Inter Press Network

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


by Indira Rai-Choudhury

Almost beyond speech. I, am an attorney, an activist, a former Air Force Officer who served in Desert Storm, a veteran who waited more than 10 years for her VA claim, a champion of the underdog and tireless fighter, am almost without words, and I am afraid....

I do not fear for myself, though perhaps well I ought to...but I have real and palpable fear for this country, for what is left of Democracy, for the future of my children and, for the rest of the world.

I watch as everything I was educated to believe in crumbles around me. I watch as there are secret detentions, extrordinary renditions, secret trials, disappeared, people held with no charges and no evidence, searched without judicial review and without their knowledge, a homeland security office that last spoke of round ups of "disgruntled" and people from 33 nationalities. At the same time, our unused military bases are being turned into concentration camps. And, this is just the start, the time before the sunset provisions of the Patriot Act or being eliminated either through the Hatch bill or by the Domestic Security Act...

I watch and I am afraid...

I watch the Zionist JINSA Cabal carry out its arrogant and racist Program for a New American Century as it ignores international law and international will, as it commits war crimes with no shame, and guts benefits to the elderly, to the veterans, to health care and education, while subsidizing all of those programs inside "Israel." They call Sharon, the butcher, a man of peace, as the blood of thousands at Sabra and Shatilla are still wet in my tears. The US protects Israel, a "nation' who stands in violation of more UN resolutions than any other nation on earth. Protected as she holds onto to her atomic weapons . Protected in her racist apartheid genocide by the US veto used as a bludgeon against the people of Palestine. And they call those who defend Palestine terrorists. And they call the desterter that stole the election the Commander in Chief and a leader of Democracy.

I could almost laugh through my tears, but instead, I watch, and I am afraid.

I watch this country accept willingly the loss of all that the founding father's proclaimed to be important, the destruction of separation of powers, checks and balances, due process and free speech, the right to privacy, the targeting of people based on religion and ethnic origins. These are things men fought and died for and they are now given up willingly.

I watch and I am afraid...

I watch as the rape of the American taxpayer finances the million dollar a year payola to Cheney from Halliburton, the dealings of Perle, and the declarations of Woosley that there is a World War IV and it is against Islam. These Zionist members of JINSA, who will be running a "free" Iraq, as they are about to declare war on Syria, or Iran. Endless war, endless bloodshed, endless injustice.

I watch as the rape and sodomy of children in the Gulag that is Camp Bucca, or Abu Grahib is tolerated while the men who conspired to evade International law still stand at the helm of a country I no longer feel part of. I wonder do the screams of those babies echo in the minds and hearts of our Senators who have seen these atrocites on tape?

I watch, and I am afraid.

I am afraid because this is the rise of the Fourth Reich...the rise of racist and immoral power hungry men that rationalize crimes against humanity and criminalize all dissent.

I am afraid, and I have run out of words, or, rather, it would seem words have had no effect, have done nothing at all to stop the rise of evil and ruthless men to eviscerate all that once made this Nation great.

I am afraid, and I will become one of the disappeared. I will either be taken away, or I will leave this place, this country that I no longer know and now fear. I am a stranger in my own land...I am a woman without a country.

Beware the rise of the Fourth is upon us.

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Law Offices of
Indira Rai-Choudhury, Esq.
1201 Cornwall Ave., Suite 108
Bellingham WA 98225


by Ken Livingstone,
Mayor of London

LAST week, I welcomed Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, president of the European Council of Fatwa and Research, to London. Professor Qaradawi is widely respected as one of the most eminent Muslim scholars in the world.

I welcomed him to London, just as I would the leader of any of the other great world religions, to promote understanding between London's diverse communities. I welcome dialogue with all religious leaders in London without necessarily agreeing with their views.

But I was appalled by the outpouring of lies and Islamophobia against Professor Qaradawi in the tabloid media.

Michael Howard objected to the visit during Prime Minister's questions and the right-wing media went to town, describing the visitor as "a devil" and the "cleric of hate".

The Sun was the absolute pits of this disgusting display, with columnist Richard Littlejohn's rant describing Dr Qaradawi as "Dr al-Nailbomba, Mohammed al-KillJews, Mustapha al-Wifebeater" and so on.

