Friday, June 30, 2006

Military claims gains on Iraqi terrorists

By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military claimed an advantage in the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq on Thursday, saying raids since the death of its leader have forced many of its foreign fighters out into the open to be captured or killed.

Iraq's bloodshed continued. At least 46 deaths from violence were reported across the country, including nine bullet-riddled bodies pulled from rivers — apparent victims of sectarian death squads.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraqi, acknowledged Iraqi civilians were suffering most from the insurgency, accounting for 70 percent of all deaths and injuries, while he said the number of U.S. casualties did not appear to be on the rise.

But he said the Americans gained momentum in its fight against al-Qaida in Iraq after killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and have devoted a lot of resources to targeting his successor as leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

"There is no question, if we can take him down, that will just disrupt the organization ... to the point where it would be ineffective for a long period of time," Caldwell said. "It is very disorganized right now. And it is very disrupted right now."

He said coalition and Iraqi security forces had captured or killed 57 foreign fighters this month.

"The reason we were able to pick up and track some of these mid-level people ... in the last few weeks is because they've been forced to conduct meetings, to get out and be more visible, because their system has been so disrupted," he said. "And that has given us the opportunities to find them, track them and go get them."

On Wednesday, Iraqi authorities said they had captured an al-Qaida suspect from Tunisia who allegedly bombed a Shiite shrine earlier this year, setting off a spasm of violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

Caldwell said Yousri Fakher Mohammed Ali, also known as Abu Qudama, was captured May 20 after he was seriously wounded in a clash with security forces north of Baghdad. Haitham Sabah Shaker Mohammed al-Badri, the alleged Iraqi mastermind of the Feb. 22 attack on the shrine in Samarra, remains at large.

While cracking down on terror groups, the Iraqi government has offered an olive branch to the Sunni-dominated insurgency, with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announcing a national reconciliation plan and reaching out to militants with an amnesty proposal.

The amnesty would not absolve those who have killed Iraqis or American coalition troops. But proving which individuals have carried out fatal attacks would be a difficult task in many cases. The issue is extremely sensitive in the United States, which has lost more than 2,500 uniformed men and women in Iraq, many to insurgent bombs and ambushes.

Insurgent and government officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday that 11 Sunni militant groups had offered an immediate halt to all attacks — including those on American troops — if the United States agreed to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq in two years.

On Thursday, Iraqi presidential security adviser Wafiq al-Samaraie said he received an e-mail Wednesday with an offer of cooperation from a person describing himself as a member of "one of the most dangerous violent groups abroad."

"We answered him immediately by e-mail and welcomed him, and he replied to us that there are ammunition piles at point X, go and find it, and there is a criminal in such a place ... so this is a blessing of the reconciliation initiative," al-Samaraie told state-run al-Iraqiya TV.

He did not discuss whether the information was accurate.

Shooting and bombings Thursday killed 12 people in Baghdad, including a Shiite trash collector, a university security chief, a baker, two merchants and an electrical worker.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, a suicide car bomber struck the funeral of a Shiite soldier in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing four people and wounding 27, police and hospital officials said.

Police in Kirkuk also found the body of a 15-year-old girl who had been kidnapped five days ago in the oil-rich city.

Seven bullet-riddled bodies were found floating in the Tigris River in Suwayrah, 25 miles south of Baghdad, while two men who had been shot to death and showed signs of torture were found in the Euphrates River in Musayyib, 40 miles south of the capital.

Highlighting the government's efforts to rein in the violence and take over control of its own security from U.S. forces, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani led a celebration at the police academy in Baghdad to swear in 560 newly graduated recruits.

He said al-Maliki's reconciliation plan "is evidence of the government's intention to restore stability and promote reconstruction."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Future of America

Over 230 years ago (pre United States) a professor by the name of Alexander Tyler wrote this about Democracies:

A Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can exist only until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back into bondage.

