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Saturday, 27 November 2004
The truth about fallujah coming out.
Note that there are probably a certain amount of bodies buried under rubble that may or may not raise the numbers of civilian casualties in the coming weeks.

The battle of Fallujah has been described by even the U.S. military as the most intense since Vietnam.

The BBC reports:

Aid is finally flowing into Falluja, following the heavy US-led offensive that began nearly three weeks ago to wrest the city from rebel control.
The Iraqi Red Crescent told the BBC it was delivering aid on a daily basis.

But a spokesman says it is feared more than 6,000 people could have died in the assault and thousands of families are in critical need of assistance.
Convoys carrying food, water, medicine and blankets are moving around Falluja but there is still no running water or electricity.

According to the Red Crescent, 60 people came out to get assistance in one street alone.

In comments reported by the UN information network Irin, spokesman Muhammad al-Nuri said the Red Crescent believed more than 6,000 people may have died in the fight for Falluja.

He said it was difficult to move around the city due to the number of dead bodies.

"Bodies can be seen everywhere and people were crying when receiving the food parcels. It is very sad, it is a human disaster," Mr Nuri reportedly said.

al-Jazeera reports:

While the U.S. military claims that the offensive in Fallujah was about to end, a humanitarian crisis, among the remaining residents in the city trapped in their houses, is looming.

On Saturday, a humanitarian convoy of the Iraqi Red Crescent carrying supplies and medicine arrived in Fallujah hospital after the U.S. troops allowed them to enter the city. However, they were then turned away and kept from reaching the city civilians in bad need of food, water, and medical treatment.

Camps of ran away civilians have been set up 4 miles north of Fallujah, and U.S. forces appear to have no logistical plans or transportation to get civilians from the battle-torn neighborhoods to the camp.

The most conservative of estimates suggest that 25,000 civilians inside the city are facing what U.S. commanders described as the military's most intense urban fighting since Vietnam.

Just now that the human toll is becoming clear, as the fighting intensifies and those who fled the city over the past week gather in refugee camps and narrate their stories."

It's all lies!

Of courrse the reason al-Jazeera isn't allowed into Iraq is for reporting like that.

On the 14th the Iraqi Health Minister reassured everyone it's all lies. Everyone is okay!

BAGHDAD- "Fears of a humanitarian crisis in Fallujah are groundless, Iraq's health minister said on Sunday, adding that only a small number of civilians appeared to have been wounded in the week-long battle.

The minister, Alaeddin Abdul Sahib Adwan, admitted however that he was unable to obtain information about residents in the thick of the fighting for the rebel-held city that was launched by US and Iraqi forces last Monday.

"The ministry of health is co-ordinating with the Iraqi military and the multinational forces in evacuating the civilian casualties, but so far the number has been very small," Adwan told AFP.

"We have about 20 civilian casualties," he said.
A further 400 civilians who were not in need of treatment have also been transported out of the city over the past 48 hours," he added"

See? Don't we all feel better now?

Of course, the press restrictions on the media keep anyone from reporting what the government doesn't like, so who knows?

Occupation Watch reported on the 15th

Citing the 60-day state of emergency declared by Allawi on the eve of the U.S. offensive against insurgents in Fallujah, the Higher Media Commission (HMC) directive said news media must differentiate between "innocent citizens" of the city and the insurgents.

t warned that journalists should not attach "patriotic descriptions to groups of killers and criminals," and urged the media to "set aside space in your news coverage to make the position of the Iraqi government, which expresses the aspirations of most Iraqis, clear."

"You must be precise and objective in handling news and information," according to the statement, which was reported by Associated Press and Reuters. "We hope you comply ...otherwise we regret we will be forced take all the legal measures to guarantee higher national interests," it said, without elaboration.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPA) said it was "deeply disturbed" by the statement.

"We are very troubled by this directive, which is an attempt to control news coverage through government coercion," said CPJ's executive
director, Ann Cooper.

"It damages the government's credibility in establishing a free and democratic society."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 9:42 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 28 November 2004 1:18 AM EST
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Debt limit goes up to 8.18 trillion dollars.
See Nov. 4 posts for more on this mess.

From the WaPo Nov. 19:

Last night, with the federal government warning that it was on the verge of defaulting on its debts, the House rejected efforts to reimpose restrictions on tax cuts and spending, then joined the Senate to raise the federal debt limit by $800 billion, to $8.18 trillion.

