Saturday, October 22, 2005

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The undercarriages of Level II and Level III armored vehicles just aren't up to the current IED challenge in Iraq yet represent the majority of our vehicular fleet there. How many soldiers and marines will die or be wounded because Ft. Hood hijacked over 800 vehicles for five months? Posted by Picasa

U.S. General: Iraqi Army Needs More Time

"WASHINGTON - It will take up to two years for the Iraqi army to have the military leadership and supplies it needs to operate on its own, the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said Friday."

Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., told Pentagon reporters that the Iraqi security forces are continuing to grow, but their major need is for support systems, such as fuel and replacement parts.

"If we're talking about an army that can pick up and move and go out to the borders to defend the country and be able to sustain operations out in the open for a long period of time, it's probably going to be a year and a half, two years before that system is mature enough to operate on its own," Webster said from Baghdad.

Webster did not specify what impact his assessment would have on U.S. hopes for beginning a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Earlier this year, U.S. military officials said they thought they could begin fairly substantial troop withdrawals next spring. But amid ongoing questions about the Iraqi army's training, they have since scaled back that prediction, saying some troop reductions are possible in 2006 but that any withdrawal will be based on conditions in Iraq.

"It's hard to pick a date for sending everybody home because the enemy gets a vote as to when that occurs," said Webster. "We have got to make sure the Iraqi government is capable of standing on its own and that the Iraqi security forces are capable of defending that new constitution."...

Lawmakers question Army brass on idle armored humvees

"Washington -- House lawmakers grilled Army officials Thursday about 824 top-of-the-line armored humvees sitting idle in a Kuwait parking lot at a time when Army and Marine Corps forces in Iraq need them for protection against roadside bombs and insurgent attacks.

'You've got soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Division who are going every day on operations and they don't all have what is considered to be the gold standard in armor,' said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine (San Diego County), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

The new humvees 'can be the difference between life and death for our troops,' said Hunter, who said that the idle humvees were a violation of an Army commitment to dispatch the more survivable humvees, known as the M1114 model, as soon as they are manufactured.

After hearing the protests of Republican and Democratic committee members, Army Secretary Francis Harvey and Gen. Richard Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, agreed to re-examine the feasibility of sending the new humvees into Iraq soon.

The issue of inadequate equipment -- especially lightly armored humvees -- has been a source of complaints from soldiers serving in Iraq, 1,988 of whom have died since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Most of the deaths have occurred since the fall of Saddam Hussein as insurgents have focused on attacking the Army and Marine humvees with roadside bombs. The Army responded by refitting armor onto older humvees and by manufacturing newer humvees -- the M1114 -- with improved protection already built in.

Citing a study by the Center for Army Lessons Learned, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative army of Congress, concluded in April that "the risk of harm to both personnel and equipment from improvised explosive devices is greatly reduced when they are transported in an up-armored" (M1114) humvee.

Harvey and Cody said the service had decided to keep the new humvees parked in Kuwait until January, when the vehicles would be taken over by arriving troops from the 4th Infantry Division, currently training at Fort Hood, Texas. Before promising to take another look at the plan, the Army officials defended the timetable as the most efficient use of the equipment and troops, adding that it had been approved by U.S. commanders in Iraq.

Cody added that the new humvees are so technically advanced that 3rd Infantry Division troops would have to train on them for up to two weeks. Commanders were reluctant to relinquish their troops for training at time when they have pressing missions, he said, such as providing security for Iraqi elections.

"We didn't have a perfect solution," Harvey said.

But Democratic and Republican committee members criticized the Army's plan, saying that the service should dispatch the new humvees as soon as possible to forces in Iraq.

Also on Thursday, the GAO reported that as of June, Army National Guard units had left overseas more than 64,000 pieces of equipment worth more than $1.2 billion, and the Army cannot account for more than half.

The report also said that National Guard units are short of equipment at home partly because they have been told to leave such vital equipment in Iraq for replacement troops.

On average, National Guard units at home have only 34 percent of their essential war-fighting equipment, which could leave them vulnerable in a domestic emergency, said the report released at a hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform.

Officials believe the National Guard's response to Hurricane Katrina "was more complicated because significant quantities of critical equipment such as satellite communications equipment, radios, trucks, helicopters and night-vision goggles were deployed to Iraq," the report said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[bth: the sad fact is that the Army brass sidetracked these 824 vehicles, roughly 10% of our entire world inventory, and kept them from marines and soldiers under fire. This has no doubt led to the death and injury of soldiers in level II and Level III armored vehicles in Iraq for the last 3 months and for the next 3. At 2.16 dead times about 7 per day wounded in combat, one can see a terrible consequence to this decision. The smart move would have been to give this equipment to the Marines who are on a waiting list for about 2000 of these vehicles and are taking 50% of the casualties in Iraq, but no, the Army put this stuff in a parking lot. Perhaps the hillbilly armored convoys that drive from Kuwait down hundreds of miles of IED laden highways each day can drive by this fleet of unused vehicles and get a whiff of that new car smell. Ft. Hood could have taken M1151 production which is admittedly at a slower rate but by my calculation would have been available for their full needs by 2006 and put their comm equipment there, but no. Where, by the way, is General Pace, the first Marine Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, on this issue?]

