Saturday, June 11, 2005

Iran liberals beaten up as poll nears

"Leaders of Iran's embattled political reform movement have been targeted for violent attacks by pro-regime vigilantes in the run-up to this week's presidential election.

In the most graphic example, Behzad Nabavi, a former parliamentary speaker, was beaten bloody as he tried to address a meeting in the holy city of Qom, the headquarters of the country's leading Islamic clergymen.

Nabavi, a prominent member of the Islamic Revolution Mojahedin Organisation, was heckled then attacked by religious extremists as he tried to give a speech in support of Mostafa Moein, the leading reformist candidate. Witnesses said about 120 young men, bearded and wearing similar clothes, surrounded Nebavi as he tried to leave the meeting. They chanted: 'Poor Nabavi has nowhere to run', and then attacked him. "...

North Korea to help Iran dig secret missile bunkers

"Iran is secretly negotiating with North Korea to build a network of underground bunkers to conceal its clandestine nuclear weapons project."....

Young Army officers leaving service at higher rate - 06/11/05

... "Last year, Army lieutenants and captains left the service at an annual rate of 8.7 percent -- higher than any year since the 2001.

Pentagon officials say they expect the attrition rate to improve slightly this year. Yet interviews with several dozen military officers revealed an undercurrent of discontent within the Army's young officer corps that the Pentagon's statistics do not yet capture. "...

Iraq Airstrikes Kill 40 Insurgents

"BAGHDAD, Iraq -U.S. fighter planes equipped with precision-guided missiles launched airstrikes on an Iraqi town near the Syrian border Saturday, killing about 40 insurgents who were stopping and searching civilian cars, the military said.

Seven missiles were fired at heavily armed insurgents near Karabilah (search), close to the volatile town of Qaim, the Marines said in a statement.
The insurgents were armed with AK-47 (search) assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers and had 'set up a barricade on a main road to the city and were threatening Iraqi civilians,' the military said.
U.S. warplanes backed by helicopters started the airstrikes at 11:40 a.m. and ended them at 4 p.m. 'once all the targets were destroyed,' the military said. About 40 insurgents were killed. The Marines suffered no casualties"....

Journalistic Coverage: Michael Jackson V. Iraq

2,200 Journalists Await Jackson Verdict - Yahoo! News: "SANTA MARIA, Calif. - About 2,200 members of the media have received credentials to cover Michael Jackson's trial more than the O.J. Simpson and Scott Peterson murder trials combined and enough to form a vast, humming tent city outside the modest courthouse. "

[bth: There are between 3 and 13 photographic journalists embedded in all of Iraq with the US Army at any one time. There are 2200 journalists credentialed for Michael Jackson's trial. I don't know how many are photographic journalists, but it gives you some perspective on media priorities.]

I see London, I see France.... Posted by Hello

Iraq sees no early prospect of oil export increase

Reuters AlertNet - Iraq sees no early prospect of oil export increase: "Iraqi crude exports will remain severely limited at just 1.5 million barrels daily until Baghdad is able to get foreign investors to boost output, Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum said on Friday."...

With Iraq's northern and central pipeline network hit by 70 sabotage attacks that cost $1.25 billion of lost revenue in the first five months of this year, Iraqi oil officials had hoped to raise output from southern fields.

"The objective is to have a top notch military force in place as soon as possible to take charge of protecting the pipeline network, especially in northern Iraq," Uloum said....

Storm trooper Posted by Hello

Yup. My thoughts exactly. Posted by Hello

Army Aims to Catch Up on Recruits in Summer

"...The Army will make a 'monumental effort' to bring in the average 10,000 recruits a month required this summer, said Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, head of the Army's recruiting command. An additional 500 active-duty recruiters will be added in the next two months -- on top of an increase of 1,000 earlier this year."...

The sluggish flow of enlistments means that Army boot camps are less than half full -- training at 46 percent of their capacity this month, compared with 91 percent in May 2004, said Harvey Perritt, spokesman for the Army's Training and Doctrine Command. For example, the Army's infantry training center at Fort Benning, Ga., had by May trained only 8,700 of its fiscal year goal of 24,500 infantrymen.

The Army can meet its goals only with a "massive influx of recruits" to boot camp this summer, Perritt said....

The 500 additional recruiters the Army plans to bring on this summer will be seasoned noncommissioned officers taken from active-duty units, Rochelle said, representing "a very substantial sacrifice" for an Army stretched thin in Iraq....

A nationwide initiative launched last month to allow people to serve 15-month terms, not including training, has so far drawn only 44 additional recruits. But Rochelle said some people initially attracted to recruiting stations by the offer may have signed up for longer terms after learning of the greater benefits.

[bth: Most critical is the decline is the number of basic combat infantrymen. I would suggest that the idea that Iraq is not central to the national security of the United States and the growing feeling that the Administration has lost the trust of the people are the primary reasons for recruiting difficulties. The character and capabilities of the current generation of young recruits is just fantastic. It is certainly not for a lack of patriotism that recruitment is down. Money helps, but it won't solve the fundamental problem.]


Terrorist money trail still leads to U.S.-based charities

"Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States and several other countries have touted their success in identifying terrorist cells and cutting off terrorism financing. The Bush administration regularly asserts that al-Qaida is financially weakened and forced to cut expenditures. There is now reason to question these assumptions. The pace of terrorist recruitment and activities appears to be accelerating, not decreasing, and the number of terrorist attacks continues to grow. And evidence is mounting that large sums are still being raised and transferred to al-Qaida terrorists, including the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan."

While the fight against terrorism has benefited from increased intelligence, this effort has not been enough to cut off al-Qaida's financing or to put its financial supporters out of business. ... [bth: the financial structures behind al-Qaeda remain vulnerable. Why the CIA can't do a better job is more a matter of coordination and political will power and less about strengthening the Patriot Act. I suspect that if the Patriot Act weren't up for renewal, this article wouldn't even have been written. We need to get serious about financially destroying or killing the hardcore money sources of terrorists and spend less time trying to get somebody's public library records.]

Cheney to Special Ops Forces: 'We Have a Long War Ahead of Us'

"TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday lauded and thanked international special operations soldiers for their roles in the war on terror, but warned them that it is far from over.

'We have a long war ahead of us, and our enemies are waiting for us to let our guard down,' Cheney said, speaking to more than 300 people at the closing of the International Special Operations Forces Week conference. 'But we will not relent in this effort because we have the clearest possible understanding of what is at stake.' "...

Cheney warned that the biggest danger to our civilization is that some terror group, perhaps in concert with an outlaw government, will get hold of weapons of mass destruction. Preventing that, he said, must be a primary goal in the war on terror.

"In the face of such danger, free nations must move decisively to defend ourselves against attack, yet we also understand that this war cannot be won on the defensive," he said. "In this new era, all civilized nations have a duty - we must defeat the terrorists and we must not allow them to obtain weapons of mass murder.

"None of us wants to turn over the future of mankind to tiny groups of fanatics committing indiscriminate murder and plotting large scale war...


