A Ticket To Pride, Part 2
We've already looked at the American side of the IraQuagmire. What of the Iraqi side? How ARE things going over there?
With American fighter jets and helicopters buzzing the skies overhead, an officer in Iraq's new police force approaches a group of fighters on Fallujah's front lines with an urgent call to arms. "I need a man who can use an RPG," says Omar, who wears the uniform of a first lieutenant. Four hands shoot up and a cry rings out: "We are ready." He chooses a young man, Bilal, and they drive to an underpass on the outskirts of the city.
There, on Highway One, an American Humvee is driving east. Bilal aims and fires his rocket propelled grenade, turning the vehicle into a smoking, twisted, metal carcass. The fate of its occupants is unknown.
First Lt Omar is sworn to uphold the law and fight the insurgency that threatens Iraq's evolution into a free and democratic state. Instead, he is exploiting his knowledge of US tactics to help the rebel cause in Fallujah.
"Resistance is stronger when you are working with the occupation forces," he points out. "That way you can learn their weaknesses and attack at that point."
Now wait just a pregnant-chad-counting minute! I paid ots of good tax dollars for you guys to be on MY side!!! Have we got any Iraqis on our side???
Riding in his Humvee, First Lieutenant Chris Manglicmot of the US 10th Cavalry's C troop is travelling along Route 5, a main supply road for US forces and a favourite location for roadside bombs and sniper fire. On the eastern edge of the city, Manglicmot stops by one group, clustered by a shack in the shade of a handful of palm trees. The evening before, he says, a bomb was left 50 yards from the men guarding this point and they had failed to spot it.
Today Manglicmot wants to encourage the Iraqi soldiers to leave their position hidden among the trees and low shrubs and walk the road. The Iraqis do not seem so keen. And when we return that afternoon with a second US patrol, it is to find them with helmets off, weapons on the ground, sitting in the shade. As we approach, one of the National Guard is picking berries.
We had returned to this group because a US sergeant had spotted a group of men rooting in the drifts of rubbish by the road, not far from where the bomb was placed the day before. Sergeant Charles Cotton is furious when the soldiers amble out to greet him. 'That is where they placed the bomb last night,' he shouts, his face close to the Iraqi sergeant. 'Did you check them out? Did you physically walk up the road and challenge them? Did you pat them down?' The soldiers shrug. This week, the soldiers and policemen of Iraq's forces will - as coalition officials are fond of repeating - 'step up and take ownership' of the security of Iraq.
And how good these soldiers are is a crucial issue. For these young soldiers deployed on Route 5, and on roads and in government buildings from Irbil to Basra, are the very future of Iraq.
This isn't looking too good, folks. What's going to happen if the Iraqis aren't interested in defending their own country from 'terra'???
Militants loyal to suspected al-Qaida terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi threatened to behead three Turkish hostages, fanning tensions as President Bush visited Turkey. The kidnappers said the hostages would be killed unless Turkish companies stop doing business with American forces in Iraq and called for protests in Turkey against Bush's visit.
A bombing south of Baghdad killed more than 20 people. The military said a pair of car bombs may have caused the explosion late Saturday in downtown Hillah, a largely Shiite Muslim city south of Baghdad. Iraqi police and Hillah-area hospitals reported 23 people were killed and 58 wounded. Elsewhere, three mortar shells exploded Sunday at the Mosul office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a pro-U.S. political party. Four party members were wounded. a PUK official said. A Mosul policeman was killed in a drive-by shooting in another incident, police said. A strong explosion rocked central Baghdad on Sunday, and smoke rose from the U.S.-guarded Green Zone. The U.S. military said it had no details. Explosions were also heard early Sunday on the northern outskirts of the troubled city of Fallujah, west of the capital.
Insurgents have blown up the local offices of Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi's political party in Baquba, reports quoted witnesses as saying gunmen had stormed the local headquarters of Mr Allawi's Iraqi National Accord, setting off a bomb before fleeing.
Earlier, attackers fired grenades at the offices of another party in the city. In the attack on the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq building in the same city, three party members were killed and two other people wounded.
Elsewhere, a car bomb exploded in the city of Irbil injuring a senior Kurdish politician and killing one of his bodyguards. In Irbil, a car bomb was detonated in a busy commercial street near a culture ministry building, killing a security guard and wounding 40 people, including a Kurdish culture minister. A report quoting the US military said a US soldier was fatally wounded when his patrol was attacked overnight by rocket-propelled grenades in the centre of Baghdad.
This can't be easy on the troops in Iraq. How will they deal with the pressure?
Second-grader Ali Talmasan Qassim sobbed as he sat beneath a palm tree outside a hospital, nursing a gunshot wound in his arm. A few miles away, the body of a young woman in a black chador lay in a pool of blood near a smoldering car. Parts of her face were missing, but her eyes were wide open. Seven-year-old Qassim and the unidentified woman embody a danger that has stalked civilians here for more than a year of American occupation: The peril of getting caught in the crossfire.
