Chaos and violence continue in Iraq but after the 'jokes' of "at least 44" made it into print today, other 'cut-ups' apparently want to have their fun too.
First up, Iraq's president who will surely be the lead in all the stories today though, come December 31st and January 1st, don't look for news outlets to lead with his happy talk not panning out. CNN reports that Jala Talabani has predicted Iraqi forces will control all eighteen provinces by the end of 2006. For those with any short-term memory left in them, it wouldn't be surprising if this thought was the focus: "The U.S. military is moving at least 3,700 soldiers from Mosul to Baghdad and is gearing up for a new security operation to wrest control of the capital from Shiite militias, Sunni insurgents, kidnap gangs, rogue police and freelance gunmen" (Robert H. Reid, AP). Those with short-term and long-term memory may flash back on other things, such as Jun 8, 1969 when a beaming Tricky Dicky Nixon and South Vietnam puppet Nguyen Van Thieu boasted and . . . the war didn't end. (For more on that sort of deception, see Ruth's "Ruth's Report" from Sunday.) Fall elections are coming up and, just as surely as the leaves will brown and fall, false promises will bloom at heightened levels. The BBC quotes Talabani self-describing "We are highly optimistic." And apparently just high, period.
Good drugs, apparently are back in vogue and not confined to the Green Zone (well they went in and out of Vietnam back then as well). Which might explain AFP's DC based report on the supposed degradation of the US military. Whenever they scream "More money!" they offer up this same scenario. While that's what the War Mongers & War Hawks do, there's no reason AFP needs to josh readers: "Members of the group comprise a Who's Who of moderate-to-liberal political thought in the United States, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former national security adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger, retired Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman John Shalikashvili, and retired four-star general and fomer presidential contender Wesley Clark."
"Moderate-to-liberal political thought"? Howl with laughter.
Then return to reality.
If you're thinking things can't any worse (you're wrong) read Omar alIbadi and Michael Georgy's (Reuters) report on the Shi'ite non-pilgrimage describing events that sound like scare tactis hollered by some from the halls of the US Congress in the fifites ("Red" hunt). Thing is, the US administration is supporting these type of "demonstrations" that are taking place. al-Ibadi and Georgy report: "Young men in civilian uniforms and headbands, all members of what is known as the popular committees, chanted as a speaker called on them to crush "terrorists" and loyalists of ousted President Saddam Hussein leading a Sunni Arab insurgency against the Shi'ite-led government."
This as Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Shi'ite Muslim leaders are speaking of the country falling "into full revolt." Youssef quotes Sheik Bashir al Najafi stating: "The government formed after the fall of the regime hasn't been able to do anything, just make many promises. And people are fed up with promises. One day we will not be able to stop a popular revolution."
In court news, Robert F. Burns (AP) reports that the inquiry into the November 19, 2005 deaths of 24 Iraqis "suppots accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot the civilians, including unarmed women and children, a Pentagon official said Wednesday." This as Frank Wuterich ("staff sgt.") files a libel suit against US Representative John Murtha for libel claiming that his reputation has suffered from "false and malicious lies" about those involved in the 24 killings.
In other courtroom news, Ryan Lenz (AP) reported that Bradley Mason testified in court today that he was threatened by four fellow soldiers (William B. Hunsaker, Raymond L. Girouard, Corey R. Clagett and Juston R. Graber) if he spoke of the May 9th events around the shooting deaths of three Iraqi civilians. Mason also testified that "Col. Michael Steele" (of Black Hawk Down 'fame') instructed them to: "Kill all of them." Finally, Mason testified that when the news of shooting the detained and bound three Iraqis was learned that the others "just smiled" but he informed Girouard that he wasn't "down with it. It's murder." The AFP reports that the notorius Steele "has signed a document declaring his intention to refuse to testify in the case to avoid incriminating himself".
In Baghdad, on a soccer field, AP reports nine "young people" (ages 15-25) died from "hidden bombs" and three ("younger than 15") died from a mortar shell that landed on the soccer field. Reuters reports that an Iraqi soldier died near Diwaniya and three were wounded from a roadside bomb; two and a civilian died from a roadside bomb in Hawija (four civilians left wounded); a police officer died from a roadside bomb in Mosul; and three roadside bombs claimed three lives and left nine wounded in Baghad. On the soccer bombing, the BBC reports that "the bombs had been buried in the middle of the football pitch" and notes that it "came hours after Iraq's president said Iraqi forces would take over the security of the entire country from US-led forces by the end of 2006."
