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24 US Soldier Suicides In Iraq Since Start Of War
(Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, March 29, 2004)
The Jeremy Seeley who went off to war was a man his grandfather remembers as tender-hearted. When Specialist Seeley returned from Iraq, he could not bring himself to tell his mother he was home, or even to hear her voice, leaving two disjointed messages on her answering machine but no contact number. . . . On January 13 he walked out of the 101st Airborne base at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, checked into a motel room, and put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door. The police discovered his body four days later, along with containers of household poison. Seeley was 28. . . . There have been 24 soldier suicides in Iraq since the start of the war, according to the Pentagon's count. That figure does not include Seeley, or William Howell, 36. Howell, a special forces veteran, shot himself in the head on March 13 after chasing his wife around the garden of his Colorado home with a handgun. He was at least the seventh soldier believed to have committed suicide after returning from Iraq. . . . In a painful report, the Pentagon last week made available for the first time its findings on the extent of suicide in Iraq, low morale in the ranks, and soldiers' access to mental health care. . . . The survey was commissioned by the commander of US forces in Iraq, General Ricardo Sanchez, after five soldiers committed suicide during the month of July. The findings were so disturbing to the Pentagon that officials withheld its release for three months. . . . It also suggests that the extended American occupation of Iraq is claiming a toll on service personnel and their families far beyond that measured in the casualty rate. . . . Such considerations are weighing heavily on the Pentagon during the advance planning for the next round of troops rotations into Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . A survey published in the Washington Post yesterday suggests the US military could confront a serious troop shortage. In the survey of military spouses, 50% said they expected the army was heading for a problem with retaining personnel, as families grow weary of prolonged and repeated deployments. . . . That disillusionment has already surfaced within the ranks now serving in Iraq. In the Pentagon survey, 52% of troops reported low or very low morale, and 72% said their units suffered low morale. More disturbing for the Pentagon, the soldiers had little faith in their commanding officers. . . . "Nearly 75% of the groups reported that their battalion-level command leadership was poor," the report says. The troops also believed their officers showed little concern for their wellbeing. . . . Other soldiers have sought help on their own following their return from theatre. Wayne Smith, an adviser to Vietnam Veterans of America, says as many as 4,500 troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have tried to seek counselling from veterans' centres rather than seek help through the regular military channels. . . . "In some instances, the soldiers have the onset of symptoms, and the military is not telling them where to go," he says. "We think that the price of the war has to include care and treatment and rebuilding of their lives." . . . "Maybe they could see more than their minds could stand."
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 3:30 PM

U.S. soldiers tackle anti-American rebellion in Fallujah
(Carol Rosemberg, Kinght Ridder Newspapers, March 27, 2004)
After seven Marine deaths in their first 10 days here, the new U.S. troops trying to end Fallujah's anti-American rebellion say surging street fighting is the opening salvo in a half-billion-dollar offensive to pacify the people with both guns and kindness. . . . Residents angrily vowed revenge, saying Friday's casualties were caused by Marine reprisals for an insurgent strike on a supply convoy that took out a Humvee with a rocket-propelled grenade. "For each one who is killed, we will get 10 American soldiers," said Abu Mujahid, 35, taunting the fresh Marine forces as "cartoon characters." . . . "If they want Fallujah to be a battlefield, they are welcome here," said Abu Mujahid, who would only be identified by his nickname, which means fighter's father. "Fallujah city will become a mass grave for Bush and all the soldiers of the American military." . . . But while the Marine Civil Affairs teams are still surveying where to dole out the dollars, seven Marines have been killed in the daily mortar and missile attacks that have crept closer to the compounds. . . . Iraqis claiming to be eyewitnesses said the violence began about 4 p.m. local time Thursday when insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade on Marines escorting supply trucks, shattering the Humvee. As if to prove it, they produced a pair of unfired 40 mm American gun rounds they said they found. . . . By Friday at 7 a.m. local time, the Marines returned, sealed off the eastern entrance and then battled gunmen throughout an adjacent neighborhood, near the spot where Thursday's rocket round was fired. . . . "They were behaving very badly," said a nearby shopkeeper, Hakim Hashem, 28, who claimed to witness both Thursday's onslaught and Friday's search-and-destroy mission. "They went through the neighborhoods shooting, to frighten the people." . . . Leaflets littered the city, which Iraqis believed the Marines left behind in an ominous message that more is more to come. "You can't escape and you can't hide ... the coalition will find you and bring you to justice," said the Arabic message printed over two steely green eyes that stared out in this nation where most Arabs have black eyes. . . . Johnson said only that major combat began at 7 a.m. Friday and Marines seized people to interrogate in order to sort out who was behind the attacks. He said there would be no official word until a Marine announcement that "combat operations" were over.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 7:23 PM

