Friday, February 03, 2006

$120b more is sought for war efforts

$120b more is sought for war efforts - The Boston Globe: "WASHINGTON -- The White House will ask Congress for an additional $70 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of the fiscal year -- nearly double some government estimates of what would be needed just a few months ago -- and will also seek $50 billion more as a down payment for those wars in 2007, administration officials said yesterday."

If approved by Congress, the request would bring the fighting costs for fiscal 2006, which ends Sept. 30, to about $120 billion, $35 billion more than the $85 billion that the Congressional Budget Office estimated last year that the Pentagon would need for this fiscal year. The new request would also bring total war spending since the 2001 terrorist attacks to $440 billion.

The new war request was announced a day after the House of Representatives cut nearly $40 billion from the budget, mostly from social programs, to help fend off rising deficits.

The additional funding, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget, includes an estimated $4.5 billion a month, up slightly from last year, to continue fighting the counterinsurgency in Iraq, and around $800 million a month in Afghanistan.

The funds will cover basic needs such as fuel, ammunition, spare parts, and soldier bonuses; help pay for the training of Iraqi and Afghan security forces; and be used to replace equipment that is being worn out in Iraq, the White House said.

The United States currently has about 150,000 troops in Iraq and about 19,000 in Afghanistan.

Joel Kaplan, deputy director of OMB, told reporters in a conference call that some of the increase could be attributed to expenses that were not taken into account in earlier estimates. ''The closer you get to the time at which you actually need to request money, the more reliable your estimate is likely to be," he said.

For example, the figure is higher than some anticipated partly because of the growing need to replace damaged equipment and replace weapons that have been heavily used in Iraq, Kaplan said.

''The longer we're there, the more we see additional wear and tear," Kaplan said. ''That's what you'd expect, particularly on some of the Army and Marine Corps equipment that dates from the late 1980s. You see it . . . coming to the end of its life cycle, expected life cycle, sooner than it otherwise would have, as a result of being employed in combat."

Other increases are the result of the new technologies and other tools to help thwart the roadside bombs that remain the biggest killer of American troops in Iraq.

Kaplan did not provide a specific breakdown of the funding, saying that the final package is still being completed. It will be forwarded to Congress in about a week, he said, confirming only that $5 billion will be set aside to help pay for part of a longstanding plan to reequip certain Army units, some of which have been slated for duty in the Middle East

But the overall figures -- the separate requests for $70 billion for the rest of 2006 and $50 billion for 2007 -- will also be calculated in the White House's deficit projections when it separately releases its 2007 federal budget request on Monday, Kaplan said. The Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that it estimates the 2006 deficit will be at least $337 and may reach $400 billion or higher, depending partly on the cost of the Iraq War

The new request comes on top of $50 billion the Congress gave the Bush administration in the annual defense budget passed in December to cover the first few months of the fiscal year. If approved, the total budget of $120 billion makes this year the costliest so far in terms of military operations since 2001.

Reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan continues to be funded separately, out of an $18.4 billion fund approved in 2004. Much of the money has not been spent due to the unstable security situation.

Meanwhile, the military costs, both direct and indirect, continue to climb. President Bush ''pledged that he will commit the resources that are necessary to fight and win the war on terrorism," Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense, said in the telephone briefing yesterday. ''A critical part of that is ensuring our troops in the field have all the resources they need."

As for the additional $50 billion to continue funding the wars in 2007, Kaplan said, ''It's a bridge fund, and when we get closer and we see how events over the next year have transpired in a very fluid situation -- fluid politically and on a security basis -- we'll be in a much better position to identify the costs."

Meanwhile, the Bush administration also said yesterday it would seek an additional $18 billion -- on top of the $62 billion already approved -- to help rebuild the devastated Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The hurricane relief money would fund a new veterans' hospital in New Orleans and help small businesses to recover, Reuters reported. Most of the money was expected to be disbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was roundly criticized for its lackluster response to the hurricanes last year.

That announcement sparked immediate criticism. ''I am highly concerned that the administration's proposal, which lacks details, will put more money into dysfunctional bureaucracies like FEMA and won't adequately address urgent needs such as housing, levees, and flood protection," Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said in a statement.

The administration will seek another $2.3 billion to prepare the country against a possible outbreak of an avian flu pandemic.

Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

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End beckons for the 'United States of Iraq'

FT.com / World / Middle East & Africa - End beckons for the 'United States of Iraq': "It's raining in Iraq and as the desert bases of the US army turn to mud, the thoughts of the men and women serving there turn to home.

The talk among the commanders is of an expected drawing down of the troop strength, which stands at about 150,000.

There is a sense that with the final lap of the political handover completed with December's election and, even more importantly, with the forthcoming US congressional elections in November, a substantial part of the army is on its way home - for good.

One staff major in a combat unit, who is about to head home after completing his second tour in Iraq, is pretty certain he will not have to come back. 'By 2007, when we are up for the next rotation, we will not be here any more, at least not as extensively,' he says.
One of his colleagues has a darker view: 'Yeah, or we'll be back by then with even more men to restore order because the country went to hell after a withdrawal in 2006.'

Many of the commanders on the ground feel that they are achieving something, by gaining the trust of the local population and by working closely with the new Iraqi army and the police force.

Some say that given one or two more years of the same kind of effort, the Iraqi security forces will be able to stand on their own feet."

But some of the more thoughtful and more senior officers usually admit, after some reflection, that it is overly optimistic to think the US can change patterns that have been established over centuries.

The expressions of doubt come as the army and the whole of the US operationin Iraq has come undercriticism from unexpected quarters.

A poll in the Military Times last month showed that, within the military, support for the way thewar is being waged is crumbling.

Then, British army Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster criticised the US forces, saying they showed little sensitivity to the cultural make-up of Iraq and that junior officers painted too bright a picture of the situation to their superiors.

Much of the criticism, both of the military and of other aspects of the US involvement in Iraq, is aimed at a perceived lack of American understanding of the complexity of the situation.

In Baghdad a senior western diplomat says this is because most Americans in Iraq maintain an often inevitable distance from the local population, cooped up in their large Green Zone administrative centre in Baghdad or their bases throughout the country. They only venture out, heavily armed, to liaise with leaders whose authority in the community remains hard to gauge.

This may be a slightly exaggerated picture but on a military flight into Baghdad from the Jordanian capital Amman, evidence of this dynamic can be seen.

Flak jackets and helmets notwithstanding, most of the people in the C-130 look as if they are bureaucrats on a morning commute in the suburbs of Washington DC. These civilian contractors and Department of Defense and State Department personnel will probably never set foot outside the confines of the American network of bases and transportation in Iraq.

The Americans have built a parallel, virtual country in Iraq that most soldiers and American civilians never have to leave. "I'm not in Iraq," says one soldier in Balad. "This is the United States of Iraq."

Even the majority of soldiers seldom or never go "outside the wire", being engaged in support functions.

Contact with Iraqis is limited to the few who work on bases, are employed as translators or those who serve in the new Iraqi army.

The drawing down of troop strength is already fraying some parts of this virtual world.

The Green Zone is slowly being phased out, with buildings being handed over to the Iraqi government and security forces, to the dismay of some of the support units based there.
"Pretty soon we will be in the middle of the Red Zone," says a sergeant, referring to the Iraqi capital outside the enclave, which is regarded as unsafe.

With the dismantling of the Green Zone, a symbol of the foreign presence will disappear, although the Americans are building an enormous new embassy compound in the area that even some of their troops refer to as "a monstrosity" and which is likely to function as a mini-Green Zone inthe future.

Dormant al-Qaida cells exist in S. Arabia

United Press International - Intl. Intelligence - Dormant al-Qaida cells exist in S. Arabia: "RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdel Aziz said dormant al-Qaida cells exist in Saudi Arabia, but police have aborted 90 percent of planned attacks.

Nayef was quoted by the Saudi Press Agency, SPA, as saying Wednesday 'we cannot say at all that we have purged the country from those terrorists as long as certain parties are still offering them training, financing, and leading them in ways that have nothing to do with true Islam.'

Nayef stressed Saudi determination 'to confront the terrorists with force,' vowing that 'we will not slacken in combating them no matter how long it takes.'

