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Progress Is Ongoing in Iraq -- April Fools! (1 April 2004)

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  • Jim Galasyn
    Iraq Front News Subscribe: IraqFrontNews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com 1 April 2004 News roundup by Jim Galasyn ... In this issue: a.. DoD Identifies Army Casualty
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2004
      1 April 2004
      News roundup by Jim Galasyn

      In this issue:

       ~ Bring Them Home ~
       
       
      DoD Identifies Army Casualty
       
      The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
       
      Master Sgt. Richard L. Ferguson, 45, of Conway, N.H., died March 30, in Somara, Iraq, when the military vehicle he was riding in rolled over.  Ferguson was assigned to the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, Colo.
       
      The incident is under investigation.
       
      For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000. top
       

      Rebels Attack U.S. Convoy Near Fallujah   
      Thursday, April 01, 2004
      http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,115822,00.html

      FALLUJAH, Iraq  — Just one day after four American contract workers were brutally killed and their corpses dragged through the streets of Fallujah, insurgents attacked a U.S. military convoy and burned a Humvee in the same area Thursday, witnesses said.

      Meanwhile, Paul Bremer (search), the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, vowed that Wednesday's grisly mutilations would not go unpunished.
       
      "Yesterday's events in Fallujah are dramatic examples of the ongoing struggle between human dignity and barbarism," Bremer said at a graduation ceremony for police cadets.
       
      "The acts we have seen were despicable and inexcusable," he continued. "They violate the tenets of all religions including Islam (search) as one of the foundations of civilized society."
       
      It was not clear if there were any casualties in Thursday's assault. Associated Press Television News footage showed smoke pouring from the vehicle that had been abandoned on a roadside just outside the city. Witnesses said the Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (search).
       
      U.S. officials said they could not confirm the attack.
       
      Also Thursday, two explosions near a U.S.-escorted fuel convoy in northern Baghdad wounded at least one Iraqi, witnesses said. APTN footage showed U.S. soldiers putting a wounded person on a stretcher inside an armored vehicle.
       
      In Fallujah, police retrieved the remains of the four slain Americans on Wednesday night, wrapped them in blankets, and gave them to U.S. forces, said Iraqi police officer Lt. Salah Abdullah.
       
      "We were shocked because our Islamic beliefs reject such behavior," he said referring to the abuse of the bodies.
       
      Iraqi police manned roadside checkpoints in and around Fallujah, but no U.S. troops could be seen inside. Shops and schools were open.
       
      Some residents vowed to repel any U.S. forces.
       
      "We will not let any foreigner enter Fallujah," said Sameer Sami, 40. "Yesterday's attack is proof of how much we hate the Americans."
       
      Another resident, Ahmed al-Dulaimi, 30, said, "We wish that they would try to enter Fallujah so we'd let hell break lose."
       
      Iraqi Interior Minister Nori al Badran vowed to send forces into Fallujah "to bring killers to justice," but did not say when that would happen.
       
      "Forces will be sent to Fallujah ... from the army, the police and from the civil defense (force)," he said.
       
      There was no sign of a military buildup near Fallujah by midafternoon Thursday.
       
      At a U.S. base about two miles` east of the city, 1st Lt. Wade Zirkle said Wednesday's attack was carried out by a "few bandits and terrorists ... who are terrorizing the city."
       
      "It is our job to go there and maintain security in the city and we are making sure that something like that will not happen again," he said, when asked whether U.S. forces would enter Fallujah.
       
      Frenzied mobs dragged the burned, mutilated bodies of the four American contractors through the streets and strung two of them up from a bridge after rebels ambushed their vehicles.
       
      It was similar to the scene more than a decade ago in Somalia, when a mob dragged corpses of U.S. soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu, eventually leading to the American withdrawal from the African nation. The images were broadcast worldwide and became the subject of the book and movie "Black Hawk Down."
       
      U.S. officials denounced the Fallujah violence and vowed to stay the course in Iraq.
       
      The White House blamed terrorists and remnants of Saddam Hussein's former regime for the "horrific attacks."
       
      "It is offensive, it is despicable the way these individuals have been treated," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
       
      Referring to the planned June 30 transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis, McClellan said "the best way to honor those that lost their lives" is to continue with efforts to bring democracy to Iraq.
       
      State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the contractors, all men, "were trying to make a difference and to help others." Officials did not identify the dead or the nature of their work because the next of kin had not yet been notified.
       
      The four worked for Blackwater Security Consulting of Moyock, N.C., which provides training and guard services to customers around the world. The company, a subsidiary of Blackwater USA, referred calls to a spokesman in suburban Washington who declined comment beyond a statement that said Blackwater was a government subcontractor providing security for the delivery of food in the Fallujah area.
       
