Saturday, June 03, 2006

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Will civil war bring lasting peace to Iraq?

Will civil war bring lasting peace to Iraq? - Los Angeles Times: "CIVIL WARS can be especially atrocious as neighbors kill each other at close range, but they also have a purpose. They can bring lasting peace by destroying the will to fight and by removing the motives and opportunities for further violence.

England's civil war in the mid-17th century ensured the subsequent centuries of political stability under Parliament and a limited monarchy. But first there had to be a war with pitched battles and killing, including the decapitation of King Charles I, who had claimed absolute power by divine right."

The United States had its civil war two centuries later, which established the rule that states cannot leave the union — and abolished slavery in the process.

The destruction was vast and the casualties immense as compared with all subsequent American wars, given the size of the population.

But without the decisive victory of the Union, two separate and quarrelsome republics might still endure, periodically at war with each other.

Even Switzerland had a civil war — in 1847 — out of which came the limited but sturdy unity of its confederation.

Close proximity, overlapping languages and centuries of common history were not enough to resolve differences between the cantons. They had to fight briefly, with 86 killed, to strike a balance of strength between them.

And so it must be with Iraq, the most haphazard of states, hurriedly created by the British after World War I with scant regard for its rival nationalities and sects.

The sectarian hatred — erupting during the Saddam Hussein era and at full boil since his ouster — is now inflicting a heavy toll in casualties.

Attempts by U.S. and British forces to stop the killings are feeble; it would take many times as many troops as remain in Iraq to make any difference. Nor can the fundamental factors that are causing the violence be reversed at this point, certainly not by fielding more Iraqi army and police units.

Sure, it would be nice to think that all the parties could just sit down and partition the country peaceably. But the Shiites can't even agree among themselves, so what hope is there of them talking to the Sunnis? There is no hatred as strong as theological hatred. So it is time for outsiders to step aside and let the Iraqis fight it out among themselves, ending with each controlling its own region.

Of the conflicts, the Kurdish-Arab one is the least volatile. Decades of bloody fighting over Arab rule appear to be ending, and there's no longer any question that the Kurds will separate. The only question is whether they'll remain part of a loose Iraqi confederation or become an independent state.

As to the Shiites and Sunnis, however, there's no end in sight. The Shiite majority among the Arabs of Iraq had been ruled by Sunnis for centuries. But Hussein's vigorous attempt to modernize Iraq in a secular direction infuriated Shiite prelates. That in turn triggered brutal repression by the regime, which most Shiites inevitably viewed as yet another bout of Sunni oppression. The spread of Salafist fundamentalism among the Sunnis mandates violence against the Shiites.

And, while today's theocratic Iran is not necessarily viewed as a model, it demonstrates to Iraq's Shiites that they need not always be ruled by Sunnis. That in turn provokes the ire of the many Sunni Arabs who firmly believe that Iraq belongs to them regardless of their numbers.

And so the massacres continue on both sides.

Physical separation is therefore the only way to limit the carnage. That process has begun, to some extent, because the violence is driving out the members of one sect or the other from the many mixed villages, towns and city districts. This is a painful and very costly way of interrupting the cycle of attacks and reprisals, but that is how civil war achieves its purpose of eventually bringing peace.

Back in the 17th century, if the kings of continental Europe could have prevented England's civil war, it would have been at the price of perpetuating strife by blocking progress toward stable parliamentary government.

If the British and other European great powers had sent expeditionary armies to stop the enormous casualties and vast destruction of the American civil war, they could have prevented the eventual emergence of a peacefully united republic, perpetuating North-South hostility.

That is the mistake that the U.S. and its allies are now making by interfering with Iraq's civil war. They should disengage their troops from populated areas as much as possible, give up the intrusive checkpoints and patrols that are failing to contain the violence anyway and abandon the futile effort to build up military and police forces that are national only in name.

Some U.S. and allied forces still will be needed in remote desert bases to safeguard Iraq from foreign invasion, with some left to hold the Baghdad Green Zone. But for the rest, strict noninterference should be the rule. The sooner the Kurds, Sunni, Shiites, Turkmen and smaller minorities can define their own natural and stable boundaries within which they feel safe, the sooner the violence will come to an end.

Iraq's civil war is no different from the British, Swiss or American internal wars. It too should be allowed to bring peace.

[bth: EDWARD N. LUTTWAK is a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Hard to imagine that this is the best analysis America has to offer.

To compare Iraq to the English Civil War, the American Civil War or to Switzerland's Civil War is to be incredibly selective, even deceptive with the use of history. Picking Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo, the fragmentation of India-Pakistan-Bangladesh or the religious wars of Europe might be more appropriate.

A renewed and strong central state is not the ordained outcome in Iraq. A fragmented confederation or three or four separate statelets is a more likely scenario.

The US has the power to influence, but not to ordain the outcome in Iraq. We are simply unwilling to commit the resources to win, nor do we have the wisdom to mandate.

Baghdad has more in common with Beirut in the 1980s than any other modern city.

Sadr's Party has more in common with Hezbollah than Cromwell's Roundheads.

Terrorists won't arrive in the Anbar province and adjacent Sunni areas if we leave. They are ALREADY there!

If we can't get them out now, what makes anyone think 1 or 10 more years will change that if we aren't willing to drastically increase the number of troops or carpet bomb towns to change the equation of fear?

For all the talk of isolated marine atrocities: Sunnis still let their kids get candy from Americans but shiver in fear from al-Qaeda's foreign importers of fear. The balance of fear is against us. Will adding Shia police to the western provinces change that?

Is it better to be feared than loved? Well in Iraq we are neither.

There will be no parade of thanks from the Iraqi people - 80% want us to leave! Even the Kurds, who are about as close to friends as we can expect in Iraq, want their independence - not our occupation. Liberators leave by definition.

The author mentions exhaustion. On that point he is right. There is sort of a healing power from exhaustion - not because there is some lasting love which blossoms into peace, love and understanding, but from the lack of violence that occurs when combatants are too tired to lift their sword clutched hand to smite their enemies.

Peace through exhaustion is a time tested solution.

Is the absence of mass violence peace?

One certainly wouldn't call it much of a strategy.

This is a war of tactics - we have no strategy. That's why there will be no ticker tape parade for Americans in Iraq. The troops deserve it but their leaders in Washington - in the Pentagon - failed them.

Of more practical note, no indigenous forces in Iraq have the weapons or resources now to conquer and hold territory against an armed and unfriendly population. By taking away the artillery, the tanks, helicopters and the aircraft of the Sunnis we at least assured those willing to fight a chance at freedom from everything but fear and terror.

Terror is a reality in Iraq, it is cheap and plentiful but it will only push hostile populations around the edges now. The Shia will never allow the Sunnis to conquer them - that balance of power has shifted for ever.

Baghdad will be the Beirut - it already is.

Southern Iraq's Shia militias will fight over oil export concessions because that is their source of cash needed for sustained independence. Sadr knows this and that is why he is trying to gain influence there - his ghetto suburb of Sadr City has no oil or cash.

The Kurds can essentially obtain independence in Iraq by seizing the oil revenues and maintaining their alliance with the U.S. Beyond that their insurgent activities are going to be limited in Turkey, Iran and Syria - at least for now.

Is US victory going to be defined by the absence of terrorists and a unified Thomas Jefferson style central government in Iraq? If so, we've already lost - defeated by selfdeception within our own leadership.

