Saturday, February 11, 2006

Soldier's wife holds fundraisers for body armor for troops

Star-Telegram.com 02/10/2006 Soldier's wife holds fundraisers for body armor for troops: "A U.S. soldier's wife is launching real and virtual bake sales to raise money to buy body armor for troops, even though the government has promised to rush more protective gear to those on Iraq's front lines.

Last month, in the wake of a Pentagon study that found side armor could have saved dozens of U.S. lives in Iraq, the Army signed a $70 million emergency contract with a California-based company for ceramic body armor.

But not all soldiers will get it, and some troops currently have the wrong size armor, so the need still exists, said Tammara Rosenleaf, whose husband was deployed from Fort Hood in Central Texas in December. The Bake Sales for Body Armor fundraiser also will provide medical supplies, communications equipment and other needed gear, she said."

If people donate at the Web site,
http://www.bakesalesforbodyarmor.org , they can print a picture of a cookie or pie _ but the goodie won't be sent in the mail.

People also can sign up relatives and friends to receive body armor, which costs about $900 for each side and upper arm protectors per person.

Once enough money arrives, Rosenleaf and her fundraiser partner, Iraq war veteran Charlie Anderson, will buy armor from an Austin-based company, BulletProofME Body Armor, and send it to the soldier in Iraq.

Nick Taylor, BulletProofME's manager, said a significant amount of his company's business the past few years has come from individual soldiers and their families. He declined to provide figures.

"A lot of folks are just glad there's a company to fill the gap in protection," Taylor said Friday. "Some are definitely frustrated the Department of Defense hasn't moved quicker."

When Anderson served in Iraq from March to May 2003, he needed small-size front and back body armor inserts for his flak jacket but found only extra-large pieces. So he had to cut the armor to make it fit, then tape his vest closed.

"It barely worked and was uncomfortable," said Anderson, of Virginia Beach, Va., now a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "My family would have been happy to buy me inserts if they knew how."

Some soldiers have said extra armor would hinder combat effectiveness because it adds extra weight and restricts movement. Anderson said the fundraiser will not force any soldier to accept extra armor.

Bake Sales for Body Armor is sponsored by Veterans for Peace, a nonprofit organization.

Rosenleaf and many members of the veterans group were involved in the war protests near President Bush's Crawford ranch in August and the week of Thanksgiving, two vigils led by a fallen soldier's mother, Cindy Sheehan.

But this fundraiser has nothing to do with their views on the war, Rosenleaf said.

"It will not be whether it's wrong or right to be there," Rosenleaf said. "There's no politicking at this table. If our soldiers are over there in harm's way, they should have the very best."


Brian T. Hart at John D. Hart's grave. Arlington National Cemetery. February 2006 Posted by Picasa

General faults U.S. on Iraqi military - Americas - International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON The American general in charge of training the new Iraqi military after Baghdad fell says the Bush administration's strategy to use those forces to replace departing U.S. soldiers was hobbled from its belated start by poor pre-war planning and insufficient staff and equipment.

The account of Major General Paul Eaton, who retired on Jan. 1 after 33 years in the U.S. Army, suggests that commanders in Iraq might by now have been much closer to President George W. Bush's goal of withdrawing American forces if they had not lost much of the first year's chance to begin building a capable force.

Eaton's views, drawn from an essay he is preparing for publication and from interviews in which he spoke out publicly for the first time, were broadly affirmed by Pentagon and other civilian officials involved at the time. They agreed that the mission also was slowed by conflicting visions from senior Pentagon and administration officials, civilian administrators in Baghdad and the former top commander of the military's Central Command, which carried out the invasion.

While he criticized others for decisions that led to what he called a "false start," Eaton accepted responsibility for the most visible setback in the training, when a battalion of the new Iraqi Army dissolved in April 2004 as it was sent into its first major battle.

After that embarrassment, which Eaton said he might have headed off, Pentagon officials sent Lieutenant General David Petraeus, who had commanded the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion and the early occupation, to review the program and then to take over the training mission after Eaton completed his yearlong tour.

