Sunday, October 14, 2007

Spread the Word: Iraq-Nam has suspended publication.

The 7,501 posts that cover the period from September 1, 2006 through October 13, 2007 will remain online as a research resource for anyone who cares to make use of it. The 'Search Blog' feature at the top right hand corner (in the blue bar) will bring up a page with the relevant posts. But the more specific the search term, the better the result. For instance, searching for 'Kirkuk' will bring up fewer postings than a search for 'Kirkuk referendum'.

For those who want the latest, most comprehensive links to current news on Iraq, News Now will be your best resource.

This blog owes many thanks to Blogger, an astonishingly good resource for anyone who wants an easy-to-use, free blog host.

On a personal note, the overwhelming support and encouragement from readers has been much appreciated and so suspending this blog was by no means an easy decision. But there comes a time in every life when a fork in the road calls for a choice to be made. The choice may be mistaken, but the choosing is not, and the new road holds many bright promises of its own.

Again, thank you for your support, and understanding.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- October 13th edition

October 13, 2003: Escorted by Blackwater 'security guards', Paul Bremer -- head of the Coalition Provisional Authority -- walks down the steps of the Al Hamar hotel after a night-time meeting in Baghdad.

October 13, 2002:

Pentagon has plans to vaccinate soldiers against smallpox

In moves suggesting new Pentagon preparations for war against Iraq, key Army and Marine Corps battle staffs are being sent to Kuwait and officials said Saturday that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is likely to order extra germ warfare protection for hundreds of thousands of troops.
Although no final decision has been made, Rumsfeld is expected to give the go-ahead soon for smallpox inoculations, according to a senior defense official who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

Rumsfeld's spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke, said a vaccination program is under consideration, but she would not discuss details. If it goes ahead, Clarke said, it would reflect Rumsfeld's push to provide every available form of protection for troops who might be exposed to chemical or germ weapons — including those who might fight in Iraq.

"The threat to those in the military is very real," she said.

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops have received vaccines to protect them against anthrax, and after a long pause in that inoculation program, the pace of vaccinations was accelerated last month, officials said.

The Pentagon has taken numerous steps in recent weeks to position U.S. forces so as to reduce the time required to launch an attack on Iraq, should President Bush decide that force is required to disarm Saddam Hussein.

In the latest such move, the Pentagon ordered the battle staffs of the Army's V Corps, with headquarters at Heidelberg, Germany, and the Marine Corps' 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., to go to Kuwait, according to two officials familiar with the planning. Several thousand U.S. ground forces already are in Kuwait, mostly at Camp Doha.

Those moves, first reported in Saturday's Washington Post, strongly suggest that Rumsfeld is putting in place the battle planners and command staffs that would be called on to spearhead a land assault on Iraq.

The V Corps is the Army's only corps headquarters based outside the United States, and its combat units — including the 1st Armored Division and the 1st Infantry Division — are specifically trained for fighting in Europe or the Middle East. The V Corps is commanded by Lt. Gen. William Wallace and has 41,000 troops.

V Corps recently redesigned its main command post, making it completely modular and more mobile.

The battle staff of U.S. Central Command, which would have overall responsibility for war in Iraq, is planning to move to an air base in Qatar next month from its headquarters in Tampa The move is billed as an exercise, but officials say the staff — including the commanding general, Gen. Tommy Franks — may remain in Qatar in anticipation of a presidential decision to go to war.

Franks already has his naval command staff in Bahrain and his air command staff in Saudi Arabia.

In an interview for Sunday editions of The New York Times, Rumsfeld said he had ordered new war plans that would allow the military to begin combat operations on shorter notice and with smaller numbers of troops.

"Looking at what was overwhelming force a decade or two decades ago, today you can have overwhelming force, conceivably, with lesser numbers because the lethality is equal to or greater than before," he said.

Precision weapons, better intelligence and quicker deployment would enable the military to deliver "fewer troops, but in a faster time that would allow you to have concentrated power," Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Times.

One of the key worries about building up forces in the vicinity of Iraq is the possibility that Saddam could launch a pre-emptive strike using biological or chemical weapons. Thus the Pentagon is considering additional protections, such as the vaccine for the virus that causes smallpox, as first reported in Saturday's New York Times.

U.S. officials suspect that Iraq has strains of the smallpox virus that could be used against U.S. troops, although the Iraqi government insists it destroyed all its biological weapons after the 1991 Gulf War.

The Health and Human Services Department recently informed the Pentagon that it would make about 1 million doses of the smallpox vaccine available for inoculating troops. The White House has not yet decided whether civilians will be offered the smallpox vaccine.

Vaccinations for troops could begin as early as November, officials said. First to receive it would be those whom the Pentagon calls "first responders," troops responsible for responding to domestic disasters such as a bioweapons attack. They include medical specialists. Next to get it probably would be troops in combat units designated to deploy first in a major military crisis abroad, such as the Army's airborne infantry.

As many as 500,000 troops might eventually be inoculated, according to another senior defense official. Of the 1.4 million men and women in the active-duty military, fewer than half have ever received the smallpox vaccine, the official said.

Read the rest at USA Today

October 13, 2003:

Iraqis' guerrilla tactics blur terms of battle

To shoot or not to shoot?

Suddenly, it was a life or death decision Private Christopher Hollis had to make. Someone had just fired at his 1st Infantry Division checkpoint under an overpass on Highway 10, and now, crouching behind a guardrail, Hollis was scanning some rickety roadside soda stands 200 yards away for the sniper through the scope of his M-16 rifle.

He could fire back at the dusty desert, risking the lives of the Iraqi children who had scattered from the kiosks as soon as they heard the shot. Or, he could not respond, risking his life and the lives of the dozen other U.S. soldiers at the checkpoint.

This is a call GIs in Iraq have to make every day. With Iraqi guerrillas mounting between 10 and 20 hit-and-run attacks on U.S. troops daily, U.S. soldiers admit that the pressure of constantly being a target has made them jumpy.

The only way to respond, they say, is by following new, merciless rules of engagement stated one night last week by Lt. Peter Katzfey in front of 299 Engineer Battalion soldiers preparing for a night patrol in Tikrit:

"Shoot to kill. No questions asked."

Major Robert Isabella, a public affairs officer of the Fourth Infantry Division based in Tikrit, elaborated. "This is war. Someone shoots from a window, we're gonna put 100 rounds in it. Somebody runs a checkpoint, we're gonna fire on that vehicle."

Since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to "major combat," 95 U.S. soldiers have died in hostile fire. Most of them were attacked in Baghdad, near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, or here on Highway 10, about 30 miles west of the capital.

U.S. authorities insist they have little choice but to respond, in self- defense. But Iraqi critics and some Western human rights organizations say dozens of innocent bystanders are getting killed in cross fire or as a result of mistaken raids by overaggressive U.S. troops.

"As attacks against them continue, U.S. soldiers are sometimes resorting to deadly force in a reckless and indiscriminate way," Joe Stork, acting executive director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Division, said in a statement last month.

In the past two months, civilian casualties have been mounting. On Sept. 17, U.S. troops killed a teenage boy in Fallujah, a hotbed of Iraqi resistance, having mistaken celebratory shots at a wedding for an attack against them. Nine Iraqi policemen and a Jordanian guard, who were chasing local bandits, died on Sept. 12 in Fallujah after an 82nd Airborne Division patrol fired on them, thinking they were rebel fighters. A Sept. 23 air strike on a farmhouse, which the military thought was a rebel hideout, killed three sleeping civilians. A Reuters television cameraman, Mazen Dana, 41, was killed Aug. 17 by tank fire, when U.S. troops thought the camera Dana was using outside an Iraqi prison was a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. In that incident, at least two other journalists were shot at.

Lt. Col. George Krivo, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, called the shooting of Dana regrettable, but said the soldiers acted within the rules of engagement.

No one knows how many Iraqi civilians have been accidentally killed or wounded by U.S. soldiers. Lt. Kate Noble, a spokeswoman for the U.S.-led coalition forces, said the troops do not keep a record of civilian casualties, and many Iraqis interviewed for this story said they did not know where to file complaints over alleged misconduct of U.S. soldiers.

Human Rights Watch has criticized the lack of transparency in relation to U. S. investigations of such incidents.

Shatha al Quraishi, a Baghdad lawyer, said she represents 158 Iraqis who have filed claims for financial compensation since May. She said most of her clients have been wounded or maimed or had their loved ones killed by U.S. troops. Some, she said, had their property destroyed in cross fire.

