Friday, August 25, 2006

Other Items

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), once an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq, said yesterday that the Bush administration should set a time frame for withdrawing U.S. troops. He added that most of the withdrawal could take place next year.
Shays, who faces a tough reelection campaign because of his previous support for President Bush's war policies, made his comments after completing his 14th trip to Iraq this week.

[. . .]
Shays is one of only a few congressional Republicans supporting a timetable for ending U.S. involvement in the Iraq fighting, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,600 U.S. troops and an estimated 40,000 to 45,000 Iraqi civilians. Bush reaffirmed this week his opposition to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. "Leaving before the job was done would be a disaster," he warned.

The above, noted by Martha, is from Anushka Asthana's "Shays Urges Iraq Withdrawal: A Former War Backer, GOP Congressman Calls for Timetable" (Washington Post). And, if you're wondering, no, the Times isn't interested. Poli 'reporter' Adam Nagourney files from Detroit but is covering Iowa and Mass. as he gets giddy over the 2008 elections (where he will surely inflict more damage on standards of comprehension and journalism).

Though the Times isn't interested in Iraq, the chaos and violence continue. Thursday, Sandra Lupien noted, on The KPFA Evening News, the Associated Press' count of Iraqi civilians who've died thus far in the month of August -- "at least 605." That's the AP count and the month's not over.

And, if you missed it, ABC did a really bad report yesterday (Martha Raddatz was the correspondent) where the terms of what is up and what is down are set by the US military and the reporter nods and repeats; however, the point is "the military is making a big push" in Ramadi. How quickly forgotten.

Kyle notes Ellen Knickmeyer's "Disavowed by Mahdi Army, Shadowy 'Butcher' Still Targets Sadr's Foes" (Washington Post):

In a dirty war where shadowy death squads claim victims daily and leaders on all sides deny blame, there's one killer to whom Iraqis can attach a name, if not a face.
Abu Diri, or Father of the Shield, is the nom de guerre of a Shiite Muslim man. Sunni Arabs of Baghdad also know him as "the Butcher." Like countless other killers in Iraq's capital today, Abu Diri and his followers dump their victims in the streets bearing bullet wounds and sometimes the smaller holes made by electric drills.
But U.S. military officers, Sunnis and even many Shiites say they believe Abu Diri kidnaps and kills Sunnis and other rivals with a zeal that has made him notorious, even in Baghdad's daily carnage.
"He is a savage criminal; tens of murderers follow in his wake," said a posting on Truth, a Sunni Web site that is supportive of Iraqi Sunni insurgent groups. Many Iraqi Sunnis monitor its allegations regarding the country's growing sectarian strife.
[. . .]

Little is known about Abu Diri's background.

And, also by Knickmeyer and noted by Julie, "Sadr's Militia and the Slaughter in the Streets" (Washington Post):

In a grungy restaurant with plastic tables in central Baghdad, the young Mahdi Army commander was staring earnestly. His beard was closely cropped around his jaw, his face otherwise cleanshaven. The sleeves of his yellow shirt were rolled down to the wrists despite the intense late-afternoon heat. He spoke matter-of-factly: Sunni Arab fighters suspected of attacking Shiite Muslims had no claim to mercy, no need of a trial.
"These cases do not need to go back to the religious courts," said the commander, who sat elbow to elbow with a fellow fighter in a short-sleeved, striped shirt. Neither displayed weapons. "Our constitution, the Koran, dictates killing for those who kill."
His comments offered a rare acknowledgment of the role of the Mahdi Army in the sectarian bloodletting that has killed more than 10,400 Iraqis in recent months. The Mahdi Army is the militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, now one of the most powerful figures in the country.
The death squads that carry out the extrajudicial killings are widely feared but mysterious. Often, the only evidence is the bodies discovered in the streets. Several commanders in the Mahdi Army said in interviews that they act independently of the Shiite religious courts that have taken root here, meting out street justice on their own with what they believe to be the authorization of Sadr's organization and under the mantle of Islam.
"You can find in any religion the right of self-defense," said another commander, senior enough to be referred to as the Sheik, who was interviewed separately by telephone. Like the others, he lives and works in Sadr City, a trash-strewn, eight-square-mile district of east Baghdad that is home to more than 2 million Shiites. They spoke on condition that their names not be revealed and that specific areas of Sadr City under their control not be identified.
"The takfiris , the ones who kill, they should be killed," said the Sheik, using a term commonly employed by Shiites for violent Sunni extremists. "Also the Saddamists. Whose hands are stained with blood, they are sentenced to death."
"This is part of defending yourself," the commander said. "This is a ready-made verdict -- we don't need any verdict."

Finally on Iraq, the UN's IRIN notes that teachers are a favorite target in Iraq with "nearly 180 professors" killed (from February 2006 to today) and "at least 3,250" fleeing the country for their own safety (same period).

Last topic, Vic notes David McHugh's "Man Released From Guantanamo After 4-Plus Years" (AP via the Toronto Star):

A German-born Turkish citizen held for more than four years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay has returned to Germany after being released, his attorneys said Thursday.
Murat Kurnaz, 24, was flown to Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany where he was set free, attorney Bernhard Docke said in a statement.
"He is now again in the circle of his family," Docke said in the statement. "Their joy at embracing their lost son again is indescribable.''

Closing out with the Center for Constitutional Rights' "CCR RELEASES NEWLY DECLASSIFIED EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF MILITARY POLICE ATTACK ON DETAINEES Rubber Bullets & Pepper Spray Used to Subdue Elderly Detainees Objecting to Searching of Koran Synopsis:"

On August 21, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released newly declassified notes detailing an eyewitness account of the mistreatment of the Koran and a subsequent attack on detainees by military police at Guantánamo in early June 2006. CCR represents more than 200 detainees, but due to the security measures imposed on attorney-client communication at Guantánamo, this most recent account had previously been unavailable.
Ala' Ali bin Ali Ahmed is a twenty-three-year-old prisoner from Adem, Yemen. Although he has been imprisoned in Guantánamo since 2002, he has never been accused of fighting against the United States. Prior to July of this year Ala' lived in Camp 4, but it wasn't until a July meeting with his lawyer, CCR attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, that he had a chance to describe how the military's mistreatment of the Koran led to violence.
According to Ala', on May 18th the GTMO Commander ordered the military police (MPs) to search the prisoners' Korans. Many prisoners voiced their opposition to the MPs searching and handling of the holy book, asking those who conducted the search, "Why are you doing this?" The MPs answered that they had orders to search the Korans and anyone who refused would be forced to comply.
Ala' explained that the English-speaking detainees attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate with the MPs to diffuse and resolve the situation. The MPs refused to discuss the issue and began their search on a block that housed 50- and 60-year-old Afghani prisoners. When these older men refused to allow their Korans to be searched, the MPs indiscriminately pepper-sprayed the detainees and opened fire on the older prisoners with rubber bullets.

Zach points out that Making Contact will look at the issue of water rights (access, et al) today at 1:30 pm PST on KPFA.

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