      Privately owned Blackwater USA's range of services include providing firearms and small-groups training for Navy SEALs, police department SWAT teams and former special operations personnel.
       
      Fallujah, about 35 miles west of Baghdad, has been the scene of some of the worst violence on both sides of the conflict since the beginning of the U.S.-led occupation a year ago.
       
      Five U.S. soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division also died Wednesday when a bomb exploded under their M-113 armored personnel carrier in Malahma, 12 miles northwest of Fallujah, making it the bloodiest day for Americans in Iraq since Jan. 8.
       
      Their deaths raised the number of U.S. troops killed in March to at least 48, making it the second-deadliest month for U.S. troops since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1. The deadliest month was November, when 82 U.S. troops were killed. top
       
      The Associated Press contributed to this report .
       

      Three U.S. Troops Injured Near Fallujah
      By SAMEER N. YACOUB, Associated Press Writer
       
      FALLUJAH, Iraq - A roadside bomb injured three American troops on Thursday near Fallujah, a day after the grisly killing and mutilation of four American contract workers in the city. The top U.S. administrator in Iraq (news - web sites) said the deaths would not go unpunished.
       
      In Ramadi, west of Fallujah, six Iraqi civilians died and four were wounded Wednesday evening in a car bombing at a market, said Lt. Col. Steve Murray, a coalition spokesman.
       
      Iraqi police had not determined whether it was detonated by remote control or whether it was a suicide bomber within the car, Murray said.
       
      Insurgents struck a U.S. convoy with a bomb just outside Fallujah on Thursday, wounding three Americans, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said. They were flown to a combat support hospital.
       
      Also Thursday, two explosions near a U.S.-escorted fuel convoy in northern Baghdad wounded at least one Iraqi.
       
      The attacks followed the ambush of the four American contractors in Fallujah on Wednesday. Frenzied mobs dragged the burned, mutilated bodies of the Americans through the streets and strung two of them up from a bridge.
       
      Five U.S. soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division also died Wednesday when a bomb exploded under their M-113 armored personnel carrier in Malahma, northwest of Fallujah, making it the bloodiest day for Americans in Iraq since Jan. 8.
       
      Police retrieved the remains of the four contractors on Wednesday night, wrapped them in blankets, and gave them to U.S. forces, said Iraqi police officer Lt. Salah Abdullah.

      "We were shocked because our Islamic beliefs reject such behavior," he said referring to the abuse of the bodies.

      Kimmitt said U.S. troops would hunt down those who carried out the killings.
       
      "We will pacify that city," he said. "We will be back in Fallujah. It will be at the time and place of our choosing."

      He said the military had tried to send Iraqi police to the scene during the attack.

      "The event happened very, very rapidly, and by the accounts of the Iraqi police, by the time they got there, the situation was pretty well complete at that point," Kimmitt said.

      Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites), speaking to Germany's ZDF television, said the United States is "not going to withdraw, we're not going to be run out" of Iraq.
       
      "America has the ability to stay, fight an enemy and defeat an enemy," he said. "We wish no soldier, no civilian, had been killed in this conflict. We also know sometimes to achieve a noble purpose, it does take the loss of life."

      Powell said he believed there would be a new U.N. resolution on Iraq "as we move closer to the first of July," which he said may defuse Spain's threat to pull out peacekeepers by June 30 unless the United Nations (news - web sites) takes political control.

      The top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, condemned the killings, as well as the combat deaths of five American soldiers on the same day, and said their deaths would not go unpunished.
       
      "Yesterday's events in Fallujah are dramatic examples of the ongoing struggle between human dignity and barbarism," he said at a graduation ceremony for police cadets. "The acts we have seen were despicable and inexcusable. ... They violate the tenets of all religions, including Islam, as one of the foundations of civilized society."
       
      Iraqi police manned roadside checkpoints in and around Fallujah on Thursday, but no U.S. troops could be seen in the city. Shops and schools were open.
       
      "We will not let any foreigner enter Fallujah," said resident Sameer Sami. "Yesterday's attack is proof of how much we hate the Americans."
       
      Another resident, Ahmed al-Dulaimi, said: "We wish that they would try to enter Fallujah so we'd let hell break lose."
       
      Iraqi Interior Minister Nori al Badran vowed to send forces into Fallujah, but did not say when that would happen.
       
      The mutiliation of the Americans was similar to the scene more than a decade ago in Somalia, when a mob dragged corpses of U.S. soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu, eventually leading to the American withdrawal from the African nation. The images were broadcast worldwide and became the subject of the book and movie "Black Hawk Down."
       
