why we should have been paying closer attention from the beginning. The madness took a Dr. Strangelovian turn in the summer of 2002, before the war with Iraq was launched. As The Washington Post first reported, an influential Pentagon advisory board was given a briefing prepared by a Rand Corporation analyst who said the U.S. should consider seizing the oil fields and financial assets of Saudi Arabia if it did not stop its support of terrorism. Mercifully the briefing went nowhere. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it did not represent the "dominant opinion" within the administration. The point here is that the invasion of Iraq was part of a much larger, long-term policy that had to do with the U.S. imposing its will, militarily when necessary, throughout the Middle East and beyond. The war has gone badly, and the viciousness of the Iraq insurgency has put the torch to the idea of further pre-emptive adventures by the Bush administration. But dreams of empire die hard. American G.I.'s are dug into Iraq, and the bases have been built for a long stay. The war may be going badly, but the primary consideration is that there is still a tremendous amount of oil at stake, the second-largest reserves on the planet. And neocon fantasies aside, the global competition for the planet's finite oil reserves intensifies by the hour. Lyndon Johnson ignored the unsolicited advice of Senator George Aiken of Vermont - to declare victory in Vietnam in 1966. The war continued for nearly a decade. Many high-level government figures believe that U.S. troops will be in Iraq for a minimum of 5 more years, and perhaps 10. That should be understood by the people who think that the formation of a permanent Iraqi government will lead to the withdrawal of American troops. There is no real withdrawal plan. The fighting and the dying will continue indefinitely.
Casualty Reports Local story: Alabama soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: North Dakota Marine wounded in Iraq.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

War News for Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Four US soldiers killed Sunday when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in southwest Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Iraq branch of Al Qaeda claims to have killed two Algerian diplomats who had been abducted in Baghdad. The authenticity of the claim could not be immediately verified.

Bring ‘em on: Seven Iraqi soldiers guarding a water plant killed by attackers armed with hand grenades and light weapons.

Bring ‘em on: Three killed and 37 wounded in mortar attack on downtown Baghdad bus station. The attack took place as US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was holding talks in the Green Zone. Two police officers and two soldiers wounded in suicide car bombing of a checkpoint in southwest Baghdad. General manager of Baghdad airport’s communications, his driver, and his bodyguard kidnapped by armed men. US military vehicle destroyed by an explosive device in Samarra. Two Iraqi soldiers killed in an ambush in Beiji. Iraqis protesting the erection of a barrier between Iraq and Kuwait fired several shots across the border.

Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi soldier killed and five wounded when they tried to dismantle a roadside bomb near Kirkuk.

Donny Dickhead, Diplomat: Visiting US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Iraqi leaders to "get on with it" in preparing a new constitution on Wednesday, while an Iraqi official said US-led forces could hand over security for 10 cities by December.

"Now's the time to get on with it," Rumsfeld told the travelling press as he flew in from Tajikistan for talks with Iraqi leaders and US commanders.

Any delay "would be very harmful to the momentum that is necessary."

A parliamentary committee has until Monday to decide on whether to seek a six-month postponement of a referendum on the vital document, tentatively scheduled for October.

Barring such a delay, the draft constitution is to be debated and voted on by parliament by August 15.

"People are simply going to have to recognize that in a constitutional process, compromise is necessary," he said of the process that has been dogged by sectarian differences.

Pot, kettle. Kettle, pot: Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, has urged Iraqi leaders to resist interference by the country's neighbours Iran and Syria.

Washington has accused Syria of allowing militants to enter Iraq, and says Iran is trying to gain political influence in Baghdad.

Mr Rumsfeld was speaking during an unannounced visit to Baghdad, in which he also urged Iraqis to finish their draft constitution.

He said: "It's important for them (the Iraqis) to work with their neighbours to see that the behaviour of particularly Iran and Syria improves. It has been harmful.

"They need to be aggressively communicating with their neighbours to see that foreign terrorists stop trying to cross those borders and their neighbours do not harbour insurgents."

Iran is trying to gain political influence? Oh no! We sure wouldn’t want any foreigners coming into Baghdad and telling the Iraqis what to do!

Jaafari senses a trapdoor beneath his feet: Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari on Wednesday called for speedy and coordinated withdrawal of the US troops from the war-torn country.

At a joint press conference held with visiting US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Jaafari said it is time to work on acoordinated transition of military control in the country from Americans to Iraqis.

