Thursday, June 28, 2007

3 British soldiers dead in Iraq

Thursday and almost the weekend. Thanks to Kat for her kind words (too kind!) yesterday and also for calling me today. She caught something I didn't and asked me to call Wally and check. C.I. was hitting hard today (not just in the snapshot) on the issue of the British soldiers. I read Gareth's remarks in one entry and thought, "Yeah, Gareth!" I was reading all the stuff and glad to but I didn't get it. Kat figured there was huge outrage of the US media coverage of the 3 deaths (3 British soldiers died). Now when the US troop deaths have a milestone, you can usually count on foreign media doing a better job than domestic media here.

So I guess I wasn't getting it because I don't expect a great deal from the US mainstream media. But I checked with Wally and, yeah, British members were outraged that the deaths were either a minor thing or ignored all together. (And one sentence alone counts as ignoring.) Their attitude is basically that England has been Bully Boy's partner-in-crime (more than anyone) in this illegal war so when the deaths of the most loyal country (and the country with the most troops in Iraq after the US) aren't even news, it really offended.

I called Polly and talked to her and she asked if I'd write about that for my column Sunday (in her newsletter Polly's Brew). I'll just note a thing or two I shared with her on the phone. The Washington Post had no coverage on Iraq in print today. The John Ward Anderson and other guy story C.I. was linking to wasn't in the paper (it was breaking -- it'll be in tomorrow's paper) and the New York Times only did one article (the piece by Alissa J. Rubin). I explained that was pretty much how the US 'covered' Iraq. She said, "That sounds like the Guardian" and we laughed. TV websites do one Iraq article a day if you're lucky and for some, it's just repost an AP article. (ABC is really bad about that. CBS will, if nothing else, take an AP and add to it so that it's CBS and AP.) She told me that independent media, including The Nation, tries to get traction in England and "they never will" because here was a story they couldn't write about or talk about. She said she felt for Olive and Skp (and other Australian members) when the US did the total shut out on Jake Kovco's inquest and all. But today, she really grasped what it felt like and how little the US media ("Big and small, as C.I. says") care about anything that's not happening in the US. C.I. does a great job of putting the three deaths in context in the snapshot (and did so in the other entries today too) so let me just note the announcement from their Ministry of Defense in full:

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of two soldiers from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, and one soldier from 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh (The Royal Regiment of Wales) in Basra, southern Iraq this morning, Thursday 28 June 2007.
The three soldiers were killed by an Improvised Explosive Device attack. The device detonated at approximately 0100 hrs local time against the soldiers, who were dismounted from a Warrior patrol in the Al Amtahiya district in the south east of Basra City.The soldiers were serving as part of the British contingent of Multinational Forces in south east Iraq. A further British soldier was very seriously injured and is currently receiving treatment at the military field hospital in Basra.
Next of kin have been informed and they have requested a 24 hour period of grace before any further details are released. Our thoughts are with the families at this most difficult time.

So there were three deaths and a fourth is badly wounded. The snapshot hadn't gone up when we spoke but she'd seen the Los Angeles Times article on the three dead and was really ticked off that the article couldn't even get the number of dead British soldiers correct. Here's the section on the 3 dead in full:

Early today, three British soldiers were killed and one injured when a roadside bomb exploded as they were walking near their vehicle southeast of the southern city of Basra, according to British military spokesman Maj. Matthew Bird.
At least 154 British troops have been killed in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003.

Yep, that's both paragraphs. And, most offensive to Polly, was that the writer (Molly Hennessy-Fiske) couldn't even get the count right. It's 156 and hours before that figure was noted by C.I., by British media, etc. In the second entry this morning, C.I. noted this BBC story and here's the count in that story:

The deaths take to the total number of UK troops killed in Iraq since hostilities began in 2003 to 156.

From that second entry of C.I.'s, this is C.I. writing:

Brown's not any different than Blair on Iraq (or much else). Still wet from his coronation, 3 British soldiers are announced dead which brings the total killed in Iraq to 7 for the month of June. The UK provides less troops than the US and that's one of the reasons their fatalities have been lower. The worst month in terms of British soldiers killed was when the illegal war began (March 2003) when the total number killed was 27. After that, the second highest as April 2007 when 12 died.

And about an hour and a half before that, in C.I.'s first entry of the morning,

In other news, the UK Ministry of Defence has announced: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of two soldiers from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, and one soldier from 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh (The Royal Regiment of Wales) in Basra, southern Iraq this morning, Thursday 28 June 2007." The deaths bring to 156 the number of British soldiers killed in the illegal war since it started in March 2003.