U.S. to retain power in a sovereign Iraq
Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 22, 2004
The United States says Iraq will be sovereign, no longer under military occupation, on June 30. But most power will reside within the world's largest U.S. Embassy, backed by 110,000 U.S. troops. The fledgling Iraqi government will be capable of tackling little more than drawing up a budget and preparing for elections, top U.S. and Iraqi officials say. "We're still here. We'll be paying a lot of attention and we'll have a lot of influence," a top U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. "We're going to have the world's largest diplomatic mission with a significant amount of political weight." In just over three months, the mantle of sovereignty in Iraq will be passed to an interim government. Its composition and the manner of its choosing will be decided after a United Nations team arrives this week. But with Iraqi elections scheduled for December or January, the interim government will last a fleeting seven months at most. Since the U.S.-led occupation regime will have a hand in choosing Iraq's next government, the body will lack a mandate for anything but administrative tasks. Many envision a team of nonpartisan Iraqi technocrats who concentrate on keeping the country functioning. "We don't expect them to enact any laws unless there is absolute need for them," Iraqi Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi said yesterday. "We're not going to enter into any big contractual obligations - either diplomatically or economically - because those things should be done by an elected government."
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 12:28 PM

"Unknown Soldier" Speaks Out To Bring Troops Home
Daniel Redwood, interventionmag.com, March 04, 2004
A soldier back from Iraq discusses the war and the U.S. soldiers fighting that war, the suicides, and much more. Because members of the military are limited in their ability to speak out publicly, the soldier interviewed here must remain anonymous. A military medic who served in the Gulf War in the early 1990s, he is a member of the Reserves who was called up to serve in the current war in Iraq. His primary role is to deliver medical care to U.S. military personnel as well as Iraqis. Profoundly patriotic and committed to protecting his country, he is deeply concerned that the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, which has resulted in the deaths of over 500 American soldiers and uncounted thousands of Iraqis, may now be edging toward disaster. He believes that the troops have done their job and should be brought home. In this interview, he notes that the troop rotations currently underway (between now and June) will place into the Iraq combat zone a significantly higher percentage of Reserves than has been deployed in any previous war. Because Reserves receive far less extensive training than active duty forces, he warns that the summer of 2004 may be a particularly dangerous time for U.S. forces in Iraq. Stationed in the area of the Baghdad Airport at the time of President Bush’s Thanksgiving 2003 visit to the troops there, he also recounts that on the day before the president’s visit, the troops were given a questionnaire that asked them whether they “supported the president.” Those who did not declare their support with sufficient enthusiasm were not permitted to take part in the Thanksgiving meal, and had to make do with MREs (meals ready to eat, referred to by the soldiers as “meals refused by Ethiopians”) in their quarters. This interview offers a rare, unfiltered report from a first-hand participant in the invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq.

*****For those who have not endured a combat zone, this is a powerful report on life, and death, for those the politicos send to do their bidding - one that you will NOT hear or see from the mainstream media (administration adjunct). This is the type of information that needs to get out into the open before the election in November.*****
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 4:48 PM

Spanish Leader Rebuffs US Leaders on Iraq Pullout
(Reuters, March 18, 2004)
Spain's incoming prime minister on Thursday rebuffed calls from U.S. political leaders to reconsider his pledge to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq and set new conditions for keeping them there. . . . Socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's pre-election pledge to withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq has become a burning international issue since his shock win in a general election on Sunday. . . . On Wednesday, expected U.S. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry also urged Zapatero to reconsider, saying he should "send a message that terrorists cannot win by their acts of terror." . . . "Perhaps John Kerry doesn't know but I am delighted to explain to him that my commitment to the return of the troops dates from before (last week's bombings)," Zapatero said in an interview with Spain's Telecinco television. . . . "If the United Nations doesn't take up the reins of the situation, if there isn't a rethink of the chaotic occupation in Iraq, of course the Spanish troops are coming back to Spain," he said. . . . Spanish troops were sent to Iraq by outgoing center-right Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, a close U.S. ally who firmly backed Bush's Iraq policy despite widespread opposition at home.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 3:18 PM

