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Sacred Shrine in Najaf Damaged - Fighting Rages Outside
(CNN, 19 August 2004)
Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi issued a "final call" Thursday for cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's forces to disarm and vacate the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, as sounds of fighting were heard outside the Shiite Muslim holy site. . . . Iraqi officials have threatened to "liberate" the mosque with a military offensive if al-Sadr and his forces don't leave and disarm. . . . sounds of intense fighting erupted Thursday outside the mosque. . . . CNN's Kianne Sadeq, who is inside the compound with other journalists at the invitation of al-Sadr's Mehdi militia, reported persistent sounds of mortars, gunfire and many explosions, and devastation to the streets, homes and businesses around the mosque compound. . . . Two of the mosque's minarets have been damaged in recent fighting, and al-Sadr loyalists said a clock in one of the towers caught fire, Sadeq reported. The mosque is one of the holiest shrines in Shiite Islam. . . . Allawi said that if al-Sadr wishes to become a leader in Iraq, he should partake in the political process and run as a candidate in the January election for a transitional national assembly. . . . An al-Sadr spokesman said Thursday the cleric had not agreed to negotiate with the Iraqi interim government, but only with the Iraqi National Conference. . . . The 1,000-member conference met this week to choose a 100-person interim body that will advise and oversee the newly installed Iraqi interim government. . . . Arabic-language television news networks were reporting pitched battles in Najaf. . . . Al-Arabiya reported that U.S. troops were attacking from three different locations. The fiercest battle was coming from what is known as the "Najaf Sea," or Abu al-Kheir Street, about 1,000 meters (1,093 feet) behind the Imam Ali shrine, the network said. . . . Al-Jazeera, talking to sources on the phone, reported that U.S. planes were targeting the Doha Hotel and fighting around the holy sites. . . . Elsewhere in Najaf, police and a Health Ministry official said four Iraqis were killed and 14 wounded when three mortar rounds hit a recruitment center inside the main police compound. . . . Along with the fighters, al-Sadr spokesmen and a few women and children are in the compound. . . . Al-Sadr's people deny that al-Sadr is inside the mosque compound. However, he is thought to be in the Najaf area. . . . Interim Iraqi Minister of State Kasim Daoud said that if the cleric does not respond to the government demands in the next few hours, military action will be taken. . . . At a joint news conference with Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zufri, Daoud outlined the Iraqi government's conditions for al-Sadr to disarm. He said Iraqi forces have special intelligence that will allow them to get al-Sadr without destroying the shrine. . . . Daoud called on al-Sadr and his militia to hand over all of their weapons, and he noted that the radical cleric will not be allowed to have his own court system.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 12:32 PM

Experience inside Najaf mosque fearsome
(CNN, August 19, 2004)
With U.S. and Iraqi forces surrounding the mosque, CNN producer Kianne Sadeq was allowed inside and later spoke with CNN correspondent John Vause about what she saw. . . . Now, the entire street, about 100 to 150 meters [109 to 164 yards] leading up to the Imam Ali Mosque is completely destroyed. All the shops. I mean, it's completely destroyed. . . . Windows are shattered. The pillars are broken. Stores are shut. . . . It is just a ghost land. All there is now is a large group of Mehdi Army, which occupies that area. And just before you get there, there are American tanks. . . . So we walked in, and once we walked into the mosque, we were cheered on, we were very well received by members of the Mehdi Army. ... They were cheering and chanting about everything they were doing. They were very proud to be in there and had absolutely no intentions of leaving. . . There were some women in there. Of course, a very few, maybe five or six. But there were some women in there. In fact, there were some children in there. . . . While you're in the mosque, you hear constant firing, rocket-propelled grenade fire, mortar fire. I mean, I'm not exactly sure about this, but all different kinds of loud firing constantly going on. It does not stop. ... It keeps going on and on and on and on. . . . The mosque seems to be OK, just some minor damage to the two pillars in the mosque. Minor damage, but nothing serious to the mosque. Everything outside of the mosque seems to be totaled. . . . around 4 or 5 in the evening, we attempted to go to the mosque, and there was an extreme amount of sniper fire. Extreme amount of sniper fire seems to be coming from both sides -- from the American side as well as the Iraqi side. And it's a very dangerous area to go through, because it seems like these people are not seeing who's coming by. . . . We were told by some people in the neighborhood that in fact there was a dead body that had been in its position for about three days and they could not move it out of the way because they could not risk going into that street and to take that body away because of the amount of sniper fire. We heard many, many shots. . . . We tried to go there again this morning, and once again we were stopped by a large amount of sniper fire. And it's just too dangerous to either walk or go in vehicles, because you don't know where these bullets are flying.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 11:23 AM

