Thursday, March 27, 2008

Reporter talks about Iraq with Jon Stewart of the Daily Show

<br />Jon Stewart and Alex Kingsbury

Jon Stewart has an interesting but short interview with US News and World Report writer Alex Kingsbury about Iraq. (actual video at bottom)

Some key points:

Security is better in some areas. US troops are now acting like cops- he mentions US troops looking for a Benzine drug lab.

Stewart points out that it must be hard to the police and not speak the language - Kingsbury agrees pointing out how still after 5 years very few US troops speak any Arabic.

Kingsbury also tells of streams of human feces running down the street, and how still after 5 years the people only have one hour of power a day.

Kingsbury talks about the troops feeling about US patriotism not being about what side of the lapel you wear your flag on but believe patriotism is really about staying informed.

Wished this interview had gone longer.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cheney video: They volunteered to be sacrificed.

4,000 US military personell killed ... and counting... already 4006....

He thinks and talks remarkably like Hitler who, when asked if he felt badly about the thousands of young soldiers dying at Stalingrad, responded: "Well thats what young soldiers are for" - meaning to be killed and sacrificed. The more that die the more important Cheney feels his contribution to history will be considered.

Cheney video: They volunteered to be sacrificed.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Obama military adviser : We will be in Iraq for a century -hopefully.

Gen. Tony McPeak a Barack Obama military adviser Gen. Tony McPeak (who yesterday accused Bill Clinton of using McCarthyistic tactics) might be advising Mr. Obama that long term plans in Iraq are the way to go.

From an interview with Gen. McPeak:

Is Iraq the last country we confront in the Middle East?

Who wants to volunteer to get cross-ways with us? We’ll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right.

I’ll tell you one thing we should not hope for (is) a democratic Iraq. When I hear the president talking about democracy, the last thing we should want is an election in Iraq. We’re not very popular. So I don’t think we’ll see any open elections in Iraq for a long time.

Hopefully over time they can be brought along like Japan and Germany — Japan and Germany were relatively easy, I think, and South Korea.

He aslo said: "So maybe we ought to start grading presidential candidates for an IQ. Although it's hard to see why anybody that's very smart would want to run."

Maybe the presidential candidates should be checking the messages their advisers are pushing.

Bush personally bullied UN diplomats into supporting Iraq war

Ambassador: Bush personally bullied UN diplomats into supporting Iraq war

Heraldo Muñoz, a personal friend of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Chilean ambassador to the United Nations, details the Bush administration's persuasion tactics in the months leading up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq in his upcoming memoir, the Washington Post reports.

"A Solitary War: A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons," to be released in April 2008, outlines bullying tactics exercised by President Bush in attempts to persuade United Nations diplomats to back a 2003 resolution to authorize military force against Iraq. Mocking of unsupportive allies, threats of trade reprisals and attempts to fire U.N. envoys were among actions taken by the Bush administration against those less than cooperative, Muñoz writes.

Ultimately, he continues, America's "rough-and-tumble" strategy backfired, with Bush later reaching out to Chile and Mexico, which he'd earlier spurned for preventing the war resolution, aggressively backed by the United States and Britain, from taking hold.


On March 14, 2003, less than one week before the eventual invasion, Chile hosted a meeting of diplomats from the six undecided governments to discuss its proposal. But U.S. ambassador John D. Negroponte and then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell moved quickly to quash the initiative, warning their governments that the effort was viewed as "an unfriendly act" designed to isolate the United States. The diplomats received calls from their governments ordering them to "leave the meeting immediately," Muñoz writes.

Muñoz said subsequent ties remained tense at the United Nations, where the United States sought support for resolutions authorizing the occupation of Iraq. He said that small countries met privately in a secure room at the German mission that was impervious to eavesdropping. "It reminded me of a submarine or a giant safe," Muñoz said in an interview.

The United States, he added, expressed "its displeasure" to the German government every time they held a meeting in the secure room. "They couldn't listen to what was going on."

The entire Washington Post article can be read HERE.

A Soldiers Sad Secret

There is a blog site PostSecret that is is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.

They were sent this sad secret from a US soldier:

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Daily Show Remembers “Iraq: The First Five Years”

Stewart: “Hard to believe folks — five years. And they said it wouldn’t last. No, seriously, they said it wouldn’t last.”

MR. RUSSERT: [D]o you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim.

RUMSFELD: It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.

This is how the US government spend it’s budget (a graph)


Iraqi's want the US out

Previously unpublished data from an April 2006 University of Michigan survey of Iraqi public opinion which showed that 91.7% of Iraqis did not support the presence of coalition forces in Iraq. Some debate ensued as to whether the question "do you support the presence of coalition forces" was a viable proxy for "do you want the coalition forces to leave."

That data also showed: The growing sense of insecurity affected all three of Iraq's major ethnic and religious groups. The number of Iraqis who "strongly agreed" that life is "unpredictable and dangerous" jumped from 41% to 48% of Shiites, from 67% to 79% of Sunnis, and from 16% to 50% of Kurds. The most recent survey, done in April this year, also asked for "the three main reasons for the U.S. invasion of Iraq." Less than 2% chose "to bring democracy to Iraq" as their first choice. The list was topped by "to control Iraqi oil" (76%), followed by "to build military bases" (41%) and "to help Israel" (32%).

