Saturday, March 19, 2005
Its the last paragraph of the article that drives the point home.
"America's military leadership has proved repeatedly ill prepared in this ill-conceived war. And it's always the soldiers in the field who pay the price, with their lives. As for Cody, he's now the Army's chief of staff."
The Department of Defense reports give the facts on the 67 men and three women from Virginia, Maryland or the District who have died in the Iraq war since it began two years ago. What's missing from the reports is how they lived, what they dreamed, why they signed up, how they tried to comfort those at home.
Seventy lives: an obituary. ...
I think these brave sisters will permanently change Ireland. They have more guts than the all the silent men in the bar that night. God bless these ladies. Each and every one.
In fact, the sisters' motivation is much less complicated and much more human.
'We would have died for Robert'
"The truth is that if we'd been in that bar that night, Robert would not be dead today, and we wouldn't be here sailing around the White House or anywhere else," says Catherine, a history and politics teacher.
"They'd have had to get past us before they laid a finger on him. We would have died for Robert."
Paula interrupts. "We still would. If it comes to that, so be it. We couldn't protect him in life, but we are damn well going to get justice for him now.
"We'll do whatever it takes - sell our homes, live in a caravan, whatever. If the IRA think we are going to shut up, they have another think coming."
None of the McCartney sisters has been back at work since their brother died. Their husbands are back in Belfast, looking after their 21 children. They haven't left each other's sides all week.
"We have to be together," explains Gemma, 41 and a nurse. "There's not much sleeping been going on, but at least none of us is alone."
Paula, a mother of three, was not at her brother's hospital bedside when he took his last breath. She had been keeping vigil, and met Donna in the corridor as she returned.
'Started something that was going to be bigger than any of us'
"I remember that moment very clearly. Donna said: 'He's gone.' I was calm. I remember thinking of the bastards who did this, and knowing that they'd started something that was going to be bigger than any of us.
"I said: 'They don't know who they have killed.' And they didn't. We had already lost one brother, and we weren't simply going to give up another one. Not without someone paying a very heavy price."
She has not cried since her brother was killed on January 30. Her eyes fill up at least a dozen times during our harrowing interview, yet she simply pauses, blinks herself composed, and carries on.
"I cannot allow myself to cry," she explains. "Once I start, I won't be able to stop."
Incredibly, there is no room for anger either. "That's a crippling emotion, which causes you to lose focus. We are incredibly focused on what we are doing.
Not about politics or revenge - just justice
"It is not about politics. It is not about revenge. It is just about getting justice for Robert, and having someone agree with us that what happened to him simply cannot be allowed."
There is something quite surreal about this particular fight for justice. On Wednesday night, the women attend a St Patrick's Day gala - a glittering affair where the champagne flows copiously and the most powerful Irish-Americans queue to shake their hands.
As they are getting ready, and suitcases seem to explode over every surface, the impossibility of their situation emerges.
"What do you wear to something like this?" Claire asks. At 26, and a teaching assistant, she is the youngest sister but also one of the most eloquent. "It's a party, but I don't feel like partying. I feel as if I should look good for Robert, but I want to wear a sack.
"I don't want to smile. I want to lock myself away in a room and never come out."
Instead, of course, she applies bright green eyeshadow and does her best at small talk. By her side is Bridgeen Hagans, Robert's fiancèe and the mother of his sons Conlaed, four, and Brandon, two. She looks simply terrified and admits as much.
'Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed'
"Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed by it all, and I wonder what we are doing here. Then I remember my boys and how their father died, and how we owe it to him to make sure people know. And if we have to go through a bit of a palaver to get that message across, well, it's a small price."
Everyone here wants to meet the McCartney sisters. Billed as the most famous sisters in the world, they are in constant demand.
At one press conference, held by Senators Edward Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, the assembled newsmen cannot fit into the designated room.
Hundreds of reporters spill out into the corridors of the Russell Senate Building. It is, says one breathless US television anchor, "the biggest Irish story we can remember - at least as big as the time Gerry Adams got his first US visa."