He said Saudi police and security forces have aborted no less than 90 percent of the attacks planned by al-Qaida in the kingdom. "...
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2 Times Reporters Queried in Federal Investigation - New York Times

2 Times Reporters Queried in Federal Investigation - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 - Federal agents contacted two reporters from The New York Times on Wednesday seeking information about a former Pentagon official and two representatives of a pro-Israel lobbying group who have been at the center of a criminal investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.
The requests were made to David S. Cloud and Steven R. Weisman, reporters in The Times's Washington bureau. Mr. Cloud was asked about possible contacts he had in the spring of 2003 with representatives of the lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. At the time, Mr. Cloud was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

Michael Kortan, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, would not comment on the phone calls on grounds that the requests for information were part of a continuing inquiry.

A government official who has been briefed on the matter said that agents had contacted reporters from several news organizations.

The agents, the official said, are trying to determine whether reporters received national security information intended to influence their reporting on the Middle East.

The Times reporters were regarded as witnesses, the official said, rather than subjects or targets of the investigation.
The official added that the inquiry was being conducted in compliance with Justice Department guidelines that require legal approval before journalists are contacted.

The requests follow the Jan. 23 sentencing of Lawrence A. Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst and expert on Iran. Mr. Franklin's sentencing, to a term of more than 12 years after a guilty plea, refocused the case on two former Aipac officials, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, who are scheduled to go on trial in April. Each has pleaded not guilty."

[bth: curious.]
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Wide Plot Seen in Guilty Plea in Iraq Project - New York Times

Wide Plot Seen in Guilty Plea in Iraq Project - New York Times: "Robert J. Stein Jr. could not have been clearer about his feelings toward the American businessman who was receiving millions of dollars in contracts from Mr. Stein to build a major police academy and other reconstruction projects in Iraq."

I love to give you money," Mr. Stein wrote in an e-mail message to the businessman, Philip H. Bloom, on Jan. 3, 2004, just as the United States was trying to ramp up its rebuilding program in Iraq.

As it turned out, Mr. Stein had the money to give. Despite a prior conviction on felony fraud that his Pentagon background check apparently missed, Mr. Stein was hired and put in charge of at least $82 million of reconstruction money in the south central Iraqi city of Hilla by the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American-led administration that was then running Iraq.

In United States District Court in Washington, court papers indicate, Mr. Stein will plead guilty today to conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, possession of a machine gun and being a felon in possession of firearms, for essentially giving millions of that money to Mr. Bloom, and taking millions more for himself. Mr. Stein used some of his stolen money, the papers say, to buy items as wildly diverse as grenade launchers, machine guns, a Lexus, "an interest in one Porsche," a Cessna airplane, two plots of real estate in Hope Mills, N.C., a Toshiba personal computer, 18 Breitling watches, a 6-carat diamond ring and a collection of silver dollars. The papers say that the ring of corruption was much wider than previously known, drawing at least seven Americans, including Mr. Stein, Mr. Bloom and five Army reserve officers, into what is portrayed as a maelstrom of greed, sex and gun-running at the heart of the American occupation of a conservative Muslim country.

As part of their bribery scheme, Mr. Stein and his co-conspirators dispensed and received a wide range of other items like cigars, alcohol, first-class plane tickets and "money laundering services," according to the papers. And if all of that were not enough reason for Mr. Stein to love giving money to his partner, the papers say, there was another: Mr. Bloom kept a villa in Baghdad where he provided women who gave sexual favors to officials he hoped to influence, including Mr. Stein. Mr. Bloom's lawyer, Robert A. Mintz, declined to comment on the case.

The court papers say the money was taken by outright theft of millions of dollars in cash — some of it then lugged aboard commercial flights back to the United States — by steering millions of dollars in construction contracts to Mr. Bloom's companies in return for bribes, and through international wire transfers of millions more.

Over all, Mr. Stein is accused of stealing at least $2 million of American taxpayer money and Iraqi funds, which came from Iraqi oil proceeds and money seized from Saddam Hussein's government, accepting at least $1 million in money and goods in direct bribes and grabbing another $600,000 in cash and goods that belonged to the Coalition Provisional Authority. In return, Mr. Stein and his cronies used rigged bids to steer at least $8.6 million in contracts for buildings like the police academy, a library and a center meant to promote democracy, the papers say.

The papers say "Stein and his co-conspirators recommended numerous construction projects in Hilla, Iraq, that were intended to be, and were in fact, steered" to Mr. Bloom. That charge suggests that Mr. Stein, using his perch at the provisional authority, was manipulating at least part of the reconstruction program to enrich himself and his cronies.

There have so far been four arrests in the case, including Mr. Stein, of Fayetteville, N.C., and Mr. Bloom, who lived for many years in Romania. The others, who like Mr. Stein served as C.P.A. officials whose authority extended over a vast territory centered on Hilla, are Lt. Col. Debra Harrison of Trenton and Lt. Col. Michael Wheeler of Amherst Junction, Wis. They were all arrested late last year. Lawyers for Colonel Harrison and Colonel Wheeler did not immediately respond to phone messages left late last night.

The papers covering Mr. Stein's likely plea deal refer to Mr. Bloom, Colonel Harrison and Colonel Wheeler only as numbered co-conspirators, but their names are easily deduced from the context. The remaining three people called co-conspirators have not yet been publicly charged with crimes and their names are not known. The papers also suggest that others may have been involved.

As described in the court papers, reports by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and other public documents, the story of Mr. Stein's slide into the depths of corruption began shortly after he was sent to Iraq after being hired by S&K Technologies, a St. Ignatius, Mont., company that had won Army contracts to provide administrative support in Iraq.

Although S&K's contract called for Pentagon background checks, some of which were actually carried out, according to former S&K employees, Mr. Stein was given extraordinary authority in Iraq to authorize and spend money, in spite of his fraud conviction in the mid-1990's.

Mr. Stein's control over astonishing sums of cash became so great, interviews with former officials in Hilla indicate, that at one point he and others picked up $58.8 million in shrink-wrapped $100 bills from provisional authority headquarters and drove back with it to Hilla. There Mr. Stein controlled access to the vault where the cash was put — though not before local employees posed for pictures in front of the money.

The story of Mr. Stein's misdeeds begins, according to the court papers, with an e-mail message Mr. Stein sent to Mr. Bloom asking if one of the other conspirators was now "on board." A few days later, Mr. Stein sent an exultant note saying that he had pushed through the first of the police academy contracts, for preparing the ground. "I will give you 200K sometime tomorrow afternoon!" Mr. Stein wrote.
Some $7.3 million in contracts and grants ultimately was written for the academy, with much of it going to Mr. Bloom, the papers say. Agents from the special inspector general's office later found that the work was done improperly or not at all. Mr. Stein had authority only to write contracts for under $500,000. He evaded that limit by writing at least 11 separate contracts, each for under that amount, federal papers say.
A few days after that first e-mail message, in the first of a series of wire transfers, Mr. Bloom sent $30,000 from a bank in Kuwait to an account controlled by Mr. Stein's wife at the Bragg Mutual Federal Credit Union in North Carolina. Two weeks later, the papers indicate, $70,000 more went out by the same route. The bribes had begun.

From that point on, through contract after contract, Mr. Stein, Mr. Bloom and the other conspirators descended into unbridled corruption, the papers indicate. They appeared to draw more people into the scam and became fearful of being exposed. On Feb. 25, 2004, Mr. Stein wrote a message saying that the official who had been brought "on board" had just stomped out of Mr. Stein's office, the papers say. "I guess he was expecting the next chunk for 60 sent," Mr. Stein wrote, referring to a bribe of $60,000, "and he got a call from his wife stating he had not received it."

And after Mr. Bloom wrote back saying "I sent the funds a week ago" and "tell him to stop acting like a child," Mr. Stein replied, seemingly with trepidation: "Shall I go ahead and give" the official "the 50 or 60 to shut him up?" The demands of the co-conspirators seemed to grow more extreme as time went on. By late June, Mr. Bloom carried on a correspondence with a car dealer in the United States to satisfy highly expensive demands by yet another alleged player in the scheme.

"Your friend is seeking a very desirable, hard-to-find color: electric blue," the dealer wrote back. "It appears that there are only two blue Nissan 350Z hardtops in the western United States," adding that the person "wants the following specifications: Touring model, manual transmission, aerodynamics package, cargo convenience package, floor mats, splash guards and trunk mat." Cost: $35,990.

