Monday, August 06, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- August 6th edition

August 6, 2003: A U.S. army military policeman stands guard as Iraqi firemen extinguish a fire outside a Baghdad shop selling chemicals following a car bombing which killed one.

August 6, 2002:

Sources: Bush briefed on Iraq war planning

U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks outlined the state of planning for a possible attack on Iraq at a Monday White House meeting of the National Security Council attended by President Bush and his top advisers, administration sources said Monday.

Administration officials portrayed the meeting as a "routine update," but Pentagon sources told CNN that the "concept of operations" for toppling Saddam Hussein, while not in final form, is "well along."

One senior Pentagon official said Franks, chief of the Army's Central Command, would brief Bush on "a good proposal for a plan" to use military force to oust the Iraqi leader.

Another official said the Iraq war plans are continuing to evolve. "It is an iterative process," the official said.

Pentagon officials continue to say no action is imminent, and it was not known if Bush was expected to make any decisions after Monday's briefing.

The president arrived at the White House just before the meeting after spending the weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine. He is scheduled to travel Tuesday to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Franks spent several hours earlier Monday meeting at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his top military and civilian officials.

Read the rest at CNN

August 6, 2003:

Site of Iraq horrors still a prison ... for now

Abu Ghurayb, the largest prison in Iraq, has too many horrible memories to remain standing, said Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade.

“It’s time for a fresh start,” said Karpinski, who is in charge of all of Iraq’s current prisoners and detainees. “This is an interim facility — we don’t intend to have it open in 10 years.”

At some point down the road, Abu Ghurayb will be dismantled as a prison complex, replaced by a billion-dollar prison that will be built elsewhere in the Baghdad vicinity, said Karpinski, whose unit is from Uniondale, Long Island, N.Y.

But in the meantime, U.S. MPs have no choice but to work with what they have, including Al Ghurayb, which is about 30 miles outside of Baghdad’s city center. Other detention facilities are located at the Baghdad airport and in Tallil, Abu Hayaf, Mosul, Najaf and elsewhere.

As Iraq’s courts slowly grind back into action, and the coalition forces start getting more efficient at administering their own procedures, MPs and contractors are working on improving living conditions for detainees.

The Abu Ghurayb prison is undergoing a major refurbishment, which has cost $3 million to $5 million to date, Karpinski said.

Cells that once held 100 men will now hold eight, each provided with his own iron cot, mattress, washing bucket and toiletries. The cell blocks won’t have air conditioning, but have ceiling fans and a central exhaust system to circulate air.

Iraqi contractors also are rebuilding showers, latrines and cafeterias.

The refurbished complex, with a maximum capacity of 10,000 prisoners, should be ready for prisoners in about two weeks, Karpinski said.

Read the rest at Stars and Stripes

August 6, 2004:

Iraqi Prison Abuse Not a Strategy, Officer Says

A top military intelligence commander who worked at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq said Thursday that abuse of detainees at the facility was not part of an official interrogation strategy and instead represented "unacceptable behavior."

Capt. Carolyn A. Wood spoke publicly for the first time at a preliminary court hearing here, testifying via telephone that her military intelligence unit did not encourage the sexual humiliation and physical abuse of detainees that touched off an international scandal. Wood said her command -- and other senior officers in Iraq -- signed off on some controversial interrogation tactics but said that such methods were carefully applied and never involved physical contact.

Wood said she approved of using physical training exercises and stress positions to wear down detainees at least once or twice between August and December of 2003, but she said she never had a request to keep a detainee naked or to use humiliation. She said she was floored when she saw photographs that implicated several soldiers in the abuse of naked and shackled detainees.

"Words can't describe my reaction," Wood testified in a call from Arizona, where she is based. "I was shocked. I was very disappointed. I was outraged."

But Wood said at least one of the officially approved methods of harsh interrogation -- the use of muzzled military dogs -- appears to have been misapplied. She said Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, told her he was bringing in the dogs shortly before she left the base, and photographic evidence and statements from dog handlers at Abu Ghraib indicate that unmuzzled dogs later were used to frighten detainees during interrogations. The dogs were brought within inches of detainees' faces, and at least one detainee was bitten.

When asked whether the use of unmuzzled dogs would be inappropriate, Wood said: "Yes, I believe it would. But it would have to be very close and unmuzzled."

Capt. Brent Fitch, a staff judge advocate and Pappas's legal adviser, testified that he saw one or two requests each week for deviations from the standard set of interrogation tactics, requests that needed approval from Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then the highest-ranking U.S. officer in Iraq. Fitch said military intelligence officials also kept International Committee of the Red Cross investigators from seeing certain prisoners at Abu Ghraib on a "temporary" basis, using a provision of the Geneva Conventions that allows them to secretly hold detainees for a "real imperative necessity." He said about eight such prisoners were kept from the ICRC during a visit in December.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

August 6, 2005:

Bombs becoming biggest killers in Iraq

Bombs like the titanic roadside blast that killed 14 Marines last week are becoming the biggest killers of U.S. troops in Iraq, surpassing bullets, rockets and mortars, as insurgents wage an unconventional war that has boosted the American death toll beyond 1,820.

This isn't a conflict like the World Wars or Vietnam, where waves of enemy ground troops backed by artillery attacked American firebases. Gone too are the intense street battles waged last year in cities like Najaf, Karbala and Fallujah, or in Nasiriyah during the 2003 invasion.