"Paul Eaton and his team did an extraordinary amount for the Iraqi Security Force mission," said Petraeus, now commander of the army's Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. "They established a solid foundation on which we were able to build as the effort was expanded very substantially and resourced at a much higher level."

Eaton was commander of all army infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia, when he was told on May 9, 2003 - just over a week after Bush's "mission accomplished" speech - to hurry to Baghdad, where he was to set up and then command an organization to rebuild Iraq's military.

"I was very surprised to receive a mission so vital to our exit strategy so late," Eaton said. "I would have expected this to have been done well before troops crossed the line of departure. That was my first reaction: We're a little late here."

Pentagon officials initially told Eaton that rebuilding the army was their fifth priority for Iraqi security forces, falling behind the civil defense corps, police, border forces and guards for government buildings, power plants and oil lines.

L. Paul Bremer, head of the occupation government, insisted that police training fall not under the military, but under his civil administration. And General Tommy Franks, who planned and carried out the invasion of Iraq, made sure that retraining and managing the Iraqi armed forces would not burden his war-fighting headquarters at the Central Command. He also insisted that the task be managed by a separate unit with its own staff and budget, Eaton said.

Key allies, alienated by American policies, also refused to contribute experienced military personnel, Eaton noted. In particular, Germany and France, which participated in rebuilding the Afghan military after the invasion there and the removal of the Taliban, declined to assist in Iraq to show their disagreement with the invasion."

We set out to man, train and equip an army for a country of 25 million - with six men," Eaton said. He worked into the autumn with "a revolving door of individual loaned talent that would spend between two weeks and two months," and never received even half the 250 professional staff members he had been promised.

Eaton's broad assessment of the problems he confronted was seconded by Walter Slocombe, sent by the Bush administration to Baghdad for six months to serve as the senior civilian adviser on national security and defense.

Slocombe, an under secretary of defense in the Clinton administration, said, "I have to agree with General Eaton, that it was hard to get the resources we needed out there. There was not a broad enough sense of urgency in Washington."

Eaton said his small staff "thought we were going to build an army in a benign environment, that we were going to be able to incubate this army."

The rise of a tenacious insurgency ultimately killed that hope, but at the start of his tour, the main problem was not the insurgency, which had not yet emerged in full force, it was the chaos that followed the invasion.

[bth: what a tremendous lost opportunity. We won the war and lost the peace. Imagine Franks insisting on not having any part in the post war plan. What bullshit. Imagine being told to rebuild the Iraqi army a week after Bush's victory speech and being given six men to do it with. This incompetence at the top has killed thousands of Americans. Is no one held to account?]

Arlington National Cemetery



This photo taken Feb. 06 from Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery shows the Washington Monument in the distance and an extensive earth excavation project involved with expanding the cemetery. Posted by Picasa

Expanding Arlington National Cemetery


Arlington National Cemetery. Photo taken Feb. 06 from Section 60. The cemetery is being expanded dramatically. Posted by Picasa

Auditors Find Huge Fraud in FEMA Aid - New York Times

Auditors Find Huge Fraud in FEMA Aid - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 � Thousands of applicants for federal emergency relief money after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita used duplicate or invalid Social Security numbers or bogus addresses, suggesting that the $2.3 billion program was a victim of extensive fraud, a Congressional auditor will report Monday."...

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Another Cave-In on the Patriot Act - New York Times

Another Cave-In on the Patriot Act - New York Times: "The Patriot Act has been one of the few issues on which Congress has shown backbone lately. Last year, it refused to renew expiring parts of the act until greater civil liberties protections were added. But key members of the Senate have now caved, agreeing to renew these provisions in exchange for only minimal improvements. At a time when the public is growing increasingly concerned about the lawlessness of the Bush administration's domestic spying, the Senate should insist that any reauthorization agreement do more to protect Americans against improper secret searches."

When the Patriot Act was passed after Sept. 11, 2001, Congress made some of its most far-reaching provisions temporary so it would be able to reconsider them later on.