A frantic tone crept into Mr. Stein's correspondence as he realized investigators could be closing in. One official, Mr. Stein wrote on June 25 to the person who wanted the Nissan, "is pushing some things that could snowball out of control."

"I am doing my best to keep a formal investigation from happening," Mr. Stein wrote. He added, "I would like to know if you are going to stand behind me or not!"

[bth: reading this article it isn't hard to understand what happened to the billions in reconstruction money we sent to Iraq. Has a single high level authority been prosecuted for gross mismanagement, fraud or lost his job at the Pentagon or State Dept.?]
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USATODAY.com - Troops getting better body armor, generals testify

USATODAY.com - Troops getting better body armor, generals testify: "WASHINGTON - Top Army and Marine Corps officers said Wednesday that they are buying and sending the latest body armor to troops in Iraq as fast as possible, including ceramic plates to protect against bullets or shrapnel from the side.

'We are looking at everything today that is possible or available,' said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, the Army's deputy chief for acquisition. Published reports last month that said troops weren't getting the armor were 'at best inaccurate,' Sorenson said.

Several members of Congress, including Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., pushed the Pentagon to speed the body armor to troops after newspaper accounts said the military had delayed buying the armor despite evidence it would save lives.

In testimony Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee, senior officers from the Army and Marines denied there had been any intentional delays. When studies of military casualties last year showed there would be a considerable benefit to supplementing front and back protection with ceramic plates on the sides of armor vests, the equipment was designed and tested, they said."

Some troops already have the side armor, and full-scale protection begins this month.

The Army is making "relentless efforts" to support troops, said Maj. Gen. Stephen Speakes, director of force development. But adding more heavy armor is hitting its limits, he said, at least until technology allows further reduction in the weight of components, such as the ceramic inserts that stop high-velocity rounds.

Today's Interceptor Body Armor, the Army standard, weighs 31 pounds in a medium size and up to 38 pounds in the largest size. The Marines use a similar design.

The armor's weight is a serious issue for troops in Iraq, who often fight in temperatures above 100 degrees and in urban settings in which they have to jump through windows or climb over walls.

Speakes said the military must constantly consider the trade-offs between armor and weight.

"Piling on too much armor presents as much risk to the soldier as providing too little," he said. Though studying casualties provides information, he said, it "does not reveal how many soldiers or Marines have been saved because they were able to quickly raise and fire their rifles first," before the enemy can shoot.

During the invasion of Iraq, a vest with plates to protect against high-powered rifle rounds was standard battle issue for Marines and Army troops. However, troops behind the front lines lacked the latest protection, just as their vehicles often were not armored.

Military truck drivers had also complained that they lacked armor that provided side protection.

The military says it has caught up on both fronts: that all troops in Iraq have state-of-the-art vests and helmets, and all vehicles driven off bases are fully armored.

Last month, the Pentagon said some of the Army's delays in getting the latest armor out to troops were caused by shortages of some of the materials needed to make ceramic armor plating and the absence of one big company to make large amounts of the body armor.

The basic vest has been supplemented twice. First, in 2004, a panel was added to protect the shoulder and armpit area. And now, the side panels with ceramic plates.

Sorenson said the Army is on its third generation of inserts for its body armor and is always looking for new options.
"We will test any legitimate product, and we will see if it meets our standards," he said.

Brig. Gen. Karl Horst, assistant commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, who returned from Iraq last month, testified with two other soldiers who were protected by the current body armor. They thanked Congress for paying for the improvements in body armor but said they recognized the limits.

"There are no silver bullets that will protect us from all the dangers that are out there," Horst said.

[bth: the real hearing took place behind closed doors last week. That's when the heads were knocked and there is a persistent rumor that the side panels that were supposed to be in Iraq were found to actually be stuck in a warehouse. Yesterday's hearing was more in the way of a PR campaign.

Note the tight selection of words though. For example the Army now is 'looking' at all the alternatives - not necessarily acquiring or even testing. As to delays they were not "intentional" or "deliberate" which is a long way from saying that they didn't occur for over two years as the NYTs pointed out through bureaucratic ineptitude.

These are the same guys that two years ago thought 1/3rd of the troops and all the transportation companies didn't need body armor at all. Now those same transport companies which get shot from the sides and are the primary target of ambushes, designed their own side panels last summer in Iraq and to date they still aren't produced. In fact the panels were agreed to the day before Senate Armed Services Committee hearings in January and days after the NYTs article pointing out the deficiencies after six months of delay.

As to the USA Today, they've just published the Pentagon talking points memos for the last year since Army Sec. Harvey went after the editor over some excellent investigative reporting on vehicular armor.

Also note the careful use of the words regarding testing and standards. One of the real games played over body and vehicular armor is the selective testing of equipment, the skewing of test results against systems that appear expensive or weren't 'invented here' and the classification of results that contradict existing decisions. A few weeks ago all body armor contractors were given a gag order by the Pentagon according to the NYTs.

It is believed that the better body armor used namely by the secret service and private security contractors in Iraq had their test results classified to prevent the conclusion that the soldiers weren't getting the best available equipment. Things got so bad on some vehicular armor two years ago that Rep. Simmons actually had to escort armor down for testing.

I will say that the responsiveness on this issue has become much more timely now versus two years ago. There are definite signs of progress occurring on body and vehicular armor.

Our objective is to see that the troops get the best equipment available as soon as practicable. This is a reasonable standard of performance that the American public should demand and its volunteer troops should expect. I applaud all efforts by the Pentagon to move in that direction.]

Senate Panel Rebuffed on Documents on U.S. Spying - New York Times

Senate Panel Rebuffed on Documents on U.S. Spying - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 - The Bush administration is rebuffing requests from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for its classified legal opinions on President Bush's domestic spying program, setting up a confrontation in advance of a hearing scheduled for next week, administration and Congressional officials said Wednesday.

The Justice Department is balking at the request so far, administration officials said, arguing that the legal opinions would add little to the public debate because the administration has already laid out its legal defense at length in several public settings.

But the legality of the program is known to have produced serious concerns within the Justice Department in 2004, at a time when one of the legal opinions was drafted. Democrats say they want to review the internal opinions to assess how legal thinking on the program evolved and whether lawyers in the department saw any concrete limits to the president's powers in fighting terrorism.

With the committee scheduled to hold the first public hearing on the eavesdropping program on Monday, the Justice Department's stance could provoke another clash between Congress and the executive branch over access to classified internal documents. The administration has already drawn fire from Democrats in the last week for refusing to release internal documents on Hurricane Katrina as well as material related to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff. "...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

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World Public Opinion- New WPO Poll: Iraqi Public Thinks US Plans Permanent Bases in Iraq

World Public Opinion:

"Iraqis Want Timetable for US Withdrawal

Half of Iraqis Approve of Attacks on US Forces, Including 9 Out of 10 Sunnis"

A new poll of the Iraqi public finds that a large majority of Iraqis think the US plans to maintain bases in Iraq permanently, even if the newly elected government asks the US to leave. A large majority favors setting a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces, though this majority divides over whether the timeline should be over a period of six months or two years. Nearly half of Iraqis approve of attacks on US-led forces—including nine out of 10 Sunnis. Most Iraqis believe that many aspects of their lives will improve once the US-led forces leave, but are nonetheless uncertain that Iraqi security forces are ready to stand on their own.

The poll was conducted for WorldPublicOpinion.org by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland and was fielded by KA Research Limited/D3 Systems, Inc. Polling was conducted January 2-5 with a nationwide sample of 1,150, which included an oversample of 150 Arab Sunnis (hereafter simply called Sunnis).

Asked whether “the US government plans to have permanent military bases in Iraq or to remove all its military forces once Iraq is stabilized,” 80% overall assume that the US plans to remain permanently, including 79% of Shia, 92% of Sunnis and 67% of Kurds. Only small minorities believe that the US plans “to remove all its military forces once Iraq is stabilized” (overall 18%, Shia 21%, Sunni 7%, Kurds 28%).

Iraqis of all ethnic groups also agree that the US is unlikely to take direction from the Iraqi government. Asked what they think the US would do if the new government were to ask the US to withdraw its forces within six months, 76% overall assume that the US would refuse to do so (Shia 67%, Sunni 94%, Kurds 77%).

