Friday, May 27, 2005

Arlington National Cemetery prepares for Memorial Day Posted by Hello

Japan soldiers' found in jungle

"Japanese officials are investigating claims that two men living in jungle in the Philippines are Japanese soldiers left behind after World War II.

The pair, in their 80s, were reportedly found on southern Mindanao island.

The men were expected to travel to meet Japanese officials on Friday, but have yet to make contact.

The claim drew comparisons with the 1974 case of Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who was found in the Philippines jungle unaware the war had ended. "...

British Black Watch bagpiper played for the Marine ceremony. Posted by Hello

Marines honor their dead. Posted by Hello

Emily Dieruf found her husband's dogtags at this Marine ceremony, May 26, 2005 Posted by Hello

Shift to sectarian killings feared in Iraq

"No one knows who tortured and killed Hassan al-Nuaimi, a Sunni Arab cleric whose body was found in an empty lot this month, with a hole drilled in his head and both eyes missing. But the various theories have a distinctly sectarian tinge.

A Shiite police chief investigating the death said that he suspected Sunni Arab extremists who have driven much of the insurgency in Iraq, a lot of it aimed at Shiites. The Sunni family mourning the cleric pointed the finger at the Badr Organization, a Shiite militia. But with Nuaimi buried, the truth, as so often is the case with killings in Iraq, seemed lost in rumor and allegations.

The only sure thing was that Nuaimi, and another Sunni man who helped write sermons, were killed within 12 hours of their disappearance from a mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood in northeast Baghdad. And their deaths, amid violence that has taken more than 550 lives across Iraq this month, renewed concern that the bloodshed might be shifting ever more toward crudely sectarian killings.

'The killing in Iraq now is according to religious identity,' said Sheik Abdel Nasir al-Janabi, a religious Sunni and a hard-line member of the National Dialogue Council, a Sunni political group that says it has ties to the insurgency. 'Now you're killed because you're a Sunni Arab.'

Shiite leaders, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, have responded to such talk with calls for calm, and they renewed appeals to Shiites that they place their trust in Iraq's fledgling democracy, not revenge killings.

But the urgency of the Shiite leaders' appeals reflects a deepening anxiety that the welter of allegations about Shiite death squads targeting Sunni Arabs, true or false, may prompt still more sectarian kill"...

Not to be outdone by Saddam Posted by Hello

Pressure builds on Iraq's insurgents |

"BAGHDAD -Deepening the speculation about the severity of battle injuries to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, his followers Thursday squabbled on the Web over naming a new leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, exposing rifts and raising questions about how the insurgency may change.

May has seen one of the bloodiest waves of violence to date in Iraq. More than 620 Iraqis and 60 US troops have died since the Shiite-led government was formed April 28."

Analysts say the insurgency can probably carry on for now with or without Mr. Zarqawi's guiding hand, pointing to the high level of bloodshed that killed at least 13 more people Thursday.

But it is under increasing pressure from numerous US offensives in western Iraq, the loss of two-dozen top lieutenants, and intelligence from Zarqawi's captured computer. Iraq's budding government is also tightening its grip, announcing Thursday that it would launch a new offensive with 40,000 troops and set up 600 checkpoints in Baghdad.

"These operations will aim to turn the government's role from defensive to offensive," said Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabor. Mr. Jabor said he is "not sure whether [Zarqawi] is dead, but we are sure that he is injured."...

Afghan widow outside food center where the italian kidnap victim Cantoni worked. Posted by Hello

Zarqawi Gang in Chaos

"May 27, 2005 -- BAGHDAD -Iraq's most lethal terror group appears to be facing a leadership crisis amid conflicting reports about the fate of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and whether a Saudi has been named to stand in for him. "...

Medal of Honor recipient Posted by Hello

Al Qaeda bust's a blow to terror

"WASHINGTON - The capture this month of one of Al Qaeda's top commanders has led to the arrests of at least 17 more suspects, including a trusted 'courier' for the group's top leaders.
The courier, terrorist hunters hope, may bring them one step closer to Osama Bin Laden.

A notebook seized during the May 2 capture of Abu Faraj al-Libbi had coded entries, including names, and is being analyzed by a joint FBI and CIA exploitation unit in Virginia, sources said.

Al-Libbi has clammed up since his arrest, but at least 17 people - including some named in the notebook - have been rolled up.
One who was grabbed is an Uzbek operative who is suspected of being assigned to carry messages between top Al Qaeda leaders, a senior Pakistani official told the Daily News.

...But the Pakistani official said there are growing suspicions Bin Laden joined his son Saad in Iran long ago, since "there are no rumors he's been seen" in Pakistan's rough terrain....

Iraq's tensions spill onto campus |

"BAGHDAD -When Iraq's new government officially took power earlier this month, Shiite students at Baghdad University celebrated. But after the jubilation ended, the main organizer of the festivities, Dawa party activist Masar Sarhan, was killed.

Mr. Sarhan, a pharmacy student, was shot on his way home and is apparently one of the latest casualties of tensions between Sunni and Shiite students at Iraq's 20 universities and 47 technical colleges."

According to a recent United Nations report, nearly 50 academics have been assassinated in Iraq over the past two years. A US official says the number is closer to 100, but added that the pattern of the killings is not clear, with "terrorism, general thuggery, pay back, and de-Baathification" all playing a role....

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Last thing Iraq needs is hasty US pull-out News - Opinion - Columnists - Last thing Iraq needs is hasty US pull-out: "'I THINK that this could still fail.' Those words - uttered by a senior United States officer in Baghdad last week - probably gave opponents of the war in Iraq, particularly those clamouring for a hasty exit, a bit of a kick. They should be careful what they wish for.

For history strongly suggests that a hasty US withdrawal from Iraq would be a disaster. As many of the war's opponents seem to have forgotten, civil war and chaos tend to break out when US military interventions have been aborted. Think not only of Vietnam and Cambodia, but also of Lebanon in 1983 and Haiti in 1996.

In 1917, British forces invaded Mesopotamia, got to Baghdad, overthrew its Ottoman rulers and sought to be its people's 'liberators'. The British presence was legitimised by international law (it was designated a League of Nations mandate) and by a modicum of democracy (a referendum was held among local sheikhs to confirm the creation of a British-style constitutional monarchy). Despite all this, in 1920 there was a full-scale insurgency against the continuing British military presence.

The striking thing about the events of 1920 is how very like the events of our own time they were.

Three lessons stand out. The first is that, unlike the US enterprise in Iraq today, they had enough men. In 1920, British forces in Iraq numbered roughly 120,000, of whom about 34,000 were trained for actual fighting. During the insurgency, a further 15,000 men arrived as reinforcements. Coincidentally, that is close to the number of US military personnel now in Iraq. The trouble is that the population of Iraq was just over three million in 1920, whereas today it is about 24 million.

