Saturday, May 01, 2004

More on the Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners

How bad is it? Very, very bad.

Photographs showing US soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners drew international condemnation today, with Arabs saying the US campaign to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis was now a lost cause.

"This is the straw that broke the camel's back for America," said Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

"The liberators are worse than the dictators.

"They have not just lost the hearts and minds of Iraqis but all the Third World and the Arab countries," he said.
The publicity could not have been worse in the Arab world, with the sexual humiliation in the pictures especially shocking.

"That really, really is the worst atrocity," Atwan said.

"It affects the honour and pride of Muslim people. It is better to kill them than sexually abuse them."

Arab satellite televisions, seen by millions of Arabs and Muslims, began their news bulletins with the pictures, which they said showed the "savagery" of US troops against Iraqi prisoners.

"They (Americans) said Saddam committed crimes against the people, now they are committing more vicious crimes in front of the whole world," said Yemeni university student Faez al-Kaynai.


Shouldn't They Be Paying Attention to These Matters?

What exactly is Wolfowitz drawing a paycheck for?

This administration is the opposite of "The Sixth Sense."

They don't see any dead people.
Asked during a Congressional budget hearing on Thursday how many American troops had been killed in Iraq, Mr. Wolfowitz missed by more than 30 percent. "It's approximately 500, of which — I can get the exact numbers — approximately 350 are combat deaths," he said.

As of Thursday, there were 722 deaths, 521 in combat. The No. 2 man at the Pentagon was oblivious in the bloodiest month of the war, with the number of Americans killed in April overtaking those killed in the six-week siege of Baghdad last year.


Word from the Field

Bush says things are going fine. But someone who has actually been there begs to differ:

In the Democratic response to the president's radio address, former Army National Guard platoon leader Paul Rieckhoff, said his 10 months of service in Iraq showed him that the operation is deeply flawed.

"Mr. President, our mission is not accomplished. Our troops can accomplish it. We can build a stable Iraq. But we need some help," he said. The soldiers I served with are men and women of extraordinary courage and incredible capability, but it's time we had leadership in Washington to match that courage and match that capability."

Mr. Rieckhoff says his platoon lacked regular supplies of drinking water, batteries, medical supplies, and body armor. He says his soldiers were not properly trained for civilian operations and did not have enough translators or reinforcements.

"I'm not angry with our president, but I am disappointed," he said. "I don't expect an easy solution to the situation in Iraq. I do expect an admission that there are serious problems that need serious solutions. I don't expect our leaders to be free of mistakes. I expect our leaders to own up to them."

Mr. Rieckhoff wonders when President Bush will take responsibility for errors in Iraq. Mr. Bush says it appears there were mistakes in pre-war intelligence about the country's weapons programs, but he says the invasion was the right thing because Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States.

If nothing else is clear about this administration, this is: If we want a leader who is able to admit and learn from mistakes, we have to vote Bush out.


Betsy Berra May Not Care...

but sane and civilized people do. And it's worse than just one or two incidents, as any reasonable person would have suspected.

International condemnation intensified Saturday over photographs of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by U.S. troops, as new reports surfaced of additional abuses by British troops and revelations of an internal Army report showing the American mistreatment was more widespread than previously known.
Also Saturday, the New Yorker magazine said it had obtained a U.S. Army report that Iraqi detainees were subjected to "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

The abuses included threats of rape and the pouring of cold water and liquid from chemical lights on detainees, said the internal report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba. According to the report, detainees were beaten with a broom handle, and one was sodomized with "a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick," the New Yorker reports in its May 10 issue.

The scandal broadened Saturday after Britain's Daily Mirror published new photographs of a hooded Iraqi prisoner who reportedly was beaten by British troops. The newspaper's front-page picture showed a soldier apparently urinating on the prisoner, who was sitting on the floor.

The newspaper quoted unidentified soldiers as saying the unarmed captive had been threatened with execution during eight hours of abuse and was left bleeding and vomiting. They said the captive was driven away and dumped from the back of a moving vehicle, and it was not known whether he survived.


