Saturday, July 02, 2005


Washington Monument with Presidential helicopters in background. Posted by Picasa

Soldiers for the Truth--De-escalation Is Best Tactic for Us in Iraq

[bth: here is a thought provoking article on a strategy in Iraq. I have copied the article in full.]

Soldiers for the Truth: "An article in the June 23 edition of The Christian Science Monitor, 'A US patrol gains trust in Baghdad neighborhood,' tells the story of an American unit that gets Fourth Generation war:

'When the patrol (in Humvees) passes a busy street, Lieutenant Waters . . . tells his men to get out and start walking. As the foot patrol makes its way through the streets, an old Shiite woman in a black hejab invites Waters into her house. At the threshold, Waters politely waits.'

' 'I don't want to track the dirt from the street into your house,' he tells her .... Waters is trying to gain the trust of this tense district, where the US has previously been regarded with hatred and suspicion .... '

After long months in this sector of Baghdad, Waters's company has not killed anyone nor has it lost a single soldier.

'We are not killing machines; we are men,' Waters explains. 'I think if we can deal with the separation from our families, and not become hardhearted, we might just be able to leave here changed in a positive way.'

' 'It's just like the Hippocratic oath,' he says. 'First, do no harm.' '

What has enabled Lt. Waters and his unit of California National Guardsmen to get it right? Lt. Waters is a cop. Specifically, he is a sheriff from Sacramento. He is dealing with the people of Baghdad the same way he deals with the people back home, politely and with a genuine desire to help. His unit has not killed anyone because Lt. Waters knows that cops succeed by de-escalating, not by escalating violence. Cops try very hard not to kill people. In fact, cops don't want to fight at all.

Just as having soldiers who want to fight is important in Second and Third Generation war, so not wanting to fight is key to success in the Fourth Generation. Any fight, whether won or lost, ultimately works against an outside power that is trying to damp down a Fourth Generation conflict.

Fighting ramps up disorder, and Fourth Generation entities thrive on disorder. Disorder undermines the local government's legitimacy, because disorder proves that government cannot provide security. Fighting usually means that locals get killed, and when that happens, the relatives and friends of the casualties are then obliged to join the fight to get revenge. Violence escalates, when success requires de-escalation.

Again, cops know all this. Here we see another lesson for 4GW: Reserve and National Guard units are more valuable than regular troops. Why? Because they contain a lot of cops. Lt. Waters is not the only cop who has succeeded in Iraq. Other Guard and Reserve units have let their cops take the lead, working the same way they do back home to de-escalate violence and bring security.

Like Lt. Waters, they have achieved some local successes.

In order to turn local successes into success on a larger scale, American policy needs to focus more broadly on de-escalation. Here again there is some tentative good news. According to the London Sunday Times on June 26, the United States is now negotiating with several of the Sunni insurgent groups. Tensions between Ba'athist elements of the Iraqi resistance and Islamist elements, especially those employing foreign fighters, have already escalated to the point of firefights between the two. We should be able to make deals with some of the Ba'athists.

The Times reported that the resistance leaders we are talking with have one main demand: that we set a date for leaving Iraq. One of the Iraqi negotiators was quoted as saying, "We told them it did not matter whether we are talking about one year or a five-year plan but that we insisted on having a timetable nonetheless." That is a demand the United States should be willing to meet.

Not only would a set date for American withdrawal undermine much of the resistance, it would turn our opponents back on themselves by allowing the Ba'athists to focus on fighting the Islamists, assuming we are smart enough to let them do so. It would also help the American public see some end to a conflict with which it is understandable growing weary.

Fourth Generation theory says that to have any hope of victory, an outside force needs to de-escalate on every level.

If other American units in Iraq could learn from cops like Lt. Waters how to de-escalate on the local, tactical level, and we could combine that with de-escalation on the strategic level through a deal with Ba'athist insurgents, we might still be able to avoid outright defeat.

Given the consequences of earlier errors such as disbanding the Iraqi army, that is as close to victory as we can now realistically hope to come.

Contributing Editor William S. Lind, a veteran defense policy analyst, is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation. The views expressed in this article are those of Mr. Lind writing in his personal capacity. He can be reached through the foundation's mailform. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.

U.S. troops missing, Taliban claims to hold one

"KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. helicopters and hundreds of troops were searching on Friday for soldiers who went missing in Afghanistan just before a helicopter coming to their aid was shot down, while the Taliban claimed to be holding one American.

U.S. forces looking for members of the reconnaissance team since Tuesday's helicopter crash in mountainous Kunar province bordering Pakistan have no reason to believe any of them have been killed or captured, U.S. spokesmen said.

Col. Jim Yonts said he could neither confirm nor deny a claim by Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi that insurgents killed seven U.S. 'spies' before the Chinook helicopter was shot down. All 16 Special Forces soldiers aboard were killed.

On Friday Hakimi, whose information has often proved unreliable, said guerrillas in Kunar captured an American soldier on Wednesday who had been aboard the helicopter when it crashed.
'He was trying to escape up the mountain when our mujahideen (holy warriors) caught him,' he said.

Asked what evidence the Taliban had that they were holding a U.S. soldier, he replied: 'The Americans have announced themselves that some of their soldiers are missing."...

Iraqi soldier seen through an Iraqi national flag at an activation ceremony. Posted by Picasa

The Counterterrorism Blog: DISTURBING NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN

The Counterterrorism Blog: DISTURBING NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN: "Taliban fighters linked to Al Qaeda shotdown a U.S. military helicopter on Tuesday reportedly with an RPG. According to FBIS reports, a Taliban spokesman claimed that US forces had inserted seven 'spies' into the moutains west of Asadabad and that mujahedin had killed some and were pursuing others. About 12 hours after the chopper was downed and before the crash was announced by US officials, a spokesman for the Taliban movement, Abdul Latif Hakimi, said that the group's fighters have shot down the aircraft in the village of Shorak. Hakimi said that the group had video of the crash and would post photographs on its Web site. So far nothing has been posted.

We now know from US sources that the helicopter's passengers included members of a Quick Reaction Force who were responding to calls for assistance by US troops on the ground who were fighting Islamic militants.

Beyond the tragedy of the deaths of 16 US military personnel, this incident raises some disturbing issues. The ability of the Taliban to communicate with the outside world about activities in a remote area of Afghanistan is equal to if not better than that of the United States. War is not simply engagements on the ground, it also involves information flow. The Taliban are showing a very sophisticated capability in this regard.

More troubling is the possibility that the Taliban forces knew in advance that US forces were coming into the area and were in a position to ambush our people. That is a counterintelligence problem pointing to possible penetrations of US operational plans. Finally it is clear that Islamic extremists along the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan are stepping up their infiltration of Afghanistan in an apparent bid to derail elections there. This is a war the United States cannot fight alone. Unfortunately it appears that our erstwhile Pakistani allies are not doing their part to stem the tide of Islamic militants entering Afghanistan and to locate and destroy the remnants of Bin Laden's forces that have, until this moment, enjoyed safehaven.

July 2 women at funeral of Kamalezz al-Deen al-Gharaifi an aide to Sistani. Posted by Picasa

U.S.: Photo Not of Iran Chief

"U.S. investigators have concluded that Iranian president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not the glowering Islamic militant seen escorting an American hostage in a 1979 photograph that was widely publicized this week, officials said Friday."...

A U.S. official familiar with the investigation of Ahmadinejad's role said that analysts had found "serious discrepancies" between the figure in the 1979 photo and other images of the Iranian president-elect. The discrepancies included differences in facial structure and features, the official said.

If there is a case to be made that Ahmadinejad was among the hostage takers in 1979, the official said, "it doesn't look as if it will be done on the basis of those photographs."

