Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, October 24, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the US military announces the deaths of more US troops today, a US soldier is missing in Baghdad, CNN becomes the first news outlet to call the 2,800 marker, the people of England, Iraq and the United States do not support the illegal war and 65 active duty US soldiers call for an end to the war.
In England, Julian Glover, Richard Norton-Taylor and Patrick Wintour (Guardian of London) report on a Guardian/ICM poll which found: "A clear majority of voters want British troops to be pulled out of Iraq by the end of this year, regardless of the consequences for the country" and that the breakdown is only  30% stand with the soon to be bailing ship Tony Blair's position of "as long as is considered necessary" while "61% of voters say they want British troops to leave this year, even if they have not completed their mission and Washington wants them to stay."  The results are an increse of ten percent of respondents saying it's time to leave since the poll was last done in September 2005.  In addition, Reuters notes, of the poll, that "72 percent felt the Iraq war was 'unwinnable.'"
On the other side of the Atlantic ocean, CNN reports on a new poll by to determine American attitudes about the war which has found that only "[o]ne in five Americans believes the United States is winning the war in Iraq," that 64% of respondent opposed the illegal war, and thtat 57% of respondeds "want the United States to announce it will pull all troops out by a certain date." 
Both polls reflect continued trends in their countries (as backed up by polling for the last year).  In addition, as Amy Goodman noted at the top of today's Democracy Now! and Aileen Alfandary noted on today's KPFA's The Morning Show, 65 active duty service members have contacted Congress.  Goodman: "For the first time since the invasion, a group of 65 active duty service members are formally asking Congress to end the U.S. occupation and bring the troops home."  The topic was raised Monday in the White House press briefing and White House flack Tony Snow job dismissed it:
Q Tony, quick -- there's 65 active duty troops that are coming out with a letter today, saying they think the occupation should end, and they're saying that -- this is part of the military whistle blower. Any reaction to that?
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, it's a Fenton Communications job, which means clearly it's got a political edge to it. But number two it's not unusual for soldiers in a time of war to have some misgivings. I believe at least two of them have served in Iraq proper, active duty. We don't know how many have actually served --
Q I think the majority of them have.
MR. SNOW: But let's say they all did. You also have more than -- you have several hundred thousand who served in Iraq. You have reenlistment rates that have exceeded goals in all the military. You've had a number of people serving multiple tours of duty. And it appears that there's considerable --
Q They don't have much choice.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I mean they do have choice. If you've got a chance to sign up or not sign up, and you decide that you're going to sign up again and go serve in Iraq, it means it means something to you. And so I believe that there is also -- you get 65 guys who are, unfortunately -- no, not unfortunately -- 65 people who are going to be able to get more press than the hundreds of thousands who have come back and said they're proud of their service.
"Hundreds of thousands who have come back"?  Does Snow Job know how many have served in Iraq and returned?  His comments do not indicate that he does.
In Iraq, polling has consistently found that the majority wants all foreign troops out and the most recent poll to back that up was conducted by the US State Department.  Katherine Shrader (AP) noted that the polling focused on "Iraqi youth" and found the majority opinion to be that "security would improve and violence decrease if U.S.-led forces left immediately," that "strong majorities" expressed opposition to the option that they might join the either the Iraq military or the Iraq police and that "nine out of 10 young Iraqi Arabas said they see the U.S. and allied forces in Iraq as an occupying force."
The perception is not going away and certain events add to it.  Reuters reports: "U.S. troops pulled over a fire truck and killed four Iraqi firefighters in a case of mistaken identity on Monday after a report that a fire truck had been hijacked in western Falluja, the military said.  The firefighters, whom U.S. troops first believed were armed insurgents, were responding to a call."  Al Jazeera reports that the "killings happened . . . when the unarmed firefighters got out of their vehicle and were fired upon by US soldiers."
Reuters notes two Iraqi soldiers died and another was wounded in Kirkuk by a roadisde bomb while two other roadside bombs left five people wounded. CNN reports: "Five Iraqis also were killed in three incidents Tuesday in the capital.  A bomb exploded in a parked car near a Shiite mosque in northwestern Baghdad, killing two people and wounding 12 others, Baghdad emergency police said.  An Iraqi civilian was killed and seven others wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in a central Baghdad market."
Al Jazeera reports that Ala Ghleim was shot dead in Amara as was Hussein Salah in another attack (a home invasion) which also "left two of his brothers wounded."  Both of the men who were killed were police officers.  Later, Al Jazeera updated the number of police officers shot dead in Amara to four. CNN notes two people were shot dead in Baghdad and seven more wounded.
CNN notes eight corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("riddled with bullters").
Meanwhile an American soldier is missing.  Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) reported that he "went missing in Baghdad on Monday night" according to the US military and that a search was ongoing. Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post) noted that "residents said American forces had sealed the central Karrada district and were conducting door-to-door searches, according to the Associated Press."  AFP reports the soldier is "an American of Iraqi descent" and that Al-Forat television network was searched in addition to "neighbouring houses".  Al Jazeera reports: "On Tuesday, the US military said that the soldier, a linguist assigned to a reconstruction team, was handcuffed and forced into a vehicle"  and that he had left the Green Zone to visit "a relative's house in Baghdad outside the Green Zone."  The US military's press release summarizes the events as follows: "It is believed that the Soldier left the IZ to visit with family.  He was reportedly at a relative's house at the time of the abduction when three cars pulled up to the residence.  The men, who were described to have dark colored rags over their noses and mouths, handcuffed the Soldier and forced him into one of the vehicles.  The Soldier's relative, who claimed to be at the residence when the abduction occurred, was reported contacted by the kidnappers using the Soldier's cell phone.  After being notified of the telephonic contact, MND-B leaders immediately took decisive actions to locate the Soldier."
