Sunday, May 25, 2003

I will no longer post to this site.

I suppose it is evident by now that I will no longer be posting on this site. It was very difficult to make this decision, as the war continues and people continue to die in Iraq because of very ill-thought decisions on our part. I will continue to post on the war, on occasion, on my site, and will continue to post on, I hope, many subjects on the red onion site. I will also shut down my We miss you abbie hoffman blog. I found it too much of an undertaking right now, but I will leave it up, as it provides links to other cools sites that are monitoring our civil liberties, and striving to protect them. I will continue to write about civil liberties on my red onion site. Much love to all who visited and will continue to visit this site.

Friday, May 16, 2003


It is much worse in Baghdad than I thought. Under the watchful gaze of American military, political and religious factions are buying up weapons on the open market there, and staking out terrority. No one feels safe, and Baghdad is being compared to Beirut when it had its civil war. Link to this New Republic report for the story.

"Post date 05.15.03 | Issue date 05.26.03 E-mail this article

Every night for the past month, Mazen Al Bakir and his sister Layla have prepared themselves for the worst. Around 9 o'clock in the evening, the nightly security detail begins at their home in the southern Baghdad district of Saydiya. Bakir pulls a loaded pistol out of the closet, secures his front gate and doors with massive locks, and hides the keys. For the rest of the evening, the Bakirs stand guard at their home as sporadic gunfire from across their neighborhood ushers in another sleepless night in Iraq's capital.

The Bakirs' situation is hardly unique. Since the American takeover, Baghdad has turned into an Arab version of the Watts riots. Burning buildings dot the city skyline. Armed looters terrorize the population, tearing into homes and emptying them of their possessions. Petty crime has become rampant on the streets, virtually no one feels secure, and homes are never left unguarded at night.

The really scary part, however, may be yet to come. Thus far violence in Baghdad has been limited to unorganized gangs of looters carrying Kalashnikovs. But Iraqi security experts and other sources in the capital say that, under the nose of the American forces, Iraq's nascent political groups are forming armed militias and storing weapons as they prepare for a potential civil war for control of the country. In fact, The New Republic has learned, several Iraqis say even Hezbollah has formed a branch in Baghdad. Ultimately, if Baghdad's power vacuum is not filled soon, the rise of organized armed factions could turn Iraq's capital into a twenty-first-century version of 1980s Beirut.

General insecurity and looting has been the norm in Baghdad almost since the first Saddam Hussein statue fell. With small arms easily available from former members of Saddam's military and security services, many Iraqis have armed themselves and begun cleaning out the homes of Baghdad's wealthy and middle class. Street crime was infrequent under Saddam, but today random rapes, carjackings, and murders have become commonplace in many parts of the city, and as a result women have virtually disappeared from the streets. At Baghdad's Al Nouman Hospital, sources say 35 women who were raped and left for dead have been brought into the ward in recent weeks. Iraqis have become paranoid, reaching for their guns any time a suspicious-looking pedestrian passes in front of their homes. "This is not a normal life--you just can't continue like this," says Fadi, a young Kurdish man who lives in the Karrada section of Baghdad. Days earlier, Fadi had watched thieves hijack a car and then fight each other over it.

But, in recent days, Iraqi security experts, ranking members of several Iraqi political groups, and average Iraqis have told TNR that a greater danger than carjacking may be in the cards: inter-factional warfare. Since the fall of Saddam, more than 30 different political parties have established themselves in Baghdad, ranging from the Kurdish People's Front to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a theocratic group under the authority of newly returned Shia leader Mohammed Bakr Al Hakim. This should be a healthy sign. Except that, according to security sources, many of these parties have formed organized armed militias ranging in size from 500 men for Hizb Al Dawa, a leading theocratic Shia group, to more than 2,000 fighters for SCIRI, whose armed wing is called the Badr Brigade. SCIRI, like several of these organizations, allegedly received training for their militias from Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Even the long-repressed Iraqi Communist Party, led by aging Marxists, has supposedly set up a 600-man force.

Meanwhile, according to several security sources, even more dangerous groups may be setting up in Iraq. A group made up of former Baathists is attempting to constitute a militia of Saddam loyalists. And security sources in Baghdad say that Hezbollah, one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world, is forming an Iraqi branch. "If nothing is done, these guys may export their movement outside of here and Iraq could become a base of operations," says one security source in the capital.

The militias have already begun to roam unchecked throughout Baghdad--except within a security perimeter surrounding the area where the American troops and most foreign journalists stay--and many other parts of the country. Some Iraqis even accuse Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmed Chalabi of turning his Pentagon-backed Free Iraqi Forces, who currently number more than 500 armed men, into a militia and claim that Chalabi's organization has in recent days attempted to recruit more fighters at Baghdad's Al Mustansiriya University. (Chalabi's security chief insists that the INC has actually been downsizing the armed group as he begins recruiting locals to form an established political party.) In total, security experts say, thousands of men from these armed factions are now wandering the streets of Baghdad and other cities, where they are claiming certain neighborhoods as turf, an ominous flashback to Lebanon's civil war, in which various factions staked out areas of Beirut and killed members of other groups who strayed onto their ground. Indeed, in just a few days in Baghdad, I have heard rampant rumors about the territoriality of these militias."


Umm Qasr was handed over to local control by the British, according to this Reuter's report:

"UMM QASR, Iraq (Reuters) - British troops formally handed over control on Thursday of the first Iraqi town to a civilian authority since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's government.

Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Jones, commander of 23 Pioneer Regiment and former military governor of Umm Qasr was at the formal ceremony to hand over rule to a council of 12 Iraqis, who will govern the town next to Iraq's only deep water port.

"The people of Umm Qasr are now in charge of their own destiny, for the first time in 35 years or longer," Jones said.

The current members of the council which will run this dusty town of 45,000 people close to the Kuwait border in southern Iraq are volunteers, including local professionals and clerics. But elections will be held in a week to appoint a new council.

Around 200 British troops are in Umm Qasr but most will leave within days, Jones said. About 30 will remain in the town to help maintain security and liaise with the Iraqi council.

Town councils have been set up in several places in Iraq, but Umm Qasr is the first town where a council has taken over overall charge from U.S. or British troops. It is also significant because the port is southern and central Iraq's main entrance for food, aid and trade and an exit point for oil.

Many Iraqis in Umm Qasr are still full of complaints, saying drinking water is scarce and security is inadequate.

"Nothing is available," said 35-year-old Hussein Moharab, a farmer. "The market is full of unemployed people. We need security, water and food."

Some Iraqis in the town's market said the local council had been ineffectual so far. Others accused council members of using their position for personal profit.

Protests caused the interim council to resign earlier this month but most members later returned.

The difficulties faced by the British in setting up a local government in Umm Qasr, a small and relatively homogenous town, illustrate the problems that lie ahead as U.S. and British forces try to return power to Iraqis.

"We are doing what we can but I do not have a magic wand," said Najim Abed Mahdi, 53, a supervisor of English teaching who was appointed chairman of the interim town council which will run Umm Qasr until the elections next week.

"This is the first attempt for us to run our town by ourselves," he said. "We are ready to rebuild our town, and we are ready to rebuild our country."

Jones said British forces had restored power, water and basic services in Umm Qasr and the time was right to hand over to a civilian local government.

He said that while the local economy had yet to recover, the port would provide employment and income and help Umm Qasr recover from the war and the chaos that followed it.

"This is a town that is working," he said.


An obviously over-stretched military in Iraq continues to suffer fatalities from traffic accidents; from Centcom:


CAMP DOHA, Kuwait -- One soldier was killed and two were injured at 12:04 p.m. May 14 when a five-ton vehicle in a unit attached to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) was involved in a traffic accident on Highway 2 near Irbil, Iraq. A preliminary investigation indicates that the driver of the vehicle swerved to avoid a civilian vehicle, and this action caused them to head toward a child. The soldier then swerved to avoid the child, and the truck rolled over.

A more thorough investigation is being conducted.

The name and unit of the deceased soldier will not be released until next-of-kin notification is complete.

The injured soldiers sustained minor injuries."


Reuters gives us highlights of a proposed and revised U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution for the governing of Iraq. This resolution does include granting the US and Britain "occupying power" authority:

"UNITED NATIONS, May 15 (Reuters) - Following are highlights of a revised U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution, co-sponsored by Britain and Spain. It would end U.N. sanctions on Iraq but makes no mention of weapons of mass destruction or the return of U.N. arms inspectors.

-- The resolution would lift all trade and financial sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Iraq. Only an arms embargo would remain.

-- The United States and Britain submitted letters to the Security Council recognizing their their obligations as occupying powers. The draft refers to them as the "Authority."

-- The resolution would establish a "Development Fund for Iraq" for reconstruction and humanitarian purposes to be held by the Central Bank of Iraq and to be audited by independent accountants approved by an international advisory board.

-- The board includes envoys from the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development and the World Bank.

-- All proceeds from oil sales would go into the Development Fund until an "internationally recognized" Iraqi government is established. The monies would be "disbursed at the direction" of the Authority (United States and Britain), in consultation with the Iraqi interim authority.

-- Five percent of the oil revenues are to be deposited into a compensation fund (compared to the current 25 percent) for claims resulting from Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

-- The resolution phases out the U.N. oil-for-food program over a period of four months. Some $13 billion from Iraq's past oil revenues are now in the program, administered by the United Nations. Whatever is not spent would be deposited into the new Development Fund. Still under discussion are which contracts in the pipeline would be honored.