Support for Timetable

Asked what they would like the newly elected Iraqi government to ask the US-led forces to do, 70% of Iraqis favor setting a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces. This number divides evenly between 35% who favor a short time frame of “within six months” and 35% who favor a gradual reduction over two years. Just 29% say it should “only reduce US-led forces as the security situation improves in Iraq.

There are, however, variations along ethnic lines. Sunnis are the most unified, with 83% wanting US forces to leave within 6 months. Seventy percent of Shia agree on having a timeline, but divide between 22% who favor withdrawal in six months and 49% who favor two years. Among the Kurds, on the other hand, a majority of 57% favor reducing US-led forces only when the situation improves.

Even larger majorities, including a majority of Kurds, indicate a readiness to follow the government’s lead should it choose to pursue a timetable. Asked if it was a good idea for Iraqi leaders to have agreed at the Arab League conference that there should be a timetable for the withdrawal of US-led forces from Iraq, 87% say that it was, including 64% of Kurds, 94% of Sunnis and 90% of Shia.

Despite the strong support for a timeline, there are differing expectations as to what the new government will in fact do. Overall, 61% assume that the newly elected government will propose a timeline, with 17% assuming that it will be within six months and 44% over two years. However, there are sharp differences between the ethnic groups. While 76% of Shia assume that the new government will ask for withdrawal in six months (24%) or two years (52%), a majority of Kurds (57%) and Sunnis (54%) assume that the new government will ask US forces to withdraw only as the security situation improves.

A November 2005 poll of Iraqis conducted by the Oxford Research Institute for a consortium of media outlets including BBC, ABC News, NHK and others also found unhappiness with the presence of US troops. Sixty-five percent said they opposed “the presence of coalition forces in Iraq.” However, it was not asked specifically whether they wanted them to leave and when.

Support for Attacks

A substantial portion of Iraqis support attacks on US led-forces, but not attacks on Iraqi government security forces or Iraqi civilians. Ethnic groups vary sharply on these questions.

Overall, 47% say they approve of “attacks on US-led forces” (23% strongly). There are huge differences between ethnic groups. An extraordinary 88% of Sunnis approve, with 77% approving strongly. Forty-one percent of Shia approve as well, but just 9% strongly. Even 16% of Kurds approve (8% strongly).

Naturally the question arises why it is that only 35% want US troops to withdraw within six months while 47% approve of attacks on US-led forces. Interestingly, 41% of those who support attacks do not favor a near-term withdrawal. One possible explanation is that the attacks are not prompted by a desire to bring about an immediate withdrawal, but to put pressure on the US so that it will eventually leave. Indeed, among those who approve of such attacks, 90% believe that the US plans to have bases in Iraq permanently and 87% assume that the US would refuse to leave even if asked to by the new Iraqi government.

PIPA Director Steven Kull comments, “It appears that support for attacks on US-led forces may not always be prompted by a desire for the US to leave Iraq immediately but rather to put pressure on the US to leave eventually—something most Iraqis perceive the US as having no intention of doing.”

Support for other types of attacks is sharply lower. An overwhelming 93% oppose attacks on Iraqi government security forces (66% strongly). This is true of all ethnic groups, including 76% of Sunnis, 97% of Shia and 99% of Kurds. Thus, it appears that support for attacks on US-led forces is truly aimed at US-led forces, not an indirect attempt to undermine the new Iraqi government.

Support for attacks on Iraqi civilians is nearly nonexistent. Only 1% approve, while 95% disapprove strongly.
Sources of Urgency for Withdrawal The major source of urgency for withdrawal is the feeling, especially among Sunnis, that it is offensive for their country to be occupied. A secondary reason is that US forces attract more attacks and make the violence worse.

The 35% of respondents who took the position in favor of the near-term exit of US forces from Iraq (six months) were asked: “Which of the following reasons for withdrawing US-led forces is the most important to you?” and given four options. The most commonly selected answer is: “It is offensive to me to have foreign forces in my country.” This was selected by 20% (of the total sample) overall, 52% of Sunnis, 11% of Shia and 7% of Kurds. The second most common answer is: “The presence of US forces attracts more violent attacks and makes things worse,” which was selected by 11% overall, 26% of Sunnis, 6% of Shia and 4% of Kurds. Far fewer chose the other two options: “It is no longer necessary to have US-led forces in Iraq: Iraq can take care of itself” (2%), and “I do not like the way US forces have treated Iraqi civilians” (2%).

Effects of US Withdrawal

Iraqis believe that many aspects of their lives would improve were US-led forces to leave Iraq. Sunnis and Shia feel this way regarding every aspect asked about, while the Kurds have more mixed views. However, the majority is still not sure that Iraqi security forces are ready for US-led forces to leave within a short-term time frame.

Respondents were asked what would happen in a variety of areas if US-led forces were to withdraw from Iraq in the next six months. Majorities of Iraqis express confidence that in many dimensions related to security, things would improve. Sixty-seven percent say that “day to day security for ordinary Iraqis” would increase, a consensus position among all ethnic groups—83% of Sunnis, 61% of Shia and 57% of Kurds. On other points, Sunnis and Shia agree, but the Kurds diverge. Overall, 64% believe that violent attacks would decrease, including a majority of Sunnis (86%) and Shia (66%), but 78% of Kurds think they will increase. Overall, 61% think that the amount of interethnic violence will decrease, including a majority of Sunnis (81%) and Shia (64%), but a majority of Kurds (68%) think it will increase. Similarly, 56% overall agree that the presence of foreign fighters in Iraq will decrease if US-led forces withdraw (Sunnis 74%, Shia 64%), but 74% of Kurds think they will increase.

Interestingly, there is a fair amount of consensus that if US-led troops were to withdraw, there would be substantial improvement in the performance of the Iraqi state. Overall, 73% think there will be an increase in the willingness of factions to cooperate in Parliament, including majorities of Kurds (62%), Sunnis (87%) and Shia (68%). Sixty-seven percent assume there will be an increase in the availability of public services such as electricity, schools and sanitation (Sunni 83%, Shia 63%, Kurds 54%). Sixty-four percent assume crime will go down (Sunnis 88%, Shia 66%), but here again the Kurds diverge, with 77% assuming crime will increase.

Naturally the question arises, “Why do only 35% favor the US withdrawing within six months if there would be so many assumed benefits?” The answer may lie in the response to another question that asked whether in six months Iraqi security forces will be “strong enough to deal with the security challenges Iraq will face” or will still “need the help of military forces from other countries.” Overall, 59% feel that Iraqi security forces will not be strong enough, including 55% of Shia, 58% of Sunnis and 73% of Kurds. Thus, the presence of US troops may be perceived as an unwelcome presence that produces many undesirable side effects, but is still necessary for a period.
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Soldiers for the Truth- The United States Depends Solely on Foreign Suppliers to Obtain Body Armor for its War Fighters

Soldiers for the Truth: "By most accounts except his own Ceradyne, Inc.'s Chief Executive Officer Joel Moskowitz is a brilliant, affable, hard working, and approachable industrialist who has just about cornered the world market for armor-quality boron carbide 'powder,' the primary ingredient in most of the body armor worn by American soldiers fighting around the world.

Even Moskowitz would probably agree with all those flattering descriptions of himself except that he has cornered the market on high quality boron carbide powder necessary to make the 'hard' SAPI plate body armor currently favored by the Defense Department experts. The Costa Mesa, California-based company Moskowitz founded and runs is the largest manufacturer of personal ceramic body armor in the world.

'I wouldn't say we have a lock on the market,' Moskowitz told DefenseWatch during a telephone conversation last Friday. 'We will sell our [boron carbide] powder to anybody who wants it.' "

Although the boron carbide powder (R) used for body armor is of vital strategic importance to American interests, particularly the warriors who wear it to survive in the twin crucibles of Iraq and Afghanistan, it is not manufactured anywhere in the United States. To acquire it the Pentagon is primarily dependent on Moskowitz, and through him the Germans and French, as well as the People's Republic of China, and the Russians and Ukrainians.

