US plans $30m party but Iraq in no mood to celebrate

By Andrew Buncombe

WASHINGTON - What type of celebration they have in mind is unclear. When the celebration will take place is also uncertain. But Republicans in Washington are so certain of the United States making progress in Iraq and Afghanistan that they have set aside US$20 million ($30.15 million) for a "commemoration of success".

The funding was tucked away in the small print attached to a congressional military spending bill for the past year. Also inserted was a provision for the money to roll over into 2007 if it was not used.

The news from Iraq suggests the party will not be taking place soon.

Four US soldiers were killed yesterday, bringing the number of American troops killed since Saturday to 21.

And at least 13 people died yesterday and dozens were injured in a series of bomb blasts in a busy area in the south of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

About 75 people were reported injured when three explosions hit the mainly Christian Camp Sarah district.

The US casualty toll now stands at more than 2734, with almost 120 British troops killed. Two years ago a report in the Lancet suggested over 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed.

The Bush Administration has repeatedly claimed US soldiers will be withdrawn from Iraq once Iraqi security forces are able to fill their position. But yesterday the Iraqi Government suspended a brigade of up to 700 policemen and placed some of them under investigation for suspected "complicity" with death squads. The police are suspected of involvement with death squads which carried out a series of recent kidnappings and murders.

Informed of the "commemoration of success", Nadia McCaffrey, whose son, Patrick, a National Guardsman, was killed in Iraq in 2004, said: "I don't know what to think any more. I think it is totally out of hand. We don't know where we are going."

She was among hundreds of protesters outside the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium in California on Tuesday where President Bush told supporters: "When this chapter of history will be written ... it's going to be a comma. The Iraqis voted, comma, and the United States of America understood that Iraq was a central front in the war on terror and helped this young democracy flourish."


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