The Washington Post reports today
on two more surveys of Iraqi opinion. First, State Department polling found that "In Baghdad... nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout." Second, PIPA has released the results of its latest round of polling today, which will show that "71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believed that the U.S. government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled saying the United States intends keep permanent military bases in the country." Third, the Post mentions that "The director of another Iraqi polling firm, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being killed, said public opinion surveys he conducted last month showed that 80 percent of Iraqis who were questioned favored an immediate withdrawal."

So maybe that's the resolution of the earlier debate: there's 15-20% difference between those who say they do not support the presence of coalition troops and those who say they want the coalition troops to leave. Which leaves the core of the original point untouched: a large majority of Iraqis do, in fact, want American troops out as soon as possible.

The PIPA survey also shows that all Iraqi ethnic groups overwhelmingly oppose al-Qaeda, with 94% overall holding an unfavorable view of the jihadists. Those findings further support a point I've been making for a while now, that the prospect of al-Qaeda taking over Iraq in the wake of an American withdrawal is an unrealistic bogeyman pushed by Bush and Cheney and now being touted by John McCain. This false rhetorict should not guide American decisions its Iraq policy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bin Laden's Pissed off at Europe

Bin Laden threatens EU over Prophet cartoons

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden threatened the European Union with grave punishment on Wednesday over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

In an audio recording posted on the Internet, Bin Laden said the cartoons were part of a "crusade" in which he said the Catholic Pope Benedict was involved.

The cartoons were first published by the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 but a furor erupted only after other papers reprinted them in 2006.

At least 50 people were killed in the protests against the publication of the cartoons, which Muslims say are an affront to Islam. Newspapers which have reprinted the cartoons argue they are defending the right to media freedom.

Bin Laden and Bush both put out messages:

The message by Bin Laden was released on the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Bin Laden's message was entitled "The Response Will Be What You See, Not What You Hear," according to the password-protected Ekhlaas Web, which carries messages and statements from al Qaeda-affiliated groups around the world.

President Bush used the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq on Wednesday to make the case for persevering in a conflict that will in all likelihood have many more anniversaries Bush spoke about Iraq and the war on terror on Wednesday at the Pentagon. Mr. Bush acknowledged in some of his bluntest language yet that the costs of the war, in lives and money, had been higher than he had anticipated — and longer.

Iraq War off target in fight against al Qaeda

Only a very small fraction of the billions of dollars spent daily by the United States military is targeted at capturing bin Laden. Bin Laden is al Qaeda leader, originally blamed for the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities. He is believed to be hiding in remote areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

President Bush and his administration continue to spend lavishly on their failed invasion of Iraq, trying to bring stability to the country they destabilized. Bush had used the attacks of Sept. 11th at rationale for attacking Iraq. An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida terrorist network.

The Pentagon-sponsored study did confirm that Saddam’s regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime - not the United States.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Notes from the New Rambo movie for our troops

"trying to save a life isn't wasting your own.

"You don't kill for your country, you kill for yourself.

Live for nothing... Or die for something... Your call.

John J. Rambo: Are you bringing in any weapons ?
Burnett: Of course not.
John J. Rambo: You're not changin' anything...


Friday, March 14, 2008

Funeral mass for Iraqi archbishop

Christians from across Iraq have been attending the funeral of the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho.

Surrounded by armed guards, mourners wept and held flowers as the coffin was carried through the village of Kremlis, near Mosul in northern Iraq

$1 million ransom

Kidnappers of a Chaldean Catholic archbishop found dead in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul had demanded a $1 million ransom, a senior police official said on Friday.

The Catholic Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was found dead Thursday in a shallow grave in that northern Iraq city. On February 29, Islamist extremists had abducted the 65-year-old prelate while he prayed, in Aramaic, the language of Jesus himself, the Lenten Stations of the Cross at his church.

There could be no starker statement that Christians are targeted for their faith in a ruthlessly intolerant Iraq. Cardinal Delly, the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, weeps in Baghdad; he weeps for his martyred friend, and for the bitter fate of Iraq’s ancient Christian Church.

The body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, was found in a shallow grave close to the city.

Pope Benedict XVI said he was profoundly moved and saddened, calling the archbishop's death an act of inhuman violence.

Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped after leading prayers at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul on 29 February. Three people who were with him at the time, a driver and two guards, were killed by the gunmen.

According to the SIR Catholic news agency, the kidnappers told Iraqi church officials on Wednesday that Archbishop Rahho was very ill and, later on the same day, that he was dead.

Died at least a week ago

However, Iraqi police say the condition of the archbishop's body suggests that he may have died at least a week ago.

It is not clear whether he was killed, or died of natural causes. Nobody has claimed responsibility for his death.

The archbishop's body was found by church workers who went to the area after being contacted by the kidnappers.

'Horrible crime'

The archbishop, 65, was the latest in a long line of Chaldean clerics to be abducted in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

Only last Sunday, Pope Benedict had appealed for the archbishop's release.

A Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said: "The most absurd and unjustified violence continues to afflict the Iraqi people and in particular the small Christian community, whom the Pope holds in his prayers in this time of deep sadness.

"This tragic event underscored once more and with more urgency the duty of all, and in particular of the international community, to bring peace to a country that has been so tormented."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said those behind the kidnapping would not escape justice.

It was, he said, a "horrible crime" by "a criminal, terrorist gang".

Who are the Chaldeans?