The official stressed that the investigation was continuing and that it was "still an open question" whether Ahmadinejad was involved in the hostage crisis. Analysis of the photos was just one of many avenues in what has become a multi-agency inquiry, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday that those involved in the inquiry were "searching through all the information at their disposal," and planned to interview former hostages. McCormack also said that the intelligence community was involved in the inquiry.

...William J. Daugherty, a former CIA officer who was one of the hostages, said Friday that he was not positive that Ahmadinejad was the bearded man shown in the 1979 photo, but said he remained convinced that Ahmadinejad was among the hostage takers.

Daugherty, who lives in Savannah, Ga., said he and other former hostages "did not make our identification based on that AP photo from 1979. We made it looking at the guy today...."

[bth: it appears he is not the guy in the AP photo. It is unclear if he was involved in the hostage taking. It is important that we work on the basis of fact with this assertion and not to speculation, especially that spread by Iranian ex-pats.]

Afghanistan June 26, 2005 Posted by Picasa

Iran's Nuclear Program: Recent Developments

Here is a report for Congress updated May 18, 2005 entitled "Iran's Nuclear Program: Recent Developents."

Corporal Cole Hansen meets President Bush. Posted by Picasa

No Bounce: Bush Job Approval Unchanged by War Speech

"President Bush's televised address to the nation produced no noticeable bounce in his approval numbers, with his job approval rating slipping a point from a week ago, to 43%, in the latest Zogby International poll. And, in a sign of continuing polarization, more than two-in-five voters (42%) say they would favor impeachment proceedings if it is found the President misled the nation about his reasons for going to war with Iraq."...

Central Baghdad Posted by Picasa

Divers discover WWII U.S. sub in Gulf of Thailand

"BANGKOK - A team of deep-sea divers has discovered the wreck of a U.S. submarine sunk by a Japanese minelayer 60 years ago in the Gulf of Thailand during the closing stages of World War Two.

The U.S.S. Lagarto, a 1,500 ton 'Balao class' submarine, disappeared without trace on May 4, 1945 after attacking a Japanese tanker and destroyer convoy around 100 miles off the southeast coast of Thailand..."

Girls in Iraq play with a toy gun. July 2, 2005 Posted by Picasa

She just learned her son was killed by a suicide bomber while in a recruiting line. July 2, 2005 Posted by Picasa

FBI Searches San Diego-Area Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham's Home

"SAN DIEGO (AP) - Federal authorities intensified their investigation into Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham's dealings with a defense contractor by simultaneously serving search warrants on both coasts - one for his California home and another for a yacht where he has stayed while in Washington, D.C.

Cunningham's lawyer called the searches 'an appalling abuse of government power.'

FBI agents Friday searched Cunningham's $2.55 million mansion outside San Diego and a 42-foot yacht named Duke Stir, according to a bureau spokeswoman, who said agents from the Department of Defense and Internal Revenue Service assisted.

Authorities also searched the Washington, D.C., offices of defense firm MZM Inc. MZM's founder, Mitchell Wade, bought a home from the congressman in 2003 at what may have been an inflated $1.7 million price. Wade also owns the boat docked on the Potomac River where Cunningham said he has lived part-time since April 2004. ..."

Cunningham, 63, a former Navy "Top Gun" fighter pilot and eight-term Republican congressman, has said that he showed poor judgment in selling the house, but he acted honestly and predicted that an investigation would prove that.

After buying the 3,826-square-foot house north of San Diego in 2003, Wade put it back on the market and eventually took a $700,000 loss when he resold it a year later. During that span, home prices in San Diego County rose an average of nearly 25 percent.

Meanwhile, MZM Inc. was increasing its federal contracting business. In 2004, MZM tripled its revenue and nearly quadrupled its staff, according to its Web site.

Cunningham is a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, both of which oversee the kind of classified intelligence work MZM does for the military. ..

The Defense Department halted orders this month on a five-year contract that provided MZM with $163 million of revenue over its first three years after the department's inspector general found that it did not satisfy rules on competitiveness.


Victims of suicide bomber on July 2, 2005 in Iraq. Most of the victims are recruits. Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 01, 2005

Marines in western Iraq defuse nine roadside bombs

"U.S. Marines conducting raids aimed at disrupting foreign fighter networks in western Iraq defused nine roadside bombs Friday, a day after a light armored vehicle struck a mine, injuring six Marines, a company commander said.

A supply convoy entering the city of Hit found the roadside bombs along a major artery, and Marines taking part in Operation Sword traced trigger wires to a school, said Maj. Steve Lawson, of Columbus Ohio, who commands the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.

The bombs were spread along 500 yards of roadway by insurgents. ...."

Funeral for Lapinski at Arlington National Cemetery Posted by Picasa

Pace of troop deaths up in Iraq

"BAGHDAD - U.S. military deaths in Iraq increased by about one-third in the past year, even as Iraq established its own government and assumed more responsibility for battling the insurgency.

At least 882 U.S. troops died in the 12 months through Thursday, up from 657 in the preceding year, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Defense Department numbers. Iraqis assumed sovereignty a year ago this week, part of a U.S. strategy to lessen the visibility of U.S. troops and shift more responsibility for security to Iraq forces..."

Lapinski of Naples FL at Arlington National Cemetery Posted by Picasa

Forward Operating Base Bernstein. Hart and Hebert Ranges. Posted by Picasa

Operation Truth - Bipartisan Amendment to Support Veterans' Benefits Fails By One Vote

"U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon introduced a bill to increase funding for programs aiding Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The additional $53 million, an amendment to the Military Quality of Life appropriations bill, would have improved combat-related trauma care and medical and prosthetic research, increased compensation for surviving spouses with children, and sped processing of veterans benefits. Read more on the proposed amendment here.


How did your Representative vote? Check out the roll call below:"

PFC Jon Bartlett, Jan. 31, 2005 Posted by Picasa

Pakistani Agents Nab Three Men Suspected of Links With Al-Qaida,

"ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - Three men suspected of ties to Osama bin Laden's terror network have been arrested in Pakistan, a major newspaper reported Friday.

The suspects were traveling in a vehicle when they were caught Thursday in Mardan, a deeply conservative town in northwestern Pakistan, according to The Jang, Pakistan's largest circulation newspaper"...

Lt. Nathan White. Arlington National Cemetery. Posted by Picasa

Army to Use Fewer National Guard Troops in Iraq

"The Army plans to draw far fewer reservists for Iraq duty in a new rotation of forces that has just begun, counting instead on active-duty soldiers to fill most of the deployment requirement, the Army's top officer reported yesterday.

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, said in Senate testimony that the number of Army National Guard brigades in Iraq will drop from seven this year to as few as two next year. In relation to the total number of troops, that would cut the share of Guard units from 41 percent to 11 percent...."

March 2005, 10th Mountain Posted by Picasa

Dozens Are Arrested in U.S.-Iraqi Operation

..."Capt. Hussein Abbas of the Iraqi army said that about two tons of explosives had been confiscated in Hit and that 45 suspects had been arrested, including some from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria.

Iraqi and U.S. officials say prospective insurgents from Europe, Africa and Asia have been undergoing training in Syria and then crossing the border into Iraq, all with the consent of the Syrian government.

...Alston told reporters the military estimated that foreigners accounted for roughly 5 percent of an insurgency believed to number between 15,000 and 20,000. But Alston said many of those fighters were 'folks that don't choose to fight every day.' The core of the insurgent movement measured 'more in the hundreds,' he said.

The insurgents -- Iraqis and foreigners alike -- are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim Arabs. Iraqi leaders have repeatedly emphasized the importance of undercutting the insurgency by drawing Iraqi Sunnis into a political process that is so far dominated by Shiite Muslims and ethnic Kurds, who also are Sunnis.