The US faces two other problems that the UK did not 85 years ago. The British were able to be ruthless. The US has not been above brutal methods on occasion, yet humiliation and torture of prisoners has not yielded any significant benefits compared to what it has cost the US's reputation.

The Americans' other problem has to do with timing and expectations. Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, has said US forces should aim for a "10-30-30" timetable: ten days to topple a rogue regime, 30 days to establish order in its wake and 30 more days to prepare for the next military undertaking. I am all in favour of such a timetable - provided the measurement is years, not days.

No-one should wish for an overhasty US withdrawal. It would be the prelude to a bloodbath of ethnic cleansing and sectarian violence, with spillovers into and interventions from neighbouring countries. Rather, it is time to acknowledge just how thinly stretched US forces in Iraq are and to address the problem: by finding new allies; expanding the accelerated citizenship programme for immigrants who join the army; or lowering the educational requirements of military recruiters.

• Niall Ferguson, a history professor at Harvard, is the author of Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire

New Army program aims to put soldiers on higher alert for IEDs

By Joseph Giordono, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Courtesy of U.S. Army
The logo for the "5 and 25" program, an Army effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by homemade bombs in Iraq.

American military officials have kicked off a new awareness campaign they hope will reduce deaths and injuries caused by the No. 1 killer of U.S. troops in Iraq: homemade bombs.

Dubbed “5-and-25,” the program’s goal is, flatly, to “reduce the effectiveness of the mountain of makeshift bombs being produced by insurgents.”

Improvised explosive devices, as the military has come to call them, have killed more than half of the U.S. casualties in Iraq. The bombs have been hidden in everything from plastic bags and tree trunks to dead animals. They have been remotely detonated. They have been put on timers.

IEDs are our No. 1 killers here,” Eric Egland, of the Joint IED Defeat Task Force, said in a release announcing the campaign.

The 5-and-25 refers to distances to “clear” any time a patrol or vehicle stops. Soldiers should look out for anything suspicious within a five-meter radius if they’re in a vehicle; if their vehicles stop, they should clear a 25-meter perimeter around the vehicles. In addition to bombs striking moving targets, patrols have been hit after being stationary for as little as four minutes, officials said.

“Every time you stop outside a secure area, you always should check. Not checking could get you killed,” said Master Sgt. William Johnson, one of the designers of the campaign’s logo.

The concept has its roots in a similar technique developed by British forces operating in Northern Ireland, officials said. Military officials in Iraq say the new program was created because they were concerned that information wasn’t getting to soldiers directly or quickly enough.

The campaign was timed to kick off Wednesday, or 5/25 on the calendar. Unfortunately, recent events will give it extra impact. At least 12 U.S. soldiers have been killed in the past two days, many of them by roadside bombs. In the past three weeks, at least 52 U.S. servicemembers have been killed in Iraq.

In October 2003, the Army chief of staff established the task force focusing on makeshift explosives. The task force has been granted $1.4 billion in funding for this current budget cycle alone, military records show.

According to U.S. military officials, troops find and disable between 30 and 40 percent of roadside bombs before they detonate. Countermeasures of various kinds have been tried: observing via unmanned aerial vehicles, robot bomb-detectors and dogs. The military has also spent at least $460 million on electronic warfare systems designed to stop the explosions.

There are currently six kinds of vehicle-mounted jamming devices in use; a total of 3,300 have been parceled out to forces in the Central Command area.

“Unfortunately, no ‘silver bullet’ jammer exists,” the task force noted in an April report. U.S. military officials acknowledge there is no easy solution to the problem. But they hope the 5-and-25 campaign can help in some way.

While casualty rates attributed to makeshift bombs have been cut nearly in half in the last year, officials said, “as long as one soldier is killed or wounded, the command felt that it needed to do more.”

Militant Islamism lures teenage recruits in Europe

International News Article "BERLIN (Reuters) - Some European Muslims are being drawn towards militant Islamism while still in their teens, in a trend which is increasingly worrying security services.

Police and intelligence officials say they are concerned about evidence that disaffected young Muslims, born and bred in Europe as children of immigrant families, are easy targets for radicalisation. "....

40,000 troops in Baghdad

International News Article "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's defense minister announced a massive security operation on Thursday that will see more than 40,000 Iraqi troops deployed in the capital to hunt down insurgents and their weapons. "...

U.S., Iraq consider freeing members of Saddam regime

The Seattle Times: Nation & World: U.S., Iraq consider freeing members of Saddam regime: "BAGHDAD, Iraq -The U.S. military and the Iraqi government are talking about releasing as many as 20 members of Saddam Hussein's former regime, including at least three from the list of the 55 most wanted, Iraqi lawyers and Justice Ministry officials said this week"...

Iraqi Troops to Lock Down Baghdad, Defense Minister Says

Iraqi Troops to Lock Down Baghdad, Defense Minister Says: "BAGHDAD -- Iraq's defense minister and interior ministers announced a massive security operation on Thursday that will see more than 40,000 Iraqi troops deployed in the capital to hunt down insurgents and their weapons.

During the joint press conference to announce the new security measures, Iraq's Interior Minister Bayan Jabr also said his office believes Abu Musab Zarqawi was wounded, but doesn't know if he is dead"

The statement by the Interior Ministry came hours after an Internet statement claimed Iraq's most feared terror group had appointed a fill-in for purportedly wounded leader Abu Musab Zarqawi.

The statement, the authenticity of which could not be verified, was quickly denied in another Web site claim disputing Abu Hafs Gerni had taken over from Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born head of the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist group. The conflicting statements follow days of rumors Zarqawi was wounded and possibly killed or moved outside Iraq for treatment....


The Counterterrorism Blog: BOLTON AND THE ART OF COOKING INTELLIGENCE: "The nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the UN is another body blow to the intelligence community and sends a clear message to analysts that speaking up about political pressure will only damage your career. Despite the whitewash reports provided by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Silbermann Robb Commission, which insisted there was no 'politicization' of the intelligence on Iraq, we now have a documented record of blatant efforts by Bolton and Otto Reich, two senior political appointees, who tried to shape intelligence conclusions and punish intelligence professionals who worked on Cuba. (Let there be no doubt, there was pressure applied on Iraq). The pressure applied to the INR analyst and the NIO for Latin America is one way that intelligence gets politicized. What is truly amazing is the failure of Republican leaders to be outraged by this conduct. The defense of John Bolton by most Republican Senators is sending a chilling message to the analytical community. "... [more]

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The men will cheer the boys will shout. ... Our soldiers and the American people will eventually suffer if we do not show the faces of war without censorship. Posted by Hello

Last month the DoD was required to release some photos from their Dover archive. This is a typical result. The public affairs office evidently decided that the identify of the soldiers needed to be 'protected' so the photos are almost all not labeled as to the identify of the individual being honored. The unit, names and faces were removed. It is hard to believe that the soldiers who so clearly are honoring their comrade would want to see this treatment. As a parent, I can say that this treatment by public affairs does not honor our fallen. This picture was deliberately destroyed: hiding the face of war. Posted by Hello

Unseen Pictures, Untold Stories

... "A review of six prominent U.S. newspapers and the nation's two most popular newsmagazines during a recent six-month period found almost no pictures from the war zone of Americans killed in action. During that time, 559 Americans and Western allies died. The same publications ran 44 photos from Iraq to represent the thousands of Westerners wounded during that same time.