Since the US military is now claiming all the above was known Monday night, one may wonder why they didn't bother to inform the press.  They had stated that the name was not being released until the soldier's family could be contacted -- are we to believe the relative in Baghdad did not contact them?  Are we also to believe that there was some 'value' in not identifying the soldier as an American of Iraqi descent which would have allowed the number fearing that it was a Baghdad soldier they knew or were related to be narrowed considerably?
Turning to US military fatalities, as noted at the top, CNN was the first news organization to note that the number of US military fatalities had hit the 2800 mark.
Iraq Coalition Casualties currently puts the fatality count at 2803.  Depending on the time zone of the intended audience for the report, three to four US troops have been announced dead today.  The US military has released two press releases on Tuesday declaring deaths: a sailor was killed in Al-Anabar Province Monday, and two Marines were killed in Al-Anbar Province on Monday as well.  Some reports count a release that went out late Monday noting the Sunday death of a US soldier in Baghdad from an IED.
In peace news, last week war resister Corey Glass spoke publicly about his decision to self-check out of the US military and relocate to Canada.  The CBC reports that Glass noted that early on, "[Army officials] stopped by my parents' place to try to find me.  Somehow they must have gotten hold of my stuff that I'd left [behind] and started calling numbers they found."  Glass was speaking at the Tilley Hall Auditorium at the University of New Brunswick.  IMC Maritimes notes that "Glass joined the National Guard in Indiana in 2002, thinking he would be doing things like filling sand bags to stop a flood on American soil.  Instead, he was sent to Iraq, and discovered he couldn't fight a war he didn't believe in.  When he was given a two-week leave to return home, he deserted.  After seven months in hiding, he fled to Tornoto where he is seeking refugee status."  Glass has stated (in September): "I knew the war was wrong before I went, but I was going to fulfil my end of the bargain, right or wrong and eventually my conscience just caught up with me. . . I felt horrible for being a part of it.  If I could apologise to those people [Iraqis], every single on, I would."
Also in peace news, peace activist Cindy Sheehan will be speaking at the University of Iowa (Macbride Auditorium, 7:30 pm) while Sunday, Michael Yoder (The Intelligencer Journal) reports, Ray McGovern spoke at the Lancaster Church of the Brethren in Penn. noting, of Iraq, : "We need to call lies 'lies'."
Turning to the land of fiction and myth.  The US administration continues to be jaw-dropping amazing in the worst way possible.  After hair splitting over the definition of milestone and hair splitting over the defenition of deadline, the administration, as reported by Jim Rutenberg and David S. Cloud (New York Times), has decided one thing they will drop is the phrase "stay the course."  The dropping should not be read as a sign of embracing reality, just dropping a slogan that's no longer marketing well.  Proving that they hold reality at arms length, Mark Tran (Guardian of London) reports that the US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad (who did such a bang-up job with Afghanistan!) says the 'success' is still within reach in Iraq. As Sam Knight (Times of London) notes, "benchmarks," not deadlines, are the buzz of the day.  Appearing with Khalilzad was George Casey ("top US general") and Paul Reynolds (BBC) notes that they are both "predicting an improvement in Iraq in 12-18 months".  Reynolds observes: "The problem for General Casey is that he has said all this before.  In July 2005 he predicted major troop withdrawals by this summer, only to have to accept today that he had to reverse that trend when summer came because the Iraqis could not cope with the surge of sectarian violence in Baghdad.  He even said today that he would ask for more troops if necessary." 
On Kahlilzad, AFP reminds: "In July of this year Khalilzad had said that the 'next six months will be critical for Iraq'".  Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post) wants you not to be fooled should a man in a Jack Murtha mask come to your door on Halloween because it's really Joe Lieberman: "Lieberman has been trying out his costume on the campaign trail in Connecticut, desperately trying to trick voters into thinking that he's against the war so he treat himself to their support. . . . Lieberman clearly hopes that by paying lip service to being against the war he can confuse voters into forgetting that he was a lead sponsor of the resolution authorizing the war, has been a bellicose backer of the president's failed policy ever since -- repeatedly voting against efforts to change course in Iraq -- and continues to attack Ned Lamont for working to end the war."
While the people can see reality (note the polling at the top), leadership refuses to.  Tony Blair makes the illegal war a point of "nerve."  John Howard, prime minister of Australia, says to depart would mean "no hope of demomcracy."  This despite the rumors that Howard has no intention of 'staying the course' and would turn over leadership to Peter Costello if his party wins in the upcoming elections.  Elections?  The Labor Party is arguing for pulling Australian troops out of Iraq.  Australia's ABC reports Robert McLelland ('defence spokesman") stating: "There's every indication that the presence of Western troops is actually something that inflames the violence itself.  It's just not working -- there has to be alternative solutions."
Now that McLelland has transitioned us back into reality, David Goldstein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on a recent study of Vet Centers in the US: "The report last week from the Democratic staff of the House Veterans Affairs Committee said demand had risen for outreach and other services at nearly a third of the centers because of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan."  The report, entitled "House Veterans' Committe Report Concludes VA Counseling Center Services At-Risk," is available online.
Finally, in other reality news, Philip Webster (Times of London) reports that Margaret Beckett (Britain's Foreign Secretary) "acknowledged the limitations to what could be achieved by coalition forces.  She also accepted that the invasion might come to be judged as a foreign policy disaster for Britain."
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