One of al Quraishi's clients, Anmar Dawood Salman, said a U.S. soldier killed his brother Fahad when Fahad's car backfired at a busy rotary in downtown Baghdad Sept. 27. Salman said the soldier, who was crossing the square on a humvee, had apparently mistaken the sound for a gunshot.

"He fired one bullet, and it went through the windshield and straight through his neck. He died on the spot," Anmar said, serving his guests the bitter black coffee Iraqi mourning traditions require. "Fahad was a civilian, a shopkeeper. He did not even have a weapon."

Although in his claim Anmar demands compensation for the killing of his older brother, he said it was not the money he wanted.

"I want Americans to realize how much harm they bring and to pay attention to people they kill," he said. "We hope that American commanders will pay attention and tell their troops not to act so hastily."

U.S. military officials say the troops are trained to minimize civilian casualties, and GIs on the ground angrily dispute assertions they are overreacting or firing indiscriminately.

"We do not fire on anybody unless we feel that our life is threatened," Joshua Matthews, an infantry soldier with the 101st Airborne Division in northern Iraq, wrote in an e-mail. "We don't just kill for the fun of it. Have you ever killed anybody? It sucks!

"But, we all plan to go home one day and I'll be damned if some ignorant, brainwashed Muslim extremist is going to get in my way of seeing my family again," Matthews wrote. "I have lost two very good friends of mine in an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] attack a few months ago. Having to help put them in body bags is an image I will never forget."

The frequent attacks, in which the rebels rely increasingly on remote- controlled roadside bombs, have made many soldiers suspicious of nearly every Iraqi they see.

As he rode through the garbage-strewn outskirts of Tikrit in the passenger seat of a humvee, Sgt. Derek White of the 299 Engineer Battalion held his M249 machine gun at the ready. A boy squatting by a roadside soda stand waved tentatively. Then, as the humvee sped by, the boy lifted his chin, squinted and spat in the direction of the passing vehicle.

"I don't need friends like this," White remarked. "They smile in your face during the daytime and they try to kill you at night."

The Iraqis "seem to have gotten pretty aggravated with us being around," said Private T.J. Knight, the driver of White's humvee. "I asked my interpreter if the Iraqi people are mad at us. He said that 90 percent of Iraqis hate us, and the other 10 percent have left Iraq."

In this jittery atmosphere of contempt and violence, force protection sometimes takes priority over the need to minimize civilian casualties.

"If you see someone and he looks like he's going to hurt American soldiers, it's shoot and kill," Knight said. "Hard decisions gotta be made in a few seconds."

"Of course, the margin for error is pretty wide," he conceded.

Under the overpass on Highway 10 in Fallujah, Private Hollis saw no signs of the sniper. He lowered his weapon.

"What I really don't like is when they just cap off a round like that," Hollis said, his face covered in dust. "When they're shooting at you, you shoot right back. But when they just shoot like that you don't know what to do. "

Read the rest at the San Francisco Chronicle

October 13, 2004:

Nuclear fiction, or why Bush says he invaded Iraq

When W. debated vice president Al Gore, it was the Insufficient versus the Insufferable.

When W. debated Senator John Kerry, it was the Obfuscating versus the Oscillating.

We face a choice now between a president who rolled us on Iraq and a senator who got rolled by the president on Iraq.

President George W. Bush is not giving an inch on Iraq. He's toughing out the cascade of confirmation and criticism from his own people about the hyperpower hyperbole that led to an unnecessary war and an unruly occupation. His advisers say it's better for the president to appear out of touch than apologetic. He'd rather seem delusional than deluded.

He can't admit what the Duelfer report says, that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was no threat to the US or any other country. The mushroom cloud was a Fig Newton of Vice President Dick Cheney's feverish imagina-tion. That would mean W. didn't fix his father's screw-up, but he screwed up his father's fix. A big Oedipal oops.

After Bush 41's Persian Gulf war, Saddam devolved into the Norma Desmond of vicious dictators, shrinking but pretending to still be big, writing romance novels, trying to order liposuction machines, teeth-whitening material and hair transplant equipment, soaking up American culture like his favorite song, Frank Sinatra's Strangers in the Night, and his favorite book, Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea.

The president may not have gotten his money's worth with the report of Charles Duelfer, the chief US weapons inspector. After all, in a vain retroactive attempt to justify his hokum about weapons of mass destruction (WMD), he had 1,200 people working for 15 months -- stretching our scarce supply of Arab linguists -- to produce 918 pages at a cost of about a billion dollars just to find out that Saddam would have liked to have had weapons if he could have, but he couldn't, so he didn't.

But at least for his billion, the president got some earnest Introduction to American Literature analysis of the Iraqi dictator and his taste for some Western culture, noting that Saddam felt a kinship with Hemingway's protagonist Santiago, the poor Cuban fisherman (even though the rich Saddam liked to grenade-fish -- toss a grenade in the water and then send in scuba divers to fetch the dead fish).

"Saddam's affinity for Hemingway's story is understandable, given the former president's background, rise to power, conception of himself and Hemingway's use of a rustic setting similar to Tikrit to express timeless themes," the report stated.

"In Hemingway's story, Santiago hooks a great marlin, which drags his boat out to sea. When the marlin finally dies, Santiago fights a losing battle to defend his prize from sharks, which reduce the great fish, by the time he returns to his village, to a skeleton. The story sheds light on Saddam's view of the world and his place in it .... to Saddam even a hollow victory was by his reckoning a real one," the report said.

Even though his own report stated that UN sanctions had worked to defang Saddam, Bush decided to stand firm on nonsense, insisting in the debate last Friday night that "sanctions were not working. The United Nations was not effective at removing Saddam Hussein."

When a questioner named Linda asked the president to give three bum decisions he had made in office, Bush took a pass. Lincoln could admit mistakes. Former president John Kennedy could admit mistakes. But W. thinks admitting mistakes is for powder puffs.

Of his decision to invade Iraq, he said: "Sometimes in this world you make unpopular decisions because you think they're right." Or you stick to them even after you know they're wrong.

The president's living in a dream world. He kept insisting that 75 percent of al-Qaeda has been "brought to justice," even though such a statistic is misleading, since counterterrorism experts say that the invasion of Iraq was a recruiting boon for Osama and that al-Qaeda has metastasized and spawned other terrorist groups.

Bush tried to pretend the devastating Duelfer report backed him up, noting after the report came out that Saddam "retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction and could have passed this knowledge to our terrorist enemies."

W. should have followed his father's policy on hypotheticals. As Poppy Bush would say, when someone asked him to be speculative: "If a frog had wings, it wouldn't bump its tail on the ground."

Read the rest at the Taipei Times

October 13, 2005:

Troops Put In a Good Word to Bush About Iraq

President Bush yesterday sought to rally U.S. troops behind his Iraq strategy -- and he and his aides left little to chance.

Before the president spoke via a video link, his event planners handpicked 10 soldiers from the Army's 42nd Infantry and one Iraqi soldier, told them what topics the president would ask about, and watched them briefly rehearse their presentations before going live.

The soldiers did not disappoint. Each one praised the president, the war and the progress in training Iraqi troops. Several spoke in a monotone voice, as if determined to remember and stay on script.

The Iraqi, Sgt. Maj. Akeel Shaker Nassir, who is in charge of the Iraqi army training facility in Tikrit, had only a few words for Bush, but they were gushing: "Thank very much for everything. I like you."

Nassir's comments came near the end of one of the stranger and most awkwardly staged publicity events of the Bush presidency. It started with Bush, in Washington standing at a lectern, talking to the soldiers via video on a large flat-screen. They sat shoulder to shoulder and stared dutifully at the camera.

The president's delivery was choppy, as he gazed frequently at his notes and seemed several times to be groping for the right words. Bush told the soldiers they are facing a "ruthless and coldblooded" enemy intent on "the killing of innocent people to get the American government to pull you out of there before the mission is accomplished."

Two days before Iraq votes on a new constitution that Bush considers essential to creating a democracy in the Middle East, he said the United States is making steady progress in defeating the insurgents and in training Iraqi troops to take over full control of the military operation.

"We got a strategy, and it's a clear strategy," Bush said. "On the one hand, we will hunt down these killers and terrorists and bring them to justice, and train the Iraqi forces to join us in that effort." The soldiers were in complete agreement.

The Defense Department yesterday provided Congress a markedly more sober assessment of the progress in Iraq. It touted advances in the development and involvement of Iraqi troops, but also noted a recent increase in the number of insurgent attacks and problems meeting targets for the production of electricity and oil. At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said the troops at Bush's event were told "what to expect."