On Wednesday, a former Iraqi electricity minister, Aiham Alsammarae, announced that he had formed a Sunni political organization whose members would include some Iraqis with links to insurgent groups.

On Thursday, however, three insurgent groups -- the Ansar al-Sunna Army, the Mujaheddin Army and the Islamic Army in Iraq -- distributed a statement at a mosque in Hit saying they were not involved with Alsammarae's organization and had not taken part in talks with U.S. or Iraqi officials. The statement threatened Alsammarae with death.

"All the resistance groups decided to shed the blood of Aiham Alsammarae because he claimed that he is the mouthpiece of the resistance," the statement said. "We will not talk to the occupation forces except with one language, which is the language of weapons. We promise to continue on our path and will negotiate with the occupier when we see their vehicles leave Iraq."



Fallujah Posted by Picasa

Five Ways to Win Back Iraq - New York Times

..."Vietnam - as well as Northern Ireland and other guerrilla wars - has much to teach. There are at least five specific lessons that must be adapted to today's cause:

Think safety first A main point of counterinsurgency operations is that ensuring the safety of the people and giving them an economic and political incentive to oppose the insurgency is more important than fighting the insurgents themselves. Insurgencies wither on the vine without popular support. Thus the first big change would be to de-emphasize chasing insurgents around the Sunni Triangle, and to instead put a higher priority on protecting Iraqis as they go about their daily lives. "...

Provide enough manpower for the job What is going to make or break Iraqi popular support for reconstruction is safe streets, jobs, clean water, reliable electricity, ample gasoline and the provision of other basics. Achieving these goals will require more than the 155,000 troops in the country, and it is time for the Bush administration to bite the bullet, whether by deploying additional standing forces, calling up reserves, or spurring recruitment by increasing pay and benefits (and maybe even providing a rationale that the American people would buy)....

American troops need to be on the streets, patrolling on foot with Iraqis, to reassure civilians. This is the only way to create a safe "space" for Iraq's economy and society to revive....

Let them learn When Lt. Gen. David Petraeus took over the training of Iraqi security forces last year, he told me that it would take three to five years before they could take over from American troops. He is still right. Unfortunately, we have regularly rushed Iraqi units into frontline duty before they were ready to try to make up for the shortfall in our troops.

...Get beyond Baghdad The capital has become a giant bottleneck for everything going on in Iraq. ...

Perhaps the most underreported story in Iraq today is the theft of its oil revenues. Thanks to the high price of crude, Iraq should make well over $20 billion from oil sales this year, yet almost none of this money seems to be going to actual reconstruction projects. One senior Iraqi official told me recently that the theft of oil revenues today is making Saddam Hussein's regime look frugal by comparison.

Moreover, in their determination to snuff out competitors, many politicians have fought tirelessly to prevent any delegation of authority or direct distribution of money or supplies to provincial or local officials. This tendency to keep things centralized is reinforced because the American Embassy's personnel cannot leave the capital's heavily fortified "green zone," and thus focus most of their efforts on the central government.

Reconstruction is most likely to succeed if it can grow from the bottom up. Certainly the top-down approach we are now employing has rarely worked in the past....

Buy off the Sunni sheiks There is no question that bringing the Sunni population - particularly the tribes that are the principal supporters of the insurgency - into the Iraqi government and making them feel that they have a stake in the system is critical to long-term stability. In the shorter term, however, we can put a big dent in the insurgency by reaching out to Sunni tribal leaders and paying them protection money...

...THE course we have adopted in Iraq so far is not working particularly well and it could fail altogether. To date, most of the changes offered by both sides of the political aisle amount to little more than tinkering with the current strategy. But if we're going to succeed in stabilizing Iraq and defeating its insurgency, we are going to have to make a radical shift to a traditional counterinsurgency strategy, even though it could be politically very painful. No matter what one thinks of the invasion, it is clearly in our best interest, to say nothing of the Arab world's, that we succeed in Iraq. To do so, we will have to apply some lessons we learned from bitter history.









San Fancisco March 23, 2005 Posted by Picasa

A former U.S. adviser describes how Iraq insurgency was born

..."To achieve lasting peace in Iraq, America will have to make concessions, including an explicit commitment not to seek permanent military bases in Iraq. Perhaps no issue in the coming years will more clearly expose the real purpose of the Bush administration's postwar mission in Iraq: to build democracy or to obtain a new, regional military platform in the heart of the Arab world.

Make no mistake about it: While Iraqis are glad to be rid of Saddam, they also want their country back. Only if we make it clear that we will withdraw our military forces when Iraq is stable will we create the political context in which Iraq can once again become secure. The alternative would leave us mired indefinitely in a violent quagmire in Iraq.

---

ABOUT THE WRITER
Larry Diamond is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His book, 'Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq,' was published this month. He wrote this article for the San Jose Mercury News."

[bth: this article is long and well written and throughtful. It is worth a full read. I just excerpted the last two paragraphs.]

North County Times - Incredibly, Marines still lack armor - OpEd

"By:Our view: There is a war on. Throughout history, variations of this statement inspired ordinary Americans to extraordinary behavior: Our grandparents threw themselves on hand grenades, collected scrap metal and went out in public without nylons. - Because at rock bottom, 'There's a war on' is a call to arms and to action. This truth multiplies our outrage that, nearly four years after this country was attacked, a tragic inaction lingers among President Bush, Congress, the Pentagon and the nation's defense industry.

Our Marines and soldiers are still dying ---- not because of the skill, determination and strength of an enemy, but because the vaunted U.S. war machine has failed to deliver armored vehicles. Our leaders have made other mistakes, but none is more troubling than this failure to protect our troops.

The banality of this failure was exposed in excruciating detail by The New York Times and the Boston Globe over the last week in reports we published through our wire services. Put simply, bureaucracy and poor leadership are killing our troops ---- from the White House, to the Pentagon, to Marine headquarters, to military contractors, to the oversight committees in Congress.

In a telling example, Marine commanders told Congress last week that the armor to upgrade hundreds of Humvees has been sitting in Kuwait since April. The problem was 'lack of leadership,' said Maj. Gen. William D. Catto, head of the Marine Corps Systems Command.
In November, Army and Marine leaders told Congress that 100 percent of Humvees in Iraq would have factory-built armor plating by March. They were wrong.

There is simply no credible excuse for this tragedy. Commanders in the field first requested armor for vehicles in June 2003, when insurgents began bombing convoys in earnest. Marines and soldiers were Dumpster-diving for steel to improvise their own protection.

Pentagon officials have known for years that armored Humvees and transport trucks offer dramatically improved protection. But that's not the half of it. Two new armored vehicles ---- capable of surviving direct hits with no injuries ---- have been in the works for years to replace the aging Humvee.

Yet Pentagon budget officials have been loath to green-light the new vehicles. The British invaded Iraq in them.

More recently, Marine bureaucrats took four months to draft an armor contract and release it for production. As for U.S. military contractors, the company in Ohio that makes Humvee armor kits refused Pentagon requests to transfer technology rights to speed production. The company wanted to preserve its "competitive position."

You get the idea. Bureaucracy, inefficiency, selfishness. In other words, business as usual in the U.S. military-industrial complex.

We would like to tell you that a hero of this sad tale is Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, who as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is the most powerful member of Congress on this issue. Indeed, Hunter has been relentless in exposing Pentagon failures to protect the troops. Still, as the authority here, he must share some of the blame.

For all of Hunter's fury, nobody has been punished as troops die needlessly. Fully half of the U.S. casualties in the Iraq war have come from bomb blasts hitting underprotected vehicles, according to a defense industry study.