More Anti-American Violence

Can anyone honestly argue that the invasion of Iraq isn't a significant cause of such actions? Can anyone really believe that maintaining military bases in Iraq indefinitely will help to suppress anti-Americanism?

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- Gunmen killed four and wounded two Houston-based workers of an international engineering company Saturday. The attackers engaged Saudi police in a bloody battle, shooting wildly in a residential compound and dragging a naked victim behind their getaway car.

In all, the gunmen in the city of Yanbu killed six Westerners and wounded at least 25.

Police killed four gunmen. Saudi officials blamed the attack on Islamic militants.

The attack on workers from ABB Lummus' office in west Houston was the latest in a rash of violence against contractors with Houston-based firms working in foreign countries, including war-torn Iraq.

Yet more evidence that working for Bush and his cronies is hazardous to your health; if they don't screw you, then their enemies will.


Friday, April 30, 2004

Another Testament to the Skill and Foresight of Our Leaders

It's just amazing that these people still have the trust of the American people to do anything.

The hastily improvised plan to send a small Iraqi force into Falluja, led by a former general in Saddam Hussein's army, is a last-ditch effort to avert a violent and politically charged urban battle, senior Pentagon officials and American commanders said Friday.

Privately, senior military officers expressed skepticism that dispatching an untested 900-man Iraqi battalion into Falluja would pacify the embattled city of nearly 300,000 people.

As I said the other day, I am glad I am not a member of that Iraqi battalion.


Unnerving Relevance

I ran across this quote today, which is rather astonishing in its applicability to the whole Iraq/9-11 obfuscation:

"The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category."-- Adolf Hitler

Just one of many trenchant insights collected in the book Peace Signs: The Anti-War Movement Illustrated.


Going Begging Again

Once more, with the deadline looming, America is casting about for someone to help pull us out of the fire we started:

US Ambassador to India David C. Mulford said here on Friday that Washington was considering to renew a call for India to send troops to Iraq once a new government takes place in New Delhi in May.

Addressing the American Chamber of Commerce, Mulford said the United States had yet to ask India to send troops to Iraq. But after June 30, "we would like to talk to India about it," he said.

Indian media reported recently that Washington had made a fresh request asking India and Pakistan among others to contribute troops to protect the UN mission that is to be set up in Baghdad after the transfer of power to local Iraqis by the end of June.

The US will advise India to provide peacekeeping troops to Baghdad after India's general election in May and an interim government takes shape in Baghdad in June under a broader UN mandate, the ambassador said.

Washington asked India to send troops to the US-led coalition forces in Iraq last year but the request was declined by the Indian government.

If I were India, I would be wary of doing anything that this government "calls for," "asks," "requests," or "advises."


Bush Provides Shocking Insights into 9-11 in His Testimony Yesterday!

Washington, DC, Apr. 30 (UPI) -- President George Bush told the panel investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks a security memo he got warning of attacks lacked a date or place.

In the closed-door interview alongside Vice President Dick Cheney in the Oval Office Thursday, a commission member who asked not to be identified told the Washington Times Bush was questioned repeatedly about the Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled, "Bin Ladin determined to strike in U.S."

Bush said if his administration had known more, it would have taken every action to thwart the al-Qaida terrorists.

No other details of the three-hour interview were available.

Oh, wait. My mistake. That's just the same old bullshit.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

The National Security Republicans

Except that they don't want to do it, or else they don't want to pay for it.

There's this:

Kerry criticized President Bush for accommodating the chemical industry, which favors voluntary efforts to improve security, because of campaign contributions from executives.

"It's nearly two-and-a-half years after 9/11 and the administration is still dragging its heels and we're still fighting to secure chemical plants where a terrorist attack could be devastating," Kerry said in remarks prepared for the National Conference of Black Mayors

And then there's this:

The government wants $435 million more from the airline industry for passenger screening, but the airlines said Wednesday they don't think they should have to pay it.


American Liberation

The stories of the torture and humiliation of Iraqi POWs by US troops are very disturbing, but not surprising given that we are occupying a nation with reservists--not professional soldiers. It is not a shock that war degrades and brutalizes people to the point that they do despicable things.