Chest wound Posted by Picasa

Indonesia seizes explosives haul

"Indonesian police say they have seized a large quantity of explosives and bomb making material being smuggled from Malaysia.
Three women and a man have been arrested, said the police chief of East Kalimantan, Djoshua Sitompul.

Mr Sitompul told the BBC that most of the 175kg of explosives seized had already been made into bombs which were ready to detonate.
Police have been on high alert since a deadly attack in Bali on 1 October. "...

Pakistani earthquake refugee Posted by Picasa

Colonel Finally Saw Whites of Their Eyes

"As Colin Powell's right-hand man at the State Department, Larry Wilkerson seethed quietly during President Bush's first term. Yesterday, Colonel Wilkerson made up for lost time.

He said the vice president and the secretary of defense created a 'Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal' that hijacked U.S. foreign policy. He said of former defense undersecretary Douglas Feith: 'Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man.' Addressing scholars, journalists and others at the New America Foundation, Wilkerson accused Bush of 'cowboyism' and said he had viewed Condoleezza Rice as 'extremely weak.' Of American diplomacy, he fretted, 'I'm not sure the State Department even exists anymore.'"

And how about Karen Hughes's efforts to boost the country's image abroad? "It's hard to sell [manure]," Wilkerson said, quoting an Egyptian friend.

The man who was chief of staff at the State Department until early this year continued: "If you're unilaterally declaring Kyoto dead, if you're declaring the Geneva Conventions not operative, if you're doing a host of things that the world doesn't agree with you on and you're doing it blatantly and in their face, without grace, then you've got to pay the consequences."....

[bth: I used to have great admiration for Colin Powell. Somewhere along the line though he let loyalty to the President or whomever was advancing his career, take priority over his loyalty and indeed his obligation to the country.]

Karl gives America his regards. Posted by Picasa

US troops fighting losing battle for Sunni triangle [Censored Sept. 20 Gruesome Attack on Contractors i.e., Fallujah]

"The mob grew more frenzied as the gunmen dragged the two surviving Americans from the cab of their bullet-ridden lorry and forced them to kneel on the street."

Killing one of the men with a rifle round fired into the back of his head, they doused the other with petrol and set him alight. Barefoot children, yelping in delight, piled straw on to the screaming man's body to stoke the flames.

It had taken just one wrong turn for disaster to unfold. Less than a mile from the base it was heading to, the convoy turned left instead of right and lumbered down one of the most anti-American streets in Iraq, a narrow bottleneck in Duluiya town, on a peninsular jutting into the Tigris river named after the Jibouri tribe that lives there.

As the lorries desperately tried to reverse out, dozens of Sunni Arab insurgents wielding rocket launchers and automatic rifles emerged from their homes.

The gunmen were almost certainly emboldened by the fact that the American soldiers escorting the convoy would not have been able to respond quickly enough.

"The hatches of the humvees were closed," said Capt Andrew Staples, a member of the Task Force Liberty 1-15 battalion that patrols Duluiya and other small towns on the eastern bank of the Tigris, who spoke to soldiers involved.

Within minutes, four American contractors, all employees of the Halliburton subsidiary Kellog, Brown & Root, were dead. The jubilant crowd dragged their corpses through the street, chanting anti-US slogans. An investigation has been launched into why the contractors were not better protected.

Perhaps fearful of public reaction in America, where support for the war is falling, US officials suppressed details of the Sept 20 attack, which bore a striking resemblance to the murder of four other contractors in Fallujah last year.

Duluiya, located in the notorious Sunni triangle, is much smaller than Fallujah but no less violent, even if events here rarely make the news.

The violence here seems to encapsulate the growing difficulties the US military is facing in trying to defeat the insurgency. Pinned down by a constant stream of hit-and-run attacks from former Saddam regime loyalists, American soldiers are unable to focus their attention on the foreign extremists who pose a far more dangerous threat to the future of Iraq.

Yet it is here that the battle against the suicide bombers must be won.

The isolated towns east of the Tigris supply the foreign fighters and their allies and provide a haven where they can regroup after American offensives on their urban strongholds.

If the Americans do not close off these boltholes, it seems unlikely the war can be won.

But hopes for progress are growing more remote. The insurgency in eastern Salahuddin province is growing more intense, more deadly and more sophisticated.

Lt Col Gary Brito, the battalion's commanding officer, said that in recent months the number of roadside bombs targeting his men had increased by a third - even though journeys out of base have been cut back. They are having a more devastating effect too.

"Before only two out of 10 used to be effective," he said. "Now four or five have a catastrophic effect, blowing away a vehicle or causing casualties." In the past few months at least four American soldiers in this battalion alone have been killed. Another 39 have been wounded....

[bth: besides the most gruesome aspects of this attack which is very similar to Fallujah and the evident fact that Muslims have no problem burning US contractors alive, this British report says that the American officials suppressed details of the event!]
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Friday, October 21, 2005

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GAO: Equipment Shortage Hindering Guard

"Army National Guard units are short of equipment at home partly because they have been told to leave such vital items as armored Humvees in Iraq for replacement troops, congressional investigators say.