No one DefenseWatch talked to disputes that hard body armor is vital for Coalition war fighters ordered into battlefields to root out insurgents. Time after time American soldiers and their allies have survived encounters with their wily enemy because they had the advantage of body armor. But, as the U.S. Marine Corps found out in August, almost three years after being deployed to Iraq, and six years after Interceptor OTV body armor was fielded, many of the 401 Marines that died in Iraq might have fared much better if they had been issued better body armor. That includes replacing the current SAPI plates with a better design, an internal Marine Corps study completed in late August and exclusively revealed in DefenseWatch shows.

The boron carbide SAPI plates are worn over a "soft" Kevlar body armor vest and designed to stop most military issue rifle bullets from penetrating the plates and entering the wearer's body. The SAPI plates currently in use will stop most military caliber rifle bullets at least once, although an Interceptor OTV SAPI plate that has been struck once almost completely loses its effectiveness to prevent a second bullet from penetrating it, numerous ballistics experts agree. Other kinds of body armor sold on the commercial market can stop multiple hits from even larger caliber and so-called "hotter" rounds used by specially equipped snipers and ever more sophisticated insurgents.

During a test conducted last Thursday and Friday (Jan. 26/27) with the assistance of local law enforcement officers in Fresno, CA and recorded by local affiliates of two national television networks, Pinnacle Armor's Dragon Skin body armor defeated hundreds of rounds fired into it at minimum ranges. In two days of testing the Dragon Skin body armor prevented 72 rounds AK-47 ball ammo fired into both the front and back of the vest being tested from penetrating the armor. Dragon Skin also stopped 250 rounds of 9mm fired from an H&K MP5 at 12 feet without any penetration, according to Pinnacle spokesperson Paul Chopra and Murray Neal, the founder and president of Pinnacle.

A complete suit of Dragon Skin weighs about the same as a complete issue of Interceptor OTV body armor and is far more flexible and durable. It also costs about four times as much as Interceptor OTV does. Despite in superior qualities the Army rejected Dragon Skin without public comment in favor of its in-house Interceptor OTV design after it conducted its own ballistic tests of Dragon Skin at Aberdeen Research Laboratory and obtained equally impressive results. Subsequently the Army classified its ballistic studies of Dragon Skin and refuses to comment on them. In fact, PEO Soldier at Ft. Belvoir, VA refuses to comment about anything and has not answered a single inquiry made by DefenseWatch over several months including several requests to interview its program managers although the Army says it is responsible for answering media questions. The Army's Office of Public Affairs at the Pentagon also declined to respond to written questions sent to OPCA spokesman Paul Boyce two weeks ago despite written assurances it was working on them.

Experts in the United States told DefenseWatch it is restrictive environmental regulations and not the lack of technological capability that prevents the United States from making its own high grade boron carbide powder. Making boron carbide requires huge amounts of energy to power sophisticated electric arch ovens, extensive pollution controls to address environmental concerns and skilled technicians, the experts agreed. Currently only abrasive quality boron carbide powder is made in the U.S. and then only in small quantities, according to a spokesman for the New York-based Washington Mills Electro Minerals Company, the sole American boron carbide manufacturer. Other experts who buy boron carbide abrasives from foreign suppliers, primarily the People's Republic of China, all agreed it is unprofitable to manufacture it in the United States.

The same holds true for silicon carbide, the second most popular material used for hard body and vehicle armor that shares many of boron carbide's unique qualities. The United States depends primarily on a French company for silicon carbide, but that is a story for another day.

Professor David Earl, a ceramics expert, teacher and researcher at New York's Alfred University, which coincidentally is Moskowitz's alma mater, said companies "do what they must do to stay in business." According to Earl, environmental costs prevent US manufacturers from making boron carbide for body armor a profitable venture in the United States. But, Earl said, the US "could if need be" begin manufacturing boron carbide in one or two years if it had to.

In the meantime Moskowitz can afford to be magnanimous to his competitors who have to come to him for boron carbide powder with enough quality to be turned into body armor that meets tough US standards. On January 20 the Army awarded Ceradyne a $70 million dollar contract for making so-called "E - SAPI" underarm component armor that adds a bit of useful protection and a bit of unwanted weight to the Defense Department's homegrown Interceptor OTV body armor issued to American service member fighting the Global War on Terror. The order came shortly after DefenseWatch revealed the classified United States Marine Corps study that discovered 80 percent of the Marines killed in Iraq between March 2004 and June 2005 might have survived if their body armor was better. Prior to publishing the findings in the report the Army maintained that Interceptor OTV body armor was already "the best in the world."

The SAPI plates the dead Marines were wearing was made from boron carbide like the material Ceradyne makes from powder manufactured at its ESK Ceramics GmbH & Co. KG subsidiary based in Germany. ESK, founded in 1922 and acquired by Ceradyne in August 2004, has manufacturing plants in Kempten, Germany and Bazet, France that make boron carbide products including the boron carbide powder used to make SAPI plates ultimately manufactured in the United States to accommodate federal law. The Defense Appropriations and Authorizations Acts and other Statutes (including what is commonly referred to as the "Berry Amendment") impose restrictions on the DOD's acquisition of foreign products and services.

According to U.S. law a "preference for certain domestic commodities is required by 10 USC (United States Code) 2533a and DFARS (Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement) 252.225-7012. These references require the Department of Defense to acquire specific end items or components that have been "grown, reprocessed, reused, or produced in the United States. Synthetic fibers used in the Small Arms Protective Inserts (SAPI's) will be considered to be compliant with the above references if the manufacturing process for the SAPI's is performed within the United States," the relevant Federal regulations show. After the boron carbide powder is manufactured overseas it is shipped to the United States to be processed and shaped into body armor at Ceradyne facilities in Kentucky and California, Moskowitz said.

Ceradyne paid approximately $142 million for ESK using a $110 million term loan provided by a syndicate of lenders led by Wachovia Bank and $32 million in cash from Ceradyne's bulging coffers, according to a company press release dated August 26, 2004.

Moskowitz said in the press release that the timing "couldn't have been better since ESK is Ceradyne's primary source of boron carbide powder, which is the starting material for the Company's state-of-the-art lightweight ceramic armor, and just last week Ceradyne announced that it had received its largest armor order ever, a 36-month lightweight ceramic body armor contract that relies on a substantial requirement for ESK's boron carbide powders."

Last Friday Moskowitz said he didn't know anything about reports of alleged SAPI plate failures currently being circulated in the press, or about complaints of its one-shot life span lodged by American service members whose survival depends on boron carbide SAPI plates, or complaints from many directions that boron carbide SAPI plates are brittle and frequently crack in the field. He said he has never heard a single wisp of information about it being the stuff of derision among thousands of American soldiers who spend their own dollars on personal body armor so they don't have to wear it.

"I never heard of any of that," Moskowitz said, adding that he was at a loss to understand why SAPI plates being shipped to the field are covered with warning labels urging the shippers and soldiers receiving them to handle the SAPI plates with "extreme care," and "do not drop" and don't stack too high
.

"I just don't know," he said. "They (US Army and USMC) test, them, drop test them, do all kind of tests on them all the time."

"I don't even think soldiers would know if their SAPI plates are cracked. I have never heard of micro-cracking." Moskowitz added. "They wouldn't have any way to know."

According to the Army SAPI plates require periodic inspection to ensure "plates are free from defects, cracks and fissures occurring from normal use." The Army mandates that the plates are dated with the quarter and year of manufacture, which is used to determine inspection requirements.

"X-ray and/or ultrasound are used to inspect the plates and should be performed every 24 to 30 months. SOFSA coordinates the inspection of plates based on the date of manufacture/fielding," a Special Operations Forces Support Activity's (SOFSA) directive states. "Plates found to be defective will be removed from service and replaced."

Making and replacing them is a good business to be in right now. During the last year Ceradyne has received a reported $233.9 million in contracts to provide hard boron carbide armor for American service members. Hoovers, a respected market analysis firm that sells its findings to potential investors, has said, "A bull in a china shop wouldn't stand a chance against Ceradyne's ceramics." Even that obsequious characterization is an understatement.

