Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. We've been there 1,826 days since then.
We'll start, as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 3990
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3851
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3529
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3131
Since Election (1/31/05): 2553
Other Coalition Troops: 308
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 487
Of course, the war 'budget' keeps on hemorrhaging.
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through: $ 503, 530, 900, 000.00
Have you been following the "Winter Soldier II" hearings? (of course you have, since you heard about them here!) Given the utter lack of coverage by the mainstream media, you'd think nothing was going on at all. It's not easy to listen to or read, but it's devastatingly important...
I ran "Winter Soldier" through Google News, and it returns about 10 pages of hits. Slate.com is at the top, followed by several foreign news sources, then Human Events.com
, a sickening conservative rag that denounced the whole thing. Of course, we know better.
Here's just a snippet of the testimony, as reported on Inquirer.net
, a Filipino website.
WASHINGTON -- Private Clifton Hicks reopened painful memories as he recalled how his unit in Iraq had raced out to aid fellow US soldiers who had come under fire, only to have to clumsily sweep up the tragic results of a furious counterattack.
"A patrol of 82nd airborne infantry guys in Humvees with machineguns on either side were attacked from the left by two or three insurgents," Hicks said, staring vacantly ahead as he gave testimony at "Winter Soldier," organized by Iraq Veterans against the War (IVAW).
"Some of the guys also heard gunfire from the right, where there was housing for disabled families from the Iraqi army. So the whole platoon returned fire in both directions," he said.
Three people at a wedding party inside the house were hit. "An old man was slightly wounded. A girl of 10 was slightly wounded. A girl of six was dead," said Hicks.
"She had been shot by a bunch of teenage American kids."
The 82nd left Hicks's unit to call the casualties in to the tactical operations center. "They told us: 'Charlie Mike.' That's military jargon for continue mission," he said.
"We had fired automatic weapons into the middle of a wedding party, wounding and killing several guests, and we were told to drive away and forget about it."
Hicks was one of scores of US soldiers who, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, delved into wounded memories and gave testimony at "Winter Soldier" about what they had seen and done in Iraq.
Their stories painted a verbal equivalent of Picasso's Guernica, recounting violence unleashed on civilians on superiors' orders, of corruption eating away at society, of bungled raids and botched counter-attacks followed by succinct orders to "Charlie Mike".
Bombing a village into submission or "free-fire" orders -- carte blanche to open fire on anything and everything -- were not uncommon, the soldiers said, even if both go against the US military's rules of engagement, which state that positive identification is required before an attack is launched.
"Positive identification means you have reasonable certainty that your target is a legitimate military target," former Marine Adam Kokesh said.
Private Steve Casey recalled how his commanding officer once said "there were 'no friendlies'" in a residential area and announced: "Game on, all weapons free."
"I saw personal weapons fired into windshields and radiators of cars," he said, his gaze fixed on a spot on the floor.
The majority of victims of that operation were not the 700-800 enemy combatants claimed by officials but "civilians trying to flee the battleground," he added.
The soldiers praised their "battle buddies" and the troops currently in Iraq, as a few dozen pro-war demonstrators outside the venue denounced the testifiers as traitors and liars.
"I have not come here to pass judgment on my fellow soldiers; I am here to pass judgment on war itself," said Hicks.
Luis Montalvan, a 34-year-old former captain with a chestful of medals and two Iraq tours under his belt, said he joined the anti-war movement to denounce the statements put forward by high-ranking officials in Iraq, and the rampant corruption.
"General Petraeus and company have done everything they can do to propagate to the American public that 30,000 American troops have brought a reduction in violence," said Montalvan, who left the military last year after 17 years' service.
"They claim a reduction of violence in Baghdad. Well, 70 percent of residents have fled, so no wonder," he said.
He also accused the US of skewing the civilian death toll to give credence to the surge.
"Every time a bomb goes off, the Americans count a smaller number of dead and wounded than the Iraqis. This is to skew the statistics to suggest the surge is successful," Montalvan said.
He added that US generals have no oversight over American contractors in Iraq, some of whom get billions of US taxpayer dollars to procure and distribute weapons for the Iraqi security forces, but refuse to work with US soldiers on the ground.
Montalvan, who is now tied to a cocktail of medications for ailments ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to chronic pain resulting from an attack, slammed the Bush administration for "perpetrating high crimes and misdemeanors, committing dereliction of duty, lies and mismanagement" in Iraq.