To be sure, war is always accompanied by mistakes and miscalculations. But a hallmark of the American military has been its ability to learn, respond and bounce back.

Today we jeopardize that history. As always, our troops need smart generals, good equipment and support back home. After all, there is war on.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Some commentary on rates of equipment degradation in Iraq.

I was reading the prepared comments of General Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corp. for the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 30, 2005 note this information:

  • "Over 5,300 major pieces of equipment have been either destroyed or degraded to the point that they must be rebuilt resulting in a corresponding increase in maintenance work. As an example of the harsh environment and the increased usage on our equiment, HMMWVs which have an estimated useful life of 13 years, need to be replaced after two years of operating in Iraq."
  • Consequently, non-deployed units, from whom we have filled out our deployed units, are experiencing shortages. We have validated that sustained operations over a widely dispersed geographic area require more material then we had anticipated.

Army recruits shortfall blamed on Iraq war critics

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several Senate Republicans denounced other lawmakers and the news media on Thursday for unfavorable depictions of the Iraq war and the Pentagon urged members of Congress to talk up military service to help ease a recruiting shortfall.

Families are discouraging young men and women from enlisting 'because of all the negative media that's out there,' Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Inhofe also said that other senators' criticism of the war contributed to the propaganda of U.S. enemies. He did not name the senators."...

The Army on Wednesday said it was 14 percent, or about 7,800 recruits, behind its year-to-date recruitment target even though it exceeded its monthly target in June. With extended deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, recruiting also is down for the National Guard and the Reserves...

Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, the committee chairman, pressed the Pentagon to declassify information on progress of training Iraq's forces, considered a key indicator of when U.S. forces can return home.

"The American taxpayer put a tremendous investment in that retraining and the equipping," Warner said. With that information, he said, "We can better translate where we are in terms of hopefully providing them (Iraqis) with trained individuals and equipment to eventually replace our forces."

Democrats questioned the Pentagon officials on how the Iraq war has strained the military's readiness for other potential conflicts and on delays in providing troops with adequate armor against car bombs and other explosives.

...Schoomaker acknowledged up to 25 percent of the Humvees in Iraq still had the low grade of protective armor, but he said all should be equipped with higher grade armor in September.

He also agreed that in some cases the level of readiness of units was below desired levels because of the strain of the Iraq conflict and the Army's efforts to streamline its operations.

In his testimony, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee said readiness for battalion and squadron-sized Marine units had dropped by 40 percent because of the priority put on sustaining units in Iraq at the expense of the units that had rotated out of the war.



Iraq MP's Murder Sparks Tension

"A member of Iraq's Parliament, three of his bodyguards and his son were killed by a suicide car bomb attack on their convoy in the northern outskirts of Baghdad yesterday.

Dhari Ali Al-Fayadh, a member of the ruling Shiite-dominated political alliance, was the second member of Iraq's newly elected Parliament to be assassinated since the Shiite- and Kurdish-led government took office two months ago.

Al-Qaeda's wing in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack, saying his 'crime'was that he belonged to a council that legislated against what it saw as God's commands....

The murder set off a storm of protests by lawmakers, with some calling for Shi'is to begin ensuring their own defense.

He referred to comments by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who acknowledged contacts with some insurgent leaders.

Furious Shi'i deputies suggested that the time had come to counter relentless attacks that have targeted their community.
Khodr Al-Khozai of the Shi'i-dominated United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) appealed to the three biggest Sunni organizations in Iraq: 'We call on the Committee of Muslim Scholars, the Waqf (state-run endowment group) and Iraqi Islamic Party to take a clear stand regarding murders and attacks on Shi'is.

We are on the edge of a precipice that could swallow us all. The ministries of interior and defense have proved incapable of defending us and in this case the people have the right to self-defense,” Khozai said.

A deputy from the Mehdi Army of Shi'i cleric Moqtada Sadr suggested neighborhood committees be created with religious and community leaders to work with the interior and defense ministries. “These committees would know how to find the terrorists,” Fatah Al-Sheikh promised.

Residents of the town helped police seal off access to the site, where parts of the bomber’s body lay scattered over a wide area, and nervous plainclothes men scrutinized outsiders.

President Jalal Talabani denied that Iraq had a role in US talks with the resistance leaders, insisting they were strictly a US affair despite Washington’s claims it was acting only as a facilitator. The contacts were reportedly aimed at trying to put an end to the resistance attacks.

“The Iraqi government has nothing to do with the negotiations,” Talabani told a news conference. “If the Americans are negotiating with them, it’s up to them.” Talabani spoke hours before US President George W. Bush was to present increasingly skeptical Americans with reasons why up to 135,000 troops should stay in Iraq, as two more US deaths pushed the toll to 1,731 since March 2003.



Code Dumb: Look Who's Spying on Your Granny -- editorial Sacramento Bee

[bth: I was forwarded an editorial from the Sacramento Bee's June 30, 2005 issue. Unfortunately the link to the article required a subscription which I opted not to take. Here it is anyway. So the California National Guard has taken it upon itself to begin investigating these groups. Take a look at the Raging Grannies website and look at the line from the Lt. Col. "Who knows who could infiltrate that type of group? Well they'd need a walker or a cane to get in I suppose. Also who appointed the National Guard to start dossiers. This country once respected First Amendment rights to peaceful assembly.]

Groups with names such as Raging Grannies, Gold Star Families for Peace and CodePink may not sound very threatening to our national security. Yet last month a special intelligence unit of the California National Guard was quietly tracking these groups as they prepped for an anti-war protest in front of the Capitol.

As the San Jose Mercury News reported Sunday, the California National Guard has established an "Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion" program. It's a legacy of Maj. Gen. Thomas Eres, the Guard leader who was forced to retire this month. The unit's purpose, according to the Guard, is to monitor, analyze and distribute information on potential terrorist threats.

Leaders of the California National Guard say the unit doesn't collect information on U.S. citizens. Maybe not, but it came dangerously close to crossing that line, if not charging across it, at the Mother's Day rally last month .

That's the rainy day when a few dozen Californians, including families of soldiers killed in the Iraq war, attended a rally outside the state Capitol. Three days beforehand, an aide in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's press office had alerted the California National Guard to the coming protest, according to the Mercury News.

The Guard sprung into action.

"Sir," one colonel wrote to his boss, Col. Jeff Davis, who oversees the intelligence unit. "Information you wanted on Sunday's demonstration at the Capitol."

"Thanks," Davis replied, in an e-mail obtained by the newspaper. "Forwarding same to our Intell. folks who continue to monitor."

Guard officials say they did not send anyone to physically monitor the protest. They just kept tabs on it from a distance. A spokesman said the Guard would be negligent in not tracking anti-war rallies, which could easily escalate into a riot.

"Who knows who could infiltrate that type of group and try to stir something up?" said spokesman Lt. Col. Stan Zezotarski about CodePink and the Raging Grannies. "After all, we live in the age of terrorism."

The California National Guard has already hurt its reputation by setting up a questionable military flight for Republican Party activists and diverting money earmarked for drug interdiction. Partly because of those controversies, the Schwarzenegger administration forced Eres to retire early this month.

While the California National Guard has a proper role in ensuring security, the California Highway Patrol and not the Guard is the lead agency in protecting the Capitol. So why, at a time when it is stretched thin both here and in Iraq, is the Guard apparently engaging in "mission bloat" by snooping on political groups?

Unless they want to be featured in the next Michael Moore movie, leaders of the Guard and the governor should examine their policies about alerting the snoops whenever Californians exercise their First Amendment rights. Military intelligence, the old joke says, is an oxymoron. It's a particularly dangerous one in the hands of amateurs.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

al-Qaeda Publishes Booklet Titled: 'Why We Fight 'and Against Whom?