-- All monies from Iraq's oil sales or those in the Development Fund are immune from claims and law suits until an internationally recognized Iraqi government is established.

-- The document asks for "multilateral" consideration of Iraq's massive debt "through appropriate international mechanisms" such as the Paris Club. This informal group of 19 wealthy nations restructures debt for emerging countries.

-- Secretary-General Kofi Annan is asked to name a special U.N. coordinator, who would report to the Security Council, and coordinate work of U.N. humanitarian agencies, "work intensively" with the United States and Britain to restore national and local institutions, promote economic reconstruction, human rights, legal and judicial reform and participate in the international advisory board.

-- The resolution would allow the United States and Britain to run the country for a year with automatic extensions unless the Security Council voted otherwise.

-- The resolution asks the United Nations envoy, at present Russian Yuli Vorontsov, to continue working on the return of Kuwaiti property and prisoners.

-- The document asks all nations to watch out for, return, and prohibit trade of Iraq cultural properties looted from Iraq's National Museum and other institutions.

-- It asks Annan to report to the council at regular intervals on implementation of the resolution."


The Christian Science Monitor reports the sky-rocketing cases of gunshot deaths and woundings in Baghdad:

"BAGHDAD – Hamid Turki winced as the emergency-room doctor inspected a wound in his hip. Under the glare of neon lights, his face was pale.
Mr. Turki was the eighth gunshot victim Mohammed Nouri had seen by midnight Wednesday at the Al Kindi Hospital in central Baghdad. The doctor stepped back from his patient and sighed. "We don't have even 1 percent security now," he said.

Five weeks after US troops entered Iraq's capital, reconstruction has taken a backseat to security. "There are a number of problems, in particular the problem of law and order in Baghdad," L. Paul Bremer, the new chief civilian administrator for Iraq, said yesterday. He appeared to be introducing a get-tough policy, pledging the US would beef up infantry and military police forces.

Mr. Bremer's comments acknowledged a reality Faik Amin Bakr understands all too well. On Wednesday night, the director of the Baghdad morgue counted through his register of violent deaths. There have been 124 over the past 10 days, he says, almost all gunshot homicides. That marks a 60 percent rise over the previous 10-day period, despite claims by US officials here that the security situation is improving.

"We are aggressively targeting looters" as they turn their attention from public buildings to their fellow citizens, said Maj. Gen. Buford "Buff" Blount, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division that has occupied the capital. "We have refocused our soldiers." (see related story)

But in a city where armed carjackings and armed robberies are increasingly common, where many parents do not send their children to school for fear they will be abducted, and where gunfire is heard constantly, violence is claiming growing numbers of victims.

"The trend is going up because there is no control," Dr. Bakr complains. "Everybody can carry a gun in his pocket."

Thursday, May 15, 2003


This article covers several issues: the death of nine children when munitions exploded, the exhuming of the mass grave near Hillah, recent American war casualties, from Al Bawaba News:

"Nine Iraqi children killed in explosion as one of Saddam regime horrors uncovered near Hillah
14-05-2003, 15:25

Nine Iraqi children were killed and seven wounded in the south of the country when unexploded ordnance they were playing with detonated. "Nine children were killed and seven were injured in Missan governorate on Monday when they were playing with unexploded ordnance," UN spokesman David Wimhurst told a press conference in Basra.

"This tragedy highlights the terrible danger that unexploded ordnance represents all around Iraq," Wimhurst said Wednesday. Kathryn Irwin, a spokeswoman for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), said the ordnance that exploded was an Iraqi rocket. "There are thousands of stockpiles of weapons in Iraq," she told AFP.

Elsewhere, a U.S. Marine was killed when a munitions bunker caught fire and exploded, and a soldier with the Army's 101st Airborne Division died in a road accident in northern Iraq, military officials and witnesses said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, villagers pulled body after body from a mass grave in central Iraq on Wednesday, exhuming the remains of up to 3,000 people they suspect were killed during the 1991 Shiite revolt against Saddam Hussein's regime.

Uncounted bodies remained unearthed at the site, they said.
The mass grave in a village outside Hillah, 100 kilometers south of Baghdad, is the largest found in Iraq since U.S. forces overthrew Saddam and his Baath Party government last month.

Many of the onlookers were weeping, and some chanted: "There is no God but God, and the Baath (Party) is the enemy of God." Several women were holding pictures of their missing men.

Rafed Husseini, a doctor leading the group of local men doing the digging, said a total of 3,000 bodies had either been retrieved or located in the past nine days. About half remain unidentified while the rest have been identified mainly through documents found on the bodies, Husseini said, according to AP.

He said local farmers who had witnessed some of the killings by Saddam's forces had alerted them of the mass graves. "They saw the crimes taking place but did not dare talk about them at the time," Husseini said. ("

Wednesday, May 14, 2003


This is good news, in a land that doesn't have much right now. From the Boston Globe, this article chronicles the saving of much of the library in Baghdad that was thought to be lost from looting:

"BAGHDAD -- On a rundown street of auto repair shops in old Saddam City, a Shi'ite mosque run by men in tattered clothing has become a secret safe house for Iraqi treasures.

Now that coalition forces are arresting looters in the streets, the mosque's leaders say their story can be told: Contrary to widespread belief, the antique books of Iraq's National Library were not stolen by thieves last month but were removed for safe keeping by self-appointed guardians of Iraq's cultural heritage.

Inside a cavernous room at the Al Hak Mosque in the newly named Revolution City, roughly 400,000 manuscripts, biographies, religious works, and graduate-school theses are stacked to the 12-foot ceiling and gathering dust in the dry, 95-degree heat.

In the Judaica-Hebrew section -- a small pile against the southern wall -- one history book about Jews in Iraq dates to 1872, and a Talmudic text to 1880. There are newspapers recording the revolutionary days of July 1958, when the British-installed monarchy was overthrown and replaced by the republic. One book of folklore was largely indecipherable to the men at the mosque, but they said it was almost 500 years old.

''We had to protect the Islamic and Arabic heritage, so we acted before Baghdad fell to chaos,'' said Mohammad al-Jawad al-Tamimi, the mosque's imam. ''These books, it concerns the whole country.''

On April 15 the National Library was looted and set ablaze, compounding the agony of many who cherish Iraq's role as an early, important civilization, and those mourning the loss of precious antiquities from the National Museum. At the time, the media reported that the library was forsaken.

International scholars, as well as James H. Billington, librarian of the US Congress, have been preparing to come to Baghdad to sift through the remains, create an inventory of lost and found works, and help rebuild the library.

But Tamimi -- who disclosed the mosque's holdings to a Boston Globe reporter yesterday and allowed a Globe translator to inspect the holdings -- smiled as he lifted a book with his parchment-colored fingers and insisted that all was not lost.

The books cannot be authenticated until US and Iraqi officials inspect them; the mosque's leaders plan to extend an invitation soon, once looting has entirely subsided.

The library was believed to contain about 2 million works, including some from the Abbasid Empire of 750 to 1250 AD that stretched from Portugal to Pakistan. Copies of most of the books published in Iraq were said to be in the library.

What is certain is that many tens of thousands of books are located here, in a variety of languages, ranging from the myths of Mesopotamia and Iraqi war chronologies to scientific papers by university students written decades ago.

Columns of sealed boxes of computer printers and photocopiers are in another corner, belonging to the library's staff, Tamimi said. He insisted that none of the books or equipment had once been stolen; some Iraqi looters have been turning over goods to mosques in recent weeks.

''We have about 30 percent of the library holdings, and another 60 percent are hidden [at the library] and elsewhere,'' said the sheik's brother, Mahmoud al-Tamimi. ''We brought them all here to protect our past from thieves.''

What happened last month, the brothers and library workers said yesterday, was essentially a preemptive rescue operation.

Librarians say that as American troops pressed into Baghdad April 9, they pleaded with soldiers to protect the site from looters and Kuwaiti arsonists. They said the Kuwaitis were bent on revenge for the 1990-91 invasion and war. But the troops were involved with the business of the day, toppling Saddam Hussein's regime.

The library staff then turned to mosques, Mahmoud Tamimi said, and came to him. Tamimi and his family began working with Hawza -- Shi'ite leaders who loosely coordinate city and regional religious affairs -- to recruit volunteers to protect the library.

On April 10, teams of men began moving library shelves at random into trucks belonging to neighbors of Tamimi's mosque 8 miles away. ''No one tried to stop us,'' Tamimi said.

The work continued for four days, until the arsonists appeared. Other books and artifacts were hidden elsewhere on site, and library workers believe that at least some of those items survived the fire and looting.

Grim-faced Hawza members are now posted around the clock at the library, where the headless body of a statue of Hussein lies in the front courtyard. (The head is rumored to be in an office inside.) Yesterday, a reporter's press pass was not acceptable for passage by three men at the gate, which had been wrapped in wires and padlocked.

''Come back at 2 o'clock Wednesday when the man with the key arrives,'' said one guard.

Another, Hamid Kharban, said he was proud to watch over the library because ''Iraqis have a very close relationship with books.''

''I know the value of books, that's why I'm protecting them,'' Kharban said. ''They are beyond value. Priceless.''


Shoot looters on sight? And this is how they hope to win the trust of the Iraqi people? The new American administrator, Paul Bremer, is off to audacious start, from the New York Times:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 13 — United States military forces in Iraq will have the authority to shoot looters on sight under a tough new security setup that will include hiring more police officers and banning ranking members of the Baath Party from public service, American officials said today.

