Monday, March 19, 2007

Into the 5th: Stories From Iraq

March 19, 2003
President Bush Addresses the Nation
The Oval Office

10:16 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.
Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.

Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory.

My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail.

March 19, 2007

Betrayed: The Iraqis who trusted America the most, The New Yorker:

Most of the people Othman and Laith knew had left Iraq. House by house, Baghdad was being abandoned. Othman was considering his options: move his parents from their house (in an insurgent stronghold) to his sister’s house (in the midst of civil war); move his parents and brothers to Syria (where there was no work) and live with his friend in Jordan (going crazy with boredom while watching his savings dwindle); go to London and ask for asylum (and probably be sent back); stay in Baghdad for six more months until he could begin a scholarship that he’d won, to study journalism in America (or get killed waiting). Beneath his calm good humor, Othman was paralyzed—he didn’t want to leave Baghdad and his family, but staying had become impossible. Every day, he changed his mind.

From the hotel window, Othman could see the palace domes of the Green Zone directly across the Tigris River. “It’s sad,” he told me. “With all the hopes that we had, and all the dreams, I was totally against the word ‘invasion.’ Wherever I go, I was defending the Americans and strongly saying, ‘America was here to make a change.’ Now I have my doubts.”

Laith was more blunt: “Sometimes, I feel like we’re standing in line for a ticket, waiting to die.

ABC News: Voices From Iraq 2007: Ebbing Hope in a Landscape of Loss, ABC News:

Eighty percent of Iraqis report attacks nearby — car bombs, snipers, kidnappings, armed forces fighting each other or abusing civilians. It's worst by far in the capital of Baghdad, but by no means confined there.

The personal toll is enormous. More than half of Iraqis, 53 percent, have a close friend or relative who's been hurt or killed in the current violence. One in six says someone in their own household has been harmed. Eighty-six percent worry about a loved one being hurt; two-thirds worry deeply. Huge numbers limit their daily activities to minimize risk. Seven in 10 report multiple signs of traumatic stress.
The survey's results are deeply distressing from an American perspective as well: The number of Iraqis who call it "acceptable" to attack U.S. and coalition forces, 17 percent in early 2004, has tripled to 51 percent now, led by near unanimity among Sunni Arabs. And 78 percent of Iraqis now oppose the presence of U.S. forces on their soil, though far fewer favor an immediate pullout.

Iraqis see hope drain away, USA Today:
Some Iraqis say they regret having borne children to be brought up amid such hardship.

Zina Abdulhameed Rajab, a Shiite doctor, is so alarmed by the children she has treated who were injured on their way to school that she is keeping her 2- and 4-year-old sons at home. Her mother has moved in to help babysit.

"Whenever I watch my kids laughing or playing, I can't be so happy from inside my heart because I don't know what the next day will bring," she said. "I really regret the birth of my kids here."

She added: "I wish I could put them back inside me so I would know all the time where they are and how they are doing."

The regrets of the man who brought down Saddam, The Guardian:

His hands were bleeding and his eyes filled with tears as, four years ago, he slammed a sledgehammer into the tiled plinth that held a 20ft bronze statue of Saddam Hussein. Then Kadhim al-Jubouri spoke of his joy at being the leader of the crowd that toppled the statue in Baghdad's Firdous Square. Now, he is filled with nothing but regret.

The moment became symbolic across the world as it signalled the fall of the dictator. Wearing a black vest, Mr al-Jubouri, an Iraqi weightlifting champion, pounded through the concrete in an attempt to smash the statue and all it meant to him. Now, on the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, he says: "I really regret bringing down the statue. The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day."

From hope to despair in Baghdad, BBC News:

After Baghdad fell, I would satellite reports back to London about attacks in which one or two people were killed. It was big news in those days. Last Thursday, a bomb exploded near the end of the street in central Baghdad where the BBC has its office. Eight people were killed and 25 injured, and we had rather good pictures of it.

But I did not ring London to offer a report about it. To get on the news, or the front page of the newspapers nowadays, a lot of people have to die. I would say the current figure is 60 or 70; and it certainly wouldn't be the lead.

This is not because editors do not care; it is because it happens so often it scarcely seems like news.

Third of Iraqi children now malnourished four years after US invasion, Reuters AlertNet:

Vatican City – Caritas Internationalis and Caritas Iraq say that malnutrition rates have risen in Iraq from 19 percent before the US-led invasion to a national average of 28 percent four years later.