As of June, Army National Guard units had left overseas more than 64,000 pieces of equipment worth more than $1.2 billion, and the Army cannot account for more than half, said the report Thursday by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

On average, National Guard units at home have only 34 percent of their essential war-fighting equipment, which could leave them vulnerable in a domestic emergency, said the report released at a hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform.

Officials believe the National Guard's response to Hurricane Katrina 'was more complicated because significant quantities of critical equipment such as satellite communications equipment, radios, trucks, helicopters and night vision goggles were deployed to Iraq,' the report said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, whose state has 3,200 National Guard troops in Iraq - the highest per capita in the nation - said Pennsylvania troops have had to leave behind a variety of equipment, ranging from seven helicopters in Afghanistan to 59 tractors and 118 trailers in Iraq.

Replacement of the equipment has been slow, and items sent in their place are not the same quality or quantity, Rendell said.
This is a 'huge problem when it comes to the integrity of the National Guards and their ability to carry out their missions,' he said.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said his state's Guard will soon leave 400 vehicles in Iraq — many of them Humvees uparmored to provide protection against insurgents, and he understands why. But he said he worries the state will not be protected in a disaster or terrorist attack.

"We need a commitment from the federal government that the equipment that is left in Iraq will be replaced in quick order," said Kempthorne, a Republican.

Lt. Gen. David Melcher, deputy chief of staff of the Army, agreed with the report's findings. He said $21 billion will be spent from 2006 to 2011 to equip and modernize the Army National Guard, which will help resolve much of the equipment problem.

The report said that in addition to what was left overseas, more than 101,000 pieces of equipment from units on the home front have been transferred to deploying units.

"Quite simply, we are robbing the non-deployed Peter to pay the deployed Paul
," said committee Chairman Thomas Davis, R-Va.

The GAO said the Guard is working on an old business model in which it only deployed in the later stages of a major conflict if needed. As a result, Guard troops on average are only provided 65 percent to 74 percent of the people and 65 percent to 79 percent of the equipment needed to conduct their wartime duties, the report said.

The report noted that the Army is taking steps to implement stricter accountability over Guard equipment left overseas and a better method to replace equipment left behind.

[bth: if Guard units are to be used as active duty combat units, then they need to be equipped as such. Traditionally the National Guard requirements have been left unfunded and indeed it was the case going into this war and would have remained this way if National Guard families and their congressmen had not pressed the Pentagon to fully equip the deployed units. For example in 2004 the guard was supposed to have 2200 M1114 uparmored humvees (not for deployment but domestic use) and they only had ever received a total of 200. It remains to be seen what happens to the equipment in Iraq, but my guess is that the only practical solution will be to give that equipment to the Iraqis as we begin to withdrawal. The national guard needs are likely to remain unfunded post Iraq. ... rinse, repeat.]

Statue to victims of Saddam's gas attacks buried in a cemetery for Kurds. Posted by Picasa

Saddam's Iron Grip: Intelligence Reports on Saddam Hussein's Reign

"The National Security Archive today posted a series of declassified U.S. intelligence documents and other U.S. agency reports on Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses. The collection below contains a number of documents produced by U.S. agencies over the last thirty years concerning the Iraqi regime's policies and activities directed at maintaining itself in power and eliminating or neutralizing opposition to the regime.

[bth: Follow the link. There is a larege set of documents and reports most of which were classified and have no been released. The documents are from 1975 to 2005. One document from January 2004 titled "Mass Graves" discusses an estimated 400,000 Iraqi bodies in mass graves in Iraq.]

US, South Korea to speed up military command shift

"The United States and South Korea have agreed to accelerate talks on switching the command structure of Korean forces in wartime in what would be a major shift in the half-century-old alliance.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reaffirmed the US commitment to South Korea's defense and to the provision of a nuclear umbrella to deter aggression from North Korea. But Rumsfeld, at the close of annual security talks with his South Korean counterpart Yoon Kwang-Ung, said that the alliance was evolving.

'And as the capability of the ROK (Republic of Korea forces) grow, they will assume more and more responsibility as they have been doing in previous years,' he told a press conference.
'Over time, clearly there will be adjustments in the command relationships.'"...

The United States also wants "the strategic flexibility" to deploy its remaining forces elswhere in times of need....


"WASHINGTON, Oct 20 - Last night, Congressman Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, gave a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives decrying efforts within the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to smear the reputation and career of 23-year defense intelligence officer, LTC Anthony Shaffer. Congressman Weldon also brought forth new information on the destruction of data and findings of the Able Danger planning effort.

Below, is the full text of the floor speech as recorded in the Congressional Record. "

[bth: Follow the link tot he full text. The speech is just incredible.]
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Buddha basher wins Afghan seat

"A former regional governor who oversaw the destruction of two massive 1,500-year-old Buddha statues during the Taliban's reign was elected to the Afghan parliament last month, officials said Tuesday as results from two provinces were finalized. "...

Verdun. Posted by Picasa

Galbraith explains choices in Iraq

"BRATTLEBORO -- As former Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith sees it, the United States faces a choice in Iraq.

'If our mission is to build a unified, stable and democratic Iraq, we will have our troops there for along time,' he told an audience ... 'But we cannot build a nation where none exists.'