If victory is defined as the absence of mass grave Saddam-sized atrocities; the semblance of self rule, the fragmentation of Iraq into a Beirut-Baghdad war zone; a stable Southern Shia-stan demo-theocracy; a Kurdish semi-democracy; and a hate filled isolated Sunni western rump-state, then that is achievable.

Was it worth it?]

VA warns veterans of possibly contaminated biopsies

: "More than 22,000 veterans who underwent prostate biopsies at veterans' hospitals across the country are being warned that improperly sterilized equipment may have exposed them to deadly viruses.

No patient is known to have been infected but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is offering free blood tests as a precaution, said VA spokesman Jim Benson. The prostate biopsy equipment includes a probe that, if improperly cleaned, could retain traces of body fluids containing the viruses that cause hepatitis or AIDS."...
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Gunmen kill Russian diplomat in Baghdad

Gunmen kill Russian diplomat in Baghdad - Yahoo! News: "BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gunmen attacked a car belonging to the Russian Embassy in Baghdad on Saturday, killing one diplomat and kidnapping four employees, police and the Russian Embassy said. "...

U.S. studying Iran's retaliation options

U.S. studying Iran's retaliation options - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - If cornered by the West over its nuclear program, Iran could direct Hezbollah to enlist its widespread international support network to aid in terrorist attacks, intelligence officials say. "

In interviews with The Associated Press, several Western intelligence officials said they have seen signs that Hezbollah's fundraisers, recruiters and criminal elements could be adapted to provide logistical help to terrorist operatives.

Such help could include obtaining forged travel documents or off-the-shelf technology — global positioning equipment and night goggles, for example — that could be used for military purposes.

The senior officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive positions they occupy.

Hezbollah was responsible for the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The group's Saudi wing, in coordination with the larger Lebanese Hezbollah, is blamed for the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that killed hundreds of American servicemen.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. and its allies have grown over Iran's expanding nuclear program. Iran insists its aims are peaceful; leading U.S. officials say they are convinced the Iranians intend to develop a nuclear weapon within the next decade.

John Negroponte, head of the U.S. intelligence network, suggested in an interview aired Friday by the British Broadcasting Corp. that an Iranian bomb could be a fact in as little as four years away, although he admitted, "We don't have clear-cut knowledge."

The U.S. and five other world powers agreed Thursday on a plan designed to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Iran's president, without directly mentioning the proposal, pledged Friday that the West would not deprive his country of nuclear technology.

The Bush administration and U.S. allies know Iran could order attacks. Some officials believe that threat is a bargaining chip worth more to Iran if kept in reserve.

Given that diplomacy could fail to defuse the nuclear standoff, U.S. intelligence agencies are studying Iran's options to retaliate: using oil as a weapon, attacking Americans in
Iraq' and elsewhere, unleashing Hezbollah or deploying other tactics.

To the State Department, Hezbollah is a militant Lebanese group classified as a terrorist organization. Its terrorist wing, the Islamic Jihad Organization, is a global threat with cells in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, South America, Asia and North America. Before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hezbollah was responsible for more American deaths than any other single terrorist organization.

Yet in many countries, Hezbollah is praised for providing education, medical care and housing, particularly in Lebanon's south, and raising money for it is legal.

So far there are no signs the Iranian-backed group is planning an imminent attack on U.S. interests. But that possibility has counterterrorism agencies keeping close watch as the friction with Iran grows.

U.S. analysts believe the potential is greater for Iran to use terrorism to retaliate, rather than to strike first. But they have considered scenarios under which Iran may view its own pre-emptive attack as a deterrent....

This year, the Justice Department announced an indictment charging 19 people with a global racketeering conspiracy to sell counterfeit rolling papers, contraband cigarettes and counterfeit Viagra. Portions of the profits, law enforcers allege, went to Hezbollah.

Extensive operations have been uncovered in South America, where Hezbollah is well connected to the drug trade, particularly in the region where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. The area has a large Shiite Muslim immigrant population.
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Initial Response to Marine Raid Draws Scrutiny

Initial Response to Marine Raid Draws Scrutiny - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, June 2 � Marine commanders in Iraq learned within two days of the killings in Haditha last November that Iraqi civilians had died from gunfire, not a roadside bomb as initially reported, but the officers involved saw no reason to investigate further, according to a senior Marine officer. "

The commanders have told investigators they had not viewed as unusual, in a combat environment, the discrepancies that emerged almost immediately in accounts about how the two dozen Iraqis died, and that they had no information at the time suggesting that any civilians had been killed deliberately.

But the handling of the matter by the senior Marine commanders in Haditha, and whether officers and enlisted personnel tried to cover up what happened or missed signs suggesting that the civilian killings were not accidental, has become a major element of the investigation by an Army general into the entire episode.

Officials have said that the investigation, while not yet complete, is likely to conclude that a small group of marines carried out the unprovoked killings of two dozen civilians in the hours after a makeshift bomb killed a marine.

A senior Marine general familiar with the investigation, which is being led by Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell of the Army, said in an interview that it had not yet established how high up the chain of command culpability for the killings extended. But he said there were strong suspicions that some officers knew that the Marine squad's version of events had enough holes and discrepancies that it should have been looked into more deeply.

"It's impossible to believe they didn't know," the Marine general said, referring to midlevel and senior officers. "You'd have to know this thing stunk." He was granted anonymity, along with others who described the investigation, because he was not authorized to speak publicly about it....

Friday, June 02, 2006

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Police hunt for lethal chemical suicide vest -

Police hunt for lethal chemical suicide vest - Britain - Times Online: "A DESPERATE search is under way for a �chemical vest� that a British suicide bomber was ready to deploy in a terror attack on London.

Police fear that the strike, using a home-made chemical device, was imminent after an informant told MI5 that he had seen the lethal garment at the home of two young men.

Last night detectives were at the hospital bedside of a 23-year-old postal worker shot during a pre-dawn raid on his parents' home, while his younger brother, aged 20, was being questioned at Paddington Green high security police station.

Armed officers who led the assault on the terraced house in Forest Gate, East London, wore oxygen masks and protective chemical gear after a tip-off from MI5 that the device had already been assembled.

Security chiefs are deeply concerned that there was no sign of the vest inside what they believe is a chemical bomb factory. "...
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Greenpeace Just Kidding About Armageddon

Greenpeace Just Kidding About Armageddon: "The environmental activist group Greenpeace wanted to be prepared to counter President Bush's visit last week to Pennsylvania to promote his nuclear energy policy.

'This volatile and dangerous source of energy' is no answer to the country's energy needs, shouted a Greenpeace fact sheet, decrying the 'threat' posed by the reactors Bush visited in Limerick."

But after that assertion, the Greenpeace authors were apparently stumped while searching for the ideal menacing metaphor.

"In the twenty years since the Chernobyl tragedy, the world's worst nuclear accident, there have been nearly [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID HERE]," the sheet said.

The Greenpeace spokesman who issued the memo, Steve Smith, told the Web site that a colleague was making a joke in a draft that was then mistakenly released.

The final version did not mention Armageddon; instead it warned of plane crashes and reactor meltdowns.

[bth: fearmongering 101.]
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Eight of al-Qaeda released, 23 forgers trial resumed

NewsYemen: "NewsYemen was informed that eight of al-Qaeda associates, who surrendered after escaping from a high security prison in Sana'a last February, have been released after that, except the suspect Ahmad al-Raimi, who is described as 'the most dangerous'.

Special sources said the suspects have been released after re-imprisonment for 15 days under the pretext they are not guilty and no evidence proves their involvement in terror acts.