Many photographers and editors believe they are delivering Americans an incomplete portrait of the violence that has killed 1,797 U.S. service members and their Western allies and wounded 12,516 Americans.

Journalists attribute the relatively bloodless portrayal of the war to a variety of causes -some in their control, others in the hands of the U.S. military, and the most important related to the far-flung nature of the conflict and the way American news outlets perceive their role."...

To measure how American publications have depicted the war in pictures, The Times reviewed six months of coverage from Iraq. The period from Sept. 1 of last year until Feb. 28 of this year included the U.S. assault on Fallouja and the escalating insurgent attacks before January's election.

Despite the considerable bloodshed during that half-year, readers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Washington Post did not see a single picture of a dead serviceman. The Seattle Times ran a photo three days before Christmas of the covered body of a soldier killed in the mess hall bombing. Neither Time nor Newsweek, the weekly newsmagazines, showed any U.S. battlefield dead during that time.

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times printed the most shots of wounded in the war zone during that time — with 10 each, an average of one every 2 1/2 weeks. The other six publications ran a total of 24 pictures of American wounded....

American television news also has delivered a relatively blood-free portrait, according to academics who have studied video imagery from the war. A George Washington University survey of about 2,000 TV news segments found that the war had been "sanitized" and rendered "free of bloodshed."

With relatively few pictures coming from the battlefield, American publications have used photos from the home front in an effort to get the story across.

The Los Angeles Times and the newspapers in St. Louis and Atlanta, in particular, have focused on covering memorial services for soldiers and stories about grieving families.

On more than a dozen occasions, the Washington Post opened full pages inside the newspaper to print "Faces of the Fallen," with hundreds of portraits of those killed. The New York Times packed similar images into a single edition when the U.S. death toll reached 1,000. Newsweek ran a large color spread on a tank soldier weeping over the death of a crewmate. And Time magazine this spring ran a six-page story with photos by perennial award-winner James Nachtwey, offering an unflinching view of amputees at military hospitals.

American publications typically have run substantially more photos of Iraqi blood spilled, ...

When they do show images of casualties on the American side, newspaper executives can count on a backlash. Newark's Star-Ledger received about two dozen complaints when it ran the picture of Babbitt on its front page.

Complaints to the News Tribune of Tacoma about the "insensitivity" of the photo prompted Executive Editor Dave Zeeck to write an explanatory essay on Page 2 of the main news section. Zeeck told readers that he believed the picture, taken by John Moore of the Associated Press, epitomized the sacrifice of the American soldier.

"We not only have the right, but the responsibility to run such photos," Zeeck said.

Nearly 20 photographers who have worked in Iraq said in interviews that no factor limited pictures of the bloodshed more than the difficulty in getting to the news....At any given time in recent months, from three to 13 photographers have been on assignment with the military, a U.S. Army official said. And those who remain "in country" find their movements increasingly limited by the violence.

"Compared to the pope's funeral or Martha Stewart or the Michael Jackson trial, there is nobody here," said Jim MacMillan, part of the Associated Press' Pulitzer Prize-winning team of photographers in Iraq. Americans, he said, "are missing the war. The embedded perspective is going vastly undercovered, with some exceptions, and that is the only place you can cover the risk and the price being paid by Americans."...

Many soldiers and officers in Iraq said they came to respect the cameramen and camerawomen who stood beside them through firefights and mortar barrages. But those relationships can fray quickly when things go wrong.

..."They were happy to have us along when we could show them fighting the battle, show the courageous side of them," Cole said. "Then suddenly the tables turned. They didn't want anything shown of their grief and what was happening on the negative side, which is equally important."

Although they had not broken any written agreement, both photographers said their Army handlers made it clear they were no longer welcome. ...The military does hold over your head the ultimate trump card that if you do something they don't like, they can boot you out," ...
Though a few photographers relentlessly blare the 1st Amendment clarion, most said they found themselves on the battlefield balancing a more nuanced set of values and emotions.

...the war could not be covered while "omitting anything important out of timidity or squeamishness."

..."Americans have a view of war that comes out of World War II, that war is a sort of sacred national cause," said Daniel C. Hallin, a communications professor at UC San Diego, who has conducted extensive reviews of TV war coverage. "We are all supposed to unite around war because these great sacrifices are being made for freedom."

Even aggressive American photographers sometimes become resigned to the notion that the public might not see their work.

"These pictures are going unseen because editors don't print them," Hondros said. "And they don't print them because readers don't want to see them."

But there is some evidence that the public holds a more ambivalent view.

A survey on behalf of Associated Press managing editors questioned 2,461 regular newspaper readers about a series of photos, including the image of the mortally wounded Babbitt.

In the unscientific survey, 59% of the readers said they would have published the Babbitt photo.

"This doesn't tell me we shouldn't be there," reader Rose Barnett of Jacksonville, Fla., said of the photo. "This tells me that this was a brave and kind man to lay his life down for the freedom of others. God rest his soul."

US fights Iraq fire with street fighters

"KARACHI - With the Iraqi resistance showing no signs of wavering and extending its roots deep into the population, the US has realized that to counter this threat it must change its approach. "

Asia Times Online has learned that the US, instead of training up a regular professional Iraqi army, will create what in effect will be armed militias, acting under US central command, to take the militias of the resistance on at their own game.

In the meantime, various groups, including former communists, members of the Ba'ath Party and even those who were against the Saddam regime, organized themselves in different European countries. ...

Recent meetings of the so-called Higher Committee for National Forces (a grouping of Iraqi resistance bodies) and the 16th Arab National Congress held in Algiers played a pivotal role in building consensus among various Iraqi communist, Islamic, Ba'athist and nationalist groups ...The groups also condemned the continued occupation of Iraq and the establishment of any permanent US bases in the country, the privatization of the Iraqi economy and foreign corporations' unrestricted access to Iraq's resources.

On this common ground, the central command of the resistance reorganized its activities, a key to which was merging mohallah-level (street-level) Islamic groups scattered in their hundreds across Iraq to work toward a common goal - defeating the occupation. In turn, these militias would co-opt common folk into their struggle, so that, literally, the streets would be alive with resistance.