No one seems to realize what is at stake right now. This war is about far more than the present. If we quit this war, our children will see the collapse of the United States as we know it. If we continue to feed and house and medicate the lazy and worthless that suck the life out of the bottom of our nation, our children will see the collapse of the United States as we know it. If we continue to allow illegal immigrants to enter our country and send roughly $20 billion from our economy and put it into Mexico’s, our children will see the collapse of the United States as we know it. If my generation continues to be completely ignorant, apathetic, selfish and self centered… we will earn the credit for destroying America.

We are at a stage in our Nation’s history where change is occurring. It is up to us to guide it.

To all you that complain about America being in everyone’s business, about us running the world… I promise you that if you see the day when we aren’t running the world… you will wish with every ounce of your existence you had done something when you could’ve.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Newly Declassified Information Concerning Chemical Weapons Discovered in Iraq

“This is critically important information that the world community needs to know” – Senator Santorum

June 21, 2006
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, joined Congressman Peter Hoekstra, (R-MI-2), Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, today to make a major announcement regarding the release of newly declassified information that proves the existence of chemical munitions in Iraq since 2003. The information was released by the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, and contained an unclassified summary of analysis conducted by the National Ground Intelligence Center. In March, Senator Santorum began advocating for the release of these documents to the American public.

“The information released today proves that weapons of mass destruction are, in fact, in Iraq,” said Senator Santorum. “It is essential for the American people to understand that these weapons are in Iraq. I will continue to advocate for the complete declassification of this report so we can more fully understand the complete WMD picture inside Iraq.”

The following are the six key points contained in the unclassified overview:

• Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.

• Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.

• Pre-Gulf War Iraqi chemical weapons could be sold on the black market. Use of these weapons by terrorists or insurgent groups would have implications for Coalition forces in Iraq. The possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out.

• The most likely munitions remaining are sarin and mustard-filled projectiles.

• The purity of the agent inside the munitions depends on many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives, and environmental storage conditions. While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal.

• It has been reported in open press that insurgents and Iraqi groups desire to acquire and use chemical weapons.

Read the declassified portion of the NGIC report.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Iraqi police storm farm, free 17 hostages

By SINAN SALAHEDDIN, Associated Press Writer

Iraqi police stormed a farm north of Baghdad early Thursday and freed at least 17 people who were snatched a day earlier in a mass kidnapping of about 85 workers and family members at the end of a factory shift.

The U.S. military, meanwhile, reported that four Marines and a soldier were killed in operations south and west of Baghdad, and an explosion of sectarian and revenge killings in Mosul — Iraq's third-largest city — over the past three days claimed 19 lives.

The chief lawyer representing Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants said they went on a hunger strike to protest the shooting death Wednesday of a defense attorney. It was the third such killing in the 8-month-old trial.

The freed kidnap victims brought to nearly 50 the number of captives who have been either released by their captors or extricated by police. About 30 of the hostages, mainly women and children, were released shortly after they were taken captive Wednesday. It is routine in Iraq for women to take their children to work.

One kidnap victim, a Shiite Muslim, said he was set free Wednesday night after showing the kidnappers a forged ID card listing him as a Sunni. He said two hostages had been killed trying to escape. The man refused to give his name fearing retribution.

"As we were leaving the factory we were stopped by gunmen. They got on our buses and told us to put our heads down. Then they took us to a poultry farm," the man said.

"One of the gunmen told us to stand in one line and then asked the Sunnis to get out of the line. That's what I did. They asked me to prove that I am a Sunni, so I showed the forged ID and three others did the same. They released us," the man said.

A National Security Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, told The Associated Press that several insurgents holding the kidnap victims were captured during the Thursday morning raid on the farm in the Mishada area, about 20 miles north of the capital.

Police operations were continuing in the area, the official said, in a bid to locate the rest of the victims who were taken at the end of the day shift at al-Nasr General Complex, a former military plant that now makes metal doors, windows and pipes.

Sectarian violence has raged in the region and tit-for-tat kidnappings and revenge killings are common, but nothing had been reported on the scale of Wednesday's mass abduction. The al-Nasr plant is between Baghdad and Taji, a predominantly Sunni Arab area.

In the capital, where a security crackdown has been in place for nine days, insurgent and sectarian bloodletting was muted Thursday, with no major violent incidents reported by midday.

