Thursday, August 30, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- August 30th edition

August 30, 2003: A soldier with the 327th Infantry Regiment monitors the streets of a village in west Iraq, part of an operation to search five villages for insurgents.

August 30, 2002:

Israel sees opportunity in possible US strike on Iraq

It echoes the hawks in the Bush administration, but Israel has its own agenda in backing a US attack on Iraq. As Egypt and other Arab allies issue vehement warnings to dissuade Washington, Israel's fear is that the US will back off.

"If the Americans do not do this now," said Israeli Deputy Defense Minister and Labor Party member Weizman Shiry on Wednesday, "it will be harder to do it in the future. In a year or two, Saddam Hussein will be further along in developing weapons of mass destruction. It is a world interest, but especially an American interest to attack Iraq."

"And as deputy defense minister, I can tell you that the United States will receive any assistance it needs from Israel," he added.

Viewed through the eyes of Israel's hawkish leaders, however, a US strike is not about Iraq only. Decisionmakers believe it will strengthen Israel's hand on the Palestinian front and throughout the region. Deputy Interior Minister Gideon Ezra suggested this week that a US attack on Iraq will help Israel impose a new order, sans Arafat, in the Palestinian territories.

"The more aggressive the attack is, the more it will help Israel against the Palestinians. The understanding would be that what is good to do in Iraq, is also good for here," said Ezra. He said a US strike would "undoubtedly deal a psychological blow" to the Palestinians.

Read the rest at the Christian Science Monitor

August 30, 2003:

Saudi extremists said to be fighting in Iraq

Despite official denials, there have been signs for months that Saudi Muslim extremists have traveled to Iraq to take on U.S.-led forces.

Internet memorials to those who died fighting the Americans have popped up and Saudis are quietly swapping tales said to be from the front lines. Many of the men going to Iraq had previously fought in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia and were experts on guerrilla warfare, said Abdullah Bjad al-Otaibi, who once counted himself among the extremists and now writes about them for Saudi newspapers.

Saudi extremists are "looking to die and the quickest way to heaven, as far as they're concerned, is fighting infidels, in this case represented by the U.S. forces in Iraq," al-Otaibi said. "Nothing inflames their emotions like the presence of U.S. troops in a Muslim country. The presence of the troops in Iraq, especially with the instability there, is like a magnet to them."

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

US needs Muslim soldiers: Abizaid

America’s top military man in Iraq said on Friday he wanted more Muslim peacekeepers and better intelligence rather than US troop reinforcements to tackle the hit-and-run attacks still plaguing occupation forces.

Gen John Abizaid’s comments came after a British soldier was killed in southern Iraq and more US troops wounded as resistance to the US-led occupation continued unabated five months after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

European countries opened debate on helping with the peacekeeping effort after Washington said it might hand some responsibilities over to the United Nations, with France calling for a “real international force” in Iraq.

“We’ve got to get more of an Iraqi face on the security establishment and we need to have more international participation in the international coalition force,” US Central Command chief Abizaid told The New York Times.

His comments came amid a growing realization in the United States that rebuilding Iraq will be more difficult and more costly than had been forseen and that more US troops may be needed to improve all-round security.

However, Gen Abizaid said he favoured seeing more peacekeepers from countries like Turkey and Pakistan and accelerating the training of a new Iraqi army to counter the image of a US-dominated occupation.

Read the rest at the Dawn

US decree strips thousands of their jobs

Tarik al-Kubaisy, vice-president of the Iraqi Society of Psychiatrists, is a worried man. It's not just that the queue of patients suffering from severe stress disorders in Iraq's war-torn society is growing longer by the day.

Nor that a country of 25 million has fewer than 100 psychiatrists and many are planning to emigrate now that Saddam Hussein's restrictions on foreign travel have gone.

The other concern for Dr Kubaisy, who was awarded a London University PhD after four years at the Maudsley hospital, is that the Americans have taken away his job.