Graduation day Posted by Hello

Bush and 'the memo'

"PRESIDENT BUSH apparently thinks he can dismiss the damning 'Downing Street memo' with a few glib words.
If he is right, it is a sad commentary on the state of American democracy and values. "...

U.S. Army slips further behind recruiting goals

..."The new Pentagon recruiting figures showed that two-thirds through the fiscal 2005 recruiting year, which ends Sept. 30, the regular Army was 17 percent behind its goal, the Army Reserve was 20 percent behind and the Army National Guard was 24 percent behind its end-of-May plans.

The Army, which provides most of the U.S. ground troops in Iraq, had missed its fourth consecutive monthly recruiting goal in May, officials said earlier in the week. The Pentagon had delayed release of the detailed recruiting figures by more than a week for what it called extra scrutiny.

Unlike the Army, the Marine Corps, with a smaller share of the Iraq ground troops, exceeded its May recruiting goal and was 2 percent ahead of its year-to-date target toward an annual goal of 39,150 recruits. The Navy and Air Force also were on target."...

More soldiers surviving injuries

"CAMP ANACONDA, Iraq -- First, the grievously wounded arrive for the flight on stretchers, some carried by volunteers who show up for special duty in the middle of the night after working on the base all day.

After the last stretcher is loaded aboard the military evacuation plane, the ambulatory patients prepare to ascend the ramp, one after the other.

Volunteers and staff from Camp Anaconda's tent hospital flank their path.

They clap and cheer loudly as the first patient appears, and they do this until the last one makes the climb, the circle closing, the salute echoing through the cavernous C141 cargo plane.

This is the last sound the wounded American warriors hear in Iraq.
Speed, technology and advancements in armor have made the battlefield in Iraq one of the most survivable in the history of warfare:"...

Military Update: Severely wounded inspire new initiatives

"Servicemembers and veterans severely injured in Iraq and Afghanistan have inspired two new initiatives to help them and their families through difficult times.

The first is a call center, with its title and phone number hard to memorize but worth the effort: the Military Severely Injured Joint Support Operations Center with "care managers" standing by at (888) 774-1361.

A second initiative is traumatic injury insurance for the military. By Dec. 1, it will provide from $25,000 to $100,000 in financial help to servicemembers or veterans injured severely. The payments will be retroactive to Oct. 7, 2001, to cover those wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq"...

[bth: two excellent initiatives.]

U.S. Troops in Iraq Must Target IED Makers: General

"Technology isn't going to win the U.S. military's ongoing battle against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq. That sober assessment came from the man who heads the U.S. counter-IED effort, Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, director of the Army IED Defeat Task Force.

Instead, troops in Iraq must target the bomb-making cells themselves and kill or capture the craftsmen before their deadly work ever reaches Iraq�s city streets or rural roadways, Votel said June 8 at a briefing sponsored by the Lexington Institute, a Washington think tank. "...

Votel said the previous 24 hours in Iraq saw a total of 40 IED “events.” Of those, 23 attacks were carried out, killiong one U.S. soldier and wounding another; 19 IEDs were found and “neutralized.” Despite an aggressive counter-IED campaign, the number of IEDs rendered safe hovers around 40 percent. ..

Losing Our Country - New York Times

"Baby boomers like me grew up in a relatively equal society. In the 1960's America was a place in which very few people were extremely wealthy, many blue-collar workers earned wages that placed them comfortably in the middle class, and working families could expect steadily rising living standards and a reasonable degree of economic security"...

How Not to Build a Nation - New York Times

"Nothing is more important to the future of Iraq's new Shiite- and Kurdish-run government than convincing the angry, alienated and underrepresented Sunni Arab minority that it will have an equitable and secure place in a new democratic Iraq."...

'We don't want to take responsibility'

BAIJI, Iraq - An hour before dawn, the sky still clouded by a dust storm, the soldiers of the Iraqi army's Charlie Company began their mission with a ballad to ousted president Saddam Hussein. 'We have lived in humiliation since you left,' one sang in Arabic, out of earshot of his U.S. counterparts. 'We had hoped to spend our life with you.'

But the Iraqi soldiers had no clue where they were going. They shrugged their shoulders when asked what they would do. The U.S. military had billed the mission as pivotal in the Iraqis' progress as a fighting force but had kept the destination and objectives secret out of fear the Iraqis would leak the information to insurgents.

'We can't tell these guys about a lot of this stuff, because we're not really sure who's good and who isn't,' said Rick McGovern, a tough-talking 37-year-old platoon sergeant from Hershey, Pa., who heads the military training for Charlie Company. "... [bth: excellent article on training and current status of Iraqi forces.]

Friday, June 10, 2005


VJ Day Posted by Hello

'Good and honest' Iraqis fighting US forces

[bth: compare this General's comments with those made by Biden about the composition of al-Qaeda. It is hard to understand the enemy with such widely diverging assessments.]

"A senior US military chief has admitted 'good, honest' Iraqis are fighting American forces.

Major General Joseph Taluto said he could understand why some ordinary people would take up arms against the US military because 'they're offended by our presence'.....

He said: 'There is a sense of a good resistance, or an accepted resistance. They say 'okay, if you shoot a coalition soldier, that's okay, it's not a bad thing but you shouldn't kill other Iraqis.''

However General Taluto insisted the US and other foreign forces would not be driven out of Iraq by violence. 'If the goal is to have the coalition leave, attacking them isn't the way,' he said. 'The way to make it happen is to enter the political process cooperate and the coalition will be less aggressive and less visible and eventually it'll go away.'

His comments come in stark contrast to the assertions of other top US figures, who persist in claiming all insurgents are either Baathists or Al Qaida terrorists.

General Taluto also admitted he did not know how many insurgents there were. 'I stay away from numbers how can I quantify this? We can make estimates by doing some kind of guesswork,' he said.

"I think there is a small core of foreign fighters. I don't know how big that is but there is some kind of capability here, and it's being replenished.

"Then there is a group of former regime personnel they're the facilitators. They make all the communications, move the money, they enable things to happen. Their goal isn't the same as the foreign fighters but they're using them to do what they want to do.

"Then we have the foot soldiers. Some are doing it for the money. Some are doing it because they're offended by our presence and believe we are a threat to their way of life. There are various levels."

He added: "Who knows how big these networks are, or how widespread? I know it's substantial enough to be a threat to the government and it will be for some time."

General Taluto said "99.9 per cent" of those captured fighting the US were Iraqis, but was also adamant most people in Iraq wanted a free, democratic and independent country.

He predicted attacks would continue to surge in intensity, as key milestones were reached, including the upcoming constitutional referendum.



'Suicide-bomber' sisters held

"Islamabad - Pakistani police have arrested two sisters from an Islamic militant group with links to al-Qaeda, who were allegedly plotting suicide attacks against minority Shiite Muslims, officials said on Thursday.

They would have been the first female suicide bombers to strike the key US ally and were the subject of an intensive year-long hunt by security forces in Pakistan, which has suffered a recent wave of suicide bombings.

