Many dead in weekend attacks in Iraq

The US military reports that its soldiers have killed 46 Iraqi guerillas who launced two coordinated attacks in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad. A further 18 were reported wounded and another 8 captured. Five US soldiers were reported wounded.

The whole thing seems odd. If these numbers are correct, then at least 72 guerillas were involved in the attacks. This is an incredibly large number to have taken part in a single operation. It may indicate that several small independent groups have come together, and thus that various cells in some parts of the country are moving towards a kind of centralized control structure. Greater numbers and greater coordination may be providing a kind of impetus for bigger and militarily "more impressive" attacks. On the other hand, from the guerillas' perspective this operation was a total failure. One reason for the large number of guerilla casualties may be that the US soldiers destroyed 3 of the buildings from which the attacks were launched, apparently during the firefight. This tactic, to be viewed as part of the US military's new "overwhelming firepower" policy, may have taken the attackers by surprise. Finally, according to a US military spokesperson, "many" of the dead attackers were wearing "Saddam Fedayeen" uniforms. Why they would do this, I have no clue. To boldly announce that they are violently anti-American? To ensure that they stand out as much as possible from the general population? I'm just surprised that none of the dead guerillas turned out to be carrying "Syrian passports" as well.

As the BBC notes, no non-US military account was available by late Sunday evening. We could see a very different version of events coming out shortly.

Meanwhile, 2 US soldiers were killed and a third wounded in a small arms-RPG attack in western Iraq. This attack capped a particularly deadly weekend in Iraq, in which 7 Spanish intelligence officers, 2 Japanese diplomats, 2 South Korean technicians, and a Colombian were killed. A handy chart from the BBC article lays out the details of the attacks:

- Seven Spanish agents killed and one wounded near Hilla
- Two Japanese diplomats and their Iraqi driver killed near Tikrit
- Two US soldiers killed near the Syrian border
- One Colombian contractor killed and two wounded near Balad
- Two South Korean electricians killed near Tikrit
- Three ambushes said foiled by US troops in Samarra

The guerillas are apparently shifting their attacks to "softer" targets while the new US offensive is under way.

In other news, an AP report in the WaPo quotes General Sanchez as saying that "some U.S.-trained Iraqi police appear to have coordinated" some of the recent attacks against US soldiers. No specifics or analyis are given. This possibility is something I have discussed several times, most recently here. As long as there is no credible political system in place and the resistance to the US occupation continues, it is likely that more and more of the people being recruited into the new Iraq army, and especially the police and other security forces, will in fact be working with the guerillas. (link via Antiwar.com)

One final point, a bit of pure speculation: I wonder how Sanchez and his lieutenants are dealing with the presence of "double agents" in the new Iraqi police/security forces. Would they, for example, feed them information that deliberately underestimates the strength and firepower of "easy-to-target" convoys?


IGC censors Al Arabiya

The US occupation authority continues moving ahead with the peculiar form of "democracy" being planned for Iraq. Today's exercise concerns "freedom of the press":
The U.S.-appointed government raided the offices of Al-Arabiya television on Monday, banned its broadcasts from Iraq and threatened to imprison its journalists.

"We have issued a warning to Al-Arabiya and we will sue," said Jalal Talabani, the current council president. "Al-Arabiya incites murder because it's calling for killings through the voice of Saddam Hussein."
The move comes 3 days after Rumsfeld launched yet another tirade against Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera:
"At the present time, two of the most popular stations, Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, are violently anti-coalition and were pro-Saddam Hussein, in the case of Al-Jazeera, in such an obvious way," Rumsfeld said at a town hall meeting with Pentagon workers. "It will take some time to persuade people to watch alternative programming."
"Persuade people" in this case being understood as "give people no other choice".

During Rumsfeld's "town hall" meeting, one of the US finest "soldier-journalists" stated that the US was working on setting up its own Arabic-language propaganda outlet:
The American-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq is working hard to get its own satellite station broadcasting, said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Myers said the new station was trying to develop "quality programming that we hope will attract Iraqis' attention to what's going on in their country and take their attention away from Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya."
Fisky gives us an idea of what this "quality programming" will entail:
Things are no better in the American-run television and radio stations in Baghdad. The 357 journalists working from the Bremer palace grounds have twice gone on strike for more pay and have complained of censorship. According to one of the reporters, they were told by John Sandrock - head of the private American company SAIC, which runs the television station - that "either you accept what we offer or you resign; there are plenty of candidates for your jobs."

When a bomb blew up in part of a mosque in Fallujah last month, for example - killing at least three men - local residents claimed the building had been hit by a rocket from an American jet. The Americans denied this. But no mention of the incident was made on the American-controlled media in Baghdad. Asked for an explanation, newsreader Fadl Hatta Al-Timini replied: "I don't know the answer to that - I'm here to read the news that's brought to me from the Convention Palace (the American headquarters that also houses the station's offices), that's all."
Quality, indeed.


Civil liberties or shopping: which better reflects the ideals of Western culture?

You certainly remember all of those cute little stickers and signs that went up shortly after 9/11 with the American flag shopping bag and the words "AMERICA: OPEN FOR BUSINESS" emblazoned on them. They were a real statement that Americans were not going to be intimated and "let the terrorists win". They were a deep reaffirmation of American freedom - freedom to shop, that is.

Too bad that our civil liberties don't generate nearly as much of a desire on the part of the Bush administration and Main Street to "not let the terrorists win":

- FBI is spying on dissident groups: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.

"The F.B.I. is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred, and I have a serious concern about whether we're going back to the days of Hoover."

According to the report, the FBI is collecting and analyzing information about legal activities on the part of dissidents. At best, this is a pointless waste of the time of personnel who, one would think, should have better things to do. But in light of the reported abuses of the so-called PATRIOT Act, we are clearly not in a "best case" situation. Instead, this spying will probably be used for other purposes: to infiltrate and disrupt dissident groups.

- Arrested Miami protestors get impossibly high bails: "The bonds appear to be excessive and more in line with felony charges than the misdemeanors in question," said Public Defender Bennett H. Brummer, whose office filed the papers in the Third District Court of Appeal.

Thursday's legal move came after a series of unusual bonds were imposed earlier in the day on protesters accused of minor crimes.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Korvick ordered a $20,000 bond for Jesse S. Dewlow, 18, of New Jersey, and a $10,000 bond for James Anthony Samaro, 19, of Coral Springs, for loitering and prowling. The standard bond is $500, the public defender's office said.

(Link via Antiwar.com)

- Miami police beat legal observers: Eight legal observers sent to monitor Miami police during trade protests were arrested, and four were beaten by officers, their organization said Saturday as dozens of protesters were issued bond.

In a letter sent Thursday to Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, the lawyers guild said police used indiscriminate, excessive force against hundreds of nonviolent protesters.

- UK considers new emergency laws: Sweeping measures to deal with terrorist attacks and other emergencies are to be announced this week, giving the Government power to over-ride civil liberties in times of crisis, and evacuate threatened areas, restrict people's movements and confiscate property.

Some of the proposals in the draft version of the Bill, drawn up in the summer, have alarmed civil rights activists, notably a clause that gives the Government the power to suspend parts or all of the Human Rights Act without a vote by MPs.

Once an emergency has been proclaimed by the Queen, the Government can order the destruction of property, order people to evacuate an area or ban them from travelling, and "prohibit assemblies of specified kinds" and "other specified activities".

No fancy signs here. I guess that after all of our civil liberties have been robbed from us, Americans and their Limey counterparts will still have shopping to show that we're "not going to let the terrorists win".

3 US soldiers killed in Iraq

Two soldiers were killed in Mosul on Sunday. There were conflicting reports on the killings: the US army said that they were shot dead, while several witnesses reported that they were stabbed and had their throats cut.

A bystander had this to say:
"They hate the Americans in this area," said a man waiting for petrol near the scene. "They've been doing many raids around here and so it's not surprising they've been attacked."
The Toronto Star adds that "Iraqi teenagers dragged two bloodied American soldiers from a wrecked vehicle, pummelled them with concrete blocks and slit their throats". The article points out that the attack was "unusual for Mosul, once touted as a success story in sharp contrast to the anti-American violence seen in Sunni Muslim areas north and west of Baghdad".

Another soldier was killed in a roadside bombing in Baquba, north of Baghdad. In addition, a police chief was assassinated in a town south of Baghdad.