"The Shari'a Committee of al-Qaeda in Iraq recently published a 49-page booklet titled: "Why We Fight - and Against Whom" which was electronically distributed across several al-Qaeda affiliated forums. Allegedly written by Abu Hamza al-Baghdadi, a member of the Shari'a Committee, the booklet is primarily divided into two 'examinations, each containing several 'quests'outlining the group's position concerning their jihad and branding Shi'ite Muslims as an enemy 'worse than Jews and Christians, because they chose for themselves a path other than that of Islam, and have opened the widest doors of infidelity'

The booklet discusses in great detail the motivation for the mujahideen, explaining that they are fighting what they see as 'contemporary persecution'by those who do not follow Islam, or are followers of an Islamic faith they do not hold true. Their stated goal in this battle is to propagate their brand of Islam, and at the same time, expunge the 'corruptive elements'within society, including 'idols, prostitution and fornication,' and smash the 'false proselytizers'and the governments protecting them'Further, Muslim governments who support Western prospects are accorded greater enmity, and jihad against these 'Imams of infidelity'takes 'priority over fighting Jews and crusaders'

Concluding the publication, the Shari'a Committee of al-Qaeda in Iraq assails democratic government, believing it a deification which impugns Allah's rule and 'since democracy is a system that claims to be the highest authority, it must be considered a religion.' Whoever adopts this 'religion' including members of parliament or the people who voted for their election, is branded an infidel and “must be treated accordingly.”

Contract soldier Posted by Hello

Sunnis will nab Zarqawi when 'ready'

"Sunni 'fence sitters' in Iraq say they would be willing to take on master terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi and rid the country of foreign saboteurs if the Shi'ite-run government's new political structure is acceptable to them, according to a senior U.S. official.

'The Iraqis will kill every foreigner who comes into their neighborhood when they're ready,' said the senior official who has spent months in Iraq. 'They don't want foreigners in Iraq.'

The official, who has held numerous meetings with what he called 'influential fence sitters,' said the representatives have told him they are only tolerating foreign terrorists because they are a 'pressure tool' to force the Shi'ites and the U.S. to consider Sunni political demands for more representation in the Baghdad government.

'We'll catch him when we're ready,' the official quoted one Sunni as telling him, referring to Zarqawi.

The official also said the Sunnis are demanding that Shi'ite security forces cease what the Sunnis consider harassing search-and-seizure measures that target innocent Iraqis.

'We're getting a lot of bad guys,' the official said. 'Are non-bad guys being killed? Absolutely. ... A civil war has started to a degree.'"...

[bth: this article is worth a read to understand the dynamics between the Iraqi Sunnis and the foreign jihadists.]

Mother of Sgt. Swisher. Posted by Hello

Out of President's Sight, Arlington's Rows of Grief Expand

"And at Arlington National Cemetery, Army Spec. Louis E. Niedermeier of Largo, Fla., was being placed in Section 60, Grave 8188."...

But the nation's leaders are missing these somber and patriotic pageants. Members of Congress rarely attend. Top Pentagon officials do so only occasionally. And President Bush has yet to bury a fallen warrior.

Niedermeier was an enlisted man. He was just a kid who worked at Best Buy and joined the military because of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, so he did not qualify for the military band and horse-drawn caisson that officers get. But even his modest ceremony merited six military pallbearers, a seven-member drill team, a bugler and an Army chaplain. "Today, we lay to rest another patriot," Chaplain Kenneth Kerr told mourners. "Our nation owes him a debt of gratitude."

On bended knee, Gen. Michael L. Combest handed a folded flag to the grieving mother, Denise Hoy. She accepted her son's Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Good Conduct medal. After the rounds were fired and taps was played, she turned, sobbing, to speak. "I am so proud of my son," she said.

Aides say Bush has not attended a military funeral because he does not want to favor one ultimate sacrifice over another. They point out that he meets frequently with wounded troops and relatives of the dead, and he has remembered fallen soldiers on Memorial Day and similar observances. "Their funerals are a time for their family and friends to mourn and remember their loved one in a private way," said Scott McClellan, White House press secretary.

This is a departure from past presidents' practices. President Jimmy Carter attended ceremonies for troops killed in the failed hostage-rescue mission in Iran. President Ronald Reagan attended a service for Marines killed in Beirut. President Clinton went to Andrews Air Force Base to see the coffins of Americans killed in a terrorist attack in Nairobi in 1998.

Bush's absence from funerals has kept them off the front pages, one of several administration policies that have minimized Americans' exposure to the costs of war. The Pentagon has cracked down on allowing photographs of flag-draped caskets as they arrive at military bases. And, late last year, the administration began enforcing restrictions that keep photographers and reporters some 50 yards from services.
There is still no memorial for the Iraq dead, but their rows in Section 60 show the signs of fresh grief and recent death. Thirteen graves are too new to have tombstones yet; green metal markers with photos of the fallen suffice. Four graves have been filled so recently that they do not even have sod yet, just newly packed earth.

The Iraq dead, mixed with some of the 16 killed in Afghanistan, take up three rows in the cemetery and have begun to fill a fourth. The Iraq rows (a few soldiers from other wars are intermingled) begin with an Army Ranger killed on March 11, 2003, and show the extraordinary diversity of the military: There are standard crosses, Methodist crosses, Jewish Stars of David, the Mormon Angel Moroni, the Muslim crescent and star, and symbols of Asian faiths. One grave is adorned with baby pictures of the deceased. Other, larger stones, mark the mixed remains of troops killed in helicopter crashes and the like.

Awaiting the casket, Niedermeier's grave, the ninth one in the fourth row of the Iraq dead, held a concrete liner and was surrounded by synthetic turf. Ten chairs for the immediate family occupied the spot where the next Iraq burial will likely occur. A breeze tossed orchids from a graveside wreath.

The whole ceremony was executed in half an hour with mechanized precision. The drill team marched onto the field with their rifles. The bugler took position. And the pallbearers marched over to meet the hearse. Niedermeier's father, mother, grandmother and 11-year-old stepsister, all in black, followed the heavy metal casket to the grave.

...The chaplain read the 23rd Psalm. The drill team fired. The 11-year-old covered her ears. The bugler played. The mourners touched handkerchiefs to their eyes.

The brief ceremony over, Niedermeier's father, Edward, rose to speak to the mourners and reminded them that Wednesday would have been Louis's birthday. "He should have been 21," Niedermeier said. The mourners returned to their cars, the honor guard retreated, and the Niedermeiers, clutching their son's flags and medals, lingered a few moments longer at his grave.

[bth: John is in Section 60 grave 7892. The rows continue to advance and it is one of the saddest aspects of this section, the fresh graves. I believe the policies of funeral coverage were changed after we buried John and one year before the elections. There is something sad about hiding the cost of war from the public eye.]

Twilight Posted by Hello

VA Faces $2.6 Billion Shortfall in Medical Care

"The Bush administration disclosed yesterday that it had vastly underestimated the number of service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan seeking medical treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and warned that the health care programs will be short at least $2.6 billion next year unless Congress approves additional funds.

Veterans Affairs budget documents projected that 23,553 veterans would return this year from Iraq and Afghanistan and seek medical treatment. However, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson told a Senate committee that the number has been revised upward to 103,000 for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. He said the original estimates were based on outdated assumptions from 2002"

...Just last week, the VA revealed that the rise in demand for VA health facilities had caused a $1 billion shortfall in operating funds for the current year. That would more than double in the coming year without congressional intervention.

Senate Republicans, embarrassed and angered over the revelations, yesterday announced plans to pass emergency legislation this morning to add $1.5 billion to the fiscal 2005 appropriation. The move is designed to appease angry veterans groups and preempt a Democratic proposal calling for $1.42 billion in increased VA spending.

