Saturday, October 08, 2005

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Pentagon OKs repayment for soldier equipment

"WASHINGTON -- Before John Hart returned to Iraq, he and his father went to an unlikely place to buy battle gear: the Tewksbury Wal-Mart.

It was early in the war, when military inventories were alarmingly low. In some cases, parents were buying body armor, helmets and other equipment for their sons and daughters deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That day in Tewksbury, the Harts spent several hundred dollars on a global-positioning system, binoculars and a Leatherman multipurpose tool.

"We bought it to improve the chances of his survival," said Brian Hart, father of the Bedford Army private. "There's a persistent pattern of neglect for basic troop equipment.:"

Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon on Wednesday released overdue regulations authorizing unit commanders to reimburse soldiers who purchased protective equipment.
The measure will provide up to $1,100 for each privately purchased piece of equipment, such as body armor, helmets and hydration systems. The regulations came eight months after a deadline imposed by Congress, frustrating some lawmakers.

"It was inexcusable and indefensible for the Pentagon leadership to attempt to delay reimbursing these families," said U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, a Lowell Democrat. "Mothers and fathers were forced not only to send their sons and daughters into war, but to send them into war with jury-rigged equipment because the Department of Defense failed to do so."

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke said it took time to develop the policy, which she said is fair to military families.
"It's the first time we've ever done something like this," Krenke said. "We were breaking new ground here. It was a large task."

The initial policy was met with some frustration on Capitol Hill. Critics said it did not cover enough items, such as radios and other gear. The list could be expanded.

“The long-overdue list still isn't adequate,” Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said. “It doesn't cover other important items our soldiers had to buy for themselves: rifle scopes, radios, and additional vehicle armor.”

Others say the delay is an indication of larger problems related to the Iraq war.

“It's a reflection of the incompetence with which this war has been conducted,” U.S. Rep. John Olver, an Amherst Democrat, said in an interview. “We should not have been putting people in the position of having to buy body armor in the first place.”

It's unclear how many people could be reimbursed or how much the program could cost, Krenke said.

Olver, whose district includes Pepperell and Townsend, said Congress has no method of penalizing the Pentagon for its lateness.

“Those of us who think there's been incompetence right up to the top of the Pentagon in this (war) called for the resignation of (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld on various occasions when the stories get hot enough,” Olver said. “He's still there.”

For the Harts, the program is too little, too late. Pfc. John Hart, of the Army's Fourth Infantry Division, died in a firefight on Oct. 18, 2003, after exhausting the most basic of necessities: bullets.

Cash is not what Brian Hart is looking for.

“People buy this stuff to save the lives of their loved ones, not to get a government reimbursement,” he said. “That seems to be lost on Mr. Rumsfeld.”

Sunni Arabs call for 'no' to Iraq charter

"Twenty-one Sunni Arab organisations meeting in Baghdad have called for Iraqis to reject the 15 October referendum on a new constitution, saying the basic law would lead to the country's breakup.

'This constitution bears in it the germs of Iraq's division, the loss of its Arab identity and the plundering of its national wealth,' said a joint statement on Saturday.

'As a result, we call for all Iraqis to reject this constitution by all legitimate means,' said the statement from groups including the influential Association of Muslim Scholars and the main Iraqi Islamic party"...

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Lack of Arabic speakers spurs U.S. into action

... "Hendzel said the U.S. faces a situation similar to the Cold War.

'It took a generation to train all the Russian teachers and then train all of us who became linguists,' he said. 'It took us about 20 years to get caught up on Russian, and it may take that long again.'

Ron Marks, a former CIA official who is a senior fellow at George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute, said the government should be able to learn from the Cold War response to language needs.

'We need to rethink how we do this,' he said. 'This isn't the first time around.'

`Reinventing wheel' wasteful

The language center at Maryland is funded by the Defense Department but is independent of the department. Marks said the intelligence community needs more private-sector research to find solutions.

'There's a little bit of a feeling that, if it ain't invented [in the intelligence community], we don't want anything to do with it,' he said. 'Hundreds of multinational corporations in the private sector deal with this stuff all the time. You've got to take advantage of that. You can't keep reinventing the wheel.'

Despite the difficulties of learning Arabic, U.S. colleges and universities are producing more such speakers than ever. According to the Modern Language Association's latest survey, 10,584 students studied Arabic in 2002, nearly double the number who studied it in 1998.