Galbraith's 55-minute talk, 'Last Chance for Iraq: Civil War, Iran, and the Constitution,' dealt with the question of whether a unified Iraq was possible given the long standing religious and ethnic divisions between the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis.

Galbraith said that Iraq's Kurds 'almost unanimously want their own country' in what is now northern Iraq, 'an independent state in all but name.'

The Shiites, Galbraith said, voted overwhelmingly to create an Islamic state and do not want to live in a secular society. They control the southern part of the country, including Iraq's second largest city, Basra.

In the middle of Iraq exists 'a political vacuum,' Galbraith said. The Sunnis, the minority group in Iraq, nominally controls Baghdad, but the central government's authority doesn't extend beyond that point.

Because Baghdad is a multi-ethnic city, Galbraith said it has become the front line for the ongoing civil war. He said that the murder rate in Baghdad, excluding those killed by car bombs, averages about 1,000 a month.

Galbraith, who spent July and August in Baghdad, said there is 'a complete breakdown in law and order' in the city and said that 'ethnic cleansing' was underway in the mixed neighborhoods.

'It's not a pretty picture for a campaign that was supposed to bring democracy to Iraq and transform the Middle East,' he said."

...Dividing Iraq into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni states would not necessarily be a bad idea, Galbraith said. Having seen the breakup of Yugoslavia as U.S. ambassador to Croatia in the mid-1990s, Galbraith believes a similar outcome in Iraq would be desirable, but only if the U.S. shifts its focus from trying to unify Iraq to trying to prevent a civil war.

"A political settlement in Iraq will pave the way for the U.S. to leave," he said.

But Galbraith believes a full and immediate withdrawal would be impractical. He sees an alternative: redeploying U.S. forces to the Kurdish north, where they would be welcomed and supported by the Kurds and still be close enough to provide security to the rest of Iraq.

Galbraith warned about placing too much faith in the Iraqi army. He said of the 115 battalions that exist, nine are Kurdish, 60 are Shiite and the remaining ones are Shiite and none have any loyalty to anyone but their own religious ethnic groups. On top of that, he said at least 40,000 of the stated 80,000 soldiers in the Iraqi army do not exist except as names on a payroll sheet.

"You can't build a national army when there's no loyalty to the nation
," he said.

...Galbraith said the key to bringing stability to Iraq is for the U.S. to let go of the idea of a unified Iraq, especially since the unified Iraq under Saddam Hussein was "the source of ghastly actions against 80 percent of the Iraqi people."

"There's no need to mourn the passing of a unified Iraq," he said. "If the price of a unified Iraq is another dictator, that's too high a price to pay."...

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Germans. WWI Posted by Picasa

Eye of the storm: Get it together, Baghdad

"Thirty months after the fall of Saddam Hussein there are signs that the intense interest Iraq had aroused at the time may be waning. Opinion polls in the United States, Britain and Italy, the three members of the US-led coalition that account for 90 per cent of the troops present in Iraq, show that more than half of the population desire disengagement from an enterprise that seems to them to be going nowhere.

It is no use telling the Americans and their allies that history is not made at the rhythm set by evening television news bulletins and that transforming a despotic system into a democracy takes time. We live in an age of quick results, of instant coffee and speedy gratification. The average attention span of international opinion on almost any issue does not exceed six months. Even the most pressing issues, including some supposed to threaten the very existence of the human species, do not succeed in holding the headlines for long.

As Iraqis voted in Saturday's constitutional referendum it is important to note that they have lost some of the goodwill, and with it most of the interest, aroused by their liberation in April 2003. Unless the new Iraqi leadership elite manages to put some order in its own house there is no guarantee that the rest of the world will remain interested in helping the country build a new future.

The sad truth is that the world can live with a failed Iraq. And the Iraqis should not delude themselves into believing that they are cut from a special cloth. The world is full of messy situations in more than 30 countries in almost all continents. Adding another one would not tip the balance one way or another."...
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US on attack over Taiwan's defence

"Concerned by China's rapid military buildup but anxious for closer strategic ties with Beijing, the Bush administration is insisting that Taiwan - the most likely future military flashpoint between the two countries - does more to defend itself or face reduced US support."...

French soldiers, WWI. Posted by Picasa

Concerns Over Iraq Growing on Homefront

..."Recent polling by The Associated Press-Ipsos shows sharp declines in support for the war and for Bush's performance as commander in chief since his re-election a year ago. Some of the steepest declines are among evangelicals, Southerners, white men and other critical cogs of the GOP coalition.

As the U.S. death toll climbed toward 2,000, AP reporters interviewed people in nine politically divided communities to examine the public's mood and gauge how the war could affect next year's congressional elections.

This is an anxious homefront. Whether for or against the war, people say Iraq is part of an odious mix of events weighing down their spirits.

Rising gas prices, the government's slow-footed response to Hurricane Katrina, a spate of political scandals, job losses, pension forfeitures and inflation - all these and more contribute to the malaise.

It's no wonder that nearly two-thirds of people tell pollsters the country is headed in the wrong direction."...

Syrian President Assad's Relatives Implicated in Hariri Murder

"Seven senior Syrian officials, including President Bashar al-Assad's brother and brother-in-law, are suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, United Nations investigators said in a report likely to increase tensions between the U.S. and Syria.