The pair, identified by police as Arifa and Habiba and said to be aged between 18 and 20, were seized from a hideout in the scenic northern tourist town of Swat early this week, a senior security official told AFP.

Investigators said they were trained by their uncle, a top member of the Sunni Muslim Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group, who was sentenced to death last week for killing 45 people in two suicide attacks on Shiite mosques in Karachi in 2004.

...Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has alleged links to the al-Qaeda terror network, is regarded as the fiercest of Pakistan's Sunni extremist outfits and has been blamed for the murder of US reporter Daniel Pearl in early 2002.

...The women's uncle, Gul Hasan, had admitted training his nieces for a suicide attack on a gathering of Shiite men and women, the police investigator told AFP.

Swat, where the women were arrested, is about 50km from the industrial city of Mardan, where alleged senior al-Qaeda operative Abu Faraj al-Libbi was arrested in early May. ...



Clark sees GI reduction in Iraq soon

..."Clark, who was a candidate for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, also said he expects the Army to announce a substantial pullout of troops from the region by the end of the summer.

"Barring some vast systemic change in Iraq in which the reception of the troops . . . was entirely different, I think it's clear that we need to reduce the size of the forces there," Clark told The Associated Press.

The administration has not set a timetable for withdrawing troops, though Vice President Dick Cheney recently predicted fighting in Iraq will end before Bush leaves office in 2009."...

NATO aims to train Iraqi security forces

"NATO plans to enlarge its efforts to improve Iraq's fledgling security forces by opening a base near Baghdad that will train 1,000 Iraqi officers each year, defense ministers gathered in Brussels said yesterday"...[bth: 1000 per year is not enough. NATO can and should do more.]

U.S. Wary Of Syria Targeting Lebanese

"Bush administration officials alleged yesterday that Syria has developed a hit list targeting senior Lebanese political figures in an attempt to regain control of its neighboring state, just six weeks after Syria said it had ended almost three decades of military occupation."...

Pre-9/11 Missteps By FBI Detailed

Pre-9/11 Missteps By FBI Detailed: "the FBI missed at least five chances to detect the presence of two of the suicide hijackers -- Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar -- after they first entered the United States in early 2000."...

Previous investigations have found that Moussaoui's laptop computer and other belongings were not searched in the weeks after his arrest in Minneapolis because the FBI mistakenly believed it did not have enough evidence to obtain a warrant.

In the case of Alhazmi and Almihdhar, the report said the FBI missed at least five opportunities to possibly locate the pair after Almihdhar was first identified in connection with a Malaysian meeting of al Qaeda operatives.

Even after the FBI learned that the pair had reentered the United States in August 2001, "the FBI did not pursue this as an urgent matter or assign many resources to it," the report found, noting that "it was given to a single, inexperienced agent without any particular priority." Agents within the bureau were also hampered by disagreements over the hazy rules governing the separation between criminal and intelligence investigations.

In the end, the report concludes, "the FBI was not close to locating Mihdhar or Hazmi when they participated in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001."

Biden: More foreigners, especially Saudis, fighting U.S. troops in Iraq

"WASHINGTON (AP) More foreign fighters than ever are crossing Iraq's porous borders to fight U.S. and Iraqi forces, and a growing number are from U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia, a Senate Democrat said Thursday.

''The mix is changing,'' said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., citing conversations last week in Iraq with Marine and Army generals. ''Now, the mix is increasingly more Islamist crossing the border ... and a lot of them are Saudis. It presents a different profile'' that is harder for U.S. forces to confront.

Biden, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top Democrat, gave no specific numbers, for foreign fighters as a whole or for the percentage from Saudi Arabia. He said he was told repeatedly that the totals are going up and that Saudis are ''a disproportionate number.''

''They kept talking about their belief ... that more in terms of numbers of jihadists are crossing the border, more sophisticatedly trained and more capable of doing harm and damage than existed a month ago, three months ago, five months ago,'' Biden told reporters.

In the past, the U.S. military has said foreign fighters are a small percentage perhaps one in 10 of the insurgents fighting the U.S. presence in Iraq. They do a disproportionate amount of killing, however, in part because they are more likely to carry out suicide bombings.

U.S. and other analysts say the foreign fighters are primarily Islamic jihadists, fighting what they claim are anti-Islamic invaders, while the much larger homegrown, mostly Sunni Arab, insurgency has tended to be motivated more by political grievance and factional rivalry.

Part of the Bush administration strategy in Iraq is to improve living conditions and security for ordinary Iraqis and thereby reduce support for the homegrown insurgency. That calculation won't work with foreign fighters, Biden said.

''If you turn on lights, get the air conditioning running and clean up the sewage, that ain't going to have any impact on the jihadist coming across from Saudi Arabia with a bomb strapped on his stomach,'' said Biden, who has made five trips to Iraq since U.S. forces overthrew Saddam Hussein a little more than two years ago. ...

Saudis have been among the foreigners captured by U.S. forces inside Iraq, but the Pentagon and the Bush administration have said little about the national backgrounds of foreign fighters.

Asked about estimates that Saudis make up 40 percent of suicide bombers recruited to Iraq by the Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Saudi Arabia differs from other nations that may export fighters to Iraq because it is also fighting al-Qaida insurgents on its own territory. ...

Biden said a U.S. troop pullout now would be disastrous, but he accused the Bush administration of glossing over the magnitude of the problems and underestimating the time it will take to fix them.

''There is a total disconnect from what I've seen ... being on the ground and what I hear when I come back home,'' Biden said.

Muting the Conversation of Democracy - Jun 2005

Chronogram - Muting the Conversation of Democracy - Jun 2005: "We're seeing unfold a contemporary example of the age-old ambition of power and ideology to squelch and punish journalists who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable.

I mean the people obsessed with control, using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean the people who are hollowing out middle-class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class in a war to make sure Ahmed Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq's oil. I mean the people who turn faith-based initiatives into a slush fund and who encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets. I mean the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy."...[bth: an excellent speech given by Bill Moyers and well worth a full read.]

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Approaching storm. Posted by Hello

Afghanistan. Jingle truck Posted by Hello

Reflections from Mosull Posted by Hello

Battlefield robots saving lives, proving their worth in Iraq

"One measure of how effective battlefield robots have become, says a top Pentagon robotics official, is that the enemy has begun to target them."

The success with small ground robots, as well as with unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, has bolstered confidence as the armed forces move toward larger vehicles, such as Carnegie Mellon's 1-ton Gladiator recon robot, which will have longer range and, eventually, operate autonomously.

A dozen Dragon Runners were built for the U.S. Marines, which deployed them to Iraq a year ago. The four-wheeled device is only a little more than a foot long and not quite a foot wide and weighs 9 pounds. It can be thrown over walls, out a three-story window or up a flight of stairs; the flat, 5-inch-high machine can operate whichever way it lands.

...Explosive ordnance disposal robots have been the biggest success thus far, Hudson said. The military has about 500 of them now and soldiers assigned to bomb disposal swear by them.

"Many have told us, 'It saved my life,' " he added.

The Iraq conflict has increased pressure to deploy battlefield robots, while also serving as a live test bed for the technology.