Americans still die in mortar strikes and gunfights, like the six Marine snipers killed Aug. 1 in a rebel ambush. But surprise blasts — when the road erupts without warning or an explosives-packed car disintegrates into a fireball — have become the hallmarks of the Iraq war.

Since the end of May, more than 65 percent of U.S. military deaths in Iraq have resulted from insurgent bombings, compared to nearly 23 percent in conventional combat and 12 percent in accidents, according to figures complied by The Associated Press.

In recent weeks, rebel bombs have been responsible for 70 percent to 80 percent of American soldiers killed or wounded, command spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Boylan said this week.

Of the 54 American troops who died in Iraq in July, 42 were killed either by roadside bombs, car bombs or in one case a land mine. So far this month, 29 soldiers and Marines have died — all but nine from bombs.

These figures document an evolution in rebel tactics. Looking back to the start of the U.S.-led war in March 2003, about 32 percent of American military deaths have been from improvised explosions, suicide bombs or other such blasts — compared to about 48 percent in firefights and other combat. Just over 19 percent died in accidents.

The insurgent bomb strategy is frustrating for American troops, who watch their comrades die without being able to retaliate as they've been trained: with punishing return fire.

Instead, the bombs are either piloted to their target by a suicide driver or detonated remotely by an attacker who can disappear into a crowd of civilians.

"That's the insurgent strategy, this pervasive insecurity. You can't fight against an unseen enemy," said RAND Corp. counterinsurgency expert Bruce Hoffman.

Read the rest at the Times-Picayune

August 6, 2006:

Gays flee Iraq as Shia death squads find a new target

Hardline Islamic insurgent groups in Iraq are targeting a new type of victim with the full protection of Iraqi law, The Observer can reveal. The country is seeing a sudden escalation of brutal attacks on what are being called the 'immorals' - homosexual men and children as young as 11 who have been forced into same-sex prostitution.

There is growing evidence that Shia militias have been killing men suspected of being gay and children who have been sold to criminal gangs to be sexually abused. The threat has led to a rapid increase in the numbers of Iraqi homosexuals now seeking asylum in the UK because it has become impossible for them to live safely in their own country.

Ali Hili runs the Iraqi LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) group out of London. He used to have 40 volunteers in Iraq but says after recent raids by militia in Najaf, Karbala and Basra he has lost contact with half of them. They move to different safe houses to protect their identities, but their work is incredibly dangerous.
Eleven-year-old Ameer Hasoon al-Hasani was kidnapped by policemen from the front of his house last month. He was known in his district to have been forced into prostitution. His father Hassan told me he searched for his son for three days after his abduction, then found him, shot in the head. A copy of the death certificate confirms the cause of death.

Homosexuality is seen as so immoral that it qualifies as an 'honour killing' to murder someone who is gay - and the perpetrator can escape punishment. Section 111 of Iraq's penal code lays out protections for murder when people are acting against Islam.

'The government will do nothing to tackle this issue. It's really desperate when people get to the stage they're trading their children for money. They have no alternatives because there are no jobs,' Hili says.

Graphic photos obtained from Baghdad sources too frightened to identify themselves as having known a gay man, and seen by the Observer, show other gay Iraqis who have been executed. One shows two men, suspected of having a relationship, blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs - guns at the ready behind their heads - awaiting execution. Another picture captured on a mobile phone shows a gay man being beaten to death. Yet another shows a corpse being dragged through the streets after his execution.

One photograph is of the mutilated, burnt body of 38-year-old Karar Oda from Sadr City. He was kidnapped by the Badr Brigade in mid-June. They work with the Ministry of Interior and are the informal armed wing of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who make up the largest Shia bloc in the Iraq parliament. Oda's family were given an arrest warrant signed by the Ministry of Interior which said their son deserved to be arrested and killed for immorality as a homosexual. His body was found ten days later.

Dr Haider Jaber is currently seeking asylum in the UK after fleeing Iraq in 2004. He says the abuse started to escalate in his neighbourhood after the invasion. One night, walking home from work, he was surrounded by five men, who told him he had to become a heterosexual Muslim. He says they abused him for wearing jeans and a T-shirt with English writing, and told him he should adopt traditional robes. As a crowd gathered to watch, he was then beaten and kicked to the ground.

The threats continued. Armed militiamen broke into his family home and then his workplace looking for him. Jaber finally left the country in April. His partner, Ali. was not so lucky. Jaber learned of his Ali's murder a few days after leaving Iraq. 'They didn't send the body to the family to have a grave or a flower garden. They said he didn't deserve it because he was an animal,' he said.

Ibaa Alawi has also fled Iraq. A former employee at the British embassy in Baghdad, Alawi met Tony Blair on one of his surprise visits to Iraq. He said Blair was concerned about the safety of the Iraqis working there and praised their bravery. 'Tony Blair said the British government was thankful for our efforts and knew we were putting our lives at risk working for the British embassy in Baghdad.'

Alawi is upset the same government is not willing to help him out. He believes the Home Office will refuse him asylum because it would have to face up to the level of chaos in Iraq, and how much influence is being waged by radical Islamists - and face the fact that, for some, there is still no freedom in Iraq.

Read the rest at the Guardian