Ceradyne's latest successes include:

· $70 million contract for E-SAPI underarm components on January 20, 2006

· $9.3 Million contract for Ceramic Body Armor order for U.S. Marines on December 27, 2005

· $6.0 Million Ceramic Body Armor order for U.S. Marines on November 07, 2005

· $17.8 Million Ceramic Body Armor order for U.S. Air Force on October 31, 2005

· $9.1 Million Ceramic Body Armor order for both the Army and USMC on September 30, 2005

· $8.3 Million Ceramic Body Armor order for the US Air Force on September 30, 2005

· $14.6 Million order for Ceramic Armor for "Elite U.S. Troops" and U.S. Marines on September 20, 2005

· $5.6 Million vehicle armor orders for U.S. Navy Helicopters and other "New Military Programs" August 24, 2005

· $1.1 Million Ceramic Body Armor order for an undisclosed recipient on April 21, 2005

· $8.5 Million Ceramic Body Armor order for " Elite Military Personnel" on April 21, 2005

· $5.3 Million Ceramic Body Armor order on February 17, 2005

· $2.8 Million order to armor US Navy LCAC air cushion landing vessels on February 11, 2005

· $75.5 Million ceramic body armor order for DoD to run from September 2005 through January 2006 on June 28, 2005

Moskowitz also disputed reports that as many as 13 percent of the plates he makes are rejected during production because of cracking and imperfections. A source at Ceradyne told DefenseWatch the plates become defective when "they are cooled too fast" and cracked. Moskowitz said the number was "much lower" and that it wasn't relevant anyway because the defective plates never left the manufacturing facilities in Kentucky and California. He also declined to say how many of the plates – or what percentage of the SAPI plates Ceradyne makes - fail in the field.

"You can say whatever you want, that is what freedom of the press is for," he answered instead.

An engineer who works for a company called Magnesium Elektron in Madison, Illinois recently told DefenseWatch that scientists from both the Army's Natick Laboratory in Massachusetts and the Aberdeen Research Laboratory in Maryland came to his facility in May, 2005 to discuss ways his company could improve on the SAPI plates currently being made by Ceradyne and another company. Magnesium Elektron is a European enterprise owned by the Luxfer Group Company, an international corporation that specializes in the manufacture and supply of magnesium alloys and products.

The source at Magnesium Elektron said that in April 2005 Army scientists told his company representatives that the current SAPI plates are breaking and failing at an alarming rate in Iraq and Afghanistan due to rough treatment, as well as during the manufacturing process. Although boron carbide is almost as hard as a diamond it is extremely brittle and prone to shattering if roughly handled, he said. The Natick representatives asked his company's representatives whether Magnesium Elektron could produce a material using boron carbide and magnesium that could hold up better to the abuse the plates received in the field. The Army reps said it was a "crash" program of great urgency, he said.

"They visited us a month later (May, 2005), a few guys from Natick and the Army Research Lab. They told us they had been directed by the Army to find something to work better than what works right now. They asked us about shipping some prototype material we had come up with. Lately we heard that what we developed works and we were told they are taking the show on the road."

Subsequently things have gotten a little more complicated, the Elektron engineer said.

"We discovered that high ranking generals in different divisions (he is unfamiliar with military vernacular and used the word "division" to specify which branch of service he was referring to) can specify what they are going to buy," he explained.

The source said the Army's representatives told his company's officials that the "current SAPI doesn't cover your sides" and has "trouble with multi-hit capability" because of catastrophic shears in the fibers [that] separates the metallic components." According to the Natick reps the current SAPI also doesn't prevent a phenomena the Elektron engineer called "behind armor blunt trauma" caused by kinetic energy passing through the SAPI after it strikes the SAPI plate that seriously damages soft body tissue.

When asked about the problems cited by the Elektron engineer and similar reports from other scientists Moskowitz said he didn't know what DefenseWatch was talking about.

He said he had talked to "hundreds – thousands – of soldiers and Ft. Belvoir" (home of PEO Soldier that controls the Interceptor OTV program and the designated information resource center) and hasn't heard any complaints, he said.

Perhaps the Army isn't listening either!

Nathaniel R. Helms is the editor of DefenseWatch Magazine. He can be reached at natshouse1@charter.net. Please send all feedback to DWEditor@yahoo.com .

[bth: with highest regards to SFFT.org and Mr. Helms, I've copied his article in full as it is important and needs broader distribution.]
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Iraqis Handed Partial Security Control of Green Zone

Iraqis Handed Partial Security Control of Green Zone: "BAGHDAD, Jan. 31 -- The ceremony was more than a month behind schedule, and the area transferred to Iraqi control significantly smaller than originally planned: 20 buildings inside Baghdad's Green Zone instead of the fortified complex's entire perimeter."...
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A Manual Instructing in the Use of Plague as a Biological Weapon

SITE Institute: SITE Publications - A Manual Instructing in the Use of Plague as a Biological Weapon: "A manual posted to a jihadist forum provides instructions for the cultivation and use of three strains of plague - bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic - from the Yersinia Pestis microbe, as a biological weapon. The document refers to myriad sources for its foundation, including "Tawhid"magazine, a "book on microbiology by an Arab scholar" Internet publications, and "Microbiology" textbook by Pelczar, Reid and Chan, and discusses not only the methods of preparing and storing the microbe, either in agar or mice, and security precaution to be undertaken, but the devastation caused by the release of even one gram of the microbe. The author cites a report from 1970 by the World Health Organization that "dropping aerosol composed of 50 kilograms of dried powder containing 106 [units] of this microbe over a city with 5 million inhabitants in a financially developed region, such as the United States, might lead to 150,000 cases of diseases and 36,000 casualties".

Reasoning for developing such a manual for the Yersinia Pestis microbe is based upon the author's view of the "relative easiness of getting hold of it and because of the possibility of using it in the form of aerosol. Thereby, it can easily be spread in the air and strike an innumerable number of people with lethal pneumonic plague". To this end, the manual also describes other means of transmission, including main water lines and food, and that its diffusion through the air may be from the explosion of a bomb, crop spraying device, any vehicle traveling through the city, and small bombs or boxes "left in crowded areas such as metros, underground passages, closed sport areas or recreation centers (preferably inplaces with central air-conditioning)"

[bth: While we drone on about injured reporters and the so called State of the Union, Osama Bin Laden et al continues to plan to attack us. Letting him live four years after his attack on this country needlessly endangers us.]

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

U.K. Soldier Killed in Iraq Is 100th British Fatality

Bloomberg.com: U.K.: "Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- A U.K. soldier died after being injured in a bombing in southern Basra province, pushing the number of British military deaths in Iraq to 100.

``We can confirm that today a British soldier from the 7th Armoured Brigade died from his injuries sustained as a result of an explosion at approximately 8:34 a.m. local time,'' the British Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

Three other soldiers were injured, one of them seriously, in the blast in the port city of Um Qasr, according to the statement. The wounded are bring treated at the Shaibah medical facility, a British-run center in Basra, the ministry said.

The death brings to 100 the number of U.K. service personnel who have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, a ministry spokesman, who declined to be identified, said in a telephone interview.

Britain has about 8,000 soldiers in Iraq, based mainly in the south, and is the U.S.'s biggest coalition partner. Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Nov. 14 that it is ``entirely reasonable'' to talk about the possibility of withdrawing some troops in 2006. On Dec. 22, during a visit to Iraq, he declined to set an ``arbitrary timetable'' for any pullout. "...

[bth: its just evident by the numbers that the Iraq war is being paid for in blood and numbers largely by the Americans - at least 20 to 1.]
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Guard plans to expand amid recruiting boost

National Guard officials yesterday said recruiting has accelerated so much in recent months that they expect to expand the Guard even as the Bush administration proposes to shrink it.

For the first time since 1993, the Guard exceeded a quarterly recruiting goal, signing up 13,466 recruits in the final three months of 2005, up from 12,605 the previous fall, said the National Guard Bureau, the Pentagon office that administers the Guard.

Mark Allen, a National Guard Bureau spokesman, attributed the 7 percent improvement to a new advertising campaign, a large increase in financial incentives and a near doubling of the number of recruiters, from 2,700 to 5,100.

In a statement released yesterday, the Guard said it is 'aggressively working' to reach the 350,000-troop level that it is funded for by the end of the current budget year on Sept. 30, despite Mr. Bush's call to cut the force next year to its current level of 333,000 troops.

It is unusual for a military organization such as the Guard Bureau to publicly suggest that it is moving in a direction that appears to differ from the administration's. Any talk of cutting the Guard is politically sensitive because Guard units are controlled by governors, except when they are mobilized by presidential order.