The action represents a reversal of GOP policies toward the VA. For the past four months, House and Senate Republicans have repeatedly defeated Democratic amendments to boost VA medical funding.

..."I sit here having recently learned that the information provided to me thus far has been disturbingly inaccurate," Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) told Nicholson. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) told Nicholson that the failure to alert Congress earlier about the VA's money problems "borders on stupidity."

"Somebody was hoping they could hide the ball for a while and talk about it later, and frankly in this arena you can't afford to do that," Lewis said.

As GOP House and Senate leaders scrambled to deal with the politically damaging shortfall and quell criticism from veterans' advocacy groups, Democrats intensified charges that the Bush administration and the Republican congressional majorities are failing to care for those who put their lives on the line for the country.

Rep. Chet Edwards (Tex.), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee on military quality of life and veterans affairs, said the administration and Republican leadership had been made aware of the problems as far back as 2004 when Reps. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) and Lane Evans (Ill.,), then chairman and ranking Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, called for major increases in spending.

Instead of dealing with the problem, Edwards said, the House Republican leadership "fired Smith," forcing him out of the chairmanship....

[bth: This information has been around for months and vastly underreported. The Republicans deliberately underbudgeted the VA to keep the official deficit numbers down. Last year the Republican party leadership fired Smith as Chairman for giving realistic estimates of usage as a result of Iraq. It was a criminal act in my opinion and a betrayal of trust for veterans. It is another clear indication of the administrations attempt to hide the cost of war. It is shameful and deliberate. I have come to hate the lies.]

Staff Sgt. Gary Collins family Posted by Hello

Defense Industry Daily - Daily news for procurement managers and defense contractors - $34M to Conjure Up More Warlocks Against IEDs

"EDO Communications and Countermeasures, Thousand Oaks, CA received a $34 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for Warlock Green and Red Electronic Countermeasure Devices."...

Work on this contract will be performed in Thousand Oaks, CA, and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2005. There were an unknown number of bids solicited via the World Wide Web on June 8, 2005, and one bid was received. The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, N.J issued the contract (W15P7T-04-C-L001).

[2,266 units at $15K is a rough guess.]

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Regarding the Armor Holdings Rebuttal to the NYT

Below is the rebuttal submitted by Armor Holdings to Sunday's New York Times article on armored vehicle production as a letter to the editor. It was also issued as a press release on Monday.

Armor Holdings is the parent company of O'Gara-Hess which makes the up-armoring for the M-1114 fully armored humvee.

As I am familiar with this topic and the production and procurement issues surrounding it over the last 18 months since our son was killed I feel I've earned the right to comment.

  • Generals were making comments to the Senate Armed Services Committee in Nov. 03 that the humvee plant was running at full capacity. This myth would continue for most of 2004 and in all cases was untrue.
  • It is my understanding that the first order for an increase in production actually did not reach the plant until January 2004.
  • I heard repeatedly in early 2004 that Armor Holdings purchased 3 months of steel in advance of receiving any orders at its own risk in order to meet production schedules even when it did not yet receive purchase orders. It also helped that steel was appreciating over a third during this period, but the fact is it was a risk the company took to meet an anticipated national need.
  • To my knowledge the company kept about 50 to 75 vehicles ahead of delivery schedules through 2004 and reached 450 around September or October 2004.
  • The company reached 550 vehicles per month around March of 2005 in response to the slamming Rumsfeld took in December 2004 when instead of telling a Specialist in a town hall discussion in Kuwait that he would go back to the Pentagon and get things moving that dumpster diving was a figment of this soldier's imagination. This was said to be about the maximum the company could produce with two shifts and no additional expansion.
  • Here is where it gets strange, the Army Sec. issued a feel good press release in Dec. 04 telling the world that he had negotiated CEO to CEO with Armor Holdings to get production to 550 per month. The press release was issued on a Friday afternoon and CNN and Fox read the press release verbatim as news to the world without checking it further. The trickery of it was that no new vehicles had been ordered. The production from May 05 had simply been pushed forward on the production schedule to March and sometime around the end of May these 500 workers would run out of orders and presumably be terminated. I went nuts in December trying to get anyone in the media that would look into the matter to investigate but I think with the exception of two reporters the story never got out.
  • Now check out this posting I made in April 2005 called "Last Call for Armored Humvees" Come April 2005 the House passes an additional $213 million to keep the armored humvee plant running through the end of the fiscal year (September 05) at near capacity to prevent it from being shut down, but Rumsfeld had submitted a FY04 budget that was only at a 4% increase. When he needed armor for the heavy trucks, he actually took it from the payroll accounts to make ends meet depending on a supplemental to come to solve that problem. The humvee production issue moved to the Senate and what seemed like a no brainer became hotly contested. In fact, on the first day of discussion of a Bayh-Kennedy amendment to match the House's it looked like it would be defeated by the Republicans led by Frist who opposed it even though Spec. Wilson was in the Tennessee National Guard. To make matters worse the Dept. Chief of Staff for the Army submitted a letter to Sen. Inouye which was read on the Senate Floor saying that the Army didn't need any additional armored humvees! The debate went into a second day and finally passed when Sen. McCain led a block of moderate Republicans to switch their vote. The final score on the amendment was 61:39 to keep production going through the end of the fiscal year. So imagine the disingenuous discussion by the Pentagon in the NYT about wanting to seize the intellectual property of the company while informing the Senate simultaneously that it didn't need any more M-1114 vehicles and as a consequence Armor Holdings might have to lay off hundreds of workers for lack of orders! Insane.
  • When one looks at the last 18 months, one can't help but shake their heads. The M-1117 program had been canceled by the Army and now has been reinstated for a few hundred vehicles; the Cougar also was raised from the dead and will be less than 200. The M-1114 has gone from a trickle (while Congress was being told it was full capacity) to producing nearly 9,000 vehicles. Its a huge success story. Now maybe there are better designs and better production arrangements coming on line over at AM General, but fact is I haven't seen the results of that yet and am very suspicious of betting hundreds of lives until that production is in full swing.
  • Truth is the wheeled fleet in Iraq is wearing out at an alarming rate. I doubt most of the humvees except the M1114s recently produced will ever return to the US or to full service. They are just worn out. America needs new vehicles and tens of thousands of them. Those maintenance costs and the associated operating costs have all been hidden away to minimize the cost of war to the public eye.
  • Let's just talk a minute about the Marines. So the marines say that they wanted to place orders in the Fall of 2004 but were told they would have to get in line with the Army. Actually that doesn't surprise me. First the armored humvee was traditionally an Army vehicle and the Marines never were fans of it. The 500 or so armored humvees that the Marines did get in 2004 came from the Army and from vehicles they snatched going to Israel. So I suspect AH felt that the Marines would go to the Army for a part of the production run. Keep in mind that AH was looking at orders falling off the cliff this summer so it would make sense to extend the production run another month to anyone running a business.
  • So the NYT article leaves one with the impression that this is the reason marines don't have armored humvees, but if you read further in the article the Marines actually didn't have the money to place an order until February 2005. This is important because my understanding of government procurement is that the government can't place an order without funding in place. So that means that the marines couldn't have actually placed a purchase order in the Fall of 2004 even if they wanted to. Curious.
  • Then come to last weeks hearings at the House Armed Services Committee. Two Marine generals acknowledge a "lack of their leadership" to Chairman Duncan Hunter. Come to find out the Level 2 and Level 3 armored humvees in Iraq are being breached from underneath because they lack undercarriage protection. This represents most of the Marine wheeled fleet. The a Marine figures out how to mitigate the problem with steel found in the field in Kuwait. This goes back to January of this year from what I can tell and I guess Duncan Hunter had to get the Marines to address the issue when the sergeant couldn't get anyone to listen to him. Duncan Hunter thought the problem was resolved in April of 2005, but come to find out the Marine generals didn't process the paperwork or give the go order until Monday of last week, the day before the House Armed Services Committee Hearings. This cost Marine lives and Col. Hackworth's group, Soldiers for the Truth, has demanded their resignations (not just retirements). So the Marines have been issuing public affairs press releases about their other armor programs such as the Cougar (all 27 of them) to make people feel good, just like the press releases on Friday evening last December about humvee production going to 550. I wish they would just focus with all their might on getting armor into the field as quickly as possible instead of PR games.
  • So to make it even crazier, the Marine Inspector General issued a report in May 2005 called "US Marine Corp Ground Equipment in Iraq" Readiness Assessment. In it you can see that as material wears out the Marines are acquiring vehicles (about 600 of them) at replacement rates, not expanding the fleet. Yet, when you get to page 10 in the Summary it says, "The requirement for additional UAHs will likely continue to grow. Even as Marine forces are withdrawn, much of the mobility, communications, and heavy weapons assets may have to be redistributed to the remaining elements. Marine tactical engineering and communications used in garrisons is not expected to be freed up by other service or contracted equipment before 2006."
  • Besides the fact then that the Marines have understated their need for armored vehicles and might be trying to pass the blame on to uncooperative contractors, note this footnote on page 7 of the Marine Inspector General's report, "In nearly every case, the integrity of the Up Armored HMMWV (UAH) cabin was maintained despite significant damage to the engine compartment and wheels. That was not the case for many Level II HMMWVs where shrapnel often penetrated the cabin. However, HMMWVs equipped with the LogCom/SysCom provided MAK armor appeared to withstand IED attacks much better than other Level II armor. " This means in plain English that with the exception of about 500 M1114s in the Marine inventory, the Level II and Level III systems are vulnerable especially underneath at least through December.
  • Last year I watched as Armor Holdings took the heat and the fall for the slow production ramp rate on armored humvees for the Army. They sat quietly by has they got lambasted and generals went to Congress to lament that the plants were running 24x7 and it wasn't their fault. All the while I knew the production orders were lagging by months. I thought it was wrong then and I think it is wrong now that AH take the dive for the Pentagon based on the information I have seen.

