Wednesday, December 29, 2004

"With these things it is just as it is when one drinks water. One can tell for oneself whether the water is warm or cold."

Asia Tsunami Death Toll Soars Past 77,000

ABC News - 40 minutes ago An uprooted tree lies on the beach as damaged buildings of Indian Air Force officers, where more than 100 people reportedly were killed by tidal waves, is seen in background, in Nicobar, in India's southeastern Andaman and Nicobar Islands,...

Meanwhile in Iraq....

57 killed in Mosul and Baghdad violence

Daily Times - 1 hour agoBAGHDAD: US troops killed 32 guerrillas in fierce clashes in Mosul and 32 people were killed, including six police, when Iraqi security forces were lured into searching a home of suspected foreign fighters in Baghdad that was rigged with explosives ...

Real Battles and Empty Metaphors

Real wars are not metaphors. And real wars have a beginning and an end. Even the horrendous, intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine will end one day.
But this anti-terror war can never end. That is one sign that it is not a war but, rather, a mandate for expanding the use of American power.

Susan Sontag dies aged 71 - Susan Sontag, the writer and activist whose powerful intellect helped shape modern American thinking for nearly half a century, died yesterday at the age of 71 Dec 28, 2004
Title links to essay

Son of Chicago mayor joins U.S. Army

Des Plaines, IL, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and his wife, Maggie, looked on Wednesday as their son Patrick was sworn in as a member of the U.S. Army in a brief ceremony.

Specialist Patrick Daley, 29, will undergo 20 weeks of training at Fort Benning, Ga., to become an Airborne-qualified infantry soldier. The young Daley attended West Point before dropping out in his freshman year and this summer earned a masters of business degree with honors from the University of Chicago.

Patrick Daley easily could have applied for officer's training but said he wants to start at the bottom as an enlisted man and serve his country.

Asked about serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, he said: "I think pushing yourself to try to get there, that doesn't make any sense... You're not going to say no because that's what your job is. If your unit's going, you go."

American Military Casualties in Iraq to Date

Deaths Since war began (3/19/03): 1328
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03) 1191
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 864
Since Handover (6/29/04): 464 American
Wounded Official Estimated Total Wounded: 9981


Link to Casualties in Iraq The Human Cost of Occupation
click title

25 Insurgents Killed, .5 Civilians Killed, 7 Iraq Police killed, 15 American Soldiers injured

Insurgents Are Killed Trying to Overrun U.S. Outpost in Mosul

By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and KHALID AL-ANSARY AGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 29 - United States troops and warplanes killed at least 25 insurgents who used car bombs and rocket-propelled grenades to try to overrun an American combat outpost in Mosul on Wednesday afternoon, the American military said. It was the fiercest fighting the restive northern city has seen in weeks.

Fifteen American soldiers were wounded, military officials said.

The two-hour battle followed an ambush on Tuesday night in Baghdad where insurgents tricked the Iraqi police into raiding a booby-trapped home and then detonated a powerful bomb that killed at least seven police officers and 25 others, Iraqi officials said on Wednesday. Most of the civilian victims were family members who were crushed to death when the blast flattened nearby homes, the officials said.

Title links to New York Times article

Monday, December 27, 2004

"Many among them had never seen a human corpse before."

Mortuary Unit in Iraq Trying on Marines
By NICK WADHAMSAssociated Press Writer
December 27, 2004, 2:41 PM EST

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- When U.S. servicemen and insurgents die in Fallujah, the bodies are brought back to camp and laid on a concrete floor under a tent hidden behind blast walls topped with concertina wire. The sign outside says: "Do Not Enter."

Five men check the corpses and put them in refrigerators. Within 72 hours, the slain American will arrive at Delaware's Dover Air Force Base in a flag-draped coffin, while the Iraqi will be buried in a plot outside Fallujah facing Mecca.

This is the work of Mortuary Affairs, the Marine unit that catalogues the remains of American servicemen who die in combat, referred to as angels, as well as the Iraqi guerrillas they fight and civilian victims. These Marines must cope with one of the most psychologically punishing but unavoidable tasks of war.

They are shunned by their peers because of a superstition that contact with them brings bad luck. Yet some don't want to go home and leave their fellow Marines who are among the few who have witnessed the same horrors. They must try to stay sane even as they are confronted with the effects of gruesome killings by the shrapnel-filled roadside bombs set by insurgents and terrible U.S. firepower.

"Some of the guys, when it gets dark, don't want to go out by themselves. Sometimes they feel like somebody's watching them when they know there isn't," said Lance Cpl. Boyce Kerns, a 24-year-old from Greenville, S.C. "Some of the stuff we've seen you wouldn't see in the worst horror movies and it leaves a little imprint."

It may be unsettling for soldiers and Marines to pass the Mortuary Affairs compound as they prepare to go out into Fallujah's dangerous streets. But the unit's presence here reflects a change in thinking meant to cut down on missing in action and get the dead sent home as quickly as possible.

Instead of working hundreds of miles from the battlefield, Mortuary Affairs units operate just minutes from it, sometimes processing a Marine's corpse just hours after he dies. In this area west of Baghdad, the unit has 15-20 servicemen at three camps: Taqaddum, Al Asad and Fallujah.

"What was happening was a lot of bodies didn't have positive IDs," said Gunnery Sgt. Byron Bess, 37, from Washington. "By the time they got to the area, they were unidentified and you couldn't get in touch with the units because they'd pushed forward."