Center for American Progress, 3/18/2004
Military families are speaking out. They are angered that "officials have barred media coverage of the bodies of troops arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware," as well as "the president's decision not to attend funerals of soldiers killed in the war," which they feel "illustrates the administration's reluctance to acknowledge the rising number of dead and wounded." Six hundred protestors - including families of soldiers killed in Iraq - marched in Dover, DE, last weekend in protest, and yesterday, a group of antiwar "activists, veterans and military family members" came to Washington, just blocks from the White House, to read the names of the fallen in Iraq.
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 12:37 PM

Waxman Report - Documenting the Lies

The Iraq on the Record Report (a pdf), prepared at the request of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, is a comprehensive examination of the statements made by the five Administration officials most responsible for providing public information and shaping public opinion on Iraq: President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. This database identifies 237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq made by these five officials in 125 public appearances in the time leading up to and after the commencement of hostilities in Iraq.

a related link: David Corn article, The Nation

*****I wonder if Rummy is going to disclaim these????***** I've said all along that they must have been thinking that no one was paying attention - guess we were, eh? - but that's just this old curmudgeon's opinion.
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 7:36 AM

Is the US planting WMD In Iraq?
(Tehran Times, 3-14-04)
Over the past few days, in the wake of the bombings in Karbala and the ideological disputes that delayed the signing of Iraq's interim constitution, there have been reports that U.S. forces have unloaded a large cargo of parts for constructing long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the southern ports of Iraq. . . . A reliable source from the Iraqi Governing Council, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Mehr News Agency that U.S. forces, with the help of British forces stationed in southern Iraq, had made extensive efforts to conceal their actions. . . . The source said that in order to avoid suspicion, ordinary cargo ships were used to download the cargo, which consisted of weapons produced in the 1980s and 1990s. . . . He mentioned the fact that the United States had facilitated Iraq's WMD program during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq and said that some of the weapons being downloaded are similar to those weapons, although international inspectors had announced Saddam Hussein's Baath regime had destroyed all its WMD. . . . "Most of these weapons are of Eastern European origin and some parts are from the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. The U.S. obtained them through confiscations during sales of banned arms over the past two decades," he said. . . . This action comes as certain U.S. and Western officials have been pointing out the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been discovered in Iraq and the issue of Saddam's trial begins to take center stage. . . . In addition, former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has emphasized that the U.S. and British intelligence agencies issued false reports on Iraq leading to the U.S. attack. . . . Coalition forces and inspectors have so far been unable to find any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. invaded Iraq under the pretext that Iraq possessed a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 11:27 AM

Rumsfeld -- caught on camera lying about WMD
A year ago today [3-17-04], the Bush Administration was making its final push toward war in Iraq. We know now that much of what we were told about the threat that Iraq posed was untrue. And rather than own up to their distortion of the facts, Bush administration officials are denying they ever said such things. . . . But this Sunday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld got caught blatantly contradicting his past statements, and we have the video clip. You can check it out at the above link. . . . Congress' responsibility is to hold President Bush and his administration accountable for this pattern of deception -- that's why we have the Constitution. But instead, Congress today will debate a resolution congratulating Bush, for (they claim) making the world safer. . . . We must demand, at a minimum, that Congress censure the President. It's our Representatives' duty to formally reprimand him for misleading us. And we've got to demand it today, while they're debating their anniversary resolution. . . . Please call your Representative now and make it clear that you are a constituent, then let the staffers know you expect nothing less than Censure.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 9:41 AM