With last night's passage of the debt ceiling increase, the government's borrowing limit has climbed by $2.23 trillion since President Bush took office: by $450 billion in 2002, by a record $984 billion in 2003 and by $800 billion this year.

Just the increase in the debt ceiling over the past three years is nearly 2 1/2 times the entire federal debt accumulated between 1776 and 1980.

Economists and budget hawks fear that rising deficits are contributing to the steadily declining value of the dollar, which will increase consumer costs, and that those deficits eventually will drive up interest rates and slow the economy.

Last month, the government crashed into the debt ceiling, and the Treasury began borrowing from a civil service retirement fund. On Monday, the Treasury announced it had postponed an auction of short-term Treasury bonds because it was prohibited from borrowing the money.

Yesterday, amid continuing uncertainty about Congress's intentions, the agency delayed revealing how many government securities it plans to sell next week.

Treasury again warned that the government could default on its debt as soon as today if Congress did not act

By passing such a huge increase in the debt limit, with no strings attached, Congress has effectively given the Bush administration a blank check to continue running large deficits, said Stephen S. Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley.

"An open-ended license for this kind of fiscal irresponsibility is a recipe for disaster," he said.

[Note: the crashing value of the dollar makes paying our debt easier because it isn't worth as much. Of course, our lenders probably have some inkling of this and will ask for sky high interest rates to make their loans profitable.. Better refinance whatever you owe money on before that happens!]

Posted by bushmeister0 at 8:57 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 27 November 2004 8:58 PM EST
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Friday, 26 November 2004
Divesting from Israel can be dangerous.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Presbyterian Church (USA) has stepped up security at its headquarters and advised its churches to be on alert after receiving a letter threatening arson attacks on its churches because of its policies in the Middle East.

The handwritten letter was received Wednesday at the church's Louisville headquarters, Jerry L. Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian news service, said Saturday. It had no return address, but it was postmarked from Queens, NY, Van Marter said. [I'll give you one guess about who's behind this...]

The letter threatened to set churches on fire while people were inside in retaliation for "anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes," Van Marter said.

Van Marter said the church has received thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls since the church's General Assembly decided in June to begin the process of selective divestment from corporations supporting the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

Although many letters have been angry, Van Marter said this was the first to threaten violence. Twice, the letter gave a Nov. 15 deadline for the church to reverse its Middle East policies, Van Marter said.

Bad idea?

RICHMOND, July 2 - The 216th General Assembly approved several measures opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine Friday, including a call for the corporate witness office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to begin gathering data to support a selective divestment of holdings in multinational corporations doing business in Israel/Palestine. Divestment is one of the strategies that U.S. churches used in the 1970s and '80s in a successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.

When a handful of commissioners expressed reservations about the action, the Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor from Bethlehem, an ecumenical guest at the Assembly, said divestment is important because it is a way for the churches to take direct action. For too long, he said, the churches have simply issued statements - and that is not enough.

"We have to send strong messages to such companies," Raheb said, referring specifically to Caterpillar Inc, the American builder of the armored tractors and bulldozers the Israeli army uses to demolish Palestinian homes.

With friends like these...

From the American Jewish Congress...

July 2, 2004
The American Jewish Congress today announced its support for Caterpillar, Inc. for its strong stand against the attempt by the Arab Office for the Boycott of Israel to intimidate the American company to stop selling bulldozers to the Israeli military.

"We applaud the management and shareholders of Caterpillar for their rejection of a proposal to stop doing business with Israel and commend the company on its resolute stance," said AJCongress President Paul Miller. "The threats leveled against Caterpillar raise the specter of an illegal boycott. Moreover, they are based on unfounded conclusions about international law."

However:

According to the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC), the shareholder resolution in Caterpillar on its sale of bulldozers to the Israeli military is the first of its kind.

This is the first time in US history that shareholders in a US company have filed a resolution to examine their company's relationship with violating human rights in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

- The shareholder resolution on Israel-Palestine in the Caterpillar Corporation calls on Caterpillar, Inc. to investigate whether the sale of bulldozers to the Israeli Defense Forces meets the terms of the Caterpillar Code of Worldwide Business Conduct.

The resolution does not call on Caterpillar to stop its sale of bulldozers to the Israeli military but to investigate their use by the Israeli military.


Rachel Corey
was run over and killed by a Caterpiller armored bulldozer on March 16, 2003.

According to Haaretz:

"The killing of an American woman peace protester Sunday by an IDF bulldozer, which ran her over during the demolition of a house at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, was a "regrettable accident," a spokesman for the the IDF said.