On the other hand, the Sana'a Penal Court will resume next Saturday the trial of 23-member group accused of counterfeiting official documents, identity cards and personal information.

Yemen News Agency Saba said that the Criminal Prosecution would offer accusations against 20 suspected of forging identity cards, voting cards and passports.

It said that other three suspects are suspected of hiding wanted people over the USS Cole bomb and falsifying Yemeni nationality cards for non-Yemenis.

The Prosecution told, an official website, that 315 of al-Qaeda have been recently released due to too little evidence against them.

He pointed that 12 security personnel are being tried before a military court over the February escape of 23 al-Qaeda convicted, most of them are still at large."

[bth: I don't understand the catch and release policy.]
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2 Most-Wanted Saudis Turn Up in Kurdistan

2 Most-Wanted Saudis Turn Up in Kurdistan: "JEDDAH, 31 May 2006 � Two Saudis on the Interior Ministry's most-wanted list of suspected Al-Qaeda militants are being held in Kurdistan, according to a report carried by Asharq Al-Awsat, a sister publication of Arab News.

Abdullah Muhammad Al-Ramyan and Muhammad Saleh Al-Rashoodi were arrested in September 2003 as they crossed into Iraq's Kurdish region from Turkey after transiting through Jordan and Syria, the Arabic daily reported.
The daily published pictures of the two men, saying it interviewed them at their place of detention in the northern Kurdish city of Arbil.

The Saudi pair "confessed ... that they came to ... join the holy war after the fall of Baghdad" to US-led foreign forces in April 2003, Asharq Al-Awsat quoted Kurdish police general Ismat Ertush as saying.

Ramyan and Rashoodi figure on the list of wanted terror suspects issued by the ministry in June 2005. The ministry had stated that 21 among the wanted list terror suspects were out of the country when it was published.

With the incarceration of Ramyan and Rashoodi in Iraq, only 17 on the list remain at large. The rest have been either killed or arrested or have surrendered to Saudi authorities"

[bth: they've been arrested for almost 3 years?]

IRAQ: Citizens chafe under rising unemployment

Reuters AlertNet - IRAQ: Citizens chafe under rising unemployment: "BAGHDAD, 1 June (IRIN) - For Abbas Mohamed al-Sakri, the 20 years he spent studying Arabic literature was 'a big mistake' because he remains unable to get a job with his degree.

'For the past three years, I sent dozens of job applications to government ministries,' said the 28-year-old al-Sakri. 'But all were in vain. Members of influential political and religious parties are given preference, even though they aren't qualified.'

According to Mohamed Taha al-Mousawi, an adviser at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the national unemployment rate surpassed 60 percent last year. 'And the rate rose further in the first quarter of this year, as many policemen and army members quit their jobs due to threats by militants groups,' al-Mousawi said. He added that his ministry had no plans to promote employment until the security situation had improved."

Iraq's high unemployment rate was also recently acknowledged by the First Lady. Speaking at an international conference devoted to women in business in London on 23 May, the wife of President Jalal Talabani stressed that high unemployment levels made disaffected youths easy targets for recruitment by extremists.

Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, a respected businesswoman and founder of the Kurdistan Women's Union, agreed. She warned that that joblessness could be expected to increase further, especially in central and southern Iraq. "Unemployment levels have exceeded all limits," she said.

Locals, meanwhile, especially those with big families, complain bitterly about job scarcity. "I can work only two or three days a week due to the huge labour pool," said Ahmed Fiza'a, a 25-year-old day labourer, as he stood amid a group of about 100 workers in Baghdad's northern Kazimiyah district. "I earn about US $8 a day, and I'm the eldest in an eight-member family...I have to feed them all."

Last month, a top US General in Iraq said that the only way to defeat the insurgency and bring stability to the country was by boosting the economy and creating hope among disaffected young people. "A prosperous Iraq will be a peaceful Iraq," said Lt. Gen. Pete Chiarelli, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq. "By creating jobs and opportunity, the government would take away a major source of support for violent movements."

In the meantime, 28-year-old Omar Salah Jassim has despaired of government promises, deciding instead to earn his living selling cigarettes from a wooden stall in a bustling bus station in Baghdad. "Earning about US $10 a day this way is better than begging at the government's door," said Jassim, who holds a degree from Baghdad's University's education faculty.

[bth: One simple strategy would be to pay for leads and tips that led to IED discoveries. I suspect it is much more practical than our current approach. And looking at the sorry state of its infrastructure, one wonders why we weren't hiring more local contractors to do school rehabilitation and clinic construction. Instead groups like Parsons bilk the US government of hundreds of millions and do no deliver-the US taxpayer, the government and ultimately the Iraqis suffer from this corruption.]
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Support for Iraq War Keeps Falling in U.S

Support for Iraq War Keeps Falling in U.S.: Angus Reid Consultants: "(Angus Reid Global Scan) � Many adults in the United States continue to question their government's decision to launch the coalition effort, according to a poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. 56 per cent of respondents think going to war with Iraq was the wrong thing to do.

The number of Americans who express satisfaction with the decision to go to war in Iraq has fallen to 39 per cent, down two points since December."...

Source: Quinnipiac University Polling InstituteMethodology: Telephone interviews with 1,534 registered American voters, conducted from May 23 to May 30, 2006. Margin of error is 2.3 per cent.

Zarqawi urges Iraqi Sunnis to shun Shi'ites

New Zealand's source for World News on Zarqawi urges Iraqi Sunnis to shun Shi'ites: "DUBAI: Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi called on fellow Sunnis to reject any reconciliation with 'infidel' Shi'ites, according to an audio tape posted on the internet.

'O Sunnis! Prepare to get rid of the infidel snakes and their poison ... and don't listen to those advocating an end to sectarianism and calling for national unity. This is a weapon to get you to surrender,' said the speaker on the tape who sounded like Zarqawi.

Iraq's new national unity government vowed last month to rein in violence and heal the country's sectarian wounds.

The audio tape, posted on an Islamist website often used by Iraqi insurgent groups, could not be authenticated.

The speaker blasted Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, as the 'leader of infidelity and atheism' and said his followers were more concerned about honouring their own saints than protesting against cartoons of Islam's Prophet Mohammad published in Danish and other European newspapers.

'We did not see them rise up with the same fervour when blasphemous pictures of the Prophet were published because they prefer their own leaders to God and his Prophet,' he said.
The speaker accused Shi'ite groups and government forces of being responsible for numerous attacks on Sunnis and their places of worship. "

He suggested that Shi'ites themselves were behind the February bombing of a Shi'ite shrine and other attacks which touched off a wave of sectarian killings and revenge attacks.
"The attacks were a charade ... that revealed their (Shi'ites') hatred of the Sunnis," the speaker said.

The tape, which was issued in three parts totalling about four hours, covered what the speaker said were examples of the Shi'ites' enmity towards Islam throughout history.

The speaker criticised a militia loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for stopping their fight against US forces after uprisings in 2004 against US troops.

The speaker also attacked Lebanon's Shi'ite guerrilla group Hizbollah, and said majority-Shi'ite Iran had helped the United States in Afghanistan and was in contact with Washington over Iraq.

Zarqawi's last message was a rare video issued in April, in which he denounced the new Shi'ite-led government which also include minority Kurds and Sunnis and said it was set up to help Washington find a way out of its predicament in Iraq.