Iraqi Police Threaten to Kill Every Journalist in Najaf
(Stephen Farrell, The Australian, 18 August 2004)
Iraqi police have threatened to kill every journalist working in the holy city of Najaf, where US forces are locked in a tense stand-off with Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army. . . . After a series of veiled warnings to leave on Sunday, two marked police cars pulled up at dusk outside the Sea of Najaf hotel on the outskirts of town, where Arab and Western journalists are staying. . . . Ten uniformed policemen walked into the hotel and demanded that the al-Arabiya, Reuters and AP correspondents go with them. . . . Journalists told them they were not there, but the policemen found and arrested Ahmed al-Salahih, the al-Arabiya correspondent, who the day before had been given a special exemption from the earlier eviction orders. . . . A uniformed lieutenant then told the assembled journalists and hotel staff: "We are going to open fire on this hotel. I'm going to smash it all, kill you all, and I'm going to put four snipers to target anybody who goes out of the hotel. You have brought it upon yourselves." . . . After pushing and shoving in the foyer, another policeman pointed his gun towards a member of the staff, but was disarmed by an Arab television journalist. . . . The police left, taking the al-Arabiya correspondent with them, drove 300m and fired warning shots. . . . The attempt to drive journalists from Najaf came as US marines - supported by the nascent Iraqi army - step up the pressure on Sadr, whose forces remain in control of Najaf's old city and sacred shrine to Imam Ali. . . . The Government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is acutely sensitive to the maelstrom that would erupt if the shrine were to be damaged, and the media crackdown may be an attempt to limit the negative publicity should it be hit during any military operation. . . . After US marine commanders last week issued a hawkish threat "to finish this fight that the Moqtada militia started", Mr Allawi moved swiftly to defuse alarm even among his own senior government officials, reassuring Iraqis: "The holy shrine will remain safe from all attacks that could possibly harm its sacredness." . . . Any military operation will be hampered by the fact that Sadr's hundreds of fighters inside the old city and cemetery have grown by about 2000, swelled by volunteers who marched through US lines at the weekend to act as human shields. Yesterday they paraded around the marble white-tiled courtyard inside the golden-domed mosque, effectively turning it into a giant stadium for rallies to the renegade Shia cleric. . . . All were unarmed but insisted they would pick up the guns of any Mehdi fighters killed in renewed clashes. . . . In the streets outside the shrine, terrified Iraqis hid inside their homes, with intermittent fire between the US tanks and Mehdi Army guerillas, who have planted huge booby traps on almost every street. Few ordinary Najafis will now stray beyond their doorsteps.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 9:41 AM