Those provisions were set to expire last December, but Congress agreed to a very short extension so greater civil liberties protections could be added. This week, four key Republican senators — later backed by two Democrats — said that they had agreed to a deal with the White House. It is one that does little to protect Americans from government invasions of their privacy.

One of the most troubling aspects of the Patriot Act is the "gag order" imposed by Section 215, which prohibits anyone holding financial, medical and other private records of ordinary Americans from saying anything when the government issues a subpoena for those records. That means that a person whose records are being taken, and whose privacy is being invaded, has no way to know about the subpoena and no way to challenge it.

Rather than removing this gag order, the deal keeps it in place for a full year — too long for Americans to wait to learn that the government is spying on them. Even after a year, someone holding such records would have to meet an exceedingly high standard to get the gag order lifted. It is not clear that this change has much value at all.

The compromise also fails to address another problem with Section 215: it lets the government go on fishing expeditions, spying on Americans with no connection to terrorism or foreign powers. The act should require the government, in order to get a subpoena, to show that there is a connection between the information it is seeking and a terrorist or a spy.
But the deal would allow subpoenas in instances when there are reasonable grounds for simply believing that information is relevant to a terrorism investigation. That is an extremely low bar.

One of the most well-publicized objections to the Patriot Act is the fact that it allows the government to issue national security letters, an extremely broad investigative tool, to libraries, forcing them to turn over their patrons' Internet records. The wording of the compromise is unclear. If it actually says that national security letters cannot be used to get Internet records from libraries, that would be an improvement, but it is not clear that it does.

In late December, it looked as if there was bipartisan interest in the Senate for changing the worst Patriot Act provisions and standing up for Americans' privacy rights. Now the hope of making the needed improvements has faded considerably.
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Bidding farewell to America's fallen soldiers

Star-Telegram 02/06/2006 Bidding farewell to America's fallen soldiers: "CAMP SYKES, Iraq - On a cold January day on this American base outside Tal Afar, the soldiers of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment paused to say farewell to three of their own who died earlier in the month in a Blackhawk helicopter crash along with eight other Americans.

Those who could get away from duty for an hour filled an auditorium set up to provide a warriors' memorial service for the three: Maj. Douglas A. LaBouff, 36, a native of Baldwin Park, Calif.; Maj. Michael R. Martinez, 43, who grew up in Missouri; and 1st Lt. Joseph D. deMoors, 36, who was born in Montreal, Canada. LaBouff and deMoors were military intelligence officers. Martinez was a legal affairs officer."

It is good that on occasion we look upon the faces of some of the fallen and learn the names of their wives and children. These men are not numbers but rather Americans whose deaths in a distant and dangerous land broke the hearts of three wives, nine children, mothers, friends and comrades.

The soldiers' memorial service -- which happens far too often in Iraq -- is as close to a Viking funeral as you can get these days. On a stage flanked by the American flag and the battle flag of an old and distinguished regiment, which dates to the 1847 war with Mexico, there stood three bayoneted rifles -- each with a pair of desert boots in front, a helmet atop the rifle butt and a set of dog tags attached.

The program provided biographies of the three, and they were, of themselves, enough to make you weep.

Doug LaBouff, the program said, loved football and collecting stamps. He came to the Army as an ROTC graduate of Whittier College. He is survived by his wife, Karen, and two children, Cassidy, 7, and Douglas, 3, as well as his mother, Lela LaBouff.

Mike Martinez enlisted in the Army out of high school in 1980 and served as a paralegal and court reporter and rose to the rank of staff sergeant. He then went to college and graduated from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1998. He returned to the Army as an officer in the Judge Advocate General Corps. He was a talented amateur photographer and a weightlifter. He is survived by his wife, Kelly, and four children -- Alex, 20, Kathryn, 19, Colby, 18, and Ben, 15 -- as well as his mother, Beatrice Martinez of Albuquerque, N.M.

Joseph deMoors enlisted in the Army in 2001 and was a French cryptologic linguist. In 2004, he completed Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He is survived by his wife, Vendella, and three children: Moroni, Demetrius and Chastity.