The Forgotten Soldiers of Operation 'Iraqi Freedom'
Natasha Saulnier, 3.12.04
...thousands of GIs returning from Iraq -- often with one or more limbs amputated, flown in with little notice under the cover of night and brought to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Here, they're operated on, treated, fitted with prosthetics when possible, generally medicated, and given psychological and physical therapy. For the record, Walter Reed is the hospital where wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam went. No fanfare for these heroes. On top of the injuries they've had to endure to their bodies and hearts, they come home to be ignored by mainstream American media. Curiously, the casualty statistics released by the Pentagon contradict those of the U.S Army. While the Pentagon contends that 2,722 soldiers have been wounded in action and 417 in non-hostile fire as of March 1, the U.S. Air Force confides that it has flown approximately 12,000 evacuees into Andrews Air Force Base over the past nine months. "At Baghdad International Airport, there were 15 I.E.D.'s every two weeks. Each time there was an explosion, the whole compound would get shut down. The computers and the telephones would go off all of a sudden . . . . And we would know that a soldier had just been killed 'cause they didn't want anyone to be able to reach the family before the Army could."
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 8:16 PM

Oooops! Sorry! My Bad!!!
New Zealand Herald, 11.03.2004
KABUL - American forces have been absolved of all blame following an internal investigation into the killing of nine Afghan children in a United States airstrike last December. "The investigating officer said we used appropriate rules of engagement and did follow the law of conflict," the designated US spokesman told a news briefing in Kabul. But he declined to give details of the report, saying the investigation remained "top secret" despite UN calls for it to be made public. "However, we did slightly change our rules of engagement after that investigation," he said. He said the investigation remained classified "because of the intelligence involved and the target involved". He declined to say how the engagement rules had been altered, saying these too were secret.
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 8:11 PM

Robert Fisk: All This Talk About Civil War, Now This...
(Robert Fisk, The Independent, March 2, 2004)
Odd, isn't it? There never has been a civil war in Iraq. I have never heard a single word of animosity between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq. . . . Al-Qa'ida has never uttered a threat against Shias - even though al-Qa'ida is a Sunni-only organisation. Yet for weeks, the American occupation authorities have been warning us about civil war, have even produced a letter said to have been written by an al-Qa'ida operative, advocating a Sunni-Shia conflict. Normally sane journalists have enthusiastically taken up this theme. Civil war. . . . Somehow I don't believe it. . . . I do worry about the Iraqi exile groups who think that their own actions might produce what the Americans want: a fear of civil war so intense that Iraqis will go along with any plan the United States produces for Mesopotamia. . . . But the bombs in Karbala and Baghdad were clearly co-ordinated. The same brain worked behind them. Was it a Sunni brain? When the occupation authorities' spokesman suggested yesterday that it was the work of al-Qa'ida, he must have known what he was saying: that al-Qa'ida is a Sunni movement, that the victims were Shias. . . . It's not that I believe al-Qa'ida incapable of such a bloodbath. But I ask myself why the Americans are rubbing this Sunni-Shia thing so hard. Let's turn the glass round the other way. If a violent Sunni movement wished to evict the Americans from Iraq - and there is indeed a resistance movement fighting very cruelly to do just that - why would it want to turn the Shia population of Iraq, 60 per cent of Iraqis, against them? The last thing such a resistance would want is to have the majority of Iraqis against it. . . . The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has talked of the hundreds of "foreign" fighters crossing Saudi Arabia's "porous" borders. . . . The US press have dutifully repeated this. The Iraqi police keep announcing that they have found the bombers' passports, so can we have the numbers? . . . We are entering a dark and sinister period of Iraqi history. But an occupation authority which should regard civil war as the last prospect it ever wants to contemplate, keeps shouting "civil war" in our ears and I worry about that. Especially when the bombs make it real.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 3:14 PM