"Firstly, we should quicken the pace of training the Iraqi security forces, and secondly, there should be a close coordination in planning between the US-led coalition and the Iraqi government on security transition," Jaafari said.

"We do not want to be surprised by a withdrawal that is not in connection with our Iraqi timing," he added.

Ready or not, suckah!: The United States hopes to sharply reduce its forces in Iraq by the middle of next year, its top commander on the ground said on Wednesday.

The remarks by General George Casey appear to have been the first time since the insurgency worsened sharply in April that top Pentagon officials have suggested a timeline for withdrawal.

Casey's comments came as a new poll showed most Americans now think the United States will lose the war in Iraq.

"I do believe that if the political process continues to go positively, if the developments with the (Iraqi) security forces continue to go as it is going, I do believe we will still be able to make fairly substantial reductions after these elections -- in the spring and summer of next year," Casey said at a briefing with visiting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Note: This is not a timetable! Remember the words of Dear Leader: Setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces will only prompt the insurgents to "wait us out. ... You know, if you give a timetable you're conceding too much to the enemy." And our leaders would never play politics with anything so important!

And now, just in from Bizarro Dimension: Pentagon officials confirmed yesterday that they have identified the top eight to 10 leaders of the insurgency in Iraq, but said the United States had no idea how many insurgents had been killed or captured in the past seven months. Spokesman Larry DiRita said up to 17,000 Iraqis were in custody at any given time for a variety of reasons, but he was unable to evaluate a Pentagon analyst's estimate a day earlier that 50,000 insurgents had been killed or captured this year.

This is a real propaganda piece but worth a look for the insight it gives into how some of our ‘leadership’ is thinking. Do any of you readers know anything about the World Peace Herald or the Washington Institute for Near East Policy?

The right hand man of the second in command...kinda catchy, eh?: Iraqi police said Wednesday it arrested one of the "dangerous terrorists" in southern Baghdad. Sayyed Tantawi, an Egyptian, described as a right-hand man for Al-Qaeda second-man in command, Ayman Dhawahri, was captured early today by the Scorpion squad in the Yousifia town, Captain Mothanna Abulhareth, spokesman of the Babel police command, told KUNA.

I swear, these guys must have more right hands than one of those Hindu gods…

Maybe Rummy should tell them to get on with it: Iraqi Kurds will never back down from demands for a federal state despite problems this may create in efforts to draft a new constitution, a top Kurdish leader said Wednesday. U.S. officials pressed Iraq to meet the deadline for completing the charter. Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, also said Kurds would never dissolve their militias and repeated demands for the return of ethnic Kurds to the oil-rich Kirkuk area from which tens of thousands of them were expelled under Saddam Hussein. Barzani's comments, broadcast by Al-Arabiya television, indicated the Kurds are standing firm on longtime demands at a time when the United States is urging all sides to compromise in order to finish the new constitution by the Aug. 15 deadline.

But there is one thing all the Iraqi parties seem to agree on: Very little can be said on behalf of former dictator Saddam Hussein's murderous regime. But it is true that women long had more rights in Iraq than in a number of other countries in the Islamic world. And the possibility that a new constitution could strip away many of those rights is alarming.

A committee working on a constitution for Iraq is supposed to complete its work by Aug. 1, and the National Assembly is supposed to conclude debate on the document by Aug. 15. If the final version bears any relationship to a current draft now circulating, Iraqi women are at great risk.

Individual scholars and individual sects interpret Islamic law in different ways, but it's likely that the religious politicians pushing for these changes would insist on rules that are highly unfavorable to women. Depending on the inclinations of clerics, Iraqi women could be denied the right to marry without permission from their families, could inherit only half what male heirs do and could see their marriages dissolved solely at their husbands' discretion.

These policies would be a major departure from decades of Iraqi law that, for all its flaws, gave women considerably more power within their own families and over their own fates.

Torture Is Now Part Of Our National Heritage

Deliberate violation of accepted rules against torture: Military interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq learned about the use of military working dogs to intimidate detainees from a team of interrogators dispatched from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony yesterday.

One interrogation analyst also testified that sleep deprivation and forced nudity -- which were used in Cuba on high-value detainees -- later were approved tactics at Abu Ghraib. Another soldier said that interrogators would regularly pass instructions to have dog handlers and military police "scare up" detainees as part of interrogation plans, part of an approved approach that relied on exploiting the fear of dogs.