More of those graduates are taking government jobs. The FBI had 216 Arabic-speaking employees and contract linguists in April 2004, up from 70 on Sept. 11, 2001. At the State Department's Foreign Service Institute, 441 students" are studying Arabic this year, nearly four times the number in 2001. Specific numbers are not available from the CIA, but officials there say the numbers have increased.

"Those numbers are so paltry, it can keep doubling, and we'll still be well short of what we need," Brecht said. "There are more than 85 government agencies and offices with language requirements

The intelligence community's language needs don't end with translators. Brecht said the lack of proficient Arabic speakers also has limited the United States' ability to spread its message and participate in debate in the Arab world.

The State Department "is desperate to have diplomats to perform at the very highest levels on Arabic media," Brecht said. "How can you do `Crossfire' on Al-Arabiya without those language skills?"

Sign in Iran. Note that the poster is printed which would indicate offical support rather than an individual action Posted by Picasa

Copies of the proposed Iraqi constitution were found in a garbage dump. Posted by Picasa

British troops arrest Iraq police after attacks

"British troops in southern Iraq have arrested 12 people, including policemen and militiamen, on terrorist charges following recent attacks on their forces, a British commander said on Friday.

'Some of the individuals we have arrested are linked to militia groups in Basra ... some of the individuals are members of the Basra police service,' Brigadier John Lorimer said in a statement following the Thursday evening arrests.

A leader of the Mehdi Army militia, loyal to firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, said that all those detained belonged to his organization.

'They all belong to the Mehdi Army,' Fatah Al Sheikh said.

Sheikh, who is also a member of the national parliament belonging to Sadr's faction, said that the arrests were part of 'a US-British plot to hobble the Sadr movement' ahead of the December general elections.

'What has happened in Basra is very serious because it could serve to trigger a revolt against the British like what happened in the 1920s' when the British ruled the country, he added. "...

[bth: How long will Iraq tolerate al-Sadr and his cronies?]

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New Orleans flooding caused by soil failure in two main levees

"Engineers said Friday the flooding in New Orleans' upscale Lakeview neighborhood was caused by failure of levee embankments -- not by water topping two of the main floodwalls.

Earlier investigations of the flooding had said high water was a key cause of the flooding at the 17th Street and London Avenue canals. The American Society of Civil Engineers said an independent inspection of the levees this week showed the levees gave way.

'We found no evidence of overtopping the levees,' the statement said. 'There is, however, evidence that a section of the levee embankment that supported the floodwall moved approximately 35 feet laterally.'

The break in the 17th Street Canal, which separates New Orleans from suburban Jefferson Parish, has remained a mystery. Water from lake Pontchartrain blew through an opening in that levee and badly flooded the Lakeview and Mid City neighborhoods.
The engineers said inspectors also found evidence of the dirt levee moving at the London Avenue breach.

'The evidence also indicates that stormwater did not exceed the height of the levees,' the statement said.

The engineers said they saw some levees that had been damaged by hurricane and were simply overwhelmed. However, many miles of levees worked as they should, even though the water got over their tops.

The engineers said a comprehensive report would be issued in about a month. "

[bth: I believe this contradicts the Corp of Engineers and indicates a deficiency in the levees.]

Killed Iraqi police colonel and daughter. Posted by Picasa

Famed Saudi feminist slips away to Paris

"A Saudi Arabian female journalist whose battered face publicized the problem of domestic abuse left her country hiding in a truck last weekend across the border to Bahrain, according to the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi.

Rania al-Baz, 29, the Saudi TV presenter who was comatose in a hospital for days last year after being brutally beaten by her husband, was prevented by Saudi authorities from flying to Paris, where she planned to participate in a conference on women's rights and to promote her book, Defiguree, her publicist, Margaux Ferro of Michel Lafon Publishing, told The Jerusalem Post.

'She had a problem,' said Ferro in a phone conversation from Paris. 'They said, No, you cannot fly. They didn't explain to her why.'

Baz arrived in Paris Monday morning after a roundabout trip overland from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain and then to Dubai. "...

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Pakistani who instructed 7/7 cell eludes detectives

"HIS identity is still a mystery and three months after the July 7 attacks police are trying to discover what happened to the figure seen ordering around some of the bombers on a whitewater rafting adventure.

