Friday, April 30, 2004

The photos that shocked the world

I really don't know how people can still be shocked at the shameful, despicable policies and actions of the U.S., but at least they are still claiming to be.

Papers apparently aren't published on Fridays in Iraq, but the photos of extreme prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib have hit European publications, and the Arabs are certainly able to see them, as well as TV coverage showing the photographs. Of course, Iraqis have been complaining about the tortures and abuses all along. Perhaps, like most Americans, however, the majority of Iraqis, who had no first hand experience with the prison, are impacted by wide media visual proofs more than by a few stories.

"The expectation is that this is going to be a huge problem to the U.S.-led coalition trying to explain the situation, trying to calm down what are going to be some pretty fiery emotions."

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, agreed. "It is absolutely shocking. I think this is the end of the story, the straw that broke the camel's back, for America," he told the UK Press Association.

"People will be extremely angry ... sexual abuse is the worst thing in that part of the world. It is shocking to all Muslims. America has lost the battle completely. I believe there will be more attacks."

Yeah. I believe there will.

Perhaps it is no coincidence in timing that the U.S. just announced it will put one of Saddam's generals (complete in full regalia of his Republican Guard unit when he met with tribal leaders) in charge of an Iraq armed detachment in Fallujah and is pulling out U.S. soldiers today.

The Fallujah force is expected to include former Iraqi police and soldiers including gunmen who fought against the Americans, particularly ex-soldiers disgruntled over losing their jobs when the United States disbanded the old Iraqi army.

...As negotiations continued, one of three battalions of U.S. Marines packed up and withdrew from most of its positions in an industrial zone in the southern area of the city.

...In an apparent move to help the Fallujah negotiations, U.S. authorities Thursday released the imam of the city's main mosque, Sheik Jamal Shaker Nazzal, an outspoken opponent of the U.S. occupation who was arrested in October.

...Marines in the southern industrial zone began packing up their gear Thursday in preparation for a withdrawal.

This isn't that cut-and-run move the Oaf says we can't choose, is it?

Saddam must be getting the last laugh if he has any idea what's happening. And American troops in the area must be shitting their pants about now. That scene of the four contractors' bodies being dismembered and dragged around town is still pretty fresh. We might want to consider some more reliable helicopters than those Black Hawks have appeared to be for some under-cover-of-night major mass evacuations of American military personnel, instead of trying to pull out one battalion at a time. Just a suggestion.

Anybody heard anything more about hostages since the Italians were executed?

And whatever happened to Izzat al-Douri?

And whatever happened to having bin Laden surrounded in the mountains on the Pakistan border?

Yeah. What.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

"Returning to normal" in Fallujah

As Maureen Dowd quotes him, the pReznit has said most of Fallujah is returning to normal.

Apparently he isn't looking at this part:

US soldiers have fired on a minibus full of civilians near a checkpoint on the outskirts of the besieged Iraqi town of Falluja.

Witnesses said a hail of bullets from occupation forces on Thursday turned the vehicle into a ball of fire.

Iraqi policeman Fuad al-Hamdani said four civilians were killed in the unprovoked attack.

People have been leaving Falluja following major US airstrikes on the town, 50km west of Baghdad.

No one was able to explain why soldiers fired at the vehicle and the US military said it had yet to receive information on any incident in the area.
  Aljazeera article

Or maybe that's normal for the U.S. occupation.

Oh, and here's what they think of their new flag:

Ah, here's a fine idea

Former Saddam general put in charge of Fallujah security   article

Maybe we'll just keep screwing around until we put Saddam back.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Negotiations - the U.S. Army way

Explosions and gunfire rocked Falluja again today in new fighting after a heavy battle the night before in which U.S. warplanes and artillery pounded Sunni insurgents holed up in a slum.

...Despite three straight days of battles, U.S. officials say they were pushing ahead with negotiations to resolve the Falluja standoff rather than launch an all-out offensive. Iraqi police took up posts in parts of the city, laying the groundwork for marine patrols.

I wonder if the Iraqis think three straight days of battle is "negotiations".

Juan Cole discusses whether it's legal.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Fallujah - additional

A spokesman for an Iraqi delegation from the violence-gripped city of Fallujah Monday accused U.S. troops of using internationally banned cluster bombs against the city and said they had asked the U.N. to mediate the conflict.

Mohammed Tareq, a spokesman for the governing council of Fallujah and a member of the four-person delegation, said U.S. military snipers were also responsible for the deaths of many children, women and elderly people.

"In Fallujah, the American troops killed at least 800 people and wounded 1,800," Tareq told reporters. "We want to inform the world about the massacres and the human rights violations by the Americans in our city."

The Iraqi delegation has been lobbying in the Jordanian capital for international pressure on the Americans to abide by a cease-fire in the battle-scarred city.