The preliminary hearing at Fort Meade, Md., for two Army dog handlers accused of mistreating detainees provided more evidence that severe tactics approved for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo migrated to Iraq and spiraled into the notorious abuse at Abu Ghraib in the late summer and early fall of 2003. The testimony came days after an internal military investigation showed the similarity between techniques used on the suspected "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and tactics seen in photographs at the prison that shocked the world.

Several Republican senators are pushing legislation -- opposed by the White House -- that would regulate the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and other military prisons. One of them, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), released recently declassified internal memos written in 2003 by the military's top lawyers in which they warned the Pentagon about developing severe tactics, arguing that they would heighten danger for U.S. troops caught by the enemy, among other problems.

"We have taken the legal and moral 'high-road' in the conduct of our military operations regardless of how others may operate," Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives wrote in a Feb. 5, 2003, memo. "We need to consider the overall impact of approving extreme interrogation techniques as giving official approval and legal sanction to the application of interrogation techniques that U.S. forces have consistently been trained are unlawful."

Let’s repeat that last statement, shall we?

"We need to consider the overall impact of approving extreme interrogation techniques as giving official approval and legal sanction to the application of interrogation techniques that U.S. forces have consistently been trained are unlawful."

This is torture: Military dogs bit at least two detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, one severely enough to require stitches, witnesses testified Tuesday at a pretrial hearing for two Army dog handlers.

The unmuzzled dogs were also used to terrify inmates at the direction of the highest-ranking military intelligence officer at the prison, one witness said.

The allegations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and the surfacing of photos last year of American soldiers humiliating the detainees triggered international concern over the U.S. military's treatment of war prisoners, in Iraq and at other sites including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"They were trying to Gitmo-ize Abu Ghraib," argued Harvey J. Volzer, a civilian attorney for Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, one of the Army dog handlers.

This is torture: CIA officials used a sledgehammer handle to beat various prisoners in Iraq, and one official, whose name is classified, would often brag about his abuse of prisoners, according to testimony in a closed session of a military hearing.

The transcript, obtained this week by The Denver Post under a court order, was of a March hearing to determine whether three Fort Carson Army soldiers should stand trial for the death of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush during an interrogation in 2003.

While allegations about CIA officials and special forces beating Mowhoush with fists and a rubber hose have been previously reported, the court transcript is the first evidence that those officials repeatedly beat other detainees in northwestern Iraq.

Bush will veto the entire defense spending bill if it limits his ability to torture: The Republican-run Senate postponed fights with the Bush administration over the treatment of terror suspects and military base closings Tuesday after GOP leaders failed to derail proposals opposed by the White House.

The decision by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to shelve the $491 billion defense bill means debate over the wartime defense measure and the detainee and base-closing amendments almost certainly won't occur until after Labor Day. The Senate is to leave for a monthlong break at week's end.

The inability to thwart the controversial defense amendments was the latest setback for Frist this year. The majority leader has watched a handful of Republicans join minority Democrats in holding up John Bolton's nomination to be U.N. ambassador and blocking Frist from banning filibusters of the president's judicial nominees.

The defense bill outlines next year's spending for the Pentagon, including $50 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Defense Department policy.

The White House said last week that advisers would recommend that President Bush veto the entire bill if it contains provisions that govern the treatment of terrorism suspects in U.S. custody or "weaken, delay or repeal" the Pentagon's plan to close domestic military bases.

Bush’s SCOTUS nominee has already provided legal justification for an official policy of torture: Roberts was also part of a three-judge panel that handed Bush an important victory the week before Bush announced Roberts nomination to the bench. In fact, the day before the ruling was issued, President Bush interviewed Roberts at the White House. The next day, the court released their ruling that the military tribunals of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could proceed. The decision also found that Bush could deny terrorism captives prisoner-of-war status as outlined by the Geneva Conventions.

The spinelessness and moral pusillanimity of the Democrats is tacit approval of torture: Of the 257 votes cast Thursday for the Bush's administration's version of the Patriot Act, 214 came from Republicans, while 43 came from Democrats -- including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, and Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois representative who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Of the 171 votes against the administration's version of the Patriot Act, 156 came from Democrats, 14 from Republicans and one from Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders.

Had the 43 Democrats who voted with the White House and the Republican leadership instead sided with House Democrats and Republicans who were worried about the threat to civil liberties posed by the Patriot Act, the opposition total would have risen to 214 while support for the measure would have fallen to 214.

On a tie vote, the legislation would not have advanced.