[bth: we don't have a chance of peace in the region with this man and his followers still alive.]
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D.C. at Low Risk Of Attack, Says Federal Agency

D.C. at Low Risk Of Attack, Says Federal Agency: "The Department of Homeland Security has ranked the District in a low-risk category of terrorist attack or catastrophe, putting it in the bottom 25 percent of U.S. states and territories, as part of a decision that will cost the city millions in anti-terror funds, according to city and federal officials.

The news came as irate officials from New York and Washington demanded explanations for why the department slashed funds in a separate urban anti-terrorism program by 40 percent for the metropolitan areas hit hardest by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."

"It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out these are two cities still at risk," said D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.

Homeland Security officials said the District had far fewer potential targets than the larger jurisdictions, such as California, it competed against. They said the decisions came after an elaborate process aimed at fairly dividing anti-terror funds....

[bth: the Homeland Security budget needs to be increased for local aid across the board but instead of doing that it played politics this year and spread the funds all over the country based on politics instead of real priorities in a war on terror.

Some of the smallest recipients in the Homeland Security grant program:
Rhode Island: $4.5 million
Wyoming: $4.4 million
South Dakota: $4.4 million
Puerto Rico: $4.3 million
THE DISTRICT: $4.3 million homeland security grant]
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Thursday, June 01, 2006

N.C. Guard short 300 Humvees as hurricane season starts | | Star-News

N.C. Guard short 300 Humvees as hurricane season starts Star-News Wilmington, NC: "With a nationwide equipment shortage forcing National Guard units to leave behind equipment in war zones, North Carolina units begin hurricane season with more than 300 Humvees missing from their fleet."....
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Early pullout called 'flippin' nightmare'

Early pullout called 'flippin' nightmare' "As car bombings and other attacks killed at least 54 people Tuesday across Iraq, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who has criticized the conduct of the war, said Tuesday the country would deteriorate into a 'flippin' nightmare' if U.S. troops are withdrawn too quickly.

The comment came after McCaffrey and five other Iraq experts met with President Bush in the White House.
McCaffrey, just back from Iraq, predicted 'a significant
withdrawal of U.S. forces in the coming six months to a year.' He said sentiment on the street in Baghdad was against a rapid withdrawal of the troops.

'I mean, that's just not what's going on in downtown Baghdad. They recognize there would be a flippin' nightmare there shortly after a precipitous withdrawal,' he said, noting that Iraqis are not yet ready to defend their country. "...

[Bth: McCaffrey is the administration mouthpiece disguised as an independent source. He never says what the administration doesn't want to hear.]
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Iraq veteran sues Moore over 9/11 film

AP Wire 05/31/2006 Iraq veteran sues Moore over 9/11 film: "BOSTON - A veteran who lost both arms in the war in Iraq is suing filmmaker Michael Moore for $85 million, alleging that Moore used snippets of a television interview without his permission to falsely portray him as anti-war in 'Fahrenheit 9/11.'

Sgt. Peter Damon, a National Guardsman from Middleborough, is asking for damages because of 'loss of reputation, emotional distress, embarrassment, and personal humiliation,' according to the lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court last week.

Damon, 33, claims that Moore never asked for his consent to use a clip from an interview Damon did with NBC's 'Nightly News.'

He lost his arms when a tire on a Black Hawk helicopter exploded while he and another reservist were servicing the aircraft on the ground. Another reservist was killed in the explosion.

In his interview with NBC, Damon was asked about a new painkiller the military was using on wounded veterans. He claims in his lawsuit that the way Moore used the film clip in 'Fahrenheit 9/11' - Moore's scathing 2004 documentary criticizing the Bush administration and the war in Iraq - makes him appear to 'voice a complaint about the war effort' when he was actually complaining about 'the excruciating type of pain' that comes with the injury he suffered."...

[bth: I've known Peter since January 2004, about 3 months after he lost his arms.

Its true, he didn't initially know that Moore had used him in his movie. The other guys knew Peter was in the movie but didn't have the heart to tell him. Sometime later that year I think he found out and was very upset.

Its also true that Homes for our Troops did in fact organize and build him a house. When I first met the organizer on a talk show, I thought it might be a scam but it wasn't. It was the real deal and they did what they said they were going to do - build a house for Peter.

Peter got a chance last year to throw an opening pitch at a Red Sox game. He'd practice in his yard, but the dog kept getting the ball. He was afraid his arms would fly off on the throw and was very nervous, but he did great.

I remember him telling me over dinner soon after he lost his arms that it disturbed him greatly that he couldn't reach down and pick up his son or throw him a ball. I think it was his first dinner out of the hospital and it was painful to watch him work to cut his steak with his artifical arms. I wanted to reach over and do it for him, but resisted the urge. Larry who was with us was an Alabama cop that had his leg shredded by a grenade in Sadr City. Maneuvering and seatng the three of us was a chore for the restaurant. The people around us tried not to notice. There were politicians and lobbyists and they pretended not to look. Occassionally I'd see a lady in an evening dress glance our way, then quickly pretend not to see when I made eye contact. I guess if you pretend not to see, then you don't have to own up to a responsibility to do something - out of sight out of mind.]

Peter came a long way. He's got guts. More than I have. I never saw the movie 9-11 once I learned Peter got screwed, but I'll bet Moore crumbles. Moore was working on a documentary about the multi-millionaire that owned AM General - the main humvee chassis manufacturer, and part way into his work the owner got a restraining order against him and sued him and next thing you know Moore left him alone. Moore has an eye for social issues, but he doesn't have guts. So to Peter, Larry G., Jason C., Nick and Tabitha and the other great folks who shared their heart and tears at Walter Reed with Alma and I, God Bless.]
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The Blotter ; Be a Whistleblower, Lose Your Job?

The Blotter: "Exposing government corruption might make you a hero, but now it could cost you your job.

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that whistleblowers have no First Amendment protection when they go public about what they see at work.

'It will have a chilling affect, but it will also mean that honest public servants, who are doing their job, expose wrongdoing, are going to be fired and have no recourse,' said Stephen Kohn, Chairman of the National Whistleblower Center.

Kohn fears the impact won't just be on employees exposing crimes but on officials committing them as well.

'Every crooked politician has something to rejoice today,' he said.

It was a five-to-four decision that represents a significant change in the law and in the role of whistleblowers."
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AlterNet: Blogs: PEEK: Out of jail and back in the GOP

AlterNet: Blogs: PEEK: Out of jail and back in the GOP: "conspiracy charges, Charles McGee is 'back at his old job with a Republican political marketing firm, Spectrum Monthly & Printing Inc., and will be helping out at the firm's 'GOP campaign school' for candidates.'

You're kidding me.

I mean, that'd be like having a failed businessman as the president. It'd be like crafting an energy policy based on the energy industry's wish list. Like...

McGee paid telemarketers to tie up Democratic and Union phones in New Hampshire. To sort of, you know, hinder the single most important civic gesture in America.

And now he's teaching a clinic in how to be a Republican. But don't worry, the president of the firm that hired McGee assures us that 'He's certainly not going to be standing there and advocating breaking the law...' Phew.

Ironically, this episode of forgiveness for crimes admitted to and repented for is one of the few Christian gestures the present-day Republican party has actually made.