The Chaldeans are the largest sect within Iraq's Christian community, which was estimated at 800,000 before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Many have left their homes after attacks linked to the continuing insurgency.
550,000 Chaldeans, forming majority of Iraq's Christians are an Eastern-rite Church with liturgical languag in Syriac, descended from Aramaic. They are autonomous from Rome but recognizes Pope's authority. Their spiritual leader is Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, based in Baghdad

Thursday, March 13, 2008

US forces accidentally shoot young girl in Kut

Iraq: Child killed by US fire as clashes continue in Kut

US forces in Iraq American troops "accidentally" shot and killed a child on Wednesday in Iraq's Diyala province, the U.S. army said on Thursday. The Americans said soldiers were operating in an area where roadside bombs had been found recently in Diyala.

The soldiers fired a warning shot into a sand berm after they found a "suspicious woman who appeared to be signalling to someone". According to Reuters, the military said a young girl was found on the other side of the berm suffering from a gunshot wound. Soldiers She died on the way to a military hospital.

Diyala has become one of the deadliest provinces in Iraq for U.S. troops. It is home to about 1.4 million people and is mostly a mix of Sunni and Shiites.

The capital, Baquba, is about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. And it was near there that the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed by U.S. forces last June.

Description of the area

And former Army Captain Phillip Carter, he was an operations officer for a task force that advised Iraqi police in Baquba from October 2005 to September 2006.

Phillip Carter, to you first. You spent a year there. Describe Diyala province to us. What does it look like? Who are the people who live there?

FORMER CAPT. PHILLIP CARTER, U.S. Army: Judy, we thought of Diyala as Little Iraq. It's a microcosm of the country, which has a mix of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in the north and the east.

The geography of the province is diverse. It stretches from the fertile farmlands outside of Baghdad to the deserts along the Iranian border all the way up into mountains in Kurdistan.

And it is a volatile province. It has a little bit of the problems of Baghdad. It touches on the Sunni triangle. And it also has many of the lines of communication leading from Iran into Baghdad, and so it is home to a number of the intrigues that involve Iran and Kurdistan, as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Fred Kagan, what would you add to that? How is it different, Diyala, from the rest of Iraq?

FREDERICK KAGAN, American Enterprise Institute: Well, the mix that you have there, I think the captain is absolutely right. It is a Little Iraq. And you have Kurdish infiltration in the north. You have a majority Sunni province. You also have provincial government and security forces that are dominated by Shia, because the Sunnis sat out the local elections. And so you have some tensions there.

And because we have had relatively few forces in Diyala throughout 2006, there's a significant al-Qaida presence in Diyala, which has been causing a lot of problems. And then you've had a flow into Diyala of Sunnis who were displaced in Baghdad over the course of 2006, as well. So it's a very, very rough area, probably one of the toughest in Iraq right now.

Unclear how U.S. authorities in Iraq obtained the 5 ffingers of missing contractors

From the Washington Post:

Five Severed Fingers Identified as Belonging To Guards Held in Iraq
Four Are From Men Missing 16 Months

By Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 13, 2008; A12

U.S. authorities are in possession of five severed fingers, four of which belong to private security contractors who were abducted in Iraq nearly 16 months ago and remain missing, according to law enforcement sources close to the investigation.

The fingers were delivered last month to U.S. authorities in Iraq but were not accompanied by a ransom demand or other information, according to sources. Fingerprint and DNA analysis determined that they were removed from four of five guards taken hostage during an ambush near the Kuwaiti border on Nov. 16, 2006.

The missing guards, four Americans and an Austrian, worked for Kuwait-based Crescent Security Group. The fifth severed finger was taken from an American contractor seized separately but reportedly held with the other missing men, the sources said.

U.S. authorities have been unable to determine whether the fingers were removed from corpses or while the men were alive, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. The fingers were partially decomposed at the time they were obtained.

"There's no way to accurately depict at this point whether it was prior to or after; scientifically I don't think they've been able to determine that," said a source familiar with the investigation. "It's possible they were removed while they were still alive and possible they were removed after they were dead."

The four Crescent contractors whose fingers have been identified are Jonathon Cote, 25, of Getzville, N.Y.; Paul Reuben, 41, of Buffalo, Minn.; Joshua Munns, 25, of Redding, Calif.; and Bert Nussbaumer, 26, of Vienna, Austria. The fifth finger belonged to Ronald J. Withrow, 40, of Lubbock, Tex., a contractor and computer specialist for JPI Worldwide who was abducted Jan. 5, 2007, near Basra.

John Young, 45, of Lee's Summit, Mo., is also missing, but none of his fingers was among those forwarded to U.S. authorities. Young was the Crescent Security team leader the day of the attack.

The grisly disclosure first appeared in News, an Austrian newsweekly. By late Wednesday, after word of the developments spread, the FBI began contacting families and confirming the reports. But the delay led to widespread confusion among the families.

The families were informed by the FBI last month that DNA and fingerprint evidence of the hostages had been discovered, according to relatives, but no additional information was provided.

Jackie Stewart, the mother of Munns, a former U.S. Marine, said she spoke with a local FBI agent Wednesday morning after the reports of severed fingers began to circulate among the families.

"She told me, 'We have no confirmed reports that any of this is true,' " Stewart said. "She said, 'I just don't think it would be anything that macabre.' "

Stewart, of Richfield, Wash., said she believed that the FBI agent, who is based in Seattle, was misinformed and that the FBI in Washington "was not passing the information down the food chain."