The two attacks come one day after 17 Iraqis were killed in two car bombings of police stations in and around Baquba. Guerillas on Saturday also killed a police colonel guarding oil installations in Mosul.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, 5 US soldiers died and 7 were wounded in a helicopter crash. The cause of the crash was unknown.

Report: Bremer fires 28,000 teachers

Another one for the "Iraq - Incompetence in Occupation" file:
American's top man in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, last week fired 28,000 Iraqi teachers as political punishment for their former membership in the Saddam Hussein-dominated Baath Party, fueling anti-U.S. resistance on the ground, administration officials have told United Press International.

The Central Command spokesman attributed the firings to "tough, new anti-Baath Party measures" recently passed by the U.S.-created Iraqi Governing Council, dominated by Ahmed Chalabi, a favorite of administration hawks in the White House and Pentagon.
Now that Bremer has fired so many teachers, who will teach in all of these freshly painted schoolhouses?

Of course, the "tough, new anti-Baath" measures didn't extend to former security service personnel, who probably would have been more responsible for the gross human rights violations of the Saddam era than a bunch of teachers.

I wonder what these new thousands of unemployed will be doing with their time?

(Link via The Agonist)

US seeks Israeli advice on Iraq occupation

Something that readers of this site (all 2 of them) are already well aware of: the LA Times reports that the US military has sought advice from Israel on occupation techniques and strategies.

The article contains some apologetic passages:
U.S. officials were particularly interested in the "balancing act" that Israeli officials say they have tried to pursue between fighting armed groups and trying to spare civilians during decades of patrolling the occupied territories.
Yes, that famous Israeli "balancing act", whereby collective punishment, ruthless house demolitions, and thousands of noncombatants killed over the past three years can be magically redefined as "sparing civilians".
Much of the information shared with the U.S. involves the defensive tactics and training that Israel has constantly updated for its troops and police in the occupied territories, where they are familiar not only with the most current tactics and code of ethics but the international laws that apply as well, the two Israeli officials said.
Considering that groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, and even the State Department, regularly criticize the Israeli army for its gross breaches of international law, it would appear that this training is a little deficient.

As the article notes, Israel's tactics are under fire within Israel itself. The question is: why on earth would the US military want to adopt tactics that will make the entire population under occupation hate the occupying force? Wouldn't this promote violent resistance? In the Palestinian case, a lack of suitable weapons prevents more effective armed resistance. Iraqi guerillas, with access to shoulder-fired SAMs, large quantities of explosives, and heavy weapons, do not suffer this handicap. The US military might find out that tactics that haven't worked in Palestine will be even more counterproductive in Iraq.

The NY Times and the concept of progress

The New York Times continues to demonstrate its willingness to be the Bush administration's propaganda cheerleader. Two days after Bush, speaking in London, reiterated that the US is making "good progress" in fighting Al Qaeda, the Times published an article purportedly demonstrating that the US is making "progress" against the group, despite an increasing number of deadly attacks.
The recent surge in terrorist strikes on "soft targets" like consulates, banks and synagogues in places like Turkey and Saudi Arabia is worrying, but paradoxically reflects progress by the United States and Europe in disrupting Al Qaeda, especially its leadership structure, American and European intelligence officials said Friday.
According to the NYT, we should see "progress" in the fact that there is an increasing number of attacks. It doesn't make sense; more people dying = progress? Would it mean that less people dying equals lack of progress? Or is there "progress" being made no matter what happens?

In fact, the second paragraph severely undermines the thesis of the article's lead:
"We continue to disrupt Al Qaeda's activities and capture more of their leaders, but the attacks are escalating," a senior counterterrorism official in Europe said. "This is a very bad sign. There are fewer leaders but more followers."
"Escalating attacks"... "very bad sign"... more "followers" than ever - this paragraph could only support the lead if we decided to define "progress" as "failure".

The entire article is more of the same: quotations and reporting that do not show "progress" but rather an increasing failure:
The shift to softer targets does not make Al Qaeda and its followers any less dangerous, the officials cautioned. They said there is deep concern here and in Europe that the United States and its allies are facing more - not fewer - terrorist foes than before. The killing and capturing of Al Qaeda leaders is failing, they said, to keep pace with the number of angry young Muslim men and women willing to participate in suicide attacks.

The State Department issued a new global terror warning Friday, saying that it saw "increasing indications" that Al Qaeda is planning to strike American interests abroad. It also said that it could not rule out another Qaeda attack within the United States, one "more devastating" than the Sept. 11 attacks.

Despite that cause for optimism, the intelligence officials said they are troubled by evidence suggesting that more young militant men are becoming terrorists than ever before.
We are left wondering: what is the point of this article? Al Qaeda is "weaker" but at the same time it is not "any less dangerous"; the group is "less capable" of striking at important American interests - so incapable, in fact, that the State Department recently warned of that very danger; it is "brain dead" even though every new militant group that comes along copies its modus operandi and claims affiliation. There are so many logical contradictions that one has the suspicion that Thomas Friedman had a hand in editing this turd.

But it would be too easy on the Times to conclude that we simply have yet another example of the steep decline in the quality of journalism, logic and editorial skill at America's "newspaper of record". No, what we are dealing with here is toadyism. POTUS says there is "progress" in the "war on terror"; and, surprise, the NY Times finds it - even if it means that the Times has to imply that more people dying is a good thing. And this, of course, completely leaves aside the issue of whether the US can "win" the "war on terror" by killing or capturing all of the leadership of the pre-9/11 Al Qaeda: are we supposed to believe that Al Qaeda is the only fanatical and militant group out there?

I can only conclude that the NY Times was offering yet another journalistic fig-leaf to the Bush administration counterproductive policies. If the paper had been interested in doing real journalism, the article would have had a thesis along the lines of "militant ranks surge despite attacks on Al Qaeda" and it would have analyzed why this is the case. But instead, the Times chose to assure Citizen Sucker that everything is all about good "progress", even while the Bush administration continues to make his/her world more dangerous.


"US policy has intensified Muslim hatred"

The Berlin daily newspaper "Berliner Zeitung" published an interview in its Saturday, 22 November edition with Alex Standish, a security expert with "Jane's Intelligence Digest". The following is my translation of the interview.

Berliner Zeitung: Mr. Standish, are we losing the fight against terrorism?

Standish: Yes. Western governments will never be able to prevent the attacks of individual extremists who operate across geographical borders. Not even the Israelis, whose security measures are much tougher, have solved the problem. Nor can you negotiate with groups like Al Qaeda, because their demands completely contradict our ideas. They want the destruction of Western culture. That's no basis for negotiation.

BZ: The British prime minister said that terrorism can be wiped out if we rigorously finish the war in Iraq.

S: Exactly the opposite is the case. Before the war, intelligence agencies had little evidence that Saddam Hussein had ties with Al Qaeda. The situation has worsened due to the war. Since then the country has become a magnet for extremists from the entire region [I suppose Stanish is a believer in the "flypaper" theory - ed.]. Several mistakes have been made since September 11: the criminalization of ordinary Muslims in Western countries, the war in Afghanistan, and the campaign against Iraq. If there is now also polemicization against Iran, in the Muslim view everything points to an imperialistic crusade against Islam. The policy of the US has intensified Muslim hatred - and prepared the breeding ground for recruitment by Al Qaeda.

BZ: Blair and Bush make it seem as if victory is only a question of determination.

S: It shocks me, how little they really know about the situation in the Islamic world. Bush's Islam advisor is not even a Muslim. The US government surrounds itself with West-oriented experts who tell it what it wants to hear. For years they have ignored the development of radical groupings and done business with corrupt states. The two government leaders apparently have no clue how much they are hated among the majority of the population in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Western values are not attractive for many.

BZ: Bush talks about a struggle between fanaticism on the one hand and tolerance on the other.

S: He has not understood that you don't reach Muslims with this language. Instead of condemning the assassins as fanatic criminals, Bush's administration should examine why well educated, westernized young men prefer to die as pilots of death rather than make a career for themselves. Only if we understand what drives terrorists can we make them harmless.

BZ: Do you estimate that London will be a target for attacks?

S: That's only a question of time. For two years, Jane's has received warnings to be taken seriously that Al Qaeda is contemplating "soft targets" like shopping centers or cinemas. If a bomb would explode here during Christmastime, it would have catastrophic consequences - and it would ensure even more hatred. That is Al Qaeda's goal.