Bess said the change is one reason there is only one American serviceman currently listed as missing in action in Iraq, Army Spc. Keith M. Maupin, of Batavia, Ohio.

Since Oct. 7, Mortuary Affairs has processed 84 Americans along with 26 Iraqi soldiers and 525 insurgents. During the worst of the Fallujah fighting, which began Nov. 8 and lasted a week, the unit handled up to about 10 Marines a day and many more insurgents.

The unit is still pulling Iraqi bodies from the city. On a recent day, four sets of Iraqi remains arrived -- one, just a pile of bones and rags, another a man clad in black and wearing running shoes, had been on the street for days.

Many in the Mortuary Affairs unit at Camp Fallujah are reservists, former cooks and supply clerks from a unit in Washington. On a recent day, their routine was perfectly normal. Several sat around a television watching "Saving Private Ryan," others laughed and teased each other, while some were about to leave to play video games.

Some, like Kerns, volunteered for the work because they just wanted to join the Iraq fight no matter what. Others decided to do it so their colleagues wouldn't have to, and some were assigned.

They were sent to a two-week training course that included a stop at the Baltimore morgue to get accustomed to the sight and smell of death. Many among them had never seen a human corpse before.

"As for seeing the insurgents dead, I know that these guys were out there killing Marines, they were given a choice whether to surrender or not, so seeing their corpses mangled up doesn't bother you," said Cpl. Jeffrey Keating, a 26-year-old from Queens, N.Y. "But seeing the Marines dead, that hurts a little bit more. But you just got to see it as a job."

The 16 Marines who process the dead, working eight at a time in 24-hour shifts, follow the same routine.

When a body arrives, it is brought inside the tent and placed on a concrete floor. Two men are the "dirty hands" who inspect the body, catalogue wounds and check for unexploded weapons. One sorts through the slain person's belongings. Two more are the "clean hands," writing down what the others find.

The dead American's name, social security numbers and place of death are written into a hardcover lime-green log book. The body is given an evacuation number and then placed in a body bag -- a stack of unused bags labeled "pouch, human remains w/6 handles" sits to the side of the tent.

Iraqi dead go to a white refrigerator while American dead go to one of two camouflage refrigerators on the other side of the tent. The entire process usually takes about 15 minutes.

American bodies are then sent to a U.S. base in Doha, Qatar and on to Dover, while Iraqi bodies are buried in a plot outside Fallujah marked with coordinates from a global positioning system so relatives can identify the remains later.

"We take a picture, make sure there's no unexploded ordnance or personal effects, and look for identification," said Marine Cpl. John Belizario, 23, of Washington. "We bury them in a plot -- four rows of 10, all facing Mecca as a sign of respect, basically."

When the work is finished, the Marines clean up and go to chow hall. Anyone who knows who they are stays away or barely acknowledges them because talking to them is considered bad luck.

Video shows bombing on U.S. base near Mosul


Posted on Mon, Dec. 27, 2004
The Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq — A video posted by an Iraqi insurgent group Sunday purported to show last week's suicide attack at a U.S. base near Mosul, with a fireball rising from a tent.
The footage showed a black-garbed gunman wearing an explosives belt around his body — apparently the suicide bomber, identified in the tape as Abu Omar al-Mosuli — bidding farewell to his comrades. The video gives no further details about the bomber.

The Ansar al-Sunnah Army had earlier said it would release a video of last Tuesday's attack, which killed 22 persons, including 18 U.S. service members and civilian contractors.
The bombing — the deadliest attack on a U.S. base in Iraq — has prompted a U.S. military investigation into how the bomber got onto the heavily guarded site and how security at bases can be improved. Three Iraqi National Guardsmen and a fourth “non-U.S. person” also were killed. The military has not said whether that fourth man was the bomber.

The U.S. military has said the attacker probably was wearing an Iraqi military uniform, and one general said the Iraqi security forces may have been infiltrated. The Iraqi chief of staff, Gen. Babaker B. Shawkat Zebari, said in an interview that the bomber may have bought a uniform from the market but was not a member of the Iraqi security forces.

In the first section of the video — with a time signature of Dec. 20, a day before the attack — three gunmen wearing black masks and clothes and holding automatic rifles are shown sitting in front of a black banner with the group's name on it. One of them, apparently al-Mosuli, sits on the left, wearing an explosives belt.

The gunman in the center reads a statement describing how the attack will be carried out. No mention is made of wearing a uniform. The authenticity of the video could not be independently verified.

Friday, December 24, 2004

A letter from John Kerry

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones enjoying the holidays. I have been thinking a lot about what our community can do to mark the end of what has been an extraordinary year.

So, I'm writing to invite your participation in one final 2004 act of collective generosity. As a soldier, I remember how much it meant to hear from loved ones - especially at the holidays. So, I thought you and I could work together to make it easier for our soldiers serving in Iraq to phone home and hear a friendly voice.

We've found a program that does just that. Operation Phone Home is run by the USO, which has been an extraordinary friend to American soldiers for decades. The USO buys phone cards at cost and provides them to our soldiers free of charge. You can help the USO help our troops this holiday season right here:

In January, I will go to Iraq to see the situation firsthand and personally visit with our courageous troops who are serving America so well. Nothing would please me more than telling them that hundreds of thousands of us have expressed our thanks to them in this concrete and personal way.