Hariri, a five-time prime minister of Lebanon, was killed by a bomb Feb. 14.
``Many leads point directly towards Syrian security officials as being directly involved,'' said the 54-page report prepared by a team led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis.

He said Assad's brother, Maher, and brother-in-law Assef Shawkat plotted the assassination, along with five other Syrian officials named in the report. It doesn't directly implicate Bashar-al-Assad. There was also evidence of Lebanese involvement in the assassination, according to the report."...
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All Bali attack detainees released - World -

"All five men detained in Indonesia in connection with this month's suicide bombings on the resort island of Bali that killed 23 people have now been released, police said."....

Syria likely approved Hariri assassination: UN report

"Senior officials in the Syrian security services most likely approved the murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, a UN commission probing the assassination has concluded."...

Marine, back from Iraq, says it's time military left

"U.S. Marine Cpl. Brent Goldstone believes the United States was right to invade Iraq. But now it's time for the troops to come home, said the 20-year-old Glenview resident, who recently returned from his second tour of combat duty in Iraq.

'I don't really see it getting better, and I think all we're doing there is getting more Marines and soldiers killed every day,' Goldstone said during a talk at the Glenview town house of his father, Dr. Martin Goldstone. 'We've caught Saddam Hussein. And there's other countries with terrorists that we know of.'

Goldstone -- who received a Purple Heart for combat wounds -- said he's worried too many Americans will forget the toll the conflict is taking on their fellow citizens.

'I hope people understand the sacrifices people are making in Iraq,' said Goldstone, who lost a friend and father-to-be from his Marine company. 'I hope when they're watching CNN, they're not watching what's going on in Iraq like it's an action movie.'

Goldstone, who served in Fallujah and Ramadi, painted a bleak portrait of the situation in Iraq, saying he quickly learned the Iraqis he believed would welcome Americans really wanted them to leave.

In Ramadi, where Goldstone served for the seven months prior to Oct. 1, he routinely saw spray-painted messages in English proclaiming 'Americans are Pigs' and 'Go to Hell, Bush,' he said.

The Marines found few friends in the local population, added Goldstone, who went on more than 150 patrols while serving in Ramadi.

The same people who gathered during the day when Goldstone and his comrades were handing out food and toys returned at night to shoot at them, he said.

"I thought they'd be a little bit more appreciative, but they're not," said Goldstone. "They're a friend when you're giving things out, but for the most part, they don't want you there ... You kill one insurgent, and 10 more will appear in their place." ...

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Armored Humvees sitting in parking lots, Army concedes


Scripps Howard News Service
October 20, 2005

WASHINGTON - Hundreds of new, top-of-the-line armored Humvees are parked in Texas and Kuwait and won't be shipped to troops in Iraq even though those soldiers face daily roadside bombs, the Army acknowledged Thursday.

The Army said it's keeping the vehicles out of Iraq until the 3rd Infantry Division's replacements, the 4th Infantry Division, arrive at the end of the year.

But with reports that more than one in four U.S. soldiers' deaths in Iraq have been caused by roadside bombs, members of Congress are incensed that 824 new Humvees wouldn't go straight to Iraq. The newer so-called 'uparmored' Humvees have better technology to absorb roadside blasts.

'Let's not have them in parking lots, let's move them up to Baghdad, let's move them up with the 3rd ID or move them over to the Marines, who've taken 50 percent of the hits, yet have roughly 6 to 7 percent of the (uparmored) Humvees,' said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee.

The Humvees are just part of the force protection the Army is scrambling to produce fast enough to keep up with needs. Since the war began, it has produced 520,000 sets of body armor for troops and 21,000 bomb jammers to defeat remote-controlled explosive devices.

'We were an equipment-short Army when we entered this war,' said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody.

Hunter called both Cody and Army Secretary Francis Harvey to testify Thursday, after he learned about the unused Humvees only because a committee staffer saw them parked at Fort Hood during a staff tour.

As of Oct. 5, more than 585 of the 1,988 U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq were killed as a result of roadside bombs, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, which compiles information from news reports and the Pentagon's official releases.

The Army repeatedly has said it has enough top-of-the-line, armored Humvees in Iraq. But Hunter said the 3rd Infantry Division, which has suffered most of the Army casualties in Iraq, has only 20 percent of the vehicles it requires. The Marines have requested 2,814 such Humvees, but have received only 744.

When the war began, most of the Humvees didn't have the supplemental armor. That vulnerability was quickly exploited by insurgents and led to quick fixes, including makeshift, welded-on armor and mass production of "kits" to upgrade the vehicles. The 824 new vehicles are the newest and most modern, with not only more protection but sophisticated communications equipment to help the soldiers in battle.

But the new communications equipment does not work with systems the 3rd Infantry Division is trained to use, and commanders in Iraq can't spare the soldiers to train them on the new systems, Cody said. So the new, modern Humvees will continue to sit until the 4th Infantry Division moves in, he said.

Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., pointed out that the 3rd Infantry Division faces more than 30 roadside bomb attacks a day. "With the families I know, the idea that we have the equipment, that it's been produced but is sitting in a parking lot, is a matter of concern," Simmons said.