Before they spoke, Allison Barber, a mid-level Pentagon official, helped coach the troops on who would be asked what by Bush. Afterward, according to Reuters, she told reporters that "we knew that the president was going to ask about security, coalition and training" but not the specific questions.

This not a new technique for Bush; his White House has perfected the public relations strategy of holding scripted events featuring the president's supporters. During the first part of the year, Bush traveled the country to discuss his Social Security plan, while aides stacked the audience with Republicans and tutored participants in these town hall events on what to say.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

October 13, 2006:

Top Shiite cleric's influence seems to wane as Iraq bloodshed persists unabated

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani once wielded so much influence he seemed to single-handedly chart the post-Saddam Hussein political future in Iraq. Now, the country's top Shiite cleric appears powerless as Iraq edges toward civil war.

With dozens of Iraqis dying daily from Sunni-Shiite reprisal killings, the failures of al-Sistani's pleas for peace underline a major power shift in the Shiite establishment.

“Their political interests now outweigh religious interests,” said Mustapha al-Ani, a Dubai-based Iraqi analyst. “To some extent, the need for al-Sistani's endorsement is no longer a prerequisite to gain power. Those with street credibility and a militia now have the power.”
It's a major shift from the more than two years following Saddam's ouster, when Shiite leaders hung on al-Sistani's every word concerning politics. His opposition to U.S. plans for elections and a constitution forced the Americans to make dramatic changes. His calls for Shiites to avoid violence were largely adhered to.

But priorities for Shiite political parties have changed and their leaders no longer appear to feel the need to be seen to be closely associated with al-Sistani to gain legitimacy.

The swing has stripped the Shiite clergy, with the Iranian-born al-Sistani at its head, of much of its influence and given a lead role to followers of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who does not recognize al-Sistani's religious authority.

It is a power shift that does not bode well for Iraq's Shiite-dominated government or the U.S.-led military coalition as they try to contain the stubborn Sunni insurgency and the wave of sectarian killings that has swelled since last winter.

Al-Sadr's supporters are widely suspected in many of the attacks on Sunni Arabs. His militiamen, who staged two revolts against U.S. troops in 2004, also have clashed with U.S. and Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad and southern Iraq in recent weeks.

Al-Sistani has responded to the bloodshed with a mixture of resignation and a deep sense of disappointment, said an official who is in regular contact with al-Sistani in the southern holy city of Najaf.

“He keeps praying for peace,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “He feels the pain every day, but he has no magic wand. He tells visitors every day that what's happening does not please God or his prophet and has nothing to do with Islamic teachings.”

Al-Sistani's last public statement on the crisis in Iraq came more than three months ago, when after a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, he publicly upbraided the leader for the government's failure to bring security.

Although al-Sistani has steadfastly refused to meet with U.S. officials, he counseled Shiites not to take up arms against the Americans. In 2004, he personally intervened to broker a truce that ended weeks of fighting between al-Sadr's militiamen and the U.S. military in Najaf.

In statements earlier this year, al-Sistani emotionally appealed for peace between the Shiite majority and the once-dominant Sunni minority.

The cleric, who is in his mid-70s and suffers from a heart condition, sets aside 90 minutes every day to receive visitors and well-wishers and without fail he urges them to work for an end to the bloodshed, said the official close to al-Sistani.

The visitors are mostly tribal chiefs or public figures but include less prominent Shiites. The flow of visitors shows that reverence for al-Sistani as a religious figure remains strong – but the continuing violence is a sign of his waning political leverage.

Iraq's main media give significantly less coverage to al-Sistani than they did a year ago. Portrait posters of al-Sadr in the streets of Baghdad as well as the mainly Shiite south now far outnumber those of al-Sistani.

Previously, Shiite politicians could hardly make a major decision without traveling to al-Sistani's office in Najaf to get his opinion or seek his endorsement.

When the United States tried to put off elections, al-Sistani's insistence on the vote – and mass protests he called for – forced a change of heart in Washington and elections were held in January and December 2005.

The January 2005 election produced a parliament that drafted a new constitution adopted in a referendum last October. A second election, for a full, four-year legislature, was held last December.

Al-Sistani was credited for the high Shiite turnout in all three votes. But the dismal performance of the two Shiite-led governments produced by last year's elections chipped away at his prestige since it was his support that brought them to power.

The governments' failures drove many Shiites away from moderates and into the camps of radicals like al-Sadr, whose militia – the Mahdi Army – controls Baghdad's teeming Shiite district of Sadr City and a string of Shiite towns across central and southern Iraq.

“After the elections and the referendum, people as well as the marjayiah (top Shiite clergy) expected life to be rosy, but all we got was trouble,” said the official in contact with al-Sistani.

Vali Nasr, who lectures on Islamic affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., believes al-Sistani's involvement in politics hurt his standing.

“In some ways, his authority has gone down and he lost control of the political process,” Nasr said.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

Security Summary: October 13, 2007

Above: Shiite women attend an Eid al-Fitr prayer service marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan in Baghdad today.

BAGHDAD - Four bodies were found in different districts of Baghdad in the past 24 hours, police said.

MAHAWEEL - One body was found in the town of Mahaweel, 75 km (45 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

KUT - Gunmen attacked the house of a policeman, killing him and wounding his wife near the city of Kut, 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Baghdad, police said.

TUZ KHURMATO - A bomb killed a child and wounded 13 others in a playground as they celebrated the Islamic festival of Eid in the northern Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmato, 180 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. A would-be suicide bomber, who pushed the bomb in a cart filled with toys into the playground, was wounded in the attack.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb killed four people, including two policemen, and wounded 15 others when it targeted a police patrol in the commercial district of Bab al-Sharji in central Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Iraqi security forces found the bodies of five people across Baghdad on Thursday, police said.

KIRKUK - A car bomb in the northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday killed at least seven people and wounded 50 others, including the city's traffic police chief, police said.

From Reuters/Alternet

Friday, October 12, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- October 12th edition

October 12, 2003: A U.S. Army soldier secures the scene after a car-bomb explosion near the Baghdad Hotel, thought to house an office of the CIA.

October 12, 2002:

Bush's evidence of threat disputed

With a resounding congressional endorsement behind him, President Bush confronts Iraq bolstered by the near-universal consensus that Saddam Hussein poses a security menace to his neighbors and the United States.

But while the political debate appears to be all but over, nagging questions remain about the evidence the administration has put forth to support its stance. In some cases, the evidence is at best insubstantial. In others, ambiguous intelligence data have given rise to interpretations that are highly subjective or just plain wrong.

In some instances, administration statements appear to run directly counter to assessments made by intelligence agencies. For example, Bush has warned darkly of the possibility that an unprovoked Iraqi attack on the United States using weapons of mass destruction could come at any time. "The final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud," he said in a speech Monday in Cincinnati.

But in a letter delivered to Congress the next day, CIA Director George Tenet said the CIA had concluded that "Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW (chemical or biological weapons) against the United States. Should Hussein conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions."

The administration has also asserted as a given -- and few critics have questioned -- that the Baghdad regime has stockpiled and continues to develop vast quantities of biological and chemical weapons. But a comprehensive British government report, based on its own intelligence agency findings, noted that most estimates were based on guesswork. "Without U.N. weapons inspectors, it is very difficult therefore to be sure about the true nature of many of Iraq's facilities," the British report stated.

Equally hard to assess is the extent of Iraq's links, if any, to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups -- an early and key rationale for attacking Iraq put forward repeatedly by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other administration hawks. More recently, Bush cited reports of Iraqi aid to Palestinian terrorist groups and al Qaeda and warned that Hussein could use them as proxies to attack the United States.

"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists," Bush said Monday. "Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."

Most terrorism experts agree, however, that links between Hussein's government and al Qaeda are murky at best. Until late summer, most administration officials -- and CIA and FBI investigators -- said that despite allegations of links between Mohamed Atta, the main planner of the terrorist attacks, and an Iraqi intelligence agent, there was no evidence of ties. They also noted that Osama bin Laden has long been hostile to the decidely secular Hussein.

One of the Palestinians cited by Bush, Abu Nidal, was last active in the 1980s and died in Baghdad in August. Another, Abu Abbas, conducted his last terrorist act in 1990, now renounces violence, and lives in the Gaza Strip with apparent Israeli permission.