CNN reports that, in Baghdad, "gunmen in a car opened fire on a checkpoint outside the Ministry of Oil building . . . injuring three guards". Reuters notes these shooting deaths: in Baquba, the chief of traffic police (Ahmed Adbel Hussein) and his bodyguard; and in Diwaniya "an employee of a human rights group outside his home".
CNN notes that "two traffic police were killed and two other officers wounded in Khalis".
Reuters reports two corpses discovered in Qamishli ("blindfolded . . . hands bound"); eleven corpses were fished out of the Tigris ("Near Suwayra . . . . shot . . . signs of torture"); and, in Kirkuk, a handcuffed corpse was discovered ("signs of torture . . . gunshot wounds in the head").
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad goes on and it's like no inquiry most would be familiar with. The press runs with a tale of Kovco as someone who played with his gun based on . . . Eye witness testimony?
No. There's been none. Soldier 17 stated he'd heard of it Kovco playing with his weapon. The entire inquiry is based, not on facts, but on second-hand testimony. Dan Box was among the first to tie in today's hearsay with the earlier hearsay writing: "The inquiry had previously heard that Kovco was reprimanded twice by senior officres in the month before his death for mishandling his pistol." They heard that but the witness could only affirm one incident -- the second one was hearsay.
Now with Soldier 17's hearsay testimony today, it needs to be noted that Soldier 17 made comments on May 10th about this and on that day and while testifying in the inquiry, Soldier 17 refuses to provide names of the "others" who saw what he did not but is claiming happened: that Kovco played like a "cowboy" with guns. Frank Holles (Judy & Martin Kovco's attorney) stated: "I put it to you when it suits you, you will not provide invormation." Which pretty much sums up the testimony being trumpeted as "Cowboy Kovco" in the news.
Here's Conor Duffy reporting on The World Today (Australia's ABC) and I'm adding bold print: CONOR DUFFY: That's right, Eleanor [Halll]. We've just seen a statement that he gave to NSW Police just after the shooting, and in it he said that other members of his unit in Baghdad had detailed instances of Private Kovco messing around with weapons. He said he never saw this, but he was told that other people had seen Private Jake Kovco imitating old school weapons. He said, 'Like quick draw and you spin it around and all that sort of s[**t].' And he mentioned specific instances of him spinning the pistol around on his finger. He said that he didn't see that, but he said he'd seen other soldiers in the unit in Baghdad messing around with pistols, and on one occasion he said he was upset when another soldier had pointed a pistol at him and he wasn't sure if it was loaded."
Now let's note Soldier 17's "defense" as to not providing names of these alleged witnesses or fellow gun players: "They said if I didn't wish to give I didn't have to." Well, as long as "they said" it, then no problem, I guess. But when you think about the description he's giving (of "Australian soldiers in Baghdad" playing "games with their pistols, including 'quick draw' and twirling them like gun-slinging cowboys" as Peter Charlton sums it up), the fact that both he and the other roommate claim not to have seen Kovco holding a gun though they were in the room with him, you're left with questions and hearsay 'testimony' doesn't answer any.
In peace news, Cindy Sheehan, Ann Wright, Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans, Gael Murphy, Diane Wilson, Tom Hayden and Geoffrey Millard will soon be en route to Amman, Jordan today where they will meet with memebers of the Iraqi parliament. In NYC tonight at 9:00 pm (JFK Airport), Cindy Sheehan and Tom Hayden will hold a press conference. KWTX carries a report that states the meeting will take place "Friday and Saturday" and that those fasters on that trip will then end their fast.
The Troops Home Fast action continues. Today at least 4,350 people are participating. The fast is to be ongoing until September 21st.
In other peace news, Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace will hold a press conference Thursday (Aug. 3rd) across from the Russell Senate Office Building in DC at 11:00 a.m. to note the end of the first phase Operation House Call and begin phase two. Those scheduled to speak incldue Jennifer Davis (whose husband is with the 172nd Stryker Bridgade that was due to come home this month but have now had their stay in Iraq extended by at least four months), Gilda Carbonaro (mother of Alessandro Carbonaro who died May 10, 2006 from wounds received in Iraq, and Larry Syverson (who has three sons in the military including one treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which didn't prevent the military from sending him to his current post on the Kuwait/Iraq border).
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