Polly did not understand why an article that went online six hours after C.I.'s first entry couldn't get the total right when the British press did and when ICCC did? She noted that the Los Angeles Times uses ICCC for their figures. And she explained how insulting that was, that the total mattered so little to the paper, it really wasn't important that it be correct. "There's no big delay with our ministry," she told me. "The US has a tendency to sit on announcements but, for all its other faults, our ministry usually announces the deaths in a timely fashion."

She's not kidding about that. The UK's Ministry of Defense has already announced the names of the dead:

Corporal Paul Joszko and Privates Scott Kennedy and James Kerr killed in Basra roadside bomb attack on 28 June 2007
28 Jun 07
It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of three soldiers in Basra, southern Iraq this morning, Thursday 28 June 2007.

Corporal Paul Joszko, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh (The Royal Regiment of Wales), aged 28 from Mountain Ash, Wales, together with Privates Scott Kennedy, aged 20 from Oakley, Dunfermline and James (Jamie) Kerr, aged 20 from Cowdenbeath of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland were killed by an Improvised Explosive Device attack. The device detonated at approximately 0100 hrs local time against the soldiers, who were dismounted from a Warrior patrol in the Al Amtahiya district in the south east of Basra City.
The soldiers were serving as part of the British contingent of Multi-National Forces in south east Iraq. A further British soldier was very seriously injured and is currently receiving treatment at the military field hospital in Basra.
Our thoughts are with the families at this most difficult time.

Paul, Scott and Jamie are dead. They were people, the oldest was 28 years old. They may have been for the war or they may have been against it, but they didn't start it. That was our leaders. And it must be really depressing for people in England, who already saw Blair cough when Bully Boy scratched his own groin repeatedly, see how little the US media gives a damn.
Like I told Polly, that's really how they are with US troops as well.

That's not to say "So it's okay." I've griped and griped about the lousy coverage we get. It's wrong. But some media is trying to appeal to Europe and for them not to even cover the three dead British soldiers means they probably shouldn't expect any donations or subscriptions flooding in.

In a way, Polly said, she wasn't surprised because C.I. has covered this so much (the failure of All Things Media Big and Small to cover the illegal war) and Pru had pointed out what she saw when she'd visit our media online or buy it in London. But it really was a shock and she said she really felt for Skip, Olive "and everyone else" before when there was this disinterest on Jake Kovco but that it really came home today. She also wanted me to stress that's why The Common Ills gets posted all over the place in England (even at their DVD sales, in the review sections, sometimes) and why it is has been received so well there, because C.I.'s not "off on some 'We must win this election' and ignoring the suffering that the illegal war has given everyone across the globe."

Another thing C.I.'s been doing is refusing to take part in the coronation of Gordon Brown. I knew already that British members of the community were on to that phoney and not to make a big deal out his departure or Brown's elevation. But I'll also post one more thing as part of my own reach out to British members. "We are all in this together," like the song says. And also get in good with my grandfather who is a socialist because it's from Great Britain's Socialist Worker. This is Esme Choonara and Matthew Cookson's "Manchester anti-war demo: 'The war should end with Blair':"