Bush referred to a senior member of al Qaeda who received medical treatment in Iraq. U.S. officials said Tuesday that the operative in question is Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian who lost a leg during the U.S. war in Afghanistan and fled to Iran, then to Iraq, before leaving for an undisclosed destination.

Bush also referred to recent intelligence reports that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb making and chemical warfare. But he held back from a direct statement that Hussein is helping bin Laden's terrorists, saying only that they "share a common enemy" -- the United States. After the speech, administration officials cautioned reporters against drawing tight links between Iraq and al Qaeda.

In his speech, Bush was more categorical about Iraq's nuclear program. "Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the (U.N.) International Atomic Energy Agency dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related facilities, including three uranium enrichment sites," he said. "That same year, information from a high-ranking Iraqi nuclear engineer who had defected revealed that despite his public promises, Saddam Hussein had ordered his nuclear program to continue."

In fact, the engineer, Khidhir Hamza, who co-wrote a book titled "Saddam's Bombmaker," retired from Iraq's nuclear program in 1991 and left Iraq in 1995. "Hamza had some good information about Iraqi nuclear programs until his departure from Iraq, but that's it," said David Albright, a former nuclear weapons inspector in Iraq and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, or ISIS, where Hamza worked as an analyst from 1997 to 1999. "But he went off the edge. He started saying irresponsible things."

Bush also cited satellite photographs showing that Iraq has reconstructed buildings at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. He said Iraq has tried to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

"If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year," Bush warned.

But the authoritative International Institute for Strategic Studies, based in London, concluded in a report issued last month that "Iraq does not possess facilities to produce fissile material in sufficient amounts for nuclear weapons" and that "it would require several years and extensive foreign assistance to build such fissile material production facilities."

A recent public report by the CIA said that unless Iraq is able to obtain enriched uranium abroad, it will take at least five years to be able to develop the uranium necessary for a nuclear warhead.

The CIA report also acknowledges that some nuclear experts believe the tubes could have been intended for conventional weapons purposes, which are not proscribed by U.N. sanctions.

"Bush seems to be getting ahead of the facts," Albright said. "These tubes are not central to centrifuge, they're just not."

Albright said he had talked to experts on gas centrifuges at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, and "they disagree with how this intelligence is being used, but they have been ordered to keep quiet."

Gary Milhollin, a respected nuclear expert who is director of Iraq Watch in Washington, said the aerial photos prove little.

"We can't tell what's in those buildings. There isn't proof that there's biological or chemical weapons being made there. Those buildings could be used for civilian industrial uses. That's why we need to resume (U.N.) inspections to check them out."

Weapons experts also have questioned administration statements about the extent of Iraq's missile capability. While a 1998 report by U.N. inspectors supports Bush's statements that Iraq possesses Scud-type ballistic missiles with ranges of up to 400 miles -- far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey -- there is no evidence that these have been tested or that Iraq has any functional launchers.

Bush also warned in his Cincinnati speech that Iraq "has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these (unmanned aerial vehicles) for missions targeting the United States."

But many experts believe such remarks are highly exaggerated. Because Iraqi airspace is closely monitored by U.S. and British planes and radar systems, experts say, the slow-moving unmanned aerial vehicles would likely be shot down as soon as they crossed Iraq's borders. It's also unclear how the vehicles would reach the U.S. mainland -- the nearest point is Maine, almost 5, 500 miles away -- without being intercepted.

"As a guesstimate, Iraq's present holdings of delivery systems and chemical and biological weapons seem most likely to be so limited in technology and operational lethality that they do not constrain U.S. freedom of action or do much to intimidate Iraq's neighbors," said Anthony Cordesman, a security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Read the rest at the San Francisco Chronicle

October 12, 2003:

A Tale Of Two Fathers

It's a classic story line in myth, literature and movies: a man coming into his own is torn between two older authority figures with competing world views; a good daddy and a bad daddy; one light and benevolent, one dark and vengeful.

When Bush the Elder put Bush the Younger in the care of Dick Cheney, he assumed that Mr. Cheney, who had been his defense secretary in Desert Storm, would play the wise, selfless counselor. Poppy thought his old friend Dick would make a great vice president, tutoring a young president green on foreign policy and safeguarding the first Bush administration's legacy of internationalism, coalition-building and realpolitik.

Instead, Good Daddy has had to watch in alarm as Bad Daddy usurped his son's presidency, heightened its conservatism and rushed America into war on the mistaken assumption that if we just acted like king of the world, everyone would bow down or run away.

Bush I officials are nonplused by the apocalyptic and rash Cheney of Bush II, a man who pushed pre-emption and peered over the shoulders of C.I.A. analysts, as compared with the skeptical and cautious Cheney of Bush I (who did not even press to march to Baghdad in the first gulf war, when Saddam Hussein actually possessed chemical weapons).

Some veterans of Bush I are so puzzled that they even look for a biological explanation, wondering if his two-year-old defibrillator might have made him more Hobbesian. Mr. Cheney spent so much time in his bunker reading gloomy books about smallpox, plague, fear and war as the natural state of mankind.

Last week, for the first time, W. -- who tried to pattern his presidency as the mirror opposite of his real father's -- curbed his surrogate father's hard-line crony Rummy (Mr. Cheney's mentor in the Ford years).

The incurious George, who has said he prefers to get his information from his inner circle rather than newspapers or TV, may finally be waking up to the downside of such self-censorship. You can end up hearing a lot of bogus, self-serving garbage from Ahmad Chalabi, via Mr. Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, instead of unpleasant reality.

I hope Mr. Bush at least read the news coverage of his vice president's Iraq speech on Friday, which was a masterpiece of demagogy.

On a day when many Republicans were finding a lesson of moderation in Arnold Schwarzenegger's victory in California, Mr. Cheney once more chose a right-wing setting, the Heritage Foundation, to regurgitate his rigid ideology. While Arnold was saying to voters, ''You know best,'' Mr. Cheney was still propounding ''Father Knows Best.''

Even after the president was forced to admit after Mr. Cheney's last appearance on ''Meet the Press'' last month that the link the vice president drew between Saddam and 9/11 did not actually exist, that did not deter Mr. Cheney. He repeatedly tied Saddam and 9/11 and said, all evidence to the contrary, that the secular Iraqi leader ''had an established relationship with Al Qaeda.''

He characterized critics as naïve and dangerous when his own arguments were reductive and disingenuous. In justifying the war, he created a false choice between attacking Iraq and doing nothing.

The war in Iraq and its aftermath have proved that Mr. Cheney was wrong to think that a show of brute strength would deter our enemies from attacking us. There are improvements in Iraq, but it is still a morass, with 326 soldiers dead as of Friday. It's hard to create security when we are the cause of the insecurity.

Mr. Cheney lumped terrorists and tyrants into one interchangeable mass, saying that Mr. Bush could not tolerate a dictator who had access to weapons of mass destruction, was allied with terrorists and was a threat to his neighbors. Sounds a lot like the military dictator of Pakistan, not to mention the governments of China and North Korea.

To back up his claim that Saddam was an immediate threat, the vice president had to distort the findings of David Kay, the administration's own weapons hunter, and continue to overdramatize the danger of Saddam. ''Saddam built, possessed and used weapons of mass destruction,'' Mr. Cheney said. Yes, but during the first Bush administration.

Perhaps the president now realizes the Cheney filter is dysfunctional. If Mr. Bush still needs a daddy to tell him what to do, he should call his own.

Read the rest at the NY Times

October 12, 2004:

Inside the Green Zone, Iraq Is More Midwest Than Mideast

In Baghdad's Green Zone, mortar shells come flying in so regularly that the Americans working there run office betting pools on when the next will arrive.

Other than that, life in the Green Zone is a lot like life in an American small town, William Langewiesche reports in "Welcome to the Green Zone," a long, fascinating article in the November issue of the Atlantic Monthly.

For more than a year, Americans have heard countless references to the Green Zone, aka the International Zone, where American officials and the new Iraqi government are headquartered, without learning much about what life is like there. But Langewiesche, a National Magazine Award-winning reporter, has a gift for conveying the feel of a place.

"After standing in a long, tense line and undergoing two body searches and identity checks," he writes, "you pass through the pedestrian gate and find yourself suddenly among green lawns, where office workers in combat boots stroll to lunch or simply wait at one of the shaded bus stops, chatting about NFL football, a General Motors recall, or some sitcom they saw on television last night. When the bus arrives, it is driven by an aging, affable Texan and he's got Alanis Morissette wailing psychobabble on Armed Forces Radio with the air conditioning cranked up really high."