Iraqi recruits put in the firing line while Americans retreat to safety of barracks
(Robert Fisk
, The Independent, 10 March 2004)
I come across a Nepalese with a rifle over his shoulder, one of the armies of mercenaries now employed by the Americans - let us not call them sandbags - to secure the airport perimeter. He sleeps at the airport and has been here for five months. Does he like it, I ask? "Boring but not much sleep," he smiles. "Too many mortars and too much gunfire." . . . Overhead, a four-engined military transport aircraft is groaning into the sky, turning tight 1,000-metre circles to keep outside missile range. Go over the 1,000 metres and you can be hit. It streams four dirty fuel trails behind its engines as they fight to gain height. . . . At the terminal stands an American officer in his forties, a lieutenant colonel in civvies but with a flak jacket covered with camouflage cloth. And how does he like the airport? "We're leaving here soon. We're leaving the airport. The Iraqis are taking over." In other words, I suggest, the Americans are going to let the Iraqi army or the Iraqi "Civil Defence" or any of the other fancy Iraqi outfits being trained by the Americans, take the nightly fire of the resistance here? "That's pretty much it," he said. . . . I don't entirely believe this. The US occupation forces fly their transports into Baghdad airport and won't leave their security to Iraqis. But they could let the new Iraqi army do the dirty work, hunting and patrolling in the grass and muck outside the 1,000 metre perimeter at night, guarding the perimeter wire, withdrawing the massive US presence to save American lives. . . . And then I remember that most famous of dates - 30 June - when Iraq's "sovereignty" will be handed over by the Americans to the American-appointed Iraqi "Governing Council", and it begins to make sense. The Americans aren't leaving on 30 June, of course; they are retreating to secure barracks. The airport will become an Iraqi responsibility. Iraqis will risk their lives to defend it from the "resistance". . . . And it dawns on me that this will happen in a thousand other areas of Iraq. The dams on the Euphrates west of Fallujah, the walls of the old RAF Habbaniya airbase which is now home to the 82nd Airborne, the street patrols in Baghdad. Even now, you see fewer US patrols in the old Caliphate capital. No bad thing for a people who don't want to be occupied. . . . But the Americans are not leaving Iraq and the Iraqis know this.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 2:58 PM

Twists in Iraq intelligence dispute
(San Francisco Examiner, March 10, 2004)
THE CHIEF OF THE CIA, in a Senate hearing Tuesday, contradicted statements made by Vice President Dick Cheney about the relationship between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist organization. The disagreement uncovered a new facet to the ongoing squabble between intelligence agencies and administration officials. . . . Some months back, we wrote that the question of what was behind administration claims before the invasion of Iraq about supposed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in that country came down to two basic and ugly possibilities, one of which must be true. . . . One possibility was that the president or people very close to him had intimidated U.S. spy services into bending the actual intelligence into a form that would favor a preemptive war and administration claims that Saddam Hussein was building a great store of weapons. . . . On Tuesday, CIA Director George Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Vice President Dick Cheney was wrong to say that the government had proof of an Iraqi biological weapons program. He also disputed assertions from the vice president that Iraq had cooperated with al-Qaida.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 7:51 PM

The new Pentagon papers: how the books were cooked on WMD
(Karen Kwiatkowske, Salon.com, March 10, 2004)
A high-ranking military officer reveals how Defense Department extremists suppressed information and twisted the truth to drive the country to war.