Police Fire at Reporters as U.S. Tanks Roll up to Shrine
(Adrian Blomfield, The Telegraph, 16 August 2004)
Journalists working in Iraq have long lived with the danger of being targeted by insurgents fighting US-led forces and their Iraqi allies. . . . But in Najaf the roles have been abruptly reversed. Now the Iraqi police threaten journalists, and the insurgents welcome them. . . . As US marines and Iraqi security forces resumed their operation to evict insurgents from the Shrine of Ali, the holiest place in Shia Islam, the Iraqi interim government decided yesterday to treat the media as the enemy. . . . The authoritarian stance towards the press seems redolent of the days of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi government has closed the offices of al-Jazeera, the most important Arab satellite station, accusing it of inciting the insurgents. . . . In Najaf journalists were summoned yesterday morning by the city's police chief, Ghalab al-Jazeera. It was said that he wanted to parade some captured members of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, who have launched their second uprising in four months. . . . Instead the police chief delivered a blunt warning: journalists had two hours to leave Najaf or face arrest. Mr Jazeera's official explanation for the decision was that police guarding the hotel had found 550 lbof dynamite in a car nearby. That seems unlikely. . . . The police rarely venture out of their stations and the street outside the hotel is almost always deserted. . . . Mr Jazeera's expressions of concern were quickly followed by a thinly veiled attack on the foreign press. . . . For good measure, Mr Jazeera also threatened to arrest Iraqi drivers and translators working for the press corps if we did not comply. The 30-odd journalists staying at the Sea Hotel decided to stay in Najaf. . . . Shortly after the deadline expired, the first bullets struck the building. But the sniper was almost certainly an Iraqi policeman, given that the Mahdi army fighters were more than two miles away. . . . Then armed police raided the hotel and tried to arrest the journalists, before imposing a new two-hour deadline to leave the city. . . . A deputation of journalists was denied an audience with Najaf's governor, Adnan al-Zurufi. The policeman outside his office was brusque. "If you do not leave by the deadline we will shoot you," he said. . . . That was enough for all but a handful of British and American journalists who hunkered down in the hotel as the deadline expired. . . . As night fell, shots were fired at the roof of the hotel, from where reporters file their stories. . . . Sadr's fighters are more press-friendly. The cleric's aides frequently drop into the hotel to brief journalists, or take us to the shrine to meet Sadr or his spokesmen. . . . In Basra, Sadr's lieutenants ordered the release of James Brandon, a reporter taken hostage by Mahdi army renegades on Thursday night. . . . The options facing the US marines and their Iraqi allies are grim. An offensive on the shrine, burial place of Imam Ali, cousin of the prophet Mohammed and inspiration for Shia Islam, is likely to push moderate Shias over to Sadr's side. . . . America would prefer the fledgling Iraqi security services to carry out the attack, but they are poorly equipped and trained and unlikely to succeed. . . . Gunfire sounded in Najaf all yesterday. By nightfall US tanks had moved to within a few hundred yards of the shrine.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 12:22 PM

Iraqi 'human shields' flock to Najaf
(Aljazeera, 16 August 2004)
Around 2000 Iraqi civilian "volunteers" have formed a human shield around Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf as US-led forces beseige the city. . . . The volunteers cheered al-Sadr in the marble-floored courtyard of the Imam Ali mosque on Monday in an impressive show of force. . . . Al-Sadr is holed up inside one of Shia Islam's most sacred shrines before an expected American-led offensive. . . . Travelling to Najaf from across Iraq, the al-Sadr volunteers are swelling the ranks of his supporters and could provide another reason for US troops to think twice before storming the shrine. . . . "These people are a deterrent to the Americans because they are civilians. They are here so that the Americans won't attack the Imam Ali shrine," said Shaikh Ahmad al-Shaibani, a senior al-Sadr aide. . . . The volunteers said they had no serious military training. But they seem ready to fire an AK-47 rifle or rocket-propelled grenade and use any means to try to block an advance by US tanks positioned in neighbourhoods near the shrine. . . . I will lie on the ground in front of the tanks, or I will kill the Americans to defend al-Sadr and Najaf," said Fadil Hamid, 30. . . . Last week, thousands of Iraqis staged pro-Sadr protests in several cities and called for the downfall of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. . . . Several of the volunteers referred to Allawi as Saddam Hussein the second, referring to the toppled former president accused of killing thousands of Shias. . . . "Allawi you coward, you agent of the Americans," the crowd yelled. "Allawi we don't need you."
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 11:00 AM

Najaf Officials Quit in Protest over U.S.-Led Assault
(Aljazeera.Net, 13 August 2004)
Several Iraqi officials working within the interim government have resigned in protest of the US-led assault on Najaf and Kut. . . . Sixteen of Najaf's 30-member provincial council resigned in protest at the US-led assault on the Najaf as fighting between the al-Mahdi Army loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr and US occupation forces entered its eighth day. . . . "We have decided to resign due to what has befallen Najaf and all of Iraq from the hasty US invasion and bombardment of Najaf," the council said in a statement to the press. . . . The council's resignations came several hours after the deputy governor of Najaf resigned in protest against the US offensive on the city. . . . "I resign from my post denouncing all the US terrorist operations that they are doing against this holy city," Jawdat Kadam Najim al-Quraishi, deputy governor of Najaf, said on Thursday morning. . . . On Thursday evening, the director of tribal affairs at the Iraqi Interior ministry announced his resignation through Aljazeera and said he could no longer work with the interim government in good faith given the "carnage and barbaric aggression of the US-led forces in Najaf". . . . "I am a part of this nation, I am a part of these people. My fellow tribesmen are now fighting in Najaf and Sadr city," said Major-General Marid Abd al-Hasan.