Rachel Corey, 23, from Olympia, Washington, was killed when she ran in front of the bulldozer to try to prevent it from destroying a house, doctors in Gaza said. Another activist was wounded in the incident.

Corey was killed in the al-Salam neighbourhood when an Israeli bulldozer covered her with sand as she stood in front of a bulldozer," said Dr Ali Musa, a doctor from the al-Najar hospital in the southern Gaza Strip. He said she died from skull and chest fractures."

The contention by Haaretz that she "ran in front" of a IDF bulldozer is hotly disputed by numerous eyewitnesses however.

According to Tom Dale "We'd been monitoring and occasionally obstructing the 2 bulldozers for about 2 hours when 1 of them turned toward a house we knew to be theatened with demolition.

Rachel knelt down in its way. She was 10-20 metres in front of the bulldozer, clearly visible, the only object for many metres, directly in it's view. They were in Radio contact with a tank that had a profile view of the situation. There is no way she could not have been seen by them in their elevated cabin. They knew where she was, there is no doubt.

Greg Schnabel, 28, from Chicago, said the protesters were in the house of Dr. Samir Masri.

Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop," he said. "She waved for bulldozer to stop and waved.

She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. We yelled 'stop, stop,' and the bulldozer didn't stop at all. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her."

Since the start of the Intifada, groups of international protesters have gathered in several locations in territories, setting themselves up as "human shields" to try to stop IDF operations.
Corey was the first member of the groups, called "International Solidarity Movement," to be killed in the conflict. Schnabel said Corey was a student at Evergreen College and was to graduate this year.

Divest now!

The "divest from Israel campaign" says:

Concerned citizens and governments all over the world must organize a comprehensive campaign of economic disinvestment and divestment from Israel along the same lines of what they did to the former criminal apartheid regime in South Africa.

This original worldwide...campaign played a critical role in dismantling the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa. For much the same reasons, a worldwide disinvestment/divestment campaign against Israel will play a critical role in dismantling its criminal apartheid regime against the Palestinian people living in occupied Palestine as well as in Israelitself."

Francis Boyle, Professor International Law, University of Illinois describing Israel's treatment of Palestinians as like white apartheid in South Africa, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu who won the Nobel Prize by inspiring a non-violent uprising that led to the dismantling of the racist white regime in South Africa urged a similar movement in the US. "We are free today in South Africa because people like yourselves," he told a group of demonstrators in Boston.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:10 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 27 November 2004 9:01 PM EST
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More black eyes for the IDF.
[See Oct. 30 for original post on the killing of Iman al-Hams 13 years old.]

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

An Israeli army commander has been put on trial in a military court after his fellow soldiers testified that he repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl last month to make sure she was dead.

In a rare move, the military has charged the army commander with illegally using his weapon and obstruction of justice. In an army videotape leaked to the media, the officer can be heard over the radio saying anyone - even a three-year-old child - should be killed if they moved in his area.

Middle East Correspondent Mark Willacy reports that the tape has shocked many Israelis, with some Israeli media outlets describing the shooting as an atrocity.

When Palestinian doctors finally retrieved Iman al-Hams' body they found it riddled with at least 15 Israeli bullets.

Major Sharon Feingold is a spokeswoman for the Israeli army.

SHARON FEINGOLD: Now, let us not forget that the area that she was moving around is a battlezone, it's not an amusement park, the girl was not supposed to be where she was.

MARK WILLACY: Why did the soldiers keep firing at the girl, even after she was identified as someone, quote, "only about 10 years old," unquote? Now, that's in the indictment.

SHARON FEINGOLD: What is obvious and what the commander is saying that he, as far as he's concerned, and his soldiers, they neutralised the threat.

MARK WILLACY: You say neutralise a threat, but the indictment says the soldier charged at the girl after she'd been shot, he then fired two rounds at her from a close range, he walked away, he then turned around and shot her again. That's a bit more than neutralising a threat, especially after this girl was identified as only about 13-years-old.

SHARON FEINGOLD: When she was identified an order was given to charge, and this is why the commander of the outpost left the outpost. At this time she was still a threat, and the fact that she was identified by someone at the post as a young girl does not lessen the threat. As I said, children have been used in this area as baits for soldiers.

MARK WILLACY: But Israeli military prosecutor, Ran Cohen, believes Captain R. did violate his orders. Prosecutor Cohen says the unit commander has been charged with the illegal use of his weapon, the improper use of authority, and obstruction of justice.