He falsely and disgracefully lied to his readers that Dr Qaradawi's "view of the world" was "Kill Jews, kill homosexuals, kill infidels - you name it, he wants to kill it".

This is a national newspaper quite happy to wind up lies and prejudice that will encourage yet more racism towards Muslims in Britain.

The professor visited Britain at least five times during Michael Howard's time as Home Secretary and the current Tory leader never before raised any objections to his visits. Al-Qaradawi made at least 17 visits to Britain under the last Conservative government and, again, no questions were raised by that government.

The hysterical outburst of racism and Islamophobia was generated by the tabloid media, with cowardly politicians, who had spent previous weeks courting Muslim voters, falling over themselves to echo the Sun and the Mail without taking the trouble to ask Dr Qaradawi himself for his real views.

It was a bizarre spectacle to watch newspapers such as the Mail and the Sun, which have churned out homophobia and intolerance for decades, using those very issues in order to condemn Dr Qaradawi in a vile display of Islamophobia.

That is how the right seeks to maintain hegemony in our society.

Virtually everything printed about the professor by the tabloids was a lie.

The Daily Telegraph, for example, attributed remarks about the victims of rape, repeated on BBC Newsnight, which it turned out had nothing whatsoever to do with Dr Qaradawi.

My staff have looked at the various websites, including those in Arabic, spoken to the Arab experts at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and monitored all of Dr Qaradawi's statements while he was in Britain.

The conclusion is that he is not anti-semitic, he does not call for the execution of homosexuals and he does not advocate domestic violence.

In fact, within Islam, al-Qaradawi is known for his moderate views.

He is of particular importance to many Muslims in Britain because of his interest in discussing how Muslims should practise their faith in a non-Muslim society.

As Sohaib Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain argued in the Guardian on July 9, the Islamophobia poured on Dr al-Qaradawi by the press and sections of the left caused distress among Muslims. "It was a sharp tug at the rug under the feet of moderate Muslims because, if he is an extremist, who is there left to be moderate?"

To paraphrase others, if we cannot talk to Muslim leaders such as Professor Qaradawi, then many Muslims will be asking just who there is left to talk to.

He made it absolutely clear when he spoke at City Hall that he is totally opposed to anti-semitism. Al-Qaradawi said that he regards Judaism as one of the world's great religions and that Jewish and Muslim people lived together in peace in the Middle East for hundreds of years. His difference is not with Jews, but with Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

It is unfortunate that the media chose not to report his support for friendship between Jews and Muslims.

At his press conference, al-Qaradawi said: "There is nothing wrong between us and the Jews. The Jews lived with the Muslims for centuries and even when they were persecuted in Europe, they found no safe refuge except for in the land of Islam where they lived protected, honoured and many of them prospered."

Contrary to the lies of the press, al-Qaradawi is opposed to terrorism. He immediately condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and has totally condemned subsequent terrorist atrocities. In the case of the attacks in New York and Washington, he encouraged Muslims to donate blood to help with the rescue effort.

Professor al-Qaradawi has made it clear that he is opposed to domestic violence. He is quoted in the Guardian as saying: "The respectable and honest Muslim does not beat his wife."

Contrary to the arguments of some, al-Qaradawi does not advocate killing gay people.

Leaders of Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Christian groups, Judaism and other major religions in the main take negative attitudes to same-sex relationships. I don't agree with any of them on this issue.

I note that the leaders of the other main religions are not hounded by the leader of the opposition for these views. That he reserves his opprobrium for Islamic leaders underlines just how reactionary and unpleasant the Tory Party really is.

In fact, the sheikh summarised his view to the Guardian on July 13. "Muslims have no right to punish homosexuals or mistreat them as individuals."

On the question of Israel and Palestine, Professor al-Qaradawi takes the view that, if one side is attacking with planes, tanks and missiles while the other has no such hardware, then they will exercise the right to use their bodies as bombs.

I take the view that the cycle of violence in the Middle East has to be broken - neither Israeli attacks on civilian areas with tanks and missiles nor suicide bombings are a way forward.

What is necessary is a just peace settlement which implements the United Nations resolutions demanding that Israel withdraws from the occupied territories and recognises the rights of the Palestinians and Israel to their own states within secure borders.