More disgusting and more shocking are some of the letters that have been written to CBS regarding their report of these abuses:

Why in God's name would you choose to air such a story at this time? This is something our country didn't need to know now. Everyone in this country is hanging on for dear life to support the troops, and you have taken all our faith in goodness away. How many more reports can we watch like this before support fades?

We are losing our fight with other countries to support us, and now you have just sealed it. ... We've just lost the goal of helping anyone over there because of this show, and God help us. You are no better then those who did these horrible acts. Your reports are bringing down this country.
--Betsy Berra

Was I supposed to be horrified by the report of Iraqi prisoners being positioned in "pornographic" positions and humiliated by American soldiers? I was not. During your report, all I could think of was the murder, torture, maiming, burning and beheading of innocent civilians, women and children included, carried out by terrorists and supporters of Saddam Hussein. At least these men were men of war.

They had to pose for pornographic pictures? So what. We cannot imagine sitting at home on our couches the horrors our soldiers must face every day. Why not focus your attention on the unfair practices of our enemy?
--Sally Ainsley

At one time I would have condemned the way they were treated, but after recently seeing them burning Americans there, I say they should give those troops medals. An eye for an eye.
--J Guzzi

Depressing that these are our neighbors.

By the way, what would the design be for the medal given for making POWs simulate oral sex?

UPDATE: Just to clarify, the majority of the letters praised CBS; the ones from veterans were among the most effusive in their appreciation for the story and the most disgusted by the actions of these soldiers.



Why is there so much smiling and laughing going on in this White House? Condi Rice seemed amused during much of her testimony; Bush yukked it up about the missing WMDs.

And now this:

Mr. Bush chuckled at the suggestion that he and Mr. Cheney had chosen to be interviewed together so they could prop each other up or prevent discrepancies in their answers. "If we had something to hide, we wouldn't have met with them in the first place," he said.

Ha! They just wouldn't have answered to anyone! Ha... ha... ?


Terrorists in New York

Does this mean we should invade Pennsylvania?

New York City police have uncovered an arsenal of weapons, ammunition and home-made bombs in a raid on a Staten Island home, a police spokeswoman said.

According to Officer Jannara Everleth, the NYPD Drug Enforcement Task Force on Wednesday entered the single-family home and discovered the stash of munitions, including seven homemade bombs, 10,000 rounds of ammunition and 13 guns.



How does he keep a straight face?

Powell said some might question how sovereign Iraq will be on July 1 if U.S.-led foreign troops remain in the country.

"Because a large military presence will still be required under U.S. command, some would say 'Well you are not giving full sovereignty'. But we are giving sovereignty so that sovereignty can be used to say, 'We invite you to remain'. That is a sovereign decision," Powell said.


The repercussions:

US Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent remarks that the coming Iraqi government would not take the full sovereignty have destroyed the hopes of Iraqis, observers here said.

Frankly and publicly, Powell last Monday announced that the coming interim government after power transfer by the end of June would have to give up some of the sovereignty to let the US-led coalition forces freely move in the country.

These declarations disappointed Iraqis, especially those who support the Americans and who want the ending of the occupation in June 30 and return of full sovereignty to the country.

According to Powell, the American plan for the coming Iraqi government also includes that the Iraqi army would be under the command of the Americans.

Iraqis wonder now what kind of a state with sovereignty that Washington is giving them after the power transfer in June 30 if the government does not have the right to legislate laws, does not control its army, and Washington chooses its leadership and government.

The declarations consolidates the situations of extremists in both Shiites and Sunnis, who think that the US does not intend to withdraw its troops from Iraq, and that's why the people should fight to throw them out and regain its sovereignty.


The View from Outside

Americans live in the very heart of capitalist hegemony, to the extent that most people here have a hard time understanding that democracy and capitalism are two different things. One is a political system, the other an economic system. But to most Americans, "liberty" and "self-determination" and "free trade" are all the same thing.

That's why most people are baffled by anti-Americanism abroad; what is wrong with those people that they don't want to be free like us?