Incidentally, in the same issue of the Berliner Zeitung, we get an official Israeli statement on the "clash of civilizations" thesis and the idea of doing something other than lashing blindly and brutally out:

The envoy of the Israeli embassy in Germany, Mordechai Levy, reproached the [German] federal government though for a "dishonest dialogue" with Muslims.

"Whoever denies the 'war of civilizations'
[Zivilisationskrieg] allows oneself a luxury for which he will later pay a heavy price", said Levy in Berlin at a memorial service for the terror victims.
Levy might know something about a "Zivilisationskrieg": after all, his state has been fighting one against the Palestinians for over half a century.

The question is: should the rest of the world rush headlong into something similar in view of the miserable results obtained so far?


Car bomb kills 4 in Kirkuk; US soldier killed

A car bombing against the offices of the PUK in Kirkuk killed at least 4 and wounded 37, 7 critically. A car bombing targetting a tribal leader in Ramadi on Wednesday killed 2.

A US soldier was also killed in a convoy bombing east of Ramadi.

A "pro-US" politician was assassinated in Basra. Sargoun Nanou Murado, a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, had been abducted on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a US general is claiming that the new operations against Iraqi guerillas have been a success: "Attacks on the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division have dropped by about 70 percent since the unit began an offensive against known guerrilla cells in Baghdad, the commander of the unit said Thursday."

This latest pronouncement of progress follows earlier reports that the US military was looking to demonstrate its "overwhelming firepower" to the guerillas. But with all due respect to the generals, it is almost certain that the guerillas know that they are "outmatched" and do not possess an arsenal comparable to that of the United States. The overwhelming majority of them, being Iraqis, were in Iraq when the US invaded in the first place. They have had ample opportunity to witness first-hand what kinds of weapons the US has at its disposal. That is the reason they are fighting a guerilla war and not marching out in neat formations to fight US soldiers head-on.

Only time will tell how effective these operations will be. Normally, when outmatched guerillas come under this kind of attack, they will simply blend back into the population, wait out the attacks, and carry out other, non-combat operations (like intelligence gathering and recruitment). It is possible that this decline in attacks against US military personnel will last only as long as aggressive US operations last.

Bush opens door to US troop increase in Iraq

Bush has apparently signaled that the US may increase the number of US soldiers in Iraq, despite a flurry of reports that plans are in the works to begin reducing troop levels beginning next year. Bush made his remarks at a joint press conference with Blair shortly after the car bombings in Istanbul that killed 27 and wounded over 450.

QUESTION: Could I ask both leaders about the agenda on Iraq? You are both engaged in an unpredictable and dangerous war, as we've seen today. And yet, you say you want to bring the troops home starting from next year. Now, how is that possible when the security situation is still so unresolved? You haven't got Saddam Hussein. Aren't you stuck in Iraq with your enemies holding the exit door?

BUSH: I said that we're going to bring our troops home starting next year? What I said is that we'll match the security needs with the number of troops necessary to secure Iraq. And we're relying upon our commanders on the ground to make those decisions.

QUESTION: So you'll keep a certain number of troops in Iraq for a longer time?

BUSH: We could have less troops in Iraq, we could have the same number of troops in Iraq, we could have more troops in Iraq, what is ever necessary to secure Iraq.
Bush goes on to talk about the magical 130,000-strong Iraqi security force that is being trained and how the US is pinning part of its hopes on this project. In my opinion, this is a pipe dream. Not only will we get relatively untrained security forces (which might be susceptible to large-scale rights violations), but they will be widely seen as the enforcers of an occupying regime. In addition, the US might find out that it actually trained new segments of the Iraqi resistance.

In terms of the overall struggle inside the administration over the direction of the occupation, it looks like the anti-"Operation Cut and Run" faction now has the upper hand.

Twin car bombings in Istanbul kill 27, wound 450

Car bombings targetting the British consulate and a British bank in Istanbul killed 27 and wounded over 450 people.

The British consul general was killed in the attack. The Turkish news agency Anatolia "quoted an anonymous telephone caller saying the attacks were a joint action by the al-Qaeda terror group and the Islamic Front of Raiders of the Great Orient (IBDA-C)" (also translated as Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front). The same group claimed responsibility for Saturday's attacks against two synagogues in Istanbul that left 25 dead and over 300 wounded.

The attacks were almost certainly planned to coincide with Bush's state visit to Britain.

Some Bush and Blair reactions to this newest tragedy:

Bush: "They hate freedom. They hate free nations... we're making good progress with al Qaeda. "
Blair: "...what this latest terrorist outrage shows us is that this is a war, its main battleground is Iraq... What has caused the terrorist attack today in Turkey is not the President of the United States, is not the alliance between America and Britain. What is responsible for that terrorist attack is terrorism, are the terrorists."

Another terrible attack which has killed scores of innocent civilians, and this is the explanation we get from the two most powerful people in the world:

- they hate freedom - it's their only motivation;
- we're making good progress - even though a self-described "Al Qaeda"-affiliated group has now killed over 50 people and wounded over 700 in less than a week in the same city;
- the attack demonstrates that Iraq is the "main battleground" on the "war on terror", even though it took place in Istanbul, which is not located in Iraq, and was carried out by a Turkish group, and not Iraqi guerillas;
- no matter what the US and its lackeys do in the world, they will never, ever bear any responsibility when things go bad - only terrorism, arising from absolutely nothing at all and unconnected with anything else in the world, is to blame.

This does not inspire confidence in the future.


2 US soldiers, 3 Iraqi civilians killed

Two US soldiers were killed and at least 2 were wounded in two separate attacks in a town north of Baghdad. In Baghdad, US soldiers killed 3 Iraqi civilians after mistaking the sound of customers test-firing weapons for a guerilla attack.

Meanwhile, we see that the Boy Blunder just... doesn't...get...it:
The United States would wage war again, and alone if necessary, to ensure the long-term safety of the world, President Bush said in an interview published Monday.
Because, you know, the US war in Iraq has been such a smashing success. So smashing that we are now hearing some reports that the US approaching the formerly hated Europeans for help in Iraq.

Well, if the Europeans are willing to play the role that daddy used to and bail out the ne'er-do-well failure, what's to stop Bush from playing his games somewhere else?

More on the fenced-off Iraqi town

The Independent looks at the situation in Awla, the Iraqi town near Tikrit that the US military fenced off a few weeks ago.

The US military's rationale at the time was that Awla was a major center of the resistance. Since then (30 October), Iraqi guerillas have shot down 4 helicopters and killed more US soldiers than they did in the entire month of October. It seems fair to say that fencing off one town did nothing to stop the attacks and, thus, that the move was entirely pointless from a tactical point of view.

On the other hand, it has made at least some people there angry:
"Hey, this is just like Gaza, isn't it?" a fiery-eyed young Iraqi policeman shouted at us from behind the chest-high, three-layer wire coils which separate his home from the rest of the surrounding dead-flat Iraqi landscape, Sunni Triangle heartland. "We're not happy. Not happy!"

Residents seem to think the approach is doomed to fail. A young policeman said over the wire barricade: "It will make the resistance stronger. Even those who did not fight when the Americans came to Iraq are being pushed to join the resistance."
As I pointed out at the time, the fact that the US is increasingly adopting Israeli-style measures will strengthen the US-Iraq:Israel-Palestine link and make the US's occupation much more difficult and deadly by further reducing the number of people who will "colloborate" with the Americans. A string of counterproductive tactical moves, like cutting off Awla or blowing up random buildings, is leading to a deteriorated strategic situation that will make any kind of productive move much harder to carry out.

Ministers with nothing to minister

Two Ha'aretz columns on the Israeli occupation: the first looks at why there is no Palestinian "partner" for the Israeli government's "peace" plans:
More moderate rightists, such as Ehud Olmert, propose that the Jews [sic; i.e., the Israelis] relinquish a small portion of the lands of Judea and Samaria [i.e., the West Bank], based on a formula of "maximum land, minimum Arabs." As far as they are concerned, the Palestinians can term the enclaves that remain under their control "a state." They will be first in line to recognize it.

Olmert, like Sharon before him, proposes a 25-year life span for the temporary state, with the final-status agreement to be based solely on UN Resolution 242. Olmert is correct in saying there is no Palestinian partner for an agreement with Israel - if he means an agreement for the establishment of "a temporary state" that would leave Israel in control of some 42 percent of the West Bank. This is the extent of the Palestinian territory that, in accordance with the Likud's plan, will remain outside of the separation fence on completion of the project... .
The second concerns the farce that is the Palestinian Authority:
If the leaders of the Palestinian Authority had been blessed with a greater measure of self-respect, readiness for personal sacrifice and political audacity, they would have long since declared the PA liquidated and left all the responsibility solely in Israel's hands.