The far more muscular approach to bringing order to postwar Iraq was described by the new American administrator, L. Paul Bremer, at a meeting of senior staff members today, the officials said. On Wednesday, Mr. Bremer is expected to meet with the leaders of Iraqi political groups that are seeking to form an interim government by the end of the month. "He made it very clear that he is now in charge," said an official who attended the meeting today. "I think you are going to see a change in the rules of engagement within a few days to get the situation under control."

Asked what this meant, the official replied, "They are going to start shooting a few looters so that the word gets around" that assaults on property, the hijacking of automobiles and violent crimes will be dealt with using deadly force.

How Iraqis will be informed of the new rules is not clear. American officials in Iraq have access to United States-financed radio stations, which could broadcast the changes.

A tougher approach over all appears to be at the core of Mr. Bremer's mandate from President Bush to save the victory in Iraq from a descent into anarchy, a possibility feared by some Iraqi political leaders if steps are not taken quickly to check violence and lawlessness.

But imposing measures that call for the possible killing of young, unemployed or desperate Iraqis for looting appears to carry a certain level of risk because of the volatile sentiments in the streets here. Gas lines snake through neighborhoods, garbage piles up, and the increasing heat frequently provides combustion for short tempers, which are not uncommonly directed at the American presence here.

Mr. Bremer did not spell out to senior members of the American and British reconstruction team whether his authority would supersede that of Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the land forces commander in the country.

But in tackling the security problem, Mr. Bremer will confront the need for a police force, and the difficulty of building a credible one on the wreckage of Saddam Hussein's hated security establishment.

The officials said Mr. Bremer told his staff that his urgent priority was to rebuild a police force, especially in Baghdad, so it could become visible and available "on the streets."

Another tough measure that the officials said Mr. Bremer was eager to make public is a decree on de-Baathification, the process of weeding out senior members of Mr. Hussein's political establishment to ensure that the totalitarian principles on which the Baath Party ruled are not perpetuated.

American officials said the decree on the Baath Party will prohibit its officials above certain ranks from serving in future governments. Rehabilitation procedures will be created for some high-ranking officials, but they will still be excluded from government service, the officials said.

Mr. Bremer appeared before the senior staff of the reconstruction administration with Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who has been in charge of the rebuilding mission under military command. Administration officials say General Garner will leave his post after a few weeks.

Today, according to people who attended the closed meeting, Mr. Bremer praised General Garner's performance with words that were greeted with sustained applause.

Nonetheless, questions linger about the Bush administration's decision to replace General Garner and abruptly call home one of his top assistants, Barbara K. Bodine.

General Garner and Ms. Bodine, one of the most experienced Iraq specialists on his staff, were unable to decide on how to create any new authority in Baghdad, and clashed as personalities, officials said. "It was not a good fit," one commented today.

Mr. Bremer made no public appearance today, but he is scheduled to meet with Iraqi leaders on Wednesday, some of whom have misgivings about whether he will change the course that General Garner had set toward quickly forming an interim government of Iraqis and turning over substantial power to it.

The wisdom of a speedy turnover was questioned today by some officials, who noted the acute crisis over crime and security in the capital.

Other countries, meanwhile, declared themselves willing to join in the effort to remake Iraq.

Romanian officials said they would send about 500 soldiers to help police Iraq. The foreign minister, Mircea Geoana, told reporters today that Romania would prefer to act under a United Nations resolution.

"The idea is for Romania to send a contingent of a few hundred, most likely under British command," Mr. Geoana said in Bucharest.

Meanwhile in Geneva today, the World Bank president, James Wolfensohn, said the bank would send a team to assess reconstruction needs in Iraq as soon as security permitted, another sign that the lack of security is delaying the first important steps toward recovery.

In central Iraq today, a prominent Shiite cleric said that redressing the Shiites' long exclusion from political power was necessary.

But the cleric, Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, also said there was no single demand for a new political system from Shiites, who are a majority in Iraq.

"They have divergent views and that's what democracy is all about," Ayatollah Hakim said.

The ayatollah returned to his hometown of Najaf on Monday after years in exile in Iran as the leader of the opposition Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. He has already met resistance from one group of clerics, led by Sheik Moktada al-Sadr, who have promoted themselves as the representative of long-suppressed Shiites.

Ayatollah Hakim, at a news conference, shrugged off questions about Sheik Sadr, saying he would not comment on the rivalry. "I don't talk about these people," he said.

He was also elusive on the subject of the Badr Brigade, his armed militia that was financed by Iran, saying only that it would switch to providing security in Iraq. Asked if the group would be disarmed, as an anti-Iran militia in Iraq will be, Ayatollah Hakim said, "Security means they should carry weapons."

Security in Najaf, as in other Iraqi cities, has become a major worry for residents, who have to ward off looters and other criminals with neighborhood committees in the absence of working police forces.

But Ayatollah Hakim refused to say whether American forces had granted the Badr Brigade the job of policing Najaf, which his now administered by a self-appointed mayor who is a retired Iraqi military officer.

He also said he did not sanction the use of force to resist the American occupation of Iraq, but would resist it politically.

The ayatollah and his movement have, however, been part of the Iraqi National Congress, which has been cooperating with the United States for several years as an outside opposition to Saddam Hussein.


I scrolled through news releases for the last 10 days at the Centcom site, and found these casualties; also, a report from ABC news:

Soldier dies in vehicular accident in Iraq, from ABC news; soldier dies in bunker explosion, from Centcom; two marines dies from their injuries in an accidental explosion, from Centcom;
soldiers exposed to unknown chemical, from Centcom; soldier shot and killed in Baghdad, from Centcom; Iraqi boy killed by army vehicle, from Centcom:

Soldier dies in vehicular accident, from ABC news:

A U.S. soldier with the 101st Airborne Division died and another was injured Wednesday after their vehicle overturned in northern Iraq, officers and witnesses at the scene said.

The soldier, who was not immediately identified, was part of a convoy driving on the road from the northern city of Mosul to Irbil, a city 50 miles to the east.

A recovery vehicle that was towing an army truck rolled over and crushed the cabin, killing the driver and injuring another soldier inside, an officer said. No other vehicles were involved in the accident.

The officer would not give his name.

There have been repeated reports in the weeks since the war of U.S. soldiers dying in traffic accidents in Iraq.

From Centcom:


AL HILLAH, Iraq – A First Marine Expeditionary Force Marine died yesterday afternoon when he was trapped in a munitions bunker that caught fire and exploded.

The Marine was loading ammunition from an Iraqi bunker near Al Hillah onto a vehicle when the incident occurred.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

The Marine’s name is being withheld pending next-of-kin notification.

Unused enemy ammunition and unexploded ordnance is being collected and destroyed by Marine Expeditionary Force units to make the country safer for the people of Iraq.

From Centcom:


CAMP CHESTY, IRAQ – Two First Marine Expeditionary Force Marines died May 12 of wounds inflicted when unexploded ordnance they were handling detonated.

The Marines received immediate medical attention, but died from their injuries. Their names are being withheld pending notification of their next of kin.

The incident is under investigation.

From Centcom:


TAJI, Iraq -- Fourth Infantry Division soldiers moving barrels in order to get to ammunition in a warehouse in the vicinity of Taji this afternoon were exposed to an unknown industrial chemical that leaked out of a 55-gallon drum.

All soldiers involved were decontaminated at the scene. Twenty-two soldiers were medically evacuated to the 21st Combat Support Hospital for evaluation and treatment, and four are being held for observation at the battalion aid station.

A FOX chemical detection vehicle dispatched to the site indicated the chemical was not a nerve, blister or blood chemical agent and confirmed it as an industrial toxin.

Further tests on the chemical are being conducted.

The names of the injured are being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin.

Soldier shot and killed in Baghdad, from Centcom:

CAMP VICTORY, IRAQ (MAY 8, 2003) - One V Corps soldier was killed in a shooting incident in Baghdad today.The soldier was killed when he was approached and shot by an unknown attacker with a pistol in east Baghdad at approximately 1:00 pm. The soldier was directing traffic at the time of the incident. The assailant escaped after the attack and a search is underway. The unit has enlisted the support of the local populace in the search for the suspect.The identity of the deceased soldier is being witheld pending notification of next of kin.An investigation is underway into the shooting.

An Iraqi boy is killed by army vehicle, from Centcom:

Iraqi Boy Accidentally Struck and Killed by Coalition Vehicle

TIKRIT, Iraq – An eight-year-old Iraqi boy was accidentally struck and killed here by a High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) traveling as part of a military convoy at approximately 3:30 p.m. yesterday.

Coalition Forces express their condolences to the family of the victim in this unfortunate and tragic incident.

At the time of the accident, the child was with a group of Iraqi children lining the shoulder of a road to watch the convoy when he unexpectedly jumped in front of the vehicle to pick something up from the road. The driver of the HMMWV was unable to take evasive action due to oncoming traffic from a convoy headed in the opposite direction.

The soldiers stopped immediately and attempted to render first aid to the victim. The driver then commandeered another US military vehicle that had stopped to transport the injured child and his brother to the nearby U.S. field hospital, where the child subsequently died of his injuries.

Army Civil Affairs personnel met with the father of the deceased child at the site, who also witnessed the event, and observed the soldiers rendering first aid.

An investigation is underway into the incident.

