US sets aside £11m for Iraq 'success party'

What a 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 US making progress in Iraq and Afghanistan that they have set aside $20m (£11m) 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 in the current period.

The news from Iraq suggests the party will not be taking place soon. Yesterday, it was reported that 28 people had been killed in a series of bombs and attacks. Among the dead were two US soldiers - bringing to 17 the number of American troops killed since Saturday.

The US casualty toll now stands at more than 2,730, with almost 120 British troops killed. Two years ago a report in The Lancet suggested more than 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The Bush administration has repeatedly claimed US soldiers will be withdrawn from Iraq once Iraqi security forces are able to fill their position.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 $20m that has been set for 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."

Ms McCaffrey was among hundreds of protesters who gathered 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."

The legislation for the celebration, first revealed by The New York Times, empowers the President to designate "a day of celebration" and to "issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities".

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