      Arab television networks broadcast pictures from Fallujah at the top of their half-hourly news bulletins throughout the day Wednesday. Al Arabiya used a filter to blur the images of the bodies, but Al-Jazeera did not, showing a man using an iron bar to beat a corpse.
       
      State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the slain contractors, all men, "were trying to make a difference and to help others."
       
      The four worked for Blackwater Security Consulting of Moyock, N.C., which provides training and guard services to customers around the world. The company said it was providing security for the delivery of food in the Fallujah area under a government contract. top
       
       

      Nine US soldiers wounded in rocket attack near Kirkuk
      POSTED: 2:24 pm HST March 31, 2004
       
      HONOLULU -- Nine Schofield Barracks soldiers were injured in a rocket attack in Iraq. The injuries follow a string of attacks on U.S. soldiers.
       
      The injuries happened Tuesday night when a rocket exploded in a military housing area in Kirkuk. It was at a time when many of the soldiers there were preparing for bed.
       
      "Nine U.S. soldiers were wounded in a rocket attack in Kirkuk at about 8 p.m., March 30. The wounded were transported to a military medical facility for treatment," 1st. Lt. Serena Wallace said.
       
      The injured are among the 4,000 soldiers from Schofield Barracks that were deployed to Iraq in January.
       
      The Army said the injuries from Tuesday night's rocket attack are not life threatening.
       
      The Army said the training these soldiers have undergone is helping them deal with what they are now experiencing.
       
      "They're trying to get a sense of deja vu. They've actually done this before, so that if it does happen to them when they're in country they can react accordingly and know they've done it before. So, they have a sense of reaction they can do it all over again," Capt. Don Evans said.
       
      The names and units of the nine wounded soldiers are being withheld at this time. The Army says it needs to first notify their families. top
       

      Car Bomb Killed Six Iraqis on Wednesday -U.S. Army
      Thu Apr 1, 2004 10:03 AM ET 

      BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A car bomb killed six Iraqis and wounded five in an attack on Wednesday near the Iraqi town of Ramadi the U.S. army said on Thursday.

      A U.S. army statement did not give further details on the circumstances or the target of the attack.
       
      Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad, is one of the volatile towns in the "Sunni triangle" where much of the resistance to the U.S.-led occupation is concentrated. top
       

      March was second-deadliest month for U.S. in Iraq
      Thu 1 April, 2004 03:21  
      By Will Dunham
       
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The March death toll among U.S. forces in Iraq was the second-highest of any month since President George W. Bush declared major combat over 11 months ago and the total number of American troops killed in the war is now approaching 600.
       
      Including five U.S. Army soldiers killed on Wednesday when a roadside bomb exploded next to their armoured vehicle convoy west of Baghdad, at least 50 American troops and two civilian Defence Department employees died in Iraq in March, according to Pentagon figures.
       
      That total does not include the four U.S. civilian contractors slain in the restive city of Falluja on Wednesday. Their bodies were burned and mutilated by a jubilant crowd, and two corpses were left dangling from a bridge.
       
      The only deadlier month for U.S. forces was November, when 82 U.S. troops died during an offensive by the insurgency that coincided with the Islamic holy month Ramadan.
       
      U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 to topple President Saddam Hussein. According to the Pentagon, 597 American troops have died since the start of military operations.
       
      In Iraq, U.S. officials argued that the latest surge in violence did not indicate the security situation was spiralling out of control.
       
      "Despite an uptick in localised engagements, the overall Iraqi area of operations remains relatively stable with negligible impact on the coalition's ability to continue progress in governance, economic development and restoration of essential services," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said in Baghdad.
       
      Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, said opinion polls indicate that the U.S. public's tolerance for casualties in Iraq has remained fairly stable.
       
      'A LOT OF QUESTIONS'
       
      "There is no indication that the casualties that are being experienced there are driving down U.S. public support for the operation or creating a push to get out. The percentages who want to get out continue to be quite low," Kull said.
       
      "We've studied reactions to fatalities pretty closely. And it's really a myth that the public reacts to fatalities by wanting to pull out, though it bothers them and makes them ask a lot of questions about what we're doing."
       
      But he said the continuing U.S. military deaths in Iraq may harm Bush in this presidential election year.
       
      "There is a good chance that the number of casualties may have some negative effect on attitudes toward the president as the costs of the operation rise and the benefits seem to be fading away or diminishing," added Kull. He noted, for example, the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction that Bush cited as the main justification for the war.
       
      Brookings Institution Defence analyst Michael O'Hanlon called the March death toll discouraging, considering U.S. military fatalities fell to 21 in February -- the lowest of any month since the invasion was launched.
       
      "I thought February might be the beginning of a gradual improvement. The only good news is that it hasn't gotten even worse," O'Hanlon said.
       