Coalition Civil Affairs and Information Operations personnel continue to mount an aggressive education campaign to warn civilians about the dangers of crowding busy roadways.


A war complaint was filed against Gen. Tommy Franks, http:from ABC news:

A left-wing candidate in Belgium's parliamentary elections lodged a war crimes complaint Wednesday against U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of American forces in Iraq.

Lawyer Jan Fermon presented the complaint against Franks and a Marine officer he identified as Col. Brian P. McCoy to Belgium's federal prosecutors' office despite recent changes in the country's war crimes law to prevent such charges against Americans.

Fermon said he was representing 16 Iraqi civilians injured or bereaved by U.S. attacks, though he gave few details.

"This is not a symbolic action; my clients want an independent inquiry into what happened," Fermon told reporters as he arrived at the prosecutors' office. Fermon is running in Sunday's elections for the small, far-left Resist group.

Fermon said the accusations against Franks focused on the bombing of civilian areas, indiscriminate shooting by U.S. troops when they entered Baghdad and the failure to stop looting. He charged McCoy with ordering troops to fire on ambulances.

The case has provoked anger from Washington. America's most senior military officer suggested the complaint and earlier charges against other U.S. officials could jeopardize Belgium's role as a host for NATO and European Union meetings.

"It's looked upon by the U.S. government as a very, very serious situation," Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday on a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels. "It ... clearly could have a huge impact on where we gather."

To head off such complaints, the government last month rushed through changes to the laws, which were introduced in the early 1990s to authorize Belgian courts to try genocide and other war crimes wherever they occurred.

Legal experts said the case against Franks and McCoy would be a first test for the revised law, and predicted it would be thrown out by the prosecutors' office.

"This could be just a spectacular way of catching attention in the media," said Prof. Jan Wouters, director of the Institute for International Law at the University of Leuven.

The war crimes laws were first used to target suspects in Rwanda's 1994 genocide who fled to Belgium, the former colonial ruler of the central African nation.

Since then, complaints have been brought against a string of world leaders including Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein, although none has gone to trial.

The Belgian parliament revised the law last month after complaints were filed against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, former President Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Under the new amendments, Belgian courts should refer foreigners facing war crimes charges to their own countries if they are democracies with a record of fairness in justice.

After studying the complaint, prosecutors will decide whether to order an investigation into the charges.


The Cabal have to be getting nervous about not finding any wmd's, and one wonders if this inner Pentagon sanctum will survive, as the US scales back its hunt for wmd's, from the Guardian Unlimited:

The US military task force hunting for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq is to leave within a month, having found no trace of any illegal weapons, according to a report yesterday.
Troops with the 75th Exploitation Task Force, which has led the search for Saddam Hussein's banned weapons programme over the past seven weeks, say they are increasingly frustrated with their failure to find any banned weapons, the Washington Post said.

The news came as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Richard Myers, told reporters at Camp as-Sayliyah in Qatar that banned weapons may still be in the hands of Iraqi republican guard units.

The US authorities "are asking ourselves" whether that danger still existed, Gen Myers said. "We try to interrogate [prisoners] with that in mind."

Colonel Richard McPhee, who will conclude the 75th Task Force's operations in June, told the Washington Post that intelligence reports before the war showed Saddam had given "release authority" for chemical weapons to be used.

"There had to have been something to use - and we haven't found it," he said. "Books will be written on that in the intelligence community for a long time. My unit has not found chemical weapons. That's a fact."

Another, larger US force - the Iraq Survey Group - will be sent out to continue the search for weapons, but it will include fewer specialists, the paper said. Coalition officials, including George Bush himself, have said recently that the work of inspecting sites had only just begun.

Of a US central command list of 19 top weapons sites, all but two have been searched already. Another 45 sites searched so far from a list of 68 thought to contain some evidence of banned weapons have also yielded nothing.

"We came to bear country, we came loaded for bear, and we found out the bear wasn't here," an officer with the US defence intelligence agency was quoted as saying.


BG, a leading British energy company, says it will refuse to invest in Iraq until control of oil there is handed over to the Iraqi people, from the Guardian Unlimited:

BG, one of Britain's leading energy companies, yesterday called on the British government to hand over control of Iraq's oil to its own people as soon as possible and indicated it would not invest there until this happened.
Frank Chapman, chief executive of the former British Gas company, said Iraq had "very able people", adding: "They need to control their own destiny."

Mr Chapman previously worked in Iraq as an executive with Shell and was in no doubt that the most knowledgeable people about hydrocarbons - which he described as the lifeblood of the economy - are locals.

He would consider Iraq for future operations but said he would not invest there until the situation had "normalised".

Asked whether that could come about only when the American and British forces handed over power to the United Nations, Mr Chapman said: "I am hopeful ... [the Iraqis will become] masters of their own destiny and [I] would be pleased to work with them on any opportunities they have there."

Iraqis should decide on issues such as how contracts were let and exploration rights handed over, argued BG, which has just signed a new gas agreement with neighbouring Iran.

A number of oil executives have made clear they remain fearful of investing in a post-Saddam Iraq until the legal status of those controlling the industry is ascertained.

But Mr Chapman has gone further - seemingly criticising the decision by Washington and London to retain their grip on the country and its oil sector, which holds the second biggest reserves in the world, behind Saudi Arabia.

BG has become an increasingly important player in the region with schemes in Egypt and drilling rights offshore from the Palestinian territory.


Unfucking believable that this looting would be occuring unchecked, and has resulted in the chances of someone aquiring a dirty bomb, when our "mission" in Iraq was to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. Read for yourself and be outraged, from the Guardian Unlimited:

"United Nations nuclear inspectors, barred from Iraq by Washington, are increasingly worried that the widespread looting and ransacking of Iraq's nuclear facilities may result in terrorists building a radioactive "dirty bomb".
The inspectors' concerns are shared internationally and the British government has report edly offered to raise the matter with Washington to try to get agreement on a return of the UN nuclear inspectors to Iraq.

The main worry revolves around the fate of at least 200 radioactive isotopes which were stored at the sprawling al-Tuwaitha nuclear complex, 15 miles south of Baghdad. It has seen widespread looting, and reports from Baghdad speak of locals making off with barrels of raw uranium and the isotopes which are meant for medical or industrial use.

"If this happened anywhere else there would be national outrage and it would be the highest priority," said a senior source at the UN nuclear watchdog, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.

"The radioactive sources, some very potent ones, could get on to the black market and into the hands of terrorists planning dirty-bomb attacks," said Melissa Fleming, an IAEA spokeswoman.

The IAEA chief, Mohammed El Baradei, has appealed twice to the US in the past month to be allowed to resume inspections of the Iraqi nuclear sites. The requests have gone unanswered, although the IAEA has forwarded details of suspect nuclear sites to the US.

On Monday, Dr El Baradei raised the problem in London with the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, who is said to have been "supportive and sympathetic".

"The Brits are saying they agree with us, that something needs to be done and that they will speak to the Americans," said the IAEA source.

In recent sessions in Geneva on preparations for a review of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 2005, several delegates also attacked US security failures at al-Tuwaitha.

Experts are muttering that the US, as the occupying power in Iraq, is now technically in breach of the non-proliferation treaty. There is a fear that the occupation, ostensibly to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, could result in more such weapons being created.

Before the war there were 1,000 or more such devices in Iraq, at least 200 of them stored at a site known as Location C in al-Tuwaitha. It is not clear how many are missing, but IAEA officials have seen footage showing looters with casings containing isotopes.

Mark Gvozdecky, the chief IAEA spokesman, said: "If this was happening anywhere else in the world _ we would insist on an immediate inspection. It has been more than a month since the initial reports of looting, more than a month since US forces took control."

But UN inspectors are pessimistic about being allowed back, and note that the Anglo-American UN resolution on Iraq being negotiated in New York has no provision for a resumption of UN inspections."


Baathists are being removed from power through protest, and the looting continues, all subjects dealt with in this Guardian Unlimited article:

Frustrated Iraqis are beginning to force US officers to remove senior Ba'ath party figures who have tried to return to power.
The American army has sacked the police chief it was working with, because he was accused of being a senior Ba'athist and running his own mafia in the force.

Major-General Hamid Uthman, who headed the police under Saddam Hussein, is the second to have tried to lead the force since the war ended.

Major-General Zuhair al-Noami, who had been a deputy chief of police, resigned last week amid similar criticism.

On Sunday, protests by dozens of doctors forced the resignation of Ali Shnan al-Janabi, the newly appointed health minister, who had also been a senior party member.

Their removal offers the Iraqis their first taste of the power of public protest. The Pentagon-backed Iraqi National Congress (INC) has tried to capitalise on it by insisting on a "de-Ba'athification", and the exclusion of 30,000 senior party members.

Entifadh Qaribar, a deputy of the INC leader, Ahmad Chalabi, said: "I am worried to see some Ba'athists coming back to power. We are encouraging Iraqis to refuse."

The dismissals are a serious setback to the coalition's office for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance (Orha), which took the decision to work with senior members of Saddam Hussein's regime. But it says it was impossible to weed out unwanted Ba'ath party officials before asking Iraqi civil servants to return to work.

"Now we are slowly going through them and it is basically the Iraqis who are telling us which of them are good and which of them are bad," a spokesman said.

Orha and the US forces are still struggling to complete even the most basic restoration of order in the capital.

Ministries are still ablaze, looters freely steal from buildings under the gaze of US soldiers and there is shooting in the streets every night.