Your gift can help a soldier phone home.

Thanks so much for your constant acts of friendship and your special consideration of this request.
John Kerry

P.S. There are 140,400 U.S. military members serving in Iraq. Any calls they make home to those anxiously awaiting their safe return are at their own expense. A gift of $100 will provide 20 soldiers with a 100-minute phone card. A $1,000 donation would do the same for 200 soldiers. Please help. A friendly and familiar voice can mean so much to a soldier serving America so far away from home.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Poll: Americans' Support for Iraq War slipping

"The Ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over it by the good peole."

Martin Luther King
Shouldn't we Bring Them Home?

Dec 20, 2004 — WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A majority of Americans now say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, a view that has driven down the ratings of both President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Monday.

Fifty-six percent of those questioned, a new high, agreed that the cost of the war outweighs the benefits and is not worth it. That a gain of seven percentage points from a poll conducted in July.

Fifty-seven percent said they disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq and 53 percent disapprove of the way Rumsfeld is handling his job, according to the survey.

However, 60 percent said the Iraqi elections scheduled for late January should go forward regardless of the security situation.

The poll also found that despite growing dissatisfaction with Iraq, most Americans, 58 percent, still say U.S. forces should remain there until order is restored.

U.S. military base attack kills 22

Tue Dec 21, 2004 03:08 PM GMT

By Maher al-Thanoon
MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - A rocket and mortar attack has killed at least 22 people and wounded 50 at a U.S. military base in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a defence official at the Pentagon has said.
The official, who asked not to be identified, said it was unclear how many U.S. troops were among the fatalities in the midday attack on Forward Operating Base Marez.

U.S. military spokesmen in Mosul reported an explosion at midday on Tuesday but said the cause was unclear. CNN said it hit a dining hall, which would have been crowded at lunchtime.

Mortar and rocket attacks on U.S. bases happen daily but are mostly inaccurate and rarely

Monday, December 20, 2004

IN DEPTH: IRAQ -Skeletons in the Closet

Skeletons in the Closet

Brian Stewart CBC News Online December 16, 2003

Saddam Hussein was one of America's most wanted, a man now expected to go on trial for war crimes. But what could come back to haunt the United States and other countries is their relationship with Saddam in the past when they offered support to the man who now faces prosecution. From the beginning of Saddam Hussein's presidency in 1979, there could be few illusions about the brutal nature of his regime. Other governments knew this extreme megalomaniac tortured and murdered political enemies without qualm. Within a year, he launched an unprovoked war on his neighbor, Iran. Yet over the coming decade, he steadily consolidated his frightening power with much help from the outside world. Through the '80s, one of the best friends Saddam ever had was the United States.

Reagan and Bush Sr. advised Saddam on how to fight his war and, most importantly, persuaded other Arab nations to rally behind him with arms supplies.

The massive files on Saddam's crimes show he was already using poison gas in the early '80s when Reagan twice sent Donald Rumsfeld as special envoy to reassure Saddam of America's interest in better relations. Washington not only ignored abuses, it vetoed United Nations moves to condemn Iraq for using chemical weapons.

Excerpts from article from CBS on Line click on title to link

Wonder why:

As Criticism Grows, Bush Offers Support of RumsfeldNew York Times, NY - 3 hours agoBy THOM SHANKER. WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 - President Bush gave full-throated support on Monday to Donald H. Rumsfeld, his embattled defense ...
Bush Defends Rumsfeld, Saying He's Doing 'a Really Fine Job'New York Times, NY - 4 hours agoBy DAVID STOUT. WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 - President Bush strongly defended Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today, declaring that ...

Latest Fatality December 15th, 2004

Casualties in Iraq
The Human Cost of Occupation

American Deaths

Since war began (3/19/03): 1304

Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03) (the list) 1167

Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03):840

Since Handover (6/29/04):440

American Wounded: Official :9844

From Steven Vincent' Blog: In The Red Zone

December 19, 2004

NOTE: Nothing I, or anyone, can say about this issue can equal the AP photographs circulating around the world today [December 20]. Criminal thugs pulling election workers out of their car in Baghdad traffic and executing them in the street. What we see in this atrocity are not "insurgents" "resisting" foreign occupation, but fascists attempting to subvert and destroy the birth of democracy.
For a deeper and more eloquent analysis of the significance of these photographs go to Belmont Club.

Inside opinions:

Monday, December 20, 2004
The Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very Ugly
From Iraqi Bloggers Central:

The Jihadist terrorists and the Thugs R Us Baathists are trying to make the next six weeks in Iraq ones of such bloodshed and carnage that no one will ever forget. Make no mistake about it, they want nothing more than to blow apart into little pieces as many Iraqi men, women, and children ast they can. Over this weekend, they have killed and maimed dozens of innocent bystanders, destroying families and leaving behind so many grieving Iraqi citizens.

(the other) Half of All Americans

Poll: Nearly Half of All Americans Support Restricting Rights of Muslim-Americans

By William Kates Associated Press Writer
Published: Dec 17, 2004

ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) - Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim-Americans, according to a nationwide poll.
The survey conducted by Cornell University also found that Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims' civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.

Researchers also found that respondents who paid more attention to television news were more likely to fear terrorist attacks and support limiting the rights of Muslim-Americans.

"It's sad news. It's disturbing news. But it's not unpredictable," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society. "The nation is at war, even if it's not a traditional war. We just have to remain vigilant and continue to interface."