      "It does add fuel to the insurgency and confidence to the insurgency. But it's not something to get too anxious about because I don't think it changes the basic direction of the operation."
       
      Defence analyst Charles Pena of the Cato Institute added, "Anybody who thought that U.S. casualties would start going down was in denial. We're the occupying force. And there's going to be continued resentment." top
       

      Robert Fisk - Atrocity In Fallujah
      Friday, April 02 2004 @ 12:52 AM GMT
      Robert Fisk
       
      April 01, 2004 "The Independent" -- "The bodies were hanging upside down on each side of the bridge. They had no hands, no feet, one had no head." My old Iraqi friend had been driving into Fallujah just after the massacre, the stoning, the burning. He was shaking as he told me what he saw. "They were hanging upside down above the highway, on the old railway bridge which bridge, now a road bridge. The people of Fallujah were just driving over the bridge as if nothing was happening, right past the bodies." The bridge is on the west side of the Sunni Muslim city, across the Euphrates river, and the corpses had been tied to the girders about six feet above the road. "When we left, there were no helicopters, no police, no soldiers, it all seemed quite normal; except for the bodies. They were burnt brown. I couldn't tell if they were men or women."
       
      In fact, there were four Western men slaughtered in Fallujah yesterday - all contractors for the Americans, some apparently armed - and they had been dragged from their cars, mutilated, stoned, burnt, beaten with iron pipes. One of them was decapitated, then dragged through the streets behind a car. What the Anglo-American occupation power later called a "particularly brutal" crime - a somewhat restrained comment in the face of such barbarity - was all too real on the videotapes filmed by Iraqi camera crews in Fallujah but which were not shown on Western television stations last night.
       
      Another man gave a chilling description of how the men were dragged from their car, begging for their lives. "They had gasoline splashed on them and were set alight," he said.
       
      It was an especially terrible day in Iraq. Five US Marines were killed only 20 miles from Fallujah by a roadside bomb and 15 Iraqis were wounded by a car bomb in the city of Baquba which had been intended for an Iraqi police convoy.
       
      As usual, Iraqi dead were not counted by the occupation powers. But it will be the tapes that will be remembered by all who saw them - and by Arabs who were able to watch most of them, uncensored, on their own broadcasting channels.
       
      They show the two burning vehicles and two men lying beside them. One, clearly a Westerner, is lying on his back, in brown trousers but with his shirt pulled up to his chest, staring at the sky. A tide of burning petrol embraces the corpse and his hands are standing claw-like above his chest. A crowd of screaming civilians - many shouting Allahu Akhbar (God is Great), and "Fallujah will be free" - then use a metal hook to drag another smouldering body from beneath the second vehicle. The youths are making V-signs at the camera as a man picks up an iron pipe and smashes it repeatedly on the charred remains. A second man steps forward to kick the head until it is completely severed from the body.
       
      These were the horrors of Iraq yesterday, pictures which would have reminded the world of the American debacle in Somalia had they been shown outside the Middle East. For the crowd truss up one of the bodies with yellow tape, tie it to a car and then drag it down the main street towards the Euphrates bridge, all the while jumping up and down and laughing.
       
      Cars and trucks can be seen hooting in impatience to overtake this obscene cortège as if such horrors were an everyday occurrence. There were many Westerners in Iraq last night who were praying that they would not be. One of the dead men - who were, in the words of one Iraqi in Fallujah, "slaughtered like sheep" - appeared to be carrying military identification tags. An US passport lay next to another. One local civilian said the mujahedin, "holy warriors", had thrown two grenades at each car before dragging the occupants onto the road.
       
      In the past few weeks, attacks on foreigners have happened almost daily. Two Finns have been killed, along with a British and Canadian contractor, two American aid workers - one a woman - and two US missionaries, including another woman. The Americans have not suffered their current scale of casualties for more than two months.
       
      Only a day earlier, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the American deputy director of military operations in Iraq, was boasting that the US Marines in Fallujah were encountering fewer security problems and were "quite pleased with how they are moving progressively forward." Even more ironic was General Kimmitt's extraordinary distinction at a press conference between "terrorists" and "insurgents." He characterised the violence in Fallujah - the scene of yesterday's little massacre - as the work of "insurgents"; there was a difference, he said, between "former regime elements, perhaps trained in the Iraqi army" and who attacked soldiers and the Fallujah police station and "terrorists" who went in for "suicidal, spectacular attacks" which attack Iraqi army barracks, hotels, mosques and religious festivals in Karbala and Baghdad. These, he insisted, involved al-Qa'ida, Abu Mussab al-Zarkawi - the latest bogeyman whom the Americans publicised last month - and other groups.
       