Basra threat
Meanwhile, Basra's deputy governor for administrative affairs, Hajj Salam Awdeh al-Maliky, warned that he may openly join al-Sadr's fight if his offer to send 1000 Iraqi police, special security and national guardsmen to Najaf is refused by the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. . . . Some national guardsmen in Basra had even said they would not hesitate to join al-Sadr's militia if al-Maliky's offer was rejected. . . . Al-Maliky had warned that Basra would turn into a battlefield if US occupation forces stormed the inner sanctum of Najaf. . . . "Basra will become another Najaf," he said.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 12:14 PM

1,000th U.S. Death in Iraq Looms for Bush
(Alan Elsner, Reuters, 12 August 2004)
The United States faces a painful moment probably next month when its military deaths in Iraq are expected to surpass 1,000. It will also be a crucial moment for President Bush, who faces a presidential campaign in which Iraq is a central issue. . . . "Unfortunately that day will likely arrive next month and it will be a fulcrum event that may change many people's views of what we're doing in Iraq," said David Birdsell, a political scientist at Baruch College in New York City. . . . "It's a gripping number, a large number, a tragic number and it will be a pivot to revisit Bush's reasons for fighting the war and his premature declaration last year that the mission had been accomplished," he said. . . . In July, the first month after an Iraqi interim authority took office, U.S. deaths totaled 55, compared to 42 the previous month. So far this month, they are running at a similar or possibly slightly higher rate. . . . "The Iraqi body count hurts the president. Already less than half of respondents in my polling say the war was worth fighting and the 1,000 casualty will be a milestone that will be page one news and put a lot more focus on it," said pollster John Zogby. . . . After the handover of power to the Iraqi interim government, Iraq seemed to fade from the front pages of the U.S. media, although the death toll continued to rise. . . . Now, with U.S. forces engaged in a bloody battle against radical Shi'ite cleric Moktada al-Sadr in the holy city of Najaf in which more than Iraqi 360 militiamen and five U.S. servicemen have been killed, it is back in the headlines. . . . Polls indicate that the domestic economy and Iraq are the two top issues in the Nov. 2 election and Bush seems vulnerable on both. But Lockerbie said opinions on Iraq had largely crystallized. . . . "This will be a big deal for a short period of time but those who have decided Bush made the right decision in going to war won't change their minds," he said.

Current U.S. Dead & Injured Totals

Map Showing Most Deadly Iraq Cities for U.S. Troops
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 4:20 PM