The police academy is a shambles. Once a day, just before dark, a handful of Iraqi police officers armed only with pistols go on joint patrol with US military police.

They admit that it has little effect. "The trouble starts after dark, what's the point of going out at 6pm?" an Iraqi police colonel said. "I've told the Americans that if they want to regulate everything here they could do it in just 24 hours.

"Maybe they are doing their best, but they don't know the area and they don't know we must have more checkpoints and collect all the weapons."

Many of the 50,000 members of the pre-war force have not returned to work and some speak openly of their fear of being attacked by people who associate them with Saddam's regime.

In addition, more and more Iraqis are buying guns.

Orha said: "We have got to retrain the Iraqi police force from scratch to police this place in a civil manner. This is an enormous job."

Monday, May 12, 2003


The New York Times article tells the story of the looting of the psychiatric hospital, and the abuse and killing of its patients, in Baghdad:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 11 — The only mental patient left behind at the high security ward of Al Rashad state hospital is a killer named Ali Sabah, a former math and science teacher with jet black hair and dark, searching eyes.

He is off his medications, the door to the ward is wide open and shards of glass lie everywhere as potential weapons. Yet on a recent day he was calm until this reporter made a few notes. "Why is he writing my name down?" he asked.


He stalks the looted corridors inside the 15-foot-high wall that once provided maximum security to restrain 120 patients who were committed for murder and rape while in the throes of mental disorder.

"I hate the world and the world hates me," he replied when asked why he stayed while the others ran. Then he added, "I don't want the monkey to see me and I don't want to see the monkey."

In another part of the hospital, the six women among the patients who were raped by looters are receiving special attention from the nursing staff. Some spend their days curled under blankets, others have ventured out to squat in the light where there are no chairs, but where cigarettes can be smoked. The nurses whisper that one rape victim is pregnant.

For the staff, there is also the sad loss of Hanna Fatah, who had been a patient here for 30 of her 70 years.

"When the marines opened the gates, Hanna wanted to leave," said Sultan A. Sultan, her psychiatrist. She had no ability to judge the danger and while wandering somewhere near the gate, she was killed by a bullet that struck her forehead.

One of the tragedies of the war — a preventable tragedy in the view of many doctors and nurses — occurred here. Iraq's only hospital providing long-term care for chronic schizophrenia and other serious disorders, Al Rashad was all but destroyed.

When American marines clashed with Saddam Hussein's irregulars trying to block their advance into Baghdad, the marines came through the gates here and knocked down the walls with their tanks. They set up a command post in the nursing school.

Waves of looters came in with them, staff members said.

One of the oldest health institutions in Iraq, Al Rashad has long been designated a civilian hospital. The director, Amir Abou Heelo, told the Marine commander on April 8 that he was entering a psychiatric facility, staff doctors said in interviews. But the protest did little good.

"I am disappointed," said Dr. Raghad Sursan, a psychiatrist. "I am mad, and if there is a word that is bigger than mad, I am that, because the marines were there and could have done something to stop it."

The looters stripped everything once, then waited a week for repairs to be made to doors and windows and came back and stripped the place again, they said.

Of the more than 1,400 Iraqis institutionalized here at the beginning of the year, 300 remain. The staff has been able to cope only because the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, having adopted this facility three years ago, raced emergency food and medical supplies here as Baghdad was falling.

The complaint of the Iraqi psychiatric staff is that the marines stood by as looters carried away every bed, basin, cooker, air-conditioner, piece of furniture or thing of value.

The marines broke the door down on the maximum security wing, and in no time the patients were gone, untethered from the antipsychotic drugs that stabilized many of them.

One doctor said he was told by a Marine officer that the officer was there to "liberate and then leave."

"This is the Iraqi version of de-institutionalization," said Dr. Sursan, alluding to the mass de-institutionalization of mental patients in the United States during the 1970's.

The Red Cross spent $1.5 million over the last three years bringing the facility up almost to Western standards for compassionate care to the mentally ill, said Olaf Rosset, the Norwegian physician who has overseen the project from the beginning. Ghastly and putrid wards were modernized, open sewers were closed, kitchens were rebuilt and, Dr. Rosset said, the warehousing of patients gave way to a much more humane approach of outdoor activities, picnics, poetry and art contests.

Every day for three weeks after the marines pulled out, Dr. Rosset asked United States military commanders to send troops to provide security. Looters still were roaming the grounds, and a Shiite religious organization based at nearby mosques moved in to provide some security. But looting continued and the Shiite security men began selling the gasoline from the bulk storage tanks at the hospital.


The Red Cross sent a team out to replace windows and doors, and by April 19, most buildings were sealed once again.

"Then on April 19, it was looted again," Dr. Rosset said, by people who broke in. So he pressed his requests to the Americans to send some kind of protective force.

Last week, help finally arrived. Capt. Stacey Corn of Fort Polk, La., rolled in with a detachment from Troop E, Second Squadron, Second Armored Cavalry Regiment. In what Dr. Rosset described as well-stated diplomatic language, Captain Corn told the Shiite militia, "We are here to release you from your duties and you are now free to assist others."

The American soldiers now guarding the facility are generally aware that disaster struck here. They have heard the complaints.

Lt. Nick Griffiths, a New Yorker who was in charge of the security detail this weekend, said, "We started 24-hour guarding of this facility a few days ago because we had identified it as a trouble spot."

"We know they have had problems with looting, vandalism, threats from people and stealing," Lieutenant Griffiths added, indicating that whatever happened here when the marines came through was not as important to him as the here and now.

"This is a hospital, and so it has a high priority for us," he said.

For some, however, the damage is done. Dr. Rosset said it would take three years to replace what was destroyed here.

Meanwhile, a grim scene unfolds daily in the front office. There, three psychiatrists meet with desperate Iraqis who walk in to plead for help in handling disturbed family members who have returned home after they escaped from here.

Ahmed Shehab stood in front of them on Saturday to say that Samir Hamid, 40, had escaped from the maximum security ward and was threatening to kill his sister, who is Mr. Shehab's wife.

"He is a paranoid schizophrenic and is so dangerous, especially to his sister," Dr. Sultan said. "He thinks that she destroyed him and so he went home to kill her. He has a knife."

The doctors told Mr. Shehab they were powerless to act. There is no government, no law to commit dangerous mental patients, no police force to call for help, and no hospital in which to treat the mentally ill.

Dr. Sultan is worried. He thinks there are quite a few human time bombs out in the community. One is a 60-year-old man who more than 30 years ago killed two of his own small children. One son survived and today is in his 30's, living in Baghdad with his family. For 30 years, the father told his doctor that all he wanted was to escape so he could kill the remaining son.

Now the man is out there somewhere, the doctors say. They have notified the son. It was all they could do."


This article from the New York Times describes in detail the chaos in Baghdad right now, and why the changing of the guard:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 11 — Bush administration officials confirmed today that Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who is the top civil administrator in Iraq, would leave here within a week or two and that other senior officials here will also be replaced.

American officials said Barbara K. Bodine, who has been in charge of reconstruction for the Baghdad region, was abruptly given notice and will be leaving within the next day or two. Ms. Bodine, a former ambassador to Yemen, will take a senior post at the State Department, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times reported today in articles describing the changes.

Others expected to leave soon include Margaret Tutwiler, who had been in charge of overall communications under General Garner; Tim Carney, a former ambassador who had been overseeing Iraq's Ministry of Industry and Minerals; David Dunford, a senior Foreign Service specialist on the Middle East, and John Limbert, the ambassador to Mauritania.

The dramatic overhaul is part of a move ordered by President Bush that began with the appointment last week of L. Paul Bremer III, a counterterrorism veteran at the State Department, as the new top administrator in charge of rebuilding Iraq.

[Mr. Bremer arrived in Basra on Monday with Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Associated Press reported.

"It's a wonderful challenge to help the Iraqi people basically reclaim their country from a despotic regime," Mr. Bremer said in a tarmac interview minutes after his plane landed.]

Officials said the impetus for the overhaul stems in part from urgent warnings that the escalating violence and a breakdown of civil order are already paralyzing the effort to rebuild Iraq.

"Unless we do something in the near future, it is likely to blow up in our face," one official said.

Today, black smoke billowed over Baghdad's skyline as looters set fire to the city's former telephone communications center, apparently as a distraction for others who tried to steal cars nearby.

On the other side of the city, hundreds of looters, who now range through the city every day, poured into a former palace of Saddam Hussein after American military units decided to vacate it.

Baghdad is once again becoming a city of almost hourly eruptions of gunfire. Criminals are shooting at other criminals, officials said. Families are settling scores, and some Iraqis are just taking potshots at American forces.

From the outset, the task of quickly re-establishing order and civil administration in Iraq was far more daunting that American officials had planned for, they now acknowledge. A month into reconstruction, there is still no functioning police force in Baghdad.

But colleagues of Ms. Bodine said she recognized many of the problems early on and clashed repeatedly with military commanders over drastic steps she thought were needed to restore order.

"They recognized that public order had broken down in a far more serious way than they had expected," one official said of General Garner's team. As for Ms. Bodine, "Of course it was not her fault," one colleague said. "If you keep on pointing out to people the obvious, that doesn't make you very popular."

One example given was Ms. Bodine's early insistence on hiring at least 50 top-flight interpreters for General Garner's staff so they could interact and communicate effortlessly with Iraqis. But even now language support remains a sore point, an official said.