The tall visitor from Pakistan spoke no English, and refused to be photographed like the other men on the adventure training trip to Wales a month before the bombings.

Staff at the adventure centre described how Mohammad Sidique Khan, the oldest of the suicide bombers, translated instructions to their Pakistani guest, who exuded considerable influence over the rest of the group. Most of his remarks were addressed to Khan, 30, and his fellow bomber, Shehzad Tanweer, who was 22. "...


1. Who first recruited the four British-born bombers?

2. When were they told that this was a suicide mission, and what the target was?

3. Who built the bombs?

4. Why were so many explosives and primed bombs left in the car at Luton station car park, and where are the keys to that vehicle? 5. Why did Jermaine Lindsay have a gun in his car?

6. What are the links between the 7/7 and 21/7 bombers?

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Robotic Vehicles Contend for the Battlefield - New York Times

..."Whether or not there is a winner in this year's event, Darpa's incentive strategy has had a big impact on the artificial-intelligence hardware and software necessary to navigate in inhospitable environments.

Indeed, a number of scientists and politicians say the event could help transform the way scientific and technological goals are reached in the future.

The Pentagon is sponsoring the event - inexpensive by the billion-dollar development standards of military contractors - to meet a Congressional mandate to convert a third of its battlefield vehicles to autonomous operation by 2015. Since the first race, the Iraqi insurgency has underscored the vulnerability of soldiers in vehicles who are frequent targets of bombs.

But many participants feel that there are nearer commercial possibilities for the technologies, ranging from robotic agricultural vehicles to automated airport shuttles, as well as advanced navigational systems for regular vehicles.

The difference between last year and this year is largely in the refinement of the software used by the cars' navigational systems, according to several designers.

'It took a while to digest the software technologies,' said Gary R. Bradski, a machine learning researcher at Intel who helped with the design of an entry from Stanford University. 'There are lots of software tools available today.'"...

Friday, October 07, 2005

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Carville: Dems need stronger narrative to win

"The problem with Democrat campaign speeches is "litany" and they need more narrative like Winnie the Pooh stories, political consultant and pundit James Carville said.

At a speech sponsored by the Northwestern College Democrats Thursday evening, Carville told the audience that Democratic candidates can't succeed by shouting out to every group in a crowd. Instead candidates should tell stories with the three elements of any good story - setup, conflict and resolution.

"No Kumbayah crap," Carville said."...

“If you’re not competent in campaigns, you don’t have a chance to be competent in government,” he said.

Using Al Gore as an example, Carville said being a smart candidate is not enough.

“It’s actually possible to be wise, right and strong,” he said. ...

In the same way that intelligence and accuracy can’t stand alone, strength without accuracy is a catastrophe, he said. His example: the Republican administration.

“If we just had mediocracy I’d be the happiest person in the world,” Carville said. “You put political hacks in an important position and there are consequences.”

...But it’s not all about party spirit, Carville said.

Democrats need to bring their causes together and work for them actively, he said. For example, the political consultant suggested taking the specific issue of racial affirmative action and helping those of all races with income-based affirmative action.

If Democrats try to single out every issue, they’re back to litany, Carville said. He also said Democrats just can’t say “no” to causes from gay rights to abortion to the poor.

“Sometimes the problem with being a Democrat is being a Democrat,” he said.

White House denies Bush claimed divine inspiration

"The White House has denied that US President George W. Bush said God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, as a new BBC documentary is expected to reveal. "...

US Torpedo Boat Cushing WWI Posted by Picasa

Report Warns Democrats Not to Tilt Too Far Left

"The liberals' hope that Democrats can win back the presidency by drawing sharp ideological contrasts and energizing the partisan base is a fantasy that could cripple the party's efforts to return to power, according to a new study by two prominent Democratic analysts.

In the latest shot in a long-running war over the party's direction -- an argument turned more passionate after Democrat John F. Kerry's loss to President Bush last year -- two intellectuals who have been aligned with former president Bill Clinton warn that the only way back to victory is down the center."

Democrats must "admit that they cannot simply grow themselves out of their electoral dilemmas," wrote William A. Galston and Elaine C. Kamarck, in a report released yesterday. "The groups that were supposed to constitute the new Democratic majority in 2004 simply failed to materialize in sufficient number to overcome the right-center coalition of the Republican Party."