That would have been more than just a setback for the White House's draconian approach to civil liberties. It would have dramatically improved prospects for a bipartisan move by members of the Senate to clean up the Patriot Act. On Thursday, as the House was debating the issue, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously for legislation that would require greater oversight of the Justice Department's role in implementing the act and that would place new restrictions on surveillance and secret searches.

Foreign Affairs

Australia hits its ceiling: The Australian military presence in Iraq is unlikely to be increased after the deployment of extra US troops in southern Iraq to replace British forces. The number of American soldiers in the southern province of Al-Muthanna has risen markedly in the past few weeks and Australian forces are expecting another 2000 in the next month.

Oh, good: Russian President Vladimir Putin told the country's military and law enforcement officers Wednesday to take preemptive actions in fighting terrorism, which he said remains a major threat to the world.

"Your activities in this area should be preemptive in nature," Putin told top military, law enforcement and security officers at a meeting in the Kremlin, the Interfax news agency reported.

"We perfectly understand how serious the tasks are that face Russia's law enforcement and security agencies," primarily police and interior forces, Putin said.

The recent attacks in London, Egypt and in Russia's Caucasus region show "terrorism remains one of the main threats to the world," and Russia will play an important part in the joint work to fight terrorism, Putin said.

Go Figure

This does not compute: For the first time, a majority of Americans, 51%, say the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — the reason Bush emphasized in making the case for invading. The administration's credibility on the issue has been steadily eroding since 2003.

By 58%-37%, a majority say the United States won't be able to establish a stable, democratic government in Iraq.

About one-third, 32%, say the United States can't win the war in Iraq. Another 21% say the United States could win the war, but they don't think it will. Just 43% predict a victory.

Still, on the question that tests fundamental attitudes toward the war — was it a mistake to send U.S. troops? — the public's view has rebounded. By 53%-46%, those surveyed say it wasn't a mistake, the strongest support for the war since just after the Iraqi elections in January.

Okay, lemme figure this out…51% say we were lied into the war…53% think we aren’t going to win…58% don’t think we have a hope of a stable government on top of the second largest oil reserves in the world…but 53% think the war wasn’t a mistake? Hmm. By my calculations this indicates that a minimum of half the American people have their heads so far up their butts they can lick their own uvulas.


Plea: I am no traitor. What I have done and will continue to do is to exercise my Freedom of Speech as I talk about how I feel about this illegal war. To do otherwise would be to become a complacent citizen, something I do not want to be. The truth is George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Colin Powell and so many others betrayed the trust of my son and the rest of the country. If I do not speak my truths and share my story, the story of Jeremy and over 1780 American sons and daughters, I would be doing them a great dishonor.

Every day I hear stories from other Americans that will break your heart. These stories are about their beloved soldiers who are serving in Iraq and stories about loved ones who have died. Some of these stories give me nightmares and I can't stop thinking about them. They make me want to scream from at the top of my lungs about the unfairness of it all.

Please, I ask of all of you to help me so that no more of America's sons and daughters get killed for an illegal and immoral war. Do not let our children be cannon fodder for the lies of Bush & Co. Tonight there will be yet another knock on the door in some neighborhood in America by the messenger of death. Another family's heart will be broken, never to be healed.

Join with me to bring a stop to this. Join with me to end this war.

Amy Branham Houston, TX Mother of Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith Gold Star Families for Peace

Opinion: The bombings in London illustrated that Iraq has increasingly replaced Afghanistan as the primary training ground for terrorists, and the devices used by the suicide bombers appear to have been a form of the explosives developed in Iraq. One recently killed 24 children and an American soldier who was passing out candy to them in Baghdad.

U.S. efforts to encourage other Arab countries to appoint ambassadors to the al-Jaafari government in Iraq were set back when the insurgents kidnapped and killed Egyptian envoy Ihab al-Sherif earlier this month, calling him "an enemy of God."

The next step toward making the government self-sufficient is the development of a draft constitution, now set for Aug. 15, a deadline that will probably not be met.

In the meantime, the U.S. Army said this month that it has signed another extension of its contract with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root for another $5 billion to support U.S. forces in Iraq. The Army had not seen fit to announce the extension when it awarded it in May, in spite of the fact that some of Halliburton's previous billing, which has netted it $9 billion so far in the war, was disputed.