Just a few blocks away comes a timely reminder of how the balance has changed. There, on a blustery pavement, stands the Sinn Fein president himself, surrounded by no more than a dozen journalists and a few cameras, mostly from stations in Northern Ireland.
America, it seems, is no longer interested in what he has to say. And while the downfall of Adams, and all that he stands for, is far from the minds of the McCartney sisters, it is all that other people are talking about.
Not far from the Capitol building is Kelly's Bar, an Irish pub. Here, the Mail finds Joseph Michael Monahan, a 57-year-old who describes himself as a third-generation Irishman from Butte, Montana.
For weeks, he has been hearing vague mutterings about the sisters from Belfast. Now, with their faces - and their harrowing words - right there on the TV screen in the corner of his bar, his attention has been grabbed. They are saying terrible things about the IRA - his IRA - and his whole world is collapsing around him.
"I used to wear my IRA T-shirt with pride," he admits. "The Hunger Strikers were my heroes. Then Gerry Adams. But those women - my God, they have hit me hard. I've been questioning everything I ever believed, and I'm ashamed.
"I don't know how much money I gave to those thugs over the years. When they passed round the Noraid basket in the pub, I gave willingly. Always. They told us that our contributions were going to 'the widows and the orphans', but we all knew it was really for guns.
"I was happy with that. Ireland, our Ireland, was a land under occupation. And what do you do when your land is being occupied by a foreign force? You fight.
"So for decades, I helped that fight. Every time we heard about innocent people dying, I justified it to myself. In war, there is collateral damage. Innocent people will die.
"But the bastards that killed that young man McCartney in that bar aren't the IRA I gave my money for. Nor is Gerry Adams the man I thought could bring my country to peace. He's sold me a lie.
"IRA men turning on their own! And Adams trying to say it has nothing to do with him. Has the world gone mad?"
Adams compared to Arafat
Joseph has never been to Ireland. Nor is his change of heart entirely down to the McCartney sisters. Ever since September 11, he has been uneasy about the distinction between terrorist and freedom fighter. And his own behaviour has come under scrutiny.
He is not alone. The combination of factors at play here could have unprecedented consequences.
For the first time since his introduction to the political system, Gerry Adams was not invited to any official US government St Patrick's Day celebrations.
This year, he was banned from fundraising, and even compared to Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader.
Little wonder those Irish-Americans who have traditionally supported the IRA are questioning their own not-too-distant pasts.
Back in the sisters' hotel room, they are prepared to answer equally difficult questions. Lawless behaviour by the IRA is not a new phenomenon. People have been beaten and knee- capped and robbed for as long as anyone can remember, cease-fire or no ceasefire.
Why has it taken the death of their own brother for the McCartney sisters to make a stand? And do they feel any guilt for that?
Paula nods quietly. "I'm so annoyed with myself now. For years, I walked around with blinkers on, not seeing, not hearing.
Little progress in Belfast
"I heard about things that were blatantly wrong. There was a case, not so long ago, where an IRA man raped a woman. She was warned not to say anything. I remember talking about it with friends, saying how terrible it was. But did I do anything? No. Did any of us? No."
Now the catastrophic consequences are coming home to roost. For all the Stateside fanfare, there has been little progress back in the Catholic Short Strand area of Belfast where the sisters live.
Not a single person in the city has come forward and offered themselves as a witness. Even the McCartneys' own friends are conspicuous by their absence.
"There were acquaintances of ours in that bar that night," says Paula. "They haven't been near us. They didn't come to offer their condolences, or to tell us what Robert's last words were.
"I suppose they were scared I would quiz them about what they were doing when our Robert was being beaten to a pulp. I would have, too. I would have said: 'Who were you with and how could you not have seen?'
"I understand they are afraid - but they have to speak out. If they don't, these men will think they can do it again, and again, and again. And we will all pay the price."
'Why should we be the ones to go?'