Army Secretary Francis Harvey has said that if the Guard is able to grow beyond 333,000, the Army would shift money from elsewhere in its budget to pay for the extra troops. A spokesman for Mr. Harvey, Lt. Col. Thomas Collins, said he did not have figures to show what it would cost to grow to 350,000. "We would not make the Guard pay for it," Col. Collins said.

In his 2007 budget proposal to be sent to Congress on Feb. 6, President Bush would pay for a Guard of 333,000 troops, compared with its congressionally authorized limit of 350,000. Administration officials say that is not a cut because 333,000 reflects the actual number of troops in the Guard, which has been well under its authorized size because of a deep recruiting slump, even though it has been budgeted for 350,000.

In the 2005 budget year that ended Sept. 30, the Army National Guard fell 20 percent short of its recruiting goal. The active-duty Army fell 8 percent short, and the Army Reserve missed its goal by 16 percent.

The administration's plan to pay for a smaller Guard has stirred opposition in Congress and among Guard advocacy groups such as the National Guard Association of the United States, which represents current and former Army Guard and Air Guard officers.

Army Secretary Francis Harvey has said that if the Guard is able to grow beyond 333,000, the Army would shift money from elsewhere in its budget to pay for the extra troops. A spokesman for Mr. Harvey, Lt. Col. Thomas Collins, said he did not have figures to show what it would cost to grow to 350,000.

"We would not make the Guard pay for it," Col. Collins said.

In his 2007 budget proposal to be sent to Congress on Feb. 6, President Bush would pay for a Guard of 333,000 troops, compared with its congressionally authorized limit of 350,000. Administration officials say that is not a cut because 333,000 reflects the actual number of troops in the Guard, which has been well under its authorized size because of a deep recruiting slump, even though it has been budgeted for 350,000.

In the 2005 budget year that ended Sept. 30, the Army National Guard fell 20 percent short of its recruiting goal. The active-duty Army fell 8 percent short, and the Army Reserve missed its goal by 16 percent.

The administration's plan to pay for a smaller Guard has stirred opposition in Congress and among Guard advocacy groups such as the National Guard Association of the United States, which represents current and former Army Guard and Air Guard officers.

[bth: Guard deployment to Iraq is very low this year - 2006 - because its an election year. Guard deployment will be up greatly for Iraq in 2007 to give active duty soldiers a rotation rest. Also it would be instructive to see a breakdown of recruitment based on branch of service - Army, Air Force, etc. On balance though this is a good thing.]
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White House eyes billions for Iraq maintenance

"The Bush administration is considering asking Congress later this year for at least $2 billion in new reconstruction money, primarily for maintaining completed Iraqi facilities.

Administration officials say the additional funding is needed to prevent completed projects in Iraq from falling into disrepair while the new government tries to establish a steady flow of revenue from oil and other sources to sustain the nation's infrastructure. "

The money would come in an Iraqi emergency, or supplemental, appropriations bill that also would finance military operations, which cost about $6 billion a month. Congress attached an extra $50 billion to this year's Pentagon spending bill for that purpose, but officials say additional money likely will be needed. An administration official declined to comment.

Congress already has approved $24 billion for Iraq reconstruction, and some speculated that the White House would not ask for more. But in recent weeks, it has become evident that Iraq does not have the financial ability to sustain all its new properties, said officials familiar with the internal discussions.

The administration plans no more major requests for rebuilding because of deficit pressures and the realization that Congress likely would balk, two administration officials said.

Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said the administration should make one last proposal to Congress for $2 billion to fund sustainment and the transfer of operations from the U.S. to the Iraqi government.

"The bottom line is, I think, we should spend some more money," Mr. Bowen told The Washington Times. "We need to allocate to ensure the success of the Iraqi project from a reconstruction perspective. I think the U.S. government needs to provide some sustainability funds. ... It's being considered."

The issue of maintaining facilities has added importance in light of a report Mr. Bowen released last week. He said that because of rising security costs and other factors, the U.S. will be able to finish only 49 of 136 planned water projects and 300 of 425 electric projects.

If Iraq is to complete the U.S. building plan, it will need more money from the World Bank, donor nations and its own sputtering oil industry.

Mr. Bowen sends auditors as well as engineers to construction sites to determine whether projects are being built correctly.

"My mandate to those inspection teams is to identify whether there is a plan for sustainability at each project," he said.

Just like the U.S. military is turning over the counterinsurgency mission to the Iraqis, he said, the State Department is entrusting facilities to locals.

"This will be the year of transition," Mr. Bowen said. "We have to be ready to turn over operating and effective projects, and that means there has to be sufficient funding in place from both our side and the Iraqi side to secure sustainability."

[bth: So let's get the lies straight. It costs $6 billion per month in Iraq alone for our military, not counting Afghanistan which is at least 1 more billion per month and excluding any residual costs (healthcare, VA, etc.). Now using the old math $6 billion x 12 = $72 billion. Using new Bush math, $50 billion is sufficient and he doesn't plan to ask for more. Right then.

So then let's look at the $24 billion spent, not the $18 billion commonly reported. Let's spread $24 over 3 years which is roughly $8 billion per year in economic investment made by the US as part of Iraq's reconstruction. The Iraq economy has a $29 billion GDP. So we're puking up 27% of their GDP as economic aid. So if this money stops what happens in Iraq? Economic depression that's what. Factor in looting and open theft by the Iraqi government and one concludes its DOA by March April. I guarantee you the treasury in Iraq will be empty when the new government is formed up. It has been that way for the last two times the government has changed and that doesn't count Saddam's looting of the central bank.

Will the Republican Congress cough up the money for Iraq? Sure, its an election year. They'll do just enough to move it past November elections in the US.]
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Cash Dwindles for Rebuilding Iraq

Cash Dwindles for Rebuilding Iraq: "BAGHDAD, Jan. 30 -- The U.S. official who oversees reconstruction spending in Iraq has called for money beyond $18.4 billion originally earmarked, saying postwar funds will be exhausted by the end of 2006 with many projects likely to be unfinished.

Iraq's water supply, electrical capacity and oil production -- three primary targets of reconstruction -- are functioning below prewar standards, said Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, in a quarterly report to Congress published Monday."

"The need for more funding has reached a critical point," Bowen wrote. "There is a compelling basis to increase support for sustainability."

The report, and an audit released separately by Bowen's office Monday, concluded that the uncertainty of funding that would allow projects to be continued and infrastructure maintained could disrupt a smooth transition if the United States hands off reconstruction responsibilities to the Iraqi government this year, as projected.

U.S. money allocated to reconstruction has been depleted by steeper-than-anticipated security costs. As a result, U.S. officials have said in recent months that the Iraqi government and foreign donors will have to bear more of the burden of rebuilding the war-ravaged nation. Reconstruction administrators have said there will be no further funding requests in the Bush administration's budget, which will be presented to Congress next month.

"It was never our intention to completely rebuild Iraq," said Brig. Gen. William McCoy, the Army Corps of Engineers commander overseeing reconstruction, in a recent interview.

But while foreign donors, along with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank pledged more than $13 billion toward that effort during an October 2003 conference in Madrid on aid to Iraq, much of the money remains undelivered.

"The change of governance authority on June 28, 2004, led several Persian Gulf nations to initiate discussions with Iraqi authorities about fulfilling their Madrid pledges," Bowen wrote. "Furthermore, the recent election of the current Iraqi government provides an opportunity for the Gulf States to develop the personal relationships that may encourage action."

On Monday, Ashraf Qazi, the top U.N. official in Iraq, said donors would be "encouraged" to make good on their pledges at their next conference, to be held in February or March in Istanbul or the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Qazi suggested that some countries may balk at supporting Iraq's rebuilding effort because they think the government is receiving a boost from the recent run of record-high oil prices.

Totaling roughly $2 billion a month, Iraq's oil exports account for at least 95 percent of government revenue and were once expected to fund Iraq's reconstruction. Insurgent attacks and dilapidated infrastructure have held back production, however, forcing the country to spend nearly $500 million a month to import refined fuels.

That spending, and heavy subsidies for fuel and food have eaten away at oil profits. The International Monetary Fund has said that scaling back the subsidies is a condition for forgiving Iraq's foreign debt, but the political costs are high. Violent riots broke out in December when the government announced steep increases in gas prices.