The survey found 44 percent favored at least some restrictions on the civil liberties of Muslim Americans. Forty-eight percent said liberties should not be restricted in any way.

The survey showed that 27 percent of respondents supported requiring all Muslim-Americans to register where they lived with the federal government. Twenty-two percent favored racial profiling to identify potential terrorist threats. And 29 percent thought undercover agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations to keep tabs on their activities and fund-raising.

Friday, December 17, 2004

How We Really Could Support Our Troops

Published on Wednesday, December 15, 2004 by the Minneapolis Star Tribune
by Susan Lenfestey

".. a gutsy soldier named Thomas Wilson asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld the question heard round the world about why some Guard units have to scrounge the dumps to find makeshift armor for their Humvees. And Rummy answered with the usual callous arrogance that he applies to any situation where his judgment is questioned or his ineptitude exposed.

His answer, along with his insistence that all's hunky-dory in Iraq -- even though the recently leaked CIA memo tells a very different story -- shows his utter lack of compassion for the lives of those he sends "into harm's way." (There's a doozy of a military euphemism.)

So what does it mean to support our troops when the secretary of defense doesn't?

Does it mean contributing to the legal expenses of the eight soldiers who are challenging the Army's stop-loss policy, which extends their service in Iraq well beyond the time that they agreed to serve -- without giving them any clue at the front end that this might happen? (See the Center for Constitutional Rights at

Or does it mean visiting some of the 10,000 wounded and maimed soldiers in a veterans hospital near you? Only if you can. "Out of sight, out of mind" remains this administration's policy when it comes to our war carnage. We know there's a ban on photos of coffins coming home from Iraq, but visitors have reported being turned away from wards housing those trying to recover from the wounds received in Iraq -- young people with missing limbs, shattered skulls, sightless eyes and only a husk of the promise their lives once held.

Given that this administration chooses to wage this heinous war under a veil of secrecy and denial, and that we no longer collectively shoulder the burdens of war by growing victory gardens and rationing everything from butter to gasoline, how do we really show support for our troops? A good start is Operation Truth (

Among soldiers' reports and photos from Iraq you'll find a number of organizations that provide a range of services for these brave, beleaguered troops.

There's Operation Comfort, which provides mental health care, free of charge, to family members who have a loved one serving in the Middle East. Or Books for Soldiers, which ships books, DVDs and other supplies to deployed soldiers as well as those in VA hospitals. Or Salute America's Heroes, an organization created to help severely wounded and disabled veterans rebuild their lives.

If President Bush were to lead by example, he might put some of the $50 million he plans to raise for his inaugural bash into better equipment and better lives for our veterans.
For no money at all he could give our troops a new secretary of defense. One who levels with them, who acknowledges mistakes, and who will not send them to fight an enemy he can't find, in a country that didn't attack us, with support hardly more substantial than a few vinyl yellow ribbons on the sides of their Humvees.

Susan Lenfestey ( is a Minneapolis writer.

The Alleged Arms Broker is Behind Four Air Cargo Firms Used by U.S. Contractors, Officials Say

Published on Tuesday, December 14, 2004 by the Los Angeles Times
by Stephen Braun, Judy Pasternak and T. Christian Miller

Blacklisted Russian Tied to Iraq Deals

WASHINGTON — Air cargo companies allegedly tied to reputed Russian arms trafficker Victor Bout have received millions of dollars in federal funds from U.S. contractors in Iraq, even though the Bush administration has worked for three years to rein in his enterprises.

Planes linked to Bout's shadowy network continued to fly into Iraq, according to government records and interviews with officials, despite the Treasury Department freezing his assets in July and placing him on a blacklist for allegedly violating international arms sanctions.

Largely under the auspices of the Pentagon, U.S. agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers and the Air Force, and the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq until last summer, have allowed their private contractors to do business with the Bout network.

The list of the Bout network's suspected clients over the years includes the Taliban, which allegedly bought airplanes for a secret airlift of arms to Afghanistan. The Taliban is known to have shared weapons with Al Qaeda.

CIA officials expressed concern more than a year ago that air cargo firms linked to Bout were cashing in on U.S.-funded reconstruction efforts....

In a letter to Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.) in June, Paul V. Kelly, an assistant secretary of State for legislative affairs, acknowledged that the department had "inadvertently" allowed contractors to deal with "air charter services believed to be connected with … Bout." Feingold, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has taken a lead role in investigating Bout's activities.

During the chaotic period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bout was among the Russian entrepreneurs who seized opportunities to make a fortune. He built a global air cargo network by obtaining old Russian planes and using them to deliver, among other things, munitions to world trouble spots in defiance of U.N. arms embargoes.

A confidant of dictators, warlords and guerrilla leaders, Bout juggled a murky group of companies for much of the 1990s, transferring his planes' registrations from country to country. His fleet, which grew to nearly 60 aircraft by 2000, often carried legitimate wares such as flowers and fish. But U.N., American and British officials who tracked his activities say his empire's stock in trade was weapons, ammunition and helicopter gunships.

Although Bout is wanted for money laundering by Interpol and Belgian authorities and various agencies raised red flags during the last year, his network continued to do business with some U.S. agencies and their contractors, officials said.

Among the firms holding U.S. government contracts that officials said were using the network's services: FedEx and KBR. The latter, formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root, is a subsidiary of Halliburton, the Houston conglomerate formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney and holder of a massive no-bid contract for reconstruction projects in Iraq.