Is the Palestinian minister of internal security capable of seeing to the security of even one Palestinian in the face of the assassinations, the helicopters, the soldiers and the troops who burst into homes in the middle of the night? Is the health minister capable of seeing to the health of his nationals, when every soldier at every checkpoint can delay ambulances and patients and when the cities and villages are under lengthy curfew? And what can the agriculture minister do when settlers cut down and uproot hundreds of olive trees without interference or prevent the harvesting of the olives, and when the Israeli army defoliates thousands of dunams of fields and vineyards? And how will the minister of labor ensure jobs for the people, when they cannot even leave their places of residence? What can the transportation minister do when his country is strewn with checkpoints and the Israel Defense
[sic]Forces is the exclusive sovereign that decides which roads are for Jews only and which Palestinian bus lines will be allowed to operate? The list goes on and on.
This supports my argument that the best political strategy for the Palestinians to adopt at this point is to drop the demand for a separate state and ask for the vote.

(Second link via Antiwar.com)


Jessica Lynch has nothing on this

The media is telling us the US has gone on the offensive.

The only thing new about this is that the US decided to engage in a bit of newspeak. We're not "sitting ducks who are getting attacked", you see. That's old speak. Now, we're "attacking the enemy in his lair". As if, two weeks ago, the US military was not responding in the least. As if it wasn't conducting raids a month ago. Or in June. Tough ones too, with lots of detentions, a real message (we're clumsy morons and well come arrest your entire village?). This time, what's the message?

Whatever. The response of the military (mortar fire, shooting up random buildings) is not new. Its in the same category as what the media was accurately describing, earlier, as soldiers who shoot blindly, who are nervous and afraid so they "shoot first, ask questions later." This admittedly understandable response to persistent guerilla attacks is indicative of the fact that it is not possible for the US to have a coherent military response to this shit. Now, in a remarkable coup, the fact that the US has no options has been repackaged as a brave counter offensive. The military has figured out: "We're being attacked 30 times a day and we cant do shit, well, that just doesnt look right! We gotta do something for our image."

So we get to watch a true media circus at work, as the same picture of a US mortar being fired makes the rounds, and appears everywhere as the unifying symbol of American retaliation. That oughta show some mound of dirt somewhere! Oh, and we'll shoot a missle, or a laser guided bomb, just to show them were not afraid to spend $200,000 blow up some campsite somewhere. No reports of enemy casualties in this operation (but its all about message isnt it.. or maybe the troops are so demoralized that the brass is putting on a show for them, and they get to do the acting!). The message to the Iraqis is "good job, you're winning". The message to the Americans is "theres the truth (head shaking) and the truth (vigorous head nodding)."

Increased evil quotient

Looks like our hard work ridiculing Bush and his authoritarian robber-baron administration has paid off: according to The Gematriculator, BBR is now 39% evil. This represents a 4% increase from our previous level of evil.

Without Bush's inept and dishonest style of governance, it wouldn't have been possible.


Former UK ambassador: Cheney, Pentagon ignored post-Saddam advice

The Observer reports that British suggestions that the US make actual plans for the occupation of Iraq were ignored by the Pentagon and Cheney. Christopher Meyer, the UK's former ambassador to the US, said that while the State Department showed interest in the British proposals, the Defense Department and the Office of the Vice President were less enthusiastic about the project:
Asked if the Government had warned the US about the need for planning the post-Saddam era, he said: "Absolutely, absolutely."

He added: "The problem was that bureaucratically there is a tendency in Washington to be able to focus on only one big issue at a time. I think they were consumed in the contingency planning for war. We were saying that's fine but we must be clear in our own mind what is happening afterwards. That was absolutely indispensable.

"The message was well taken in the State Department but it could not agree an approach with the Defence Department and the Vice President."
(note: combines paragraphs)
In light of this revelation, Professor Cole (who you really should be reading every day) speculates that Cheney may have also been ultimately responsible for an order from Rumsfeld to then-US viceroy Jay Garner not to use planning studies developed at the State Department designed specifically to deal with the "post-war" phase.

Exactly how much power does Cheney have? Can we just formally drop the "vice" part from his title about now?

Meyer's interview would also seem to make General Peter Pace's recent testimony before the House Armed Services Committee look even more ridiculous than it did before:
"We did not want to be planning for a postwar in Iraq before we were sure we were going to war in Iraq. We did not want to have planning for the postwar make the war inevitable."
Now: was Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, simply ignorant of the high-level contacts between the US and UK governments dealing specifically with post-Saddam planning - or was he bullshitting Congress and the American people with this testimony?

In addition, the article seems to indicate that all of this talk we heard earlier this year before the war about how "no decision" to attack Iraq had been made (e.g., Rumsfeld on 26 February) was rubbish:
Meyer revealed that Tony Blair had made a personal appeal to Bush in the new year to delay the war.

At their Washington summit in January, Bush had made it clear that America was ready to attack the following month, well before all the diplomatic avenues had been exhausted and before Britain felt that its military capability was ready.
With all of the fuck-ups concerning Iraq, it's a little past time for some straight answers.

British gov't rejects preposterous White House requests for Bush visit

It turns out that Bush wanted a lot more than just his own personal "vibe zone" for his visit to London:
Home Secretary David Blunkett has refused to grant diplomatic immunity to armed American special agents and snipers travelling to Britain as part of President Bush's entourage this week.

In the case of the accidental shooting of a protester, the Americans in Bush's protection squad will face justice in a British court as would any other visitor, the Home Office has confirmed.

The White House initially demanded the closure of all Tube lines under parts of London to be visited during the trip. But British officials dismissed the idea that a suicide bomber could kill the President by blowing up a Tube train.

Demands for the US air force to patrol above London with fighter aircraft and Black Hawk helicopters have also been turned down.

The Americans had also wanted to travel with a piece of military hardware called a 'mini-gun', which usually forms part of the mobile armoury in the presidential cavalcade. It is fired from a tank and can kill dozens of people. One manufacturer's description reads: 'Due to the small calibre of the round, the mini-gun can be used practically anywhere. This is especially helpful during peacekeeping deployments.'

Ministers have made clear to Washington that the firepower of the mini-gun will not be available during the state visit to Britain.
No, Mr. Bush, you can't play with the "mini-gun" in London.

I suppose we can gather from all of this that Bush does not put too much faith in British security. If I were one of these masculine American chickenhawks, I would be deeply embarrassed and ashamed that my president both thinks poorly of the security services of the US's most trusty puppy-like follower ally and seems to have lost some of the bravura he displayed in that 9/11 documentary with regard to attacks from "tinhorn terrorists".

But I guess that the Bushian "bring it on" philosophy only applies to the lives of other people.

14-year-old Palestinian killed; ICRC ends emergency program

Israeli soldiers killed a 14-year-old boy near Nablus. He was shot in the stomach while reportedly throwing stones at the soldiers.

Meanwhile, the ICRC is ending its emergency food aid program in the West Bank. The organization says it is Israel's responsibility as the occupying power to meet the humaitarian and economic needs of the Palestinians.
Vincent Bernard, an ICRC spokesman, said: "This was humanitarian relief designed to assist in a humanitarian emergency, not to address the longer-term problems caused by curfews, closures and the collapse of the economy that has occurred. It is not our responsibility to take care of the economic needs of the Palestinians. We have repeatedly said it is the responsibility of the occupying power."

Mr Bernard denied Israeli press reports that the food programme had been cancelled for budgetary reasons. "As the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility to minimise the humanitarian consequences of its actions," he said. "You cannot go on for ever with the curfews and closures which are destroying the Palestinian economy. They have to find a different way to guarantee their security. If they lifted these security measures, the Palestinian economy, though damaged, would start again."
The Israeli press had earlier reported that the ICRC's representative said that the Palestinians face a humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza.

Tragedy in Istanbul

Juan Cole on the terrible attacks against the Istanbul synagogues on Saturday.

New obstacles for 9/11 commission's access to documents

The Bush administration has put up new obstacles in the way of obtaining White House documents relating to 9/11. Specifically, we see that the administration and the 9/11 panel have reached an agreement that limits the latter's ability to acquire the presidential daily briefings:
Tim Roemer, a panel member who was also denied White House documentation when he sat on a congressional committee studying 9/11, says more hurdles put up this week by Bush may mean the world will never really know what the president knew.