The sisters go home today. But what sort of community are they returning to? Paula makes a surprising admission.
"I hate Belfast," she says. "I've always hated it, even before this. It's a depressing place. Oppressive. I'd leave tomorrow if I could.
"But the people who murdered Robert are walking right past my front door. I see them every time I go out for a pint of milk. So I'm damned if I am going to leave now. Why should we be the ones to go?"
Their grieving will not start until the justice they keep talking about is within their grasp.
"What we want is quite simple," says Catherine. "We want to be able to remember our brother's face. We want to remember him like the big eejit he was, clowning around and playing with his kids.
"At the minute, none of us can see that. When we shut our eyes, all we can see is this figure curled up on the floor, surrounded. And with not one of us anywhere near him.
"We let him down once, and we're not about to do it again. And nobody will stand in our way."
There are a number of interesting points in the article like the various quotes from Wolfowitz over the last 2 and 1/2 years and of the fact that the Coalition of the Willing is dropping from 36 to 24 countries.
But what struck me was how it ended.
"At one of his rare news conferences this week, Bush was asked about a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops.
He replied: "Our troops will come home when Iraq is capable of defending herself." He praised the Iraqi people for their bravery and determination to vote and form a democratic government; he said the future was in their hands; and he called the first meeting of the National Assembly "a bright moment in history".
He did not talk about the fact that this was the week of the second anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. He did not talk about the mistakes and miscalculations that were made.
He did not talk about these things because he wasn't asked."
- Americans have settled into an uneasy ambivalence about the war. ... Yet the public, for the moment, seems to have moved on to Social Security, domestic shootouts, pop star Michael Jackson, and the price of gasoline.
- As reported this week in a Washington Post-ABC News Poll, 53 percent of Americans feel the war was not worth fighting, 57 percent say they disapprove of the Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq, and 70 percent think the number of US casualties is an unacceptable price to have paid. A plurality of Americans (41 percent) also believe the war has damaged this country's standing abroad, particularly as they see much of the "coalition of the willing" heading home from Iraq, leaving Americans to carry more and more of the burden there.
- Yet most Americans also agree that Iraq is better off today than it was under Saddam Hussein, and they now believe the chances of democracy spreading in the Middle East have improved.
- No matter how they feel about the US invasion of Iraq, Americans generally have been able to separate the warrior from the war. It was not so during the Vietnam War.
March 18, 2005
The U.S. Army is buying over 8,000 electronic jammers to protect its troops in Iraq from improvised bombs but there is "no silver bullet" against the favored weapon of Iraqi insurgents, a top army general said Thursday.
General Richard Cody, the army's vice chief of staff, nevertheless said U.S. casualties from so-called "improvised explosive devices," or IEDs, have dropped by 40 percent since a largely secret effort to develop defenses against them was launched 18 months ago.
"There's no silver bullet at this time," he told reporters. "We do have a combination of things we're doing. We are buying millions of dollars worth of jammers that are capable. So we're not waiting for the silver bullet."
Members of Congress have criticized the army for being slow to equip troops with jammers. ...
This increase, announced March 18, is in response to the escalating demand for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability in the war on terrorism. The plans are intended to ensure an increased number of Predators are available in U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility as well as for new opportunities, officials said. ...
The father in the Dulaimi family says this in conclusion, "If I didn't know that my son was innocent, I wouldn't have sent his cousins for revenge," the father said. "But for we Arabs, the matter of revenge is like honor. Both are the same for us."
An interesting read.
The Lt. Col. in a prior post is "baffled" as to the increase in vehicular accident rates. Well I suspect he might learn a lot if he actually went on a patrol. The quote above about the accident Major K was in last night is indicative of the operating environment. If the word canal had been substituted for barrier it could have been a life threatening incident for those involved.
- The unexpectedly heavy demands of sustained ground combat are depleting military manpower and gear faster than they can be fully replenished. Shortfalls in recruiting and backlogs in needed equipment are taking a toll, and growing numbers of units have been broken apart or taxed by repeated deployments, particularly in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.