Before the Americans invaded, this was the headquarters of Saddam Hussein's government -- "villas, palaces and monuments set in a parklike expanse that spreads for four square miles inside a meander of the Tigris River," Langewiesche writes.

When the Americans took Baghdad in April 2003, they set up headquarters in those palaces and villas, including the villa where Hussein's son Uday kept his pet lions.

In another part of the Green Zone, about 5,000 Iraqi squatters moved into buildings, and they're still there, living in a district that Langewiesche calls "the Green Zone's slum."

For the first few weeks in the Zone, life in the bomb-damaged buildings was primitive, with sporadic electricity, no air conditioning and precious little booze, except what was found in Uday's villa. But soon, American know-how made the place pretty comfortable for the roughly 5,000 Americans who live there.

"They live in large, sandbagged compounds or prefabricated, factory-furnished housing modules, which are actually modified shipping containers," Langewiesche writes. "They eat standard American food, almost all of it brought in from abroad. . . . They also have satellite TV, computers, DVDs and telephones with U.S. area codes, which function as if they were in New York or Virginia, and thus require people to make long-distance overseas calls, even to the city just next door."

In the early days, the Americans frequently left the Green Zone and ventured into Baghdad and the rest of Iraq. But since the anti-American insurgency escalated last spring, such trips have become exceedingly dangerous and most Americans seldom leave the Zone.

"Why bother?" Langewiesche writes with acid sarcasm. "A more prudent choice was to stay in the zone and require the Iraqis to come to you if for some rare reason you really needed to deal with them face-to-face."

The last scene in the article is a dry but devastating portrait of this year's Fourth of July party in the Green Zone, held about a week after the turnover of power to the new Iraqi government. There were patriotic songs, horseplay in the pool and lots of drinking.

"I saw no Iraqis there at all," Langewiesche writes. "I walked through the crowd looking at the characters, wondering as I had before what this enterprise was all about."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

U.S. wants NATO to take over Afghan mission

The United States is pressing NATO to take over the U.S.-led military mission in Afghanistan, possibly as early as 2005, the U.S. ambassador to the alliance said Tuesday.
NATO currently commands the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, the Afghan capital, and it has set up five Provincial Reconstruction Teams in northern Afghanistan. Its troops do not conduct combat missions as U.S. forces do.

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to the alliance, told American reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday that the aim of the United States is to combine the U.S. and NATO missions under an alliance commander.

"There will be a lot of discussion about that tomorrow, but no decisions," Burns said, referring to Wednesday's NATO defense ministers meeting.

"It's a very complicated issue, how you put these two very different military missions together," Burns said. "But there will be a number of people who will support — we will certainly support — a direction to the military leaders of the alliance to go and look at this question and decide how we can best do that — give us a sense of how you put these two missions together."

Burns said he expects the alliance's military leaders to present answers at a planned February meeting of defense ministers in Nice, France.

He said integration of the forces could happen by 2005 or 2006.

The ambassador also said the United States is pressing NATO's newer members who once were part of the Soviet bloc, like Romania, to donate older Soviet-era military equipment that is urgently needed to equip Iraqi forces.

In the shorter term, the United States is pushing its NATO allies to accelerate the deployment of extra peacekeepers to Afghanistan.

Ahead of two days of talks beginning Wednesday, U.S. officials said they were seeking commitments that the alliance would expand its peacekeeping operation into western Afghanistan, which would free up U.S. troops to hunt Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants hiding out in the south and east.

"NATO is behind. We should have been in the west by now, and we're not," Burns told reporters earlier at NATO headquarters in Brussels. "NATO ... needs to move faster, with a greater degree of commitment and political will."

After much prodding, NATO allies reinforced their peacekeeping mission from 6,500 troops to over 9,000 for the Afghan elections held at the weekend.

Despite that temporary deployment, the alliance is slipping behind with plans to expand its longer-term peacekeeping operation into the troubled western provinces from its bases in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and five northern cities.

On Iraq, NATO envoys agreed last week on the outline of plans to send about 300 instructors, and up to 10 times more guards and support staff, to help train the Iraqi armed forces.

About 40 NATO trainers have been in Baghdad since August, but U.S. officials said last week that the process was moving too slowly to have an impact before elections scheduled in Iraq early next year.

The alliance is playing only a small role in Iraq due to the reluctance of France, Germany and other member nations who opposed the war. Still, most of the 26 allies have troops in Iraq supporting the U.S.-led force.

Read the rest at USA Today

October 12, 2005:

Iraq security company under fire

The private security company at the centre of the "trophy video" controversy in Iraq has been accused of failing to ensure that all of its workers are properly trained to use guns.

Aegis Defence Services has been heavily criticised by the American government over the alleged failures, it can be revealed.

The British company, which was given a £220 million security contract by the US military last year, was also attacked for failing to ensure that its Iraqi employees were not insurgent spies.

The criticisms of the company, which was set up in 2002 by Lt Col Tim Spicer, a former Scots Guards officer, appear in an audit report by the Office of the Special General Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction.

The alleged failings have emerged as another "trophy video", showing security contractors apparently opening fire on civilians, appeared on the web site, which has been unofficially linked to Aegis Defence Services.

The new, 27-second video, which is accompanied by the Elvis Presley song That's All Right (Mama), shows a civilian car being attacked by security contractors, who open fire with a machine gun.

The company is already being investigated by the American military over whether any of its personnel were involved in similar shooting incidents captured in a series of other "trophy videos", first revealed by the Sunday Telegraph.

The criticisms will place further pressure on the security company, the largest of its kind in Iraq.

The 22-page report, which was produced earlier this year, states: "Aegis did not provide sufficient documentation to show that all of its employees that were issued with weapons were qualified to use those weapons, or that its Iraqi employees were properly vetted to ensure they did not pose an internal security threat."

Aegis employees maintain that they are the victims of a smear campaign either by a disgruntled employee or by another private security company.

A senior member of Aegis said that the company always operates within the American military rules of engagement and that it's employees operate a graduated response before opening fire on any civilian vehicle.

A spokesman for Aegis, said: "The Inspector General's Audit Report was issued in April 2005, following a physical inspection in October 2004.

"It was undertaken in the first four months of the manpower deployment of the contract.

"The audit found that paper training records evidencing Aegis in-theatre training since arrival were not in all cases fully complete at that time.

"This administrative matter was swiftly rectified as project deployment continued to develop. The Aegis contract was both renewed and expanded in the spring 2005."

The criticisms of the company, which was set up in 2002 by Lt Col Tim Spicer, a former Scots Guards officer, appear in an audit report by the Office of the Special General Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction.

The alleged failings have emerged as another "trophy video", showing security contractors apparently opening fire on civilians, appeared on the web site, which has been unofficially linked to Aegis Defence Services.

The new, 27-second video, which is accompanied by the Elvis Presley song That's All Right (Mama), shows a civilian car being attacked by security contractors, who open fire with a machine gun.

The company is already being investigated by the American military over whether any of its personnel were involved in similar shooting incidents captured in a series of other "trophy videos", first revealed by the Sunday Telegraph.

The criticisms will place further pressure on the security company, the largest of its kind in Iraq.

The 22-page report, which was produced earlier this year, states: "Aegis did not provide sufficient documentation to show that all of its employees that were issued with weapons were qualified to use those weapons, or that its Iraqi employees were properly vetted to ensure they did not pose an internal security threat."

Aegis employees maintain that they are the victims of a smear campaign either by a disgruntled employee or by another private security company.

A senior member of Aegis said that the company always operates within the American military rules of engagement and that it's employees operate a graduated response before opening fire on any civilian vehicle.

A spokesman for Aegis, said: "The Inspector General's Audit Report was issued in April 2005, following a physical inspection in October 2004.

"It was undertaken in the first four months of the manpower deployment of the contract.

"The audit found that paper training records evidencing Aegis in-theatre training since arrival were not in all cases fully complete at that time.

"This administrative matter was swiftly rectified as project deployment continued to develop. The Aegis contract was both renewed and expanded in the spring 2005."

Read the rest at the Telegraph

October 12, 2006:

Aura of fear and death stalks Iraq

Baghdad resounds to the tales of the dead. Not the distant, dry accounting of news wires, but terrifying close-up accounts. Six beheaded corpses are dumped with their heads between their knees in Muhammad's street in Ghazaliya, a largely Sunni suburb of Baghdad. US soldiers ask him to search the bodies for IDs, fearful the corpses may be booby-trapped. He manages to frisk two before the effort becomes too awful.
This summer Muhammad witnessed a mass attack by Shia gunmen from a neighbouring area to his own, of running battles outside his house, the loudspeakers on the mosques coordinating the defence.