Patrick Reuben, whose twin brother, Paul, was Crescent's medic, said he received a call from his 17-year-old niece Wednesday morning asking him whether her father was dead. Reuben, a Minnesota police officer, called a reporter seeking more information.

"I can't get any information out of the government," he said.

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko declined to comment on complaints that the families were not being kept informed.

"The FBI's Office of Victim Assistance has offered its service to the U.S. families involved in this matter," Kolko said.

It was unclear how U.S. authorities in Iraq obtained the fingers. The fingers were shipped to forensic specialists at Quantico, Va., for fingerprint and DNA analysis. Cote's, Reuben's and Withrow's were identified first. Those of Munns and Nussbaumer were identified later, according to a source.

The Crescent team was ambushed in broad daylight on Iraq's main highway while protecting a supply convoy. Crescent was under a contract to the Italian military, which was withdrawing its troops from the country. The company, which was later expelled from Iraq for weapons violations, came under withering criticism from U.S. officials and security experts for its lax safety measures. On the day of the attack, just seven security contractors were protecting a 37-truck convoy that stretched more than a mile.

From the beginning, the case has baffled U.S. investigators. The hostages have not been seen since a Jan. 3, 2007, video, time-stamped Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 and apparently recorded by their captors, who identified themselves as an Iranian-backed group and called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. There have been no ransom demands.

Crescent's managing partner, Franco Picco, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Kuwait that he continued to believe the hostages were alive.

"The fact is, what reason would they have to kill them, first and foremost?" he said. "And no one has found any bodies, you know? All the information we have tends us to believe that they are alive."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cost of War 3 Trillion as Public Looses interest

Public looses interest in War as violence increases in Iraq and the Middle East commander who disagrees with Bush Administration policy abruptly quits. Meanwhile experts conservatively predict Bush's war will cost the US 3 trillion - much of the cost coming after Bush's departure from office.

US public losing interest in Iraq as news coverage wanes: report

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A sharp fall in US media coverage of the Iraq war has left Americans less interested in and knowledgeable about the conflict, a report by the independent Pew Research Center showed Wednesday.

"The drop in awareness comes as press attention to the war has waned," the report said.

A scant three percent of news stories in February were devoted to the Iraq war, compared with around 15 percent in July last year, and the US public has not perceived the war, which began nearly five years ago, as a top news story since October, the report noted.

Meanwhile, 28 percent of 1,003 adults polled last month for Pew correctly estimated the number of US military fatalities in Iraq at around 4,000, compared with 54 percent who got the figure right seven months ago, the report said.

More than one-third -- 35 percent -- estimated that 3,000 had been killed, 11 percent put the toll at 2,000 deaths, and just under a quarter said the number of fatalities was closer to 5,000.

The Department of Defense confirmed the deaths of 3,974 US military personnel in Iraq as of Monday, according to Pew.

"As news coverage of the war has diminished, so too has public interest in news about Iraq," the report said.

And with the waning interest in news about Iraq, there has been a "significant increase in the number of Americans who believe that military progress is being made in Iraq," it said, citing another poll.

Iraq Violence Sees Spike

BAGHDAD (AP) — Violence appeared to be on the rise in Iraq after a day that saw at least 42 people die — numbers that cast doubt on the easing of sectarian violence following a surge of U.S. forces to the country last year.

An Iraqi official confirmed the grisliest attack of Tuesday when 16 passengers on a bus in southern Iraq were killed by a roadside bomb. The U.S. military, however, claimed no one died in the attack, which was targeting a passing military convoy. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.

At least 26 people were killed Tuesday in other violence around the country.

Last Thursday, two massive bombs killed 68 people in Baghdad's Karradah neighborhood, while on March 3, two car bombs killed 24 people in the capital.

Military spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said Sunday that recent violence should not be taken as evidence of "an increase or a trend of an increase."

The top US military commander running the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq quit abruptly yesterday

The Bush administration today moved to downplay divisions within the Pentagon over its Iraq war strategy exposed by the sudden departure of its Middle East commander Admiral William Fallon.Admiral William Fallon resigned yesterday after Esquire magazine described him as a lonely crusader blocking the hawks in the Bush administration from ordering military strikes to shut down Iran's nuclear programme.

The White House today denied that Fallon was forced out because he was pressing the
administration to draw down US troop levels in Iraq and encourage more diplomacy with Iran.

Fallon's exit arrives at a time when the Pentagon is engaged in intense debate over its Iraq war strategy - especially troop levels - in the remaining months of Bush's presidency. General David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Iraq, is due to present his next report on the progress of the war to Congress.

The army chief of staff, George Casey, Fallon and other senior military officials have been pressing for more rapid withdrawals of US troops in Iraq because they fear long deployments are degrading the military.

In the Esquire article, Fallon had criticised the administration's preoccupation with Iraq, saying "our nation can't afford to be mesmerized by one problem".

However, Bush wants to maintain what was originally described as a temporary "surge" of forces in Iraq. Petraeus, now considered as a possible successor to Fallon, has talked about a "pause" in withdrawals for four to six weeks.

The admiral's departure after just a year in the job brought renewed charges from Democrats in Congress that the White House was stifling dissent from uniformed military professionals.