The White House and the bipartisan commission, headed by former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean, a Republican personally chosen by Bush, have struck a compromise on the commission's demand that they have access to the Presidential Daily Briefs (PDBs), the highly classified intelligence documents made available to only Bush and his innermost circle.

Neither side is officially releasing the terms of the compromise but Roemer says the access will be restricted to a handful of commission members and the documents will be truncated.

Some of the 10 members, likely including Roemer, will not actually see anything under the deal. Only four can see PDBs, and then only portions the White House deems relevant - and even then, the members' comments about the top-secret briefings will be vetted by the White House.
So, not only are these secret documents not being handed over, but there was a secret deal concerning their fate whose terms are not being released... Nothing to see here, move along.

Here's one question: if the administration was guilty of massive criminal incompetence, how else would we ever find out, except via these documents? Or is this something the American public has no right to know?

But we find out that Roemer himself seems to be a little dense about the issue:
"What I find surprising," Roemer said, "is that there are two things which can most help the Bush administration and they won't co-operate.

"This report could prove there was no warning; there was no smoking gun provided to the president. It could also prove that the intelligence community did not do a proper job of putting the position to him.

"And he won't provide access to these things."
Yes, that's certainly true... but it's also entirely possible that they will not provide exculpatory evidence but rather the opposite: that the intelligence community did its job and that there was a smoking gun provided to the president.

Given their refusal to turn over the documents, which scenario do you think is more likely, Timmy?

(Link via Antiwar.com)

Israel/Palestine: "Road map" obligations and secret prisons

According to an internal memo, the government of Israel failed to honor its commitments under the so-called "road map".
"Our claim that Israel has fulfilled its side of the (peace) road map is seen as lacking credibility because not only have we not evacuated the illegal outposts, we are working in every way to whitewash their existence and build more," it said.
Sid Blumenthal, from his new post at the Guardian, explains how Blair was duped by Bush concerning the "road map". Note to British readers: anyone duped by Bush does not deserve to be running a country.

Meanwhile, the Guardian carries a report about Facility 1391, a secret prison in northern Israel where physical and psychological torture is part of imprisonment.
One former inmate has filed a lawsuit alleging that he was raped twice - once by a man and once with a stick - during questioning. But most of those who emerge say the real torture is the psychological impact of solitary confinement in filthy, blackened cells so poorly lit that inmates can barely see their own hands, and with no idea where they are or, in many cases, why they are there.

"Our main conclusion is that it exists to make torture possible - a particular kind of torture that creates progressive states of dread, dependency, debility," says Manal Hazzan, a human rights lawyer who helped expose the prison's existence. "The law gives the army enough authority already to hide prisoners, so why do they need a secret facility?"
Facility 1391, Room 101, hasbara, doublespeak... it's all the same.


2 More Helicopters

Two helicopters down in Mosul. Its beginning to look a lot more like combat, at least from the Iraqi perspective. The helicopters in question were called in as air support after a foot patrol was ambushed. One was hit with a missle of some sort and crashed into the other. An impressive display of tactical capacity. Will make it harder for the Americans to send in air support, which will increase response times and further isolate foot or small vehicle patrols, and give the resistance more operational breathing room.

From the American side, things are looking even less like combat, even as, or especially as, the Military tries to look tough for the American media. The military is still relying heavily on the Jessica Lynch playbook. Embedding reporters, shooting blanks and faking rescues has given way to banning unfavorable media coverage and dropping sattelite bombs on empty (evacuated) buildings to fake "strikes" on insurgents.


What will he wear this time?

Bush during a 1992 dinner with the Queen of England:
The last time he dined with the Queen - in 1992 at his father's White House, wearing cowboy boots emblazoned with GOD SAVE THE QUEEN - he asked if she had any black sheep in her family. "Don't answer that!" his mother Barbara interjected, trying to avoid embarrassment.
I would humbly recommend that Bush's cowboy boots this time be emblazoned with THE FASCIST REGIME... or perhaps NO FUTURE might be more appropriate.

We also see that Blair either just doesn't get it or thinks that political suicide might be fun:
Far from keeping Bush under wraps for fear of gaffes, Blair is encouraging him to grant interviews with lots of local media.
That should provide enough comic relief until November 2004.

UN: Only 11% of Apartheid Wall follows Green Line

According to a preliminary UN study, only 11% of Israel's Apartheid Wall follows the Green Line. The other 89% cuts deeply into the West Bank, up to 22 km in some places.

The report also states that the Apartheid Wall will disrupt the lives of 680,000 Palestinians and chop off 15% of the West Bank.

It must be stressed that the UN report is preliminary and was based only on what plans and maps (note: PDF file) the Israeli government has felt fit to release. On the map, we can see that the Apartheid Wall's projected route ends mysteriously in both the north and the south of the West Bank. Other reports have indicated that Israel plans to extend the this route to completely encircle the West Bank and cut off the Jordan Valley. If these plans are carried out, then more than 15% of the land of the West Bank will be stolen and a lot less than 11% will have been built along the Green Line.

Two concepts to keep in mind when discussing this Wall: massive land grab and the world's largest prison.

Anti-war veterans expelled from parade

A group of 30 anti-war veterans were expelled from a parade in which they had legally registered to march in the Florida capital.
As organizers allowed the parade to roll on - including veterans from various wars, several high school marching bands and even a group of young women from the local Hooters restaurant - the anti-war veterans were ordered onto sidewalks where they passed out leaflets and displayed a banner reading, "Honor the Warrior, Not the War."
The organizer explained his decision to bar veterans from marching in a parade to honor veterans:
Parade chairman Ken Conroy, a Korean War veteran, said he ejected the anti-war veterans because they were offensive and because Tallahassee police also wanted them removed.
The police think Conroy is a liar:
Tallahassee police Sgt. David Folsom denied police played any role in the situation and said Tuesday was the first time he could recall anyone being excluded from the parade.

"We don't police the participants," Folsom said. "We don't have an opinion on who's in it, as long as they're not walking around naked or drinking in public. It's just not a police decision."
Nice to see veterans getting to enjoy all of these freedoms for which their lives were put at risk.

CIA predicts US situation in Iraq to deteriorate

The CIA is predicting that the security situation in all parts of Iraq - north and south, as well as the central "Sunni triangle" - will get worse.

Use of the word "predict" is intentional, although I think they have it right this time.

The CIA also reports that more Iraqis are supporting the guerillas. Apparently this support is taking the form of people joining the guerilla groups to fight. If this is true, then it certainly means that many more are offering greater passive support to the resistance (e.g., "looking the other way", providing informal logistical help and information, sheltering fighters, etc.). Such support is crucial for the successful guerilla group.

Reasons for this increased popular support include the heavy-handed US response and the occupation's inability to really do anything against the guerillas. Inability to disrupt resistance operations allows guerillas to carry out spectacular and high-profile attacks, reflected in the CIA's statement that fighters now believe they can "inflict bodily harm" on the US. But there's no need to pat the CIA on the back for this analysis - we've been saying similar things here for quite a while, and on much less of a budget.

UPDATE: TPM brings up a Guardian article which mentions that Bremer helped push the CIA report out into the light of day. According to the article, Bremer may have wanted to bypass his bosses in the Pentagon and go straight to the White House:
Although, the report was an internal CIA document it was widely circulated within the administration. Even more unusually, it carried an endorsement by Paul Bremer, the civilian head of the US-run occupation of Iraq - a possible sign that he was seeking to bypass his superiors in the Pentagon and send a message directly to President George Bush on how bad the situation has become.
Attentive readers (all 2 of them) may recall that we suggested Bremer was interested in doing that in early October.

We also work on much of less of a budget than TPM and the Guardian.

As always, it wouldn't be much of a post without highlighting a preposterous quote. Today's comes from a "senior defense official":
"Militarily, this resistance cannot match the U.S. forces. But if they can attack the will of the people and if they can pose the question of why we are involved, that's what they will seek to do."
"Pose the question of why we are involved"... why should we have to rely on the guerillas to do that? Or is this unnamed "senior defense official" admitting that "we" really don't know?


12 Italians killed in attack in southern Iraq

At least 12 people are reported dead in an attack on the headquarters of the Italian military police in the southern Iraqi town of Nassiriya.

President Bush must be very, very happy: the guerillas are really "bringing it on"! Progress is in the air in Iraq: the guerillas have "progressed" from killing Americans to killing Europeans!