Since the onset of the war in March, security has been the chief obstacle to General Garner's mission, officials said. His teams of administrators have had to live in isolation behind razor wire and machine-gun positions at Mr. Hussein's Republican Palace.

Ms. Tutwiler, a veteran of public relations consulting since her days with former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, refused to meet with the news media here.

Iraqis could not easily enter the palace compound to meet with the Americans. The upshot was that security concerns, which prevented General Garner from arriving in Iraq as quickly as he wanted, also kept him on the sidelines as the looting and shooting in Baghdad continued.

"The question was who was in charge." one official said. Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the commander of land troops for the allies, issued an edict in late April saying that his military force was the ultimate authority in the country."

In Washington, an administration official said General Garner will leave in the next week or two after a transition with Mr. Bremer. "Garner has always said he'd stick around for the transition, then go," the official said.

Ms. Bodine's departure caught many officials by surprise, but it appeared to reflect new influence for Mr. Bremer, who is a counterterrorism expert and a protégé of Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state. One official said Mr. Bremer had long had misgivings about Ms. Bodine's appointment, although he added that it was not clear whether those misgivings stemmed from her tenure as ambassador to Yemen or from other issues.

"This was not the original plan," the official said, noting that the State Department had pressed hard for her appointment. "It was not something that was supposed to be a two-to-three-week gig."

In Washington as in Iraq, General Garner came under heavy criticism for being almost invisible to ordinary Iraqis. Administration officials said they hoped Mr. Bremer would project a more visible and accessible image, but still act within the bounds of "prudent security."

One possibility is that the Office of Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance would move outside the heavily walled Republican Palace and into a place that is less regal, one official said.

One American official said American leaders badly needed to apply a more aggressive and systematic approach to rooting out violent street crime.

"Iraqis aren't seeing any action," the official said. "You need a 24-hour operations center that is taking in intelligence from Iraqis — the Iraqi police, of course, but also the Iraqi political parties and the Shia clerics, who have played an important role in law and order. Once you figure out who's doing what, you should hit those places hard, knock the doors down and arrest people."

Also today, Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of United States forces in Iraq, delivered a radio message declaring that the Baath party of Mr. Hussein had been dissolved, and military officials said the self-appointed mayor of Baghdad had been released from two weeks in American custody.

Following the fall of Mr. Hussein's government, Muhammad Mohsen Zobeidi proclaimed himself mayor and set up committees to run the city under his direction.

He was arrested by American troops on April 27. At his release he issued a statement saying he was not in fact mayor and would cooperate with the American-led administration."

Sunday, May 11, 2003


The LA Times reports Halliburton has already been paid $90 million, with little of that money actually going into the Iraqi economy:

"BAGHDAD -- The Pentagon has paid nearly $90 million to a subsidiary of the well-connected Halliburton Co. to cater to the Americans who are working to rebuild Iraq, U.S. officials said — while the reconstruction effort has yet to show significant results for ordinary Iraqis.

The Defense Department gave Halliburton's KBR exclusive rights to the job — which has included fixing up an extravagant presidential palace being used by the Americans — under a broad U.S. Army logistics contract that pays the company a fee based on a percentage of everything it spends, according to Pentagon documents and Halliburton's corporate filings.

KBR, whose parent firm has had strong ties to Vice President Dick Cheney, has drawn scrutiny for an emergency oil contract in Iraq that is becoming increasingly lucrative.

Under a "task order" from the lesser-known logistics contract, the Defense Department has rung up KBR's multimillion-dollar bill — which is expected to nearly double — as the number of U.S. officials and Iraqi exiles working for the Pentagon-created reconstruction agency balloons. In blocks-long convoys from Kuwait, the firm is hauling in everything from prefabricated offices, showers, generators and latrines the size of trailer homes to food and bottled water.

As supplies for the Americans continue to arrive by the ton, little of the millions KBR is spending have gone into the Iraqi economy that Washington has pledged to restore. KBR's logistics job gives it no direct role in the rebuilding of this shattered country; that falls to the Bush administration's ambitious $2.4-billion reconstruction program, which is being overseen by the State Department.

The company's most lucrative subcontracts are with trucking, catering and security companies based in neighboring Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, oil-rich nations with the best land routes into Iraq."


More info on the crash of the Black Hawk helicoptor, a 14th death of a journalist in Iraq, and info on the Iranian terrorist organization in Iraq, from the Guardian Unlimited:

"A Black Hawk helicopter crashed into the Tigris river in northern Iraq yesterday, killing three US soldiers on board, the Pentagon confirmed. A fourth was injured.
The helicopter, from the army's 4th Infantry Division, apparently crashed after hitting a power line near Samarra, a town between Baghdad and Tikrit.

It was one of two sent to rescue an Iraqi child wounded in an explosion after ordnance went off outside Samarra, US military officials said. The helicopter carrying the child took off safely, but the other apparently snagged a wire.

The three deaths bring the number of US troops killed in the Iraq war to 145.

Not far from the site of the helicopter crash, a Boston Globe journalist, Elizabeth Neuffer, was killed in a car accident when the vehicle in which she was travelling hit a railing. Her translator, Waleed Khalifa Hassan Al-Dulami, also died.

Neuffer, who had reported extensively from Rwanda and Bosnia, was the author of The Key to My Neighbour's House, a book on war crimes in the two countries. She was the 14th journalist to die since the Iraq conflict began."


This article from the Guardian Unlimited highlights false information spread concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the Cabal, an intelligence group formed within the Pentagon by Rumsfeld to push for war with Iraq, and their failing search for wmds in Iraq:

"The search is especially vital for The Cabal. In the brave new world of post-11 September America, this tight group of analysts deep in the heart of the Pentagon has been the driving force behind the war in Iraq. Numbering no more than a dozen, The Cabal is part of the Office of Special Plans, a new intelligence agency which has taken on the CIA and won. Where the CIA dithered over Iraq, the OSP pressed on. Where the CIA doubted, the OSP was firm. It fought a battle royal over Iraq and George Bush came down on its side.

The OSP is the brainchild of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who set it up after the 2001 terrorist attacks. It was tasked with going over old ground on Iraq and showing that the CIA had overlooked the threat posed. But its rise has caused massive ructions in the normally secretive world of intelligence gathering.

The OSP reports directly to Paul Wolfowitz, a leading hawk in the administration. They bypassed the CIA and the Pentagon's own Defence Intelligence Agency when it came to whispering in the President's ear. They argued a forceful case for war against Saddam before his weapons programmes came to fruition. More moderate voices in the CIA and DIA were drowned out. The result has been a flurry of leaks to the US press. One CIA official described The Cabal's members as 'crazed', on a 'mission from God'.

But for the moment The Cabal and Rumsfeld's Pentagon have won and Powell's doveish State Department has lost. Tensions between the two are now in the open.

'Rumsfeld set up his own intelligence agency because he didn't like the intelligence he was getting,' said Larry Korb, director of national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. 'He doesn't like Powell's approach, a typical diplomat, too cautious.'

Former CIA officials are caustic about the OSP. Unreliable and politically motivated, they say it has undermined decades of work by the CIA's trained spies and ignored the truth when it has contradicted its world view.

'Their methods are vicious,' said Vince Cannistraro, former CIA chief of counter-terrorism. 'The politicisation of intelligence is pandemic, and deliberate disinformation is being promoted. They choose the worst-case scenario on everything and so much of the information is fallacious.' But Cannistraro is retired. His attacks will not bother The Cabal, firmly 'in the loop' of Washington's movers and shakers. Yet, even among them, continued failure to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is a growing fear. The fallout from the war could bring them down."


A Dane blasts the blueprint for postwar Iraq as a grab for oil, Rumsfeld says a year may not be long enough, and Iraqis speak out for home control of oil, in this Guardian Unlimited report on the U.S. proposal to be the occupying power:

"America and Britain yesterday laid out their blueprint for postwar Iraq in a draft resolution to the United Nations security council, naming themselves as "occupying powers" and giving them control of the country's oil revenues.
The proposal, which would relegate the UN to an advisory role, alongside the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, while lifting economic sanctions, was expected to pass despite serious concerns from some permanent members.

The resolution will probably face amendments from France and Russia, who have favoured suspending the sanctions but advocate some control being vested in the UN until an Iraqi government is established.

The French president, Jacques Chirac, yesterday intimated that there was room for negotiation: "I can confirm to you that France's will [is] to undertake discussions on the future of this country in an open and constructive spirit."

Russia, which has considerable economic interests at stake, was less emollient. Before yesterday's meeting, Russian ambassador Sergei Lavrov warned that he would pose "lots of questions" to US ambassador John Negroponte.

In a further sign of the confusion over the US role in Iraq, the defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday that a one-year timeline attached to the presence of US and British forces in Iraq was probably "just a review period" in the overall postwar plan. "Anyone who thinks they know how long it's going to take is fooling themselves," Mr Rumsfeld said. "It's not knowable."

Outside the UN, the proposals provoked a vociferous response from the European Union's commissioner for aid and development, Poul Nielsen, who accused America of seeking to seize control of Iraq's vast oil wealth.

Mr Nielson, a Dane who has just returned from a three-day fact-finding mission to Iraq said the US was "on its way to becoming a member of Opec", the Middle Eastern oil cartel.

"They will appropriate the oil," he told the Danish public service DR radio station. "It is very difficult to see how this would make sense in any other way.