After the national anthem was played and chaplain David Causey gave the opening prayer, the regimental commander, Col. H.R. McMaster, spoke movingly of the selflessness of soldiers who willingly go into harm's way trying to help a people escape tyranny and terrorists. He is a passionate and emotional leader when it comes to his troopers.

Half a dozen brother and sister officers rose to speak of each of the three and how hard they worked and how little they complained and how proud they were to serve with the Brave Rifles.

A bagpiper played Amazing Grace, and then there was a last roll call in which sergeants with booming voices repeatedly called the names of the three who will never again answer, "Here, First Sergeant!" A firing party just outside fired three volleys, and a bugler sounded a sweet and mournful taps.

With that, two by two, the Cavalry commanders and their sergeants major or first sergeants came on stage. Each knelt on one knee, head lowered, and tightly gripped the dog tags on each of the rifles and said a personal goodbye to Doug LaBouff, Mike Martinez and Joseph deMoors.

There is pain and pride and pageantry when you say farewell to a fallen soldier, and rightly so. The unspoken line I kept hearing that day was the question that Frederic March asks at the end of the movie The Bridges at Toko Ri: "Where do we get such men?"

To which I add my own question: What are we doing as a people and a nation to deserve the service and sacrifice of such men and women? We are entering our fifth year in a declared war against global terror, but our leaders ask no sacrifice of the 99 percent of Americans who are protected by the 1 percent.

They and we leave the sacrifices to those like the three soldiers, and their widows, and their children.

Joseph L. Galloway is senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers. jgalloway@krwashington.com

[bth: Mr. Galloway, this was a beautiful article. Thank you.]

Friday, February 10, 2006

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The Land of 10,770 Empty FEMA Trailers - Los Angeles Times

The Land of 10,770 Empty FEMA Trailers - Los Angeles Times: "...After the Aug. 29 storm left thousands homeless on the Gulf Coast, officials in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama began calling for trailers to provide temporary shelter. More than 100,000 were requested, and somebody decided to create holding areas for the trailers outside the hurricane zone.

Today, legions of wide-bodied mobile homes sit empty at Hope's Municipal Airport, a sprawling former military base. After all these months, storm victims can't seem to get the trailers, which are proving a mixed blessing to Hope and Arkansas.

'It just boggles the mind in this day and time,' said Mark Keith, director of the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce. 'There are 10,770 trailers at Hope Airport. That's one for every man, woman and child in Hope, with a few left over to send to Emmet, down the road.'

...All of us think it's not right for them to be sitting out there and not where families need them," said Janice Skipworth, general manager of the Super 8 Motel, which filled with Katrina evacuees after the storm. "

I stand behind my government no matter what, but this is kind of wrong."City Bakery owner Randall Ross agreed. Months after the hurricane, "it's dang sure those people are in need now."With the rainy season at hand, some local officials feared many units would sink into the mud. But FEMA plans to lay down a 290-acre bed of gravel for them to rest on, at a cost of $6 million.Why haven't the trailers been sent to those who need them?

Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), a graduate of Hope High School, asked that question as he toured the airport Thursday with FEMA officials. "It cost $431 million and they're all sitting there, 75% of them literally parked in a cow pasture," Ross said in a telephone interview. "They are brand-new, all totally furnished, and yet people have been living in tents for five months in a row. It just makes you sick to your stomach."

FEMA says it has been stymied by federal regulations, such as one forbidding trailers to be positioned in flood plains — which rules out much of the area hit by Katrina — and by officials in Louisiana, where the need is greatest. "It's amazing that every state in the union embraced Katrina evacuees except the folks in Louisiana," FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews said.

After Katrina, FEMA ordered 135,000 trailers, most supplied by large national manufacturers and some acquired from local dealers, she said. "We have a lot of trailers in the supply line. The challenge is where to place them," she said. Only eight of Louisiana's 64 parishes have welcomed them, she said. "You can't plug a trailer into a tree."On Thursday, a rumor spread around town that FEMA was selling the trailers, $1,000 for 10. City Clerk Carol Almond had to tell callers she had no information on that....