Like many young Iraqi professionals, he joined the Ba'ath party several years before Saddam became its leader and turned Iraq into a one-party state. But under Order Number One, issued by Paul Bremer, Iraq's US administrator - the so-called "de-Ba'athification" decree - Dr Kubaisy's position as a professor in Baghdad University's college of medicine has ended.

When Baghdad University and Iraq's other colleges re-open next week, around 2,000 senior staff have been told to stay at home, Dr Kubaisy estimates. Although they were Ba'ath party members, none was connected to the former regime's security apparatus.

"It's collective punishment. It's conviction without any charge," Dr Kubaisy said yesterday. "I'm becoming a bit paranoid but I think the Americans intend to force Iraqi brains to go abroad".

Coalition officials argue that every Ba'athist has not been purged. Only those who held one of its top four ranks are barred from public service.

"The de-Ba'athification decree is the most popular thing we have done here," a senior coalition official said.

It was strongly promoted by Washington neo-conservatives like Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence, and his friend, Ahmed Chalabi, a businessman convicted in Jordan of fraud who is now a member of Iraq's governing council.

"The problem is they didn't look at who were really leaders. They made the issue of rank too important and went down too low," said Husam al-Rawi, a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a professor in Baghdad University's architecture department. "Instead of targeting a thousand or a few hundred people, they targeted 80,000"...

The de-Ba'athification decree is also causing turmoil in government ministries, hospitals and other bodies considered part of the civil service. Anyone in the top three levels of management loses their job if he or she was a party member, regardless of rank.

"History teaches us that victors have to be magnanimous, but what are we seeing here? A new society created on the basis of hatred and revenge," said a senior official who declined to be named.

"When I joined the party in the 1970s, it was the party of oil nationalisation, eradicating illiteracy, autonomy for the Kurds, and national reconciliation ... Then Saddam destroyed the party. He executed more Ba'athists than anyone else ... Most of us felt relieved when he was overthrown.

"When this war began to loom, we were in an intellectual dilemma. Mounting an insurrection against the regime meant helping the powers which wanted to invade us. But if we supported the dictatorship, it was against our basic interests."

Anger was the prevailing mood among large sections of the Baghdad middle class, he said. People felt criminalised.

The de-Ba'athification decree provides for appeals and exemptions, if a person has the support of staff, for example, and their jobs are judged indispensable. A petition for Prof Rawi, signed by 350 students and 30 staff, was sent to the US administration two months ago, so far to no avail.

With the weeks ticking by and universities about to re-open, most sacked academics have lost hope. The decree says nothing about protecting pensions and they may not be paid. At least half the 2,000 university staff who have been dismissed are likely to lose their government housing too.

Prof Rawi said this violated the fourth Geneva convention. "An occupier cannot dismiss people from jobs, administer collective punishment, and discriminate against people on the basis of political belief".

A coalition spokesman said that only between 15,000 and 30,000 people had been affected: "The suggestion that there are lots and lots of innocent people who have been unfairly dismissed is not true. Less than 5% of the Ba'ath party members are covered".

Read the rest at the Guardian

August 30, 2004:

Top U.S. general in Iraq sent memo authorizing use of dogs to scare prisoners

Early last September, as attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq were spiking and the military was under pressure to extract more information from prisoners, the senior U.S. military commander in Iraq sent a secret cable to his boss at U.S. Central Command outlining more-aggressive interrogation methods he planned to authorize immediately.

The Sept. 14 cable signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez listed several dozen strategies for extracting information, drawn partly from what officials now say was an outdated and improperly permissive Army field manual.

But it added one used on suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but not previously approved for use in Iraq: "Exploit Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations."

"Enclosed is the policy modeled on the one implemented for interrogation conducted at Gitmo," Sanchez said in his cable, referring to Guantánamo Bay.