"It's providing effective feedback to us before we get too far along in the development process," Hudson said.

One response to the enemy's targeting of recon robots is to develop expendable robots -- robots similar in many ways to radio-controlled toy cars, he said.

But the military robots also are growing in size. The Gladiator being built for the Marines is one step toward these larger, longer-range, more capable machines. The unmanned vehicles will be growing larger, particularly as the Army moves forward with its $100 billion Future Combat Systems plan, which would deploy a variety of robotic vehicles, including armed vehicles, by 2010.

Current robots are teleoperated by soldiers, but as the vehicles become larger and cover more territory, more emphasis will be placed on vehicles that can drive themselves. Also, autonomous vehicles will help reduce the human workload, by eliminating the need to have one human teleoperator for each vehicle.

...In addition to technology development, the Pentagon is working to develop the production base for robotics. That includes events such as this week's two-day meeting in Pittsburgh, which included more than 150 robotics experts from the military and private industry.

Many robotics firms are small businesses, Hudson said, so the Pentagon has begun a mentor-protege program, matching the small, young companies with large, experienced military contractors. Two local firms -- re2 of Lawrenceville and Kuchera Defense Systems of Windber, Somerset County -- are among the first in that program, paired respectively with Textron and Raytheon.

Arms cache found at Iraq embassy in London

"A cache of guns, bugging devices and equipment that may have been used for torture has been discovered at Iraq's abandoned embassy in Britain, the country's newly appointed ambassador said on Wednesday."...

General: Insurgents Force Suicide Bombings

"Iraqi insurgents appear to be forcing some followers to commit suicide car bombings by tying or binding them inside explosive-carrying vehicles, the commanding general of allied security forces in Baghdad said Wednesday.

'In one case, Iraqi police found pieces of a car after it exploded which included an accelerator pedal that had the suicide bomber's foot still taped to it, so that you can't chicken out and leave,' Maj. Gen. William G. Webster told reporters in a video conference from Baghdad. "...

U.S. military getting less bang for its buck - Americas -

"Nine years ago, the U.S. Navy set out to build a new guided missile for its 21st-century ships. Fiascoes followed. In a test firing, the missile melted its on-board guidance system. 'Incredibly,' an army review said, 'the navy ruled the test a success.'

Recently, the navy rewrote the contract and put out another one, with little to show for the money it already spent. The bill has come to almost $400 million, five times the original budget.

Such stories may seem old hat. But after years of failing to control cost overruns, the most powerful officials at the Pentagon are becoming increasingly alarmed that the machinery for building weapons is breaking down.

'Something's wrong with the system,' Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently told Congress.

The Pentagon has more than 80 major new weapons systems under development, which is 'a lot more programs than we can afford,' said a senior air force official, Blaise Durante. Their combined cost, already $300 billion over budget, is $1.47 trillion and climbing.

In the civilian world, next-generation technologies like cellphones and computers rarely cost much more than their predecessors. But the Pentagon's new planes and ships are costing three, four and five times the weapons they will replace. As prices soar, the number of new weapons that the U.S. military can afford shrinks, even with the biggest budget in decades....

Oversight is dwindling, Pentagon officials acknowledge. While the dollar value of weapons contracts doubled over the last decade, the Pentagon halved the size of the work force that policed their costs... [bth: excellent article well worth a full read.]

Pirates raid tanker at Iraq's Basra oil terminal

"LONDON, June 8 (Reuters) - Pirates armed with AK-47 assault rifles attacked the crew of a supertanker waiting to load crude at Iraq's Basra oil terminal before making off with cash, an ocean crime watchdog said on Wednesday.

The raid happened at night on May 31 some 10 nautical miles from Iraq's deep water oil terminal where most of its crude oil is exported.

'They tried to enter the bridge claiming to be policemen. The master denied them entry and the pirates became violent...they assaulted the master causing him injuries and demanded money,' the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a report."...

Iraq constitution official's bodyguards killed

"BAGHDAD, June 8 (Reuters) - Gunmen killed two bodyguards of an official who is a member of the committee drafting Iraq's constitution in an attack on their car on Wednesday, an Interior Ministry official said."...

Sectarian Divide Widens on Iraq's Constitutional Panel

"BAGHDAD, June 8 -- Groups on both sides of Iraq's most contentious sectarian divide hardened their stances Wednesday, as Sunni Muslim politicians demanded 25 more seats on the committee that will write the country's permanent constitution, while Iraq's president and prime minister offered glowing praise for a controversial Shiite Muslim militia."...

Iraq: US Envoy Vows Sprited Campaign to Help Democratize Country

"The person nominated to be the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq has vowed to lead a vigorous campaign to guide the next crucial steps of the Iraqi political process and make its citizens more secure. Zalmay Khalilzad told a U.S. Senate panel he would apply the same outreach efforts he used in helping Afghanistan through its initial reform and reconstruction stage as U.S. envoy there. Khalilzad also pledged to improve the way Washington articulates its goals in Iraq."...

“I know from President Bush, I know from other senior officials, that there is no U.S. plan for permanent military bases in Iraq or plans for usurping Iraqi resources.” -- Zalmay Khalilzad

...[bth: DOD appropriations are spending approx. $600 million to construct the largest embassy in the world and to build four permanent military bases. Khalilzad sounds like an excellent ambassador and I hope he is installed quickly. Aligning America's actions with its words might make his job easier.]

China Defector Backs Diplomat's Spy Claim

"A second Chinese defector has claimed Beijing is running a large spy network in Australia and other Western countries, including the United States, following a similar allegation by a high-ranking Chinese diplomat seeking asylum.

The diplomat, Chen Yonglin, the first secretary at the Chinese Consulate-General in Sydney, left his post last month. Chen claimed China had 1,000 spies in Australia involved in illegal activities, including abducting Chinese nationals and smuggling them back to China."...

Fresh from the Secret Force, a spy downloads on China

"Amid secret passwords, mysterious faxes and last-minute arrangements to protect him from the alleged Chinese spy network he once worked for, the asylum seeker Hao Fengjun emerged from hiding to talk of the Secret Force.

This force, the 32-year-old Chinese police intelligence analyst says, runs spies in Australia and other Western countries.

Addressing media in Melbourne yesterday, Mr Hao - the second Chinese security official to defect in less than a week - said there were three levels of agents working for the Secret Force: the professional spies, who graduated from police college and were paid to travel overseas to collect intelligence 'in all areas'; 'working relationship' agents, who acted as businessmen and targeted foreign business groups; and 'friends', who infiltrated foreign countries and became friendly with both Chinese and Westerners.

While the Secret Force's main job was to gather political and military information, it also closely monitored Falun Gong and other religious or Chinese democracy groups. Mr Hao knows all this because he worked for the '610 Office' in the National Security Bureau in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. His job, he said, was to collate and analyse intelligence reports sent back from Australia, the US, Canada and New Zealand about Falun Gong and other groups."

He claims to have downloaded some of these documents from his police computer into his MP3 player and given a sample of them to Australian immigration officials as proof of his claims....