Wonder if it's because it's because it's a 'white'-collar crime and because maybe he, umm, swallowed some other info he may have had on higher-ups? Nah. "
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Truthdig - Reports - Molly Ivins: Iran Badge Fabricator Goes to Washington

Truthdig - Reports - Molly Ivins: Iran Badge Fabricator Goes to Washington: "...Two weeks ago, Amir Taheri had an Op-Ed article in the Canadian National Post claiming that the Iranians have a law requiring Jews to wear yellow badges. It turned out to be a complete fabrication and has been the subject of much contempt among bloggers. So Tuesday, Taheri was invited to the White House along with other "experts" to give the president their "honest opinions." With advice like that, our war in Iran will be a slam-dunk.
Speaking of slam-dunks, Bud Trillin of The Nation is on a tear about Bush's picks for the Medal of Freedom. First, Bush gave it to old "Slam-Dunk" George Tenet himself, after pushing him out as head of the CIA. Then, Paul Bremer got the medal. Remember him? Guy who screwed up Iraq beyond recall in the first year.

We're lurching into the ludicrous. So we're thinking, who else belongs on this distinguished roster? "Heckuva Job Brownie" Brown, of course. The guy in charge of implementing the Social Security drug plan. Rumsfeld! By golly, there's a man who never made a mistake.

I think that leaves out Tony Blair, who joined Bush in a mistake-admitting-athon last week. (The Prez is sorry he talked "too tough" to the terrorists.) Neither of them thought to name "the war in Iraq," for example, as a mistake. But, as The Economist rather unkindly put it, their meeting was "The Axis of Feeble."...

[bth: incredible that Taheri would possibily be invited to the White House as an expert. Iran is bad enough without falsely accusing it of requiring Jews to wear yellow badges as Taheri falsely did in May. Its stuff like this that caused the Administration to lose the public trust.]
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Insurgent attacks in Iraq at highest level in 2 years - The Boston Globe

Insurgent attacks in Iraq at highest level in 2 years - The Boston Globe: "WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon reported yesterday that the frequency of insurgent attacks against troops and civilians is at its highest level since American commanders began tracking such figures two years ago, an ominous sign that, despite three years of combat, the US-led coalition forces haven't significantly weakened the Iraq insurgency."

In its quarterly update to Congress, the Pentagon reported that from Feb. 11 to May 12, as the new Iraqi unity government was being established, insurgents staged an average of more than 600 attacks per week nationwide. From August 2005 to early February, when Iraqis elected a parliament, insurgent attacks averaged about 550 per week; at its lowest point, before the United States handed over sovereignty in the spring of 2004, the attacks averaged about 400 per week.

The vast majority of the attacks -- from crude bombing attempts and shootings to more sophisticated, military-style assaults and suicide attacks -- were targeted at US-led coalition military forces, but the majority of deaths have been of civilians, who are far more vulnerable to insurgent tactics.

``Overall, average weekly attacks during this `Government Transition' period were higher than any of the previous periods," the report states. ``Reasons for the high level of attacks may include terrorist and insurgent attempts to exploit a perceived inability of the Iraqi government to constitute itself effectively, the rise of ethno sectarian attacks . . . and enemy efforts to derail the political process leading to a new government."...

The Pentagon report, made public yesterday, contained some positive news, including an opinion poll that indicates most Iraqis don't like the insurgents' use of violence as a political tool. In addition, according to the report, a growing number of Iraqi security forces can operate without US military support, more ethnic groups are represented in the security forces, oil production has remained steady, and more than 10,000 new business registrations have been issued.

But the overall picture of progress in Iraq is grim, dominated by the seemingly ceaseless violence.

Despite military crackdowns on insurgents and the installation of the new Iraq government, the Pentagon wasn't optimistic about quelling the violence in the near future. Officials who briefed reporters on the Iraq assessment cautioned that violence against troops and Iraqi civilians probably won't slow until at least 2007 -- if the unity government exerts more of its own authority and, according to the report, ``addresses key sectarian and political concerns" that fuel the bloodshed....

The 65-page report, compiled by Multi-National Forces Iraq in Baghdad, identified a disturbing trend: New signs that former members of Saddam Hussein's regime who are fighting the American-led coalition and other Iraqis who don't like the new government are collaborating with Al Qaeda operatives and other foreign terrorists who are responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in the country.

The progress report also concluded that militias loyal to Iraq's various ethnic groups are to blame for a steady number of ethnic reprisals touched off by the Feb. 22 bombing of a revered Shi'ite Muslim shrine. The militiamen apparently have also infiltrated the Iraqi Security Forces.

``Individual militia members have been incorporated into the ISF, but the loyalties of some probably still lie, to some extent, with their ethno sectarian leaders," according to the report. ``Shi'ite militias, in particular, seek to place members into Army and police units as a way to serve their interests and gain influence."

Though the sectarian violence has subsided a bit in recent weeks -- and fears of a full-blown civil war have not been realized -- conflict among sects is still far higher than before the February mosque attack, according to the report. More than 1,000 casualties from sectarian violence were reported in February, compared with more than 1,500 in March, and about 1,200 in April, according to the Pentagon report. Before the mosque bombing, which has been blamed on foreign terrorists loyal to Al Qaeda, there were a few hundred sectarian-based attacks per month.

On the positive side, Pentagon officials pointed out that newly-trained Iraqi Security Forces have become more capable, and a growing number of units are leading or playing significant roles in anti-insurgent missions....

The report also outlined growth trends in the Iraq economy and steady political progress, culminating with the establishment of a unity government in Baghdad earlier this month.
For example, the number of independent mass media outlets has steadily grown; new business registrations are up by nearly 10,000 from the more than 20,000 in early 2005; and weekly oil production has remained at more than 2 million barrels per week.

At the same time, polling data has indicated that most Iraqis do not support violence as a political tool -- a sign that support for the insurgency may be falling, officials said. For example, after the Feb. 22 attack on a revered Shi'ite Muslim shrine in Samarra, 96 percent of Iraqis said such attacks were not acceptable. Another poll cited in the Pentagon report showed that 78 percent of Iraqis believed violence was never acceptable.

Meanwhile coalition forces have received more than 4,500 tips per month from average Iraqis about potential insurgent operations, up dramatically from about 400 in March 2005.
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Calls Flood Purple Heart Hall of Honor

Calls Flood Purple Heart Hall of Honor: "A new museum devoted to veterans who earned the Purple Heart for being wounded in combat was besieged with some 6,000 inquiries after a weekend Associated Press story detailed the ongoing efforts to find recipients.

When the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor opens in November, visitors will be able to search out facts and stories about soldiers wounded or killed. New York officials heading the project think there are up to 1.7 million soldiers who belong on the list.

Since Monday, the hall's Web site has logged 5,200 hits and there have been 800 calls or faxes from people offering stories, said state Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro. Phone lines were busy much of Tuesday.

''No one should worry that the lines are busy,'' Castro said. ''We will be adding (recipients) daily. There's no deadline.''
State parks officials quietly collected information for years and then, in March, put out a widespread plea for veterans and families to share their stories and materials. Organizers said about 5,000 responses had come in _ including everything from e-mails from Iraq to packages with typed stories and sepia-tinged photos _ before the AP story was published.

The hall is being built at a historic site north of New York City where George Washington's army camped toward the end of the Revolutionary War. It was here in 1782 that Washington created the Badge of Military Merit, which he decreed would be ''the figure of a heart in purple cloth.''

The badge fell into disuse after the war, but was reintroduced as the Purple Heart in 1932. Thousands of World War I veterans received Purple Hearts retroactively _ as did a few very old Civil War veterans. In 1942, Purple Hearts were restricted to those ''wounded in action against any enemy.'' "

[bth: a great idea!]
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Michael Chertoff must be fired

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Editorials: Michael Chertoff must be fired: "Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told New York to drop dead yesterday as he slashed the city's federal anti-terror funding in a traitorous action that endangers the lives of 8 million people and demands his immediate firing.

