|April 9, 2007|
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Four years ago today, U.S.-led coalition forces marched into Baghdad and toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein, marking the “liberation” of Iraq. “Gone are the euphoric April 9 cheers of ‘Good, Good, Bush’ praising U.S. President George W. Bush for ousting the regime. Angry chants of ‘Down with Bush’ are a frequent background to brutal Shiite and Sunni sectarian strife.” “The Americans call the 9th of April the liberation of Baghdad,” said one man who identified himself as Alaa, “but it was just an invasion, and liberated the city from Saddam for them, not for us.” “I really regret bringing down the statue,” said Kadhim al-Jubouri, an Iraqi weightlifter who was enlisted to help symbolically bring down the statute in 2003. “The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day.” In a harsh condemnation of the U.S. mismanagement of Iraq, former Iraqi government minister Ali Allawi writes, “The corroded and corrupt state of Saddam was replaced by the corroded, inefficient, incompetent and corrupt state of the new order.” Symbolic of the nation’s current lack of security, the cities of Baghdad and Najaf have declared bans on vehicle traffic today, in an attempt to stave off any attacks on the anniversary. Tens of thousands of Iraqis draped themselves in Iraqi flags and marched through the streets of two Shiite holy cities Monday in a demonstration against the U.S. presence in Iraq. Salah al-Obaydi, an organizer of the protest, said, “We’re hoping that by next year’s anniversary, we will be an independent and liberated Iraq with full sovereignty.” The Center for American Progress has a plan to accomplish that, and do so in a responsible way that serves the security interests of both the United States and the Iraqis.
SURGE SPREADS VIOLENCE: In the early stages of Bush’s escalation strategy, “the daily bloodshed shows no let-up.” Ten U.S. soldiers were killed this past weekend, along with at least 69 Iraqis. The escalation strategy, which officially began on Feb. 14 and sent 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, has shown “little sign” of “accomplishing its main purpose: to create an island of stability in which Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds can try to figure out how to run the country together. … The rate of American deaths in [Baghdad] over the first seven weeks of the security plan has nearly doubled from the previous period, though it has stayed roughly the same over all, decreasing in other parts of the country as troops have focused on the capital.” Because of the escalation, “death squad killings have been reduced in Baghdad, but car bombings in the city have continued and violence has surged in the regions just outside the capital.” The American military acknowledges that much of the drop in the sectarian executions “has come because of decreased activity by Shiite militias and death squads, especially the powerful Mahdi Army militia that claims allegiance to the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.” Some of the Shiite militias appear to have “decided to refrain from carrying out revenge killings,” allowing the U.S.-led coalition to carry out the fight against Sunni militants. “You have the enemy trying to show it is still strong and able to move and stir fear in the population,” U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said Sunday. “We anticipated a movement of enemy forces and violence to the north, south, east and west of Baghdad.”
TERRORISTS ADOPT NEW TACTICS: In his Easter Sunday message, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees.” Terrorists in Iraq have adopted new tactics in response to the Bush administration’s escalation. Last week, the U.S. military confirmed that an Army helicopter went down south of Baghdad, marking at least nine U.S. helicopters that have crashed or been brought down by hostile fire this year in Iraq. Also this weekend, “a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq suicide bomber smashed a truck loaded with TNT and toxic chlorine gas into a police checkpoint in Ramadi on Friday, killing at least 27 people — the ninth such attack since the group’s first known use of a chemical weapon in January.” “January and February were particularly bad months for car bombing deaths; nearly 1,100 were killed in February alone. That number dropped to 783 in March, still high compared with months earlier in the war, according to an American military official. But the overall number of bombings actually increased: there were 108 car bombs that either detonated or were disarmed in March, a record for the war.” “And in a new tactic, both Shiite and Sunni militants have been burning down homes and shops in the provinces in recent months.” One American private described the fight this way: “The insurgents, they see what we’re doing and we see what they’re doing. Then we get ahead, then they figure out what we’ve done and they get ahead. It’s like a game of cat and mouse. It’s just a really, really smart mouse.”
SADR’S RESISTANCE: Prominent Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr exhorted Iraqi security forces on Sunday to unite with his militiamen against the American military. Sadr, who has laid low during the troop surge, urged his militia members to “stop fighting and killing because that is what our enemy and your enemy and even God’s enemy hope for.” The head of his bloc in the Iraqi parliament, Nassar Rubaie, insisted that the movement was committed to nonviolent resistance. “We are now at the stage of political action,” Rubaie said. “Peaceful means is the right way and has proved to be correct.” Iraq war proponent Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) claimed that Sadr’s statement proves the escalation is working. “He is not calling for a resurgence of sectarian conflict. He’s striking a nationalist chord,” Lieberman said. “He’s acknowledging that the surge is working.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wrote this weekend, “Extremist Shiite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr is in hiding, his followers are not contesting American forces.” Sadr’s own words belie such a reading of his motivations. Describing the U.S. as the “archenemy,” Sadr urged Iraq’s army and police to remain independent of U.S. forces and to avoid being “drawn after the occupier, because he is your stark enemy.” “Sadr’s statement did not explicitly call for armed struggle against the Americans, but it still represented his most forceful condemnation of the American-led occupation since he went underground after the start of an intensified Baghdad security crackdown nearly two months ago.”