A few days after the appearance of the headless bodies, a translator for a British colleague announces he has lost a relative. He is distraught as the family searches the morgue for the body. The kidnappers get in touch. Your relative is still alive and eating his evening meal, they say, but start searching for his body in three days.

After a while the numbers no longer seem to matter - only the impact on a society of a steady and encroaching tide of killing. The aura of fear, cruelty and death is claustrophobic and all enveloping.

No report or estimate of the death toll, however disputed, gets near to conveying the corrosive nature of so much killing, so routinely carried out.

Law and order does not exist as the police themselves are involved in the killing. There are so many bodies that their disposal has become a problem of waste management. Most cities have to cope with fly-tipping of rubbish. Baghdad has to cope with the fly-tipping of corpses.

In some areas of Baghdad, such as Sadr City, US soldiers welded down sewer covers to prevent bodies being dumped.

But that was when the death squads cared about concealment. Today there is little time for such niceties. The bodies are dumped on rubbish heaps, in rivers, on areas of open ground.

Often victims are shot on the street in front of waiting traffic, as a reminder, if anyone needed it, that the next bullet could be for them.

Most victims have their hands bound, their feet tied and many show signs of torture. Two years ago, journalists were reluctant to accept that victims were tortured with drills, nails and caustic liquids. No one disputes it today.

Some Sunni families have stopped going to Baghdad's morgue, which is in an area controlled by Shia militias, who are responsible for the death squads. The families of two recently murdered Sunni soldiers in a largely Shia battalion of the Iraqi army, their colonel said, were followed to the morgue and attacked. Funerals have also been targeted. Death follows death. Hospitals have been used for holding and torturing the disappeared.

The sound of killing has become routine. No one pays attention to the morning explosions until the reports come in - the numbers of the dead and where. Baghdadis soon develop an ear for these attacks. They can distinguish between the sound of improvised explosive devices buried in the road, and the sound of mortars and car bombs. These are now commonplace. The conversation stoppers are the ingenious and brazen: the secondary and tertiary bombs left to kill the rescue workers; the abductions in broad daylight by men in police uniforms from shops and factories, while their colleagues try to hide from the lethal sweep.

Jihadis have recently taken to renting a shop at the bottom of a housing block on a short lease. They fill it with explosives with the aim of bringing down the building.

But what scares most are the impromptu checkpoints. They can be mounted by police, militias and jihadis, but they can all have the same result. Utter the wrong name, show the wrong number plate, or the wrong ID, and you can be quickly ushered away to face summary execution.

And there is no end in sight.

Read the rest at the Guardian

US Military Deaths in Iraq Hit 2,757

As of Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006, at least 2,757 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,198 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is five more than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Thursday at 10 a.m. EDT.

The British military has reported 119 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, six; El Salvador, four; Slovakia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Romania, one death each.

The latest deaths reported by the military:

-- A soldier was killed Wednesday in Kirkuk province.

-- Three Marines were killed Monday in Anbar province; all assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.:

The latest identifications reported by the military:

-- Marine Sgt. Julian M. Arechaga, 23, Oceanside, N.Y.
-- Marine Lance Cpl. Jon E. Bowman, 21, Dubach, La

Read the rest at Fox News

Security Summary: October 12, 2007

Above: A child cries during a funeral today for a family member killed in a car-bombing Thursday. Four people died in the attack.

BAGHDAD - Four bodies were found in different districts of Baghdad in the past 24 hours, police said.

MAHAWEEL - One body was found in the town of Mahaweel, 75 km (45 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

KUT - Gunmen attacked the house of a policeman, killing him and wounding his wife near the city of Kut, 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Baghdad, police said.

TUZ KHURMATO - A bomb killed a child and wounded 13 others in a playground as they celebrated the Islamic festival of Eid in the northern Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmato, 180 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. A would-be suicide bomber, who pushed the bomb in a cart filled with toys into the playground, was wounded in the attack.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb killed four people, including two policemen, and wounded 15 others when it targeted a police patrol in the commercial district of Bab al-Sharji in central Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Iraqi security forces found the bodies of five people across Baghdad on Thursday, police said.

KIRKUK - A car bomb in the northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday killed at least seven people and wounded 50 others, including the city's traffic police chief, police said

From Reuters/Alternet

U.S. air strike kills 9 children, 6 women non-combatants

Above and Left: Family members grieve over victims of the U.S. air strikes.

U.S. air strikes kill 19 insurgents, 15 civilians

U.S. forces killed 19 insurgents and 15 women and children in air strikes north of Iraq's capital targeting suspected leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq, the U.S. military said on Thursday...

"These terrorists chose to deliberately place innocent Iraqi women and children in danger by their actions and presence."

The U.S. military said aircraft attacked a site in the Lake Thar Thar region, about 120 km (75 miles) north of Baghdad, after intelligence reports indicated senior al Qaeda members were meeting there. Four insurgents were killed.

It said suspects from the initial meeting then moved to another area south of Lake Thar Thar and U.S. forces came under small arms fire from a building.

"Responding in self-defense, supporting aircraft engaged the enemy threat. After securing the area, the ground force assessed 15 terrorists, six women and nine children were killed, two suspects, one woman and three children were wounded, and one suspected terrorist was detained," the U.S. military said.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

U.S. Plans Inquiry on Strike That Killed Civilians

Rear Adm. Greg Smith, an American military spokesman here, said the killings were “absolutely regrettable,” but blamed the enemy fighters for engaging American forces while using civilians as a shield.

“We do not target civilians,” the admiral said in an interview today. “But when our forces are fired upon, as they are routinely, then they have no option but to return fire.”...

“A ground element came under fire from that building that we had to neutralize,” Admiral Smith said. Nineteen insurgents were reported killed. It was not clear on Friday whether American commanders knew so many civilians were in or near the structure when they authorized the air strike on it.

“The enemy has a vote here,” Admiral Smith said, “and when he chooses to surround himself with civilians and then fire upon U.S. forces, our forces have no choice but to return a commensurate amount of fire. Which is what they did last evening.”

Read the rest at the NY Times

US military says probing deadly Iraqi air strike

The U.S. military said on Friday it was conducting a "thorough investigation" of an air strike by its attack helicopters north of Baghdad on Thursday night that killed nine children and six women.

The civilian death toll was one of the largest acknowledged by U.S. forces from an air strike since former president Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

The incident, on the eve of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, is likely to reignite tensions between Washington and Baghdad, which has repeatedly criticised U.S. forces over the number of Iraqi civilians killed in military operations...

The 15 were killed during an operation targeting senior leaders of al Qaeda in the Lake Thar Thar area 80 km (50 miles) northwest of the Iraqi capital early on Thursday night. Nineteen suspected insurgents were also killed, the U.S. military said...

"In every instance we take as many precautions as possible to ensure innocent lives are not at risk," he said. "We are committed to working with the affected families and taking care of their needs."

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

UN calls for inquiry into deadly US strike in Iraq

The United Nations mission in Iraq urged U.S. forces on Friday to pursue a "vigorous" probe into an air strike that killed 15 women and children and said its findings must be made public so that lessons can be learned.

It said the safety of civilians should be a top priority during military operations. In a human rights report published on Thursday, the same day as the attack, the mission highlighted the number of Iraqi civilians killed in recent U.S. air strikes.

The civilian death toll in Thursday's operation was one of the largest acknowledged by U.S. forces from an air strike since former president Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

"Civilians are getting caught far too often between warring combatants," said U.N. mission spokesman Said Arikat. "We understand the security concerns, but we also hope that every possible safety measure is taken not to harm any civilians.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- October 11th edition

October 11, 2005: As dawn breaks, soldiers from Task Force Baghdad prepare for combat operations in east Baghdad.

October 11, 2002:

White House developing plan for postwar occupation of Iraq

The Bush administration is working on postwar plans for Iraq that could include using American and other foreign troops as a stabilizing force until a new government is formed, the Pentagon said Friday.

"Clearly, security would be a concern in the early months," after the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein, said Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke.

Any plan would include a Defense Department role in finding and securing any weapons of mass destruction, she said.

"The United States will not cut and run," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "The United States and our allies are committed to find a way to help preserve the stability and maintain the peace of the region and particularly Iraq as a unified country in the event military force is used."