Thousands of anti-war protesters gathered outside the Labour Party special conference last Sunday as Gordon Brown was anointed the new leader of the party without a contest.
More than 5,000 people braved the Manchester rain to join the Stop the War demonstration. They demanded a change of policy, not just a change of leader, and calling on Gordon Brown to get the troops out of Iraq and oppose any attack on Iran.
Many bystanders and shoppers turned to wave and clap as the lively demo wove through the streets.
Lindsey German, the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, spoke at the rally at the end of the march. She said, "We will march in any weather until the troops are home.
"Tony Blair is going this week. But he shouldn't be sitting in luxury houses and going on the lecture circuit in the US.
"He should be facing a war crimes tribunal. Gordon Brown should stop these policies, withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and not attack Iran.
"This is an impressive demonstration. We are saying to Gordon Brown that if you don't change policies, your legacy will be the same as Tony Blair's."
Activists came from across Britain, determined that Brown should not be allowed to ignore the issue of Iraq.
Nikki and Ruby came with a group of school students from Edinburgh. Nikki told Socialist Worker, "Groups of school students have come to the demo from Edinburgh, Canterbury, Liverpool, Manchester and London.
"Since the school walkouts in 2003 a new generation of school students has got involved.
"We know Gordon Brown is here today. We won’t let the issue of Iraq disappear with Tony Blair. We want troops out of Iraq and troops out of our schools -- an end to military recruitment in schools.
"School students may not be able to vote, but we can still have a say in what happens in the world."
Ruby added, "People think that young people are not interested in politics. But you can see from this demo that lots of us are very active and very angry."
Some on the protest felt that Gordon Brown would be more likely to listen to the anti-war movement than Blair was.
Students Sophie, Daniel and Chloe came to the protest from Macclesfield. Daniel told Socialist Worker, "I felt I had to be part of this protest. Most people want the troops out."
Sophie said that she hopes that Brown will be better than Blair and that he will listen to the Stop the War movement.
Chloe agreed. "I think Brown will do something about Iraq," she said. "After all, surely there are votes in it."
Others disagreed. Marcus Barnett, a shop worker from Chorley, Lancashire, told Socialist Worker, "I don't think that Brown will be any different to Blair. Brown is the shameless face of war and privatisation.
"I heard that Brown is going to allow us to demonstrate in Parliament Square again -- it's as if he is granting us 'democracy' as a privilege.
"We will have to keep up our struggle."
Farhan Ali, a former Respect council candidate in Bradford, came to the demo with Bradford Stop the War. "People will quickly see that a change of leader is not the same as a change in policy," he told Socialist Worker. "On this occasion we need to throw out the baby and the bath water."
Farhan said that the war was a big issue in his recent election campaign. "The war has had a big impact on working class people," he said.
"People can see that the money should be spent on local amenities and public services. We need to build Respect as an alternative to New Labour -- one that can work on the basis of hope, not despair."
There were many trade union banners on the demonstration, alongside banners from Stop the War groups, peace groups and other campaigns.
Rachel Ingleby, who came with a delegation from Kirklees Unison, told Socialist Worker that she had completed a 10 kilometre run for cancer research in Leeds before coming to the demo.
"There were a lot of health workers on the run talking about how underfunded the NHS is," she said. "I work in the public sector too. We want money put into public services, the NHS, cancer care -- not spent on war.
"Gordon Brown is just Blair in different clothes. The unions have to be realistic. We can't rely on our so-called 'friends' in the Labour Party. There is a lot of support in the public sector for industrial action over pay -- we need united action across the unions."
A large delegation of workers from Remploy joined the demonstration. They were protesting against the planned closures of 43 factories.
Billy, a member of the new Unite union from the Remploy disabled workers' factory in Aintree, told Socialist Worker, "Skilled people should not be put on the dole. The board should be sacked, not us.
"Gordon Brown needs to listen to the people, just like he said he would. If he doesn't we will keep protesting and there will be a strike ballot."
Several members of Military Families Against the War spoke at the rally about their anger over the war in Iraq.
Rose Gentle, whose son was killed in Iraq, said, "When Brown takes office this Wednesday, Military Families Against the War will be outside Downing Street to say bye-bye to Blair and to let Brown know we are not going away. We will not stop until we get a public inquiry into why we went to war.
"It is three years this week since my son Gordon Gentle was killed in Iraq. We want to know whether Gordon Brown will come and meet military families after Blair has been a coward and refused to meet us for the last three years."
© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.
If you found this article useful please help us maintain SW by »
making a donation.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, June 28, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, AP runs a he-said-and-then-he-said article on self-checkouts, the British and US military announce more deaths, 20 headless corpses either were or were not discovered today, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Estes Thompson (AP) gets tasked with filing the featue based on AP's 'study.' AP's studying data on self-check outs from the US military -- data compiled by the branches and "each branch of the military keeps statistics in different ways". Of course, as NPR demonstrated last month, that 'tracking' of figures is often fudged. But working from the data, Thompson wants to tell you that "the US military does almost nothing to find those who flee" and buying that really requires ignoring the realities of Kyle Snyder's story. Snyder self-checked out after serving in Iraq (something the military tells Thompson really doesn't happen -- these self-checkouts, according to the military are people who haven't served anywhere yet) and went to Canada only to return to the US in October of 2006 after his attorney and the military had reached an agreement. Upon turning himself in, Snyder found out that the military which lied to him repeatedly was still lying. He was not being discharged. Snyder self-checked out again and began a speaking tour across the country (also worked on reconstruction in New Orleans) and what happened then?