Elsewhere, the speaker of Russian parliament's upper house said Thursday that negotiations were being held to secure the release of four Russian Embassy staffers kidnapped June 3 in Baghdad, a news agency reported Thursday. A fifth Russian was killed when the men were captured.

The comments by Federation Council speaker Sergei Mironov came a day after an al-Qaida-linked insurgent group said that it had decided to kill the four after a deadline for meeting its demands had passed. As of midday Thursday, there was no indication whether the four had been killed.

Mironov said that "round-the-clock" talks were being conducted to secure their release, but he did not say by whom and where, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

The military said the four Marines were killed Tuesday in insurgency-ridden Anbar province, three of them in a roadside bombing and a fourth in a separate operation. A U.S. soldier also died Wednesday south of the capital, the military said, giving no further details.

At least 2,512 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians.

The killings in Mosul occurred primarily in groups of ones and twos, with several of the dead found dumped throughout the city. All the victims died in targeted shooting attacks, Mosul police Capt. Ahmed Khalil told The Associated Press.

Lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi, a Sunni Arab who represented Saddam and his half brother Barzan Ibrahim, was abducted from his home Wednesday morning. His bullet-riddled body was found on a street near Baghdad's Shiite slum of Sadr City. Police provided a photo of al-Obeidi's face, head and shoulders drenched in blood.

Saddam's chief attorney, Khalil al-Dulaimi, blamed the killing on the Interior Ministry, which Sunnis have alleged is infiltrated by Shiite death squads. He said Saddam and his co-defendants had gone on a hunger strike to protest the killing.

The strike could not be independently confirmed. It was not the first time the defense team said Saddam and his co-defendants were refusing food.

On Feb. 28, al-Obeidi said Saddam and several other defendants ended a 16-day hunger strike to protest the chief judge in their trial. In December 2004, the U.S. military acknowledged that eight of Saddam's 11 top lieutenants went on a weekend hunger strike to demand jail visits from the international Red Cross.

Bushra al-Khalil, a Lebanese member of the defense team, said al-Obeidi was taken from his house by men dressed in police uniforms and driving four-wheel-drive vehicles used by Iraqi security forces.

However, al-Obeidi's widow, Um Laith, was quoted in The New York Times as saying the attackers wore civilian clothes. She said 20 men burst into their house while the couple and their children were sleeping, and identified themselves as members of an Interior Ministry security brigade.

There was no comment from the ministry.

The Times also quoted Iraqi witnesses as saying al-Obeidi was transported in a convoy by people known to belong to the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army.

Al-Obeidi was the third member of Saddam's defense team to be killed since the trial began Oct. 19. His colleagues said the slaying was an attempt to intimidate the defense before it begins final arguments July 10, a process that will take about 10 days.

Chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi said the trial would continue.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Marines in Haditha

Just wanted to share my thoughts with you on the discussion and the news floating around about the alleged Marine massacre in Haditha, Iraq.

If these Marines did in fact commit the crimes they are being investigated for, they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.

I wanted to assure everyone that if this did happen, it is an isolated incident. For twelve months I walked the streets of Baghdad. I NEVER saw any coalition forces mistreat any civilians at any point during my time there.

Our enemies however have no regard for the lives of the people of Iraq. Whether it's a school bus and a road side bomb or a family that is in a house they desire to occupy... they are relentless in the terror they inflict on the people of Iraq. They would gladly inflict the suffering on you and your family given the opportunity.

My unit and every other unit I have ever encountered have made tremendous sacrifices for the people of Iraq. We put our lives on the line for them. We developed personal relationships with families in our designated Areas of Operation. We loved and love them. We did everything we could to protect them. Everything.

On the other hand... do not be too quick to judge these Marines. The black and white world in which you live is far different than the gray world over there. They deserve a fair investigation and a fair trial.

And, if you live in North America or Western Europe... no matter how gray you think your world is, it is a very distinct black and a very distinct white compared to life in Iraq. Don't try and believe otherwise.

I'd encourage America and its leaders not to jump to conclusions. The situation needs to be assessed before we start talking about punishment. There needs to be a clear separation between collateral damage and murder.