Still, "there is the sense that with oil prices being what they are, Iraq may be better placed to finance some of its own reconstruction activity," Qazi said. "It is hoped that at the next donors conference there will be additional pledges. But the perception is that Iraq is essentially not a poor country and can generate revenues on its own. Iraq might suffer on that account."

The documents published Monday were the latest in a string of disclosures by Bowen of the myriad difficulties facing U.S. reconstruction in Iraq. Previous audits have shown efforts to be hundreds of projects behind schedule, hamstrung by unanticipated security costs and marred by occasional but egregious mismanagement and corruption.

The quarterly report, the eighth published by the special inspector general's office, was the first to focus on how far reconstruction efforts have missed targets for provision of basic services outlined by the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-administered body that governed Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

"After 18 months of intense reconstruction activity, many services have not returned to prewar levels," Bowen wrote.

Iraq was generating 4,500 megawatts of electricity before the invasion, and reconstruction officials said in 2003 their target was 6,000 megawatts, Bowen wrote. Iraq's current generating capacity is 3,995 megawatts.

Before the war, Baghdad residents received an average of 16 to 24 hours of electricity a day. They currently receive 3.7, the report said. Outside the capital, however, the situation has improved to 10.2 hours per day from four to eight hours before the war.

While Iraq produced 2.6 million barrels per day of crude oil before the war, it now produces 2.1 million, the report said.
And 8.25 million Iraqis currently have access to potable water, compared with 12.9 million before the war
.

Reconstruction officials had aimed to bring potable water to 23.4 million citizens.

[bth: the extremely rich arab oil producers haven't ponied up much at all despite the windfall profit from higher oil prices. That the US is stuck with the financial burden while the Saudis profit goes unreported. The next sequence of events is that the World Bank will be tapped along with US government guarantees on Iraqi debt which will default but in a few years no one in the US government will care or take responsibility. The war might not have been about oil but the peace certainly is.]
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Study Ties Political Leanings to Hidden Biases

... "The new interest has yielded some results that will themselves provoke partisan reactions: Studies presented at the conference, for example, produced evidence that emotions and implicit assumptions often influence why people choose their political affiliations, and that partisans stubbornly discount any information that challenges their preexisting beliefs.

Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy -- but only in candidates they opposed.

When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats -- the scans showed that 'reward centers' in volunteers' brains were activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior."...

Blogger battles Army: Seeks Ted K's aid in copyright fight

"A local blogger is appealing to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to help him fight the U.S. Army over copyright claims to a heartbreaking photo he took of a young Iraqi girl mortally wounded by a terrorist explosion.

Michael Yon, a former Green Beret and an embedded blogger journalist in Iraq, took what some consider one of the more famous photos of the war last May - of a U.S. GI cradling a dying Iraqi girl.

The U.S. Army later released the photo, which was flashed around the world and prominently displayed by newspapers, broadcast stations and Web sites."

But Yon, who uses Massachusetts as his blogger base of operations, said he never intended to allow the Army to distribute the photo to commercial operations and he’s now seeking damages. He said he may file a lawsuit within days, claiming thousands of dollars in damages.

“I never authorized this distribution and immediately asked the Army to stop it,” Yon recently wrote Kennedy, the senior Massachusetts senator and a member of the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee.

In a written reply to Yon last fall, a U.S. Army attorney countered that Yon had signed a “hold harmless” waiver that absolved the government of responsibility for any “injury’ Yon might suffer as an embedded blogger.

The army also said that Yon uploaded his photo onto government computer servers, creating an “implied license” agreement for the Army to distribute the photo.

Yon, who’s become something of an online celebrity because of his vivid battle dispatches from Iraq, said the Army’s arguments are “preposterous.” The injury waiver applies to physical wounds, not copyright infringements, he said.

He added he gave the Army permission to use the photo for purely internal purposes.

A spokesman for Kennedy said the senator’s office is reviewing the matter. A lawyer for theArmy could not be reached.

Yon, who paid his own way to cover events in Iraq, said the irony is that his reporting was meant to counter what he considered inaccurate mainstream-media coverage of the warHe said the Army is now making it difficult for him to return to Iraq.

Jeff Coniaris, a Boston copyright attorney, said photos are “automatically copyrighted” under law. But the waiver Yon signed a few days after the photo was released could complicate his claims, Coniaris said.
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Japan 'to leave Iraq'

Japan 'to leave Iraq' - Asia-Pacific - Breaking News 24/7 - NEWS.com.au: "JAPAN would pull all of its troops out of Iraq by the end of May, ending Tokyo's first military deployment since World War II to a country where fighting was ongoing, a newspaper reported today.

The about 600 soldiers, who are on a humanitarian mission in Samawa, southern Iraq, would start withdrawing in March, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper , which closely covers national security issues, saidwithout identifying its sources.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi would make the announcement after co-ordinating efforts with Britain and Australia, which are providing security for the Japanese troops.

The troops, who are banned from using their weapons under Japan's pacifist constitution, have suffered no casualties during their humanitarian assistance mission.

In December, Japan extended its Iraq mission by another year with an eye to begin pulling out as early as mid-2006.

Most Japanese oppose the deployment to Samawa, despite it being considered a relatively safe area within Iraq. "

Monday, January 30, 2006

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Early Warning by William M. Arkin

Early Warning by William M. Arkin - washingtonpost.com: "The National Security Agency is in the process of building a new warning hub and data warehouse in the Denver area, realigning much of its workforce from Ft. Meade, Maryland to Colorado.

The Denver Post reported last week that NSA was moving some of its operations to the Denver suburb of Aurora.
On the surface, the NSA move seems to be a management and cost cutting measure, part of a post-9/11 decentralization. 'This strategy better aligns support to national decision makers and combatant commanders,' an NSA spokesman told the Denver paper.

In truth, NSA is aligning its growing domestic eavesdropping operations -- what the administration calls 'terrorist warning' in its current PR campaign -- with military homeland defense organizations, as well as the CIA's new domestic operations Colorado.

Translation: Hey Congress, Colorado is now the American epicenter for national domestic spying."...
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Military Hides Cause of Women Soldiers' Deaths

t r u t h o u t - Military Hides Cause of Women Soldiers' Deaths: " In a startling revelation, the former commander of Abu Ghraib prison testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior US military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. 'There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night,' Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview. It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.

Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition's joint task force said in a briefing that 'women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep.'

"And rather than make everybody aware of that - because that's shocking, and as a leader if that's not shocking to you then you're not much of a leader - what they told the surgeon to do is don't brief those details anymore. And don't say specifically that they're women. You can provide that in a written report but don't brief it in the open anymore."

For example, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Sanchez's top deputy in Iraq, saw "dehydration" listed as the cause of death on the death certificate of a female master sergeant in September 2003. Under orders from Sanchez, he directed that the cause of death no longer be listed, Karpinski stated. The official explanation for this was to protect the women's privacy rights.

Sanchez's attitude was: "The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory," Karpinski quoted him as saying. Karpinski told me that Sanchez, who was her boss, was very sensitive to the political ramifications of everything he did. She thinks it likely that when the information about the cause of these women's deaths was passed to the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld ordered that the details not be released. "That's how Rumsfeld works," she said.

"It was out of control," Karpinski told a group of students at Thomas Jefferson School of Law last October. There was an 800 number women could use to report sexual assaults. But no one had a phone, she added. And no one answered that number, which was based in the United States. Any woman who successfully connected to it would get a recording. Even after more than 83 incidents were reported during a six-month period in Iraq and Kuwait, the 24-hour rape hot line was still answered by a machine that told callers to leave a message.

"There were countless such situations all over the theater of operations - Iraq and Kuwait - because female soldiers didn't have a voice, individually or collectively," Karpinski told Hackworth. "Even as a general I didn't have a voice with Sanchez, so I know what the soldiers were facing. Sanchez did not want to hear about female soldier requirements and/or issues."

Karpinski was the highest officer reprimanded for the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, although the details of interrogations were carefully hidden from her. Demoted from Brigadier General to Colonel, Karpinski feels she was chosen as a scapegoat because she was a female.

Sexual assault in the US military has become a hot topic in the last few years, "not just because of the high number of rapes and other assaults, but also because of the tendency to cover up assaults and to harass or retaliate against women who report assaults," according to Kathy Gilberd, co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild's Military Law Task Force.

This problem has become so acute that the Army has set up its own sexual assault web site. ...