First ID ceremony May 2005 Posted by Hello

The Not-So-Long Gray Line - New York Times

[bth: this is an excellent op-ed/letter to the NYTs.]

"JUNE is the month in which West Point celebrates the commissioning of its graduating class and prepares to accept a new group of candidates eager to embrace the arduous strictures of the world's most prestigious military academy. But it can also be a cruel month, because West Pointers five years removed from graduation have fulfilled their obligations and can resign. "

My class, that of 1969, set a record with more than 50 percent resigning within a few years of completing the service commitment. (My father's class, 1945, the one that "missed" World War II, was considered to be the previous record-holder, with about 25 percent resigning before they reached the 20 years of service entitling them to full retirement benefits.)

And now, from what I've heard from friends still in the military and during the two years I spent reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems we may be on the verge of a similar exodus of officers. The annual resignation rate of Army lieutenants and captains rose to 9 percent last year, the highest since before the Sept. 11 attacks. And in May, The Los Angeles Times reported on "an undercurrent of discontent within the Army's young officer corps that the Pentagon's statistics do not yet capture."

I'm not surprised. In 1975, I received a foundation grant to write reports on why such a large percentage of my class had resigned. This money would have been better spent studying the emerging appeal of Scientology, because a single word answered the question: Vietnam.

Yet my classmates were disillusioned with more than being sent to fight an unpopular war. When we became cadets, we were taught that the academy's honor code was what separated West Point from a mere college. This was a little hard to believe at first, because the code seemed so simple; you pledged that you would not lie, cheat or steal, and that you would not tolerate those who did. We were taught that in combat, lies could kill.

But the honor code was not just a way to fight a better war. In the Army, soldiers are given few rights, grave responsibilities, and lots and lots of power. The honor code serves as the Bill of Rights of the Army, protecting soldiers from betraying one another and the rest of us from their terrifying power to destroy. It is all that stands between an army and tyranny.

However, the honor code broke down before our eyes as staff and faculty jobs at West Point began filling with officers returning from Vietnam. Some had covered their uniforms with bogus medals and made their careers with lies - inflating body counts, ignoring drug abuse, turning a blind eye to racial discrimination, and worst of all, telling everyone above them in the chain of command that we were winning a war they knew we were losing. The lies became embedded in the curriculum of the academy, and finally in its moral DNA.

By the time we were seniors, honor court verdicts could be fixed, and there was organized cheating in some units. A few years later, nearly an entire West Point class was implicated in cheating on an engineering exam; the breakdown was complete.

The mistake the Army made then is the same mistake it is making now: how can you educate a group of handpicked students at one of the best universities in the world and then treat them as if they are too stupid to know when they have been told a lie?

I've seen the results firsthand. I have met many lieutenants who have served in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, practically back to back. While everyone in a combat zone is risking his or her life, these junior officers are the ones leading foot patrols and convoys several times a day. Recruiting enough privates for the endless combat rotations is a problem the Army may gamble its way out of with enough money and a struggling economy. But nothing can compensate for losing the combat-hardened junior officers.

In the fall of 2003 I was embedded with the 101st Airborne Division in northern Iraq, and its West Point lieutenants were among the most gung-ho soldiers I have ever encountered, yet most were already talking about getting out of the Army. I talked late into one night with a muscular first lieutenant with a shaved head and a no-nonsense manner who had stacks of Foreign Affairs, The New Yorker and The Atlantic under his bunk. He had served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and he was disgusted with what he had seen in Iraq by December 2003.

"I feel like politicians have created a difficult situation for us," he told me. "I know I'm going to be coming back here about a year from now. I want to get married. I want to have a life. But I feel like if I get out when my commitment is up, who's going to be coming here in my place? I feel this obligation to see it through, but everybody over here knows we're just targets. Sooner or later, your luck's going to run out."

At the time, he was commanding three vehicle convoys a day down a treacherous road to pick up hot food for his troops from the civilian contractors who never left their company's "dining facility" about five miles away. He walked daily patrols through the old city of Mosul, a hotbed of insurgent activity that erupted in violence after the 101st left it last year. The Army will need this lieutenant 20 years from now when he could be a colonel, or 30 years from now when he could have four stars on his collar. But I doubt he will be in uniform long enough to make captain.

One cold night a week later, I sat on a stack of sandbags 50 feet from the Syrian border with another West Point lieutenant; he, too, was planning to leave the Army. "I love going out on the border and chasing down the bad guys," he told me as he dragged on a cigarette. "We've got a guy making runs across the border from Syria in a white Toyota pickup who we've been trying to catch for two months; we call him the jackrabbit.

"He gets away from us every time, and I really admire the guy. But when we catch him, there'll be somebody else right behind him. What's the use? Guys are dying, for what?"

A couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail message from another West Point lieutenant; he was writing from a laptop in a bunker somewhere in Iraq. "I'm getting out as soon as I can," he wrote. "Everyone I know plans on getting out, with a few exceptions. What have you got to look forward to? If you come back from a tour of getting the job done in war, it's to a battalion commander who cares more about the shine on your boots and how your trucks are parked in the motor pool than about the fitness of your unit for war."

There was a time when the Army did not have a problem retaining young leaders - men like Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, George Marshall, Omar Bradley and my grandfather, Lucian K. Truscott Jr. Having endured the horrors of World War I trenches, these men did not run headlong out of the Army in the 1920's and 30's when nobody wanted to think of the military, much less pay for it. They had made a pact with each other and with their country, and all sides were going to keep it.