      The truth is that most US units have reported no "foreign fighters" in their areas of occupation and, despite General Kimmitt's claims, the US military largely believes the growing number of attacks in Iraq are being carried out by home-grown guerrilla organisations. It's the same problem the Americans have faced from the start: explaining how Iraqis whom they allegedly came to "liberate" should want to kill them.
       
      The headquarters of the US administrator, Paul Bremer, is now surrounded by massive walls of concrete and steel, checkpoints of sandbags and iron gates and squads of heavily armed US troops. Yet the palace grounds are hit by mortar fire almost nightly. So what foreigner - or Iraqi for that matter - is now safe here?
       
      I was outside one Western television office in Baghdad yesterday, observing yet another concrete wall being erected around it. Armed Iraqi militiamen stood at every corner of the compound and British security men were on guard inside. If Mr Bremer's old presidential palace with its triumphal gateway now resembles the seat of the old British Raj, the office I visited was beginning to look like those fading photos of the British residency at Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny. For this is what we have now come to in Baghdad: foreigners on the run. top
       

       
      ~ Fool Me Once ~
       
      Progress Is Ongoing in Iraq, White House Says
      Civilian Deaths Condemned as Administration Calls for U.S. to Show Resolve
      By Mike Allen and Paul Farhi
      Washington Post Staff Writers
      Thursday, April 1, 2004; Page A20

      After yesterday's brutal attacks on American civilians in Iraq, President Bush and his aides insisted progress continues there and vowed not to back away, as the United States did after grisly images of U.S. soldiers emerged from Somalia in 1993.
       
      Officials at the White House and State Department condemned as "horrific" the burning and mutilation of the remains of four U.S. government contractors, who were dragged through the streets of Fallujah by a celebrating mob.
       
      White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the killings were "designed to intimidate and roll back the democratic progress and the freedom for the Iraqi people that we are achieving."
       
      "The best way to honor those who have lost their lives is to continue to show resolve in the face of these cowardly, hateful acts," McClellan said.
       
      Bush did not speak about the attacks during the day and did not specifically mention them last night at a Washington fundraiser for his campaign. He included his standard assertion that because he confronted Saddam Hussein, "an example of democracy is rising at the very heart of the Middle East. . . . The world is more free and . . . America is more secure."
       
      "We still face thugs and terrorists in Iraq who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the advance of liberty," he said. "This collection of killers is trying to shake our will. America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins."
       
      Five U.S. Army soldiers were also killed yesterday when a roadside bomb exploded next to their armored vehicle convoy west of Baghdad, bringing the death toll for U.S. forces in March to at least 48. That is the second highest monthly total since Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1. The deadliest month was November, with 82 dead.
       
      The twin assaults pose considerable challenges for Bush, who is trying to lay groundwork for ending the occupation on June 30 while his handling of Iraq has become a major issue in the presidential campaign and on Capitol Hill. A former aide, Richard A. Clarke, charged last week that the invasion had been a diversion from more pressing fronts in the war on terrorism.
       
      Retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a critic of the Iraq war and former head of the U.S. Central Command who was Bush's special envoy to the Middle East, said the violence is likely to "scare off international participation," making it more difficult for the White House to attract foreign investment and military resources from other countries.
       
      "We're going to find ourselves increasingly alone in this," Zinni said. He added that the Fallujah attacks will likely lead to a crackdown by occupiers that will result in more anti-American images in the Arab media.
       
      The graphic footage threatened to make the bloodshed more vivid for voters in the United States. Images of the bodies were instantly available on the Web, and more sanitized footage was shown on television. McClellan said the administration hopes that news organizations will act "responsibly in their coverage."
       
      Edited footage of the attacks aired throughout the day on the cable news networks and on the nightly news broadcasts. All of the networks had access to the same video, which was shot by a camera crew employed by the Associated Press.
       
      The graphic nature of the images prompted anchormen on ABC, NBC and CBS to warn viewers that the pictures were disturbing. CBS's Dan Rather introduced the "gruesome" report by emphasizing that it was "not for children's eyes."
       
      The networks aired wide-angle shots of the attack, and pictures of crowds cheering and vehicles burning. But some, such as Fox News Channel, decided not to show pictures of the bodies being dragged or burning or hung from a bridge tower. "We thought it might be too graphic," said Bill Shine, vice president of production at Fox News. "We're on all day, and at any moment, we know kids can be watching." Another consideration, he said, was that Fox was not sure the victims' relatives had been notified before the images were broadcast.
       
      NBC did show the dragging of the victims, but the footage was taken at a long angle, with the crowd obscuring most of the corpses, said Steve Capus, executive producer of "NBC Nightly News"
       
      "We accurately described what happened today while being sensitive to our viewers," he said. "I think that we conveyed the horror."
       