Recent posts on the situation in Fallujah:
Drugged and Laughing
And in Fallujah, the truce ends
Baghdad Burning

Collective Punishment

And more.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, things are most likely a lot uglier in Iraq than our media let on. Collective punishment is a war crime, plain and simple. And you won't see that phrase used in mainstream media to describe our actions, but even the commanding officers admit using the tactic. They just don't call it that. Independent reports are another matter.

But the clinic had no disinfectant, no anaesthetic, and other vital equipment required for the type of surgery the horrific wounds demanded. And as a form of collective punishment all electricity to Falluja had been cut for days. The clinic had a generator, but when the petrol ran out the Doctors had to continue surgery using the glow from cigarette lighters, candles and torches.

We spoke to the Doctors - they were exhausted, and looked defeated as they told us the stories of their recent cases - a ten-year-old boy with a bullet wound to the head, a grandmother with an abdominal bullet wound - both the victims of U.S snipers, young men with severe burns, limbs blown off and so on. But each time a new patient arrived the Doctors quickly got up, put on a new set of surgical gloves and got to work.
...The Doctors asked if we could accompany an ambulance packed with food and medical supplies across town to a hospital that had been cut off. It was in the US controlled section of the town so it was not able to receive aid because of constant sniper fire.

The Doctors figured our foreign nationality could make a difference in negotiating the safe passage of the ambulance with the soldiers.

It might seem a strange and unnecessary mission to help an ambulance drive from one place to another - anywhere else in the world it's a basic thing, but this is Fallujah and this is war and nothing is as it should be, despite guarantees laid out in the Geneva Convention.

...We drove slowly through the parts of Fallujah controlled by Iraqi fighters then stopped in a side-street that faced a main road. We could not go any further because the main road was under watch and control of US snipers. They had developed a habit of shooting at anything that moved.

So we parked the ambulance in the side street and the four of us got out with the task of approaching the American soldiers, communicating with them and getting permission for the ambulance to continue to the hospital.

The area was completely quiet. The silence was unnerving.

We prepared the loudspeaker, put our hands in the air and held our passports high. Before we ventured onto the main road we called out a message from the side street.

"Hello? American soldiers! We are a group of international aid workers. We are unarmed. We are asking permission to transport an ambulance full of medical supplies to the hospital. Can you hear us?"

The reply was just a chilling silence.

We repeated the message. Silence again.

...We walked slowly with our arms raised in the air. My eyes scanned the tops of the buildings for snipers. We didn't know where they were set up so we walked in the direction of the hospital.

We repeated the message over and over again on the loudspeaker, in the silence it would have been heard for hundreds of metres. It echoed eerily throughout the neighbourhood.

I turned my head briefly and just in time. In the distance I saw two white flashes, then the loud bang of gunshots and the ugly realisation that they were shooting into our backs.

...We re-grouped, but we didn't want to give up. Now we knew where the soldiers were, we could walk towards them. We decided to go out again.

Same drill: we called out the message first, then stepped out onto the road, this time facing the direction the gunfire had come from.

"Hello! American soldiers. We are foreign aid workers- British, Australian, American. We are not armed. We are asking permission to transport an ambulance on this road."

My injured hand was shaking as I held my passport now damp with my blood. I tried to work out what I was feeling: fear, anger, determination. I still don't know.

We had only repeated the message twice and walked a few metres when our answer came.

Two more bullets. By this stage I think I entered a state of shock. I had been shot at, not once, but twice by American soldiers after politely asking permission to transport aid to a hospital.

I guess the answer was 'No'.
  Full article

Monday, April 26, 2004

Drugged and laughing

Jihad Unspun has some very different accounts of what's going on in Iraq. Some of it sounds suspect, like this:

Eyewitnesses: Drugged US Troops Laughing In Battle

Mafkarat al-Islam’s correspondent in al-Fallujah reports that for more than 10 days the Resistance fighters in the besieged city have been remarking about a phenomenon that they find strange and surprising. Resistance fighters have frequently noticed that many of the American aggressor troops are laughing as they storm into districts in al-Fallujah. The Mafkarat al-Islam correspondent personally witnessed this clearly when he was close to the events as US aggressors tried to storm an-Nizal neighborhood in the besieged city on Saturday.

The correspondent wrote that he saw two American soldiers laughing, such as to arouse pity for them, despite all the Resistance gunfire being poured at their position and their comrades dying around them. Both of the Americans were later killed in the battle. The Mafkarat al-Islam correspondent writes that the Resistance learned later from interrogations of captured American Marines that the US military medical service distributes a type of halucinogenic pill to the troops that prompts laughter and reduces the sense of fear in combat conditions.