So we must pay close attention to voices from outside the American hegemony, on those rare occasions when such voices are allowed to speak at all. Here's an example of the sort of thing most of us don't get to hear:

Reading the Baghdad dailies brings home the reality of the city's ongoing crime wave. In the minds of many residents, the looting that began after Hussein's fall last April hasn't really stopped. Indeed, the breakdown in order is likened by some to the free enterprise policies pushed by U.S. authorities.

A cartoon in the al-Mada daily last week showed a smiling Westernized official holding a document titled "Privatizing the public sector." A masked looter is passing by him, saying "Don't bother. We privatized before you


Getting Things Backwards

A laughable statement from Thomas Kean:

The White House's insistence of a joint session of Bush and Cheney with the commission had stirred speculation. Some people said it appeared that the two were trying to keep their stories straight.

"Well, we recognize that Mr. Bush may help Mr. Cheney with some of the questions," Thomas Kean, chairman of the commission, said at a news conference recently.


Return of Plame

This story is from early March, but I bring it up just to remind everyone that the book will be released in the very near future:

Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson will reveal the name of the person he thinks leaked his wife's identity as an undercover CIA officer in a book due out in May, his publisher said Tuesday.


A Good Start in Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine — As he signed a bill Wednesday creating domestic partnerships in Maine, Gov. John Baldacci said the state is demonstrating its commitment to civil rights by enacting a priority for gay-rights activists.

The new law, which takes effect 90 days after the signing, extends domestic partnership rights to heterosexual or gay adults who live together under long-term arrangements. It also gives domestic partners the same inheritance rights as a spouse when a married partner dies without a will.


War Crimes

As the US attempts to save face while extricating itself from Fallujah, and as Bush insists that things are "normal" there now, keep this in mind:

During the first two weeks of this month, the American army committed war crimes in Falluja on a scale unprecedented for this war. According to the relatively few media reports of what took place there, some 600 Iraqis were killed during these two weeks, among them some 450 elderly people, women and children.

The sight of decapitated children, the rows of dead women and the shocking pictures of the soccer stadium that was turned into a temporary grave for hundreds of the slain - all were broadcast to the world only by the Al Jazeera network. During the operation in Falluja, according to the organization Doctors Without Borders, U.S. Marines even occupied the hospitals and prevented hundreds of the wounded from receiving medical treatment. Snipers fired from the rooftops at anyone who tried to approach.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

By the Way

The number of US soldiers killed in Iraq this month has now equalled the number killed during the two-month invasion period last year.

Mission accomplished, and all that.



War brutalizes everyone involved, making humans behave in inhuman ways. Here's what your next-door neighbor has become as a result of this useless invasion:

Frederick wrote home to his family about the treatment of prisoners. He said in an e-mail: "We helped getting them to talk with the way we handle them. We've had a very high rate with our styles of getting them to break; they usually end up breaking within hours."

The pictures 60 Minutes II obtained show an Iraqi prisoner who, according to the U.S. Army, was told to stand on a box with his head covered and wires attached to his hands. That prisoner was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted. In another photograph, prisoners' bodies were stacked in a pyramid - one body had a slur written in English on his skin.


The Word "Chickenhawks" Makes It to the Senate Floor

Courtesy of Senator Frank Lautenberg:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg on Wednesday called Vice President Dick Cheney "the lead chickenhawk" against Sen. John Kerry and criticized other Republicans for questioning the Democratic presidential contender's military credentials.
In a scathing speech on the Senate floor, Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, said that he did not think politicians should be judged by whether they had military service but added that "when those who didn't serve attack the heroism of those who did, I find it particularly offensive."

Lautenberg pointed to a poster with a drawing of a chicken in a military uniform defining a chickenhawk as "a person enthusiastic about war, provided someone else fights it."

"They shriek like a hawk, but they have the backbone of the chicken," he said.

"The lead chickenhawk against Sen. Kerry [is] the vice president of the United States, Vice President Cheney," Lautenberg said. "He was in Missouri this week claiming that Sen. Kerry was not up to the job of protecting this nation. What nerve. Where was Dick Cheney when that war was going on?"


Just Great

The Supreme Court is stepping in to tell California that it wants its air to be too clean.

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a Southern California agency may have gone too far in imposing its own antismog rules for city buses, airport shuttles and other vehicles.