Aware of this development, the US has accepted that no conventional military force can cope with such a resistance, and therefore similar mohallah-level combat forces are needed.

According to Asia Times Online contacts, these US-backed militias will comprise three main segments - former Kurdish peshmerga (paramilitaries), former members of the Badr Brigade and those former members of the Ba'ath Party and the Iraqi army who were part of the Saddam regime but who have now thrown in their lot with the new Iraqi government.

... the US military in Iraq will use the Kurd and Shi'ite militias to quell the resistance in central and northern Iraq, while in the south the former Ba'athists and old-guard Iraqi soldiers will be used against anti-US Shi'ite groups. ...

Iraq's future now seems to be in the hands of militias, under the command of the US on the one side and militias under the command of the resistance on the other; reminiscent of wartime Lebanon and Vietnam.

Commanders Plan Eventual Consolidation of U.S. Bases in Iraq

"BAGHDAD -- U.S. military commanders have prepared plans to consolidate American troops in Iraq into four large air bases as they look ahead to giving up more than 100 other bases now occupied by international forces, officers said.

Several officers involved in drafting the consolidation plan said it entailed the construction of longer-lasting facilities at the sites, including barracks and office structures made of concrete block instead of the metal trailers and tin-sheathed buildings that have become the norm at bigger U.S. bases in Iraq.

The new, sturdier buildings will give the bases a more permanent character, the officers acknowledged. But they said the consolidation plan was not meant to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Instead, they said, it is part of a withdrawal expected to occur in phases, with Iraqi forces gradually taking over many of the bases inhabited by U.S. and other foreign troops. Eventually, U.S. units would end up concentrated at the four heavily fortified, strategically located hubs, enabling them to provide continued logistical support and emergency combat assistance, the officers said."...

Blumner: Congress is the new frontline for women in combat -- SL Tribune

"America's first GI Jane was Deborah Sampson, who at 21 bound her breasts and enlisted in the army under the name Robert Shurtleff, claiming to be a 15-year-old boy. The year was 1782, and Sampson fought alongside men in the Revolutionary War until a fever forced a trip to the hospital where her gender was discovered. She was granted an honorable discharge and later a veteran's pension.

Today, women don't have to go all ''Yentl'' to join the military. According to Maj. Elizabeth Robbins, an Army spokeswoman, 91 percent of all Army jobs are available to women. Yet, more than 200 years since Sampson, women are still legally barred from the infantry and other ground combat posts. Call it the khaki ceiling.

Conventional thinking says women are not supposed to face the enemy on the battlefield. ...

But despite all the carefully written laws and official rules intended to keep women out of land-based combat, the reality on the ground is that women soldiers are increasingly confronting the enemy and taking fire. The terms thrown around for the war theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan are ''nonlinear'' or ''360-degree'' battlefields. Whatever the nomenclature, women in U.S. Army uniforms are getting shot at and bombed in the course of their duties. So far, more than 30 women have been killed in Iraq, with at least 23 combat-related deaths.

But rather than applaud the bravery of the 17,000 women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee are trying to throw a roadblock in the path of women's expanding military roles.

As part of the legislation approving the next fiscal year's military programs, the committee added an amendment that would limit the jobs women can perform. The Army would have to report to Congress any time it wanted to expand combat-related assignments for women soldiers. The effort was pushed by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chair of the committee, who said through a statement that ''the nation should not put women into the front lines of combat.''

These must be laughably out-of-touch statements to the women soldiers serving in Iraq, where the jobs assigned to them are some of the most dangerous.

Women soldiers patrol the streets as military police, entering homes to search for insurgents and weapons stashes. They are assigned to highly vulnerable checkpoints, so that female Iraqis can be searched by a woman. And they move supplies in large convoys, where IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, are a constant danger. Bush's and Hunter's exhortations indicate they have little understanding of the fight we're in. There are no front lines in a battle against an insurgency. Virtually every posting involves mortal danger and the risk of live-fire engagement with the enemy.

Just ask Elizabeth Vasquez, who told the Sacramento Bee that every convoy mission she was on in Iraq took hostile fire. ''We had a gun truck on every run, with a machine gunner sitting half in and half out of the top of the Humvee,'' Vasquez told the Bee. ''And sometimes those gunners were women.''

Maj. Mary Prophit told the Washington Post how in January, after a roadside bomb detonated as her convoy passed, she placed herself - while firing - between the medic treating the wounded and the insurgents who were shooting at them.

Back in the 1970s, when the Equal Rights Amendment was being considered, the bogeyman trotted out by the likes of Phyllis Schlafly and other opponents was the specter of women in combat. Since then, women soldiers have proved their bravery and valor in just those circumstances. It is time to acknowledge, accept and even celebrate the women in uniform who - regardless of what the rules say - are standing shoulder to shoulder with men, putting their lives on the line.
Tribune Media Services

Spartan Chassis will help build armored vehicles

"Spartan Chassis Inc. is going to war.
The Charlotte company has landed a multi-million-dollar contract to help build 120 armored trucks headed for battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some will see action this fall.

The massive trucks - called Cougar Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicles - can withstand a blast from a mine or other small explosive device. They come in two sizes, the bigger one weighs 19 tons and fits 10 people, and can travel up to 70 mph on asphalt. The smaller one is 15 tons and seats four."...

The Cougar looks like a super-sized, souped-up Humvee. It's made by Force Protection Inc. of Ladson, S.C., a ballistic and mine protected vehicle maker. Marines have been testing the Cougar on battlefields since October.

Force Protection won the initial contract to build the Cougars earlier this month from the Department of Defense. Purchase orders have been submitted for 88 Cougars thus far, totaling $62 million, company spokesman Jeff Child said....

Pentagon Procurement Slows Supply Flow - WSJ

[bth: here is an excellent article by Greg Jaffe of the WSJ. Jaffe wrote an excellent article last year on humvee production and causes of delays. I'm glad to see he is on the IED issue. Prepare to pull your hair out when you read this.]

The Wall Street Journal
May 24, 2005

In its struggle against Iraqi insurgents, the Pentagon faces a vexing challenge: buying rapidly changing 21st-century technology for front-line soldiers with a slow-moving 20th-century procurement system built for a different kind of enemy.

Consider the case of the "jammer," a device about the size of a breadbox that blocks radio waves emitted from remote-control devices that rebels use to detonate roadside bombs.

Last summer TMC Design Inc. signed a contract with the Army to deliver 845 "Warlock-S" jammers, built to interfere with certain explosion-triggering signals. By last winter some insurgents figured out how to foil the jammers by determining which signals the U.S. military equipment could block and which it couldn't.