None of this has much to do with American elections, or Republican and Democratic wrangling. Mr. Bush will be president until January, 2009, whatever his ratings might be. The Congress shows itself as largely irrelevant to what is going on in Iraq, apart from being required to vote the money to finance the war, now running at about $5 billion a month.

It is increasingly clear that this war will not be won in any way that can be discerned as victory, and, in the meantime, it is draining America's blood away, in the lives of our soldiers and in resources that could be used to meet other needs.

Editorial: The Plame-Wilson-Novak-Rove-Libby-Cooper-Miller-Fitzgerald drama is more than a case of the usual hardball style of White House politics straying a little too far over the line. It's different, because it gets at the very heart of the way in which the U.S. went to war in 2003.

The Bush administration decided to justify a war with Iraq on the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Plenty of people thought it likely that Iraq possessed nerve agents and biological arms, because the circumstantial evidence was fairly persuasive. Yet there was an unavoidable problem, from the administration's point of view: Even if those stocks had existed, they were a fundamentally insufficient reason to launch an attack. Containment was clearly working. Iraq had putatively possessed such arms for years, and had not used any of them since before the first Persian Gulf war. Iraq, moreover, had no means to launch a biological or chemical attack on New York or St. Louis or Oshkosh, Wis. It posed no threat to the United States.

There were two ways of getting around this obstacle, and the Bush administration used both. The first was to argue that Iraq might now ally itself with al-Qaida. Baghdad had the deadly goods; al-Qaida could use its sneaky, cunning means to deliver them against American territory. Vice President Dick Cheney in particular pushed this line. There wasn't, however, a shred of evidence to support it.

The second way to goose the process along was to bring up nuclear weapons. A half-century of Cold War with the Soviet Union had made the horror of nuclear war a touchstone of anxiety in the American mind, and the idea of Saddam Hussein having a few nukes in his arsenal - even if he did lack an intercontinental ballistic missile to shoot them our way - was enough to worry anyone. President Bush remarked that he didn't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

This then became the capstone - the one piece of the argument that lent urgency to the march to war. It was the nuclear option that put the wheels in motion, because delay could potentially be fatal.

The White House presented two pieces of evidence that it said pointed to nukes. There was an Iraqi order for aluminum tubes that supposedly might be for use in a centrifuge, though experts quickly threw cold water on this idea. And then there was the story about Iraq going shopping for "yellowcake" uranium in Niger. President Bush brought it up in the 2003 State of the Union speech. But, again, it was Mr. Cheney who was most enthusiastic about beating this drum.

In March 2003, just before the war broke out, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, convincingly declared that the Niger story was a fake. But the war clouds had gathered by that time, and it wasn't difficult for the administration to press onward; maybe some particular papers had been faked, but this was a detail, and - better safe than sorry - it was full speed ahead.

That July brought the article by Joseph C. Wilson IV, the diplomat and husband of Valerie Plame, in which he wrote that he had gone to Niger and reported back to Washington - a full year earlier - that the story was groundless. What this did was to demonstrate that the excitement over Iraq's supposed uranium purchases in the months leading up to the war wasn't a mistake, or an exaggeration. It was a lie.

This was Mr. Wilson's sin. The nuclear threat was the only justification for the urgency of war, and not only was it baseless but because of what he wrote, it was now clear that the architects of the war knew it was baseless.

Here is the motivation for the outing of Ms. Plame, a CIA agent. It appears that the White House was not intent so much on punishing Mr. Wilson as on discrediting him, by suggesting that his trip had been some sort of junket arranged by his wife. Mr. Wilson's revelation, if true, exposed the dishonesty at the core of the administration's maneuverings over Iraq. And of course it was true.

This is the context in which the continuing investigation by the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, must be viewed. This is not simply about the Karl Rove brand of politics taken too far, but about the fabrication that launched a war.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Princeton, MI, Marine killed in IED attack near Ar Rutbah.

Local story: Northwest Indiana soldier killed when an explosive detonated near his vehicle in Samarra.

Local story: Jamestown, ND, Marine recovering from wounds suffered in a roadside bombing of his Humvee.

Local story: Walton, KY, soldier killed in Iraq when his tank flipped over into a ravine.

Local story: Parkston, SD, soldier killed in roadside bombing in Iraq.

Local story: Worth, GA, National Guardsman killed in roadside bombing in Iraq.

Local story: Memorial service held for Pago Pago, American Samoa, soldier killed in bombing near Balad.

Local story: Cedar City, UT, National Guardsman killed in explosion in Kirkuk memorialized.


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