After repeatedly shooting Iman al-Hams, Captain R issues one final radio order.

(Sound of Captain R issuing radio order)

"Anyone who moves in the area, even if it's a 3-year-old, we should kill him," he says.

The Israeli army prides itself on the notion of "purity of arms", which forbids soldiers to use their weapons against non-combatants. But Palestinians say that code has clearly been violated in the killing of Iman al-Hams.


IDF playing with dead bodies.

AP:

JERUSALEM - Young Israeli soldiers systematically desecrate the bodies of dead Palestinian militants, playing with body parts and posing for souvenir photographs with bullet-riddled cadavers, an Israeli newspaper's Internet site reported Wednesday.

The report gave several examples of what it described as systematic desecration and photography of the bodies of Palestinian terrorists, charging that it had become a phenomenon in the army.

Some of the photographs showed soldiers playing with remains of a suicide bomber as if he were a human jigsaw puzzle, then parading his severed head with a cigarette in its mouth.

It quoted a junior officer, identified only as "Y," saying pictures of the incident later went on sale for two shekels (about 60 cents Cdn) apiece.

"It really cracked up the whole platoon, everyone was delighted," he told the newspaper. "I remember I tried to tell them, 'Are you crazy, you're disgusting.' They just couldn't understand what I was talking about."

Another soldier, "G," tells of returning to base after an operation. The bodies of dead militants were dumped next to the camp latrines.

"Somebody covered them with blankets but soldiers kept coming to lift the blankets and have a look, have a bit of fun," he said. "I remember that some pulled the hair of one of the bodies and played with it."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:47 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 26 November 2004 3:48 PM EST
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Poking a stick at the Russian bear.


I've been away for a while but I have been doing some work over at Non Sum Dignus expiring minds might be interested in.

Here's some inside info on what's really behind the crisis in Ukraine from the Guardian. It seems we're playing a dangerous game with the Russian bear. Judging by the chilly body language between Putin and Bush in Chile last week I would say things are headed towards a bad patch in U.S./Russia relations.

Now that Condi Rice is the new Secretary Of State she can get back to her favorite subject, sovoietology.

According to Ian Traynor:

"In the centre of Belgrade, there is a dingy office staffed by computer-literate youngsters who call themselves the Centre for Non-violent Resistance.

If you want to know how to beat a regime that controls the mass media, the judges, the courts, the security apparatus and the voting stations, the young Belgrade activists are for hire.

They emerged from the anti-Milosevic student movement, Otpor, meaning resistance. The catchy, single-word branding is important. In Georgia last year, the parallel student movement was Khmara. In Belarus, it was Zubr.

In Ukraine, it is Pora, meaning high time. Otpor also had a potent, simple slogan that appeared everywhere in Serbia in 2000 - the two words "gotov je", meaning "he's finished", a reference to Milosevic. A logo of a black-and-white clenched fist completed the masterful marketing.

In Ukraine, the equivalent is a ticking clock, also signalling that the Kuchma regime's days are numbered.

The Democratic party's National Democratic Institute, the Republican party's International Republican Institute, the US state department and USAid are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO and billionaire George Soros's open society institute

Officially, the US government spent $41m (#21.7m) organising and funding the year-long operation to get rid of Milosevic from October 1999. In Ukraine, the figure is said to be around $14m."

Looks like Putin's contention that the U.S. is trying to peal off former Soviet client states into the western spere of influence isn't just paranoia.

Look for trouble in Abkhazia in Georgia, where there was yet another desputed election last month. The Russians will pick their fights and this looks like a likely cannidate.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:04 PM EST
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Saturday, 13 November 2004
If it walks like a duck...

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 - Human rights experts said Friday that American soldiers might have committed a war crime on Thursday when they sent fleeing Iraqi civilians back into Falluja.

Citing several articles of the Geneva Conventions, the experts said recognized laws of war require military forces to protect civilians as refugees and forbid returning them to a combat zone.

A stream of refugees, about 300 men, women and children, were detained by American soldiers as they left southern Falluja by car and on foot. The women and children were allowed to proceed. The men were tested for any residues left by the handling of explosives. All tested negative, but they were sent back.

Because the United States has refused to take part in the International Criminal Court, it is unclear whether American troops could be held accountable.

[As if seizing and bombing hospitals wasn't enough. I think the real issue, though, is holding W and Rumsfeld liable for war crimes.]

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:39 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 26 November 2004 2:28 PM EST
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All wrapped up by Saturday. Wait today is Saturday.

