For the second day in a row a US military convoy has come under attack near Fallujah. It is not yet clear if there are any casualties.
On Wednesday four U.S. contractors were murdered and then mutilated in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in one of the most graphic attacks on U.S. interests since the invasion of Iraq. And nearby five U.S. soldiers were killed in a separate attack.
In the attack on the contractors, news agencies captured photos and images of their burnt corpses being dismembered in the streets. Two of bodies were tied up under a bridge and lynched over the Euphates. The others were dragged through the streets behind cars and hacked to pieces.
The New York Times reports seeing a 10-year-old body stepping on a burnt head screaming "Where is Bush? Let him come here and see this!"
The incident came on the same day the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq reached 600.
The four Americans killed on Wednesday all worked for the firm Blackwater, which routinely hires former soldiers often ex-Navy Seals to form essentially a private army that largely exists outside the public eye.
It is unknown how many private U.S. contractors have been killed though it has been reported the Army is relying on private security companies more as the opposition to the occupation intensifies.
There appears to have been no US effort to save the contractors or even to collect the bodies until hours after the attack.
On Wednesday the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Web site didn’t even mention the attacks. One of the top headlines on the website read "Iraqi Police Equal to Task of Public Safety"
Middle East analyst Juan Cole says the degree of hatred among ordinary Iraqis toward Americans is bad news for the occupying forces.
He writes, "It helps explain why so few of the Sunni Arab guerrillas have been caught, since the locals hide and help them. It also seems a little unlikely that further US military action can do anything practical to put down this insurgency; most actions it could take would simply inflame the public against them all the more. It seems likely to me that the guerrilla violence will continue for years."
Meanwhile the Pentagon is now admitting that it has carried out 18,000 evacuations of soldiers from Iraq for medical reasons over the past year. The total includes evacuations for emergency and non-emergency situations.
The Washington Post is reporting that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to give a major foreign policy speech on Sept. 11, 2001 calling for missile defense to be the centerpiece of the country’s defense strategy.
The speech, of course, was canceled.
It is making news now because of what she was scheduled to say–or more specifically not say.
According to U.S. officials who saw the text of her speech, Al Qaeda was never mentioned as a possible threat. Osama Bin Laden wasn’t mentioned either.
Instead Rice was set to argue missile defense was needed to combat "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday."
The Washington Post reports, "The speech provides telling insight into the administration’s thinking on the very day that the United States suffered the most devastating attack since the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor."
The speech appears to explicitly support the charge of the Bush administration’s former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke that Bush and Rice were not focused on the danger of terrorism in the lead-up to 9/11.
Meanwhile the Washington Post is reporting President Bush’s top lawyer called at least one of the Republican members of the Sept. 11 commission before it heard testimony from Clarke. The commissioner identified was Fred Fielding, California Congressman Henry Waxman said any such contact would be inappropriate because "the conduct of the White House is one of the key issues being investigated by the commission."
In campaign news, the Washington Post is reporting the Bush campaign and the Republican Party filed charges yesterday with the Federal Election Commission accusing the Kerry campaign and seven independent organizations of conducting a criminal conspiracy to inject large amounts of "soft money" into the 2004 election. The complaint accuses groups such as MoveOn and Media Fund of illegally running ads criticizing President Bush.