What happened then was that Snyder, who truly did not believe the US military was interested in what he was doing and was quite public about where he would be speaking, suddenly found the police showing up at every scheduled stop. And the instructions to the police were reportedly coming from Fort Knox in Kentucky. That's before Snyder returned to Canada. Once he returned to Canada, as he was about to get married, Canadian police show up at his door to arrest him, carrying him out in his boxers, and doing so on orders from the US military. We could also go into the two US military officers that accompanied a Canadian police officer to Winnie Ng's home, her Canadian home, in search of was resister Joshua Key and the fact that the two US military officers posed as Canadian police -- an offense several times over in both countries. It's an article meant to lull everyone to sleep and, for peace resisters, that will probably be the case. For those who've paid any attention at all, prepare to laugh repeatedly. In fact,
let's note this: "In recent years, the military has lowered its standards to fill its ranks, letting in more recruits with criminal records or low aptitude scores. But officials said that does not appear to be a factor in the rising desertion rate either. In fact, Edgecombe said, recruits who got into trouble before they enlisted tend to shape up under the influence of the military's code of honor and discispline."

Peace resisters will probably nod along. Those who have given a damn about the illegal war will immediately think of three words: Steven Dale Green. Steven D. Green belonged to which branch? The Army. And Green made his decision to sign up when? After he got busted (again -- this time for possession of alcohol). Moral character waiver took care of that, just wiped it away. Soon enough, Green was in Iraq.

And what happened then? Small media ran from it in the summer of 2006. So let's go to CNN for the words of Captain Alex Pickands, summarizing as military prosecutor, exactly what Green and others did: "
They gathered over cards and booze to come up with a plan to rape and murder that little girl. She was young and attractive. They knew where she was because they had seen her on a previous patrol. She was close. She was vulnerable."

Abeer, the story small media ran from as if their life depended upon it. (Exceptions have been noted before.) Green, who will be tried in a civilian court and maintains his innocence, and others watched Abeer, leered at her. Green ran his finger down the 14 year-old's face. He freaked her out. Abeer told her parents who made plans for her to stay elsewhere. The day before that could happen, the plan Pickands noted would be implemented. March 12, 2006, Paul Cortez, James P. Baker, Jesse Spielman, Bryan Howard and Steven D. Green began the criminal actions. (Howard was reportedly the lookout. Barker and Cortez have confessed in court to their actions and those of the others involved.) Green, Barker and Cortez entered the home of 14 year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. While Cortez and Barker began gang raping the 14 year-old girl, Green took Abeer's parents and her five-year-old sister into a bedroom and shot them dead. While she was being gang-raped, Abeer could hear the gunshots. Barker and Cortez made room for Green who then joined the gang-rape. After the gang-rape, Green shot Abeer. They then attempted to set her corpse on fire.

Now that doesn't fit with the sunny annecdotal 'evidence' that gets quoted by the AP; however, that is reality. Green, the high school drop out, let into the Army on a moral waiver shortly after being busted by the cops (again), has been described as the "ring leader" from the start. (Again, Green maintains he is innocent.)

Edgecombe is Major Anne Edgecombe, a military flack whose job it is to spin. She does that repeatedly with sunny anecdotes -- as opposed to facts and figures -- and the AP runs with them -- as opposed to reality. 11,020 is the US Army's official count on check outs since the start of the illegal war. Thompson's article is a test book case of weakening journalistic standard. The article takes official data and official statements. This isn't even the he-said-she-said (the 12 lines about Ricky Clousing -- the closest to an independent source in the entire article -- is not 'balance' in a 114 line article).
On March 19, 2007, Nancy Mullane broke the story of the US Army's undercounting on NPR. The AP article gives no indication that Thompson is familiar with it. In that report, Mullane explained how the 2006 figures for the Army were said to have dropped. That was wrong. The number given before NPR caught them was 2334. Mullane reported: "Instead of 3100 deserters [for 2006], the real number may be closer to 5,000. That's according to analysts within the Army's personnel division at the Pentagon and at the Fort Knox desertion information center.
Both reached that 5,000 figure by adding on soldiers who deserted and then were discharged from the Army throughout the year." Search Thompson's article in vain for any mention of that. There is none. Thompson merely repeats the figure 3,301 for 2006, never notes the military's 'problem' with numbers and uses a military flack to offer anecdotal evidence and 'conclusions' throughout the article.