Since Kerry's defeat, some Democrats have urged that the party adopt a political strategy more like one pursued by Bush and his senior adviser, Karl Rove -- which emphasized robust turnout of the party base rather than relentless, Clinton-style tending to "swing voters."

But Galston and Kamarck, both of whom served in the Clinton White House, said there are simply not enough left-leaning voters to make this a workable strategy. In one of their more potentially controversial findings, the authors argue that the rising numbers and influence of well-educated, socially liberal voters in the Democratic Party are pulling the party further from most Americans....

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Poll: Bush Ratings Hit New Low

"This CBS News Poll finds an American public increasingly pessimistic about the economy, the war in Iraq, the overall direction of the country, and the President. Americans' outlook for the economy is the worst it has been in four years. Most expect the price of gas to rise even further in the next few months.

A growing number of Americans want U.S. troops to leave Iraq as soon as possible, rather than stay the course, and the highest percentage ever thinks the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq. When given a set of options for paying for rebuilding the hurricane-racked Gulf Coast, only one � taking money from the Iraq War � gets majority support.

President George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has reached the lowest ever measured in this poll, and evaluations of his handling of Iraq, the economy and even his signature issue, terrorism, are also at all-time lows. More Americans than at any time since he took office think he does not share their priorities.

The public's concerns affect their view of the state of the country. 69 percent of Americans say things in the U.S. are pretty seriously off on the wrong track � the highest number since CBS News started asking the question in 1983. Today, just 26 percent say things are going in the right direction. "...

Carnegie Mellon robot Posted by Picasa

Hummer takes pole in robot race

"FONTANA, California (AP) -- A driverless red Hummer snagged the pole position Wednesday in a government-sponsored sequel race across the Mojave Desert that will pit 23 robots against one another.

The finalists were chosen after an intense, weeklong qualifying run at the California Speedway, where the self-navigating vehicles had to drive on a bumpy road, zip through a tunnel and avoid obstacles. No human drivers or remote controls were allowed.

The Hummer named H1ghlander, built by Carnegie Mellon University, flipped during practice a few weeks ago when it struck a rock. But it still managed to complete all four required semifinal runs.

Last year, only half of the 15 autonomous robotic vehicles that ran in the so-called Grand Challenge passed the semifinals. "...

"The worst vehicle we have is as good or better than the best vehicle last year," said DARPA director Anthony Tether.

Carnegie Mellon's workhorse, Sandstorm, traveled the farthest in the Mojave Desert last year despite trekking only 7 1/2 miles. It will start third in this year's race...

Cape Cod Posted by Picasa

Militants negotiate to save Saddam

"Supporters of Saddam Hussein are trying to negotiate with the United States a halt to attacks in return for a pledge that the former Iraqi leader will not be executed, Iraq's president was quoted as saying.

Jalal Talabani said in an interview with Egypt's al-Ahram newspaper that supporters of Saddam, ousted by US-led forces in 2003, were among those behind insurgent attacks in Iraq.

'Despite that, the Saddamists are trying now to negotiate with the Americans on stopping the operations in exchange for not executing Saddam in the trial which is about to start,' Talabani said."...

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U.S. 'lacks moral authority' in Iraq

..."'I'm no longer sure I can look (a soldier or a Marine) in the eye and say: 'This is something worth dying for.''

He doesn't mean Iraq. There are plenty of bad people here to fight, and plenty of innocents worth protecting.

His moral crisis was that he had been to Washington, D.C.
He had been asked politically loaded questions from both sides of aisle about the war, each questioner seeking ammunition to use for their own political ends.

He was dismayed. And he's not the only one.

'Everything that happens in Iraq is viewed in Washington through a prism of whether it is good for George W. Bush or bad,' said a civilian U.S. official, who spoke to UPI on the condition he not be named.

Successful election? 'Proof' the invasion was the right thing to do. Car bombs in Baghdad? 'Proof' this was wrong from the start.
There is a growing disconnect between Washington and those fighting the Iraq war -- between the people sweating in the desert, saddled with making the policy work, and the people in suits and air conditioning, hoping to be proven right in the end, on whichever side they sit.

'I am seeing signs that are frustrating to me,' said Lt. Col. Mike Gibler, an Army battalion commander serving in Mosul whose father fought in the Vietnam war. 'There are huge divides, and not only at the senior levels of government. There's a competition for who wants to be the loudest voice to be heard regardless of what they say, regardless of what they know."...