In the spring of 2002, I was a cynical but willing staff officer, almost two years into my three-year tour at the office of the secretary of defense, undersecretary for policy, sub-Saharan Africa. In April, a call for volunteers went out for the Near East South Asia directorate (NESA). None materialized. By May, the call transmogrified into a posthaste demand for any staff officer, and I was "volunteered" to enter what would be a well-appointed den of iniquity. . . . While the people were very much alive, I saw a dead philosophy -- Cold War anti-communism and neo-imperialism -- walking the corridors of the Pentagon. It wore the clothing of counterterrorism and spoke the language of a holy war between good and evil. The evil was recognized by the leadership to be resident mainly in the Middle East and articulated by Islamic clerics and radicals. . . . From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans (OSP) and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. This seizure of the reins of U.S. Middle East policy was directly visible to many of us working in the Near East South Asia policy office, and yet there seemed to be little any of us could do about it. . . . I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president. . . . While this commandeering of a narrow segment of both intelligence production and American foreign policy matched closely with the well-published desires of the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of us in the Pentagon, conservatives and liberals alike, felt that this agenda, whatever its flaws or merits, had never been openly presented to the American people. Instead, the public story line was a fear-peddling and confusing set of messages, designed to take Congress and the country into a war of executive choice, a war based on false pretenses, and a war one year later Americans do not really understand. That is why I have gone public with my account. . . . Co-workers who had watched the transition from Clintonista to Bushite shared conversations and stories indicating that something deliberate and manipulative was happening to NESA. Key professional personnel, longtime civilian professionals holding the important billets in NESA, were replaced early on during the transition. . . . At the time, I didn't realize that the expertise on Middle East policy was not only being removed, but was also being exchanged for that from various agenda-bearing think tanks, including the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. . . . I soon saw the modus operandi of "instant policy" unhampered by debate or experience . . . I learned that there was indeed a preferred ideology for NESA. My first day in the office, a GS-15 career civil servant rather unhappily advised me that if I wanted to be successful here, I'd better remember not to say anything positive about the Palestinians. . . . Trigilio and I had hallway debates, as friends. The one I remember most clearly was shortly after President Bush gave his famous "mushroom cloud" speech in Cincinnati in October 2002, asserting that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction as well as ties to "international terrorists," and was working feverishly to develop nuclear weapons with "nuclear holy warriors." I asked John who was feeding the president all the bull about Saddam and the threat he posed us in terms of WMD delivery and his links to terrorists, as none of this was in secret intelligence I had seen in the past years. John insisted that it wasn't an exaggeration, but when pressed to say which actual intelligence reports made these claims, he would only say, "Karen, we have sources that you don't have access to." It was widely felt by those of us in the office not in the neoconservatives' inner circle that these "sources" related to the chummy relationship that Ahmad Chalabi had with both the Office of Special Plans and the office of the vice president. . . . The newly named director of the OSP, Abram Shulsky, was one of the most senior people sharing our space that summer. . . . It seemed like Shulsky's real boss was somebody like Douglas Feith or higher. . . . Feith's inattention to most policy detail, except that relating to Israel and Iraq, earned him a reputation most foul throughout Policy, with rampant stories of routine signatures that took months to achieve and lost documents. His poor reputation as a manager was not helped by his arrogance. . . . I spent time that summer exploring the neoconservative worldview and trying to grasp what was happening inside the Pentagon. I wondered what could explain this rush to war and disregard for real intelligence. Neoconservatives are fairly easy to study, mainly because they are few in number, and they show up at all the same parties. Examining them as individuals, it became clear that almost all have worked together, in and out of government, on national security issues for several decades. . . . Before the Iraq invasion, many of these same players labored together for literally decades to push a defense strategy that favored military intervention and confrontation with enemies, secret and unconstitutional if need be. Some former officials, such as Richard Perle (an assistant secretary of defense under Reagan) and James Woolsey (CIA director under Clinton), were granted a new lease on life, a renewed gravitas, with positions on President Bush's Defense Policy Board. Others, like Elliott Abrams and Paul Wolfowitz, had apparently overcome previous negative associations from an Iran-Contra conviction for lying to the Congress and for utterly miscalculating the strength of the Soviet Union in a politically driven report to the CIA. . . . I was present at a staff meeting when Bill Luti called Marine Gen. and former Chief of Central Command Anthony Zinni a "traitor," because Zinni had publicly expressed reservations about the rush to war. . . . After August 2002, the Office of Special Plans established its own rhythm and cadence separate from the non-politically minded professionals covering the rest of the region. While often accused of creating intelligence, I saw only two apparent products of this office: war planning guidance for Rumsfeld, presumably impacting Central Command, and talking points on Iraq, WMD and terrorism. These internal talking points seemed to be a m?lange crafted from obvious past observation and intelligence bits and pieces of dubious origin. They were propagandistic in style, and all desk officers were ordered to use them verbatim in the preparation of any material prepared for higher-ups and people outside the Pentagon. . . . Both OSP functions duplicated other parts of the Pentagon. The facts we should have used to base our papers on were already being produced by the intelligence agencies, and the war planning was already