When members of the West Point class of 1969 and other young officers resigned nearly en masse in the mid-1970's because of Vietnam, Washington had a fix. Way too late, and with no enthusiasm, the politicians pulled out of Vietnam, ended the draft and instituted the "all volunteer" military, offering large increases in pay and benefits. Now, however, the Pentagon has run out of fixes; the only choices appear to be going back to the draft or scaling back our military ambitions.

The problem the Army created in Vietnam has never really been solved. If you keep faith with soldiers and tell them the truth even when it threatens their beliefs, you run the risk of losing them. But if you peddle cleverly manipulated talking points to people who trust you not to lie, you won't merely lose them, you'll break their hearts.

Lucian K. Truscott IV is a novelist and screenwriter.




Michele Rose wife of SSgt Scott Rose. Posted by Hello

Gold Star Mothers Vote to Allow Non-U.S. Citizens to Join

"DALLAS -A group for mothers whose children died in war voted Monday to allow non-U.S. citizens to join, after coming under criticism for denying membership to a Filipina mother whose son was killed in Afghanistan.

The 1929 charter of American Gold Star Mothers (search) had prevented foreign citizens from joining. Earlier this year, the organization's 12-member executive board voted against changing the rule.

That prevented Ligaya Lagman (search), of Yonkers, N.Y., from joining, although she is a legal resident and her son, 27-year-old son Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Lagman (search), was a U.S. citizen. After hearing about her interest in joining, New York Gov. George Pataki and other lawmakers urged the group to change its rules.

'Quite simply, the loss a mother endures when her son or daughter makes the ultimate sacrifice for our nation -is no less honorable or admirable because of her citizenship status,' Pataki said Monday.

The change was approved unanimously Monday during the American Gold Star Mothers' annual convention in the Dallas area.

'This change to our constitution was the right thing to do, but we had to make the change the right way,' said Judith Young, the group's new president."

More than 140 military service members who were not U.S. citizens have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Legal residents who are not citizens have long served in the U.S. military.

1943 live steam. .... Our industrial might has not been put to use in this war. Its how we one the civil war, WWI and WWII. When we don't use it, we lose it and we may very well lose this war in the process. Posted by Hello

Armor Holdings, Inc. Comments on New York Times Story Regarding Military Vehicle Armoring

"JACKSONVILLE, Fla., June 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Armor Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AH - News), a leading manufacturer and distributor of security products and vehicle armor systems serving law-enforcement, military, homeland security and commercial markets, submitted the following Letter to the Editor in response to an article in the New York Times on June 26, 2005 regarding military vehicle armoring.

'June 27, 2005

Letter to the Editor of the New York Times:

This past Sunday's front page story titled, 'Safer Vehicles for Soldiers: A Tale of Delays and Glitches' contains a number of substantial mischaracterizations and factual inaccuracies regarding the effort to provide armored vehicles to soldiers in Iraq. These errors create a distorted view of the positive effort of the U.S. Army to provide life safety and personal protection for soldiers and could leave readers with a mistaken impression about my company, Armor Holdings, Inc., and our O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt facility, which serves as the sole armoring company for the leading armored utility vehicle in Iraq, the M1114, commonly known as the Up-Armored Humvee. These errors occurred despite more than adequate information being provided during the course of many interviews with various Armor Holdings employees and executives.

These inaccuracies and mischaracterizations are all the more regrettable because they pertain to a matter of vital importance -- the safety and well being of men and women in uniform who serve our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is most regrettable that the author failed to acknowledge the many lives saved as a result of the U.S. Army's extraordinary effort to increase protection from the Fall of 2003 until the present. The author also chose to ignore or even reference the findings of the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its report, GAO-5-275, that reached entirely different conclusions from those drawn in the article.

It is not our place to address the full range of inaccuracies in this article or to characterize the thinking of other parties. We do feel, however, that it is very important for the brave men and women in the military and their families to have a clearer understanding of this issue and what has taken place to dramatically increase the production of Up-Armored Humvees over the past roughly 18 months.

In the Fall of 2003 when the U.S. Army began to understand the nature of the insurgency in Iraq and the threat from the insurgents' 'weapon of choice' -- the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) -- the U.S. Army started to request increased rates of M1114 production from our company. Prior to the war in Iraq, the M1114 was a very small military program for Military Police operations with only about 350 total vehicles requested by the Army each year.

In response to the Army's request, Armor Holdings moved immediately in October of 2003 to hire additional employees, purchase large volumes of materials such as steel, and exclusively dedicated our Ohio facility to the production of the M1114 Up-Armored Humvee. At the outset, we did this at our expense, in advance of a specific order or contract for more vehicles from the Army, which did not come until the following year.

In the subsequent 12 months, together with our partners in the Army, we increased M1114 production from approximately 50 vehicles per month in September of 2003 to 450 vehicles per month in September of 2004 -- an 800% increase and a production rate that was achieved a full two months ahead of the schedule required by the Army. We have since further increased that monthly production rate to 550 vehicles in response to the Army's request in December 2004. In addition to the rapid surge in production, we have made numerous design, engineering and manufacturing changes to the vehicle over that time period in response to the changing nature of the threat experienced by our soldiers on the ground.

Over the course of these months, the requirement for M1114s in Iraq escalated every several months. But each time the Army placed an order for M1114s with our company, those vehicles were delivered on or ahead of schedule. Armor Holdings never failed to make timely delivery of a single vehicle requested of it by the Army despite this rapid increase in production.

It was particularly disturbing to read the article's inference that the ability to maximize Up-Armored Humvee production, and thus provide soldiers with sorely needed armored vehicles, may have been driven by the commercial interests of Armor Holdings.

As a citizen, a former officer in the United States Army, and a decorated combat veteran and on behalf of our employees, many of whom have relatives serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, I want to assure the public that at no time did our company's business interests ever come in conflict with the ability of the Army to maximize Up-Armored Humvee production. The matter that was referenced -- an informal inquiry by the Army about acquiring the design rights to the M1114 -- occurred in January 2005, long after the required ramp- up in production took place, and was furthermore unnecessary since at every point, Armor Holdings had met or exceeded the production schedule required by the Army. Notwithstanding our confidence in our ability to produce as many vehicles as the Army requested, we offered to forfeit the design rights if at any point we became the limiting factor in the production of Up-Armored Humvees.

Over the past two years, the M1114 has done one thing in Iraq. It has saved lives, hundreds of lives. The walls of our facility in Ohio are decorated with letters from soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who state that they are alive today because of what our dedicated employees and our Army partners have been able to accomplish. The soldiers in Iraq refer to the M1114 as 'the Cadillac' and 'Air Force One.' The people who know best, understand what this vehicle means.

Could there have been more M1114s at the start of the war? Would another vehicle have performed better? Should the insurgency have been anticipated? These are fair questions but they are questions for others and fail to address the critical issue of what our service men and women need today.

At Armor Holdings, we are proud of what we have accomplished and what we continue to do today to build Up-Armored Humvees, armor for 10 out of 13 vehicle platforms in Iraq, personal body armor, helmets, crash-protection aircraft seats and other protective products for the military and law enforcement communities. We are proud that we have increased M1114 production by 1,000% since the demand for these vehicles was first expressed in the Fall of 2003. We are proud that we have met every production deadline on or ahead of schedule. And we are proud that what we do helps save lives.

We also know there is much more work to do on behalf of our men and women in uniform and that is the work that I and all of our employees are dedicated to performing at the highest possible level every single day.


Respectfully,

Robert F. Mecredy
President
Armor Holdings Aerospace & Defense Group"

About Armor Holdings, Inc.

May 05, note exposure of Iraqi troops Posted by Hello