This is edited down- read whole story at:

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

War funding request may hit $100 billion

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration plans to ask for between $80 billion and $100 billion to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, rather than the $70 billion to $75 billion the White House privately told members of Congress before the election, according to Pentagon and White House officials.

Administration officials said yesterday they have not concluded how much money they will request in a "supplemental" spending package that is scheduled to go to Congress in January.

McCain attacks Rumsfeld on Iraq

Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 17:52 GMT

McCain has made disparaging remarks about Rumsfeld beforeThe outspoken Republican Senator John McCain has said he has "no confidence" in Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over his handling of the war in Iraq.

Mr McCain said there were "strong differences of opinion" between the two men, particularly over troop numbers.

But he refused to call for Mr Rumsfeld to resign, saying who was in the team was up to President George Bush.

Mr Rumsfeld faced a public grilling from his own troops when he visited a US base in Kuwait last week.

The BBC's correspondent at the Pentagon, Nick Childs, says those complaints have continued to reverberate in Washington and the latest attack has put Mr Rumsfeld back in the focus of controversy.

'More troops'

In an interview with the Associated Press news agency, Mr McCain was asked whether he was confident in the secretary's leadership.

He said he remembered responding to a similar question recently: "I said no. My answer is still no. No confidence," he said, according to the agency.

Mr McCain said he believed a further 80,000 army personnel and 20,000 to 30,000 more marines were needed to secure Iraq.

"I have strenuously argued for larger troop numbers in Iraq, including the right kind of troops - linguists, special forces, civil affairs, etc.," Mr McCain said.

"There are very strong differences of opinion between myself and Secretary Rumsfeld on that issue."

900 US children have lost parents in Iraq

900 US children have lost parents in Iraq

by kos Wed Dec 15th, 2004 at 17:02:27 PST

Another facet of Bush's legacy:

Perhaps most heartbreaking are the more than 40 troops who died without ever seeing their children. At least 34 wives were pregnant _ four with twins _ when their husbands died, and another15 had babies while their spouses were deployed. While some of the latter were able to return home on paternity leave, most died before they could.

and we put him in charge...

Iraqi leader attacks US 'errors'

The president of Iraq said coalition actions had created a vacuum.

Iraq's interim president says the United States and Britain made a huge mistake by dismantling the Iraqi army after toppling Saddam Hussein. Ghazi Yawer told the BBC this had created a security vacuum that was partly to blame for the violence.

Detainee Abuse by Marines Is Detailed

Variety of Units In Iraq Involved

By Thomas E. RicksWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, December 15, 2004; Page A01

Marines operating in Iraq over the past two years committed a variety of abuses against Iraqi prisoners, including burning a detainee's hands by igniting alcohol-based cleanser in August 2003, according to internal Defense Department documents released yesterday.

Major story of the week: The question that shook Rumsfeld

When Rumsfeld fielded questions last week from soldiers preparing to move from Kuwait into Iraq, he finally met his match.

Army Specialist Thomas Wilson, 31, asked the Secretary why soldiers are being sent to war in humvees and trucks so vulnerable that troops must forage for "rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that's already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat."

Many of Wilson's 2,300 comrades in the hangar were applauding in agreement
Read Time Magizines artical

South Korean's Leave Iraq

by kos
Mon Dec 8th, 2003 at 01:08:15 PST

Iraqi guerillas: "Mission accomplished".

A week after two of their colleagues were killed in an ambush, the remaining contingent of 60 South Korean contract engineers and technicians working for the U.S. government on a project north of the capital has decided to leave the country.

It is the largest known withdrawal of contractors over security issues and follows a week of confrontations between the workers and their managers that culminated with yelling and punches Sunday afternoon.

The decision by the men, who were working to fix electrical power lines, is likely to delay one of Iraq's most critical reconstruction projects.

Of course, this all begs the question -- why aren't Iraqi contractors being used? Those guys were able to keep the Iraqi grid working pre-war, unlike the US companies now attempting (and failing) at the task.

If you don't know them, don't send it

Pentagon Limits Gifts to Troops

The Defense Department has a stern message for those considering playing Santa Claus this holiday season to troops abroad: If you don't know them, don't send it.

The agency is reminding the public that it does not accept unsolicited packages -- even holiday gifts -- to troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

blame it on the troops?

"You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Dec 9th 2004

Kerry to Visit Iraq During Mideast Trip

December 09, 2004 12:49pm Washington (AP) - Former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry will travel to Iraq next month as the war-torn country prepares for elections.

The Massachusetts senator, who lost his bid for the presidency in November, is expected to visit several Middle East countries, with the focus on the situation in Iraq and the war on terror.
A decorated Vietnam War veteran, Kerry also plans to meet with U.S. troops, including some from Massachusetts, to thank them for their services, spokeswoman April Boyd said Thursday.

During the campaign, Kerry criticized President Bush's handling of the Iraq war. Although Kerry voted in October 2002 to give Bush the authority to wage war, he later voted against additional funds for Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction, arguing that the commander in chief didn't have a solid plan to restore peace.

More U.S. Soldiers Survive War Wounds

Medical WriterDecember 9, 2004, 8:17 AM EST

For every American soldier killed in Iraq, nine others have been wounded and survived -- the highest rate of any war in U.S. history.