As the dust settles following Dr Qaradawi's visit, the response of the British tabloid media and some broadcasters will be more fully understood for what it really was - a revolting outburst of Islamophobia based on lies.

Muslims in our society have often been the target of racism and racist attacks, as we saw in the early 1990s with the election of the British National Party's Derek Beacon to Tower Hamlets council.

Since then, it has been Muslims, in particular, who have been singled out by the far-right as the target of their racist campaigns and violence - it is the racism towards Muslim Asians that has fuelled the activities of the BNP in towns like Burnley and Oldham.

Underlining this fact, the fascist BNP singled out Muslims in their broadcast for the elections on June 10.

After September 11 and the war on Iraq, we have to be particularly aware of the danger of giving ground to Islamophobia.

The BBC documentary exposing BNP fascism this week revealed that the party's leader Nick Griffin uses crude Islamophobia as his main weapon in his war against Asian people in this country.

Islamophobia is the weapon of choice for the far-right in this country and the left must take it up and confront it openly.

Published in the Morning Star,UK 17 July 2002

I was misled into voting for the war .....So were many other MPs; now Blair has been fatally damaged

by Geraldine Smith

Observing the prime minister making his statement on the Butler report in the Commons on Wednesday, it was difficult to believe that I was watching a man respond to a document that catalogued a host of shortcomings in his government's management and presentation of the case for war with Iraq. The report had exposed the laissez-faire approach to cabinet government adopted by the prime minister; cabinet members who had collective responsibility for government policy were not provided with the relevant papers in advance of meetings but were orally briefed on Iraq at unscripted meetings - a practice that should surely be unacceptable to the members of any parish council, let alone the cabinet.

The report had laid bare the paucity of intelligence relating to Iraq's purported arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. It had called into question the reliability of the intelligence, particularly that emanating from human sources. Much of this could either not be validated at all or was hearsay.

And, most damming of all, the report had concluded that the failure to make clear in the September dossier the limitations of the intelligence relating to Iraq's WMD gave it unwarranted credence and was a serious mistake. The degree of certainty expressed by the prime minister about the threat that Iraq posed in the foreword of the dossier undoubtedly exacerbated the distortion of the intelligence.

Lord Butler's report had revealed that parliament, the people and the press had all been misled. They had not been lied to, they had just not been told the whole truth.

Faced with all of this, I had expected the prime minister to be tense and nervous when he took his place at the despatch box. On the contrary, he was relaxed and confident. He quickly got into his stride: "The dossier of September 2002 did not reach any startling or radical conclusion. It said, in effect, what had been said for several years based not just on intelligence, but on frequent UN and international reports... We published the dossier in response to the enormous parliamentary and press clamour. It was not... the case for war, but it was the case for enforcing the United Nations' will. In retrospect, it has achieved a fame it never achieved at the time."

It was at that moment that I realised why the prime minister was so relaxed. He just didn't get it! He didn't see the significance of what Butler had revealed. He told us that he had acted in good faith and out of conviction, and that he took full responsibility for the mistakes made. He really thought that the issue of trust could now be laid to rest. Even when the leader of the opposition invited him to explain why parliament and the public were misled, the penny didn't drop. He simply went into his prime minister's questions routine and went on the attack.

He didn't seem to realise that politicians and journalists know that they were misled out of political expediency rather than good faith or conviction. And they are not going to let the matter rest.

The prime minister would have not got parliament to agree to commit British troops to the war with Iraq if the true nature of the intelligence was known. So he deliberately hyped it up and constantly articulated the apocalyptic consequences of terrorists obtaining weapons of mass destruction. I abhor the use of violence in all its forms. It runs contrary to my moral, intellectual and religious beliefs, and I find the appalling carnage and destruction that occurs during a war almost too horrific to contemplate. Yet because I was convinced that Iraq did possess chemical and biological weapons and had to be disarmed, and that Saddam would not hesitate to use them or supply them to terrorist organisations, I voted for the war. And there is absolutely no doubt that this same fear was the deciding factor for many MPs who supported the war. In light of the Butler report and the doubt it cast on whether or not Iraq had any usable weapons of mass destruction, I feel that I was deceived into voting for a war I was morally opposed to.