Justices, on a 8-1 vote, sided with oil companies and diesel engine manufacturers who claimed that local pollution rules conflict with national standards.


I Think This Might Need Someone's Attention

As things continue to lurch, stagger, and combust in Iraq, North Korea actually has nuclear weapons.

The United States is preparing to significantly raise its estimate of the number of nuclear weapons held by North Korea, from "possibly two" to at least eight, according to U.S. officials involved in the preparation of the report.

The report, expected to be completed within a month, would reflect a new intelligence consensus on North Korea's nuclear capabilities after that country's decision last year to restart a nuclear reactor and plutonium-reprocessing facility that had been frozen under a 1994 agreement. Among the evidence used in making the assessment is a detailed analysis of plutonium byproducts found on clothing worn by members of an unofficial U.S. delegation that was allowed to visit North Korean nuclear facilities several months ago.
Experts said an arsenal of eight weapons means that North Korea could use its weapons to attack neighbors, instead of merely deterring a possible attack.

Another success for the neoconservative foreign policy.


Perhaps We Should Ask Them to Return the Favor

The United States will deploy 120 monitors around the Philippines to observe the conduct of the May 10 elections, a senior US official said Wednesday.

Couldn't hurt.


This Is Just Ridiculous

And all the more so because Bush is supposed to be our "strong leader" or some such nonsense.

There will be note-takers in the room but no official record made when President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney appear before the 9/11 commission Thursday, the White House said Tuesday.
In agreeing to the meeting, the White House insisted that the commission not make an official recording or transcript. One commission staffer will be allowed to take notes.

The decision, following a practice President Ronald Reagan used in 1987 when appearing before a commission probing the Iran-Contra matter, removes the possibility the transcript would become a political issue and prevents any subpoena of it.


Plus, they are lying about it:

John Roberts reports for CBS News: "The White House today claimed that commission interviews with Bill Clinton and Al Gore were not transcribed.

"But in fact, CBS News has learned, those sessions were recorded and will eventually be transcribed.


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Are We Back to Destroying Villages in Order to Liberate Them?

Because it appears thus to me. Except that this is a city:

Explosions and showers of sparks lit up the sky in Fallujah on Tuesday night in a battle that appeared much heavier than the previous night's clashes -- evidence that U.S. forces may be trying to wear down a bastion of gunmen in the tense city.


Cart Before Horse?

This is all well and good:

President Bush yesterday unveiled a national health care IT plan focused on the development of personal electronic medical records for every American within 10 years and the appointment of a sub-Cabinet-level health care IT czar to oversee the process.

But, how about unveiling a health care plan that focuses on providing health care for every American?


Fighting Back

But then, he actually has been in combat, so it'd stand to reason he would be better at fighting than the chickenhawks who are pecking away at him:

John Kerry said Tuesday that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have no standing in criticizing his military service and anti-war effort, considering questions about one's National Guard attendance and the other's deferments from Vietnam.

"I think a lot of veterans are going to be very angry at a president who can't account for his own service in the National Guard, and a vice president who got every deferment in the world and decided he had better things to do, criticizing somebody who fought for their country and served," Kerry told the Dayton Daily News.


This Can't Be Good

Explosions in the Syrian capital now. No word on who is behind it all.

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - A series of loud explosions and heavy shooting shook the Syrian capital late Tuesday, causing casualties in a western area of Damascus where foreign embassies are located, witnesses and media reports said.

Syrian television said security forces were battling "terrorists."


The Arab Al-Jazeera television station reported that car bombs were used in the attack and that heavy exchanges of gunfire were continuing late into the night. A UN building was said to be ablaze and three vehicles destroyed.

Al-Jazeera and the al-Arabiya television station both reported that there had been more than 15 blasts.



For Hubert Selby, Jr., author of Last Exit to Brooklyn and, yes, Requiem for a Dream.

Hubert Selby Jr., the Brooklyn-born ex-merchant mariner who turned to drugs and to writing after cheating death and created a lasting vision of urban hell in his novel "Last Exit to Brooklyn," died yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 75.


Xerox Maintenance Workers, Beware!