It isn't that their injuries were less serious, a new report says. In fact, some young soldiers and Marines have had faces, arms and legs blown off and are now returning home badly maimed. But they have survived thanks, in part, to armor-like vests and fast treatment from doctors on the move with surgical kits in backpacks.

"This is unprecedented. People who lose not just one but two or three extremities are people who just have not survived in the past," said Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who researched military medicine and wrote about it in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

The journal also published a five-page spread of 21 military photographs that graphically depict the horrific injuries and conditions under which these modern-day MASH surgeons operate. "We thought a lot about it," said the journal's editor, Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, and ultimately decided the pictures told an important story.

"This war is producing unique injuries -- less lethal but more traumatic," he said.

In one traumatic case, Gawande tells of an airman who lost both legs, his right hand and part of his face.

"How he and others like him will be able to live and function remains an open question," Gawande writes. remains an open question," Gawande writes.

(follow link to read the story)

Who will own the Election?

Who's plans for the region will win out in the upcomming election Iran's or the U.S.?

Iran Rejects Accusations Over Iraq Vote
Associated Press WriterDecember 9, 2004, 3:47 AM EST

Interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer and Jordan's King Abdullah II, both Sunni Muslims, accused Shiite Muslim-dominated Iran in interviews with the Washington Post newspaper in the United States of trying to influence Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.

Some 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million population is Shiite.

The United States also warned Iran against trying to influence the outcome of Iraq's election on Wednesday, reacting to fears that Tehran was seeking a Shiite-dominated Islamic government in Baghdad. Such an outcome would alter a regional status quo in which Shiites, though they comprise majorities in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain, rule only in non-Arab Iran. Iraq and Bahrain have long had Sunni rulers, including ousted Saddam Hussein.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

James Baker makes a sugestion :Focus on Mid Eastern Peace

It has been argued that it really wasn't the Weapons of Mass destruction that was the promting point for the US invasion of Iraq. Senior Bush Administration officials insist that Saddam's opposition had doomed American efforts to make peace between the Arabs and the Israelis in the 1980s. This was the basis of the neo-conservative refrain that "the road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad." Likewise, this mistaken conviction was part of the reason that Washington quickly shifted its attention from Afghanistan to Iraq, in the belief that Saddam somehow stood behind both the Taliban and al-Qa'ida. It is certainly the case that Administration figures regularly played fast and loose with the paltry evidence suggesting any kind of relationship between Saddam and bin Ladin, but it is also the case that they did so because they were certain that it existed, even if there was no evidence to support it and most of the evidence available suggested the opposite.

So perhaps the real reason for the invasion was peace in the Middle East. But because the US has become bogged down in Iraq -progress with the Middle East has been put on the back burner. Baker suggest that now, after Yasser Arafat death - the time to act is now. Below is a good analysis's from Slate Magazine - and both New York Time OP pieces it references.

war stories
The Fastest Way To Send a Message
Why is James Baker talking to the president via the New York Times op-ed page?
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Thursday, Dec. 2, 2004, at 6:12 PM ET

Is there about to be a breakthrough in U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict? If the signs aren't quite hopeful, they're at least extremely intriguing.

Most intriguing is an op-ed piece in today's New York Times by James A. Baker III, urging President George W. Bush to promote the resumption of negotiations, adding, "The time to start is now." The article is fascinating not so much for what it says but for the fact that Baker wrote it at all.

Baker is not merely the man who was secretary of state during the presidency of Bush's father. He also ran the father's re-election campaign. He led W.'s fight against the Florida recount in the 2000 election—which is to say, he's largely responsible for the son's victory. He is widely known as one of the most closely trusted advisers to the entire Bush family. Last year, when Bush tried to persuade European leaders to forgive Iraqi debt, he sent as emissary not his own secretary of state, Colin Powell, but rather, James Baker—as a signal to one and all that the trip was truly serious.

Baker could have called the president on the phone to talk about the Middle East, or any other subject, anytime he wanted. Why did he send the message through the New York Times?

It's worth recalling the last time Baker wrote a Times op-ed piece. It was in August 2002, as the Bush administration was getting set to invade Iraq. In his piece, Baker supported invasion, but he urged Bush not to "go it alone" and to "reject the advice of those who counsel doing so."

The article raised eyebrows all over Washington—and among foreign policy cognoscenti worldwide—for two reasons. First, it amounted to a critique of Bush's foremost security advisers, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, from inside his own family's circle. Second, it was widely assumed that Baker would not have published such an article without at least the tacit approval of the president's father himself, who, along with Baker, had put together a genuinely broad and successful coalition for the 1991 Gulf War.

The following month, President Bush did go to the U.N. General Assembly—against the advice of Cheney and Rumsfeld—and delivered a stern, eloquent, and well-received speech, calling on the Security Council to threaten Iraq with "serious consequences" if Saddam continued to thumb his nose at U.N. resolutions. (Bush's unilateralists won out in the end, six months later, but Baker's arguments seemed to hold sway for at least a while.)

Today's op-ed appears to have been designed with a similar purpose—to send a message to the president, with the pressure of publication behind it. In 2002, Baker meant to thwart action that Bush was about to take as a result of his advisers (invading Iraq without a coalition). Now he means to incite Bush to take action (jump-starting Arab-Israeli peace talks) against some of his advisers' inclinations.