Of rather more importance is how the public feel about the revelations in the Butler report. I am sure the prime minister will come to realise that the people of this country will not make a distinction between being lied to and being misled by omission. All that will concern them is that they have been deceived and they will be rightly angry about it.

I believe the prime minister is fatally damaged. The time has come for his friends to advise him to go with honour and dignity at a time of his choosing. The alternative is to wait until his enemies drag him down or the electorate makes the decision for him.

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-Geraldine Smith is the Labour MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale

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Published on Saturday July 17, 2004 in The Guardian


Iraq is not improving, it's a disaster ....The only sensible objective now is orderly disengagement, and soon

by Oliver Miles

The Commons debate on Iraq today is a historic opportunity for parliament. British policy in Iraq is at a turning point, and we can exercise a vital degree of influence on US policy as well.

Earlier in the summer, there were some welcome international developments. One was the security council resolution of June 8 endorsing the formation of a sovereign interim government, which did something to heal the rifts created in 2003. Another was the successful low-key handover of authority. But the impression that the situation in Iraq itself is much improved is down to Iraq fatigue in the media.

The security situation is calamitous. Two recent attacks killed nine US marines; an attack on the Iraqi minister of justice killed five bodyguards; bombings and attacks on Iraqi security forces have caused multiple deaths; targets in Falluja have been bombed by the US air force; foreigners have been kidnapped or executed with the aim of driving foreign troops and foreign companies out of Iraq.

This, however, is the tip of the iceberg. Attacks on US troops are running at dozens a day, frequently accompanied by looting, burning and stoning. It is generally believed in Baghdad that around 1,000 Iraqis leave the country every day for Jordan and Syria because the security situation is intolerable. According to the Iraqi media, gunmen have killed six Baghdad local councillors in the last two weeks and roughly 750 in the last year. Friends of the Americans such as Ahmad Chalabi are discredited; enemies such as the young Shia firebrand Moqtada al-Sadr have their tails up.

Meanwhile, the Butler report, which followed the devastating critique by a Senate committee of the failure of American intelligence, has dominated the headlines. Senior members of the British intelligence community have accused Tony Blair of going way beyond anything any professional analyst would have agreed.

But the media have allowed themselves to be carried away by the question of secret intelligence, and have ignored equally or even more important questions of policy. Senator Kerry has accused President Bush and his administration of misleading the public about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and specifically about nuclear involvement. They "misled America... And they were wrong. And soldiers lost their lives because they were wrong". In Britain, now that it is clear that US and British policy has been based on a deception, it is equally clear that Iain Duncan Smith and the shadow cabinet were also deceived. There are plenty of uncomfortable questions to ask about who deceived whom, and Michael Howard has at last said that he couldn't have voted for war in the House of Commons in March 2003 if he had known then what he knows now, though for reasons as yet unexplained he says he is still in favour of the war. Others have gone further: the Labour MP Geraldine Smith has said: "I feel that I was deceived into voting for a war I was morally opposed to."

The assessment of intelligence is open to debate. But other failings are less easy to explain away. The prime minister should be pressed to say what happened to the detailed plans for postwar Iraq which, he told parliament just before the war, had been worked out with our allies. Perhaps they were part of the State Department plans, which we now know were consigned to the wastepaper basket by Donald Rumsfeld.

The story of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay is a disgrace. When will we learn whether Britain has equally disgraced herself? What is clear is that no British minister could survive if he had said, as Rumsfeld said: "Technically, unlawful combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva convention. We have indicated that we do plan to, for the most part, treat them in a manner that is reasonably consistent with the Geneva conventions to the extent they are appropriate."

Most important of all, of course, is the future. As a number of Washington analysts have pointed out, the success of coalition policy will depend on resisting the temptation to impose policies that support US, not Iraqi, goals. As Philip Gordon of the Brookings Institution put it: "I would advise them to lose the argument to the Iraqis on some of the big issues - it shows an Iraqi government is really in charge."