Analysts missed Chinese buildup

"A highly classified intelligence report produced for the new director of national intelligence concludes that U.S. spy agencies failed to recognize several key military developments in China in the past decade, The Washington Times has learned. "...

Four acquitted of 2002 Kenya hotel suicide blast - Yahoo! News

"NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Kenyan judge on Thursday acquitted four men charged in the 2002 suicide bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel that killed 15 people, saying prosecutors had failed to link them to the bombers or al Qaeda. "...

Army Headed to Recruiting Shortfall

Army Headed to Recruiting Shortfall: "WASHINGTON -- The Army appears likely to fall short of its full-year recruiting goal for the first time since 1999, raising longer-term questions about a military embroiled in its first protracted wars since switching from the draft to a volunteer force 32 years ago.

Many young people and their parents have grown more wary of Army service because of the likelihood of being dispatched on combat tours to Iraq or Afghanistan, opinion polls show. U.S. troops are dying at a rate of two a day in Iraq, more than two years after President Bush declared that major combat operations had ended.

The Army says today's economy offers attractive alternatives to many high school and college graduates.

The recruiting statistics appear to bear that out. Officials said Wednesday that although the Army will not release its numbers until Friday, it fell about 25 percent short of its target of signing up 6,700 recruits in May. The gap would have been even wider but for the fact that the target was lowered by 1,350.

The Army said it lowered the May target to 'adjust for changing market conditions,' knowing that the difference will have to be made up in the months ahead.

The Army also missed its monthly targets in April, March and February _ each month worse than the one before. In February it fell 27 percent short; in March the gap was 31 percent, and in April it was 42 percent."...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Soldier's divorce rates up sharply

USATODAY.com: "The number of active-duty soldiers getting divorced has been rising sharply with deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The trend is severest among officers. Last year, 3,325 Army officers' marriages ended in divorce � up 78% from 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, and more than 31/2 times the number in 2000, before the Afghan operation, Army figures show. For enlisted personnel, the 7,152 divorces last year were 28% more than in 2003 and up 53% from 2000. During that time, the number of soldiers has changed little. "...

Post-ABC Poll: Americans Say War in Iraq Has Not Made U.S. Safer

"For the first time since the war in Iraq began, over half of the American public believes the fight there has not made the United States safer, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
While the focus in Washington has shifted from the Iraq conflict to Social Security and other domestic matters, the survey found that Americans rank Iraq second only to the economy in importance -- and that many are losing patience with the enterprise.

Nearly three quarters of Americans say the number of casualties in Iraq is unacceptable, while two-thirds say the U.S. military there is bogged down and nearly six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting -- in all three cases matching or exceeding the highest levels of pessimism yet recorded. More than four in ten now believe the U.S. presence in Iraq is becoming analogous to the experience in Vietnam.

Perhaps most ominously, 52 percent said the war in Iraq has not contributed to the long-term security of the United States, while 47 percent said it did. It was the first time a majority of Americans disagreed with the central notion President Bush has offered to build support for war: that the fight there will make Americans safer from terrorists at home. In late 2003, 62 percent thought the Iraq war aided U.S. security, and just three months ago 52 percent thought so.

Overall, more than half-- 52 percent -- disapprove of how Bush is handling his job. A somewhat larger majority-56 percent-- disapproved of Republicans in Congress and an identical proportion disapproved of Democrats." ... [bth: interesting article with details. Worth a full read]

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Families of Iraq Victims

Boston.com - NECN Shows - News Here is the link to recent news interviews by Jim Braude of New England Cable News. Here is an interview we did together on June 7 which is on this link. Unfortunately I can't figure out how to get the video link to automatically link up so you need to go to the website link I posted with the title of this blog entry and then clip on the video clip itself.

This has no relevance. Its just a beautiful photograph Posted by Hello

Enough said. Posted by Hello

Pentagon takes aim at rank and file of al Qaeda

"The Pentagon is discussing war-strategy changes for defeating Islamic terrorists that would place more emphasis on killing, capturing or discouraging midlevel operators who enable top al Qaeda leadership to function.

Interviews the past week with Bush administration officials show that policy-makers are thinking the only way to ultimately win the war is to take down the lower-level operators who form the networks that support Osama bin Laden and scores of other al Qaeda lieutenants around the world. "...

Public Discourse -- A Lost Cause?

Sunday was the best two hour discussion on war and foreign policy that I've heard since I watched Tony Blair's parliamentary debates on going to war in Iraq three years ago. We walked out of that meeting with a sense of optimism that a better plan could be discussed and acted upon.

So it was with some sadness that I came across this site while looking for other discussions that might have emerged from the publicity surrounding the Sunday meeting with Congressman Meehan.

Here is what I found. Its pretty vile. You read this screed and realize that if the public's option is between a poorly planned war without focus or this group of nihilistic slugs, the only practical choice is the status quo.

I presume there is a silent majority out. Right now though all we here are the extremes of the tie-dye or the jackboot crowd. If the majority remain passive and silent, then its more of the same for our country and our troops.

A sustained discourse on policy options and presumably a planned and responsible exit from Iraq is the best thing for America and Iraq. Yesterday, I realized how very long we have to go to get to that point if we will get there at all.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Father of slain soldier pushes for exit strategy

"BEDFORD -- It's time to put free speech to work.
That's the call from Brian Hart, whose son, Army Pfc. John Hart, died at age 20 in Iraq in October 2003 when his unarmored Humvee was ambushed.

Since then, Hart, united with First Parish Rev. John Gibbons, has urged better protection for troops.

Now they're pushing for a clear exit strategy to bring troops home. It starts with open dialogue, they said, however unpopular the discussions may be.

"There is a silence today in the national discourse, a silence that breeds fear," Hart said to a group gathered at First Parish, a Unitarian Universalist congregation near Bedford Town Common.

"In America, we seem afraid to ask the president where Osama bin Laden is, or why we were sent to Iraq on half-truths when the whole truth would have sufficed, or how will we ever get out. ... It has become too easy to send another man's son to Iraq," he added.

"We must fight a government that implies that it is un-American to express dissent. Silence is not an answer."

Hart's collaboration with Gibbons may seem unlikely when you realize how they were first acquainted.

John Hart, before he shipped to Iraq, was angered by a "Speak Out for Peace" banner First Parish had hung from its church front. John asked his father to help get it removed. Gibbons agreed to the family's request.

Now, Gibbons and Brian Hart are allies in their desire for a national dialogue on bringing soldiers home. Gibbons praised the Hart family for their "relentless pursuit of the truth" about their son's death.

"It is a campaign to speak out for the truth. We want a credible plan to bring it to an honorable conclusion," Gibbons said.

U.S Rep. Marty Meehan, a Lowell Democrat and one of the first lawmakers to propose a detailed exit strategy, yesterday joined them by renewing his call for a phased-out removal of American forces.

Meehan bemoaned how “the rush to war” left America's troops unprepared and inadequately protected. He credits Hart for helping him secure funds to armor 80 percent of American Humvees.