As soon as TMC engineers learned of the problem, they quickly figured out how to upgrade the Warlock-S so it could counter the enemy's new tactics. The company briefed the Army on its plans in early March. Army officials told TMC they were interested -- but have yet to make the fix.

"The insurgents can make a switch in five minutes," says Troy Scoughton, a TMC senior vice president. "Unfortunately it takes us five months."

The jammer holdup is one example of a broader problem in today's military. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself wrote in a recent internal memo that the Pentagon bureaucracy must move faster to respond to battlefield needs. Attempts to meet soldiers' critical needs "all too often become mired in an administrative process that is not helpful," Mr. Rumsfeld wrote in a March 22 memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. "In wartime, delay in making decisions does not avoid risk; it can simply shift the risk to those who are already in danger."

Officials tried to address that concern three years ago, shortly after the Afghanistan war, when the Army set up a program called the "Rapid Fielding Initiative" to speed the flow of critical equipment to soldiers. "We set up the Rapid Fielding Initiative because we knew the Army acquisition system couldn't respond fast enough to new battlefield needs," said retired Gen. Jack Keane, who spearheaded development of the office.

Jammers initially were designed and procured through that program, beginning in the fall of 2003. A few months earlier, insurgents had begun planting remote-detonated bombs, which the military calls "improvised explosive devices" or IEDs, along the shoulders of Iraq's roads.

At first, insurgents detonated artillery and mortar shells -- old Iraqi army equipment scattered at ammunition dumps throughout the country -- with long electric cords connected to mechanisms such as doorbells. Over time, the devices grew sophisticated, giving the rebels greater flexibility. They figured out how to rig roadside bombs, which are detonated as a military convoy passes, to cellphones or garage-door openers.

"IEDs are my number-one threat in Iraq. I want a full-court press on IEDs," Gen. John Abizaid, the top military commander in the Middle East, wrote in a memo to the Pentagon in June 2004.

In the past two years, the Army has bought and shipped about 4,200 jammers to Iraq and Afghanistan. It has looked at more than 80 different solutions to interfere with signals from remote-detonating devices, says Brig Gen. Joe Votel, who is overseeing the Army effort. "We aren't sitting on our heels," he says. "We are moving as quickly as we can."

The insurgents move quickly as well -- at times faster than the Army, at least according to TMC and some Pentagon officials.

For the past several years, TMC, of Las Cruces, N.M., has made satellite-communications technology and electronic-warfare systems, including jamming devices, for the Army, Navy and Air Force. When remote-detonated roadside bombs began to emerge as a killer of U.S. troops, TMC was one of many companies the Army approached for help.

In August, TMC signed a $9 million contract with the Army to produce 845 jammers. The TMC jammer has received "generally pretty positive" reviews from the field, Gen. Votel said, adding, "It does pretty well the job it was designed for."

When insurgents found a way around TMC's jammer, TMC approached the Army in March with a plan to upgrade the product so that it could block some of those "hard to kill" radio signals. Version 1.5, as the company called it, would increase the cost of each jammer to $12,750 from $8,500. TMC, which had delivered about 550 of the 845 jammers in its Army contract, proposed shifting production immediately to the upgraded version of the jammer. The company, which had several employees in Iraq, also said it could upgrade the jammers already there.

The Army expressed interest, but it took two months to invite TMC to its lab to prove the upgrade worked against some of the signals -- a crucial step to making the change.

One reason for the delay is that the Army was in the middle of preparing to award a new contract for the next generation of jamming devices. The contract could be valued at several hundred million dollars, according to Army officials.

"Concerns about the integrity of the acquisition process" triggered the delay, Gen. Votel said. In particular, Army officials worried that TMC might have gained an unfair advantage over rivals competing for the larger contract, since it would have had advance access to the test chambers.

This month, TMC was eliminated from the competition for that larger contract. It also was finally allowed to test the modified, or Warlock-S 1.5, jammer. The upgraded device performed well against several "hard to kill" radio frequencies the Army had identified in February when it first informed TMC that it needed a better device, the company said.

But the TMC jammer couldn't block new frequencies that had appeared since the company was first told by the Army of the problem. "We took care of what we knew about. But there was some stuff we didn't know about that we couldn't handle," said TMC's Mr. Scoughton. He said that now that it knows about those frequencies, it can design further upgrades to deal with them.

Army acquisition officials have asked the company to come back and demonstrate its ability to take out the new hard-to-kill threats before it commits to any upgrade of the initial 845 devices that TMC is under contract to produce.

[bth: Col Boyd wrote a good book on the topic which is required reading in military circles. The thrust of it is simple. If you can react faster than the enemy then you get into his decision cycle, kill him and win. The insurgents are able to react faster than we are. If we don't fix this procurement problem we will lose this war. When the House Armed Services Committee asked the generals, Votel included, two weeks ago whether they had read the GAOs recommendations on fixing systemic problems in acquisition delays, they said that they had not. A lesson unlearned will simply be repeated: ammo, body armor, humvee armor, truck armor, ied jammers....]

Monday, May 23, 2005

Through a glass darkly Posted by Hello

Behind the crumbled wall Posted by Hello

Despite its flaws, troops prefer Stryker

"FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq -In spite of its flaws, there is no other vehicle Stryker Brigade Combat Team soldiers say they would rather be in.

Some soldiers say the Stryker's safety factor outweighs the litany of shortcomings outlined last year in an internal study by the Center for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
"It's a lot safer than a Humvee and we have more mobility than a tank that is so cumbersome"said 1st Lt. Drew Godwin of Delta/52 Infantry Company. "Being a wheeled vehicle makes it more maneuverable. I wouldn't want to be in anything else."...

[bth; A fully equipped M1114 armored humvee delivered in Iraq costs about $225K. A Stryker costs around $3 million. It makes sense to have more of them in Iraq, but the two are hardly comparable.]

Support troops train to defend base, trucks

"Cooks, intelligence analysts, supply clerks and mechanics will be the first line of defense for a Fort Carson brigade when it goes to war in Iraq this fall.

The solders, whose jobs would have kept them miles from the fight under traditional Army doctrine, will guard bases, defend convoys and shoot it out with guerrillas if an attack happens.

Under a blazing sun Thursday, Lt. Col. Leonard Wells watched his support troops learn how to defend a base camp. He explained that the Army can no longer afford to have a rear echelon of technicians shielded from combat.

"What they're doing here is what they'll be doing every day in Iraq,"he said. "...

“I think the biggest lesson learned from the Iraq war is that support troops are soldiers first,” Wells said.

...“You have to understand that the enemy doesn’t care what role you are in,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Kinloch, a 21-year combat veteran who has fought two wars in Iraq.

Congress is debating whether women, who are only allowed in support jobs by Army policy, should serve in combat brigades.