It also revived speculation that the White House continues to consider military action against Tehran -- months after intelligence agencies reached a consensus that its nuclear programme was on hold.

Today, Hillary Clinton called on the armed services committee to investigate whether Fallon had been pushed out for opposing military action against Iran. John Kerry has echoed her views, and two senior members of Congress had pressed the Pentagon to allow Fallon to testify on the Iraq war before his resignation.

"I am profoundly concerned that Admiral Fallon has decided to take this measure, and I'm hoping that we can hear from him in a more specific way in the future," Democratic senator James Webb said yesterday.

Whether or not Congress summons Fallon to address his departure, he is likely to face the issue publicly in the coming days, said Lawrence Korb, a Reagan-era Pentagon official who now serves at the Centre for American Progress.

"I think you will see him appear before Congress to talk about his views on the whole Middle East and the challenges affecting the US, and the circumstances of his leaving would come up," Korb said.

Fallon will be temporary replaced at US central command by his deputy, Lieutenant General

Before Bush ordered the military "surge" in Iraq last year, one of Fallon's superiors testified before Congress that Dempsey did not think adding more troops would help the US succeed in Iraq

The 3 Trillion Dollar War

With the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war just days away. Ahead of that
anniversary, two prominent US economists have come up with a new estimate on the cost to the economy of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. That figure is $US3 trillion ($3.22 trillion).

At the same time, a parliamentary committee in the UK has estimated that Britain's
expenditure on military operations on the same fronts will almost double this year.
Former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz and a professor of Public Finance at Harvard University, Linda Bilmes, have written a book with that figure in mind: The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.

The authors say the $600 billion spent so far on the war is only the tip of the iceberg.Professor Bilmes told ABC Radio National's Breakfast program yesterday that the authors' estimate took into account a number of long-term indirect costs of the conflict.

"It's the cost of providing medical care to the veterans, the cost of providing disability compensation to the veterans, the cost of replacing the military equipment and weaponry that's been used up," she said.

"And the cost of essentially resetting the military personnel to their pre-war state of readiness, and then there is the cost of paying the interest on the money that we borrowed to fight the war so far, so all those numbers are not included in the top line result."

"We have tried to be very, very conservative. Extremely conservative. We could have called this book the $4 trillion or the $5 trillion war but we tried to be as conservative as possible because, frankly, we didn't want to quibble with anyone about the particular details," she said.

"We were trying to just get a sort of realistic sense of how much it was costing."

Gitmo detainees allowed phone calls

Gitmo detainees allowed phone calls

By MICHAEL MELIA, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 28 minutes ago

The U.S. military said Tuesday that it will allow detainees to make regular phone calls to their families from Guantanamo Bay prison, where many have been confined in extreme isolation for as long as six years.

The new policy by the Defense Department, which previously said security concerns prevented such calls, is part of a strategy to ease conditions for frustrated prisoners at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

Critics suggest the move aims to improve the image of the prison, which has been a flash point for criticism of Bush administration policies at home and abroad since it opened in January 2002.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, said the telephone policy reflects a commitment to maintaining the health and well-being of Guantanamo detainees. No start date has been set for the program.

It was not clear how the military plans to monitor the calls. A spokesman for the detention center, Army Lt. Col. Ed Bush, said it is working out procedures and has no timeline for starting the program. He declined to provide details about which detainees would be eligible and how often calls would be permitted.



Inmates' contact with the outside world generally has been limited to mail delivered by the International Committee of the Red Cross and meetings with their lawyers. The military has allowed a small number of detainees to speak with their families, but typically only on "humanitarian" grounds such as following a death in the family.

Detainees' attorneys welcomed the phone calls but said reconnecting with family could make life more painful for those at Guantanamo, where the U.S. military holds about 275 men on suspicion of links to terrorism, al-Qaida or the Taliban.

Human rights advocates and foreign leaders have repeatedly called for its shutdown, raising complaints about the duration of detentions and the U.S. decision to classify detainees as "enemy combatants" without the same protections as traditional prisoners of war.

Marc Falkoff, a Northern Illinois University law professor who represents 17 detainees, said one of his Yemeni clients has a 6-year-old daughter with whom he has never spoken.

"To be honest, I don't know whether speaking with her will lift him from his depression or simply shatter him," said Falkoff, who added that the man has grown so hopeless he has asked his lawyers to stop meeting with him.

He also suggested the policy aimed to cast a better light on the prison ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on detainee rights.

Chicago lawyer H. Candace Gorman, who represents a Guantanamo detainee, said she learned on a recent visit with her client that prisoners will be allowed to speak with their families for one hour every six months.

Some attorneys are skeptical the calls will ever happen.

"I will believe it when I see it," said Wells Dixon, a lawyer with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents many Guantanamo detainees.

In an attempt to reduce hostility inside the detention center, military commanders have recently pursued plans for humanities courses and more open communal areas for men held in isolation 22 hours a day. Attorneys for detainees say the assaults against guards are partly triggered by frustration among men with no real chance to confront accusations that they are enemy combatants.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Look it up- It was Clinton who publically called for Rumsfelds resignation

Republican Candidate McCain now claims it was he who made the call for then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign over failed military strategy.

He lied. Hillary, not Obama or McCain stood at the forefront of ousting Rumsfeld.

It was not Clinton alone Sen. John Kerry called for his resignation and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y called for his impeachment. ( Note: Joe Lieberman, former Democrat, thought it was a bad idea.)