He said the United Nations might be called upon to help stabilize a post-Saddam Iraq, and did not rule out U.S. forces behind part of an international effort.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has told foreign governments the United States was committed to assisting postwar Iraq develop a democratic government, but had not taken up any specific plan with them, a senior U.S. official said, on condition of anonymity.

President Bush says he has not definitely decided on a military invasion to achieve his goal of ousting Saddam Hussein. But among a range of proposals being developed is the Pentagon's role and, for instance, whether a force might be American, comprised of whatever coalition joins in a war against Iraq, devised by the United Nations, and so on, they said. There also have been suggestions that an Iraqi government-in-exile be set up before any invasion so it could be ready to take over sooner.

The plan is being developed by a number of U.S. government agencies.

Clarke said it was "way too soon" to say what plan would eventually be approved.

She stressed several times in a press conference later in the day that any plan has to take into account what the Iraqi people want.

"They are going to have a huge part to play in this," she said.

One plan being considered by the White House is based on the occupation of Japan following World War II and includes installing a U.S. commander to administer Iraq, perhaps U.S. Central Command head Gen. Tommy Franks in the role taken by Gen. Douglas MacArthur after Tokyo surrendered in 1945, The New York Times said in its Friday editions.

U.S commanders would oversee the beginnings of democratic transformation, The Washington Post quoted unnamed sources as saying in a similar story.

But officials said later Friday that such a plan is among the least likely to be approved of those being considered.

"That's not what's envisioned," Fleischer said.

A senior White House official said that while there are people in the government studying the idea of a military occupation, Bush and his foreign policy team "are not looking seriously at this."
He said Bush is committed to helping the Iraqi people establish a broad, democratic government.

Fleischer said military civil affairs units may help rebuild Iraq's infrastructure.

"The point is we want to very quickly transfer governmental power to the Iraqi people both from inside Iraq and outside Iraq," he said.

Some have warned that American military control of Iraq would enflame Iraqis and Muslims in other countries.

"I am viscerally opposed to a prolonged occupation of a Muslim country at the heart of the Muslim world by Western nations who proclaim the right to re-educate that country," former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said during Senate hearings last month.

"Some kind of peace force is absolutely critical, but peacekeeping is very different from having a viceroy or some kind of commission," Anthony Cordesman, Iraq expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Friday.

"Given Iraq's history, nothing could be resented more than if someone from outside, particularly from a Western state, takes over and dictates to Iraq" what they should do, he said.

Some officials suggested the occupation option may have been leaked by lower-level planners who wanted to kill it.

Others suggested that the idea is being floated publicly by some in the administration as the latest effort in a psychological campaign aimed at Saddam's generals. That is, they said, it suggests to them that they should join in the U.S. effort to topple Saddam or face being controlled by foreign military forces.

Still others said it was leaked to counter criticism that the White House is rushing to get rid of Saddam without a sufficient plan for what would come next.

The Senate, early Friday, joined the House in passing a resolution granting Bush the powers to use the U.S. military to enforce United Nations orders that Saddam dispose of his weapons of mass destruction. The resolution, which now goes to the president, encourages Bush to seek U.N. cooperation in such a campaign but does not require it.

Read the rest at USA Today

October 11, 2003:

President's Radio Address

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Six months ago this week, the statue of Saddam Hussein came down in the center of Baghdad, and Iraq began the transition from tyranny to self-government. The goal of our coalition is to help the Iraqi people build a stable, just and prosperous country that poses no threat to America or the world. To reach that goal, we are following a clear strategy.

First, coalition forces in Iraq are actively pursuing the terrorists and Saddam holdouts who desperately oppose freedom for the Iraqi people. Secondly, we are committed to expanding international cooperation in the reconstruction and security of Iraq. And third, we are working closely with Iraqi leaders as they prepare to draft a constitution, establish institutions of a civil society, and move toward free elections.

As part of this strategy, we're helping Iraqis to rebuild their economy after a long era of corruption and misrule. For three decades, Iraq's economy served the interest only of its dictator and his regime. Saddam Hussein built palaces and monuments to himself, while Iraq's infrastructure crumbled. He built up a massive war machine while neglecting the basic needs of his own people.

Now that the dictator is gone, we and our coalition partners are helping Iraqis to lay the foundation of a free economy. This coming week, the Iraqi economy will reach an important milestone with the introduction of a new currency. The new Iraqi dinar notes will bear the images of Iraq's proud heritage, and not the face of a hated dictator. For more than a decade, different areas of Iraq have used two different versions of the dinar, and many of those notes were counterfeit, diminishing the value of those that were genuine. The new dinar will be used throughout Iraq, thereby unifying the economy and the country. The new currency will have special features that will make it difficult to counterfeit.

Following World War II, it took three years to institute a new currency in West Germany. In Iraq, it has taken only six months. And the new currency symbolizes Iraq's reviving economy.

Iraq has a strong entrepreneurial tradition, and since the liberation of that country, thousands of new businesses have been launched. Busy markets are operating in villages across the country. Store shelves are filled with goods from clothing and linens to air-conditioners and satellite dishes. Free commerce is returning to the ancient region that invented banking.

With our assistance, Iraqis are building the roads and ports and railways necessary for commerce. We have helped to establish an independent Iraqi central bank. Working with the Iraqi Governing Council, we are establishing a new system that allows foreign investors to confidently invest capital in Iraq's future. And we have helped restore Iraq's oil production capacity to nearly two million barrels a day, the benefits of which are flowing directly to the Iraqi people.

Iraq is making progress. As the Mayor of Kirkuk, Abdul Rahman Mustafa, recently said, "Our economic potential has barely been tapped." We must help Iraq to meet that potential. The request I have made to Congress for Iraqi reconstruction includes support for important health and training projects. Under our strategy, Iraq will have employment centers to help people find jobs. We intend to establish computer training and English language instruction and vocational programs to help Iraqis participate fully in the global economy. I urge Congress to pass my budget request soon so this vital work can proceed.

Americans are providing this help not only because our hearts are good, but because our vision is clear. A stable, democratic, and prosperous Iraq will no longer be a breeding ground for terror, tyranny and aggression. And a free Iraq will be an example of freedom's power throughout the Middle East. Free nations are peaceful nations. By promoting freedom and hope in other lands, we remove direct threats to the American people. Our actions in Iraq will increase our safety for years to come.

Thank you for listening.


October 11, 2004:

Israeli Study: Iraq War Hurts War on Terror

The war in Iraq did not damage international terror groups, but instead distracted the United States from confronting other hotbeds of Islamic militancy and actually "created momentum" for many terrorists, a top Israeli security think tank said in a report released Monday.

President Bush has called the war in Iraq an integral part of the war on terrorism, saying that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hoped to develop unconventional weapons and could have given them to Islamic militants across the world.

But the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University said that instead of striking a blow against Islamic extremists, the Iraq war "has created momentum for many terrorist elements, but chiefly Al Qaeda and its affiliates."

Jaffee Center director Shai Feldman said the vast amount of money and effort the United States has poured into Iraq has deflected attention and assets from other centers of terrorism, such as Afghanistan.

The concentration of U.S. intelligence assets in Iraq "has to be at the expense of being able to follow strategic dangers in other parts of the world," he said.

Shlomo Broma retired Israeli army general, said the U.S.-led effort was strategically misdirected.

If the goal in the war against terrorism is "not just to kill the mosquitos but to dry the swamp," he said, "now it's quite clear" that Iraq "is not the swamp."

Instead, he said, the Iraq campaign is having the opposite effect, drawing Islamic extremists from other parts of the world to join the battle.

"On a strategic level as well as an operational level," Brom concluded, "the war in Iraq is hurting the war on international terrorism."

In other findings, Jaffee Center experts disagreed with the Israeli government's statements that its four-year struggle against Palestinian militants is part of the world fight against Islamic terrorism.

Read the rest at Fox News

October 11, 2005:

CIA review faults prewar plans

A newly released report published by the CIA rebukes the Bush administration for not paying enough attention to prewar intelligence that predicted the factional rivalries now threatening to split Iraq.

Policymakers worried more about making the case for the war, particularly the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, than planning for the aftermath, the report says. The report was written by a team of four former CIA analysts led by former deputy CIA director Richard Kerr.

"In an ironic twist, the policy community was receptive to technical intelligence (the weapons program), where the analysis was wrong, but apparently paid little attention to intelligence on cultural and political issues (post-Saddam Iraq), where the analysis was right," they write.

White House spokesman Fred Jones said Tuesday that the administration considered many scenarios involving postwar instability in Iraq. The report's assertion "has been vehemently disputed," he said.