It authorized not only exploiting prisoners' "fear" of dogs but also the use of isolation; "sleep management"; "yelling, loud music, and light control ... to create fear, disorient detainees and capture shock"; deception, including fake documents and reports; and "stress positions," such as forced kneeling for as many as four hours at a time.

The cable placed no restrictions on the use of dogs on "detainees" and "security internees," but said any use involving enemy prisoners of war would require Sanchez's direct approval.

Within one month, Sanchez's cable was rescinded on instructions from senior officials at U.S. Central Command and replaced with a more cautious memo that allowed the use of muzzled dogs during interrogations only when Sanchez gave his direct approval — something he told investigators he was never asked to do.

Sanchez's order calling on police dog handlers to help intimidate detainees at Abu Ghraib prison into talking — a practice later seen in searing photographs — was one of a handful of documents written by senior officials that Army officials now say helped sow the seeds of prison abuse in Iraq.

They did so, according to an Army report released Wednesday, by lending credence to the idea that aggressive interrogation methods were sanctioned by officers going up the chain of command.

The text of the Sanchez cable was not included in public copies of the Army's report, but was obtained by The Washington Post from a government official upset by what Sanchez approved.

The authors of the Army report did not accuse Sanchez of directly instigating abuse, and they did not cite the contents of his memo in the unclassified version...

Whatever Sanchez's intent or policy, the practice of "abusing detainees with dogs started almost immediately" after the Army brought several dog teams to Abu Ghraib in November 2003, the report said. No one above the military grade of the top intelligence commander at Abu Ghraib was legally "culpable" for the abuse, the Army report concluded.

Read the rest at the Seattle Times

Prison abuse suspect called willing participant

A soldier already convicted in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal testified Monday that fellow Army reservist Pfc. Lynndie England was a willing participant in creating the “human pyramid” of naked Iraqi detainees shown in infamous photographs from Iraq.

Pvt. Jeremy C. Sivits testified at a hearing in England’s case that he helped escort one detainee into the Baghdad prison one night in December 2003. He said a sergeant who was in charge yelled at England and another soldier for “stomping on the fingers and toes” of a detainee.

After that sergeant left, Sivits testified, he watched as Spc. Charles Graner Jr. and others stacked seven naked detainees, who had bags over their heads, in the human pyramid and photographed them.

The photos included shots of England, 21, smiling and pointing at one detainee’s genitals and posing behind the pyramid.

“Corporal Graner seemed like he was enjoying it,” said Sivits, of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company. “Pfc. England was sitting in his lap, having a good time.”

Several soldiers have testified that England was Graner’s girlfriend, and he has been described as the father of the child she is due to deliver in October.

Sivits pleaded guilty in the scandal and is serving a year in prison. He testified by telephone Monday from the brig at Camp Lejeune.

England is one of seven members of the 372nd charged in the scandal.

Read the rest at Newsweek

Bush Calls Iraq Invasion a 'Catastrophic Success'

President Bush on Sunday defended the invasion of Iraq, calling it a "catastrophic success" despite continued violence and the lack of weapons that drove the country to war.

"We did not find the stockpiles that we thought would be there," Bush said at a rally in the northern part of West Virginia, a swing state he won in 2000 that remains vital to his re-election.

"I want to remind you that Saddam Hussein had the capability of making weapons of mass destruction, and he could have passed that capability on," Bush said a day before his nominating convention opened in New York.

Bush, in an interview with Time magazine, suggested he still would have gone into Iraq, but with different tactics had he known "that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."

He called the swift military offensive that led to the fall of Baghdad in April 2003 "a catastrophic success".

Read the rest at Fox News

August 30, 2005:

The president's sacrifice

The White House announced this afternoon that George W. Bush will cut short his vacation so that he can oversee the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. As the Washington Post explains it, Bush's advisors are "sensitive to the image of a president vacationing amid the hurricane crisis."

That's fair enough. When the death toll is climbing, when rescue teams are still searching for the missing, when homes are under water and without power -- well, a certain amount of respect and common sense might suggest that it's not a good time to be playing Cowboy President down in Crawford.