LATE UPDATE: 28 dead - 19 Italian soldiers and military police and 9 Iraqis. 84 Iraqis wounded, 11 seiously.

In other news: US soldiers killed 5 Iraqi civilians and wounded 4 in Falluja after mistaking them for thieves.

Guerillas also attacked the US compound in Baghdad with rockets overnight. No injuries were reported.


Bush demands central London as his personal "vibe zone"

Well, well... we see that the Boy Blunder is demanding that central London be virtually shut down for 3 days so that the sight of protestors doesn't ruin his visit with the Queen.
American officials want a virtual three-day shutdown of central London in a bid to foil disruption of the visit by anti-war protestors. They are demanding that police ban all marches and seal off the city centre.

...with tens of thousands of protestors from around the UK set to join blockades and marches during the Bush trip, US officials are reportedly insisting on an "exclusion zone".

He will stay at Buckingham Palace and his staff want The Mall, Whitehall and part of the City closed. Besides provoking a civil liberties backlash, the Met fears such a move would cause traffic chaos and incur huge loss of business across the capital.
The inability of a grown man to take criticism is pathetic, even if this criticism is in the form of 100,000 dragging his effigy through the street and giving him the one-finger salute.

A genuine lover of free speech, that Bush. As long as he doesn't have to be aware of its existence.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair has appeared to tearfully beg potential protestors not to spoil this important state visit:
Mr Blair devoted the bulk of his annual foreign policy speech at the Guildhall in London to Mr Bush's state visit. Confronting critics who say political embarrassment lies ahead and that he must regret having issued the invitation, Mr Blair insisted he was not nervous: "I believe this is exactly the right time for him to come."

Mr Blair, in his speech at the lord mayor's banquet, said: "For many, the script of the visit has already been written. There will be demonstrations. His friends wonder at the timing. His enemies rub their hands at the potential embar rassment." Mr Blair said they were all wrong.
We'll see about that, Tony.

Blair also repeated the standard "forget-all-the-lies-we-told-before-the-war" line in his appeal:
"...accept that the task now is not to argue about what has been, but to make what is happening now work, and work for the very Iraqis we all say we want to help."
Never mind the bollocks, here's the W.

Final word to all of you potential protestors out there: England expects every man (and woman) to do his (and her) duty. Make W.'s visit one to remember.


You, sir, are no Karl Marx

Al Jazeera recently published an article about the results of a poll on the 100 top Germans of all time.

Karl Marx was one of the top ten.

But the picture that Al Jazeera included with its article was a little different:

Similar - but why does Marx's face look all funny? How can he be shown in profile while looking forward at the same time? Did Marx suffer from some horrible disfigurative disease?

The picture apparently comes from "Touchline Ramblings", the newsletter of a rugby club in England.

Well, no one can ever accuse Al Jazeera of being Marxist.

Of drafts and the Pentagon's preparation philosophy

So... we are supposed to believe that there aren't any real plans for a draft under way to provide more cannon fodder for Bush's imperial project:
Federal officials, falling in line behind President Bush and his official position, say there are no specific plans to bring back the draft but it's only prudent to have the plans and some of the people in place if it becomes necessary.
Hmm... interesting: the Pentagon is making preparations for something that it says isn't likely to happen.

Now compare this to the Pentagon's policy for dealing with the post-invasion Iraq:
The Army, the report states, "did not have a dedicated plan to transition quickly from combat operations to SASO," military lingo for "stability and support operations." Commanders put a great premium on capturing the Baghdad airport but had no plan for how to occupy it or how to use its facilities to bring in personnel or materials that would assist in stability operations.

Planning for postwar stability - also known as civil-military operations or CMO - "is part and parcel of warfighting in the 21st century," the report declares. However, it notes that, in preparing for this war, the Army's commanders "did not focus on CMO training."
So, in this instance, the Pentagon made no preparations for something it knew would happen.

Shorter Pentagon administration: Planning for the "unnecessary" - good; planning for inevitable - bad.

My mortal mind simply cannot deal with such administrative acuity.

AEI "scholar" ridicules weakling members of Congress

You know that things are bad when the AEI starts ridiculing Congress for being servile weaklings to Dear Leader:
"You get, in effect, the equivalent of a French poodle that occasionally yaps at its master and bares its teeth, but if there's something of consequence to the administration, particularly when it comes to international affairs, it's going to back down," said Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar [sic] at the American Enterprise Institute.
French poodle? Personally, I would have gone with a comparison with a toy terrier.

But let us not quibble over individual dog breed preferences. We have gotten to the point where groups like the AEI no longer need pretend that the utter subservience of Congress to our increasingly authoritarian president is anything other than it is. They can come out and laugh right in the faces of senators and representatives, secure in the knowledge that they lack both the courage and the will to stand up to the Boy Blunder and act independently.

No need for bones here - our dogs will roll right over on command. That's government you can truly be proud of.

12 Palestinians killed over weekend

The Israeli army has killed 12 Palestinians since Friday in the West Bank and Gaza. The dead include a 10-year-old boy chasing birds and a 14-year-old throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.

No doubt this qualifies as one of these periods of "relative calm" that we often hear about.


US army attacks town after helicopter shootdown

Here is the aftermath of the Blackhawk shootdown yesterday - a retaliatory raid in the town of Tikrit:
The U.S. military responded to Friday's attack with a show of force in Tikrit, a city about 90 miles northwest of Baghdad where Hussein's clan has its roots. Before midnight, two Air Force F-15s dropped 500-pound bombs on the spot where the attack may have been launched, and artillery fired several rounds near the site.

U.S. forces, backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, destroyed vacant houses said to have been used by attackers in the past, and the military reimposed an 11 p.m. curfew on a nearby neighborhood. Under cover of darkness, soldiers from the 4th Infantry staged raids and arrested at least eight people.

"We've lost six of our comrades today. We're going to make it unequivocally clear what power we have at our disposal," said Col. James Hickey, commander of the division's 1st Brigade.
Billmon quotes a commander from the 4th Infantry on the rationale behind this action:
In retaliation, American troops backed by Bradley fighting vehicles swept through Iraqi neighborhoods before dawn Saturday, blasting houses suspected of being insurgent hideouts with machine guns and heavy weapons fire.

"This is to remind the town that we have teeth and claws and we will use them," said Lt. Col. Steven Russell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment...
So... now the US is attacking civilian structures in Iraqi towns and carrying out retaliatory raids.

Looks like the US military took a few pointers from from their Israeli colleagues.

The difference, of course, is that the Israeli army is attempting to crush and punish the Palestinian people. The US, on the other hand, is supposedly working to win "hearts and minds". Let me suggest that the Israeli example might not be the best way to go about doing things.


Another US helicopter crashes; 4 dead

A Blackhawk helicopter crashed in Iraq near Tikrit, killing at least 4 and wounding 2. It was not clear whether guerillas shot the helicopter down or not.

This is the second deadly helicopter crash in one week.

PROGRESS UPDATE: All 6 Blackhawk crew dead. 2 killed in Mosul, 8 wounded. Who's afraid of progress? Not George W. Bush, that's who not.

Two attacks in Mosul (yes, not in the "Sunni Triangle") left 1 US soldier dead and 9 wounded. A Polish major was also killed recently, the first member of the "coalition of the willing" armies to die.

We get a fine epitaph for the victims of the earlier shoot-down, which killed 16, from our good friend, Col. Teeples:
"Death was in the cause of freedom. They were serving our country and answering our nation's call to fight terrorists," Colonel David Teeples, commanding officer of the men's unit, said.
You see? All that pre-war talk about WMD and disarmament and enforcing the will of the international community was just a code for "fighting terrorists". That's what it's about - that's what it's always been about. And anyone who says that Iraq wasn't the "frontline" on the "war against terror" well before no WMDs were never found clearly hates America.


The "sanitization" of war coverage

A study published by the BBC shows that "embedded" reporters gave a "sanitized" view of the war against Iraq. The study also found that the BBC shared in the general pro-war bias by British broadcasters (which was not nearly as great as that of their American counterparts):
The BBC-commissioned research will be discussed at NewsXchange conference in Budapest today. It showed that the corporation, like most other British broadcasters, tended towards "pro-war assumptions".

Although British broadcasters were not guilty of the overt pro-war bias of their US counterparts, they tended to assume the truth of what they had been told. In nine out of 10 references to weapons of mass destruction during the war, there was an assumption that Iraq possessed them.