(AFP)

US forces aim to take full control of Fallujah by Saturday morning despite facing fiercer fighting as they push deeper into the restive city.

We control about 75 percent of the city. The more we go in the more we find the fight is becoming fiercer," Major PJ [Bats in the bellfry] Batty said Thursday.

"We planned to take this city in 108 hours and we are right on schedule," he told AFP, referring to the major US-Iraqi offensive launched on Monday evening.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:15 AM EST
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Mosul.

As we all keep hearing the U.S. has control of about 80% of Falluja, even the areas they said were secured two days ago, but are still being fought over.

In Mosul, the insurgents apparently have decided to trade Falluja in for a new city. They seem to be in total control.

You know, when the U.S. starts launchiung ariel bombing raids you've got their attention.

Naturally, it's all under control, but:

(AP) The provincial governor called for massive reinforcements to supplement the Mosul police force, which splintered under a wave of insurgent attacks on at least five police stations Thursday.

"We asked the central government in Baghdad, and God willing they should arrive today," said the provincial governor, Duraid Kashmoula. [He doesn't sound too desperate.]

Brig. Gen. Carter Ham the American commander, said in an interview with the BBC that "some police did not perform as well as we might like." He told CNN: "It's fair to say there are some with ties to the insurgents. We'd be kidding ourselves if we thought that was not the case."

Iraqi National Guard units [On their way to desert.] were being rushed to the city from three directions, as were Kurdish forces from Irbil to the south, the Associated Press reported.

The offices of Kurdish political parties were among the buildings attacked in Mosul on Friday.

...the situation was deemed sufficiently difficult that an Army light-armored unit was peeled away from Fallujah to reinforce the U.S. force in Mosul. [Yeah, because it all over there. Just a little mopping up to do.]

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:06 AM EST
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Friday, 12 November 2004
How much worse can it get?

Syed Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times spoke to Pakistan's retired former director general of Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Hamid Gul.

He was one of the masterminds of the International Muslim Brigade, a force raised in Afghanistan to fuel the independence movements of Muslim-occupied territories. This later evolved into Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front. Gul spoke to Asia Times Online by telephone from Rawalpindi.

An excerpt:

ATol: I was in Iraq after the war and I asked a US commander in northern Iraq who was behind the attacks on US forces. His immediate reply was Iraqi military and para-military troops. My question is, how can a conventional army become a successful guerrilla force?

Gul: If they have support in villages and among tribes these soldiers can unleash a guerrilla fight. Saddam had a force called Fidayeen-i-Saddam, which was trained specifically for guerrilla operations. It numbered about 35,000. Suppose today this is even 25% of its original strength, it is a big number when local support is available. At the same time, there is no dearth of new recruits. I think a flood of fighters will be coming to Iraq.

ATol: How big could the resistance be?

Gul: About 40,000 to 50,000, including former Ba'ath Party members, Fidayeens, other military and para-military forces, and foreign fighters. In addition, the number of foreign fighters will grow immensely and Iraq will be the hub of an anti-US movement. You know, there is a new phenomena emerging in which a man is himself a weapon. No military can withstand this.

You have to keep in mind the nature of Arab fighters. They do not surrender or retreat easily. Afghanistan is a case in this regard. At Qila Changi and other places the Taliban decided to retreat, but Arab fighters refused to do so and they fought till their last. So, I think, the resistance movement will increase multifold in the coming weeks.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 11:19 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 12 November 2004 11:20 PM EST
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What did they ever do to us?

The BBC Paul Wood:

How many civilians have been killed - people who either have not left through choice or have been unable to leave - is the crucial question.
I suspect we will have to wait for a definitive answer until the smoke has literally cleared.
As an embedded reporter, I see literally what the military sees.

It is not particularly that the marines want to censor me but I am stuck with one unit and that is all I can see.

When we went through south of the main road last night, the streets - no surprise here - were absolutely deserted, the shops were shuttered.
One can only imagine the plight of the civilians.
I have questioned many times senior officers here about the use of heavy weapons because they have been using 155mm artillery in Falluja, they have been dropping 2,000 pound bombs.

The bullets that they fire are high velocity. The buildings are of poor construction here - the bullets travel through the walls.
And when they see what they believe to be militants - and these marines are incredibly calm under fire, they are almost unflinching - they do wait until they see a guy with a gun but when they see that, they open up with everything they have got and the question is, how much collateral damage is there going to be?

At the moment we simply do not know.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 10:08 PM EST
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