The reverse situation has been revealed in the despair and terror exhibited by the US troops when their lines of supply of food and medicine have been cut – a phenomenon that has been witnessed by nearby Resistance fighters.

But, remember the case of the U.S. soldiers who mistakenly bombed Canadian allies in Afghanistan, allegedly because they were hopped up on speed to keep them alert?

And there are stories of possible military uses of a drug to eliminate feelings of guilt. Here's one. Here's another:

Speed is only one drug in the kitbag of the modern military; possibly more disturbing is the development of an anti-remorse pill which could potentially be taken in a combat situation. All reports indicate that this drug will not be available to troops currently in Iraq, however, US federally funded research is taking place on such a pill. It’s hoped that it will reduce feelings of regret, remorse and guilt, which are all core to the experience of Post Traumatic Stress.

Whatever the case, I think we can be pretty certain things are a lot uglier than our own news sources are letting on.

And in Fallujah, the truce ends

Fallujah exploded Monday morning prompting hours of fighting in the northern district of Jolan when a US Military patrol fired on civilians returning to their homes under the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

...According to details, the Rantissi Brigade, an Iraq resistance group named in honor of the late leader of Hamas who was murdered by Israeli forces, managed to surrounded a small unit of US soldiers. Taking them captive, they took the twelve to the roof of a nearby building and systematically shot them, throwing the bodies from the roof top to the ground below.

U.S. Marines fired 81-millimeter mortars on the building to prevent Resistance fighters from leaving however they managed to escape without incident. Eventually Cobra helicopters and AC- 130 Spectre gun ships leveled the building.

US military sources have so far reported only one US Marine dead and eight others wounded.
  Jihad Unspun article

This is not the report of the outbreak of fighting given in other accounts.

From The Moscow Times:

One U.S. soldier and eight Iraqi insurgents were killed in fierce fighting in the turbulent town of Fallujah on Monday, a U.S. military spokesman said.

Eight other U.S. soldiers were wounded in the clash.

The new breach of a little respected cease-fire followed a deal reached on Sunday under which U.S. Marines and Iraqi police were supposed to patrol the streets of Fallujah from Tuesday.

From The Washington Post

The exchange in Fallujah followed high-level weekend consultations -- involving the White House, the U.S. occupation authority and local leaders -- about the nearly month-long standoff in the Sunni city, 35 miles west of the capital. After the consultations, the Marines postponed plans to mount an attack against insurgents and decided to attempt to regain control without a full-scale offensive.

From The Boston Globe:

In Fallujah, U.S. troops came under a heavy insurgent attack a day after U.S. officials decided to extend a cease-fire rather than launch a full-scale offensive on the city. One Marine and eight insurgents were killed.

Marines battled Sunni guerrillas around a mosque in Fallujah's Jolan district, a poor neighborhood where insurgents are concentrated. Helicopter gunships joined the battle, which sent heavy black smoke over the city. Tank fire demolished a minaret from which officials said gunmen were firing.

The U.S. troops met ''a real nasty bunch,'' said Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. But he said the violence would not deter plans to begin joint U.S.-Iraq patrols in the city.

For more on the negotiations for a ceasefire, read the rest of the first article. It's not quite the same story as we're getting from our media reports. Surprise.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

More from Bill

Guest posted by Jean:

Bill takes a breather after his busy day with the grandkids to send us additional informative links. Check them out. Thanks, Bill!

The Iraqi troops we've been training? "We did not sign up to fight Iraqis." precisely why did we train them?

BAGHDAD, April 10 -- A battalion of the new Iraqi army refused to go to Fallujah earlier this week to support U.S. Marines battling for control of the city, senior U.S. Army officers here said, disclosing an incident that is casting new doubt on U.S. plans to transfer security matters to Iraqi forces.

* * * * *

INTEL DUMP is a little blunter.

In what may be the worst possible development for U.S. officials hoping to hand sovereignty to the Iraqis on June 30, 2004, Tom Ricks reports in the Washington Post that a newly-minted Iraqi Armed Forces battalion has refused to go fight in Fallujah against Sunni Muslims fighting U.S. forces there. Mutiny in wartime is always a bad thing; it's a worse thing when the overall security strategy hinges on the ability of the Iraqi armed forces to pacify their own population.

* * * * *

Today's Washington Post has a lengthy article on what went wrong last week.

* * * * *

Kevin Drum isn't too pleased either.

Treating 9/11 as just another way to hammer his political opponents was an act of unsurpassed callowness, the response of a man who is congenitally unable to view anything except in terms of smallminded partisan advantage. Instead of using 9/11 as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to unite the nation, George Bush viewed it as a way to pick up a few seats in the House. It is this, more than any other single thing, that I most hold against him.