This case is another illustration of what the Patriot Act can lead to, whenever someone in the Justice Department feels like doing it:

As a Web master to several Islamic organizations, Mr. Hussayen helped to maintain Internet sites with links to groups that praised suicide bombings in Chechnya and in Israel. But he himself does not hold those views, his lawyers said. His role was like that of a technical editor, they said, arguing that he could not be held criminally liable for what others wrote.

Civil libertarians say the case poses a landmark test of what people can do or whom they can associate with in the age of terror alerts. It is one of the few times anyone has been prosecuted under language in the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, which makes it a crime to provide "expert guidance or assistance" to groups deemed terrorist.

"Somebody who fixes a fax machine that is owned by a group that may advocate terrorism could be liable," said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who argued against the expert guidance part of the antiterrorism law this year, in a case where it was struck down by a federal judge.

Meanwhile, Bush waxes eloquent as the technical editor sits in jail:

"The Patriot Act defends our liberty, is what it does, under the Constitution of the United States," Mr. Bush said in Buffalo on Tuesday.


The Bush Policy in One Word


Mr. Cheney's determination to keep his secrets probably reflects more than an effort to avoid bad publicity. It's also a matter of principle, based on the administration's deep belief that it has the right to act as it pleases, and that the public has no right to know what it's doing.

As Linda Greenhouse recently pointed out in The New York Times, the legal arguments the administration is making for the secrecy of the energy task force are "strikingly similar" to those it makes for its right to detain, without trial, anyone it deems an enemy combatant. In both cases, as Ms. Greenhouse puts it, the administration has put forward "a vision of presidential power . . . as far-reaching as any the court has seen."

That same vision is apparent in many other actions. Just to mention one: we learn from Bob Woodward that the administration diverted funds earmarked for Afghanistan to preparations for an invasion of Iraq without asking or even notifying Congress.

What Mr. Cheney is defending, in other words, is a doctrine that makes the United States a sort of elected dictatorship: a system in which the president, once in office, can do whatever he likes, and isn't obliged to consult or inform either Congress or the public.


Grim--and Ominous

Ask yourself how you would feel if people claiming to be liberators did this to your town:

The paint on the gravestones is as red as blood. And on some of them, it has not yet dried.

"A young brother and sister are buried here," said one of the gravediggers, who gave only his first name, Hamza, as he pointed to two crudely cut blocks propped up on a dirt mound.

The place where the dead lie in this town, 30 miles west of Baghdad, was once a soccer stadium named the Falluja Sports Club. But now, after more than three weeks of fighting between American marines and insurgents, it is known as the Falluja Martyrs Cemetery.

Smeared in hand-written Arabic lettering on the stone markers were the names of Amal and Mustafa Alawi, killed in the Hay Julan district, a poor neighborhood in Falluja where much of the fighting has taken place.

"There are 250 people buried here from American strikes on houses," said Nasser, another gravedigger. "We have stacked up the bodies one on top of the other."

How long would it take you to forgive and forget?


Monday, April 26, 2004

Scalia's Getting Testy

Which is not uncommon, when he doesn't get his way, or when someone tries to record a public speech by him...

Two of the Supreme Court's most conservative members delivered an unusual public rebuke to more liberal justices Monday, accusing them of ducking an important church-state fight over mealtime prayers at a taxpayer-funded military college.

Justice Antonin Scalia (news - web sites), joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, said the court should have taken the case to answer for the first time whether its ban on school-sponsored prayer for young children and high schoolers applies to college students as well.

Scalia delivered a polite but blunt critique of what he suggested are flimsy reasons for avoiding an appeal on behalf of the Virginia Military Institute, which is part of the state's university system.

The VMI case also gave the court an opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of traditional religious observance in military institutions, Scalia said.

"The weighty questions raised by petitioners ... deserve this court's attention," he wrote in protest.

Writing separately, Justice John Paul Stevens countered that the VMI case may be important, but suffers from procedural and other problems. He said Scalia is "quite wrong" in his characterization of why the court rejected the case. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer joined Stevens.

With the Supreme Court rebuff, the ruling of a lower court stands. That court said the nightly prayers violate the Constitution's ban on state promotion of religion.