But isn't it also fair to ask, what about Iraq? By our count, 71 Americans have been killed in Iraq since Bush arrived in Crawford on Aug. 2. The president didn't return to Washington on Aug. 3, when 14 Marines were killed near Haditha. He didn't return on Aug. 9, when five National Guardsmen and a soldier were killed in separate incidents. He didn't return when Iraqi negotiators failed to meet a deadline , then failed to meet a deadline , then failed to meet a deadline , then failed to meet a deadline and then failed to reach agreement on a draft constitution.

Instead, the president stayed in Crawford, bicycling with Lance Armstrong and avoiding Cindy Sheehan while making the occasional side trip to Utah, to Idaho, to an RV park in Arizona and finally to an Air Force Base in California. That's where the president was this morning , commemorating the 60th anniversary of V-J Day and talking about the "sacrifice" -- he used the word seven times -- that Americans have always been willing to make in times of war.

Read the rest at Salon

August 30, 2006:

Soldier's Diary: Soldiers Came to Iraq For Each Other

With our time here coming to a close, I was struggling a bit to think of something to write about. I had a small entry ready to send out last night, but then the news came over the net, we had lost another soldier to an IED strike. Once again, a memorial ceremony will be conducted early next week.

We have completed packing our containers and watch more of our replacements show up. The show is still ours, and a good chunk of the incoming unit has flown up to Taji in order to attend the COIN academy. The academy is where newly arrived units' leadership get instruction on the latest tactics and procedures for fighting a counterinsurgency (COIN). The instructors are soldiers who have fought here, and include leaders from units who are still in the fight.

I thought it would now be a good time to reflect on our year here, and write about some of those thoughts. The first thing I will talk about is probably the easiest to discuss — why we are here in Iraq. As with any of my entries, take it for what it is: One soldier's perspective. We still have our collective goals and missions but that is not the focus for this entry.

When I was on leave, I had many discussions and heard many reasons why U.S. soldiers are in Iraq. The opinions varied from person to person, and when you turn on a TV, or read a paper, there always seems to be an op-ed piece with someone explaining what brought us here.

The opinions have a wide range; some will tell you we are here for the noblest of causes — to bring democracy to the freedom loving people of Iraq. Others will tell you we came over here for oil, to keep the price of oil up, and others will say to keep oil prices down. Some say we are fighting for the president, while others will say we are fighting for Halliburton.

You can read stories about soldiers who refused to come over here. Some go to Canada, others call the media to make their case. Some people make them out to be heroes. The immediate thought is they have no idea what is means to be a soldier. The real heroes in those cases are the soldiers who came over and are doing the job for them.

When my brigade operations officer was promoted a couple of months back, he told us why he loved being a soldier so much. If you love being a soldier, it's because you love soldiers. It never really hit me until he said that. Combine those words with a year spent in south Baghdad and you quickly realize why you are deployed over here.

When I got into the airplane to come over here, there were no political thoughts, just thoughts on the soldier boarding in front of me, and the soldier walking up the ladder behind me. When I took my seat, the thoughts were focused on the soldier sitting to my left and to my right.

When you go overseas for a deployment, you understand there are risks you are taking. You put your life in danger and you may be asked to take the lives of others, be it directly or indirectly. Despite all the risks associated with our job, we go to work each day, knowing each of us is a small cog in a big wheel. The hope is if you do your job, perform it to the best of your ability, you made it possible for someone, at least one person to come back and return to their family.

I am not a big fan of the movie "Black Hawk Down," but there is a great scene near the end with the character portrayed by Eric Bana. He explains to a young NCO [non commissioned officer] why he is out fighting, and tells him 'it's about the guy next to you.'

We did not come here for democracy; we did not come here for oil. We came here for each other. If you cannot understand that, I am sorry, but I can explain it no further.

Read the rest at Fox News