- "What keeps me awake at night is, what will this all-volunteer force look like in 2007?" Gen. Richard A. Cody, Army vice chief of staff, said at a Senate hearing this week.
- The Iraq war has also led to a drop in the overall readiness of U.S. ground forces to handle threats at home and abroad ...
- "The U.S. military will respond if there are vital threats, but will it respond with as many forces as it needs, with equipment that is in excellent condition? The answer is no," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.).
- They will raise the age limit, from 34 to 40, for enlistment in the Army Guard and Reserve.
- The active-duty Army and Marine Corps, and five of six reserve components of the military, all failed to meet at least some recruiting goals in the first quarter of fiscal 2005, according to Defense Department statistics. The active-duty shortfalls came amid rising concern among Army and Marine officials that their services risk missing annual recruiting quotas for the first time this decade.
I was told by one source that robots like these have disposed of over 20,000 IEDs and other explosive devices in Iraq over the last two years.
Friday, March 18, 2005
The Army is baffled [emphasis mine] by a recent spate of vehicle accidents in Iraq — many of them rollovers involving armored Humvees — that have claimed more than a dozen lives this year.
One key concern: Soldiers lack the skills to handle the heavier Humvees and are losing control as they speed through ambush areas before insurgents detonate roadside bombs.
"An individual feels [emphasis mine] that if he goes faster he can avoid that threat," says Lt. Col. Michael Tarutani, an Army official tracking the accidents. "But now he's exceeded, first, maybe his capabilities, and then maybe the speed for those conditions."
... If that rate continues, the number of soldiers killed in such accidents this year would be almost double the 39 soldiers killed in 2004. Detailed records involving Marines were not available.
The humvees are being driven very fast to avoid IEDs. Accident related deaths in humvees are second only to IED attacks as causes of death in Iraq in 2005.
The Army appears baffled in public but in private they are trying to figure out how to get the humvees with armor weighing on them to go faster, not slower. They need them to keep up with civilian truckers in convoy that constantly want to speed up.
The fact that the rollovers are occurring in newer humvees with lower centers of gravity is explained by the fact that the newer armored humvees have been placed by the army and marines into the ambush zones and with the convoys that are speeding through them.
Blaming the operators for not wearing their seatbelt has got to be creating laughing hysteria in Iraq to soldiers who read the USA Today on line. The drivers try to use speed to increase the distance between themselves and an IED explosion manually detonated. See
Here is the latest in a series of investigative reports by Robert Little of the Baltimore Sun on the issue of tourniquets and U.S. Soldiers in Iraq.
My thanks again to Robert Little for his work on this important topic.
Perhaps he'll consider doing a follow-up on the lack of blood clotting agents which should be issued within Army.
172,000 New Tourniquets Ordered for U.S. Soldiers
Army to begin delivery in war zones next month
By Tom Bowman
Sun National Staff
March 18, 2005
WASHINGTON - The Army has ordered an additional 172,000 modern tourniquets for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it will begin distributing them next month, with the expectation that each soldier will be equipped with the life-saving device sometime this summer, officials said.
"We anticipate theater wide distribution beginning in mid-April, with completion in three or four months, by July or August," said Cynthia Vaughan, a spokeswoman for the Army surgeon general.
There are about 44,000 of the tourniquets on hand or on order, officials said, and the manufacturer said a plant in South Carolina has hired additional workers to increase production.
The Army is expected to request more tourniquets so thousands of soldiers set to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan later this year will have them in new medical kits.
The Sun detailed the lack of modern tourniquets for soldiers in an article March 6, in which more than a dozen military doctors and medics said some soldiers had bled to death from battlefield injuries that might not have been life-threatening had a proper tourniquet been available.
Since at least a month before the war in Iraq began, medical experts in the Army and other services called on the Pentagon to equip every American soldier in the war zone with a modern tourniquet.
The simple first aid devices could all but eliminate deaths caused by blood loss from extremity wounds, they argue.