Despite that nonsense, the movement of resistance within the US military grows and includes Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

In other resistance news,
Iraq Veterans Against the War's Liam Madden "may not have to get ANY discharge" from the IRR, the AP (Heather Hollingsworth) reports citing Col. Pat McCarthy as the source of that quote. He shouldn't need one. He's already been discharged from active duty and the IRR doesn't usually do discharges. The AP notes that Madden wants, in writing, the US military to admit "that my statements are neither disloyal nor inaccurate." Along with Cloy Richards and Adam Kokesh, Madden has been targeted by the US military brass for speaking out against the war and sharing what they observed first hand in Iraq. Iraq Veterans Against the War are currently conducting a summer base tour that takes them to Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina tonight at 7:00 pm; the US Social Forum in Atlanta, GA on June 30th at 7:00 pm; Fort Benning in Columbus, GA on July 1st at 7:00 pm; a fundraiser in Philadelphia on June 3rd at 6:00 pm; a fundraiser in NYC on July 5th at 7:00 pm; the Naval Sub Marine Base in Groton, CT on July 6th at 7:00 pm; and concluding at Fort Drum in NY on July 8th at 4:00 pm. Madden, writing at Iraq Veterans Against the War, notes of the kick off Saturday (Green Belt Park) in DC: had an early visitor, a police officer who apparently does double duty as a 'journalist': "This confirmed to all of us that he was indeed, not a journalist and in fact, a cop with a bad attitude who wanted to leave before he was subject to any more inquiry. Then, to top it off he drove by with a bright, fluorescent orange vest in his passenger seat. You know, the kind cops wear when they need a bright fluorescent vest. We carried on with the BBQ and 7 active duty military personnel joined us along with at least a dozen IVAW members and another 15 civilian supporters. We declared the first cook-out a success as we recruited 4 new members, raised over $200 and did what we set out to do, have meaningful conversations and meet good people. We later got a phone call from the news station asking why we sent their reporter away. Ooops."

At his website,
Adam Kokesh responds to comments that have been left, pro and con.

In Iraq, the escalation, like the year long and counting crackdown, has achieved little as evidenced by the continuing daily violence.


Mike Drummond (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the Baghdad car bombing that claimed the lives of 25 people and "struck during the rush hour in Baghdad's Bayaa neighborhood as many of the victimes were lining up to catch rides to work. About 40 minibuses were incinerated, police reported." John Ward Anderson and Naseer Nouri (Washington Post) count this bombing as "at least the third time that the site has been targeted".
Molly Hennesy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) counts 50 wounded, along with the 25 dead, and quotes Ahmad Kamil, "I felt the huge blast and I was pushed away violently. I didn't realize what had happened at that moment. I almost fainted. I felt that people came to me and carried me away amid cries and shouting for help and voices of people in pain." Dean Yates (Reuters) notes that the explosion "dug a huge crater where the minibuses parked. Residents could be seen searching the burned out minibuses for bodies. Corpses, some charred beyond recognition, lay twisted on the ground." CBS and AP report, "Bystanders, some weeping, gingerly loaded human remains into ambulances." AFP rightly notes the obvious regarding the beefed up US presence in Baghdad: "The increased presence has failed to prevent continued communal bloodletting including car bombings." Mike Drummond (McClatchy Newspapers) observes that car bombings are once again on the rise in Baghdad after a drop off earlier in the month.

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack that left 12 injured, a Baghdad car bombing "near Al Mansour fuel station" that claimed 4 lives (10 injured), 6 other Baghdad mortar attacks that left 6 people dead and eight wounded, a Baghdad bombing "near Al Tobchi not far from Ibn Haian bridge" that left two people wounded, two other Baghdad bombings that left 5 wounded and "Police sources in Basra city said that 5 civilians were killed yesterday evening when a British helicopter bombed their vehicle in Al Hussein neighborhood" to the west of Basra.

On the topic of civilians killed by the US military,
yesterday we noted Mohammed al Dulaimy's report that the people of Khalis maintained those killed (and wounded) on June 22nd by a US helicopter attack were not 'terrorists.' The BBC reports today, "Relatives of 11 Iraqis killed by US troops in the village of Khalis last week have demanded compensation, and have called for the Americans to withdraw claims the men were from al-Qaeda."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one shooting death in Baghdad.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 15 corpses discovered in the capital. NPR reports that 30 corpses ("hands and legs bound") were found "on the banks of the Tigris River southeast of Baghdad . . . The male bodies -- all aged 20 to 40 years old -- were bound at the hands and legs and some of the heads were found next to the bodies, two officers said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information." Almost immediately, Iraqi's Interior Ministry began casting doubts. Dean Yates (Reuters) reports an official with the ministry asserts those who have gone to the site have found no corpses.