Al-Jazeera closure 'a blow to freedom' in Iraq
(Lisa O'Carroll, The Guardian, August 9, 2004)
The Iraq prime minister's decision to throw al-Jazeera out of Baghdad and ban it from operating for 30 days is "a serious blow to press freedom", Reporters Sans Frontières has said. . . . The Paris-based media watchdog demanded "an immediate explanation" for the move on Saturday, saying it was "extremely concerned about persistent episodes of censorship in Iraq". . . . Police ordered al-Jazeera's employees out of their newsroom and locked the door on Saturday night after the prime minister accused the pan-Arab satellite channel of inciting violence. . . . The prime minister, who spent years in exile in Britain, also said that he had asked an "independent panel" to "to see what kind of violence they [al-Jazeera] are advocating, inciting hatred and problems and racial tension." . . . Al-Jazeera officials said the decision was an ominous violation of freedom of the press. Haider al-Mulla, a lawyer for al-Jazeera, said the channel would respect the closure decision but it would study legal options. . . . Mr al-Mullah said it had been asked to change its policy once the ban expired, but he indicated that this was unlikely to happen. "We said we have a firm principle and one policy that doesn't change," he said. . . . This is the second time the channel has been banned from operating in Iraq. In February, its Baghdad offices were closed for a month by the then transitional Iraqi governing council because it had reportedly shown disrespect toward prominent Iraqis. . . . The Saudi Arabian channel al-Arabya was also ordered out of Baghdad in November and not allowed to resume operations until it promised in writing not to encourage terrorism. . . . A spokesman for the channel, Jihad Ballout, said today that it would seek to challenge the ban if there was "any legal recourse available" but it would not be signing any statement that it didn't support terrorism. . . . "We don't need to give anything in writing because we don't support terrorism, that is a given. Gagging the media is not the way to deal with the media. If the request is that al Jazeera will compromise its independence, that is a request that will not be entertained," said Mr Billout. . . . "We will always cover a story and our independence is sacrosanct. We will not jeopardise or compromise that," he added. . . . The al-Jazeera English-language website today described the move as "regrettable" and said it "was contrary to pledges made by the Iraqi government to start a new era of free speech and openness". . . . In an Arab world rife with conspiracy theories, the decision to close the offices could reinforce the perception that decisions by Iraq's interim government are influenced by the Americans, who have long complained about the channel's coverage. . . . [COMMENT: Closing down al-Jazeera in Iraq is most likely a prelude to some more atrocities that the Americans hope will go unnoticed.]
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 4:10 PM

Robert Fisk: US document reveals scale of conflict
(Robert Fisk
, The Independent, 29 July 2004)
Iraq, we are told by Mr Blair, is safer. It is not. US military reports clearly show much of the violence in Iraq is not revealed to journalists, and thus goes largely unreported. This account of the insurgency across Iraq over three days last week provides astonishing proof that Iraq under its new, American-appointed Prime Minister, has grown more dangerous and violent.

But even this is only a partial record of events. US casualties and dozens of Iraqi civilian deaths each day are not included in the reports. But here are the events, as recorded by the United States military on 20, 22 and 23 July. Few were publicly disclosed.

20 July
A US aircraft was attacked by a surface-to-air missile over Baghdad airport. An improvised explosive device detonated under a bridge near al-Bayieh fire station. A second bomb exploded when the "Facility Protection Service" arrived. In other areas, there were four bombings, three RPG assaults and six gun attacks, almost all on US forces.

North of Baghdad
A civilian supply convoy was attacked at Samarra. A bomb exploded on a bus in Baquba, killing six. A mine went off in Balad. A US convoy was attacked with RPGs and gunfiree at Salman Pak. There were roadside bombings of US forces at Mandali, Samarra, Baquba, Duluiya and Muqdadiyeh, and three grenade attacks (at Tikrit, Samarra and Kirkuk, with shootings at Muqdadiyeh, Balad, Hawija, Samarra, Tikrit and Khalis.

West of Baghdad
An American foot patrol set off a landmine at Khalidiya. A civilian tractor hit a mine at Hit. There was an RPG attack on a school in Karmah. Roadside and other bombs also detonated in Fallujah, Hit, Ramadi and Qaim. There were also attacks on US troops at Hit, Karmah, Saqlawiyeh and Ramadi.

South of Baghdad
International troops discovered two 107mm rockets aimed at the house of the governor of Diwakineh, and a roadside bomb detonated near Iskanderiyeh. In Basra, the city council co-ordinator and his three bodyguards were killed near a police checkpoint by three men in police uniform.

22 July
Two roadside bombs exploded next to a van and a Mercedes in separate areas of Baghdad, killing four civilians. A gunman in a Toyota opened fire on a police checkpoint and escaped. Police wounded three gunmen at a checkpoint and arrested four men suspected of attempted murder. Seven more roadside bombs exploded in Baghdad and gunmen twice attacked US troops.