"The unwillingness to give the UN a genuine, legal well-defined role, also in the broader context of rebuilding Iraq after Saddam ... speaks a language that is quite clear."

Eager to avoid another bitter transatlantic diplomatic row, the commission headquarters issued a swift rebuttal, saying Mr Nielson's views did not "reflect the opinion of the commission as a whole".

Iraqis also responded frostily to the plans, praising the lifting of sanctions but calling for the UN or an Iraqi interim government to take charge of the nation's oil wealth.

"It is a good initiative that should have taken place a long time ago," said Ragheb Naaman, 43, who works for Iraq's military industrialisation commission in charge of developing weapons. "But we don't accept that the revenues be controlled by the United States and Britain."

The text, which two senior council diplomats called "hard" and "in your face", defines the US and Britain as "occupying powers" - a legal designation apparently aimed at reassuring council members that America will adhere to its obligations under international law. A former state and defence department official told the Wall Street Journal that occupying power status meant the US cannot give all reconstruction contracts to American companies and "it can't choose the political leadership of the country".


Is it any wonder that things haven't moved more quickly to helping the people of Iraq when you have Barbara Bodine, now "ex-mayor" of Iraq, saying idiotic things like "a lot of what was dysfunctional about Baghdad predates the war." Has she visited the hospitals in Baghdad lately and seen the dying and wounded without adequate medical treatment? Anyway, this idiot is out, and others are in, as per this BBC article:

"Ms Bodine, 54, who had served in the US embassy in Baghdad in the 1980s, told the Washington Post that "a lot of what was dysfunctional about Baghdad predates the war".

She also said that her reassignment, which came in a late-night call on a telephone that had been installed in her office only hours before, was a "natural break".

"We've kind of cobbled the machinery together," she told the newspaper. "Now it's time to hand off to somebody who can take it from here to the political transformation."

The BBC's Steve Kingstone in Washington says her removal may heighten the perception that the Bush administration did not fully think through its plans for post-war Iraq.

The US Government, he says, has become acutely sensitive in recent days to suggestions that its efforts have been slugging and of limited impact."


Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, leader of a popular Shia opposition group, returned from exile in Iran, and spoke to a huge crowd in Basra, according to this BBC report:

"The leader of Iraq's best-known Shia opposition group has told thousands of supporters that Iraqis would not accept a government imposed by foreigners.

Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim was addressing a crowd in the southern city of Basra, after returning from exile in Iran on Saturday.

The 63-year-old cleric was a fierce opponent of Saddam Hussein throughout his 23 years of exile - and many Shias consider him their most important leader.

His movements in Iraq are likely to be closely watched by United States and British officials, who are concerned that he might push for an Islamic state in Iraq.

We want an independent government... We refuse imposed government

The ayatollah - who heads the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) - has opposed the war against Saddam Hussein and condemned the presence of foreign troops in the country.

"We now have to know our own way to rebuild Iraq, and forget the past," he told a jubilant followers who had gathered in a stadium in Basra on Saturday.

"We Muslims have to live together... We have to help each other stand together against imperialism.

"We want an independent government. We refuse imposed government," Ayatollah Hakim went on.


U.S. Central Command reports three marines were killed, and one injured in a UH060 helicoptor crash near Samarrah, Iraq. Also a report that one marine was killed in a vehicle accident in Kuwait:

"CAMP VICTORY, IRAQ -- Three 4th Infantry Division soldiers died and one was injured May 9 when a UH-60 helicopter crashed into the Tigris River the vicinity of Samarrah, Iraq.

The crash occurred at approximately 8 p.m (12 p.m. EST), and was not a result of hostile action.

The wounded soldier was transported to a field hospital for treatment of his injuries.

The soldiers' names are being withheld pending next-of-kin notification.

The incident is under investigation."

"CAMP DOHA, Kuwait – A Marine assigned to the I Marine Expeditionary Force was killed in a vehicle accident in Kuwait May 9 at approximately 8 p.m.

The Marine was traveling in a pick-up truck when it collided with a Marine Corps heavy transport truck near Tactical Assembly Area Coyote in Kuwait.

The name is being withheld pending next-of-kin notification.

The accident is under investigation."


The criminal negligence of Iraq's hospitals by the U.S. and the rest of the international community, continues. From the BBC:

"Like most things in Iraq the health service is getting worse.

I met Dr Ahmed trying to work out what to do with his latest gunshot victim.

"This is where the bullet went in," he pointed at the forehead. "And it came out here, through his jaw."

Doctors say senior managers stole drugs to sell on the black market... They intimidated staff, forcing them to administer out-of-date medicine

The man's right eye, what was left of it, was a bloodied congealed mess. He'd travelled for three hours in the family car to get here. There was no other hospital that could help him.

In a single hour, Dr Ahmed told me, he had seen 15 people come in with bullet injuries. Like the little boy, six-years-old, shot in the stomach. By a five-year-old who'd found a gun.

Guns have become a part of life since the fall of Saddam. There's no government to enforce the law, so people are arming themselves.

Every night at about 2330 I listen to the shots ringing out across the city. Anyone who says peace has come to Iraq has clearly not been here lately."


The World Service Trust, which is the charitable international development arm of the BBC, is in Basra to help develop local media there, according to this BBC report:

"The 112 staff of Basra TV and Radio have turned up every day to their temporary place of work - a football stadium where the salvaged remains of their TV station are stored. They have just received a $20 emergency payment as public servants.

"We are waiting for someone to tell us what to do," said their new chief Suleiman Hadi who was curiously elected as head by the remainder of the staff in a spontaneous outburst of democracy.

Their technical skills are good - many claimed to have trained in Japan and Europe and are eager to start work again - this time producing their own news and reports - not those controlled by Baghdad.

Prior to 1979 the station produced local programmes but a complex divide and rule management structure imposed from Baghdad meant that even though they all worked in the same building, journalists, technicians and management staff all reported to different heads in the capital.

Despite being public servants they have been at the receiving end of the bitter inequality of the regime. Abdul Kharim Khilallah was the head of production at TV Basra and earned $US3 a month.

A group of 30 local sheikhs, tribal leaders and businessmen met us at the house of Sheikh Mohammed Sobollah Al Saedi, head of the Sa'wad tribe - one of the largest in southern Iraq.

We discussed at length the potential for a local free media - "city stories produced by city people," said one.

"It must reflect our concerns - our culture and traditions," said another.

A sparkle of entrepreneurial activity emerged - "It could carry commercials," said a local businessman.

We discussed the problems of introducing balanced stories - and those which might express opinions contrary to their own.

These are huge steps in a country which has been deprived of the opportunity to express their opinions.

There is clearly no shortage of people wishing to make their voices heard - introducing confidence in the media to tell the truth and ensuring all views get an airing is the major challenge ahead.

The Trust is now developing a set of proposals to help Iraqis in Basra and Al-Amara re-establish local radio and TV programming.

It is seeking funding to provide small amounts of equipment to resume broadcasting on both TV and radio as soon as possible and to provide training in journalism, in management and in editorial independence over the next two years."


Here is a Human Rights Watch Report on the issue of harrassment and voilence directed towards foreigners living in Iraq, who are fleeing to Jordan. The report also covers their treatment in Jordan:

"Since the fall of the government of Saddam Hussein, refugees and other non-nationals living in Iraq have been subjected to harassment, violent attacks, and forced evictions from their homes. Small groups of Iraqi men typically perpetrated the attacks, usually warning those targeted to leave Iraq. Hundreds of foreigners, particularly Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Sudanese, Somalis, among other nationalities, chose to flee as a result, feeling that their lives were at risk and that Iraq was no longer a safe place for them."


Conflict over the appointment of a Saddam crony as the Health Minister, and his release of false information, the return of a Shia leader, and fear of the possible collapse of Iraq's agriculture industry, and warnings of possible starvation this summer, from the Guardian Unlimited:

Iraqi agriculture is on the brink of collapse, with fears that many of its 24.5 million people will go hungry this summer, according to a confidential report being studied by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.
A special assessment prepared by the UN agency's staff in Rome, which has been seen by The Observer, reveals a catastrophe in the making, with crops and poultry being especially hard hit.

Government warehouses that would have served as the main suppliers of seeds, fertilisers and pesticide sprays have been looted, particularly in the centre and south of the country.

Iraqi farmers should now be planting tomatoes and onions, potatoes, cucumbers, water melon, peppers, beans and squash. But without seeds, fertilisers and pesticides, that will be hard - a situation exacerbated by the collapse of the pumping stations that powered the irrigation schemes on which the vegetable crop depends...

"The warning came as America's efforts to get Iraq's Health Ministry up and running twisted into farce yesterday, when it emerged that the new Minister concerned was a Saddam crony.

Dr Ali Shnan Janabi, former number three in Saddam's infamously corrupt Ministry, was presented to an all-day conference of doctors. His appointment was greeted with disbelief and charges of corruption from many doctors.

Dr Hussein Harith, a senior registrar at the al-Mansour teaching hospital, said Dr Shnan was one of a 'group of senior Ministers who asked the directors of hospitals to report that they did not need drugs and medicines [supplied to Iraq under the oil-for-food programme], even though they were desperate for them.

There were happier scenes in Basra, where the 63-year-old leader of Iraq's biggest Shia group returned from exile yesterday. Supporters waved flags and chanted slogans when the convoy of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim crossed into Iraq from Iran, where he has led the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq since 1980.

Thousands lined the 12-mile road from the border to Basra, where up to 100,000 people packed a stadium to listen to him address them for the first time in 23 years.'