Chertoff's decision to cut the flow of U.S. money by 40% was at the least gross incompetence and at the worst vengeful payback by a petty bureaucrat who tangled last year with the NYPD and wound up humiliated. Either way, President Bush must give Chertoff the boot with a hearty, 'Heck of a job, Mikey.'

This city, America's No. 1 target, had to fight long and hard for federal terror aid while Congress doled out the money as pork rather than based on threat. That was supposed to change this year because Chertoff was given the power to allocate much of the funding based on where it was needed most.

Instead, fresh from monumentally bungling the U.S. response to Hurricane Katrina, he went out of his way to whack New York's slice of the national pie from $208 million to $124 million. The No. 2 target, Washington, also took a huge hit from Chertoff's team.

Homeland Security's rationale for stabbing the city in the back, as Rep. Pete King put it, was based on figments of the imagination and outright lies, all recorded in black and white on the score sheet used by the department for determining which cities got funding. By Chertoff's reckoning, New York has not a single national monument or icon that needs special security. No Ground Zero. No Empire State Building. No New York Stock Exchange. No Federal Reserve Bank. No St. Patrick's Cathedral. No Statue of Liberty. No nothing.

Even more outrageous, Chertoff concluded that New York's Police and Fire departments are clueless in the war on terror. In his official estimation, giving them all the money they requested would have been a complete waste. Among the units Chertoff rated as in the bottom 15% nationwide, and requiring special federal baby-sitting, was the NYPD's globally recognized counterterrorism bureau, the very outfit that shamed him in October when Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly wisely put the city subways on alert for an attack. Coincidence? We think not, and we dare Chertoff to repeat the same despicable libel face to face with Kelly.

He wouldn't have the nerve. He has got to go.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Iraqi PM Declares State of Emergency in Basra - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Iraqi PM Declares State of Emergency in Basra - International News News of the World Middle East News Europe News: "BAGHDAD, Iraq � Iraq's new prime minister declared a state of emergency Wednesday in the southern city of Basra, vowing to crack down with an 'iron fist' on rival gangs battling each other for power. "...

Violence has been escalating in Shiite-dominated Basra, with a wave of kidnappings and the slayings of nearly 140 people — mostly Sunnis but also Shiites and police — in May alone, police said. The tension has been brewing largely due to the growing influence of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army, and the armed Badr organization, both Shiite groups.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, himself a Shiite, declared the monthlong state of emergency during a visit to the oil-rich region, said Syed Muhammad al-Haidari, a top Shiite official traveling with him. Al-Maliki gave a strong denunciation of the violence that Sunni religious leaders have blamed on Shiite death squads.

"We shall use an iron fist against the leaders of the gangs or those who threaten security," he said earlier in a speech, apparently referring to the militias as well as rival tribal groups. "And we shall ask all security departments to draw up an effective and quick plan to achieve security....

[bth: for the new government to survive it must obtain revenues from oil exports. Those revenues have been threatened by local tribe/mafia smuggling groups and Sadr. Securing Basra is going to be key to securing cash for the new Iraq government. Without cash it will not survive. This move makes sense. Let's see if it can be enforced.]
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Iran's military plans for invasion by U.S

Iran's military plans for invasion by U.S.�-�World�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "TEHRAN -- Iran, apparently anticipating an American invasion, has quietly been restructuring its military and testing a new military doctrine that calls for a decentralized, Iraqi-style guerrilla campaign against an invading force.

Iran's military planners are acutely aware that a military confrontation with technologically more advanced U.S. armed forces would be rapid and multifronted, unlike the static and slow-paced 1980-88 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. "

Therefore, a series of war games have been carried out since late last year to test the army's readiness.

In December, more than 15,000 members of the regular armed forces participated in an exercise in northwestern Iran's strategically sensitive Azerbaijan border provinces that focused on irregular warfare carried out by highly mobile army units, according to the official MENA news agency.

A second exercise was conducted in the majority-Arab province of Khuzestan in September, according to the Iranian press, aimed at quelling insurgencies in areas subject to ethnic unrest and prone to foreign influence.

Involving a reported 100,000 troops, the exercise provided an example of how the Islamic Republic would respond to further disturbances in the strategic, oil-rich province that has been the scene of a year-old terrorist bombing campaign.

Iranian officials, including the interior and the intelligence ministers, as well as several religious leaders, have repeatedly blamed the disturbances on British forces occupying nearby southern Iraq.

At the same time, a European military attache in Tehran told The Washington Times that the Revolutionary Guard is moving away from a joint command with the ordinary army and taking a more prominent role in controlling Iran's often porous borders, even as it makes each of Iran's border provinces autonomous in the event of war.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he was not aware of any improvement of Iran's military capabilities, but noted that if such developments are taking place, people in the U.S. government are watching.

Defense analysts said it makes sense for the Iranian regime to give the impression of upgrading and modernizing its military, but they questioned the need to prepare for guerrilla-type warfare because a full-blown U.S. invasion is not likely.

"It's probably a smart policy for the Iranian leadership to get this out in order to convince the U.S. military that they are ready for guerrilla resistance from the get-go," said Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution.

"They know they can't repulse our air strikes -- we can strike from a long distance making it hard to shoot us down -- so the only thing they can do in that case is move assets to secret locations," he said.

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies dismissed the reports of the Iranian military acquiring new capabilities, saying it has been training in asymmetric tactics for years.

Iranian war planners expect that the first step taken by an invading force would be to occupy the oil-rich Khuzestan region, secure the sensitive Strait of Hormuz and cut off the Iranian military's oil supply.

Foreign diplomats who monitor Iran's army say that Iran's leadership has acknowledged it stands little chance of defeating U.S. armed forces with conventional military doctrine.

The shift in focus to guerrilla warfare against an occupying army in the aftermath of a successful invasion mirrors developments in Iraq, where a triumphant U.S. military campaign has been followed by three years of slow, indecisive struggle with insurgent and terrorist forces.

The Iranian preparations come as the United States refuses to rule out military action over Iran's suspect nuclear programs.

"Iran is a troublemaker in the international system, a central banker of terrorism. Security assurances are not on the table," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on "Fox News Sunday" last week. • Nicholas Kralev in Washington contributed to this report.

[bth: anyone who thinks IED attacks are an isolated and passing fad are simply kidding themselves. It works. Very likely some of the attacks on very hard targets like the Abrams tank in Iraq by IEDs are likely to test Iranian weapons in a live environment for effectiveness.]
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Man admits beheading '100s'

Man admits beheading '100s': "Baghdad - A key terror suspect who allegedly confessed to hundreds of beheadings has been captured, Iraqi officials say.

The announcement came on a day of carnage which saw 37 people killed as bombs tore through a car dealership in southern Iraq and a market north of Baghdad.

Scores were wounded.

The government named the man as Ahmed Hussein Dabash Samir al-Batawi.

A spokesperson said the anti-terror unit which arrested him, also seized documents, cellphones and computers that contained information on other wanted terrorists and extremist groups.

It's also been announced that police killed three members of al-Qaeda in Iraq during clashes south of Baghdad last week.
They were well-known aides of the group's leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a police spokesperson said.

Separately, the US military freed 204 male detainees from Abu Ghraib and other detention centres in Iraq after the Iraqi-led combined review and release board recommended their release.