Afghanistan 2005. 173rd Airborne. Note equipment and troop exposure. Posted by Picasa

Comments on the House Armed Services Committee Hearings Oct 20, 2005 on the misallocationof armored vehicles

I just listened to the House Armed Services Committee Hearings and have a few comments.

It looks to me like the Army got the summer production which they objected to funding on April 21 and hijacked it, sending it to Ft. Hood thus short-changing the Marines and the 3rd ID which could be using this equipment for months but instead will have to do without.

The army broke its agreement with Congress and the American people to produce at full capacity and ship M1114s to Iraq as fast as possible. In 2004, the military decided to strip M1114s with Level I armor from all across the globe. That agreement was broken by the Army and is why Chairman Hunter called this hearing. Congress is doing its job.

The Army held back over 800 M1114 armored humvees for between 3 and 5 months for communications equipment upgrades which take two weeks. Roughly 10% of this country’s entire Level I armor then is at Ft. Hood or collecting sand in parking lots in Kuwait until the first quarter 2006 when the 4th ID arrives.

Marines have 7% of the armored humvees and 50% of the casualties in Iraq. The marines need 2814 Level I humvees and they have 700! Tell me why they didn’t have priority? Or if you are in the 3rd ID which has 20% of its Level I equipment needs (according to the hearing), then you have to suck it up too. Level II and certainly Level III equipment is not up to the combat requirements experienced in Iraq today. Level II equipment has got to be replaced ASAP because the IEDs and the mines are taking Level II equipment out.

It should be noted that in April 21, 2004 the Army presented a letter to Sen. Inouye that said it didn’t need more M1114s! Sen. Inouye read it into the Congressional Record. This was wrong of course. It was wrong ten times before that as well and it was proven wrong this summer when Sen. Warner amended his own spending bill to add several thousand more vehicles to the production queue at Marine request.

Why the M1151 with detachable armor wasn’t sent to Ft. Hood remains a mystery and an unanswered question which should have been raised in the hearings. Its benefit is that the armor can be removed when behind the lines yet meets Level I standards in combat. Wouldn’t M1151s be better for use in a non-combat setting like Ft. Hood versus Iraq where armored equipment is the only thing that should be let out the gates?

The Army is planning for the next war which will make its fighting capability much stronger with new comm gear as a general put in today’s hearing. However I would ask the simple question, if we’ve stripped all M1114s from around the globe, what vehicle would we put this new communications equipment in? None. That’s the answer. We didn’t make enough. We already shipped all the M1114 gear we had in the world to Iraq – except for the 800 vehicles sitting in Kuwait or on its way to a parking lot there for the 4th ID in 2006.

Prepping for the next war is great, but we have got to ship equipment to our troops in Iraq now. It was the policy and agreement between Congress and the military going back to 2004 that all available equipment would immediately go to combat zones until the need there is met in full.

So if you are in the 3rd ID or the Marines and in Afghanistan and Iraq, you are paying the price for our short-funding, underutilized production, disheveling leadership and misallocation of equipment. Indeed the Army estimates it will be July 2007 before equipment in Iraq is upgraded to Level I.

We would have lost WWII with this program. We can do better and should insist that the Army do so and if we have to pay more to increase production now, then we should do it.

We are on the same side – I think.

Bush Approval Ratings Correlate with Gas Prices

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Terrorists from 50 Nations in Chechnya

"WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Extremists from 50 nations have been fighting alongside militants in Chechnya, the Russian government has revealed.

The Interfax news agency quoted Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying, 'Among the militants killed in Chechnya in anti-terror operations over the past few years, there were mercenaries from 50 foreign countries.'

In light of the international nature of the terrorist threat against Russia, Ivanov said that 'Russia's military doctrine envisions preemptive strikes on terrorists' bases abroad.'

While Ivanov said that the world community should combine its efforts under United Nations auspices to fight international terrorism, 'the U.N. has yet to define the term 'terrorism.' This is not a shortcoming, but a serious problem.'

Ivanov also observed that terrorism is a transnational scourge, and one which can only be defeated with mutual international cooperation. "

Information Warfare - America Defends Al Qaeda Websites

"October 19, 2005: American intelligence agencies are trying to keep al Qaeda on the Internet. Many patriotic (or just anti-terrorist or anti-Islamic) hackers constantly seek out pro-al-Qaeda websites, and try to shut them down. American intelligence agencies attempt, quietly, to minimize and mitigate these attacks, in order to keep these sites up. So what's going on here? The American government is operating, behind the scenes, to keep al Qaeda websites online so that American spies can monitor who visits these sites, and what they do there. Al Qaeda knows this, and is trying to bring more of its web activity into the inter net underground, a shadowy zone normally inhabited by criminals and the hackers who keep us all supplied with spam and PC damaging worms and viruses. That area is harder to keep under surveillance, or even easily find. For that reason, terrorists maintain the public sites as a way to recruit new people, and then gradually ease them into the cyber-underground.