McCain now admits he did not call for the resignation:

"As he gets closer to the Republican nomination, Sen. John McCain has been trying to balance his unqualified support for the Iraq war by reminding audiences that he was also a tough critic of how it was managed until President Bush finally changed strategies a year ago. In recent weeks, McCain has gone so far as to tell audiences that he was “the only one” who called for Donald H. Rumsfeld’s resignation as defense secretary.

The trick is that he never did, at least not publicly. The senator from Arizona was a tough critic of Rumsfeld and more than once said that he had no confidence in the Pentagon chief in the two years before Bush finally dumped Rumsfeld in November 2006. But even as he was criticizing Rumsfeld, McCain typically stopped short of calling for the Pentagon chief to step down.

While campaigning in Fort Myers, Fla., on Jan. 26, he told a crowd: “In the conflict that we’re in, I’m the only one that said we have to abandon the Rumsfeld strategy — and Rumsfeld — and adopt a new strategy.” Four days later during a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., aired on CNN, McCain said, “I’m the only one that said that Rumsfeld had to go.”

A McCain spokesman acknowledged this week that that was not correct.

February 9 Washington Post article, the Post reported on February 16 that McCain "overstate[d] his public position on Rumsfeld" and never called for him to resign.

( Note Sen. Obama was not not active in this debate.)

Sen. Clinton: Rumsfeld should resign

Updated: 2006-08-04 09:34

WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign, hours after excoriating him at a public hearing over what she called "failed policy" in Iraq.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton: "I just don't understand why we can't get new leadership that would give us a fighting chance to turn the situation around before it's too late," the New York Democrat and potential 2008 presidential contender said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think the president should choose to accept Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation."

"The secretary has lost credibility with the Congress and with the people," she said. "It's time for him to step down and be replaced by someone who can develop an effective strategy and communicate it effectively to the American people and to the world."

Asked about Clinton's comments, Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said, "We don't discuss politics."

Clinton had resisted joining the chorus of other Democrats demanding Rumsfeld's ouster. Her remarks Thursday were the harshest assessment yet from the woman considered her party's early front-runner for the 2008 presidential nomination.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. [Reuters]
The former first lady has come under attack from some in her own party for voting for the war in 2002 and her current opposition to a deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal.

She criticized Rumsfeld in person earlier Thursday during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

"Under your leadership, there have been numerous errors in judgment that have led us to where we are," she said. "We have a full-fledged insurgency and full-blown sectarian conflict in Iraq."

The defense secretary rejected some of her specific criticisms as simply wrong and said the war against terror will be a drawn-out process. He said he never glossed over the difficulties of the fighting.

"I have never painted a rosy picture," he said. "I've been very measured in my words, and you'd have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I've been excessively optimistic."

Earlier in the day, the senator wasted no time going after Rumsfeld when he testified in a morning hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Under your leadership there have been numerous errors in judgment that have led us to where we are," the New York Democrat said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. "We have a full-fledged insurgency and full-blown sectarian conflict in Iraq."

The defense secretary seemed briefly stunned by the intensity of her attack, exclaiming, "My goodness," before launching into a point-by-point defense.

He rejected some of her specific criticisms as simply wrong and said the war against terror will be a drawn-out process.

"Are there setbacks? Yes," said Rumsfeld. "Is this problem going to get solved in the near term? I think it's going to take some time."

The testy exchange between Clinton and Rumsfeld came after a top general told the panel violence in Iraq is probably as bad as he's ever seen it and the country may be descending into civil war.

"We hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the administration's strategic blunders - and frankly the record of incompetence in executing - you are presiding over a failed policy," she said. "Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?"

Rumsfeld vehemently denied he'd ever glossed over the difficulties of the fighting in Iraq or elsewhere.

"There's a track record here," countered Clinton. "This is not 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, when you appeared before this committee and made many comments and presented many assurances that have frankly proven to be unfulfilled."

"Senator, I don't think that's true," Rumsfeld fired back. "I have never painted a rosy picture. I've been very measured in my words and you'd have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I've been excessively optimistic. I understand this is tough stuff."

At that point, the Republican chairman of the committee, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, came to Rumsfeld's defense, saying his past comments had been balanced.

Clinton still shied away from a demand made by a growing number of Democrats: a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

The disagreement between the two extended to Afghanistan. The senator specifically faulted Rumsfeld for saying in 2002 that the Taliban was gone, noting that the extremist faction has grown stronger in recent months.

He conceded violence has escalated in Afghanistan, but added, "Does that represent failed policy? I don't know. I would say not."

The defense secretary said he expected the violence there to follow a seasonal pattern and decline as winter approaches.

Friday, March 07, 2008

President Bush's planned Iraq agreement avoids congressional oversight

The Bush administration yesterday advanced a new argument for why it does not require congressional approval to strike a long-term security agreement with Iraq, stating that Congress had already endorsed such an initiative through its 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein.

The 2002 measure, along with the congressional resolution passed one week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks authorizing military action "to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States," permits indefinite combat operations in Iraq, according to a statement by the State Department's Bureau of Legislative Affairs.(Interestingly, by the same logic, the 2002 authorization also enables Bush to extend his presidency indefinitely as well.)