This is where parliament can exercise its influence. Unless we really want to rebuild the British empire, under our flag or the stars and stripes, the only sensible objective now is disengagement in as good order as possible. No scramble to get out, but send no more troops and look for every opportunity to build up Iraqi prestige, authority and responsibility.
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· Oliver Miles is a former ambassador to Libya and organised the letter signed by 52 former British ambassadors criticising Bush and Blair's Middle East policy
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Published in The Guardian on Tuesday July 20, 2004,3604,1264789,00.html

Iraq issues threat to Iran over insurgents

By Adrian Blomfield in Baghdad

Iraq threatened military retaliation against Iran yesterday, accusing its former foe of backing terrorists who have begun to focus their campaign of violence on the interim government itself.

Hazim al-Shaalan, the defence minister, denounced Iranian interference, saying that Teheran was supporting foreign Islamic militants fighting alongside remnants of the Saddam era to destabilise Iraq.

"They confess to the presence of their spies in Iraq who have a mission to shake up the social and political situation," he said. "Iranian intrusion has been vast and unprecedented since the establishment of the Iraqi state."

In the past Iraq has levelled similar accusations against Syria and Mr Shaalan warned: "We are prepared to move the arena of the attacks on Iraq's honour and its rights to those countries."

Meanwhile, gunmen shot dead Basra's acting governor, the latest in a series of attacks on members of the three-week-old government. Two of Hazim al-Aynachi's bodyguards were also killed.

In the past week militants killed the governor of Mosul and a director general in the defence ministry. An assassination attempt against the justice minister, who will play an integral role in the trial of Saddam Hussain, narrowly failed.

After a fortnight of relative calm since sovereignty was handed over by the American-led coalition at the end of June, insurgents have sharply increased the intensity of their attacks in the past week.

Iraq is furious with the Philippines for withdrawing its troops in compliance with a deadline imposed by militants who held a Filipino lorry driver hostage for two weeks.

Angelo de la Cruz was released by his captors yesterday, prompting jubilation in the Philippines but bringing condemnation from the United States, which said the decision amounted to caving in to terrorism.

Published in the Telegraph UK on 21/07/2004

We were right to go to war, insists Blair

Political Staff,
PA News 20 July 2004

The Prime Minister today defended his decision to go to war against Iraq, insisting intelligence at the time left "little doubt" about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

Challenged by former Cabinet minister Clare Short, who quit her post over the conflict, Mr Blair said confronted with the choice of backing away or making sure he was incapable of developing WMD: "I still think we made the right decision."

Opening a debate after Lord Butler's report pointed up "flaws" in the intelligence on Iraq, Mr Blair announced that any future presentation of intelligence would separate the Joint Intelligence Committee assessment and Government case.

It would also "import any JIC caveats into it," he told a crowded Commons, adding: "We accept those conclusions and will act upon them."

He denied suggestions that by omitting the caveats in the Government's dossier ahead of the conflict ministers had set out to deceive people.

With Mr Blair's style of conducting government also under fire in Lord Butler's report, Mr Blair also announced changes in the way meetings would be held.

Before the war, he said, meetings were held with an informal group involving the Foreign and Defence Secretaries, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service and the chairman of the JIC.

In any future situation such a group would operate "formally as an ad hoc committee of Cabinet."

The SIS had also appointed a senior officer to "work through" the findings and recommendations of the Butler review.

Mr Blair said: "The intelligence ... really left little doubt about Saddam and WMD. That was the issue."

It also made it "absolutely clear that we were entirely entitled, on the basis of that, to go back to the UN and say there was a continuing threat from Saddam Hussein."

The Prime Minister was repeatedly challenged over concerns raised about the intelligence by Dr Brian Jones, the former head of nuclear, biological and chemical intelligence analysis at the Defence Intelligence Staff.

Mr Blair said he thought it followed naturally from the Butler inquiry that notes of dissent his would be seen by the JIC.

Much had been made of the fact that one JIC assessment said intelligence on Iraq was "sporadic and patchy".

But the full assessment went on to say it was clear Iraq continued to pursue a policy of acquiring WMD and their delivery means.

"That is the key judgment I received," he said. They stated that Iraq had a chemical and biological weapons capability that Saddam was prepared to use.

"That assessment that we were getting from the JIC, to hear some of the talk now we would think it was a startling assessment – an assessment people found odd at the time.

"Actually that was the view of the entire international community then expressed in resolution 1441."

There was no doubt if people read the JIC assessments that they would conclude that Saddam Hussein was a "WMD threat and had intent, programmes and actual weapons".