[bth: so we have people in hotels for months, now we are kicking them out of hotels and we have 10000 empty trailers at one location alone. Incredible stupidity. Criminal.]
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L.A. Mayor Blindsided by Bush Announcement

BREITBART.COM - L.A. Mayor Blindsided by Bush Announcement: "Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday he was blindsided by President Bush's announcement of new details on a purported 2002 hijacking plot aimed at a downtown skyscraper, and described communication with the White House as 'nonexistent.'

'I'm amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels,' the mayor told The Associated Press. 'I don't expect a call from the president _ but somebody.'

Bush has referred to the 2002 plot before but he publicly filled in the details Thursday.

Bush said Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks who was captured in 2003, had begun planning an attack to fly a commercial airplane into the tallest skyscraper on the West Coast, the Library Tower in Los Angeles, since renamed the US Bank Tower.

Instead of recruiting Arab hijackers, Southeast Asian men would be used, Bush said, because they were less likely to arouse suspicion. He said they would use shoe bombs to blow open the cockpit door.

The president said the plot was derailed when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key al-Qaida operative. Bush did not name the country or the operative.

'I go to work every day knowing that we are a target,' Villaraigosa said.

The mayor said homeland security needs better funding, including for the protection of high-risk targets in Los Angeles. He said some funding could be redirected from the war in Iraq, but he did not advocate an immediate withdrawal of troops. "
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Who's with the U.S. in Iraq?

Lexington Herald-Leader 02/09/2006 Who's with the U.S. in Iraq?: "A look at the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

ALBANIA: 120 non-combat troops, patrolling Mosul airport; no plans to withdraw.

ARMENIA: 46 soldiers serving under Polish command through 2006; no withdrawal plan.

AUSTRALIA: Roughly 550 troops and support in Iraq, plus several hundred others in Persian Gulf region; no dates set for pullout.

AZERBAIJAN: 150 troops; no withdrawal plans.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: 36 ordnance experts rotated every six months; no plans to withdraw.

BRITAIN: About 8,000 troops in southern Iraq, roughly 2,000 others in Gulf region; government and military deny media reports that 2,000 will be withdrawn starting in May.

BULGARIA: Pulled out 380 infantry troops in December; will deploy 120 non-combat troops by mid-March to guard refugee camp.

CZECH REPUBLIC: 100 military police training Iraqis; mission extended to end of 2006.

DENMARK: 530 troops patrolling southern Iraqi city of Basra; mission expires July 1.

EL SALVADOR: 380 soldiers doing humanitarian work in Hillah; no plans to withdraw.

ESTONIA: 34 troops, mostly infantry, serving under U.S. command in Baghdad; mission extended to end of 2006.

GEORGIA: 858 combat forces, medics and support personnel serving under U.S. command in Baqouba; no plans to withdraw.

ITALY: About 2,600 troops, most in Nasiriyah; government plans to draw down gradually, with contingent halved by June and civilian replacements to be deployed.

JAPAN: 600 non-combat troops based in Samawah to purify water; government and military have not confirmed media reports that pullout could begin in March.

KAZAKHSTAN: 27 military engineers; no plans for withdrawal.

LATVIA: 135 soldiers, mostly infantry; mission expires at end of 2006.

LITHUANIA: 60 soldiers, mostly infantry, serving with Danish contingent; mission to last at least through end of 2006.

MACEDONIA: 32 troops providing security; no plans to withdraw.

MOLDOVA: 11 bomb defusal experts; mission expires in July; extension uncertain.

MONGOLIA: 160 troops; no withdrawal plans.

NETHERLANDS: 15 soldiers as part of NATO mission training police, army officers; mandate expires in August.

POLAND: 900 non-combat troops; commands multinational force south of Baghdad; could be extended into next year.

ROMANIA: 863 troops, including 400 infantry, 150 mine experts, 100 military police, 50 military intelligence plus medics and U.N. guards; no plans to withdraw.

SLOVAKIA: 107 troops stationed in Hillah in Polish sector, mostly engaged in demining; no plans to withdraw.