The premise of Baker's piece is that Yasser Arafat's death has "created a unique opportunity for negotiating peace between Arabs and Israelis." Yes, he writes, the president should "continue with his goal of spreading democracy in the Middle East," and the January elections in Iraq are a "critical step in the right direction." But promoting Arab-Israeli peace is "imperative"—both in itself and for these larger goals.

"The road to peace," Baker writes, "does not run through just Jerusalem or just Baghdad. … Today it runs through both." This is a clear reference to the slogan that Bush's neoconservative advisers liked to recite before the invasion of Iraq: "The road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad." In other words, to topple Saddam would be to remove a leading supporter of Palestinian terrorism; moreover, a stable, democratic Iraq would light a blazing trail of freedom across the Middle East. Once this theory proved fanciful, Bush's critics liked to twist the slogan—the road to Baghdad, they said, runs through Jerusalem. In other words, the insurgency can't be defeated—and America's image in the region can't be repaired—until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is addressed. Baker is telling Bush that the critics are right—the road runs both ways.

Baker allows that Palestinian candidates in the upcoming presidential elections must renounce terrorism. Yet he also writes that Israel should announce that, upon the election of such a Palestinian, "it is prepared to resume substantive negotiations for peace without requiring that all terrorist activities cease in advance." The reason is purely pragmatic: Insisting on such a requirement would "simply empower the terrorists themselves to prevent the resumption of peace negotiations."

Following this advice would require Bush to switch his policies and to apply at least a little pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon—in other words, to "reject the advice" (as Baker put it, in the context of Iraq, two years ago) of those in his inner circle who are fine with letting Sharon do whatever he wants, an attitude that may seem "pro-Israel" but that in fact goes against Israel's long-term interests.

Finally, Baker writes that, while the outcome of talks can't be prejudged, "the plan presented by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000—and rejected by Yasir Arafat—surely offers one plausible place to start." This must have been the hardest passage for Bush to read—as Baker must surely have realized when he wrote it. The primary watchword of George W. Bush's first term was to do the opposite of whatever Bill Clinton did. Baker is telling Bush to get over this neurosis and do the right thing, whatever Clinton may or may not have done.

Baker is probably stepping in at this time, pressuring Bush to get involved in this issue right away, because this is a crucial moment, a rare convergence of opportunities, and Baker—like anyone who's been involved in the delicacies of Middle East peace talks—must be fearful that we might let it pass by.

Violence in the territories has markedly declined since Arafat's death. An apparent moderate, Mahmoud Abbas, is the top candidate to replace Arafat. The announcement by Marwan Barghouti, who is in an Israeli prison for terrorism, that he too might run for the office has been denounced by leading Palestinians and by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Yet in the face of all these trends, a vacuum looms at the top of America's foreign policy apparatus. Powell is a lame-duck secretary of state whose words and actions carry no weight whatever. His replacement, Condoleezza Rice, won't be confirmed for a couple of months at least. Iraq and now Iran are occupying the little space for attention that foreign issues can occupy. Baker is telling his friend that he has to open that space a bit wider to allow for the Arab-Israeli conflict too; that this conflict may hold the key to settling the other conflicts; and that he shouldn't let his advisers—the same advisers who led him astray on Iraq—toss up obstacles on this one.
Fred Kaplan writes the "War Stories" column for Slate. He can be reached at


mber 2, 2004
Talking Our Way to Peace


Two developments - the re-election of President Bush and the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership in the wake of Yasir Arafat's death - have created a unique opportunity for negotiating peace between Arabs and Israelis.

The president should, of course, continue with his goal of spreading democracy in the Middle East. And the planned elections in Iraq this January are a critical step in the right direction. But it is imperative that the president also actively promote peace between Israelis and Arabs.

Stability in Iraq and peace between Palestinians and Israelis can be pursued at the same time. In fact, working toward the latter improves the chances of attaining the former. The road to peace does not run through just Jerusalem or just Baghdad. That is a false choice. Today it runs through both.

The so-called quartet (the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations), which has been working on a "road map" for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis for several years, supports a two-state solution, as do the vast majority of both Palestinians and Israelis. President Bush certainly favors this goal, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel has publicly supported it as well, although in April he said that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza could delay a Palestinian state "for many years."

Only the real hard-liners on both sides - Arabs who refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist and Israelis who want to keep the occupied territories rather than exchange them for a secure peace - prefer a one-state solution. A one-state solution would ultimately mean the end of Israel as a democratic Jewish state and would, of course, also foreclose Palestinian aspirations for their own independent state existing peacefully alongside Israel.

So the real question is how to take advantage of this window of opportunity to achieve that two-state solution. Specifically, what steps should be taken? Who needs to do what?

First, it is critical that negotiations resume. For this to happen, of course, Israel must have a negotiating partner on the Palestinian side. That partner will best emerge from free elections. Elections have been scheduled for Jan. 9, and all who support peace between Israel and the Palestinians have an obligation to do all within their power to see that those elections are successfully held.

Palestinian candidates should clearly and unequivocally renounce terrorism as a means of achieving a political result - and call upon their supporters to do likewise. And those Palestinians should commit themselves to an unequivocal, good-faith effort to crack down on terrorist groups that make a target of Israel.

In exchange, Israel should announce that upon the election of a Palestinian negotiating partner, it is prepared to resume substantive negotiations for peace without requiring that all terrorist activities cease in advance. To require the absence of any terrorist act in advance simply empowers the terrorists themselves to prevent the resumption of peace negotiations.