      McClellan was asked at a briefing whether yesterday's deaths threatened to become a "Mogadishu moment," a reference to the horror in the United States at the images of a soldier's body being dragged through Somali streets after the slaughter of 18 commandos. President Bill Clinton began withdrawing troops within weeks.
       
      "Let me make it very clear that the Iraqi people are starting to realize freedom and democracy," McClellan replied. "We will continue to work with the Iraqi people and stay the course."
       
      Administration officials say that vast areas of Iraq are safe and getting safer, but such violent images make the U.S. descriptions look out of step with reality.
       
      Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant defense secretary under President Ronald Reagan who is a fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, said the events show why it is a mistake for the administration to make claims about progress while the country remains dangerous. "This reminds me so much of Vietnam, it's scary," said Korb, who visited Iraq in November. "Every time in Vietnam that we kept saying there was light at the end of the tunnel, then something horrible would happen."
       
      The day before the slayings in Fallujah, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said at a briefing of the U.S.-led occupation administration, the Coalition Provisional Authority: "The Marines are quite pleased with how things are going in Fallujah, and they're looking forward to continuing the progress in establishing a safe and secure environment and rebuilding that province in Iraq."
       
      The centerpiece article yesterday on the coalition Web site was the announcement, "Tens of Thousands of Jobs to be Created in Iraq." The top news release was headed, "Baghdad Education Symposium Begins." top
       

      Top Focus Before 9/11 Wasn't on Terrorism - Rice Speech Cited Missile Defense
      By Robin Wright
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Thursday, April 1, 2004; Page A01

      On Sept. 11, 2001, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to outline a Bush administration policy that would address "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday" -- but the focus was largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals.
       
      The speech provides telling insight into the administration's thinking on the very day that the United States suffered the most devastating attack since the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. The address was designed to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy, and contained no mention of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups, according to former U.S. officials who have seen the text.
       
      The speech was postponed in the chaos of the day, part of which Rice spent in a bunker. It mentioned terrorism, but did so in the context used in other Bush administration speeches in early 2001: as one of the dangers from rogue nations, such as Iraq, that might use weapons of terror, rather than from the cells of extremists now considered the main security threat to the United States.
       
      The text also implicitly challenged the Clinton administration's policy, saying it did not do enough about the real threat -- long-range missiles.
       
      "We need to worry about the suitcase bomb, the car bomb and the vial of sarin released in the subway," according to excerpts of the speech provided to The Washington Post. "[But] why put deadbolt locks on your doors and stock up on cans of mace and then decide to leave your windows open?"
       
      The text of Rice's Sept. 11 speech, which was never delivered, broadly reflects Bush administration foreign policy pronouncements during the eight months leading to the attacks, according to a review of speeches, news conferences and media appearances. Although the administration did address terrorism, it devoted far more attention to pushing missile defense, a controversial idea both at home and abroad, the review shows.
       
      Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism rated lower on the list of priorities, as outlined by officials in their own public statements on policy.
       
      The question of whether the administration was properly focused on the terrorist threat before Sept. 11 is central to a building political storm in Washington, as a commission investigating the attacks prepares to take public testimony from Rice. Last week, President Bush's former counterterrorism chief, Richard A. Clarke, accused the administration of failing to take seriously enough the danger from al Qaeda -- a charge the White House strenuously disputes.
       
      The White House declined to release the complete text of Rice's speech, since it was not given. The White House did confirm the accuracy of excerpts given to The Post, and former U.S. officials provided a detailed summary of the speech.
       
      "The president's commitment to fighting terrorism isn't measured by the number of speeches, but by the concrete actions taken to fight the threat," said James R. Wilkinson, deputy national security adviser for communications, when asked about the speech. "The first major foreign policy directive of this administration was the new strategy to eliminate al Qaeda that the White House ordered soon after taking office. It was eliminating al Qaeda, not missile defense, not Iraq, and not the [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty," he said.
       
      The administration requested such a directive in May 2001, but it did not take shape until a week before Sept. 11, according to a staff report of the commission investigating attacks. Bush signed the final directive in October, weeks after the attack.
       
      A review of major public pronouncements in the first eight months of 2001 found relatively few extensive statements by Bush, Vice President Cheney or Rice about al Qaeda, bin Laden or other Islamic extremist groups.
       
      The president set the tone. In his first address to Congress, on Feb. 27, 2001, Bush acknowledged the danger of bomb-wielding terrorists, but also promoted missile defense as the priority in protecting the United States.
       
      "Our nation also needs a clear strategy to confront the threats of the 21st century, threats that are more widespread and less certain. They range from terrorists who threaten with bombs to tyrants and rogue nations intent on developing weapons of mass destruction. To protect our own people, our allies and friends, we must develop and we must deploy effective missile defenses," he said. Later this year, the administration plans to put into operation the first phase of a system to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles.
       