One obstacle was that the military wanted first to develop new training manuals and a pouch for carrying the tourniquet, a process expected to take months.
After The Sun's article appeared, members of Congress wrote to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last week and urged faster action.
"Holding up the fielding of a life-saving medical kit simply to optimize its carrying pouch suggests a mindset oblivious to the wartime needs of our soldiers," wrote two Senate Democrats, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Carl Levin of Michigan.
Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, this week lauded the Army's fast action on the modern tourniquets. About half of all combat troops in Iraq are Guard soldiers.
"Everybody's aware of it and everybody will push for this, which is a good thing," Blum said.
Army Ranger, Special Operations forces and U.S. Marines began to carry the modern tourniquets several years ago, and the senators said the delay for the remaining troops, particularly in time of war, "is nothing short of appalling."
After Rumsfeld received the senators' letter, the Army decided to expedite the tourniquet without waiting for field testing of the new kits, said the Army surgeon general's office. [Hart comments: they've only sat on this for two full years since the initial recommendations in Feb. 03 and the army deployment will be 2 years behind the marines.]
Vaughan, the spokesman for the Army surgeon general, emphasized that more than 200,000 tourniquets of a variety of types already have been sent to the region over the past two years, though not all are the most modern tourniquets requested by Central Command. [Hart comments: Also they weren't allocated to troops in the field which bears mentioning.]
"Tourniquets are out there, and soldiers are trained to use them," she said. "They may not be the most modern but they are effective to do the job."
In February, a soldier with a Military Police company e-mailed a request for tourniquets to Operation AC, a Delaware nonprofit that ships supplies to deployed troops, saying none was available in Iraq.
Phil Durango, the manufacturer, donated 250 tourniquets, and Operation AC shipped them that month.
Rob Miller, director of research and development for North American Rescue Products, which works closely with Durango and produces combat casualty equipment such as litters and airway tools, said the company has added workers at its plant outside Columbia, S.C., to increase production of the modern tourniquets.
Miller, a former Army Ranger medic, said the company was producing 5,000 per month in April and will increase to about 50,000 to 60,000 in May and 100,000 by July. He expected the Army's new order to be filled by mid-July. [Hart comments: 2 years after the marines]
He also said Army officials are likely to request additional tourniquet orders for U.S. troops heading into Iraq and Afghanistan later this year.
Copyright © 2005, The Baltimore Sun
Shi'ite women in Sadr City on March 18, 2005 going to a mosque. It strikes me that in Iraq we would do better to focus on creating more democrats than a democracies. I'm sure secular Sunni's look at photos like this and wonder if they too have to buy a burka for all occassions.
Looking at its operating rate in Afghanistan, 200 destroyed pieces of ordinance over 6 months, I'm not impressed with its reliability. On the other hand it did clear 51 pieces in 100 minutes. So when it works, it seems to work pretty well.
I refer readers to a link to a prior post regarding a similar technology under development.
Note that this news doesn't seem to be reported by Fox or CNN, yet I watch the Michael Jackson buggery trial ad nauseum.
Until average Iraqi's are prepared to fight for their own democracy, I doubt they will have it. Perhaps this is a first step.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Twenty different federal agencies issued counterfeit news. Over $254 million has been spent on PR over the last 4 years: twice the level of spending as compared to Clinton.
That an administration would try to manipulate the media and public opinion is not surprising. That the television media aided and abetted this practice is disheartening.
Alma and I saw this first hand in December when we were being interviewed by CNN and Fox on the humvee pieces. The same stock video clips that had been running on humvee production since April 04 were being aired. Wolf Blitzer literally read a Pentagon press release as breaking news before we spoke one Friday evening. The fact the statement was false, we thought to be important news. We told CNN before going on the air about the inaccuracy of the report. We quickly learned that CNN wasn't interested in the real status of humvee production if it made Wolf look bad. The fact (later confirmed by Bloomberg and the Boston Globe) was that we had discovered that no additional units were being purchased despite the manipulation of monthly production numbers after Rumsfeld's debacle to take the public heat off him. We saw it again the next week with Fox News when we were told just before went on the air that unless Geraldo or Ollie North picked up the story, they weren't going to investigate the obvious manipulation of production numbers by the Pentagon.