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS — FOX NEWS CALLS OUT GINGRICH HYPOCRISY ON PELOSI TRIP TO SYRIA: Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) about his views on the Pelosi-led delegation to Syria. Gingrich criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), saying, “I think it’s very important not to have two foreign policies, and I think it’s very dangerous for America to do what Speaker Pelosi did.” Wallace confronted Gingrich with public comments he made as Speaker that clashed with Clinton administration policy before and during his travels abroad to China and Israel in the 1990’s. Gingrich said at the time: “We will defend Taiwan, period” [3/31/97] and “I think it’s wrong for the American Secretary of State to become the agent for the Palestinians” [3/12/98]. On Sunday, Gingrich reacted to the Taiwan comment stating, “What I said in China was U.S. policy.” But Wallace quickly refuted him: “Not according to the Clinton administration.” Gingrich then attempted to defend his statements criticizing Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, saying, “I think at the time she was taking steps that were very, very pro-Palestinian.” Throughout the segment, Gingrich followed the White House line, attacking Speaker Pelosi but conveniently failing to mention that at least five Republicans also traveled to Syria last week, including Rep. David Hobson (R-OH), who accompanied Pelosi. Contrary to Gingrich’s statements criticizing Clinton’s foreign policy, Pelosi’s delegation did not attempt to undermine President Bush. Hobson said, “We reinforced the administration’s positions and at the same time we were trying to understand and maybe getting some voice to some things people wanted to say that maybe they were not comfortable saying to the administration.”
ETHICS — GONZALES’S FORMER ASSISTANT CAUSES TURMOIL AS U.S. ATTORNEY: The Justice Department has faced criticism not only for firing well-respected U.S. attorneys, but also for replacing them with loyal Bushies. The U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota demonstrates the havoc that ensues when the Bush administration places politics over justice. Four top staffers to Rachel Paulose, the U.S. attorney in Minnesota, have voluntarily demoted themselves in protest of Paulose’s “highly dictatorial style” of managing. Paulose has also “earned a reputation for quoting Bible verses and dressing down underlings.” According to news reports, the staffers’ dramatic moves were “intended to send a message to Washington — that 33-year-old Paulose is in over her head.” The Bush administration tried to prevent the resignations by sending a “top justice official to Minneapolis Thursday to mediate the situation. The mediation failed.” A look at Paulose’s background indicates that she was handpicked by the Justice Department because of her personal connections, rather than her professional qualifications. She “was a special assistant to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, worked as a senior counsel for deputy attorney general Paul McNulty and is best buds with Monica Goodling — the assistant U.S. Attorney who recently took the Fifth rather than testify before Congress.” Paulose had been in her position for a year as an interim U.S. attorney before she was sworn-in officially last month. She created controversy when her lavish swearing-in ceremony included a professional photographer, a color guard, and a choir.
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS — BUSH ADMINISTRATION ALLOWS SECRET NORTH KOREAN ARMS SALE: The New York Times reported Sunday that “Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase” from North Korea, even though the deal likely violated sanctions that the United States pushed the United Nations to impose on North Korea after it tested a nuclear weapon in Oct. 2006. In Jan. 2007, the United States allowed a cargo ship “that was probably carrying tank parts and other military equipment” to pass from North Korea to Ethiopia “in part because Ethiopia was in the midst of a military offensive against Islamic militias inside Somalia, a campaign that aided the American policy of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa.” At the time, Ethiopia was backing the Somali interim government in it’s struggle for power against Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts, whom the United States considers “a breeding ground for terrorists.” The arms deal highlights the clash of “two foreign policy absolutes: the Bush administration’s commitment to fighting Islamic radicalism and its efforts to starve the North Korean government of money it could use to build up its nuclear weapons program.” This is not the first time the Bush administration has made exceptions for allies dealing with North Korea. In 2002, the United States asked Spain to release a captured ship carrying Scud missiles from North Korea and destined for Yemen, who at the time was helping the United States hunt for al Qaeda.
On the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad and the toppling of Saddam’s statue, up to one million Iraqi Shias summoned by Moqtada al-Sadr “have gathered in the holy city of Najaf for a mass demonstration calling for US-led troops to leave Iraq.”
President Bush heads to the Arizona border today for a speech debuting his new, more hard-line conservative approach to immigration “devised after weeks of closed-door meetings with Republican senators.”
Salon.com has uncovered further evidence that the military, in a desperate effort to fill its ranks for President Bush’s escalation, “sent soldiers with acute post-traumatic stress disorder, severe back injuries and other serious war wounds back to Iraq.”
“After weeks of arguing over when the military will run out of money, House and Senate Republicans hope to up the rhetorical ante this week by formally calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to bring the House back from a two-week spring recess to finish drafting the controversial $120 billion-plus Iraq War spending bill.”
“Army prosecutions of desertion and other unauthorized absences have risen sharply in the last four years,” as negative discharges and prison time are being used “to serve as a deterrent to a growing number of soldiers who are ambivalent about heading — or heading back — to Iraq and may be looking for a way out.”
The New York Times calls for an investigation of a “loyal Bushie” U.S. Attorney in Wisconsin. “The case involved Georgia Thompson, a state employee sent to prison on the flimsiest of corruption charges just as her boss, a Democrat, was fighting off a Republican challenger. It just might shed some light on a question that lurks behind the firing of eight top federal prosecutors: what did the surviving attorneys do to escape the axe?“
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service might reclassify manatees as ‘threatened’ instead of ‘endangered,’ a move that would cause the animal to lose its endangered species protection, according to an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post.”
And finally: A real-life blogger ethics panel? “A few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.” Chief among their recommendations “is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.”