Broadcasters were twice as likely to show Iraqi enthusiasm for the coalition forces as suspicion or hostility.
A BBC official will also make a case for "desanitizing" war coverage:
...a senior BBC news executive will make a controversial case for desanitising the presentation of war on British television. In a speech to a conference of broadcasters in Budapest, Mark Damazer, deputy director of BBC News, will say the current position is a "disservice to democracy".

He told the Guardian last night: "For reasons that are laudable and honourable, we have got to a situation where our coverage has become sanitised. We are running the risk of double standards, and it is not a service to democracy."
I would agree on both counts. If citizens of some state are willing to spend billions of dollars to send off other fellow citizens to be blown up and maimed for life, they should be shown what their money is buying. They should get a good, clear idea of what war looks like, even if they never have to go and fight in one and even if it upsets their breakfast. It might make these people less willing to support war.

What's in a name

Remember how, back in the Cold War, any country with the word "democratic" as part of its name could be counted on not to be democratic? How the rulers of these countries governed in a way that was the total opposite of democratic?

The Bush administration has a similar policy towards any law with the word "clean" in it... like Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Bush and his big business friends are working to make the environment as dirty as possible under these "clean" natural resource laws.

So your kids can enjoy a nice big glass of Sludge-o-licious while paying for Bush's war.

Experts discuss future of Iraq

The Guardian has an article with the views of some experts (some more "expert" than others) on security, government, and economy in Iraq. Panelists included members of the Arab League and the AEI and other private and governmental think-tanks, as well as Saddam's biographer.

(Update: minor editing)

Agent fingers Iran in 1994 Argentina bombing

A former Iranian secret service agent has blamed the Iranian government for ordering the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires which killed 80 and wounded over 200.


US intelligence community examines Mideast situation

Ha'aretz carried an important article recently on assessments and recommendations by the US intelligence community relating to national security interests in the Middle East. In the emerging tradition of the US press, this story does not appear to have had much domestic coverage. I have not been able to find the report that is mentioned in the article (I will post it when I can find it).

According to the article,
The four central players in American intelligence - Tenet, Ford, the FBI chiefs and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the Pentagon - have drawn up their full written responses in follow-up to their verbal answers to questions from the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during its annual hearing on "Current and Projected Threats to the National Security of the United States" which was held in February. The original hearing came prior to the Iraq war, and written reponses and updates were promised to follow after the war.
Some of the main points are as follows:

- The US intelligence community sees a clear link between the Israel/Palestine issue and the problems the US is facing in the Middle East: "The U.S. Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) has recommended to the Bush administration to apply "clear and intentional pressure" on Israel regarding the settlements, as part of making headway with the Palestinians, as well as helping to calm the situation heating up in Iraq.

"Ford submitted that the urgency of advancing an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, which necessitates pressure on Israel regarding the settlements, was one of two conditions for stability in Iraq. The other was visible progress on democracy and welfare in Iraq itself. Ford expressed doubts over fulfilling these conditions, and described the chance of achieving success on both counts as "a miracle," but that without it, the U.S. should expect Arab and Muslim hostility to increase further, threatening prospects for the future."

- The Arab League initiative of 2002, now more or less safely in the confines of the memory hole, is seen as one of the best ways to reach a settlement of the Israel/Palestine problem, which can only help the US' national interests: "Stanley Moskowitz, CIA director of congressional affairs, and a former head of the CIA in Israel, wrote to the senators on behalf of Tenet that an arrangement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would be acceptable to the Palestinians and developed Arab states, "such as the plans outlined by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah," are expected to significantly reduce negative feelings toward the U.S. in the region. According to the CIA, the U.S. policy vis-a-vis Israel and the presence of American forces in the Persian Gulf are the prime cause of negative feeling toward the U.S. in the region".

- The US intelligence community still has fears about the stability of the Hashemite regime in Jordan: "From the reponses of the heads of American intelligence, fears were raised over the stability of the Jordanian regime. The response to a question on this matter, which had referred to an earlier assessment of fears for King Abdullah's government following the U.S. war in Iraq and increasing violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was left classified. It is reasonable to assume that the response would have been published had the CIA's earlier estimates of fears, expressed in February, been proved false."

- Israel continues to aggressively direct espionage activities against the US: "According to the reports to the Senate committee, Israel continues to be included in the top ranking of those suspected of industrial and economic espionage against the United States. France, Russia, China, Iran and Cuba appear on the list as well.

It is beyond incredible that this story is not news in the US. It says a lot about the state of American journalism when American citizens must turn to foreign news sources for critical information about US policy.

Israel destroys Gaza wells

More deliberate destruction by Israel of civilian infrastructure in Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on earth - this time aimed at something even more basic than housing, the water supply:
The US has reportedly complained after the Israeli army destroyed wells built for civilians in Gaza by an American government aid agency.

The wells had just been dug by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid). A few months ago the agency announced a $20m (£12m) project to rebuild infrastructure including roads, electricity supply lines and sewers in the occupied territories.

The agency was reporting good progress. But its workers were dismayed when they turned up to finish the wells and found that their work had been destroyed. A source at the American embassy said that when USAid complained, the Israelis told them that they demolished the wells because Palestinian militants had been hiding in them.
Is there anywhere that "militants" won't hide? I can imagine that militants hiding in Gaza wells pose a grave danger to Israeli citizens in Tel Aviv or Herzliya.

American taxpayer money at work - but, then again, such "morality" is not something to which you can really fix a price tag.

Anti-war activist charged with "misusing telephone"

A New Zealand anti-war acitivist was charged with "misuse of a telephone" after sending an email to the US embassy protesting the war.
An Auckland peace activist who sent an e-mail to the US Embassy objecting to the war on Iraq has been charged with misuse of a telephone.

Mr Hubbard last night said he had been charged under the Telecommunications Act and had been told by police they would seize information from his computer under the Counter-Terrorism Act.
Civil liberties violations - they're not just for Americans anymore.


Some hard facts about Iraq

It has got to the point where reading the news is a Herculean struggle to filter out bullshit, ignorance, and outright lies from anything useful. In the interests of general edification, I will present some hard facts that people should consider accepting about the US occupation of Iraq. These points are critical of both the developed Right ideology (i.e., the motivations, strategy, and goals of the dickheads who got us into this mess) and the emerging position of the "Left", an example of which we see in this column by Tariq Ali. Observations along these lines might provide a preliminary step to solving the disaster that Americans, Iraqis, and everyone else now has their hands.

1) US politicians and generals have no clue about the security situation in Iraq. Either that, or all of these fluff pieces by gullible journalists that we keep seeing are propaganda designed for the American public. How else does one explain this spread of articles on who's behind the guerilla attacks: Syrians, foreign fighters, religious extremists, Saddam-loyalists, Al Qaeda, Kurdish Islamists, or all of them at once. Nowhere in these genius assessments do we see a place for ordinary Iraqis - i.e., Iraqis who do not want to see Saddam come back, are not religious zealots, and who do not follow OBL but want to get rid of the Americans - for the simple fact that ordinary Iraqis do not have any apparent "big man" to serve as a leader.

It is for this reason that I think it is more likely that Bushco and the generals really do not understand what is happening in Iraq. The idea that "Arabs" can function and are capable of autonomous action without a "big man" is foreign to them, as Ali points out. All descriptions of Arab politics and action (both friendly and hostile) in their world are pyramid-shaped, with despots like OBL, Saddam, Mubarak, King Abdullah, Qadhafi etc. invariably at the top. Racist illusions may play well with a brainwashed mass like the American public, but when confronted with people who do not share this ideology (like the Iraqi guerrillas), the results may be deadly. The US is incapable of confronting the challenge that the Iraqi guerrillas present, for the simple fact that it cannot admit that many Iraqis are suspicious, at best, of the US. It is impossible to admit this fact, without also admitting the two reasons why Iraqis may feel this way: the US's mindless support for Israel and the US-supported sanctions (the latter of which, oddly, we hardly ever hear about in discussions of the "neglect" of Iraq's infrastructure and oil installations).

Lower-ranking field commanders and regular soldiers are almost certainly aware of what the situation is. These personnel, however, lack the authority and intelligence (military intelligence, not brainpower) to carry out effective countermeasures against the guerrillas, most of which in any even concern political and not military policy. They will be forced to continue carrying out largely ineffective military measures, while the guerilla movement grows and becomes more deadly.