North of Baghdad
Police dismantled a car bomb in Mosul and gunmen attacked the Western driver of a gravel truck at Tell Afar). There were three roadside bombings and a rocket attack on US troops in Mosul and another gun attack on US forces near Tell Afar. At Taji, a civilian vehicle collided with a US military vehicle, killing six civilians and injuring seven others. At Bayji, a US vehicle hit a landmine. The Americans said gunmen murdered a dentist in at the Ad Dwar hospital. There were 17 roadside bomb explosions against US forces in Taji, Baquba, Baqua, Jalula, Tikrit, Paliwoda, Balad, Samarra and Duluiyeh, with attacks by gunmen on US troops in Tikrit and Balad. A headless body in an orange jump-suit was found in the Tigris; believed to be Bulgarian hostage, Ivalyo Kepov. Kirkuk air base, used by US forces, attacked.

West of Baghdad
Five roadside bombs on US forces in Rutbah, Kalso and Ramadi. Gunmen attacked Americans in Fallujah and Ramadi.

South of Baghdad
The police chief of Najaf was abducted. Two civilian contractors were attacked by gunmen at Haswah. A roadside bomb exploded near Kerbala and Hillah. International forces were attacked by gunmen at Al Qurnah.

23 July
A US military convoy was mortared and a grenade thrown. There were seven roadside bomb attacks and five gun attacks on US forces.

North of Baghdad
A man threw a grenade at a US convoy at Tell Afar. Two gunmen killed an officer in the new Iraqi Army in Mosul. American troops also came under RPG fire in Mosul. Gunmen attacked a convoy of western mercenaries south of Samarra, a civilian convoy was attacked at Baquba. A former Iraqi army officer, former Major-General Salim Blaish died in a drive-by shooting in Mosul. Americans detained two men who had fired a rocket from a truck in Balad. There were three roadside bomb attacks on Americans in Baquba, Balad and an RPG attack at Kirkuk.

West of Baghdad
A roadside bomb against US forces at Rutbah. Gunmen also attacked the Americans in Khalidiyeh and Fallujah.

South of Baghdad
The Mussayib power station was mortared and roadside bombs exploded at Iskanderiyeh and Mussayib.

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 4:52 PM

Illegal Orders give the US a Lock on Iraq's Economy
(Antonia Juhasz, Los Angeles Times, 08/06/04)
Officially, the U.S. occupation of Iraq ended on June 28, 2004. But in reality, the United States is still in charge: Not only do 138,000 troops remain to control the streets, but the "100 Orders" of L. Paul Bremer III remain to control the economy. . . . These little noticed orders enacted by Bremer, the now-departed head of the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, go to the heart of Bush administration plans in Iraq. They lock in sweeping advantages to American firms, ensuring long-term U.S. economic advantage while guaranteeing few, if any, benefits to the Iraqi people. . . . The Bremer orders control every aspect of Iraqi life — from the use of car horns to the privatization of state-owned enterprises. . . . Although many thought that the "end" of the occupation would also mean the end of the orders, on his last day in Iraq Bremer simply transferred authority for the orders to Prime Minister Iyad Allawi — a 30-year exile with close ties to the CIA and British intelligence. . . . Further, the interim constitution of Iraq, written by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, solidifies the orders by making them virtually impossible to overturn. . . . Order No. 39 allows for: (1) privatization of Iraq's 200 state-owned enterprises; (2) 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses; (3) "national treatment" — which means no preferences for local over foreign businesses; (4) unrestricted, tax-free remittance of all profits and other funds; and (5) 40-year ownership licenses. . . . Thus, it forbids Iraqis from receiving preference in the reconstruction while allowing foreign corporations — Halliburton and Bechtel, for example — to buy up Iraqi businesses, do all of the work and send all of their money home. They cannot be required to hire Iraqis or to reinvest their money in the Iraqi economy. . . . Orders No. 57 and No. 77 ensure the implementation of the orders by placing U.S.-appointed auditors and inspector generals in every government ministry, with five-year terms and with sweeping authority over contracts, programs, employees and regulations. . . . Order No. 17 grants foreign contractors, including private security firms, full immunity from Iraq's laws. Even if they, say, kill someone or cause an environmental disaster, the injured party cannot turn to the Iraqi legal system. . . . Clearly, the Bremer orders fundamentally altered Iraq's existing laws. For this reason, they are also illegal. Transformation of an occupied country's laws violates the Hague regulations of 1907 (ratified by the United States) and the U.S. Army's Law of Land Warfare. Indeed, in a leaked memo, the British attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, warned Prime Minister Tony Blair that "major structural economic reforms would not be authorized by international law." . . . With few reconstruction projects underway and with Bremer's rules favoring U.S. corporations, there has been little opportunity for Iraqis to go back to work, leaving nearly 2 million unemployed 1 1/2 years after the invasion and, many believe, greatly fueling the resistance. . . . The Bremer orders are immoral and illegal and must be repealed to allow Iraqis to govern their own economic and political future.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 3:19 PM