Ms Short asked why the weapons inspectors were not allowed to finish their job and what information the Prime Minister had to decide to reject that course.

Mr Blair said the dossier was not the basis to go to war, but the basis to go to the UN.

Resolution 1441 accepted "on behalf of the whole international community that he was a WMD threat and had to be dealt with," while insisting there had to be full compliance with the inspectors.

"The plain fact is there wasn't. I agree it would have been better to have let the inspectors have more time, provided that we had a UN resolution that laid down a clear ultimatum to Saddam that if he didn't comply with the benchmarks ... action would follow.

"But the problem is that it was made clear by some other countries that they wouldn't accept any resolution with an ultimatum in it."

Ms Short, intervening again, said former weapons inspector Hans Blix made clear in his book that the majority of the Security Council were willing to have "benchmarks" and a deadline, but not willing to back a resolution that meant Britain and the US would decide whether or not it had been adhered to.

"You threw away the possibility of united international action on the request for automaticity," she told Mr Blair.

The Prime Minister said France would not accept any ultimatum. Without an ultimatum there wasn't any real chance of believing Saddam would comply.

"In the end we were faced with the situation ... we've laid down resolution 1441, we know he is not properly complying, we can't get another resolution with an ultimatum in it. So what do we do? We either back away or we decide that we are going, this time, to make sure that he is incapable in the future of developing WMD, that he had every intention of doing.

"I still think we made the right decision on it."

Liberal Democrat Mike Hancock (Portsmouth S) asked whether Mr Blair had been advised by any senior intelligence official that he should be "cautious" over the interpretation he was putting on the available intelligence.

Mr Blair told him: "The intelligence community throughout, like virtually most intelligence services in the world, certainly did believe that he had WMD capability and intent."

The Prime Minister told MPs that Saddam had only cooperated in the past under threat of military action and had engaged the international community in an "elaborate dance".

He complained that, faced with the failure to find WMD in Iraq, critics had now gone to the "opposite extreme" and said there was no threat at all.

"That is not the case: that is absolutely clear.

"Some of the intelligence remains entirely valid in this respect. It was absolutely clear that he had every intention to carry on developing these weapons, that he was procuring materials to do so."

Mr Blair accused Tory leader Michael Howard of "shabby opportunism" after they exchanged verbal blows in their first direct confrontation of the debate.

"The idea that you or the shadow foreign secretary were in two minds about Iraq, weren't quite sure, sat around scratching your heads wondering whether it was a threat or not and then were persuaded by me that it was is absolutely absurd," he said.

"To be fair, the previous leader of the opposition (Iain Duncan Smith) was actually warning, in my view rightly, of the threat long before I was.

"I simply say to you that it's time you realised this kind of shabby opportunism is not the solution to your problem, it is your problem.

"The fact is that people will respect people who were honestly for the war and they will respect people who were honestly against the war. What they will not respect is a politician who says he is for and against the war in the same newspaper article."


Source -

US casualty rate high since handover.....Long guerrilla war is feared in Iraq

By Bryan Bender
Globe Staff |

WASHINGTON -- Nearly as many US soldiers lost their lives in Iraq in the first half of July as in all of June, even as Iraqi insurgents seem to have shifted focus from attacking US targets to aiming instead at Iraqi security forces and government officials.

The relatively high rate of US military casualties has dimmed hope that the handover of power to the Iraqi government would help stabilize the country and reduce pressure on US soldiers.

June was substantially less violent for US and coalition troops than the two preceding months, fueling hopes that US casualties were on the downswing. However, military officials and defense specialists are increasingly concerned that the guerrilla war could last for years and the number of dead could climb into the thousands.

Since the June 28 handover of power, the 160,000 coalition forces have averaged more than two deaths a day, among the highest rate of losses since the war began 15 months ago. By Saturday, 36 US soldiers had died this month, compared with 42 last month, according to a Globe analysis of official statistics.

The casualties have yet to reach the level they were in April, the bloodiest month of the US-led occupation, when 135 American soldiers died, or May, when 80 Americans died, many of them during a three-week offensive in the southern cities of Karbala, Najaf, and Al Kut against armed followers of a leading Shia cleric.