No one (at least in the U.S. intelligence community) will say anything official about the war against al Qaeda on the Internet. But if you keep tabs on Islamic web sites (and especially if you have someone to translate some of the Arabic stuff for you), you will notice the attacks, and the strange instances where hosting services will not only tolerate the Islamic sites, but will go to great lengths to defend them. Something is obviously going on behind the scenes. And that something is nothing more than a desire to keep actual, or potential, Islamic terrorists, out in the open, where they can be watched, for as long as possible. "

Head of Syrian military intelligence suspect in Hariri killing, says Stern

"BEIRUT/NEW YORK: Assef Shawkat, brother-in-law to Syrian President Bashar Assad and the head of Syrian military intelligence, has been named as a suspect by the head of UN team investigating the murder of Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri.

Shawkat, one of Syria's most powerful men, 'was questioned as a suspect and not as a witness,' German magazine Stern wrote, without revealing the source of its information.

Assad had appointed Shawkat Syria's chief of military intelligence shortly after Hariri's assassination on February 14. Sources had said Monday that Mehlis would present the names of some 20 suspects in his report including the names of Syrian officers.

Mehlis is due to present a report to the UN and the Lebanese government this Friday. "...
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Important New CRS Report on War Spending

"From Sept. 11, 2001, to last week, the federal government has spent $357 billion on the "Global War on Terror." These expenses include military operations, reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan and security at U.S. bases and embassies overseas. To date, $326 billion has been appropriated to the Department of Defense and $31 billion was appropriated to the Department of State and the Agency for International Development. Broken down a different way, $251 billion has been spent for fighting and reconstruction in Iraq; $82 billion was spent in Afghanistan. Average monthly spending in Iraq has increased 18 percent to $6 billion, and in Afghanistan spending has decreased 8 percent to $1 billion, compared to 2004. If the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan go relatively smoothly, the United States might spend another $570 billion between 2006 and 2010.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the magnitude of these expenditures, the Department of Defense continues to show the same gross incompetence in tracking and reporting this spending as it does in its regular budget. In this case, DoD appears to have lost track of $7.1 billion appropriated by Congress for war spending, which DoD did not include in its spending reports to itself or to Congress. At the same time, DoD transferred $7 billion to $14 billion in peacetime program funds (mostly from postponed training and deferred equipment repair accounts) to operations costs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, DoD obligations for war purposes have repeatedly exceeded congressional appropriations, and the department used $2.5 billion appropriated in 2001 and 2002 for Afghanistan to instead prepare for the invasion of Iraq, which raises major constitutional and legal questions. Finally, DoD reporting techniques make it extremely difficult to determine just what is spent for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and for base security, and it is virtually impossible to track what DoD plans to spend for these missions compared to what is actually spent. Congress is requiring DoD to improve its reporting on some, but certainly not all, of these issues – if, indeed, the Pentagon is able to.

[bth: Here is the link to the Full PDF version of the Congressional Research Service report.]
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Military: New Aluminum Windows Stop .50-Caliber Bullet

"A new type of transparent armor made of aluminum could one day replace glass in military vehicles.

The product is called aluminum oxynitride. It is being tested by the Army and the University of Dayton Research Institute in Ohio.

The material is a ceramic compound with a high compressive strength and durability, according to an Army statement issued this week. It performs better than the multilayered glass products currently in use, and its about half the weight. It is virtually scratch-resistant.

'The substance itself is light-years ahead of glass,' said 1st Lt. Joseph La Monica, who heads the research.

Glass is still used in the new process, being sandwhiched between an outer layer of the polished aluminum oxynitride and a polymer backing.
.50-caliber test

In a test this summer, the product held up to a .50-caliber sniper's rifle with amor-piercing bullets. Traditional glass armor did not survive the test.
Officials hope the product will prove even more useful when considering more severe threats, such as explosives."....

Congressman wants new Able Danger probe

"WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- A vocal House Republican is calling for a new probe into what he says is a 'witch-hunt' by defense officials against a Sept. 11 intelligence whistleblower.

Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Penn., told United Press International that officials at the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA, had 'conducted a deliberate campaign of character assassination' against the whistleblower, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer.

Shaffer has said that a highly classified Pentagon data-mining project he worked on, codenamed Able Danger, identified the ringleaders of the Sept. 11 terror attacks as linked to al-Qaida more than a year before they hijacked four planes and crashed them, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Weldon told UPI he had written to the Department of Defense inspector general to ask for 'an immediate formal inquiry, with people testifying under oath,' into what he called 'a clear witch-hunt' against Shaffer, who has been on administrative leave while minor allegations about some expenses are investigated.

Weldon's move comes after Shaffer said that boxes of his personal effects, returned to him by the DIA earlier this month, contained both government property and classified documents.

'Sending classified material through the mail is a felony, and much more serious than any of these minor, trumped up charges against (Shaffer),' he said, adding that 'I want the appropriate persons held accountable.'

Weldon said that the DIA had now taken steps to fire Shaffer. 'It's outrageous and scandalous,' he said.

A DIA spokesman had no immediate comment."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Lack of Armor in Afghanistan?

This photo was posted in 2005 from Afghanistan and put on the 173rd Airborne webpage. Note the use of a small body vest (without plates) to provide a fig leaf of protection to the unarmored door. No wonder casualties from IEDs are very high for this unit.

One wonders if this soldier is trying to tell the viewer something about the condition of their equipment? The 173rd, based in Italy, has been traditionally shorted modern equipment (especially in Iraq) because it is the only airborne unit based in Europe which gets procurement through European command. It lacks a congressional representation needed when budget times rolls around.