The line between combat soldiers and support soldiers is increasingly blurred in Iraq, where insurgents have conducted a war without front lines.

Women in the Special Troops Battalion said the question of whether women can function on the battlefield has already been decided in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...

Iraq Coalition Casualty Count (Average per Day)

As of May 20, 2005:

  • Period 4: January 31, 2005 (Iraqi Election Day) through May 20, 2005. -- 1.83 per day
  • Period 3: June 29, 2004 (the day after the official turnover of sovereignty to Iraq) through Jan. 30, 2005. -- 2.93 per day.
  • Period 2: May 2, 2003 through June 28, 2004 (the day of the official turnover of sovereignty to Iraq). -- 1.89 per day.
  • Period 1: March 20, 2003 through May 1, 2003 (the end of major combat). -- 4.02 per day.

Attacks hit vital security in Iraq - The Washington Times: World - May 23, 2005

"Iraq's insurgents are conducting increasingly sophisticated and lethal attacks on the private security companies that are crucial to the nation's reconstruction and the eventual departure of U.S. troops, contractors and U.S. officials say. "...

"In 2003, they were random small-arms fire. Then they escalated to roadside bombs — sometimes command-detonated or with tripwires. Then they escalated to car bombs that would run a ramp and pull into a convoy or traffic circle.

"And now they are very well organized, rehearsed, orchestrated, using a combination of rocket-propelled grenades, [roadside bombs] set in a daisy chain to get the wounded as they exit the vehicles, heavy machine guns, small arms and hand-thrown grenades," he said.

At least 93 security operators have been killed in Iraq since April 2003, reported. The Web site showed the number of contractor deaths spiking in April with 20 killed, the most since 31 contractors died in August 2004. So far, seven have been killed this month. ...

With the intensity and sophistication of terrorist attacks increasing, and with the constant fear of kidnapping, the cost of security has mushroomed to account for 16 percent of the total reconstruction budget.

But the bottom line is that without private security companies, "reconstruction would not be done" in Iraq, said Lawrence Peter, director of a group representing private security companies in Iraq.

"Private security companies are responsible for the security of the entire reconstruction effort," Mr. Peter said. "If we didn't have them here, we would need another division of troops.

"These men who have died, they served with distinction," he said.

Zarqawi group says US pilot executed [May 23, 2005]

"MILITANTS in Iraq today claimed to have executed an American hostage in a statement on the internet, which was accompanied by pictures of the man's driving licence.

The group, headed by al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said the victim was a US pilot"...

Tillman's parents lash out at Army

"Former NFL player Pat Tillman's family is lashing out against the Army, saying that the military's investigations into Tillman's friendly-fire death in Afghanistan last year were a sham and that Army efforts to cover up the truth have made it harder for them to deal with their loss.

More than a year after their son was shot several times by his fellow Army Rangers on a craggy hillside near the Pakistani border, Tillman's mother and father said in interviews that they believe the military and the government created a heroic tale about how their son died to foster a patriotic response across the country. They say the Army's 'lies' about what happened have made them suspicious, and that they are certain they will never get the full story."...

The Rumsfeld Stain - New York Times

"How does Donald Rumsfeld survive as defense secretary?
Much of what has happened to the military on his watch has been catastrophic. In Iraq, more than 1,600 American troops have died and many thousands have been maimed in a war that Mr. Rumsfeld mishandled from the beginning and still has no idea how to win. The generals are telling us now that the U.S. is likely to be bogged down in Iraq for years, and there are whispers circulating about the possibility of 'defeat.'"

Potential recruits are staying away from the armed forces in droves. Most Americans want no part of the administration's hapless venture in Iraq. A woman in Connecticut with two college-age sons said to me recently: "My boys should die in Baghdad? For what?"

Parents from coast to coast are going out of their way to dissuade their children from joining the military. Recruiters, desperate and in many cases emotionally distraught after repeatedly missing their monthly goals, began abandoning admission standards and signing up individuals who were physically, mentally or morally unfit for service.

The abuses became so widespread that the Army suspended recruiting on Friday so recruiters could spend the day being retrained in the legal and ethical standards they are supposed to maintain. The Army is going through its toughest year for recruiting since the nation went to an all-volunteer military in 1973.

The military spent decades rebuilding its reputation and regaining the respect of the vast majority of the American people after the debacle in Vietnam. Under Mr. Rumsfeld, that hard-won achievement is being reversed. He invaded Iraq with too few troops, and too many of them were poorly trained and inadequately equipped. The stories about American troops dying on the battlefield because of a lack of protective armor have now been widely told....

Now the military is in a fix. Many of the troops have served multiple tours in Iraq and are weary. The insurgency remains strong, and the Iraq military has proved to be a disappointing ally.

A senior American officer, quoted last week in The Times, said that while he still believed the effort in Iraq would succeed, it could take "many years."

As if all this were not enough, there is also the grotesque and deeply shameful issue that will always be a part of Mr. Rumsfeld's legacy - the manner in which American troops have treated prisoners under their control in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. ...

The catalog of confirmed atrocities is huge ...

Neither the troops nor the American public signed on for a war in Iraq that would last many years. And I can't believe there are many Americans who wanted their military sullied by the wanton behavior of the torture crowd.

The troops who do their jobs honestly and diligently, and who fight bravely when they have to, have been betrayed by leaders who encouraged abusive behavior and allowed atrocities to flourish.
Mr. Rumsfeld has driven the military into a ruinous quagmire, and there is no evidence at all that he's capable of finding a serviceable route out.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Wolf Brigade the most loved and feared of Iraqi security forces

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - (KRT) - Abul Waleed rifled through a pile of papers, considering the latest accusations against the elite brigade of Iraqi police commandos he leads from a dusty fortress.

The complaints against the Wolf Brigade were the usual: excessive force, renegade patrols, kidnapping, murder. The charges came from Iraq's most powerful Sunni Muslim leaders, and Abul Waleed clearly relished reading them. It's precisely this take-no-prisoners reputation that's made his Wolf Brigade the most feared and revered of all of Iraq's nascent security forces.

'The Muslim Scholars Association? They're infidels,' Abul Waleed said, tossing his detractors' complaints into the wastebasket. 'The Islamic Party? Humph. More like the Fascist Party.'

No matter how many complaints about heavy-handedness pile up on Abul Waleed's desk, there's no changing the fact that the Wolf Brigade rules public opinion in a country desperate for Iraqi heroes. With their televised humiliation of terror suspects and their dapper uniforms, the Wolf Brigade restores some of the national pride stripped away by war and foreign occupation.
While the nation's fledgling police and armed forces are derided as corrupt or incompetent, the Wolf Brigade is the exception. Their logo is a snarling wolf, and their TV show, 'Terrorists in the Grip of Justice,' is the most watched program in the country. Harassed parents silence noisy children with threats to call the Wolves. Housewives swoon over their 'broad shoulders' and 'toughness.'