More Bad News

The Iraqis are cheering, but not for the reasons we would like:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A workshop believed to be producing chemical munitions exploded in flames Monday moments after U.S. troops broke in to search it, killing two soldiers and wounding five. Jubilant Iraqis swarmed over the Americans' charred Humvees, waving looted machine guns, a bandolier and a helmet.


In Fallujah, U.S. troops came under a heavy insurgent attack a day after U.S. officials decided to extend a cease-fire rather than launch a full-scale offensive on the city. One Marine and eight insurgents were killed.


Sunday, April 25, 2004

Who Could Have Seen This Coming?

Well, just about anyone, really.

In mass demonstrations Sunday, Palestinians warned Israel that if carried out its threat to harm their leader Yasser Arafat, they would revive the border infiltration war they waged in 1960s, '70s and '80s.

"With our souls and blood, we redeem you, Arafat," chanted some 5,000 supporters of the Palestinian leader in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp near the southern Lebanese city of Sidon. About 2,500 Palestinians staged a similar protest in the nearby Mieh Mieh refugee camp.


Losing Hearts and Minds

This is the sort of incident that is inevitable during prolonged, tense occupation. And the effects of such events on the people of Iraq and their attitude towards the soldiers cannot be overstated.

Four schoolchildren were killed by gunfire in Baghdad, shortly after a roadside bomb ripped through a US military vehicle, witnesses say.

Some witnesses said the children, all aged around 12, were shot dead by US troops who had opened fire randomly after the blast on Canal Street in eastern Baghdad. At least five other people were wounded.

The children had left their nearby school to look at the burning Humvee, the witnesses said. Children and some passersby were "celebrating" the attack near the vehicle when the deadly shots were fired.

The US military had no immediate word on the incident.

"I saw a child lying on the street with a bullet hole in his neck and another in his side," said a driver who witnessed the incident. "He had his schoolbag on his back. Some 15 minutes later his relatives came and took his body away."


A Glimmer of Hope

Backing away from warnings that a new U.S. offensive on the city of Fallujah may be imminent, U.S. officials on Sunday announced that the occupation authority has shifted to a "political track" in an attempt to defuse the month-long crisis.

"The end state is what we need to be focused on. If it can be achieved through a political track, that's always good," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the coalition deputy director of operations, told a news conference. "I think we are going to show some combat patience and see if we can deliver this on a political track."


Supporting Our Troops

And the Pentagon keeps extending the soldiers' stay in Iraq. Is it any wonder that recruitment is failing to meet its goals?

It took Jay Johnson seven years to build up his mobile catering business and a year to nearly lose it all. When he enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard, Mr. Johnson thought he might be away from home for six months, a year at most. But as he and other members of the 269th Military Police Company enter their 18th month of deployment, his well-laid plans for keeping the business afloat in absentia, and ensuring his family's financial security, have begun to falter.

Mr. Johnson's business, Johnson & Son Catering, is down to one lunch truck, from three before he left for Iraq, leaving his wife, Candace, and two young children to scrape by with half as much money. Although she has eliminated contributions to the family's college and retirement accounts, and cut all but the most essential spending, Ms. Johnson is still struggling to make ends meet.

"If he doesn't come back soon, we're going to lose it all, and he's going to have to start all over again," said Ms. Johnson, who works full time as an insurance adjustor. "He's proud to serve his country, but the Army doesn't seem to care about him or us."

As the war in Iraq continues, and the Pentagon prolongs the mobilization of tens of thousands of troops, the toll on both the soldiers, and the families they have left behind, is mounting.



The march for women's right to abortions is timely, to put it mildly. And this multitude is very heartening. But to Bush, just another "focus group," I am sure.

Organizers obtained a permit for 750,000 people and say they exceeded that goal. The 1992 march drew 500,000, according to the National Park Police, which no longer gives official crowd counts. CNN, citing local police, estimated that at least 250,000 people participated today.

Addressing a pre-rally breakfast, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said: "We didn't have to march for 12 long years because we had a government that respected the rights of women. The only way we are going to avoid having to march again and again and again is to elect John Kerry president."