done by the combatant command staff with some help from the Joint Staff. Instead of developing defense policy alternatives and advice, OSP was used to manufacture propaganda for internal and external use, and pseudo war planning. . . . Hardcastle's intelligence briefing was replaced with one prepared by another Policy office that worked nonproliferation issues. While this alternative briefing relied on intelligence produced by DIO and elsewhere, it was not a product of the DIA or CIA community, but instead was an OSD Policy "branded" product -- and so were its conclusions. The message sent by Policy appointees and well understood by staff officers and the defense intelligence community was that senior appointed civilians were willing to exclude or marginalize intelligence products that did not fit the agenda. . . . It is interesting today that the "defense" for those who lied or prevaricated about Iraq is to point the finger at the intelligence. But the National Intelligence Estimate, published in September 2002, as remarked upon recently by former CIA Middle East chief Ray McGovern, was an afterthought. It was provoked only after Sens. Bob Graham and Dick Durban noted in August 2002, as Congress was being asked to support a resolution for preemptive war, that no NIE elaborating real threats to the United States had been provided. In fact, it had not been written, but a suitable NIE was dutifully prepared and submitted the very next month. Naturally, this document largely supported most of the outrageous statements already made publicly by Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld about the threat Iraq posed to the United States. All the caveats, reservations and dissents made by intelligence were relegated to footnotes and kept from the public. . . . I shared some of my concerns with a civilian who had been remotely acquainted with the Luti-Feith-Perle political clan in his previous work for one of the senior Pentagon witnesses during the Iran-Contra hearings. He told me these guys were engaged in something worse than Iran-Contra. I was curious but he wouldn't tell me anything more. I figured he knew what he was talking about. I thought of him when I read much later about the 2002 and 2003 meetings between Michael Ledeen, Reuel Marc Gerecht and Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar -- all Iran-Contra figures. . . . That other shoe fell with a thump, as did the regard many of us had held for Colin Powell, on Feb. 5 as the secretary of state capitulated to the neoconservative line in his speech at the United Nations -- a speech not only filled with falsehoods pushed by the neoconservatives but also containing many statements already debunked by intelligence. . . . War is generally crafted and pursued for political reasons, but the reasons given to the Congress and to the American people for this one were inaccurate and so misleading as to be false. Moreover, they were false by design. Certainly, the neoconservatives never bothered to sell the rest of the country on the real reasons for occupation of Iraq -- more bases from which to flex U.S. muscle with Syria and Iran, and better positioning for the inevitable fall of the regional ruling sheikdoms. Maintaining OPEC on a dollar track and not a euro and fulfilling a half-baked imperial vision also played a role. These more accurate reasons for invading and occupying could have been argued on their merits -- an angry and aggressive U.S. population might indeed have supported the war and occupation for those reasons. But Americans didn't get the chance for an honest debate. . . . The commission, aside from being modeled on failed rubber stamp commissions of the past and consisting entirely of those selected by the executive branch, specifically excludes an examination of the role of the Office of Special Plans and other executive advisory bodies. If the president or vice president were seriously interested in "getting the truth," they might consider asking for evidence on how intelligence was politicized, misused and manipulated, and whether information from the intelligence community was distorted in order to sway Congress and public opinion in a narrowly conceived neoconservative push for war. Bush says he wants the truth, but it is clear he is no more interested in it today than he was two years ago. . . . not a single neoconservative appointee has lost his job, and no high official of principle in the administration has formally resigned because of this ill-planned and ill-conceived war and poorly implemented occupation of Iraq. . . . Will Americans hold U.S. policymakers accountable? Will we return to our roots as a republic, constrained and deliberate, respectful of others? My experience in the Pentagon leading up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq tells me, as Ben Franklin warned, we may have already failed. But if Americans at home are willing to fight -- tenaciously and courageously -- to preserve our republic, we might be able to keep it.
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posted by Lorenzo 1:11 PM

Tutu wants apology for war
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu helped lead his country out of apartheid and the Nobel Peace Prize winner has been a strong opponent of the Iraq War. He’s to give an important speech today in which he will demand Blair and Bush apologies for the mistakes of this war. Some wonderful quotes from him: How wonderful if politicians could bring themselves to admit they are only fallible human creatures and not God and thus by definition can make mistakes. Unfortunately, they seem to think that such an admission is a sign of weakness. Weak and insecure people hardly ever say ‘sorry. . . . It is large-hearted and courageous people who are not diminished by saying: ‘I made a mistake’. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair would recover considerable credibility and respect if they were able to say: ‘Yes, we made a mistake’.
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posted by Lorenzo 8:53 PM

A Letter From My Friend, A Soldier/Medic in Baghdad
[NOTE: The following is a brief summary of another blog on our site. Please click the link above for the full letter. It will be well worth your time to read it.]

Every day I feel I have to keep my mouth shut or risk being cast out, because people I work with make racist and offensive jokes at the expense of a people we're here to protect and free. And in many cases it doesn't stop at jokes. It's not uncommon to see a small convoy of people in gun trucks who fire slingshots at children. These "peacekeepers" start fights with the adults who tell us to stop.
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posted by Lorenzo 4:30 PM

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