'Every time I see them in the street, I feel safe,' said Ahmed Kanan, 25, who works at a menswear shop in Baghdad. 'I feel that we have a country with a government.'

The Wolf Brigade was formed in October 2004 as the brainchild of Abul Waleed, a 41-year-old three-star general from the old regime who goes only by his nom de guerre. He's a Shiite, complete with a photo of Imam Ali and religious chants programmed into his constantly ringing cell phone. Part of his appeal is his familiar, Saddam-era look: shoe-polish black hair, wide mustache and an olive drab uniform topped with a red beret.

... Standing outside their ramshackle barracks one recent day, members of the Wolf Brigade preferred to focus on their adoring public. With pride, they described the reaction they get when they don ski masks and zip through Baghdad streets with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns in the backs of their trademark blue-and-white pickups.

...Even when Iraqis first shrink in fear at the sight of armed men tooling around the city, there is a palpable change when they notice the unique logo of the Wolf Brigade. Drivers honk, children cheer and street vendors ply them with falafel and bottles of water.

A 35-year-old commando named Majed Bilal put it simply: "Because we love them, they love us."

SAS kills 12 insurgents on Iraq border - Sunday Times - Times Online

"THE SAS has shot dead 12 insurgents in a secret war to protect Iraq's borders. ...It said the Special Air Service soldiers engaged the Arab insurgents crossing the border from Syria. Following a brief encounter, all 12 were killed. The report noted that those entering the country were not usually heavily armed as they collected weapons after arriving in Iraq.

In another incident the SAS arrested two insurgents who confessed under questioning that they had been trained in Saudi Arabia and briefed in Syria. The report lists 12 countries of origin for the probable suicide bombers: Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Jordan and Chechnya. There have been 21 car bombings in Baghdad this month and 67 last month, compared with 25 in all of 2004. A senior American military official said the surge in violence followed a meeting in Syria last month of associates of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist.

The report says the SAS watched eight groups of between eight and 22 people cross into Iraq within one 48-hour period in a surveillance operation to track their destinations and controllers.

The bombers often work in pairs so that there is a backup if one is caught. The second bomber can trigger his colleague's device.

According to the report, the recent suicide attack in Hilla, south of Baghdad, in which more than 100 people were killed -mainly queueing to apply for government jobs -was triggered by a second party, who kissed the bomber goodbye, stepped out of the car and then detonated his friend's explosives.

The report claims to have “firm intelligence” that insurgents and their supporters have infiltrated the Iraqi forces to become “double agents,” operating by day for the Iraqi authorities and at night for Zarqawi.

“Despite numerous checks it is virtually impossible to defend against suicide bombers,” the report concludes.

Iraqi official: Insurgents will fail

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's new interior minister expressed confidence Saturday that his security forces will defeat a foreign-backed insurgency, citing a series of successes amid the recent relentless wave of violence.

Bayan Jabr said in the three weeks since he took over the post, over 250 insurgents have been captured and more than 200 killed. Insurgent violence since the government was approved on April 28 has killed more than 520 people.

'We are fighting international terrorism supported by all the forces of darkness, therefore our battle is a war of justice against injustice and, God willing, justice will end victorious,' said Jabr, a Shiite Muslim.

Asked if his ministry was receiving assistance from pro-government Shiite militias such as the Badr Brigades, Jabr said he would accept intelligence from any source to defeat the insurgents.

'We are ready to get information even from the devil,' Jabr said.
Jabr added that 1,100 mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades were seized and more than 10 car bombs had been dismantled over the past three week.

Jabr his ministry was implementing a three-stage plan to end the insurgency, but did not elaborate on the project or say how long it would take. The first phase, he did say, would last three months.
'The plan began 10 days ago and God willing we will continue it until security prevails,' Jabr said."

Prewar Findings Worried Analysts

"On Jan. 24, 2003, four days before President Bush delivered his State of the Union address presenting the case for war against Iraq, the National Security Council staff put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or programs.

The person receiving the request, Robert Walpole, then the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, would later tell investigators that 'the NSC believed the nuclear case was weak,' according to a 500-page report released last year by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence."

It has been clear since the September report of the Iraq Survey Group -- a CIA-sponsored weapons search in Iraq -- that the United States would not find the weapons of mass destruction cited by Bush as the rationale for going to war against Iraq. But as the Walpole episode suggests, it appears that even before the war many senior intelligence officials in the government had doubts about the case being trumpeted in public by the president and his senior advisers.

The question of prewar intelligence has been thrust back into the public eye with the disclosure of a secret British memo showing that, eight months before the March 2003 start of the war, a senior British intelligence official reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that U.S. intelligence was being shaped to support a policy of invading Iraq.

Moreover, a close reading of the recent 600-page report by the president's commission on intelligence, and the previous report by the Senate panel, shows that as war approached, many U.S. intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about Hussein's alleged weapons programs....

The Nation -- Hall of Mirrors | Laura Rozen

[more on the Franklin case of US intel being passed to Israel and ironically to senior US officials who should have been receiving the information but got it through AIPAC.]

"For a nondescript, middle-aged former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Pentagon Iran desk officer Larry Franklin had the habit of showing up at critical and murky junctures of recent history. He was part of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, which provided much-disputed intelligence on Iraq; he courted controversial Iraqi exile politician Ahmad Chalabi, who contributed much of that hyped and misleading Iraq intelligence; and he participated with a Pentagon colleague and former Iran/contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar in a controversial December 2001 meeting in Rome--which, in a clear violation of US government protocol, was kept secret from the CIA and the State Department.

In all these endeavors, Franklin, 58, was hardly acting as a lone wolf. Rather, he was wired into a small network of like-minded Iran and Iraq hawks who lobbied fiercely inside and outside the Bush Administration for their policy positions, often in furious opposition to moderate bureaucrats in the State Department and the CIA. Because of their connections and status, the hawks were often successful in short-circuiting standard bureaucratic procedures and getting the attention of the White House. When the news first broke last summer that the FBI was investigating an alleged 'Israeli mole' in the Pentagon--inaccurate, as it turned out--the chief suspect, Franklin, was portrayed as just one of 1,300 employees toiling anonymously under outgoing Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. In fact, Franklin was the Pentagon's top Iran desk officer.

The media has focused its spotlight even more sharply on Franklin since his arrest earlier this month. He was charged by the FBI with disclosing classified information to unauthorized recipients, including "a foreign official and members of the media." (Franklin was released on $100,000 bail and will face a pretrial hearing on May 27.) Two recipients of the information are reported to be recently dismissed employees of the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. For close observers of the Franklin/AIPAC case, the question is whether the FBI probe will finally make public the mysterious machinations of Franklin's network in the Pentagon and the Bush Administration, or whether the investigation will become a diversion, obscuring graver failures in judgment by Administration policy-makers. Even more disturbing, there are indications that, like the Valerie Plame leak case, the Franklin affair may turn into an excuse to hound journalists.