Then-CIA director George Tenet commissioned the report after the invasion of Iraq. The authors had access to highly classified intelligence data and produced three reports concerning Iraq intelligence.

Only the third has been released in declassified form. It is published in the current issue of Studies in Intelligence, a CIA quarterly written primarily for intelligence professionals. The report was finished in July 2004 just as Tenet was ending his tenure as CIA director.

The report determined that beyond the errors in assessing Iraqi weaponry, "intelligence produced prior to the war on a wide range of other issues accurately addressed such topics as how the war would develop and how Iraqi forces would or would not fight."

The intelligence "also provided perceptive analysis on Iraq's links to al-Qaeda; calculated the impact of the war on oil markets; and accurately forecast the reactions of ethnic and tribal factions in Iraq."

The postwar struggle pitting Sunni Arabs against Shiite and Kurdish factions has led some analysts, including Saud al-Faisal, foreign minister of neighboring Saudi Arabia, to conclude Iraq is at risk of splitting into three pieces.

Kerr's report agrees with other government reviews in concluding that prewar intelligence on Iraqi weapons was faulty. Costly U.S. spy satellites were of little help, providing "accurate information on relatively few critical issues."

Intelligence analysts, the report says, failed to question their assumptions that Iraq had maintained chemical and biological weapons and had reactivated nuclear weapons development. Doubts about the intelligence received little attention, "hastening the conversion of heavily qualified judgments into accepted fact."

Read the rest at USA Today

October 11, 2006:

Army: Troops to Stay in Iraq Until 2010

For planning purposes, the Army is gearing up to keep current troop levels in Iraq for another four years, a new indication that conditions there are too unstable to foresee an end to the war.

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, cautioned against reading too much into the planning, which is done far in advance to prepare the right mix of combat units for expected deployments. He noted that it is easier to scale back later if conditions allow, than to ramp up if they don't.

"This is not a prediction that things are going poorly or better," Schoomaker told reporters. "It's just that I have to have enough ammo in the magazine that I can continue to shoot as long as they want us to shoot."

Even so, his comments were the latest acknowledgment by Pentagon officials that a significant withdrawal of troops from Iraq is not likely in the immediate future. There are now 141,000 U.S. troops there.

At a Pentagon news conference, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, said that as recently as July he had expected to be able to recommend a substantial reduction in U.S. forces by now. But that plan was dropped as sectarian violence in Baghdad escalated.

While arguing that progress is still being made toward unifying Iraq's fractured political rivalries and stabilizing the country, Casey also said the violence amounts to "a difficult situation that's likely to remain that way for some time."

He made no predictions of future U.S. troop reductions.

Appearing with Casey, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he and other senior Pentagon officials are still studying how the military might keep up the current pace of Iraq deployments without overtaxing the Army and Marine Corps, which have borne the brunt of the conflict. Rumsfeld said one option is to make more use of the Air Force and Navy for work that normally is done by soldiers and Marines.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday that the advance planning Schoomaker described was an appropriate cautionary approach. However, he added, the Pentagon should increase the overall size of the military to reduce stress on troops repeatedly sent into combat.

"I applaud the new realism but I think they also have to recognize that this (war) is going to put a huge stress on our forces," said Reed, a former Army Ranger. Reed and other Democrats have called on President Bush to start bringing home troops within a year to force the Iraqi government to take more responsibility for security.

At his news conference, Rumsfeld was asked whether he bears responsibility for what has gone wrong in Iraq or if the military commanders there are to blame.

"Of course I bear responsibility," he replied in apparent exasperation. "My Lord, I'm secretary of defense. Write it down."

In recent months the Army has shown signs of strain, as Pentagon officials have had to extend the Iraq deployments of two brigades to bolster security in Baghdad and allow units heading into the country to have at least one year at home before redeploying.

The Army is finding that the amount of time soldiers enjoy between Iraq tours has been shrinking this year. In the case of a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, its deployment to Iraq was delayed by about six weeks because it otherwise would have had only 11 months to prepare instead of the minimum 12 months. As a result, the unit it was going to replace has been forced to stay beyond its normal 12-month deployment.

In separate remarks to reporters, Gen. Richard Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, said soldiers need more than 12 months between deployments to Iraq so they can do a full range of combat training and complete the kinds of educational programs that enable the Army to grow a fully mature officer corps.

That kind of noncombat experience is necessary "so that we don't erode and become an Army that only can fight a counterinsurgency," Cody said. He added that North Korea's announced nuclear test "reminds us all that we may not just be in a counterinsurgency fight and we have to have full-spectrum capability."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Security Summary: October 11, 2007

Above: Detainees held at the fifth Iraqi army division base in Baqubah are lined up for transfer to an Iraqi prison today.

LAKE THAR THAR - U.S. forces killed 19 insurgents and 15 women and children near Lake Thar Thar, about 120 km (75 miles) north of the capital, in air strikes targeting suspected senior members of al Qaeda in Iraq, the U.S. military said. Two suspects, a woman and three children were wounded and a suspected insurgent was detained, it said.

BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber killed eight people and wounded 25 in an attack on an Internet cafe near the district of New Baghdad in the east of the capital, police said.

BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier died of wounds suffered during fighting on Wednesday in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - Wednesday night's rocket or mortar attack on Camp Victory, the sprawling U.S. base near Baghdad airport that houses the U.S. military headquarters, killed two coalition soldiers and wounded 38 others, the U.S. military said. Two foreign civilian contractors were also wounded.

MOSUL - The body of former Iraqi athlete Haythem Nadeem, a 200 metre champion, was found in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, five days after he was kidnapped, police said.

MOSUL - A suicide truck bomber attacked a Kurdish army checkpoint in northeastern Mosul, wounding four Kurdish soldiers and four civilians, police said.

LATIFIYA - Two bodies, one a policeman, were found handcuffed and blindfold in Latifya, 40 kms (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Iraqi soldiers killed one gunman and arrested 30 others in different parts of Iraq during the last 24 hours, the Defence Ministry said.

MOSUL - Gunmen killed the son of an Islamic Party official in northeastern Mosul, police said. He was shot dead in his car.

KIRKUK - Police said they killed two members of a suspected roadside bomb cell southwest of the city of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, and arrested a third.

BAGHDAD - Thirteen suspected insurgents, including three members of al Qaeda responsible for the assassination of a Sunni Arab preacher, were killed in a U.S. air strike on Wednesday, the U.S. military said.

NEAR TUZ KHURMATO - Gunmen attacked a police station near Tuz Khurmato, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad, and killed a first lieutenant, police said.

From Reuters/Alternet

Report: Marine Corps pressing to take lead in Afghanistan, remove forces from Iraq

Above: Marines from Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment quickly man the perimeter during an indirect fire attack against Camp Blessing last year. Blessing was the most remote manned Marine Corp post in Afghanistan and constantly recieved enemy fire.

Marines Press to Remove Their Forces From Iraq

The Marine Corps is pressing to remove its forces from Iraq and to send marines instead to Afghanistan, to take over the leading role in combat there, according to senior military and Pentagon officials.

The idea by the Marine Corps commandant would effectively leave the Iraq war in the hands of the Army while giving the Marines a prominent new role in Afghanistan, under overall NATO command...

At the moment, there are no major Marine units among the 26,000 or so American forces in Afghanistan. In Iraq there are about 25,000 marines among the 160,000 American troops there.

It is not clear exactly how many of the marines in Iraq would be moved over. But the plan would require a major reshuffling, and it would make marines the dominant American force in Afghanistan, in a war that has broader public support than the one in Iraq.

Read the rest at the NY Times

Marines in Iraq may shift to Afghanistan

Marine Corps generals have told high-level civilian and military officials that as the Marines' mission in the once-violent Anbar province in Iraq winds down, the corps is ready -- even eager -- to redeploy combat troops to Afghanistan where fighting has increased, officials said Wednesday.

Such a shift could allow the Army units in Afghanistan to either be bolstered by the Marines or deployed to Iraq...

While the idea is being considered at the Pentagon and the commands in Baghdad and Afghanistan, it is not likely to change the plans of Marines from Camp Pendleton set to deploy to Iraq in the next three months, military officials said...

Some 11,000 troops from two regiments and a headquarters battalion are set to return to Iraq as responsibility for Anbar shifts from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force to the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

The Marines would need some lead time to shift training emphasis from Iraq to Afghanistan but that could probably be accomplished by early next year, officials said.

Read the rest at the LA Time

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