SOUTH KOREA: 3,270 troops training Iraqis; security for U.N.; 1,000 to withdraw this year; mission expires at end of 2006.
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MediaCitizen: Bush Budget Pumps Propaganda, Slashes PBS

MediaCitizen: Bush Budget Pumps Propaganda, Slashes PBS: "The most recent twist of Bush's budgetary knife lays bare the White House's real information priority: Fake news trumps honest reporting"...

[bth: this report goes on the point out that propaganda funding is up dramaticallly while funding for PBS and equivalents is being slashed.]
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Iraq Utilities Are Falling Short of Prewar Performance - New York Times

Iraq Utilities Are Falling Short of Prewar Performance - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 Virtually every measure of the performance of Iraq's oil, electricity, water and sewerage sectors has fallen below preinvasion values even though $16 billion of American taxpayer money has already been disbursed in the Iraq reconstruction program, several government witnesses said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday. "

Of seven measures of public services performance presented at the committee hearing by the inspector general's office, only one was above preinvasion values.

Those that had slumped below those values were electrical generation capacity, hours of power available in a day in Baghdad, oil and heating oil production and the numbers of Iraqis with drinkable water and sewage service.

Only the hours of power available to Iraqis outside Baghdad had increased over prewar values.

In addition, two of the witnesses said they believed that an earlier estimate by the World Bank that $56 billion would be needed for rebuilding over the next several years was too low.

At the same time, as Iraq's oil exports plummet and the country remains saddled with tens of billions of dollars of debt, it is unclear where that money will come from, said one of the witnesses, Joseph A. Christoff, director of international affairs and trade at the Government Accountability Office.

And those may not be the most serious problems facing Iraq's pipelines, storage tanks, power lines, electrical switching stations and other structures, said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office.

In one sense, focusing on the plummeting performance numbers "misses the point," Mr. Bowen said. The real question, he said, is whether the Iraqi security forces will ever be able to protect the infrastructure from insurgent attack.

"What's happened is that an incessant, an insidious insurgency has repeatedly attacked the key infrastructure targets, reducing outputs," Mr. Bowen said. He added that some of the performance numbers had fluctuated above prewar values in the past, only to fall again under the pressure of insurgent attacks and other factors.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, began by billing the session as a way of deciphering how much of America's original ambitions in the rebuilding program are likely to be fulfilled with the amount of money that Iraq, the United States Congress and international donors are still prepared to spend on the task.

This downsizing of expectations was striking given that $30 billion American taxpayer money has already been dedicated to the task, according to an analysis by Mr. Christoff of the accountability office. Of that money, $23 billion has already been obligated to specific rebuilding contracts, and $16 billion of that amount has been disbursed, Mr. Christoff said.

Mr. Bowen's office has pointed out that another $40 billion in Iraqi oil money and seized assets of Saddam Hussein's regime was also made available for reconstruction and other tasks at one time or another. Last week, Robert J. Stein Jr., one of four former United States government officials in Iraq who have been arrested in a bribery and kickback scheme involving that money, pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Mr. Bowen pointed out in his testimony that the news on reconstruction in Iraq is not all bad. Despite the recent financing and performance shortfalls, the rebuilding program now seems to be much less ridden by fraud, corruption and chaos than it was in the early days when people like Mr. Stein were in charge.

James R. Kunder, assistant administrator for Asia and the Near East at the United States Agency for International Development, in the State Department, emphasized things like what he called a 30 percent "potential increase" in electricity output because of new and reconditioned power generators in Iraq.

"We have done a lot of reconstruction work in Iraq over the last couple of years," Mr. Kunder said. "We did not meet all of the goals, the ambitious goals, we originally intended," he conceded.

Mr. Christoff of the accounting office said the latest numbers may actually overstate how well Iraqis have been served by the reconstruction program.

Water numbers, for example, often focus on how much drinkable water is generated at central plants, he said. But he said 65 percent of that water was subject to leaking from porous distribution pipes, which often run next to sewage facilities.

"So we really don't know how many households get potable, drinkable water," Mr. Christoff said.