2) The UN is the only way to achieving a unified stable Iraq. The American discourse on the future of Iraq is going in two directions: the "we broke it, we brought it" approach, in which US soldiers must stay there as long as "necessary", or the pull-out approach, in which the US either dumps Iraq on someone else or leaves it up to the Iraqis to rebuild their country. Neither is tenable at this point.

The former provides a retroactive justification of the Bushco war of aggression project. As long as US soldiers stay there under US command, Bush and robber band will keep attempting to turn Iraq into their little version of colonial paradise, with such policies as the new 15% flat tax rate and across-the-board privatization. Iraqis are not stupid - they know what the US is doing to their country, and they know it is not to their benefit. This route will not lead to stability. The more people see their country being turned into a fiefdom of Chalabi and his fellow travelers, the more support the guerrillas will receive. The US occupation authority, goaded on by thick-headed and thick ideologues, will be trapped by attempting to institute policies that find little support among the population and a lot of resistance from armed groups that will make sure they never get properly carried out.

The latter course would be a disaster. Iraq would slide into a civil war if US soldiers were to leave at short notice without any kind of real political framework that enjoys widespread popular support. This would almost certainly lead to a breakup of the country, a wider regional war, or both. The results would be disastrous for the people of the Middle East. In this respect, I must disagree strongly with Ali. His view that a successful guerilla war which drove out the occupation forces would lead to a happy, peaceful Iraq where everyone comes together and gets along nicely ("One can hope that this will combine democracy and social justice...") is completely idealized. At the very least, such optimism does not address the plans that other external powers in the region (Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel) have for Iraq. Does Ali believe that these countries would happily stand aside and watch Iraq do whatever it pleased, regardless of the consequences for their states?

The only way to convince the guerrillas to stop the attacks, and thus to begin the rebuilding of Iraq, is to demonstrate that the political process is not a complete, US-orchestrated sham. The following measures might convince the guerrillas to move their struggle to the completely political plane:

- US soldiers trade their camouflage helmets for the blue helmets of the UN; a broad UN command is established, with the participation of Egypt (the leading member of the Arab League and a state which does not immediately border Iraq); the US will continue to supply the bulk of the interim force soldiers (because, hey, their country "broke it", and it would also serve as a deterrent to further adventures in the Middle East).
- the US reverses all of the illegal measures it has instituted concerning the economy; the direction of the economy will be determined by a legitimate Iraqi government.
- under UN supervision, steps are taken towards establishing a provisional Iraqi government and constitutional congress. Constitutional scholars from foreign countries, who would act as as an advisory board, would be appointed by the UN secretary general. As suggested by Juan Cole, elections for a provisional government could be held in short order based on the 1925 Constitution, with a few points changed (e.g., references to the monarchy). Elections are held under strict UN supervision, which will have the ability to annul outcomes if large-scale irregularities are reported. The drawing up of the constitution would follow after this over time.

Needless to say, it is apparent that the Bush regime would never adopt any course at all resembling this. So the attacks will continue and the US's self-appointed role will become more difficult.

3) The Iraqi resistance is the only thing that has kept the US from invading other countries. Even now, with US soldiers pinned down by a gathering guerilla war, shitheads like Perle are threatening military action against Syria, from a conference in occupied Jerusalem no less. And, of course, there's Clark's statement that he had heard of wars against seven countries in the offing, with Syria and Iran near the top of the list. But, thanks to the Iraqi guerillas, a sizable chunk of the US military is tied down and the public is, finally, growing more skeptical about further wars of aggression.

Does it sound like I am praising the guerillas? In a way, I am. If it had not been for the immediate and increasingly deadly attacks against the US forces in Iraq, the United States by now would have invaded and been occupying another country in the Middle East, most likely Syria.

Do you feel bad or upset when you hear about young Johnnies being incinerated or blown to bits in Falluja or Baghdad? Well, then you should appreciate the fact that it would be 10 times worse if American soldiers were walking around Damascus or Aleppo or some small village near the Lebanese border, where Hizbollah could demonstrate what real, hard-core guerilla warfare is like. Think I'm not "supporting the troops"? Think again. If you want to blame someone for the dead soldiers, blame Bush - the asshole who sent them there, who is the same asshole cutting their benefits, providing them with intolerable medical treatment when they are wounded, and who can't be bothered to give up a game of golf to attend their funerals when they die.

The only thing more disgusting than this prick using the slogan "support the troops" is the uncritical acceptance of it by people who think that they are supporting the troops by letting Bush use them as his private army, all the while giving them the middle finger.

4) Every justification about the war was a lie. It is clear that there are no WMD. Bush and his friends lied about this. They may not have known with certainty that there was no WMD - but they knew that large parts of their case (like the nuclear allegations) were false. They also knew that they had no secure evidence of WMD in Iraq, but they presented their case as if they did. There is no other way to describe that other than "lie".

This administration also cares nothing about human rights. Many of its members - Rumsfeld, Powell, Cheney, to name a few - had dealings with the Saddam regime, in the full knowledge that he was gassing Iranians and "his own people" by the thousands. It didn't stop them from going to Baghdad with a smile on their faces. People who bought the human rights argument for invasion can only be pitied as utterly ignorant tools in the service of profoundly hypocritical and unscrupulous people. Take a good look in the mirror, and take a good look at the people who are leading your "human rights crusade": these are people working against war crimes courts, people setting up gulags, supporting dictators who boil their enemies alive, and god knows what else. Does this at all bother you? And for people who can only bleat that the "US is better than Saddam", all I can say is "no shit; and you have a pretty low standard for human rights".

5) The Iraq war has shown the need for an overhaul of the UN. This is one good point made by David Aaronovitch, perhaps the most humanistic and well-meaning person with the worst opinions in the world. But my ideas on a UN overhaul will have to wait for another post.

6) The Iraq war has also shown the need for major changes in the US. Smug liberals, usually Democrats, who see this whole episode as simply an instance where one man, George W. Bush, ran amok as president miss the point. The fact that he was able to do so and use the US military as his private army indicates a serious problem with American governance. This is a constitutional issue. The Constitution reserves war-making powers for Congress and Congress alone. So Bush both abused his powers under the Constitution and, more importantly for our purposes, Congress allowed him to do it. Simply putting Dean, Gephardt, Moseley-Braun, or whoever in the White House will not fix this problem, as these liberals seem to think. It will do nothing to prevent another president down the line from doing the same thing Bush did. The whole point of the separation of powers, etc., of the US is defeated if the will of one person overrides Congressional and judicial authority or if Congress does not provide a critical and credible counterweight. Simply pretending that Bush is the only problem and that a Democrat in the White House will make everything just fine and dandy again is delusional.

(NOTE: Point 6 added from original post)

Smells like success

Steve Bell on Bush's monkey management style.


Helicopters, Traffic Jams, and Kittens

What does the helicopter shootdown mean? It means the Iraqi resistance finally stopped wasting their portable surface to air missles.

All these perfectly good heat seeking missles have been shot at the Airport, where Iraqis have been trying to shoot down American planes. Fisk tells us the US troops have been beaten back to a minimal security perimeter around their airport. But the Iraqis still dont have sure shot at planes. But they keep shooting the damn things. I guess it does keep the airport closed to most civillian traffic.

But it makes more sense to harrass low flying transport helicopters with these things. They fly at low altitude, making it easier to attack from a distance, at a low angle of attack where the guidance systems in the heat seeking missles will have a better chance at acquiring the target. Also, they are slow and a hit will more likely result in a shootdowns. I suspect the Iraqis will repeat this little trick and get good with it. The SA-7 is expensive relative to the IED and RPG, though, so this may limit their use.

Meanwhile, a senior aide to L. Paul Bremer is furious that the media wont report the "straight story":
The "straight story" the journalists are not reporting, she said, is the progress that has been made here in the last six months. "There is LIFE here," she wrote in her message, the latest in a continuing letter to the folks back home, which received wider circulation when one recipient sent it to many others, including officials who continued passing it along. "The streets are full of life," the message said. "There are children playing in the streets with other kids. . . . The markets are bustling. . . . People are crossing the streets, playing in traffic. Traffic jams are occurring."
As if the kids didn't play in the streets when Saddam was in charge? The markets didn't bustle? Whats this have to do with anything? Kids play. Markets bustle. And kittens are cute. So what? Does this idiot want us to believe Saddam passed laws banning children from playing? Banning markets from bustling? Forbidding cuteness to kittens?

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