Over 12,000 battlefield casualties from Iraq
(Mike Lee, ABC News, Aug 8, 2004)
These are real doctors and nurses at the Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany, facing horrors seldom seen by the American public — already over 12,000 battlefield casualties from Iraq. . . . Their patients speak with tension in their faces. Not even the pain killers can stop all of the throbbing of their injuries. I am amazed that they want to talk about what happened. . . . "Some shrapnel went through my eye," says Staff Sgt. Daniel Beaty. . . . Another injured soldier, Cpl. Jeff Swaser says: "The shrapnel came in through my side, punctured my lungs, fractured a couple of my ribs, and broke up into little pieces and put holes into various organs." . . . He even manages a smile, a combination of sneer and laughter that he had escaped death. . . . They are all cared for by 1,800 doctors, nurses, and other staff who day after day after day are faced with broken bodies and broken lives. And the sight of each new wounded soldier seems to open up an emotional wound. . . . "You walk in and your see young kids blown apart," says Col. Bernie Roth, who works in the intensive care unit. "Sometimes half their brain is gone, arms gone, legs gone. It's hard, it's really hard." . . . "It's hard to see these kids come in, and it tears your heart out," he says while operating on a badly injured leg. "I thought I saw a lot of trauma when I was in training, but there's nothing compared to this." . . . And living with this means there is a price to pay for those who care for the wounded. Military psychologists have a name for a little-talked-about illness. . . . "We call it compassion fatigue," says Lt. Col. Sally Harvey, a U.S. Army psychologist. "It's the cost of caring day after day. Our staff experiences many of those same emotions that our patients do. Some people can get depressed, can feel overwhelmed. It's very much akin to what we call battle fatigue for soldiers who are out there on the front lines." . . . "We have to deal with very difficult things," Col. Roth says, "like young kids who just lost their arm, and being understanding when they're mad, or calling up that mother of a little girl whose brain is irreparably damaged and is never going to be the same again." . . . "None of us are going to leave here the people we were when we came here," Lt. Col. Harvey adds. "There's a tremendous cost of caring."
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 1:33 PM