These are two of the many civilian victims of widespread violence Thursday in several cities in Iraq, starting with insurgent attacks that sparked heavy battles between militants and U.S. and Iraqi troops. Dozens of Iraqis were killed and hundreds wounded. A total of 1,258 Iraqis were killed across this Arab nation between May 4 and June 17, according to a Health Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity. During the same period, 4,317 Iraqis were wounded.
Qassim, wearing plastic flip-flops, blue shorts stained with his own blood and an orange T-shirt, made a new entry on the injured list. So did his mother, 6-month-old brother Abdullah and uncle Mohammed Qassim, hit by shrapnel in his hand, shoulder and back. Sitting with his family in the shade, Qassim didn't say much but occasionally rested his head on his mother's shoulder. "It hurts," he whispered. His mother, wounded by shrapnel in her left leg, held Abdullah on her lap. Stripped down to his underwear in the 120-degree heat, the baby had small shrapnel wounds on his left thigh.
Qassim's father, Talmasan, a 39-year-old police lieutenant colonel, blamed U.S. troops for the attack on his family. "I asked the Iraqi civil defense soldier whether it was safe to drive past the Americans, and he said 'yes.' A few seconds later we were fired on," he said, standing next to his car. The front passenger window was shattered and the door pockmarked by gunfire.
"You know how they (the Americans) are, they just shoot at anyone," said Talmasan Qassim, who had been trying to get his family to a safer area when they were shot at. "May God destroy America and all those who cooperate with it!" screamed a man from inside the emergency ward, venting a fury felt by many in Baqouba, where hatred for the U.S. occupation has been evident from the start.
Ziyad Eid, 33, and Bassem Horeir, 20, said they saw the incident across the street from the private hospital where they work. They blamed American forces. "There were no warning shots and no fighters in the area, so why did they have to shoot them like that?" said Horeir. "Those Americans shoot at everyone. They just want to hurt us," said another bystander, who refused to give his name.
Could this be why they let us think that they are on our side? To take revenge for family members killed by Occupation troops following the unlawful orders of the BFEE/PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse?
I want my money back! Unless, of course, there is something else we can give them?
There are glimmers of hope. America now seems less concerned with running Iraq as a client state, cutting its embassy presence from a planned 3,000 staff to 1,000. They have moved their largest base out of Baghdad airport, to give the semblance at least of a country in control of some of its airspace. Allawi also has access to the country's oil revenues and has promised an Iraqi-led crackdown on violence with curfews.
So this should be leading to fewer attacks, not more. why isn't this working to ease the tensions between the US and Iraq?
US-led authorities in Baghdad are to be sharply criticised in an upcoming UN audit over their use of Iraqi oil revenues, it was reported today. A leaked copy of an interim report by financial advisers KPMG into the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), which collects and spends oil money, has revealed loose book-keeping and "resistance" to scrutiny among Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) staff. The Financial Times, which obtained a copy of the report, said the auditors judged the fund to be "open to fraudulent acts".
"The CPA does not have effective controls over the ministries' spending of their individually allocated budgets, whether the funds are direct from the CPA or via the ministry of finance," it quoted the report as saying. Agreement on an international advisory body to oversee the DFI was not reached until October as Paul Bremer, the US governor in Iraq, haggled over the scope of the watchdog's power. In the interim, its second function as a repository for all reconstruction money has been largely overtaken by UN and World Bank funds as donor countries became wary of contributing to an unaudited fund.
The US-run DFI was mandated by the UN security council to collect and spend Iraqi oil revenues in May last year, but has been dogged from its inception by accusations of a lack of transparency. Confusion over the final days of the DFI was highlighted last week in a report by Iraq Revenue Watch - part of Hungarian financier George Soros's Open Society Institute - that said nearly $2bn (£1.09bn) was recently allocated to reconstruction projects in addition to the amounts specified in the revised budget in March. Svetlana Tsalik, Iraq Revenue Watch's director, warned that the apparently hurried nature of the spending would make the money more difficult to account for. "With so much money available for cash give-aways, and so little planning on how the process will work, it will be all but impossible to avoid corruption and waste," he said.
Officials say the audit only began in earnest in April and expressed fears that if the work was not finished by June 30 - when the CPA is to be wound up - no audit of its spending would ever be complete.
Ah-hah! Back to following the money! Just when you are supposed to think that Owwer Leedur and the BFEE/PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse is beginning to see the error of their ways, they demonstrate that any trust placed in them doing the right thing is incredibly misplaced! That might explain the following editorial:
In its scale and intent, President Bush's war against Iraq was something new and radical: a premeditated decision to invade, occupy and topple the government of a country that was no imminent threat to the United States. This was not a handful of GIs sent to overthrow Panamanian thug Manuel Noriega or to oust a new Marxist government in tiny Grenada. It was the dispatch of more than 100,000 U.S. troops to implement Bush's post-Sept. 11 doctrine of preemption, one whose dangers President John Quincy Adams understood when he said the United States "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy."