      In most public comments about Afghanistan before Sept. 11, Bush talked mainly about limited freedoms afforded under Taliban rule. One of the few presidential statements citing bin Laden and al Qaeda was on June 30, 2001, in a letter renewing Clinton administration-era sanctions on the Taliban.
       
      During the summer of 2001, as al Qaeda operatives were in flight training and finalizing plans for the attacks, the administration's public focus was on other matters.
       
      After his first meeting with NATO heads of state in Brussels in June 2001, Bush outlined the five top defense issues discussed with the closest U.S. allies. Missile defense was at the top of the list, followed by developing a NATO relationship with Russia, working in common purpose with Europe, increased defense spending in NATO countries, and enlarging the alliance to include former East European countries. The only reference to extremists was in Macedonia, where Bush said regional forces were seeking to subvert a new democracy.
       
      Top officials continued that public focus right up to the eve of the al Qaeda attacks. On Aug. 2, 2001, Cheney emphasized the bold new U.S. plan for a 21st century approach to security. "We're fundamentally transforming the U.S. strategic relationship around the world as we look at missile defenses and modifications to our offensive strategic arms," he said at a news conference with Republican congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.
       
      And two days before Sept. 11, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Rice said the administration was ready "to get serious about the business of dealing with this emergent threat. Ballistic missiles are ubiquitous now."
       
      In the speech prepared for Sept. 11, Rice intended to point out that the United States had spent $11 billion on counterterrorism, about twice as much as it spent on missile defense, during the previous year, although the speech did not point out that that was when President Bill Clinton was still in office.
       
      Rice's text noted that Bush appointed Cheney to oversee a coordinated national effort to protect against a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction. At the time, the U.S. concern about terror was heavily focused on Iraq and rogue states, and missile defense was viewed as a weapon against that terrorism -- a different interpretation of the leading threats and responses that would take hold after jetliners hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
       
      In April 2002, Rice followed through on her postponed Sept. 11 speaking engagement at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. But the speech she delivered did not contain any of the original text, former U.S. officials said.
       
      In the revamped speech, Rice's focus was on the threat of international terrorists -- and missile defense was mentioned only once, almost in passing.
       
      "An earthquake of the magnitude of 9/11 can shift the tectonic plates of international politics," she noted. top
       
      Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford and staff writer Mark Stencel contributed to this report.
       

      B
      ush Counsel Called 9/11 Panelist Before Clarke Testified
      By Dana Milbank and Dan Eggen
      Washington Post Staff Writers
      Thursday, April 1, 2004; Page A13

      President Bush's top lawyer placed a telephone call to at least one of the Republican members of the Sept. 11 commission when the panel was gathered in Washington on March 24 to hear the testimony of former White House counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke, according to people with direct knowledge of the call. 
       
      White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales called commissioner Fred F. Fielding, one of five GOP members of the body, and, according to one observer, also called Republican commission member James R. Thompson. Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, wrote to Gonzales yesterday asking him to confirm and describe the conversations.
       
      Waxman said "it would be unusual if such ex parte contacts occurred" during the hearing. Waxman did not allege that there would be anything illegal in such phone calls. But he suggested that such contacts would be improper because "the conduct of the White House is one of the key issues being investigated by the commission."
       
      White House spokesmen were unable to get a response from Gonzales.
       
      Fielding did not return phone calls seeking comment.
       
      Thompson declined yesterday to say whether he spoke with Gonzales. "I never talk about conversations with the White House," he said. Asked about the source of his information for his questioning of Clarke, Thompson said: "I ask my own questions."
       
      During the commission's 21/2 hours of questioning Clarke, Fielding and Thompson presented evidence questioning the former official's credibility.
       
      Fielding, a former White House counsel under President Ronald Reagan, raised questions about Clarke's "integrity," and suggested classified testimony he gave a congressional inquiry in 2002 was different from his current version of events.
       
      Thompson, a former Illinois governor, pointed to Clarke's remarks praising Bush in a previously anonymous 2002 news briefing. It was reported on Fox News two hours before the hearing started; the White House that morning had authorized Fox News to identify the anonymous briefer as Clarke.
       
      The commission has functioned largely on a bipartisan basis, but the testimony by Clarke, which was highly critical of Bush, split the members along party lines.
       
      Clarke was counterterrorism coordinator in the Clinton and Bush White Houses, and has charged that the Bush administration was insufficiently concerned about terrorism before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The White House has worked aggressively to raise doubts about him and his account. It alleges that he is a disgruntled former colleague, has partisan motives and is trying to promote his book on the subject. top
       
      Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report .
       