The battle for Najaf
(Scott Baldauf, csmonitor.com, August 7, 2004)
Overhead, we hear and see American helicopters, jet fighters, and unmanned drones crossing the sky. Hundreds of yards away, we can hear American mechanized patrols - Humvees and Bradley fighting machines and armored personnel carriers from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which had just arrived in Najaf about 10 days before, on July 31. . . . The fighting is close by, too close. Marine helicopters swoop low over this residential neighborhood repeatedly and fire heavy machine guns and even rockets into Mahdi Army positions. . . . By satellite phone, we get details from the US military. A US Marine spokeswoman says the fighting began at 1 a.m., when Mahdi Army fighters attacked the main police station. The police called for Iraqi Army support, and by 3 a.m., the US Marines were called in as well. . . . While we stay put, the battle lines keep changing around us. At one point, a team of Mahdi Army fighters drive into our neighborhood, set up a mortar, fire two rounds, and then put the mortar tube back into the car, all in just under a minute. We take cover in the event that US Marines respond with precision radar that traces mortar and artillery trajectories back to their source. The Marine response, thankfully, never comes. . . . Inside their homes, residents do their best to get on with their lives. One man shows us pictures of his car, a Volvo, destroyed in the fighting on Monday, when a convoy of six US Marine Humvees ventured into a neighborhood close to the home of Moqtada al-Sadr and came under militia fire. The man had lent the car to a cousin, who was using it as a taxi. Now it is a charred shell. . . . Mahdi Army members consider Monday's US Marine firefight a provocation, the start of this week's battle. But for this man, it's just a senseless personal loss. . . . "I myself welcomed the Americans when they threw out Saddam," says Mr. Kamal, an auto mechanic who is now unemployed. "I took pictures of myself with US soldiers and brought my own horse to them if it could be of service. But now I realize what is happening here in Iraq is because of the Americans." . . . At the main hospital, Al Hakeem, cars are bringing in civilian casualties, most of them injuries from shrapnel and gunshots. A few are taken directly to the morgue. A man at the gate escorts us inside, announcing that a mortar shell landed very near the hospital itself, just 45 minutes ago. In the courtyard, a man is being wheeled by on a gurney, bleeding profusely. Another man, an Iraqi police officer with a pistol still strapped to his belt, walks past us with a bandage on his left shoulder. He glares at us and turns around to shout insults at us. Colleagues hold him back and lead him away. . . . But we are stopped before we can see the full extent of the civilian casualties. Abu Zayed, head of hospital security, says that he has been ordered to expel all journalists from hospital grounds. Relatives of the wounded are so upset, they are likely to attack journalists, who they believe are either Americans or are supportive of the Americans. "I cannot protect you from the people inside," says Mr. Zayed, the security chief. . . . An older man, who calls himself Mohammad, says he was injured in fighting four days ago, when the Americans attacked the office of Mr. Sadr in Najaf. But despite being shot in the thigh, and hit by shrapnel in the upper arm and back, he says he will fight, "God willing, until my last breath." . . . The Old City is perfect for street fighting: narrow alleys, densely-clustered concrete homes, plenty of nooks to provide cover from American helicopters or passing armored vehicles. But despite the danger, residents are out in the streets watching the fighting. When American jets flow low over the Shrine of Ali and fire rockets into the surrounding market areas, the locals run to the street corners to see the explosions. . . . The shrine to Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib has received some damage during the previous night's bombing. . . . Mahdi Army fighters - who now control the shrine and have a few gunmen posted inside the shrine complex - point to the gold-leaf dome and one golden minaret, where tiles have been damaged by flying shrapnel. Damage to the shrine is the one thing that could unify Shiites against the Americans, we have been warned by people who don't like the Mahdi Army. The courtyard of the shrine itself is littered with chunks of shrapnel, and Mahdi Army fighters show a piece of the bomb that they say dropped into the shrine complex. . . . The scene sort of reminds me of what I learned about the standoff at the Alamo in Texas grade school. The men - outnumbered and outgunned - are determined. They are being urged to adopt a religious fervor and fight to the end. A cleric on a loudspeaker tells the fighters to keep fighting. "God bless you. You are righteous citizens. You are the ones who stand up in the face of the evil forces. Don't give up. May God give you the strength to win victory against your enemy. God is Great, God is Great, God is Great." . . . In Baghdad, US military spokesmen claim to have killed 300 fighters over the past two days of fighting. We've seen hundreds more, and there are possibly thousands left in the shrine area and the cemetery. Getting rid of them all, finishing them off, and restoring full government control, as the Governor of Najaf is now calling for this week, could result in bloody street fighting, with hundreds of civilian casualties. . . . Already in the Old City, shrapnel and bullets from helicopter gunships have torn holes in concrete walls. Civilians show us holes in their walls, and the bullets and shrapnel fragments they have found on the floor. Some of their relatives are now being rushed to hospital. Others have treated themselves. One man is bleeding through his dishdasha. An improperly wound bandage is not stopping the blood. He ignores our call to take him to a hospital. He must check on his mother, whose house is nearby. . . . From Najaf, the road directly back to Baghdad is blocked. We take an alternate route through the central Iraqi city of Kufa, another Sadr bastion. There, an Iraqi police checkpoint that had been manned just the day before is abandoned. At the Kufa mosque - where Moqtada al-Sadr's speech that day will call on Muslims to fight against the Americans, "our enemies" - there are only Mahdi Army fighters, within full sight of the main road. It will be another 40 kilometers before we see another checkpoint manned by Iraqi police or US military. . . . We learn that since Thursday, fighting has also broken out in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, as well as in Basra, Nasiriyah, and Amara and other Shiite cities and towns. The Mahdi Army fighters say the uprising is just beginning.
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posted by Lorenzo 3:28 PM

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