Also, Israel should do whatever it can to encourage freedom of movement and access to polling places under secure conditions to help such elections succeed. It is encouraging that Israel has indicated that all Palestinians will be permitted to vote in such elections whether they live in Jerusalem or in some other location.

The United States should itself clearly embrace and articulate the unequivocal, good-faith standard for the resumption of dialogue. The United States should further prevail upon Israel to cease settlement activity in the occupied territories pending Palestinian elections and during the resumption of peace negotiations. Washington should also do everything else that it can to encourage both sides to resume meaningful talks. And it should serve, where necessary, as a direct participant in the talks, offering suggestions, brokering compromises and extending assurances.

Finally, the administration must make it unambiguously clear to Israel that while Prime Minister Sharon's planned withdrawal from Gaza is a positive initiative, it cannot be simply the first step in a unilateral process leading to the creation of Palestinian "Bantustans" in the West Bank.

We cannot, of course, prejudge the final outcome of any talks. But the plan presented by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000 - and rejected by Yasir Arafat - surely offers one plausible place to start.

It is encouraging to witness the quick response from the White House, particularly when President Bush stood with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain shortly after his re-election and said that he wanted to establish an independent Palestinian state living in peace and security next to Israel. "I intend to use the next four years to spend the capital of the United States on such a state," he said.

While the United States cannot dictate the terms of peace to either party, it can and should actively promote the resumption of negotiations. The time to start is now.

James A. Baker III was secretary of state from 1989 to 1992.


James Baker: Don't go it alone with Iraq
From Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) --Former Secretary of State James Baker Sunday warned President Bush not to "go it alone" against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Writing on the op-ed page of Sunday's New York Times, Baker became the latest member of the first Bush administration to issue cautionary words about a military attack against Iraq.

"Although the United States could certainly succeed, we should try our best not to have to go it alone, and the president should reject the advice of those who counsel doing so," Baker wrote.

"The costs in all areas will be much greater, as will the political risks, both domestic and international, if we end up going it alone or with only one or two countries."

Baker said, however, that he believes the only "realistic way" to bring about regime change is through military force, including "sufficient" ground troops to occupy the country.

"Anyone who thinks we can effect regime change in Iraq with anything less than this is simply not realistic," Baker said.

The former chief diplomat urged Bush to build an international coalition like the one he and the president's father brought together during the Persian Gulf War.

He suggested Bush consider pursuing a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring Iraq to submit to an "intrusive inspections regime" and authorizing "all necessary means" to enforce those inspections.

"Some will argue, as was done in 1990, that going for United Nations authority and not getting it will weaken our case," Baker said.

"I disagree. By proposing to proceed in such a way, we will be doing the right thing, both politically and substantively. We will occupy the moral high ground."

Bush, who is winding up his August vacation at his ranch near here, "welcomes" Baker's advice, said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

"It is part of the constructive debate from thoughtful people and it underscores many of the things the president has said about ... the threat [Saddam] presents to the world," Fleischer said.

Fleischer said Bush still has not made a decision about how to bring about a change of Iraqi regimes.

Other former Bush administration officials who have spoken out recently include Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to Bush's father.

Scowcroft, in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, voiced his opposition to a military attack on Iraq.

Other Republicans strongly back military action and believe the president should pursue such a course, even if he can't bring together an international coalition.

"I'd much prefer to have a lot of allies out there, both in the Middle East and in Western Europe," Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, told CNN's "Late Edition."

"I'd like to have the American people solidly behind the president. But again, if the president has to do it, he has to do it. And that's what leadership is all about."

Before any pre-emptive strike on Iraq, some Democrats argue, the president must make the case to the American people.

"What we have is an administration that is beating its breast with all this rhetoric about how they're going to do this or that," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, on the same program.

"The president needs the country behind him."

As Bush thinks through options to deal with Saddam, "he will talk to the country about it and he will make the case," a senior administration official said.

To build support in the Arab world for regime change, the State Department is encouraging Iraqi exiles to speak out about the "brutality" of Saddam Hussein, a State Department spokesman said.

Seventeen Iraqi exiles from North America and Europe plan to visit the State Department this week for four days of media training on writing opinion pieces, giving speeches and doing television and radio interviews.

The goal is to make the case that the battle is not between the United States and Iraq, and to convey that the Iraqi people and Iraq's neighbors will be better off without Saddam, U.S. officials said.

Bush will deliver that message personally to Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, in a visit to Bush's Texas ranch.

The president will plead the case to a Saudi government that so far is against a military attack.

The Saudis have also said they will not allow the United States to launch an invasion of Iraq from Saudi soil.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Video clip: Family Guy: Not going to war is GAY

Family Guy: Not going to war is GAY

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

More U.S. Soldiers will mean more U.S. Casualties

As the Washington Times points out - Bush plan's to have more troops than ever before in Iraq. From the history of the Vietnam war we should realize that increasing the deployment while proportionally increase casualties and injuries.

Meanwhile, the Iraqis who don't want us there, and who don't believe we will ever leave have added reason to be angry.

Times article here:

Biggest US force ever in Iraq by January

Washington, DC, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- More than 10,000 U.S. troops will stay in Iraq beyond their year deployment and 1,500 more soldiers will be deployed there in advance of Iraq's election.
The new deployment bring the U.S. force in Iraq to 150,000 troops in January, the largest force the United States has had in that nation, including during the March 2003 invasion.

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