Mr. Christoff also brought another new figure to the hearing: he said that on a recent trip to Baghdad, the American forces there had told him that they would need another $3.9 billion to continue training and equipping Iraqi forces, in part so that they can better protect the infrastructure.

The money would presumably be included in a 2006 supplemental funding request in which the Bush administration has said it would ask for more money to support the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, an official at the Office of Management and Budget said. The administration "told us it would include this type of expenses," the official said, adding that no total for Iraqi security forces has yet come directly from the White House.

If the $3.9 billion that the American forces believe they need is actually appropriated, it would bring the total amount spent simply on training and equipping the Iraqi Army and the police to about $15 billion.

[bth: sounds like corruption is down because the money left to loot is down. The insurgents ability to cripple infrastructure is fundamental to why we may ultimately lose this war. By just slowing or reducing oil exports, the insurgents effectively bankrupt the newly formed Iraqi government before it gets started. By interrupting electricity it not only leaves a perception with the Iraqi people that the new government is incompetent to protect them, it also shuts down any hope of a modern economy or the associated employment that comes from it. If the Iraqi Army cannot protect the infrastructure, any hope of a standalone Iraqi government or Iraqi economy is doomed.]
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KBR awarded Homeland Security contract worth up to $385M - MarketWatch

KBR awarded Homeland Security contract worth up to $385M - MarketWatch: "
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- KBR, the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton Co. (HAL : Halliburton Company , said Tuesday it has been awarded a contingency contract from the Department of Homeland Security to supports its Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities in the event of an emergency. The maximum total value of the contract is $385 million and consists of a 1-year base period with four 1-year options. KBR held the previous ICE contract from 2000 through 2005. The contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to expand existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs, KBR said. The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency, such as a natural disaster, the company said. "

[bth: so what's this all about? That's a mighty big contract for a contingency and are we talking about Cubans, Mexicans, al-Qaeda or just what?]

New Mexico ACLU wants apology to employee investigated on 'sedition'

New Mexico ACLU wants apology to employee investigated on 'sedition': "ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico wants the government to apologize to a nurse for seizing her computer and investigating her for 'sedition' after she criticized the Bush administration.

The ACLU said Wednesday the Department of Veterans Affairs found no evidence Laura Berg used her office computer to write the critical letter.

VA human resources chief Mel Hooker said in a Nov. 9 letter that his agency was obligated to investigate 'any act which potentially represents sedition,' the ACLU said.

A VA spokesman in Washington could not say Wednesday whether the agency had received the ACLU's request.

It seeks an apology from Hooker 'to remedy the unconstitutional chilling effect on the speech of VA employees that has resulted from these intimidating tactics.'

Even if Berg had used an office computer, neither that nor her criticism approached 'unlawful insurrection,' said Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU.

'Is the government so jealous of its power, so fearful of dissent, that it needs to threaten people who openly oppose its policies with charges of sedition?' he said.

Berg, a clinical nurse specialist, wrote a letter in September to a weekly Albuquerque newspaper criticizing how the administration handled Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War. She urged people to 'act forcefully' to remove an administration she said played games of 'vicious deceit.'

She signed the letter as a private citizen, and the VA had no reason to suspect she used government resources to write it, the ACLU said.

'From all appearances, the seizure of her work computer was an act of retaliation and a hardball attempt to scare Laura into silence,' the ACLU said. "
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Libby: White House 'Superiors' Authorized Leaks

FOXNews.com - Politics News - Libby: White House 'Superiors' Authorized Leaks: "WASHINGTON -A former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney told a federal grand jury that his superiors authorized him to give secret information to reporters as part of the Bush administration's defense of intelligence used to justify invading Iraq, according to court papers. "...
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Hirsh: Real Intel Scandal Is Lack of Competence - Newsweek Politics - MSNBC.com