U.S. troops are seen as occupiers, not liberators, Meehan said, and the perception has bred the Iraqi insurgency.

“Because of our occupancy, we're growing the insurgency quicker than we can capture or eliminate them,” Meehan said.

“By any measure, the policy in Iraq is a failure,” he added. “Our troops are not failing, our policy is failing. Some people think that talking about our policy is not good. I think the worst thing we can do for our brave men and women is to leave them in Iraq with a policy that's not working.

“We owe it to our soldiers to look and move forward with an exit strategy” that would phase out the troop withdrawal by the end of 2006 and, in the meantime, boost training of Iraqi troops and push American forces to the background.

Meehan said he will introduce a joint resolution this week in Congress to plan an exit strategy.

Hart's hope is that in the future, some may say: “A revolution started here.”

Meaghan Wims' e-mail address is mwims@lowellsun.com.

Convicted of scavenging, 2 Iraq vets win clemency

"Two Iraq war veterans who were kicked out of the military and sent to the brig for scrounging unused military equipment they said was needed to support their unit's initial push into Iraq have been reinstated into the U.S. Army.

Maj. Cathy Kaus, who was the commanding officer of the Springfield, Ohio-based 656th Transportation Company at the beginning of the war, and Chief Warrant Officer Darrell Birt saw their dishonorable discharges overturned by Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz this week, said Cecil Green, a spokesman for the Army's III Corps in Ft. Hood, Texas.

They were convicted in 2004 of theft, destruction of Army property and conspiracy to cover up the crimes for taking two tractors and two trailers that had been left in Kuwait by units pushing forward into Iraq before them. The charges also stem from a second instance of scavenging when Birt and another reservist took an abandoned military vehicle and stripped it for parts.

Because Metz granted 'partial clemency,' the two soldiers--with 50 years of military service between them--can return to their unit if they desire.

Through Green, Metz declined to comment. Green said it is the Army's policy not to discuss the rationale for decisions on clemency petitions.

'Essentially, this partial clemency means their dismissal from the Army has been overturned and they get to keep their benefits,' Green said.

After Kaus and Birt's ordeal was chronicled in the Tribune in December, the military faced stiff criticism from politicians and citizens for how it went about dealing with the soldiers' wrongdoings.
... [bth: an interesting article, how they wre thrown into a brig, then put into fraud audit and another lost his job because of his discharge and then his family was forced onto food stamps.]

Military Tries to Fast-Forward to Safety

"SEAL BEACH -Inside four unmarked, windowless trailers parked at the Naval Weapons Station, Marine reservists headed for Iraq are being taught how to survive the deadliest threat that awaits them: roads thick with hidden bombs, snipers and suicide vehicles.

One-third to one-half of U.S. fatalities and injuries in Iraq are inflicted by insurgent attacks on convoys -a fact that has sent the military scrambling for ways to protect Army and Marine Corps troops."

Although much of the attention has been on retrofitting vehicles with armor plating, the Pentagon also has moved to upgrade predeployment training.

The latest wrinkle is a video simulation trainer that presents troops with scenarios they are very likely to confront when they move in convoys transporting troops and supplies.

Similar simulation trainers have long been used for tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, as well as attack aircraft and helicopters. Even submarines have simulation trainers.

But until the Iraq insurgency began to target convoys with deadly results, the idea of a simulation trainer for Humvees was not a priority.

Military training had not kept pace with the real-world threats posed to troops sent to Iraq. ...

Soldier waits as family hopes for better armor

"...Smith's son, Colter Boita, has been stationed in Iraq since Feb. 1. He drove from Kuwait to Baghdad, a three-day trip, in a 'level-three armored high-mobility, multipurpose wheeled vehicle,or Humvee. The armor -consisted of a metal plate replacing the location of the windows and sandbags on the floor to catch underside shrapnel."

When Smith heard that, she remembered Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's Feb. 6, promise on NBC News"-Meet the Press.

'By February 15, nine days from now, there will not be a vehicle moving around in Iraq outside of a protected compound with American soldiers in it that does not have an appropriate level of armor,'Rumsfeld said.

Smith does not consider level-three protection adequate, but her son has driven on missions in them three times since February, she said. By Feb. 15, she had expected Boita to be riding exclusively in level-two or, better yet, level-one vehicles.

According to Army estimates, she will have to wait a little longer. Upgrading the remaining Humvees to level-two status will be completed within the next three months at the latest, said Nancy Ray, public affairs spokeswoman for the Army.

"They have had two years already,"Boita's brother Carson said, also a soldier but not in combat. "Why not give a person the absolute best shot they have at survival?"

Boita wonders the same thing. "...

“There is no reason we should have had to drive that level-three,” Boita said. “They should have just loaded it on a flatbed. A soldier has enough to worry about without the added worry of inadequate equipment.”

On that trip, they were stopped by an improvised explosive device, or IED. Fortunately for Boita, who was riding in a level three, it had detonated near a fuel truck and away from him.

According to a statement by Lt.. Gen. James T. Conway, about 70 percent of military casualties in Iraq, both killed and wounded, are because of IEDs.
“There are possible threats all over the place — it’s not like they are on the road every once in awhile,” Boita said.

“On one stretch of road you are going to find three to five IEDs.”...


Good Intentions Gone Bad - Newsweek World News - MSNBC.com

"June 13 issue - Two years ago I went to Iraq as an unabashed believer in toppling Saddam Hussein. I knew his regime well from previous visits; WMDs or no, ridding the world of Saddam would surely be for the best, and America's good intentions would carry the day. What went wrong? A lot, but the biggest turning point was the Abu Ghraib scandal. Since April 2004 the liberation of Iraq has become a desperate exercise in damage control. The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib alienated a broad swath of the Iraqi public. On top of that, it didn't work. There is no evidence that all the mistreatment and humiliation saved a single American life or led to the capture of any major terrorist, despite claims by the military that the prison produced 'actionable intelligence.'"

The most shocking thing about Abu Ghraib was not the behavior of U.S. troops, but the incompetence of their leaders. Against the conduct of the Lynndie Englands and the Charles Graners, I'll gladly set the honesty and courage of Specialist Joseph Darby, the young MP who reported the abuse. A few soldiers will always do bad things. That's why you need competent officers, who know what the men and women under their command are capable of—and make sure it doesn't happen.

Living and working in Iraq, it's hard not to succumb to despair. ...

Video clip from First Parish Presentation via NECN

News From Around New England - Boston.com - NECN - News: "(6/6/05 8:57 a.m.) The war in Iraq has been going on for more than two years now and you know there are many outspoken critics who want to see our troops come home. Brian Hart, whose son was killed in Iraq, is now on a mission to see to it that the war comes to and end. Here is the NECN News Clip.

Univ of Montana - Harnessing the Honeybee to Detect Land Mines

"The honeybee zoomed intently over the grassy meadow at the U.S. Army base, ignoring the lasers pinging off its fuzzy body. Every 26 seconds the green light lanced out, marking the bee's progress using lidar, radar's more-advanced cousin.