The Iraq war was intended as a monument to his new Bush Doctrine, which also posited that the U.S. would take what help was available from allies but would not be held back by them. It now stands as a monument to folly.
The planned transfer Wednesday of limited sovereignty from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority to an interim Iraqi government occurs with U.S. influence around the world at a low point and insurgent violence in Iraq reaching new heights of deadliness and coordination. Important Arab leaders this month rejected a U.S. invitation to attend a summit with leaders of industrialized nations. The enmity between Israelis and Palestinians is fiercer than ever, their hope for peace dimmer. Residents of the Middle East see the U.S. not as a friend but as an imperial power bent on securing a guaranteed oil supply and a base for U.S. forces. Much of the rest of the world sees a bully.
The U.S. is also poorer after the war, in lives lost, billions spent and terrorists given new fuel for their rage. The initial fighting was easy; the occupation has been a disaster, with Pentagon civilians arrogantly ignoring expert advice on the difficulty of the task and necessary steps for success. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in May 2003 to a hero's welcome and a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished." A year later, more than 90% of Iraqis want the U.S. to leave their country. The president boasted in July that if Iraqi resistance fighters thought they could attack U.S. forces, "bring them on." Since then, more than 400 personnel have been killed by hostile fire.
It will take years for widely felt hostility to ebb, in Iraq and other countries. The consequences of arrogance, accompanied by certitude that the world's most powerful military can cure all ills, should be burned into Americans' memory banks. Preemption is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster. The U.S. needs better intelligence before it acts in the future. It needs to listen to friendly nations. It needs humility.
Someone else needs humility - badly!
US Vice President Dick Cheney, one of the hardliners backing last year's Iraq war, has insisted that the United States was right to invade Iraq and would do it again if necessary. Despite criticism of the justification for the invasion in March 2003 and the growing toll from the occupation, Cheney said: "If we had to do it all over again today, we'd do it, absolutely."
Cheney also told Fox News Channel he was sure Iraq had links to al-Qaeda and that the United States would not give up the hunt for weapons of mass destruction. The vice president was questioned about the failure to find the chemical and biological weapons programmes under Saddam Hussein that were used to justify the invasion. He said US investigators are finding "items from stockpiles that were never reported, that were never accounted for. Some of it predates the Gulf War. So there's no doubt in my mind we'll find some of that stuff."
Haven't you had enough magic mushrooms on your pizza, Dicky? Next, you'll be telling us all about flashing back to that Doors concert in 1967, or the time you thought you could take over Iraq's oil industry and get away with it!
Speaking of getting away with it, how's the other (misad)venture going?
Two U.S. Marines were killed and one wounded when their patrol was ambushed during an operation against Islamic militants in eastern Afghanistan, military officials said on Friday. The Marines were killed in Kunar province, which borders Pakistan, on Thursday evening, said military spokeswoman Master Sergeant Cindy Beam.
The attack happened in a mountainous district called Naray close to the border with Pakistan, residents there said. They said they saw the bodies of the two Marines and they appeared to have been shot with AK-47 assault rifles.
Mohammad Zaman Malang, a top military commander in Kunar's capital Asadabad, said the Marines came under fire as they were moving through a valley. "They were going up on foot and were fired on with heavy and light machineguns," he said. He said the ambush could have been the work of militants loyal to a fundamentalist warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Taliban or al Qaeda, all of whom are active in the area.
The Taliban and their allies have declared a holy war against U.S.-led forces and clashes have mounted as September elections, which the militants have vowed to disrupt, approach.
The deaths took to 59 the number of U.S. personnel killed in combat in Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban for sheltering Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda after the September 11 attacks in 2001. This month, a U.S. soldier was killed and two were wounded when their vehicle was hit by an explosion in the central province of Uruzgan. Four U.S. special forces soldiers were killed in action in the southern province of Zabul in late May, in one of the worst losses for U.S. forces since the overthrow of the Taliban late in 2001.
Late last month, soldiers from the 20,000-strong U.S.-led force in Afghanistan launched a sweeping campaign against the militants in southern provinces, including Zabul, aimed at improving conditions for the elections. The U.S. military said they killed more than 80 guerrillas and arrested 90, but militant attacks have continued, raising concern as to whether the polls can be held on time.
News of the latest U.S. deaths came as NATO's military chief General James Jones was visiting Kabul and heard pleas for the alliance to make good its pledge to send more troops to protect the elections. In a meeting in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai told Jones extra security was needed to ensure what are billed as the country's first free polls could be held on time.
At a summit in Istanbul next week, NATO is to announce that its 6,400-strong peacekeeping force will take command of four or five military-civilian reconstruction teams in northern Afghanistan and deploy about 1,200 troops for the polls. But this will fall short of at least 5,000 extra troops the United Nations and Kabul have estimated will be needed. The deployments will also be to relatively secure provinces, not to the south and east, where militants are most active.
Somehow, I suspect that in a month or so, we will be hearing similar news from Iraq.
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