The statement came in response to lawmakers' demands that the administration submit to Congress for approval any agreement with Iraq. U.S. officials are traveling to Baghdad this week with drafts of two documents -- a status-of-forces agreement and a separate "strategic framework" -- that they expect to sign with the Iraqi government by the end of July. It is to go into effect when the current U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31.

Clinton legislation

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced legislation in December that requires the President to seek Congressional approval for any agreement that would extend the U.S. military commitment to Iraq. She also joined a number of other Senators in a letter warning the President against rushing the United States into long-term security commitments to the Iraqi government and urging him to seek Congressional consent.

The legislation requires:

• No funds may be authorized or appropriated to carry out any bilateral agreement between the United States and Iraq involving “commitments or risks affecting the nation as a whole,” including a status of forces agreement (SOFA), that is not a treaty approved by two-thirds of the Senate under Article II of the Constitution or authorized by legislation passed by both Houses of Congress.

• The State Department Legal Advisor must provide to the Congress a memorandum evaluating the President’s decision to deny Congress its constitutionally protected role by concluding an agreement on the future of the U.S.-Iraqi security relationship as an executive agreement without the assent of the Congress.

• The memorandum must include an analysis of the Constitutional powers relied on by the President in reaching the conclusion that such an agreement does not require approval by the Congress.

• It is the sense of Congress that any bilateral agreement between the United States and Iraq involving “commitments or risks affecting the nation as a whole”, including a status of forces agreement (SOFA), that is not a treaty approved by two-thirds of the Senate under Article II of the Constitution or authorized by legislation, does not have the force of law.

The precedent

The precedent for this, ironically enough, is our "special" defense relationship with Israel -- which has never been voted on, much less approved, by the Senate.

Instead, we have a "strategic memorandum" signed by the Reagan Administration and the Shamir government in the mid '80s (not long before the Iran Contra scandal broke). It basically commits the US to do for Israel whatever we would do for our NATO allies.

A piece of paper, not a treaty, never voted on, never ratified. Yet, every subsequent administration has treated it as holy writ. Obviously, Bush hopes the same will be true of his "strategy" agreement with the notional puppet government of Iraq.

Vice President Cheney caught aiding an abetting corporate crime

KBR Dodges $500 Million In Social Security And Medicare Taxes In Cheney-Backed Scheme

No private contractor has financially profited from the Iraq war more than Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), which until last year was a subsidiary of Halliburton. The firm currently has more than 21,000 employees in Iraq, and between 2004 and 2006, received more than $16 billion in government contracts — far more than any other corporation.

Yet KBR hasn’t been passing on these enormous profits to American taxpayers or even its own employees, thanks to a plan that Vice President Cheney helped establish. Today, the Boston Globe reports that KBR has avoided paying more than $500 million “in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies” based in the Cayman Islands. A look at the costs to KBR employees:

While KBR’s use of the shell companies saves workers their half of the taxes, it deprives them of future retirement benefits.

In addition, the practice enables KBR to avoid paying unemployment taxes in Texas, where the company is registered, amounting to between $20 and $559 per American employee per year, depending on the company’s rate of turnover.

As a result, workers hired through the Cayman Island companies cannot receive unemployment assistance should they lose their jobs.

KBR’s practices are extreme, even compared to its competitors. Other top Iraq war contractors — including Bechtel and Parsons — pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for their employees.

The Bush administration has aided this tax dodging. One of KBR’s shell companies is Overseas Administrative Services, which was set up two months after Cheney became Halliburtion’s CEO in 1995. Since at least 2004, the Pentagon has known about KBR’s practices, but chosen to ignore the issue.

"Failing to contribute to Social Security and Medicare thousands of times over isn't shielding the taxpayers they claim to protect, it's costing our citizens in the name of short-term corporate greed," said Senator John F. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee who has introduced legislation to close loopholes for companies registering overseas.

Of course, KBR is more than happy to claim workers as its own in one instance: when seeking “legal immunity extended to employers working in Iraq.”

Cheney's office at the White House referred questions to his personal lawyer, who did not return phone calls.

Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for KBR, acknowledged via e-mail that the two Cayman Islands companies were set up "in order to allow us to reduce certain tax obligations of the company and its employees."

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Dubose and Bernstein show in this thorough, rollicking career biography that it's Cheney-not the more publicly criticized Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Condoleeza Rice or President Bush-who is chiefly responsible for the most unpopular aspects of the Bush regime: an imperial executive office and foreign policy; abandonment of democratic ideals (respect for government checks and balances, the Geneva Convention, the Bill of Rights and the Freedom of Information Act); and questionable corporate-government colusion (the secret energy task force, Halliburton's government contracts in Iraq). Tracing Cheney through three White House adminsitrations, six terms in the House of Representatives, and a tour as Halliburton CEO, the portrait that emerges from these pages is both alarming and compelling; like a J.R. Ewing, Cheney proves to be the kind of fascinating figure you love to hate. As obstacles to Cheney's will-Congress, the Constitution, foreign countries, the press, or other politicians-are sidestepped, ignored, or trammeled, Cheney emerges as a classic Machiavellian; in Cheney's case, it appears that the end which justifies the means is power, pure and simple. Against Cheney, idealistic liberals who believe that an appeal to democratic ideals, the Constitution, or basic decency will work with this administration emerge here as painfully naïve; unfortunately, this realization has only settled in after the damage was already done. Dubose and Bernstein present a sobering and darkly flattering expose of the reclusive power behind the throne, and a grim vision of what his legacy may be.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Iraqis continue to flee their country

Flies rest on the face of an Iraqi refugee child waiting with his family at the Tanaf border crossing between Syria and Iraq, some 300 kms northeast of Damascus, 10 November 2007. The number of Iraqis seeking asylum in Syria each month has dropped from 20,000 to a few hundred since Damascus imposed new visa restrictions last month, a senior border guard said. According to the UN High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), 4.2 million Iraqis have fled the violence since the US-led invasion of March 2003.