Today the
UK Ministry of Defence announced: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of two soldiers from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, and one soldier from 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh (The Royal Regiment of Wales) in Basra, southern Iraq this morning, Thursday 28 June 2007." The deaths bring to 156 the number of British soldiers killed in the illegal war since it started in March 2003. Sophie Borland (Telegraph of London) reports that the soldiers had been on "a supply run to a base in Basra Palace" while the BBC reports plans for British troops in Basra to begin moving "from Basra city to the airport" and that this is part of a "military plan over the next 12 months . . . to reduce the numbef of British troops from 5,500 to just 1,500, although he cautioned that this coud be changed by surprise political announcements." Ed Johnson and Robin Stringer (Bloomberg News) remind that the British have already turned over three out of four provinces to Iraqis and that the "U.K. is scaling back the number of troops it has there and plans to hand control of Basra Palace, the last remaining British base in the city, to Iraqi forces next month." On the de-escalation, Reuters observes that the UK has cut the number of troops from "7,000 to about 5,500." China's Xinhua notes that the appoximately 5,500 troops have been "based mainly" in Basra. Sam Marsden (Independent of London) quotes Major David Gell on a fourth soldier, one injured in the bombing, "He is now receiving the best possible medical care" while "being treated at the field hospital at the the British base at the airport."

The three deaths come one day after the Bully Boy's poodle, Tony Blair, steps down as prime minister of England. Yesterday,
Military Families Against the War were present to bid Blair farewell with banners, portraits, etc. For video of the protests, click here (ITV). Rose Gentle notes that, "For the past 3 years I have asked Mr. Blair to see Military Families, but he has refused to meet us. This the man that sent our loved ones to war, so to me this man will leave as a coward. I have now asked Gordon Brown to meet with us, as we all need answer. Lets hope Gordon Brown will not step into Blair's shoes and look at the families of our brave troops as if we should just shut up and go away. Let's hope Mr. Brown's reputation is not the reputation of Mr. Blair. But this is just to let Mr. Brown know that Military Families will always be here, we will be here longer than any prime minister will be."
The three deaths come after, as
Sophie Borland (Telegraph of London) observes, one day after John Rigby's corpse was returned to England from Iraq. As Alan Hamilton (Times of London) reported earlier this week, John Rigby was wounded from a roadside bomb and taken to a field hospital in Iraq where he died from the wounds. This is London notes that his twin brother Will was at his side when he died (they both were serving in Iraq), that the roadside bombing took place on their 24th birthday and quotes their father Doug Rigby stating, "The Army has been enormously supportive to us but as to what they are doing over there and the cause which they are fighting for and the politicians that have caused that to happen, the boys were less than impressed, especially Will. He could see through the whole thing and I don't think that he liked it." A family statement is quoted by BBC, stating John Rigby was "a cherished and devoted son and brother; a talented hardworking and successful soldier, popular with his peers and across all ranks alike."

Today, the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed when a combat patrol was struck by a roadside bomb in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital June 28." The announcement brought the total number of US service members killed in the illegal war since March 2003 to 3570 and to 93 for the month thus far.

Julian Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reports that US commanders in Iraq are preparing for Congress to impose some sort of redeployment/drawdown by the end of summer. This is in anticipation of the report that Congress will receive as to the 'progress' in Iraq resulting from Bully Boy's escalation. However, CBS and AP report that Daniel Speckhard ("second-ranking U.S. diplomat in Iraq) told reporters on Wednesday "predicted progress by fall" and that chiefly appears to be based on Speckhard's hopes of strong arming the Iraqi Parliament to pass legislation guaranteeing the theft of Iraqi oil. The two reports aren't necessarily in conflict. Once that so-called 'benchmark' has been achieved, there is little need to occupy the country. The oil fields? That's another issue.

But . . . Asad al-Hashimi remains 'at large.' Iraq's Culture minister has an arrest warrant on him for alleged activities in a 2005 assassination attempt.
Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported today that Alaa Makki (who is handling the negotiations between al-Hashimi and the Iraq authorities) stated, "The minister is ready to face justice, but we believe that the investigation was weak and it was faked. We are negotiating with the prime minister on this matter, and we have three demands to which we would like a response: the release of all his guards, restoration of the minister's good name and a new, independent investigation committee."

Finally, in the US,
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted: "The nation's body of city mayors has called on the Bush administration to begin planning for a quick withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. In a measure passed this week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors says; '[the Iraq war] is reducing federal funds . . . for needed domestic investments in education, health care, public safety, homeland security and more.' The resolution was passed by a vote of fifthy-one to forty-seven."