Many of the detainees - who had been held at the Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca and Fort Suse prisons - kissed the ground and touched their foreheads to express thanks to God.

To date, the board has reviewed the cases of more than 39 000 detainees, recommending more than 19 600 individuals for release, the military said. "
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Study: U.S. Marines retain best recruits

United Press International�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "Despite four years of tough combat deployments, the U.S. Marine Corps has retained a higher percentage of top recruits.

The Center for Naval Analyses in April analyzed the Marines' first term re-enlistment population and determined that the quality has continually improved over the last six years, with more first tier recruits remaining in the Marine Corps than drop out after four years.

'Some question whether the Marine Corps is re-enlisting its best Marines at the end of the first term or if those who reenlist are of lower quality than those who do not [perhaps because high quality Marines leave for better civilian opportunities],' states the study. 'Historically the Marine Corps has been very successful at retaining top quality Marines. But much of the evidence for the retention of high-quality Marines has been anecdotal.'

The Center looked at the records for all first-term Marines in the top category for the last five years, at those who scored as 'smart' in the top 50 percent in the Armed Forces Qualifying Test, who graduated from high school, and who were dedicated athletes with demonstrated physical discipline. It then compared the rates of re-enlistment to those who separated.

'In summary, the FTAP population generally has improved over the last six years, and smart, high school diploma graduate and Class 1 [physical fitness testers] are more heavily represented in the population of those who reenlist than those in the population who separate,' the report said.

About a quarter of the first-term Marines up for re-enlistment have been in combat deployments in the last two years. "
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Saudi fighters 'are leading the surge in attacks on British troops'

Telegraph News Saudi fighters 'are leading the surge in attacks on British troops': "Foreign terrorists, led by fighters from Saudi Arabia, are behind an upsurge in attacks against British troops in Basra, military sources said yesterday.

As the Army suffered the highest number of fatal attacks in a month since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, commanders on the ground are concerned at the level of sophistication and ferocity of the assaults."...

The Saudi influence on terrorism in Shia-dominated Basra has not been previously reported but has caused concern among military commanders because of their training, technology and finance.

Although the majority of Saudi Arabians are Sunni, the minority Shia have taken part in terrorist attacks.
Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, admitted that a recent surge in violence was a cause of "major concern". Dozens of soldiers have been targeted by advanced "improvised explosive devices" (IED) that the Army has been unable to disable or jam.

Morale is also being affected by the continual danger, with older soldiers saying the apprehension is similar to that experienced on the streets of Northern Ireland in the 70s and early 80s.

"People are dying and morale is being affected by it," said an officer operating in Iraq.

"The perception is that attacks are becoming more lethal and better targeted and the delivery process is more effective.

There is a definite sense that we are still making progress but because there is no real defence against IEDs people are feeling a bit glummer."

Commanders are concerned that Saudi and other foreign fighters are co-ordinating the attacks in a "consensual environment", in which the locals will not tell the military where roadside bombs have been planted. "The concern is that support for our presence is going down," a defence source said.

There is also a strong belief, particularly among the Americans, that Iran is continuing to ferry bombs to Baghdad via Basra.
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Diplomat moved on after criticising US payments to warlords News - International - Diplomat moved on after criticising US payments to warlords: "A UNITED States official dealing with Somalia has been transferred from his job after criticising payments made to warlords said to be fuelling fighting in Mogadishu.

Somalia-watchers in Nairobi said the US state department transferred Michael Zorick, formerly Somali political affairs officer at the US embassy in Kenya, to Chad after he spoke out.

The move exposes a rift inside the US government on how to handle Somalia - whether efforts to build peace should come before counter-terrorism - and the effect Washington's perceived role has had in inflaming fighting there. At least 320 have been killed in Mogadishu since February in battles between the warlords and Islamic militias.

'He really decided to take up the battle. He realised what he was doing,' a western diplomat close to Mr Zorick said.

Various diplomats have expressed frustration at what they say is US aid to warlords. Such aid undermines Somalia's weak interim government, they say.

This article:"
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Troops told Geneva rules don't apply to Taliban : Troops told Geneva rules don't apply to Taliban: "WASHINGTON � Canadian troops in Afghanistan have been told the Geneva Conventions and Canadian regulations regarding the rights of prisoners of war don't apply to Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters captured on the battlefield.

That decision strips detainees of key rights and protections under the rules of war, including the right to be released at the end of the conflict and not to be held criminally liable for lawful combat.

"The whole purpose of those regulations is to know if Geneva applies," said Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who has been pressing the Defence Department for details of its detainee policy for months."

The 1991 Canadian regulations — developed during the Persian Gulf war — included provisions to hold tribunals to determine a detainee's status under Geneva if there is any doubt.

Captured fighters don't deserve these rights because this isn't a war between countries, says Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, who commands the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command and thus oversees all Canadian Forces deployed abroad.

They are not entitled to prisoner-of-war status but they are entitled to prisoner-of-war treatment,” he said, asserting that all detainees are humanely treated.

“The regulations apply in an armed conflict between states, and what's happening in Afghanistan is not an armed conflict between states. And therefore there is no basis for making a determination of individuals being prisoners of war,” he said.

Since Ottawa first sent fighting forces to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the government has said that anyone captured by Canadian Forces is treated humanely. For years, detainees were quickly turned over to the U.S. military. But, since last December, a new agreement with Kabul means Canadian troops now turn detainees over to the Afghan military, a move some have criticized because of the Afghans' uneven record of observing human rights.

The decision to ignore the regulations without a legal test of whether detainees in Afghanistan are entitled to PoW status puts Canada “in a very odd situation. It's completely irregular,” Prof. Attaran says.

He believes the government's position that Geneva doesn't apply may be correct but it needs to be tested in court.

According to Canada's Prisoner-of-War Status Determination Regulations, “the commanding officer of a unit or other element of the Canadian Forces shall ensure that each detainee is screened as soon as practicable after being taken into custody to determine whether or not the detainee is entitled to prisoner-of-war status.”

Last updated before Ottawa sent a field hospital to Saudi Arabia in the middle of the Persian Gulf war, the regulations are designed to make sure Canadian soldiers understand and correctly apply the 1949 Geneva Conventions with respect to detainees.

But Canada, following the Bush administration's lead in the United States, had decreed that there are no lawful combatants among the enemy in the current conflict and no screening was required.

Gen. Gauthier concedes that the change in policy could open the door to criminal charges being laid against Taliban fighters.

If a captured enemy fighter is implicated in killing a Canadian soldier — for instance, the Taliban fighter who launched the rocket-propelled grenade that killed Captain Nichola Goddard on May 17 — Ottawa might order him charged with murder and tried.

“I would seek guidance that clearly would come from outside the Defence Department if we wished to pursue this any further from a prosecutorial basis,” the general said.
The change aligns Canada's position on the criminal culpability for battlefield violence with that of the United States. Omar Khadr, the only Canadian held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is charged with murder for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier.

Canada has provided few details on the fate of detainees its forces have handed over to U.S. authorities since 2002; neither the number nor the names have been made public. All the government has said is that none are currently at Guantanamo Bay. But it's unknown whether they have been released, or are being held at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or in secret prisons in Eastern Europe.

Similar secrecy cloaks what happens to detainees handed over to Afghan authorities by Canadian Forces fighting in Kandahar province. Gen. Gauthier indicated such transfers occur regularly, if not daily then several times a week. But no numbers are publicly available.

“Our default setting is transfer,” he said. “We haven't held anybody for more than a few hours and we would prefer not to.”