RAQ: 'Not Our Country To Return To'

By Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail*

DAMASCUS, Mar 3 (IPS) - More Iraqis continue to flee their country than the numbers returning, despite official claims to the contrary.

Thousands fleeing say security is as bad as ever, and that to return would be to accept death.

"Return to Iraq?" asks 35-year-old Ahmed Alwan, an Iraqi engineer now working at a restaurant in Damascus. "There is no Iraq to return to, my friend. Iraq only exists in our dreams and memories."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported September last year that there are between 1.2 and 1.4 million Iraqi refugees in Syria alone.

Most, like Alwan, do not intend to return.

"I shall never return to Iraq until the last American soldier and Iranian mullah leaves," Alwan says. "It is their country now, not ours. The only thing that might take me back is when I decide to fight for Iraq's real liberty."

Why they won't go back

Iraqi refugees in Syria speak of lack of security back home, lack of services, fear of the future, mistrust of Iraqi politicians, and loss of homes. Most are simply too afraid to return.

UNHCR report contradicts US media claims

A UNHCR report issued last month contradicts reports by mainstream media in the U.S., and claims by the Bush administration, that more Iraqis are returning to their homes than the number leaving.

The report says that from February 2006-October 2007 Syria received between 30,000-60,000 refugees each month. Immigration officials at al-Tanf on the border say the daily average for those entering Syria from Iraq in late January was over 1,200, while the daily average crossing back was less than 700.

"Many assassinations take place all over Iraq, including Baghdad, and military operations are still being carried out the same way as 2004 and 2005," Nayil Mufeed, a security advisor with a mobile phone company in Baghdad told IPS. "We have advised our employers that moving out of Baghdad to Amman is a definite necessity in such a fragile security situation."

"Even if we believed that security is better in some areas, we know it is worse in other areas, and that it changes suddenly from one place to another," Farooq Munim, a retired school headmaster from Mosul, now a refugee in Syria told IPS.

"My city, Mosul, was safe for those who have no connection with Americans or government intelligence, but now it is not safe for anyone after the explosion at the Zinjilly neighbourhood that was carried out by Peshmerga (Kurdish militias) and Americans to justify the new surge against the city."

Mosul city, 300 km north of Baghdad, is under a major siege by the U.S. military supported by the Kurdish militia and Iraqi troops from southern Iraq. The city, a Sunni stronghold, has been a target for Kurdish militias attempting to cleanse it of its Arab majority in order to support claims that it is a Kurdish city.

Many Iraqis in Syria say they will not return for fear of detention.

"They (U.S. military) say Fallujah is safe now while over 800 men are detained there under the worst conditions," 25-year-old Omar, whose name is on a list of wanted persons by the local police, told IPS. "I am wanted by Fallujah police just because I helped some foreign journalists who visited the city to cover the American crime in 2004, and I showed them eyewitnesses who testified that there were Iraqis who helped the Americans destroy our city. At least 750 out of the 800 detainees are not resistance fighters, but people who refused to collaborate with occupation forces and their tails."

Iraqis commonly refer to Iraqis who collaborate with occupation forces as "tails of the Americans."

For Iraqis who do return home, the reasons usually have little to do with any perception that things are improving.

Iraqis return and leave

"If you do not mention my name and my company, I will tell you all about Iraqis returning home," a passenger transport company manager in Damascus told IPS. "People just move back and forth to check their property, cash their pensions and salaries and for other necessities, but the media make it look like people returning home."

"Some people did go back when they had nothing to spend any more, especially after the Iraqi government promised to pay them money on return," said the manager. "Many of them came back to Syria when they found that all those promises were just lies. On the other hand, Iraqis from the north and south are still fleeing because of the military operations everywhere in Iraq."

Another UN survey of Iraqis returning to their country found that "46 percent were leaving Syria because they could not afford to stay, 25 percent said they fell victim to a stricter Syrian visa policy; and only 14 percent said they were returning because they had heard about improved security."

Others do not return for financial reasons.

"It is cheaper here than in Iraq," Hanan Jabbar, a 38-year-old housewife who fled to Syria five months ago told IPS. "A litre of kerosene costs a dollar back home, while it's 10 cents here. That is just one example for how impossible life now is in Iraq. My kids go to school safely and play like other children now without me worrying to death about them. God bless Syria and Jordan for having us, and God damn America and all its allies for doing all this to us."

On many streets of Damascus today one finds more Iraqis than Syrians, partly because Syrians are at work while most Iraqis are unemployed. They hang around Internet cafés, tea houses and on the streets, looking out for any kind of work.

"I took my family back home in January," Rasool Mussa, a shopkeeper from Baghdad now a refugee in Damascus told IPS. "The first night we arrived, Americans raided our house and kept us all in one room while their snipers used our rooftop to shoot at people. I decided to come back here the next morning after a horrifying night that we will never forget."

(*Maki, our correspondent in Damascus, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East)

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