James Woolsey, ex-CIA Director and ranking member of the Defense Policy Board, is raking it in as director of Paladin Capital, which invests in companies involved in security from terrorist attacks since 9/11, according to the Guardian Unlimited:

Woolsey, one of the most high-profile hawks in the war against Iraq and a key member of the Pentagon's Defence Policy Board, is a director of the Washington-based private equity firm Paladin Capital. The company was set up three months after the terrorist attacks on New York and sees the events and aftermath of September 11 as a business opportunity which 'offer[s] substantial promise for homeland security investment'.

The first priority of Paladin was 'to invest in companies with immediate solutions designed to prevent harmful attacks, defend against attacks, cope with the aftermath of attack or disaster and recover from terrorist attacks and other threats to homeland security'.

Paladin, which is expected to have raised $300 million from investors by the end of this year, calculates that in the next few years the US government will spend $60 billion on anti-terrorism that woul not have been spent before September 11, and that corporations will spend twice that amount to ensure their security and continuity in case of attack...

The hawks and their money

DICK CHENEY, Vice President

Cheney once ran oil industry giant Halliburton whose subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, has won lucrative contracts in post-Saddam Iraq. The Defence Department gave KBR exclusive rights to a $90m contract to cater for the Americans who are working on rebuilding Iraq. KBR also won a lucrative contract to repair Iraq's oilfields.

DONALD RUMSFELD, Defence Secretary

Rumsfeld was a non-executive director of European engineering giant ABB when it won a £125m contract for two light water reactors to North Korea - a country he now regards as part of the 'axis of evil'. Rumsfeld earnt $190,000 (£118,000) a year before he joined the Bush administration.


An influential member of the Pentagon's Defence Policy Board, Perle is managing partner of venture capital company Trireme, which invests in companies dealing in products of value to homeland security. It sent a letter to Saudi arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi arguing that fear of terrorism would boost demand in Europe, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

GEORGE SHULTZ, ex-Secretary of State

Shultz is on the board of directors of the Bechtel Group, the largest contractor in the US and one of the favourites to land lucrative contracts in the rebuilding of Iraq. Shultz is chairman of the the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a fiercely pro-war group with close ties to the White House.


To fill a vacume from non-existent aid for the ailing Iraqi hospitals, Shia mullahs are filling the void, according to this Guardian Unlimited Article. There is also discussion that American private insurance companies, such asBlue Cross Blue Shield, are "waiting in the wings" to begin what some Iraqis characterize would be a disaster for the people of Iraq, private health insurance:

"Off the entrance courtyard is the office of Mullah Khadel Nadji, who is 'in charge of security and all supplies, so that Dr Gorea can concentrate on medicine'. Mullah Nadji, who wears the black turban to illustrate his direct descent from the Shia Caliph Ali, remains here 24 hours a day.

'We don't care about your government, or what the Americans want or do not want,' he says, with a smile. 'We have only the Koran and will rule according to its word. After all this time, there is still no order, there is no humanitarian aid and no government. If this continues, we shall become the government. It will be for us to get the people fed, cleaned and back to work.'

When looters converged on his hospital on 10 April, Gorea was one of only two doctors who remained - in a post he has held for 25 years. Along with his colleague, he went out to the gate and stood there, facing down the mob until help arrived from the mosque: 'armed,' he said, 'only with our white coats.'

Gorea's next visitors were two US tanks which blasted their way through the gates. 'I told them four things,' he said.

'One, this is not a military target and there are no terrorists here, although I would treat them if they were, just as I would treat American soldiers or anyone else. Two, please mend my gates. Three, you must pay for the damage, and four, next time you come, please knock before you enter.'

The Iraqi health system 'was a good one' recalls Gorea, until decay set in under the pincer effect of sanctions and the corrupt excesses of Saddam's last horrific decade in power. Doctors were well-trained and care at the point of delivery had been 'well above standard for this part of the world,' he said.

Now a privatised Americanisation of the system would punish the poor, and he points out - correctly, according to international medical organisations - how US insurance companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield are waiting in the wings, alongside construction companies, to forge a new Iraq.

'If the Americans introduce such a system,' said Nadji, 'our people will have no health system; and so we will become it. Our Sayeeds (senior Mullahs) will order the rich Shia to provide for the poor.'

Such a vacuum in Iraq would entrench the role of militant Islam, said Gorea, just as the Palestinian Hamas has made itself an indispensable force of social cohesion, by default of an alternative."

Saturday, May 10, 2003


Mark Engler, writing for TomPaine.commonsense, tells us the importance of civilian body counts in war:

"Since the invasion of Iraq has ended, a tone of vindication and bravado has seeped into the national mood. Television newscasters and the Department of Defense agree: America is delighted. Soldiers are giving high-fives. Those of us who opposed the president and his generals should be ashamed in the face of a brilliantly successful war.

There is one question, above others, that this prevailing self-satisfaction works to silence. Amidst the atmosphere of recrimination, few will risk asking, "What was the cost?"

On televisions overseas, the Marine blitz and Air Force bombs extracted a human price. While Donald Rumsfeld's talking head became the singular icon of war in the United States, the rest of the world held up photos of Ali Ismaeel Abbas, the 12-year-old boy who lost his parents and eight other relatives, along with both of his arms, in the bombing of Baghdad.

No doubt some have exploited such images for propagandistic purposes. No doubt the pursuit of carnage at times became tasteless sensationalism. But what was the impact for Americans of seeing so few, if any, of those who died?

There are estimates available of the number of civilians killed in the war. A group of 19 volunteers in England, the creators of a Web site called "," estimate that there were a "minimum" of 2,050 deaths. This total reflects the lowest numbers provided in news reports of deadly incidents. A more complete tally would have to add the hundreds, maybe thousands, whose deaths were never reported by any source -- those buried quietly in the rubble, or those who were wounded and later died in one of Iraq's overflowing, and ultimately looted, hospitals.

No country, "coalition" or otherwise, has undertaken this reckoning. "A Swiss government initiative launched in the middle of the war," says John Sloboda of IraqBodyCount, "was abandoned under political pressure."

The dilemma this presents is an old one, and a dangerous one, too: What is the weight of a life? How many before it matters? Few can offer good answers. Those who look only at the bloodiest moments of war discount other lives. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens died as a result of the decade-long sanctions, for which Saddam Hussein bears much culpability, but which the United States had the power to lift all along. Many more would have died if sanctions were prolonged. And we have no way to know how many will be killed in future invasions inspired by Iraq's conquest, or in resultant acts of retribution.

Washington, of course, kept careful track of the 166 U.S. and British troops killed in action. It shunned, however, the idea of a civilian body count. Many journalists, particularly on television, took this official position as their marching orders.

Even in the most responsible of our newspapers, one idea became a mantra: "a precise number [of civilians who were killed] is not and probably never will be available," said The New York Times. "The final toll may never be determined," said The Washington Post. Again and again, reporters noted the difficulty of making an exact tally.

It was, on face, a statement of humility, an honest acknowledgement of the chaos inherent in military conflict. Yet, at some point, this tendency -- this refusal to count, or to even try -- grew into something else.

It became a form of political denial.

The rare dispatches that scratched through the surface of the government's stance on civilian deaths revealed a human side of war -- in which young soldiers feared for their lives and relied on quick, difficult decisions -- but also, at the same time, a startling desensitization to human life. In one oft-cited report by The New York Times, a Sergeant Schrumpf recalled an incident in which Marines fired on an Iraqi soldier standing among several civilians. One woman was killed. "I'm sorry," the sergeant said, "but the chick was in the way."

"Another Times reporter wrote of a situation in which Marines attacked a caravan of vehicles approaching them from the distance, not knowing if these might be filled with enemies or, as it actually turned out, with innocents:

One by one, civilians were killed. Several hundred yards from the forward Marine positions, a blue minivan was fired on; three people were killed. An old man, walking with a cane on the side of the road, was shot and killed. It is unclear what he was doing there; perhaps he was confused and scared and just trying to get away from the city. Several other vehicles were fired on.... When the firing stopped, there were nearly a dozen corpses, all but two of which had no apparent military clothing or weapons.

Two journalists who were ahead of me, farther up the road, said that a company commander told his men to hold their fire until the snipers had taken a few shots, to try to disable the vehicles without killing the passengers. "Let the snipers deal with civilian vehicles," the commander had said. But as soon as the nearest sniper fired his first warning shots, other Marines apparently opened fire with M-16s or machine guns....

[A] squad leader, after the shooting stopped, shouted: "My men showed no mercy. Outstanding."
The number of civilians killed in the actual fighting does matter, if only to remind us that invasion is not a video game. It matters, because it shows that however sophisticated its tools, war will always claim its "collateral damage," its innocent bystanders.

A callous indifference toward such lives is not limited to the sergeants and squad leaders on the front lines. It is the position fostered by a government that does not count its victims, even as it lines up more conquests: next Syria, then on to Iran.

It is an attitude that survives outside of wartime, guiding our prejudices against those living in countries whose names we never learned to pronounce, countries that our shock-jocks call "turd world" nations.

In order to break the cycle of war and deprivation, hatred and terrorism, the United States some day must start counting not only the dead from this conflict, but all those whom we perpetually disregard. And it must start holding itself accountable to them. For as it does, we will learn that this is not a matter of two thousand, or even two hundred thousand. The majority of this world will rise to be counted."