Sampling the air with antennae that give it a bloodhound sense of smell, the bee followed an invisible chemical plume it had been taught to associate with food. The odor of explosives led the worker bee to a buzzing cluster of its sisters. This time there was nothing to eat, but the flying foragers visited the spot again and again, allowing lidar to paint a grouping of dots on a computer screen.

Below the cluster, under the ground, was an anti-tank mine.
'That was my eureka moment,' says Jerry Bromenshenk, a research professor in UM's Division of Biological Sciences. 'That's when I knew I had seen a bee find a land mine.'"...

Vietnam Remembered Posted by Hello

TEXT OF SPEECH BY BRIAN HART JUNE 5, 2005 AT FIRST PARISH IN BEDFORD, MA

[BTH: Here is the text of an introductory speech I used at First Parish Unitarian in Bedford, MA to introduce Congressman Marty Meehan. The purpose of the meeting was to open a public discourse about an honorable and organized exit from Iraq.]

FIRST PARISH UNITARIAN SPEECH
WITH CONGRESSMAN MARTY MEEHAN

JUNE 5, 2005
BY BRIAN T. HART

“Where do we go from here?”
“What is the right thing to do?”

These are questions asked on this Town Common 230 years ago.
Today they are being asked again.

The decision then was to go to Concord and fight the most powerful army on earth. It was an unmistakable act of treason for which there was no return. It took courage. Some would die. That day, the world changed forever.

It is altogether fitting, that today, in this town, in this building, on this common we should begin a discussion on Iraq that might be viewed in some circles as treasonous and in others as common sense.

Should we stay there or should we go? That is the question in Iraq today.

Is it better to blindly follow our national leaders: right or wrong?
Is it better to support the troops by speaking out on their behalf?
Is it treason to state the obvious; that occupiers stay and liberators leave?

Democracy requires discourse. Occasionally it needs dissent.
We should not fear free speech, nor be afraid to use it.

There is a silence today in the national discourse; a silence that fears brings. Indeed, the world seems manipulated by fear. Terrorists rely on it. Hundreds of people from Boston and thousands from New York were killed to instill fear in us. Governments also use it for control; even our government.

In Iraq today, religious extremists attempt to rule by random acts of terror replacing the organized terror from Ba’athists.

In America we seem afraid to ask the President where Osama Bin Laden is; why intelligence analysts can lie with impunity; why we were sent to Iraq on half-truths when the whole truth would have sufficed, and how will we ever get out?

We are afraid to ask the questions in part because we are afraid of the answers.

More reporters cover Michael Jackson than Iraq. Yet every day flag draped caskets land at Dover AFB where photography is banned. And a steady stream of wounded arrives at Walter Reed, anonymous to the world. These are our children, our spouses, and our patriots. It has become too easy to send another man’s son to war.

We must be unwilling to concede our world to the powers of fear and fanaticism; be it Muslim homicide bombers or Christian hate groups which come tomorrow to terrorize school children. We must also fight a government that implies it is un-American to express dissent.

So what is the right thing to do?
We must hold our leaders and ourselves accountable. Silence is not an answer.

Today in this hall we choose not to live in fear.

We owe Nick Pulliam, a son of parishioners here who is in Iraq today, to have this discussion. We owe it to John, we owe it to Travis. We owe it to veterans here today. They earned it.

Rev. Gibbons and I hope to start a sustained discussion on this topic; to explore options with civil discourse, to use free speech as it was intended; to bring about a more perfect world.

Someday people may say a revolution began here. Why here? Why now? -- Why not?

In New England Town Hall tradition, we are privileged to host Congressman Marty Meehan, the only Massachusetts congressman on the House Armed Services Committee.

I first met Congressman Meehan a year ago March. We did a joint press conference where Marty proposed and I endorsed a resolution prodding a reluctant Army to release all funds set aside for vehicular armor immediately instead of over 12 months. Such a common sense proposal was met with derision at the time in official circles. We were told it would never be heard before the House Armed Services Committee, but through a network of concerned citizens, we found Republican co-sponsors and soon Mr. Meehan’s position became the common sense of the day.

Later he would act vigorously to obtain supplemental funds which passed into law in August 2004. Those funds brought production of armored vehicles to near capacity and as a result somewhere around 40,000 soldiers a day, everyday, drive on patrol in vehicles with adequate armor. Though the problem continues, without doubt, hundreds have been saved from needless injury or death by Rep. Meehan’s actions.

So it was with great interest earlier this year that I read a draft paper by Congressman Meehan discussing policy in Iraq. It was well researched and thoughtful. It was ignored. It is a policy of phased exit I endorse as the best option among imperfect options for supporting our troops. It is in the best interest of Americans and Iraqis.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce Rep. Marty Meehan.

Night raid in Iraq. June 05 Posted by Hello

Former supporter joins foes over war - The Boston Globe

"Two years ago, Brian T. Hart, an avid supporter of the American military mission in Iraq, wrote to the Board of Selectmen in Bedford to complain about a 20-foot banner strung from the front of the First Parish church that read, ''Speak Out For Peace.'

Today, Hart, now a blistering critic of the campaign in Iraq, plans to return to the church on the town green to speak out for peace at the pulpit.

The reason for his transformation: His son, Private First Class John D. Hart was killed outside Kirkuk, Iraq, in October 2003 when insurgents firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades attacked his unarmored Humvee.
''I don't care if they call me un-American,' Brian Hart said Friday as he ignored a tall glass of iced tea sitting before him on the back porch of his home in Bedford. ''I've come full circle in saying the best way to support the troops today is to give them a plan to exit Iraq.'

Hart, 46, grew up in a conservative Texas family, served as president of the Republican club at the University of Texas, and voted for President Bush in 2000. His daughters, Rebecca, 18, and Elizabeth, 14, are members of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Bedford High School.

The peace banner went up in early 2003. That July, John Hart saw the sign as he prepared to leave for Iraq on his first tour of duty with his unit, the 173d Infantry Brigade. John asked his father to help get the sign removed.
Brian Hart wrote to the Board of Selectmen, contending that the peace banner violated the town's historic zoning codes. At a board meeting, he threatened to file a lawsuit. John Eric Gibbons, the Unitarian minister whose congregation had hung the blue-and-white banner, agreed to take it down. Hart was pleased.

Three months later, John was dead, one month past his 20th birthday. First Lieutenant David R. Bernstein of Phoenixville, Pa., was also killed in the attack. Bernstein was 24.

Days later, at Bernstein's graveside, Hart said an Army sergeant told him that US troops were lacking supplies. At his son's funeral, Hart said a soldier who had been in the Humvee during the fatal attack also told him that their Army unit lacked armor and ammunition.

Hart began studying the way the Army supplies its soldiers. He met with US Senator Edward M. Kennedy, spoke with other members of Congress, and developed contacts with military suppliers and service members. What he learned about Humvee armor disturbed him, he said.

''Congress was being told that the plants were at full capacity," Hart said. ''They were just lied to. Hundreds of kids died from over this issue alone."

Gibbons and Hart have grown closer since they clashed over the banner two years ago. Now, they discuss the war.