But this month marks an upsurge in the pace and sophistication of the attacks against US and coalition troops, even as more Iraqi security forces, government ministers, and civilians have also become targets.

By Friday, more than 10,000 coalition soldiers had been wounded. In all, 893 Americans have died since the war began in March 2003, most of them in hostile action.

"We are going to see more casualties," said retired Army General George Joulwan, who commanded NATO forces during the war in Bosnia. "The insurgents are using some very sophisticated tactics, particularly targeting Americans. You are seeing a much more sophisticated enemy. They are demonstrating coordination and a strategy that is effective."

Iraqi security forces, government officials, and civilians are also paying a heavy toll. Last week, another senior official in the nascent Iraqi government, the governor of Mosul, was assassinated, the latest in a series of violent attacks directed at the interim governing authorities.

Still, the continued attacks on US troops demonstrate the staying power and growing flexibility of the insurgency, believed to be made up largely of former Ba'ath Party elements as well as Sunni and Shia Muslim opponents of the US invasion, both Iraqis and foreigners. They have recently shown a greater ability to cut off US military supply routes and to force Americans to adjust their own tactics, officials said.

"The endurance of the Iraqi insurgents could be long term," according to a recently compiled Defense Department analysis obtained by the Globe. "As long as money and supplies are funneled into Iraq, they will be able to carry out their attacks."

Publicly, US officials say it is too early to determine whether the handover is helping to bring violence under control or whether the insurgents are targeting more people in an effort to destabilize the government.

"It's too short a time, really, to make predictions on trends on how it's going totally," Brigadier General David Rodriguez, the deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week.

Still, July has so far been bloody for US forces, showing ominous signs that the insurgents are honing their tactics and beginning to seize some of the initiative from the United States and its coalition allies.

Since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003, only three months have had a higher average of daily losses than this month: April and May of this year and last November, which saw an average of almost four US and coalition military deaths per day.

The spring offensive in Najaf and other areas accounted for most of the American losses in April and May. This month, however, the insurgents have been on the offensive, according to military officials and private specialists.

"In April and May we initiated much of the action," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. The think tank has compiled a detailed "Iraq Index," which tallies casualty figures, military and civilian. "We were taking the fight to the enemy. Then in June we saw a somewhat lower number. Any hope that June was going to be part of a downward trend appears to be belied by the figures of July. American casualties are either not going down or headed back up in higher territory. Either way, it's disturbing."

The day after the handover, June 29, three Marines were killed in action southeast of Baghdad. The death toll in firefights, from roadside bombs, and in rocket and mortar attacks has not abated since then.

Anbar Province, west of Baghdad, has been a particularly bloody battleground for US troops, in the middle of the so-called Sunni Triangle, which has been a hotbed of resistance for more than a year. On July 8, five soldiers were killed when a mortar struck the Iraqi National Guard headquarters in Baghdad.

Attacks by mortar have increased in recent months, leading to fears that heavily armed insurgents could soon be using rockets and surface-to-air missiles.

"We are having a bad month in the war," said John Pike, a military specialist at in Alexandria, Va. "Until the Iraqi security forces are properly organized, trained, and equipped, the US is going to continue to have significant exposure. That is going to be true for another year or two."

One of the major problems continues to be defining exactly who makes up the insurgency and how large it is.

For months, the Defense Department has estimated that there are about 5,000 hard-core, well-armed fighters, a mix of Hussein loyalists, Arab nationalists, Shi'ite followers of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr; Sunni Islamic extremists from outside Iraq, and criminals who are getting paid for attacking mostly Iraqi forces.

More recently, military officials have conceded privately that the forces fighting the United States and the Iraqi government could number as many as 20,000.

"Though some have different desired end states, all share [the] common goal of expelling the coalition," the Pentagon analysis concluded, adding the "distinction among groups continues to blur, due to shifting alliances of convenience and sharing of resources."

But what is clear is that the anticoalition forces are getting more aggressive, not less. "The handover doesn't mean we are going to see less targeting of Americans," Joulwan said. "What is happening here is that we are finding an increasing number of insurgents. They are becoming much better organized and led."

Added O'Hanlon: "The trend line in casualties and the growing insurgency suggest we are nowhere near out of the woods."


Bender can be reached at

Published in:Globe magazine on July 19, 2004