As the medals on his chest caught a glint of spring sunlight, he called on Americans to "vote the right way" in the November presidential election.
"Vote for the candidate who is most likely to extricate us from Iraq," he said.
Of course, it was our friends at IAVA that organized the whole thing, and they have a website about it. You can read more about the hearings, and watch the video testimony at Winter Soldier.
Since it's political season, it's de rigeur for sitting politicos to make their photo-op trips to Iraq. Sen. McCain is there right now...as is VP Cheney. But for what purpose,
The presence of both Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John McCain in Baghdad today – indeed CNN’s John King reports their parties almost crossed paths in the old presidential palace of Saddam Hussein – will offer plenty of fodder for the Democrats portraying McCain’s candidacy as “McBush,’’ a third term for President Bush.
Cheney, who made a surprise landing at Baghdad today “as we mark the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the campaign that liberated the people of Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny,’’ offered this public report at the prime minister's residence: “I was last in Baghdad 10 months ago, and I can sense as a result of the progress that's been made since then that there have been some phenomenal changes, in terms of the overall situation, both with respect to the security situation, where Iraqi and American forces have done some very good work, as well as with respect to political developments here in Iraq.’’
And McCain, who landed in Baghdad on Sunday, offered similar optimism today about improving prospects in Iraq. The Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee also sharply criticized the Democratic candidates for pledging to withdraw U.S. troops – a scenario which, the senator from Arizona said, will only result in al Qaeda declaring victory in Iraq and “following’’ U.S. forces home.
Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton, speaking at George Washington University today, said: “Sen. McCain would gladly accept the torch and stay the course, keeping troops in Iraq for up to 100 years if necessary.
“That in a nutshell is the Bush-McCain Iraq policy – don’t learn from your mistakes, repeat them,’’ Clinton said. “We can have hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground for a hundred years, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is no political solution to the situation in Iraq. Sen. McCain and President Bush claim withdrawal is defeat. Let’s be clear, withdrawal is not defeat. Defeat is keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years.”
"Well,'' McCain told CNN's King in an interview aired today, "all I can say is that she obviously does not understand nor appreciate the progress that has been made on the ground. She told Gen. Petraeus last year when he testified that she would have to suspend disbelief in order to believe that the surge is working. Well, the surge is working.
"So I just think what that means is al Qaeda wins,'' he said. "They tell the world that. And we fight here again and around the Middle East. And their dedication is to follow us home.''
For the Iraqis, of course...it matters little who visits, or why. For them...the beat goes on...
At least 43 people, including seven Iranians were killed in Karbala when an explosion, possibly perpetrated by a female suicide bomber, blasted a coffee shop. Another 73 people were wounded. Meanwhile, Sadrists are asking the central government for relief from persecution by local officials. Followers of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are observing a unilateral ceasefire but are allowed by him to defend themselves if needed.
In Baghdad, five youngsters were killed and 11 others were wounded when mortar shells fell upon a soccer field. A bomb on a minibus killed three people and wounded 11 in the Karrada district. In Mansour, a bomb killed a policeman and wounded a second one as they were on patrol, and a separate explosion wounded one person. A roadside bomb in Zayouna wounded three people. A policeman was arrested under suspicion of planting a bomb a week ago. Two other roadside bombs left no casualties. Mortars and rockets landing in the Green Zone also left no casualties. Also, three dumped bodies were recovered.
In Mosul, shelling left two wounded in a central neighborhood. A car bomb near a police patrol in western Mosul injured six people. Another bomb left no casualties. Also, three unidentified bodies were discovered.
The bodies of three Awakening Council (Sahwa) members were found in Udhaim.
A policeman was gunned down at a checkpoint in Haditha.
An IED wounded two civilians in Kirkuk.
The U.S. consulate in Babel came under Katyusha rocket attack, but no casualties were reported.
A policeman was killed in central Basra. Also, a female body was brought in to the morgue.
U.S. forces killed two al-Qaeda suspects in central Iraq.
Fallujah police killed an al-Qaeda suspect north of the city.
Four bodies were found in Madaen.
A Sahwa member was injured during an attack on a checkpoint in al-Alam.
In Kirkuk, eight suspects were arrested. Another 25 were detained in Arab Kashkul.