It's useful to examine Franklin's alleged crime against the policy backdrop that drove it, in particular the raging interagency debate during Bush's first term concerning US policy on Iran. Fearing the Islamic Republic's growing strength in post-Saddam Iraq and the Persian Gulf generally, the Pentagon neocons thought they had found a creative solution: using the US presence in Iraq and the cultivation of key opposition groups in Iran to destabilize the Tehran regime. ... And one group they tried to recruit in support of their proposed directive was AIPAC--a natural ally, since the powerful pro-Israel lobby group has long wielded great influence in shaping the hard-line US policy against Iran.

On June 26, 2003, according to an FBI affidavit accompanying the criminal charges filed against Franklin, he met in an Arlington, Virginia, restaurant with "US Persons 1 and 2," widely reported to be Steve Rosen, the former director of policy for AIPAC, and Keith Weissman, a former Iran specialist for the lobby group. (After months of insisting that none of its employees had done anything improper, AIPAC dismissed both Rosen and Weissman last month.) Over the course of that meeting, Franklin was observed by the FBI discussing with his companions the contents of a "Top Secret" US government document dated from the day before that contained information on threats to US forces in Iraq. It is apparent from reading the FBI affidavit accompanying the Franklin charges that the bureau was already monitoring one or both of the AIPAC officials when Franklin stumbled into the picture that June. According to reporting by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), the FBI investigation of AIPAC began at least as early as 2001, perhaps in response to complaints from then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about leaks concerning Administration deliberations over whether to meet Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

...Franklin allegedly warned Weissman that Iranian agents in predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq planned to kidnap, torture and kill American and Israeli agents in the region.... Weissman immediately informed Rosen and the information was relayed to the White House, sources close to the defense said.

Rosen and Weissman then called Naor Gilon, who heads the political desk at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and Glenn Kessler, the State Department correspondent for the Washington Post, the sources said.

It is on the basis of Rosen and Weissman's actions after being set up by the FBI and Franklin that the FBI apparently intends to pursue its case against the two former AIPAC officials. Why is this problematic? ...

It's the AIPAC part of the case that is more troubling. ... "The case turns on whether they knew the information they were receiving was improperly being provided," Rishikoff told The Nation. ... Rishikoff argues that the goal of the government's case may be not so much the targeting of AIPAC but a warning to those who might see leaking to the lobby group as perhaps not officially allowed but unofficially tolerated. "If I am the prosecutor, what I really want to prosecute is not AIPAC," says Rishikoff. "I want to start prosecuting anyone who thinks they can give information to AIPAC. I want to use this as a test case, to stop people feeling the US has a special relationship with this group."

Indeed, the special relationship between the US executive branch and AIPAC was the triumph of twenty years of work by former AIPAC policy director Rosen, who looks set to become a victim of it. "Rosen invented executive branch lobbying," says one source familiar with Rosen who asked to speak on background. "The tyranny of fear that AIPAC has in this town was built by Steve Rosen. ... Rosen and Weissman's consultation with the NSC's Abrams would reflect that unusual power dynamic, which may fall outside the focus of the FBI's criminal jurisdiction but which adds to the case's potentially radioactive political fallout.

The case is now poised to take an even more unfortunate twist. News reports indicate that the FBI hopes to begin questioning journalists as witnesses, setting up an echo of the Valerie Plame leak case, in which an investigation into government malfeasance turned into an excuse to harass journalists. At this point, the FBI will move forward on the Franklin case, with indictments of the former AIPAC officials likely to follow. In the process, any efforts of Franklin and his Pentagon colleagues to pursue unconventional channels, including secret meetings with the arms dealer Ghorbanifar, to agitate for tougher White House action on Iranian activities in Iraq--and indeed the larger policy goal of getting the White House to sign off on a plan to destabilize Tehran--may be lost in the shuffle. (In this regard, it's curious that the promised Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of the Ghorbanifar meeting and the Administration's faulty pre-Iraq War intelligence, including an investigation of the activities of the Pentagon office of Douglas Feith, seems to have fallen by the wayside.)

It's also worth noting that, even though the FBI's original interest seems to have centered on AIPAC, the organization has, so far at least, emerged from the investigation with just a few bruises. The lobby group's massive annual policy conference takes place this weekend, May 22-24, and all the usual Washington power brokers, including perhaps half of Congress, will be in attendance. Slated to address the event are Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other political heavyweights from Washington and Tel Aviv. The central thrust of the AIPAC conference, as in past years, will be in heightening its elite American audience's perception of the Iranian nuclear threat--in other words, just the nexus of issues that concerned players such as Franklin and the dismissed AIPAC officials. Their fate could be a mere wrinkle in a larger show that must go on.

Aljazeera.Net - Israel comes first, says US politician

" US senator has dispensed bitter pills to Arab leaders, pointing out that the United States is not ready to risk the prestige needed to create a Palestinian state.

Speaking on Saturday at the World Economic Forum being held in Jordan, Senator Gordon Smith said Washington's priority was to secure Israel in a way that, if possible, was just to the Palestinians.

He advised Arab leaders to worry more about injustices in their own countries.

'It's a mystery to me why Arab countries can't work on their own countries before Palestine is fixed,' Smith said in a discussion at the forum.

Smith, a Republican from Oregon, said the peace process, aimed at bringing about an independent Palestinian state, was unlikely to win a serious commitment from the Bush administration.

'Until we have someone on the other side, who is willing to say, 'Yes, we're not going to continue to prostitute the American presidency to people who aren't serious,' Smith bluntly told a prestigious panel that included Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and top officials from Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as academics from Iran and Turkey.

Asked why the United States was willing to anger Arab countries in favour of Israel, another Congressman, Republican Christopher Shays, said simply that America was not a neutral player in the Middle East.

'We are Israel's strong ally,' Shays, Republican of Connecticut, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
'It would be foolish for people to think that somehow we are neutral,' he added."

Sunnis Step Off Political Sidelines

"BAGHDAD, May 21 -- More than 1,000 Sunni Arab clerics, political leaders and tribal heads ended their two-year boycott of politics in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq on Saturday, uniting in a Sunni bloc that they said would help draft the country's new constitution and compete in elections.

Formation of the group comes during escalating violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that has raised the threat of sectarian war. The bloc represents moderate and hard-line members of the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Iraqi Islamic Party and other main groups of the disgruntled Sunni minority toppled from dominance when U.S.-led troops routed Hussein in April 2003."...