Those two events made us realize that national television news no longer had reporters, just media personalities. We turned to the print media for help and got it. Bloomberg, NYT, Baltimore Sun, Philly Inquirer, even the Boston Globe still have investigative reporters worth their salt. Unfortunately they're on the endangered species list. Investigating armor, humvees, procurement and tourniquets is hard work that doesn't have the flashly broad shallow appeal of a celebrity trial. So it is.
It would be very discouraging, but occasionally there is a spark of hope as Robert Little's pieces in the Baltimore Sun on the failure to allocate tourniquets and blood clotting agents to soldiers pointed out; the army brass acted quickly once the issue faced public and congressional scrutiny. Robert Little saved someone's son or daughter this year because of his effort.
Lance Cpl. Raymond Preston Warren, 23, couldn't move. Couldn't talk. Couldn't speak.
But there was Mom -- from a world far away.
'He was like a pumpkin head. His face was so swollen you couldn't see his features,' recalled Piccione, 41, of Northridge, of her visit to see her son at a naval hospital in June. 'I said, 'It's Mom, it's Mom.'
'And a tear came from his eyes as he squeezed my hand.'" ... [read on]
The chart below is from that report.
Here are some highlights of this 23 page report:
- "U.S. government agencies do not report reliable data on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped." ..."The [government] data does not exclude police absent from duty. Further, the departments of State and Defense no longer report on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are equipped with their required weapons, vehicles, communications equipment, and body armor."
- "Attacks against the coalition and its Iraqi forces have increased in number over time, with the highest peaks of attacks occurring in August and November 2004 and in January 2005."
- As of March 2005 the Iraqi forces are not able to confront the insurgency without Coalition support.
- The number of Iraqi forces needed has risen significantly to approximately 271,000 defense and interior security personnel and at best we have 141,000 in total at all levels of training.
- The Sunni insurgency has grown in number, complexity, and intensity over the last 18 months. ... "almost all of the attacks in these two months took place in Sunni-majority areas, whereas the August attacks took place countrywide.
- More Iraqi security forces than Americans have died in action since June 2004.
- Election day violence rose to an all time high of 300, double the previous 1 day high of about 150 during last year's Ramadan. About 80% of all attacks occurred in Sunni-dominated central Iraq.
- The insurgency is dominated by Sunnis with Ba'athist ties. The insurgency has sufficient ammunition, weapons, money, and people to maintain about 50-60 attacks per day in the Sunni areas.
- Recent reports indicate that some Iraqi security personnel continue to cooperate with insurgents. One example is of police calling local insurgents to report coalition patrols passing police checkpoints.
This chart shows violence against coalition forces. It is taken from a GAO study. Note that it belies statements made last month by Gen. Kern about a falling trend line. His statements played a game on the media comparing February numbers to January's election month violence and implying the month over month activity was a long-term trend. The evidence as indicated in this chart speaks to a more complicated pattern of sustained violence.
“Of course,” the recruiter replies, stepping on the accelerator even before the passenger door slams shut. “I’m always ready to meet mothers.” ...
Statistics he keeps show he now has to make face-to-face contact with potential recruits three times more often than just two years ago to get them to enlist.
“The biggest obstacle to getting a young guy to enlist is usually his parents,” the recruiter said. “If I can get a parent to agree that joining is a good idea, then I almost always have the kid.” ...
The mother peppers the recruiter with more questions, including one about news reports of soldiers in Iraq without armor. The recruiter had heard that one before and has a response ready: “CNN stretched the truth on that. Everyone who needed armor had it. The guys who didn’t really need it, didn’t have it at first, but they have it now. No soldier died because they were missing armor.” ....