The State Department has fewer than 3,000 civilians assigned to Iraq, according to officials here, and nearly all of them are in Baghdad. There is just one State Department representative in all of vast Anbar province, home to some of the worst fighting.

"The Department of State hasn't mobilized for this war. They need to start assigning people ... We have never had our A-Team here," the U.S. official said. "The ratio is outrageous."

A senior military official said the United States needs "expeditionary diplomats, treasury planners, etc, if our goal is to win the peace, to create a better peace."

"When we do things -- like initiating war with Saddam -- and haven't the managerial integrity to have the international and interagency blocks incorporated and integrated into the planning and execution, we end up with a mess paid for in lives of innocent Iraqis and U.S. servicemen and women."

The only way to be sure Iraq does not become the threat it was posited to be before the war, a safe haven for terrorists, is to raise the standard of living and the expectations of the people, creating a country of "haves" who don't tolerate terrorists and thugs, and who have confidence their government and security force will back them up.

Another looming problem that may need attention: whether the reconstruction projects undertaken by the United States with $18.6 billion appropriated in 2003 are actually bringing about stability. Some of the projects on the books won't yield results for two or three years. And by the end of this year, all of the money earmarked for Iraq reconstruction will be committed or on contract, U.S. officials involved in reconstruction point out. There will be no flexibility after that to redirect money to high-impact projects -- those that influence public opinion -- unless there is new money for reconstruction.

"We're in a tactical security environment. I don't give a rat's ass that in two years the sewer system is going to work," the U.S. official said. "We may not get there if we aren't careful."...

"The question is, are we -- the Iraqi people, the United States and the international community -- willing to take the time, energy and sacrifice to see it through?" said Gibler. "I honestly believe this can be won. I have to be optimistic. I couldn't look them in the eye and tell them to go fight, otherwise."

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Southwest boots woman from flight over a T-shirt

"Southwest Airlines kicked a woman off one of its flights over a political message on her T-shirt, the airline confirmed Thursday, and published reports say the passenger will sue.
Lorrie Heasley, of Woodland, Wash., was asked to leave her flight from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore., Tuesday for wearing a T-shirt with pictures of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a phrase similar to the popular film title 'Meet the Fockers.'"...

October 2, 2005 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Robert E Lee photographed by Brady Posted by Picasa

George Bush on Elusive Peace

..."Nabil Shaath says: 'President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq -' And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God I'm gonna do it.''

Abu Mazen was at the same meeting and recounts how President Bush told him: 'I have a moral and religious obligation. So I will get you a Palestinian state.' "...

Iraqi insurgents in Ramadi Posted by Picasa

U.S. Snags Al Qaeda No. 2's Letter to Zarqawi

"NEW YORK - The United States has intercepted a letter from the No. 2 Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri (search) to the terror network's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), Pentagon officials told FOX News. The letter says that Muslim terrorists have developed a detailed plan for creating an Islamic state centered on Iraq (search) and including neighboring countries as well as the destruction of Israel.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman would only say the letter was intercepted recently, but would not say where in order not to reveal sources and methods.

According to the Pentagon, Zawahri writes that Iraqi insurgents should avoid attacking mosques or killing hostages to avoid alienating the masses like the Taliban rebels did in Afghanistan where the Islamofascist movement has resigned itself to defeat.

Whitman did not make the letter available, but said it also reveals that Al Qaeda has lost many of its key leaders and that its lines of finance and communications have been disrupted so much that Zawahri is said to ask for money from Zarqawi.

The Pentagon says it believes the letter is authentic, but would not say whether it actually reached Zarqawi or whether Zarqawi responded."

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New York City: Sources: Subway threat made

"A 'credible threat' to the subway system has prompted a vast mobilization of police officers, law enforcement sources said today.

Hundreds of officers were expected to be dispatched as early as this afternoon to every station in Manhattan -- and possibly system wide -- to thwart the attack, which was said to timed to the Jewish High Holidays and the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan."...

MTA officials said they were unaware of the threat until alerted by a reporter. They were expected to return calls later this afternoon

Note the improved armor.  Posted by Picasa

Tanks-for-Iraq deal cancelled

"The sale of 180 personnel carriers from Switzerland to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been called off amid controversy over their use.