''It seems to me that Brian's quest, like that of any father, is to make meaning of his son's death," Gibbons said. ''And it seems to me that his quest has been for the truth and to make sure that he knows and the American people know the conditions that we're asking young people to fight in."

Hart's cousins and uncles in Texas no longer speak to him, he said.

And he worries that some in Bedford, home of Hanscom Air Force Base, may turn against him.

He never considered himself an activist. He laughs at the notion. ''Isn't that ironic?" Hart said. ''I mean, I'm no pacifist, that's for certain, but this is not right. Where we're at today is not right. It's not right for America. It's not right for the troops. It's not right for the Iraqis."

US Representative Martin T. Meehan, who is also scheduled to speak at the church today, said Hart helped him to secure $700 million in funding for Humvee armor.

Now, Hart is backing Meehan's plan to gradually withdraw US troops from Iraq.

''Oftentimes, when you work on military issues, political charges are that you're not being patriotic or you're not being American or you're not supporting the troops," said Meehan, Democrat of Lowell. ''The opportunity to work with Brian is a great opportunity because those arguments are particularly hollow. He's a military person through and through, and no one can question his love for his country."

Hart said he hopes to ignite a discussion, starting in the small church he once challenged.

''Active Army officers are afraid to have this conversation in public, politicians are afraid to have this conversation in public," Hart said. ''So I wanted to start this discussion, and hopefully see where this leads."


[bth: The facts are jest of the article is basically right though the dates are a bit off. The banner issue was April 03, John went to Italy in May and to Iraq in July 03. He died October 18 and we buried David Bernstein at West Point on Oct 30 and John at Arlington on Nov. 4. This probably doesn't matter to anyone but me, but so be it.]

He found his son's marker. Iraqi KIA memorial in California Posted by Hello

Memorial for 1600 Posted by Hello

Ordinance disosal robot Posted by Hello

Following Terrorists' Money

"Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States and several other countries have touted their success in identifying terrorist cells and cutting off terrorism financing. The Bush administration regularly asserts that al Qaeda is financially weakened and forced to cut expenditures. There is now reason to question these assumptions. The pace of terrorist recruitment and activities appears to be accelerating, not decreasing, and the number of terrorist attacks continues to grow. And evidence is mounting that large sums are still being raised and transferred to al Qaeda terrorists, including the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the fight against terrorism has benefited from increased intelligence, this effort has not been enough to cut off al Qaeda's financing or to put its financial supporters out of business. Turning intelligence into actionable evidence for civil designation or criminal prosecutions, has proved exceedingly difficult. There are heavy constraints on sharing intelligence and, even when it is shared with investigators, special efforts are required to come up with open-source evidence that can confirm the intelligence and stand up in court. This is why the Swiss had to drop its criminal case against Youssef Nada and al Taqwa and why even the successful terrorism funding investigations usually end up with plea bargains on lesser charges.

We need to find a better way to bridge this intelligence-evidence gap."...

Biden: U.S. troops should not leave Iraq

"WASHINGTON, DC, Jun. 5 (UPI) -- Sen. Joseph Biden, who recently returned from visiting Iraq, said Sunday a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq would be a big mistake. "

"And if we leave now, I guarantee you there will be a civil war, which a lot of our folks are worrying about now anyway," said Biden, D-Del., said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos. "We made a giant mistake in the beginning over the objection of a number from both parties." ...

"And the bottom line is, there are very few Iraq -- there's 107 battalions that have been trained out there in uniform, but only three -- three -- are fully operational, and 23 are close to operational," said Biden. ...

Iraq nabs top al-Qaeda man

"Baghdad - Police have arrested a close aide to al-Qaeda's Iraqi leader in the northern city of Mosul, the government said on Sunday.

Mutlaq Mahmoud Mutlaq Abdullah, also known as Abu Raad, was arrested on Saturday.

He is regarded as a key facilitator and financier for a militant identified by his alias Abu Talha, the purported head of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terror cell in Mosul.

A statement released by Iraq's Cabinet said Abu Raad 'co-ordinates terrorist activities' and 'supervises the funds available to the terrorist cell led by Abu Talha'.

'(Abu Raad) arranges meetings between Abu Talha and some terrorists and is familiar with his plans and crimes committed in Mosul, such as murder, rape and kidnappings', said the statement.
The government statement said Abu Raad supervised the collection of money obtained through donations and criminal activities, such as blackmail, abduction and theft.

Al-Obeidi said Abu Talha, whose real name is Mohammed Khalaf Shkarah al-Hamadani, was a former member of Saddam Hussein's once ruling Baath Party and a warrant officer in the former Iraqi army.

News of Abu Raad's arrests comes one day after Iraqi police announced the capture of another prominent Mosul-based militant, Mahdi Moussa al-Jabouri, also known as Mullah Mahdi, the purported head of the Mosul cell of feared terror group Ansar al-Sunnah Army.

Ansar al-Sunnah is linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq and has claimed responsibility for multiple bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. "

Bush's Optimism On Iraq Debated

"President Bush's portrayal of a wilting insurgency in Iraq at a time of escalating violence and insecurity throughout the country is reviving the debate over the administration's Iraq strategy and the accuracy of its upbeat claims.

While Bush and Vice President Cheney offer optimistic assessments of the situation, a fresh wave of car bombings and other attacks killed 80 U.S. soldiers and more than 700 Iraqis last month alone and prompted Iraqi leaders to appeal to the administration for greater help. Privately, some administration officials have concluded the violence will not subside through this year."...

Military commanders in Iraq privately told a visiting congressional delegation last week that the United States is at least two years away from adequately training a viable Iraqi military but that it is no longer reasonable to consider augmenting U.S. troops already strained by the two-year operation, said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.). "The idea that the insurgents are on the run and we are about to turn the corner, I did not hear that from anybody," Biden said in an interview.

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), who joined Biden for part of the trip, said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others are misleading Americans about the number of functional Iraqi troops and warned the president to pay more attention to shutting off Syrian and Iranian assistance to the insurgency. "We don't want to raise the expectations of the American people prematurely," he said....

A poll conducted last month by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that only 37 percent of those surveyed approved of Bush's Iraq policy, while the number of people telling pollsters the war was not worth the cost has been rising in recent months....


Remark on North Korea Disputed

"FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., June 5 -- In rare discord with the Defense Department, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday criticized an anonymous defense official for saying the United States was ready to bring the impasse over North Korea's nuclear programs to the U.N. Security Council.

Reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld over the weekend quoted a 'senior defense official' as saying a decision on referring the matter to the United Nations would be made within weeks. The official noted that it has been one year since North Korea last attended multilateral talks on ending its programs."

Asked about the comments, Rice said they were inaccurate. "The idea that within weeks we are going to decide one way or another is a little forward-leaning," she told reporters as she flew here for a meeting of the Organization of American States. "The president put it very well the other day that we still believe that there is life left in the six-party talks."...

[bth: it appears to me that Rumsfeld is trying to force action on N. Korea by the President or Rice. The relocation of 15 stealth bombers earlier this month could also be viewed in that light.]