Caritas says that rising hunger has been caused by high levels of insecurity, collapsed healthcare and other infrastructure, increased polarisation between different sects and tribes, and rising poverty.

Over 11 percent of newborn babies are born underweight in Iraq today, compared with a figure of 4 percent in 2003. Before March 2003, Iraq already had significant infant mortality due to malnutrition because of the international sanctions regime.

The Killings in Haditha, CBS News, 60 Minutes:

(CBS) On Nov. 19, 2005, United States Marines killed 24 apparently innocent civilians in an Iraqi town called Haditha. The dead included men, women and children as young as 2 years old. Iraqi witnesses said the Marines were on a rampage, slaughtering people in the street and in their homes. In December, four Marines were charged with murder.
Wuterich does not believe 24 dead civilians equates to a massacre.

"No, absolutely not… A massacre in my mind, by definition, is a large group of people being executed, being killed for absolutely no reason and that’s absolutely not what happened here," he says.

The day after the killings, bodies were wrapped to conceal the sight of 24 civilians: 15 men, three women and six children killed by shrapnel and gunshot.
"As you understood them, what were the rules for using deadly force?" Pelley asks.

Wuterich says the biggest thing was PID -- positive identification.

"It means that you need to be able to positively identify your target before you shoot to kill," he says.

The kind of targets they were permitted to shoot to kill included, "…various things," Wuterich says. "Obviously, anyone with a weapon, especially pointed at you… Hostile act, hostile intent was the biggest thing that they had to have, so if they had used a hostile act against you, you could use deadly force. If there was hostile intent towards you, you could use deadly force."
"Normally, the Iraqis know the drill when you’re over there. They know if something happens, they know exactly what they need to do. Get down, hands up, and completely cooperate. These individuals were doing none of that. They got out of the car [and] as they were going around they started to take off, so I shot at them," he tells Pelley.

As the men ran from Wuterich, he says he shot them in the back.

"How does these men running away from the scene, as you describe it, square with hostile action or hostile intent? Asks Pelley.

"Because hostile action, if they were the triggermen, would have blown up the IED. Which would also constitute hostile intent. But also at the same time, there were military-aged males that were inside that car. The only vehicle, the only thing that was out, that was Iraqi, was them. They were 100 meters away from that IED. Those are the things that went through my mind before I pulled the trigger. That was positive identification," Wuterich tells Pelley.

Other witnesses, including Marines, dispute that the men were running. Wuterich is charged with lying that day to a sergeant, saying the Iraqi men fired on the convoy.

When the vehicle was searched, what was found?

"I believe nothing. I don’t remember partaking in the search," he said. "But, as far as I know, there wasn’t anything found."

And the men were not armed.
In two minutes, one Marine and five Iraqis were dead, but the killing had just begun Next, Frank Wuterich would lead his men to kill 19 more Iraqi civilians...

Gen. Petraeus and a High-Profile Suicide in Iraq, Editor & Publisher:

Col. Ted Westhusing, a West Point scholar, put a bullet in his head in Iraq after reporting widespread corruption. His suicide note -- complaining about human rights abuses and other crimes -- was addressed to his two commanders, including Gen. David Petraeus, now leader of the U.S. "surge" effort in Iraq. It urged them to "Reevaluate yourselves....You are not what you think you are and I know it."

Bush to Ask for Patience in Iraq War, The Guardian, March 19, 2007:

Bush was expected to issue a plea for more patience in the war, which has stretched longer with higher costs than the White House ever anticipated. The president was to make a statement in the Roosevelt Room.

``It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that our best option is to pack up and go home,'' Bush was to say, according to an administration official who saw an advance text of his remarks. ``While that may be satisfying in the short run, the consequences for American security would be devastating.''
Democratic lawmakers say the public put them in charge of Congress to demand more progress in Iraq - and to start getting the U.S. troops out.

The timeline for troop withdrawal under the House bill would speed up if the Iraqi government cannot meet its own benchmarks for providing security, allocating oil revenues and other essential steps. The administration opposes setting such timelines.

The House plan appears to have little chance of getting through the Senate, where Democrats have a slimmer majority. Even if it did, Bush has promised to veto it. But the White House is aggressively trying to stop it anyway, fearful of the message the world will hear if the House approves a binding bill to end the war.

Whose Oil is it Anyway?

Bush Warns U.S. Security Will Suffer if Troops Withdraw From Iraq, The Washington Post, March 19, 2007

It's all about "good days and bad days" to Bush.

Identify one "good day" in Iraq since this war began, Bush. I dare you.

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