So why is the Army sending 800 M1114 armored humvees to Ft. Hood for training exercises when units in Combat drive crap like this?

Al-Qaeda doesn't have to defeat us, we are defeating ourselves. Posted by Picasa

What is protecting this detachment of the 173rd Airborne?

Here is a photo posted on the 173rd airborne webpage taken recently in Afghanistan. Note the extreme exposure of the soldiers. Posted by Picasa

173rd Airborne In Afghanistan 2005

Note inadequate armor around crew cabin. No wonder IED casualties are very high for this unit. Posted by Picasa

Is Fort Hood hijacking 800 M1114 Armored Humvees from Soldiers in Combat?

Tomorrow, Thursday, October 20, Representative Duncan Hunter has called a special meeting of the House Armed Services Committee to receive testimony on the Army's M1114 Up-Armor High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (UAH) distribution strategy. For two years, all armored vehicles of this type have been gathered up and sent to combat zones to cover woefully under equipped troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Witnesses include Francis J. Harvey, Secretary of the Army and General Richard A. Cody, Vice Chief of Staff, United States Army.

Word has it that the Army sent 800 M1114 fully armored humvees to Ft. Hood instead of to Iraq or Afghanistan. At roughly $250,000 with accoutrements and CD player, this totals out to $200 million -- nearly two months of full capacity production.

Reportedly Duncan Hunter, Chairman of the HARC has called the hearing because he could not get a satisfactory explanation from the Army as to why these units aren’t being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan to supplant Level II and Level III armored vehicles. Level II and Level III armored vehicles (hillbilly armor) is providing insufficient protection to mines and more powerful IEDs now being used by the enemy.

As of this summer there were 7,700 Level I armored humvees (M1114s) in Iraq, 18,000 Level IIs and 7,500 Level IIIs. Add to this the woefully inadequate equipment conditions of the Marines who are reportedly waiting in line until next year for production of armored humvees. It seems that the Army has been hording and evidently shipping to Ft. Hood instead of the combat zone where Army units and certainly Marines might benefit. According to a report prepared this summer by the Inspector General for the Marines, 22% of the Marine fleet of light and medium weight vehicles are worn out and need to be swapped out as soon as possible. The A1 frames are simply unable to carry the weight of the armor and need to be replaced immediately with heavier vehicles that won’t breakdown. Further, one notes the striking increase in IED-caused deaths of Marines in Anbar province as M113 tracked vehicles and LAVs are being used to provide some level of protection since M1114 fully armored humvees are in short supply for them.

So why are Marines dieing for lack of fully armored humvees and why are Level II and especially Level III “hillbilly” armored vehicles still being used when the Army has enough to allegedly divert 800 to war-games maneuvers at Ft. Hood. Doesn’t the Sec. of the Army know that there is a war on? Where is the Joint Chief of Staff, or the Secretary of Defense, or for that matter anyone with commonsense?

By the way, has anyone checked the photos on the 173rd airborne website deployed in Afghanistan to see lightly armored or no-armored humvees being still used and then checked into their casualty stats? One will see that they have had more casualties in Afghanistan than in Iraq and the increase appears due to IED detonations on vehicles, especially from underneath the vehicles. Also note the photos the soldiers pointing at the ill-armored vehicles with body vests stuffed inside the canvas door frames ala 2003 when our son PFC John D. Hart was killed in such ill-equipped vehicles with that unit. It is quite evident from the stats that the Taliban is aware of these deficiencies, but for some reason this unit is so far from the flagpole that the Pentagon doesn’t seem to notice or care.

So I look forward to hearing what General Cody and Sec. Harvey have to say tomorrow. It should be noted that in April of this year, Senator Inouye read into the Congressional Record and minutes of the Senate an email from the Army saying that it didn’t need any more armored vehicles, then in July of this year, Senator Warner, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, amended his own Defense Bill to authorize the immediate continuance of armored humvee production citing deficiencies in numbers to the tune of a couple of thousand vehicles between the Army and the Marines. What incompetence. By my most recent count, this increase in production over estimated needs has happened ten times in under two years.

In April the armored humvee plant remained running only after a Senate floor fight in which Sen. Kennedy carried the water for the House Republicans of all people to add enough funding to keep the plant moving. After a second day of debate and imminent defeat which would have idled the plant, Sen. McCain threw enough moderate votes over to assist Sen. Kennedy so that the plant remained running during the summer. The vote was 61-39. The actual Senate tally sheet is hanging on my wall complete with mark outs and changed votes.

So I will wait with interest to see what reason the Army has for diverting 800 armored M1114 humvees to Ft. Hood instead of combat zones where they are needed. If nothing else why not give them to the marines that are waiting for deliveries? How many soldiers and marines have died because of this incompetence?

PS. The last time I recall Chairman Hunter doing something like this hearing was around May of this year when he chastised several Marine Generals for sitting on paperwork for two months that would have approved the fitting of Stryker armor sitting around in Kuwait to be added to inadequately armored Marine trucks in Iraq.

Stay tuned.

John Hart returned to Bedford High School to see Ms. P. in 2003

Ms. Diane Pascucci was the best teacher John D. Hart ever had. A great friend and mentor. Posted by Picasa