The Swiss authorities said the UAE had officially withdrawn its request to buy the used military vehicles, which were destined for Iraq."

[bth: the Swiss don't mind safekeeping Nazi or Baathist loot and plunder, but do mind selling M113s to the Iraqi army. Interesting.]

Back Our Girls OVer There. WWI poster for YWCA Posted by Picasa

Senate Supports Interrogation Limits

"The Senate defied the White House yesterday and voted to set new limits on interrogating detainees in Iraq and elsewhere, underscoring Congress's growing concerns about reports of abuse of suspected terrorists and others in military custody.

Forty-six Republicans joined 43 Democrats and one independent in voting to define and limit interrogation techniques that U.S. troops may use against terrorism suspects, the latest sign that alarm over treatment of prisoners in the Middle East and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is widespread in both parties. The White House had fought to prevent the restrictions, with Vice President Cheney visiting key Republicans in July and a spokesman yesterday repeating President Bush's threat to veto the larger bill that the language is now attached to -- a $440 billion military spending measure."...

The Senate's 90 to 9 vote suggested a new boldness among Republicans to challenge the White House on war policy. The amendment by McCain, one of Bush's most significant backers at the outset of the Iraq war, would establish uniform standards for the interrogation of people detained by U.S. military personnel, prohibiting "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment while they are in U.S. custody....

Reid and at least 39 other Democratic senators sent a letter to Bush saying it was unclear whether "your administration has a strategy for success that will preserve our fundamental national security interests and permit us to bring our troops home." The letter called on Bush "to provide direct answers" to several questions, including the number of adequately trained Iraqi security forces that will be needed to allow U.S. troops to begin withdrawing.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) was among several senior Democrats who told reporters that Bush risks a further erosion in public support unless he talks more openly about the challenges in Iraq and realistic plans to overcome them. "It's time the president tell us how he plans on getting us out of the hole he's dug us so deeply into," Biden said.

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Cheney warns of 'decades of war'

"US Vice-President Dick Cheney has said that the US must be prepared to fight the war on terror for decades.

Addressing US military personnel, he said that the only way terrorists would win was if the US lost its nerve and abandoned Iraq and the Middle East.

Mr Cheney is the latest senior member of the US administration trying to bolster support for the war in Iraq.

On Thursday, President George W Bush will once again address the issue in a major speech in Washington. "...

[bth: interestingly the Iraqi government is in the UK today saying that foreign troops cannot withdraw from Iraq. Carl Levin noticed this change in tone last summer, that Iraqi officials want us to stay and no longer leave. I haven't seen recent polls of Iraqis, but the contrast is probably striking.]

Grandmother of Sgt. John Doles, 508th Infantry Regiment, killed in actin in Afghanistan. Posted by Picasa

UK's Iraq forces face Hizbullah-style roadside bombs

"British forces have no answer to the sophisticated roadside bombs being used against them in Iraq. They are almost impossible to detect. They are triggered when a vehicle touches an invisible, infra-red beam. And they are almost impossible to stop. The explosives power a metal ball capable of penetrating most of the armour-plating used by the army.

The insurgent has to be able to see the British vehicle coming. If he or she was to set the infra-red beam too soon, the victims could be Iraqi civilians rather than British troops. Recently, British forces have tried to circumvent this by sticking nose to tail with Iraqi vehicles. This can work in busy, urban centres like Basra but is more difficult in the wide, nearly empty deserts that make up much of the south of the country."...

[bth: hiding behind another car will not prevent the detonation of a war-head, it will just increase the distance between the detonation and the British vehicle at the expense of civilians. Nevertheless, its probably the only tactic they can take.]

Irrelevant to this blog, but a beautiful photographic portrait Posted by Picasa

Iraq Slips Away

..."He and other senior officials seemingly can't permit themselves to publicly acknowledge the obvious: that if there is no political accord in the coming weeks, the U.S. objective of creating a democratic Iraq, or even of preserving Iraq as a single state, could be lost. Yet Iraq's prospects would be better if its leaders heard the American president clearly describe the likely consequences of their current strategies. Iraq is risking a civil war, and Americans are not likely to support the further sacrifice of lives in defense of a Shiite Islamic republic, or a rump state of Kurdistan."

[bth: I happend to think that a break-up of Iraq is both the high probability outcome and one of the only ways a peace may be found. Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps not.]

Hammered Posted by Picasa