Friday, April 2, 2004


If any illusions remained about our undertaking in Iraq, they were beaten and scorched and strung up from a bridge Wednesday in Fallujah, alongside the mutilated bodies of U.S. civilian contractors. Even the most starry-eyed should now realize that we have committed this nation to a very tough struggle in a brutally inhospitable place populated not by incipient democracy-lovers but by people who have for generations settled disputes with bullets and bombs and who are still intent on doing so.
  Atlanta Journal Constitution article

How do we continue to delude ourselves into believing that "those people" are fundamentaly different from us? Are we not settling our disputes with bullets and bombs? In fact, correct me if I'm wrong, but we're the ones who initiated this particular slaughter fest. Why is this incident so much more appalling and horrifying to us than the bombings of innocent civilians that left scores of little children dead and limbless? Why is it so much less disturbing when bombs are used to rip the limbs off children than when enraged and disempowered people bare-handedly rip the limbs off adult mercernaries? It's just "shock and awe" on a small budget. Weren't Americans just as wildly cheering that initial "Mission Accomplished"?

This goes to the heart of why we favor aerial bombardment versus "boots on the ground". It's certainly no more civilized. It's the difference between a thumbnail and an enlarged photo. Misery, gore and death from a distance. It's so much less impacting on the senses, and we can avoid exposing the brutality of our own soldiers.

In insisting that we have "resolve" enough to do whatever it takes to "win" in Iraq, and not pull out (like the Clinton administration did in Somalia) when we lose lives in this manner, the author of this article is missing one important detail. These were mercenaries, not volunteer (or even drafted) servicemen. Private companies are going to stay or not according to the profitability and ability to attract employees. Resolve has nothing to do with it.

The title of that AJC article is: "Only a full tank of resolve will get job done in Iraq"

I don't know if they intended to be so obvious about connecting the war with oil, but, how appropriate.

Thursday, April 1, 2004

April Fools

Head up your ass? Insulated from reality? Dim-witted? Developmentally arrested?

Then take a break. Please.

The United States says Wednesday's grisly killing of four American civilian workers in the Iraqi town of Fallujah will not change the U.S. mission in the country.

The top American administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, vowed to bring to justice the killers, saying their deaths will not go unpunished.
  VOA article

Mr. Bremer, with all due respect (which is none, if we're talking due), this policy has not been working. It's not going to work. Who are you going to punish? Who are you going to "bring to justice"? Entire cities? I think that's maybe the problem, not the solution. Does it not occur to you that these people believe they are bringing to justice the offenders? Maybe, Mr. Bremer, you just don't think.

Fool Paul Bremer

Speaking [at] a graduation ceremony for police cadets in Baghdad Thursday, Mr. Bremer said, what he called, the "despicable and inexcusable" acts will not derail the march toward stability and democracy in Iraq.

It looks more like a retreat than a march toward. Doesn't it? I mean, it's not just me, is it?

Earlier, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said those behind the attacks are trying to prevent democracy from moving forward in Iraq. But he added they "can not shake the will of the United States."

Fool Scott McClellan

The American civilians were identified as employees of a U.S.-based company that provides security for coalition personnel.

Wow. That's really working well.

Bush did not speak about the attacks during the day and did not specifically mention them last night at a Washington fundraiser for his campaign. He included his standard assertion that because he confronted Saddam Hussein, "an example of democracy is rising at the very heart of the Middle East. . . . The world is more free and . . . America is more secure."

Repeat ad nauseum. If you say it enough, it will be true.

"We still face thugs and terrorists in Iraq who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the advance of liberty," he said. "This collection of killers is trying to shake our will. America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins."
  WaPo article

Please look in the mirror. Who are the ones in Iraq who would go on killing the innocent?

Fool Oaf of Office

"Despite an uptick in local engagements, the overall area of operations remains relatively stable with negligible impact on the coalition's ability to continue progress in governance, economic development, and restoration of essential services", said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the 51-year-old former paratrooper who is chief spokesman for the U.S. military command.
  Oakland Tribune article

Sorry, no picture of Fool Mark Kimmitt. I wonder how long he's going to spout lies for the U.S.

On Tuesday, before the Fallujah attacks, Kimmitt, the American military spokesman, appeared to back off at least somewhat from the command's emphasis on Islamic militants as the principal enemy. At a briefing, he offered an overview of the war in which he suggested that what has occurred, in effect, is a merging of the pro-Saddam insurgents and the Islamic terrorists into a common terrorist threat, and that, either way, "we just call them targets."

Trying to spin the war any way that keeps the soldiers and American citizens ignorant and believing that there is some justification for it. How many times do they have to change the story before people figure it out? Personally, I think people want to believe the lies.

Either way, we just call them "April fools".