      Robert Fisk - Things are Getting Much Worse
      Friday, April 02 2004 @ 12:59 AM GMT
      Robert Fisk
       
      April 01, 2004 "The Independent" -- What has happened to the Coalition Provisional Authority, also known as the occupying power?
       
      Things are getting worse, much worse in Iraq. Yesterday's horrors proved that. Yet just a day earlier, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, America's deputy director of military operations, assured us that there was only an "uptick" in violence in Iraq.
       
      Not a sudden wave of violence, mark you, not a down-to-earth increase, not even a "spike" in violence - another of the general's favourite expressions. No, just a teeny-weeny, ever-so small, innocent little "uptick". In fact, he said it was a "slight uptick".
       
      Our hands were numb, recording all this, so swiftly did General Kimmitt take us through the little uptick.
       
      A marine vehicle blown off the road near Fallujah, a marine killed, a second attack with small-arms fire on the same troops, an attack on an Iraqi paramilitary recruiting station on the 14th July Road, a soldier killed near Ramadi, two Britons hurt in Basra violence, a suicide bombing against the home of the Hillah police chief, an Iraqi shot at a checkpoint, US soldiers wounded in Mosul ... All this was just 17 hours before Fallujah civilians dragged the cremated remains of a Westerner through the streets of their city.
       
      When you go to the manicured lawns and villas of the so-called "Green Zone" in Baghdad, you get this odd, weird feeling; that here is a place so isolated, so ostentatiously secure - it is not secure of course, since mortars are regularly fired into the compound - that it has no contact with the outside world. Here the US proconsul. Paul Bremer. lives in Saddam Hussein's former palace. There are fewer than 100 days before he supposedly hands over the "sovereignty" of Iraq to America's own new hand-picked Iraqi government, which will hold elections at an unknown date. And so within the palace walls, the occupying power believes in optimism, progress and political development.
       
      When someone asked - just a few hours before yesterday's horror - about the deteriorating security in Mosul, General Kimmitt snapped back that this was only "an assessment that you may be making".
       
      Every week, it is like this. From the hot, dangerous streets of Baghdad with their electricity cuts and gunfire - and an awful lot of "upticks" which never get recorded - we make our way through palisades of concrete drums, US Army checkpoints and searches, into a vast, air-conditioned conference centre, a cavernous Saddamite structure built in 1981 for presidential summits.
       
      Next to General Kimmitt often stands Dan Senor, spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority who, with his frameless glasses, unsmiling demeanour and his occasional, fearful glances at the general when the latter faces a dodgy question, resembles the kind of doctor who clears his throat and quietly advises his patients to settle their affairs. He almost smiled when General Kimmitt announced his army's intention to conduct "precision operations" against "anti-Coalition elements and enemies of the Iraqi people". But wasn't this all a bit Soviet? Didn't the Red Army conduct operations against "anti-socialist elements and enemies of the Afghan people"?
       
      But there was an interesting twist - horribly ironic in the face of yesterday's butchery - in General Kimmitt's narrative. Why, I asked him, did he refer sometimes to "terrorists" and at other times to "insurgents"? Surely if you could leap from being a terrorist to being an insurgent, then with the next little hop, skip and jump, you become a "freedom-fighter". Mr Senor gave the general one of his fearful looks. He needn't have bothered. General Kimmitt is a much smoother operator than his civilian counterpart. There were, the general explained, the Fallujah version who were insurgents, and then the al-Qa'ida version who attack mosques, hotels, religious festivals and who were terrorists.
       
      So, it seems, there are now in Iraq good terrorists and bad terrorists, there are common-or-garden insurgents and supremely awful terrorists, the kind against which President George Bush took us to war in Iraq when there weren't any terrorists actually here, though there are now. And therein lies the problem. From inside the Green Zone on the banks of the Tigris, you can believe anything. How far can the occupying powers take war-spin before the world stops believing anything they say?
       
      At Wednesday's Five o'Clock Follies, two armed American soldiers stood guard at both doors - watching us, not the approach to the doors - while a backdrop carried a vast shield with the words "Equality, Security, Liberty, Justice". Did I detect, among my colleagues, a quickening of our step as we headed back through the thousands of tons of concrete to the smog and fear of the streets outside? Baghdad may be dangerous. But at least it's on Planet Earth. top
       

      Chalabi: A Questionable Use of U.S. Funding
      Under investigation: Congress is examining whether Ahmad Chalabi inappropriately used U.S. taxpayer dollars to prod America towards war in Iraq
      By Mark Hosenball and Michael Hirsh
      Newsweek

      April 5 issue - Ahmad Chalabi has never paid much attention to rules. As an international financier, he was convicted in absentia in 1992 of embezzling millions from his own bank in Jordan. I

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