Canadian troops do screen detainees — determining on the spot whether a captive poses a threat and should be handed over to the Afghan authorities or should be freed. Gen. Gauthier said the decision to release those not considered dangerous happens routinely. Both decisions are checked up the chain of command, he said.

Prof. Attaran says the military's policy on transfers doesn't absolve Canada if detainees are then mistreated, tortured or killed.

He argues that if the government wants to be involved in this conflict, then it should take responsibility for those its soldiers detain, at least until a court or tribunal determines it can properly transfer them.

“It seems like they want to treat them as though they are radioactive,” he said.

But Gen. Gauthier said there is no risk that ordinary soldiers or junior officers could face war-crimes charges, even if detainees handed over to the Afghans were tortured or killed.

Our intention certainly isn't to leave junior folks hanging out to dry at all on this,” he said. “We are on firm legal ground we have no worries about the possibility of prosecution or allegations of criminal wrongdoing for having transferred detainees

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New up-armored Humvee debuts

Army Times - New up-armored Humvee debuts: "The Army has started fielding new up-armored Humvee to give soldiers protection choices for different missions.

The M1151/52 series, which will replace the current M1114 , will be equipped with removable armor plating, said Col. Thomas Spoehr, director of force development for the Army's G8. told attendees to the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement's Military Armor Protection conference in Washington, D.C

Spoehr stressed the importance of removable armor, explaining that future missions may not require such protective measures. Armor is heavy, he said; anytime you can remove it will increase the vehicle's performance and parts' life.

“When you put thousands of pounds of armor into a vehicle like this, you are going to pay a price,” he said. “Nothing comes without a price.

The military has fielded about 12,800 of the 18,669 up-armored Humvees required in Iraq and Afghanistan, Spoehr said at the conference. So far, the Army has fielded about 200 of the newer M1151/52 Humvees.

On the outside, the new Humvees resemble the current model. “You almost can’t tell the difference by looking at them,” Spoehr said.

The difference is the new vehicle includes additional armor on the Humvee’s underside. Also, the M1151/52 series will include armor that can be removed and replaced by soldiers in a field environment.

"When you put thousands of pounds of armor into a vehicle like this, you are going to pay a price," he said. "Nothing comes without a price."

The military has fielded about 12,800 of the 18,669 up-armored Humvees required in Iraq and Afghanistan, Spoehr said at the conference. So far, the Army has fielded about 200 of the newer M1151/52 Humvees.

On the outside, the new Humvees resemble the current model. “You almost can’t tell the difference by looking at them,” Spoehr said.

The difference is the new vehicle includes additional armor on the Humvee’s underside. Also, the M1151/52 series will include armor that can be removed and replaced by soldiers in a field environment.

“If the situation dictates that you don’t need that armor, we will definitely have the ability to take that off,” Spoehr said.

Bush Says U.S. Must Honor War Dead

Bush Says U.S. Must Honor War Dead - "President Bush, delivering a Memorial Day message surrounded by the graves of thousands of military dead, said Monday that the United States must continue fighting the war on terror in the name of those have already given their life in the cause.

'The best way to pay respect is to value why a sacrifice was made,' Bush said, quoting from a letter that Lt. Mark Dooley wrote to his parents before being killed last September in the Iraqi city of Ramadi.

Noting that some 270 fighting men and women of the nearly 2,500 who have fallen since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Bush said, 'We have seen the costs in the war on terror that we fight today.'

'I am in awe of the men and women who sacrifice for the freedom of the United States of America,' the president declared, drawing a long standing ovation from the troops, families of the fallen and others gathered at the cemetery's 5,000-seat white marble amphitheater.

'Here in the presence of veterans they fought with and loved ones whose pictures they carried, the fallen give silent witness to the price of liberty and our nation honors them this day and every day,' he said. "...

Coalition in Iraq continues to dwindle

AP Wire 05/30/2006 Coalition in Iraq continues to dwindle: "VIENNA, Austria - It's a coalition of the dwindling. The U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq is losing two of its most important allies - Italy and South Korea - and up to half a dozen other members could draw down their forces or pull out entirely by the end of the year.

The withdrawals are complicating America's effort to begin extracting itself from the country, where a fresh onslaught of deadly attacks on coalition forces is testing the resolve of key partners such as Britain and Poland to stick with the mission despite the dangers.

Some observers say Iraq's deteriorating security situation is an argument for coalition forces to stay - not leave - and perhaps even deploy additional forces to help tamp down violence as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki works to shift all security duties to Iraqis over the next 18 months.

Underscoring the reality, the Pentagon said Tuesday it is shifting about 1,500 U.S. troops from a reserve force in Kuwait to western Iraq's volatile Anbar province to help the Iraqis establish order there."

Increased instability, violence and radical Islamism in Iraq could require "a larger role for overt, coordinated, multilateral intervention, involving the key regional powers, to stabilize the situation," defense analyst Christopher Langton of the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies warns in a new report, Military Balance 2006.

Defense Secretary Des Browne of Britain, the No. 2 military presence in Iraq with about 8,000 troops, conceded Tuesday that the latest string of attacks was "a major concern."

Two British soldiers were killed and two others wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Basra on Sunday, bringing to nine the number of British personnel who have died in the southern Iraqi city this month and pushing total British casualties since the war began three years ago to 113.

Despite the bloodshed, strong public opposition to Britain's involvement and recent reports that more than 1,000 British troops may have deserted since 2003, Browne insisted there were no plans to get out.

"We will continue to remain in Iraq until the Iraqi government is confident that the Iraqi security forces are capable of providing security without assistance from the coalition forces," he told the British Broadcasting Corp.

"That will, of course, be in consultation with us and our allies. But the decision on withdrawal will be based on achieving the right conditions but not on a particular timetable."

The United States still provides most of the muscle for the mission with about 132,000 troops.

Officials have said they would like that number reduced to about 100,000 by the end of 2006, although White House spokesman Tony Snow cautioned last week that U.S. President George W. Bush is unlikely to say "we're going to be out in one year, two years, four years."

The latest blow to the 26-nation coalition is Italy's decision to pull its remaining 2,600 troops out by the end of the year.
Italy's new defense minister, Arturo Parisi, was quoted by Italian media Tuesday as saying "Italy won't turn its back on Iraq" and would offer unspecified political, civil and humanitarian support.

Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, meanwhile, wrote in Tuesday's Corriere della Sera newspaper that the pullout would be carried out "with the minimum possible risk for our soldiers, who have paid a high price," referring to the deaths of 31 Italian troops in Iraq.

"We'll be able to deal with this decision while keeping in mind the consequences for the Iraqi people and the need to coordinate with coalition forces," said D'Alema, confirming the force would be reduced to 1,600 by mid-June.

South Korea, the third-largest contributor of forces, began bringing troops home earlier this week as part of a plan to withdraw about 1,000 of its 3,200 soldiers in northern Iraq by the end of the year.

Lawmakers in Denmark, which has 530 personnel in Iraq, on Tuesday approved a government plan to cut the contingent by 80 troops and extended the mission to June 30, 2007.

Japan, which has about 600 non-combat troops doing humanitarian work in southern Iraq, has said it won't decide whether to withdraw them until Baghdad appoints new defense and interior ministers. There has been widespread speculation that the Japanese force will be pulled out this year.

Poland's prime minister, meanwhile, said earlier this month his government was still weighing whether to keep troops in Iraq beyond the end of 2006. Poland has 900 troops in central Iraq, where it leads an international force.
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