Hirsh: Real Intel Scandal Is Lack of Competence - Newsweek Politics - MSNBC.com: "Feb. 8, 2006 - Sen. Joseph Biden was uncharacteristically succinct. 'How will we know when this war is over?' Biden asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday at a Senate hearing on the National Security Agency�s domestic surveillance program. Biden never really got a good answer, but his question still resonates. The Bush administration calls the war on terror 'the long war.' But if we are to take the president and his aides at their word, it is more like a permanent war, one that by definition can never end. Having identified the enemy as Al Qaeda and its 'affiliates'-at a time when angry young Muslims are boiling up all over, to be recruited by terror cells yet unborn-the administration surely knows it will be a long, long time until all the Islamist bad guys are eliminated. And that means the extraordinary powers that George W. Bush has arrogated to himself 'during wartime'-including the surveillance of Americans-could become permanent as well.

It all sounds frighteningly Orwellian. But the truth is that, for all the hue and cry over American civil liberties, we are a long way from Big Brother today. In fact, we could probably use a little more Big Brother about now. After four and a half years, our intelligence and national-security apparatus still hasn't learned how to track terrorists, and the Bush administration has put forward little more than cosmetic reforms.

The legal controversy over the NSA surveillance program has obscured an intelligence issue that is at least as important to the nation’s future: sheer competence. Do we have any idea what we’re doing? One reason the NSA is listening in on so many domestic conversations fruitlessly—few of the thousands of tips panned out, according to The Washington Post—is that the agency barely has a clue as to who, or what, it is supposed to be monitoring. ...
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Raytheon tests anti-RPG mini-missile

United Press International - Security & Terrorism - Raythron tests anti-RPG mini-missile: "WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Raytheon has tested a small vehicle-mounted missile that intercepted a rocket-propelled grenade in a simulation of an ambush on the streets of Iraq.

The test of the Quick Kill 'hit avoidance system' could lead to a deployable counterpunch to the ubiquitous weapon employed against U.S. troops before the end of the year.

'Quick Kill's speed, precision and effectiveness are truly amazing,' boasted Raytheon Combat Systems Vice President Glynn Raymer. 'It offers our current force a level of battlefield protection that no one has ever seen before.'

The Feb. 7 test carried out at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology test range involved an RPG fired at close range against a Stryker combat vehicle equipped with the Quick Kill system. The Stryker is a wheeled armored car that is projected as a mainstay of the Army's future order of battle; Stryker brigades have already been deployed to Iraq.

The Quick Kill includes a scanning radar that can detect an incoming threat and immediately vertically launches a precision-guided missile that pitches over, homes in on the RPG round, and then destroys it in the blink of an eye with minimal concussion and risk to the Stryker crew.

Raytheon called it the 'equivalent of firing a weapon around a corner and hitting another weapon, while both speed through the air at hundreds of meters per second.'

The company said it developed the system with its own funds and brought it from drawing board to field testing in about six months."
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France secretly upgrades capacity of nuclear arsenal

Guardian Unlimited Special reports France secretly upgrades capacity of nuclear arsenal: "France has secretly modified its nuclear arsenal to increase the strike range and accuracy of its weapons. The move comes weeks after President Jacques Chirac warned that states which threatened the country could face the 'ultimate warning' of a nuclear retaliation.

A military source quoted yesterday by the Lib�ration newspaper claimed France had tinkered with its nuclear weapons to improve their strike capability and make this threat more credible.

The source said there had been two major changes: the bombs can now be fired at high altitude to create an 'electromagnetic impulsion' to destroy the enemy's computer and communications systems; and the number of nuclear warheads has been reduced to increase the missiles' range and precision"....
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Senators rap White House on Iraq's economy

Politics News Article Reuters.com: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday it will take decades to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure as senators charged the Bush administration had fumbled reconstruction efforts, slowing a U.S. military withdrawal.
Rumsfeld was defending the Pentagon's $439 billion budget request for next year before senators on the Armed Services Committee.

Contrary to forecasts of administration officials before the March 2003 invasion, Rumsfeld said, 'It's going to take decades' for Iraq 'to get the infrastructure back to where a modern country would have it.'

The senators also questioned Pentagon officials on progress in training Iraqi forces, which the administration says is key for withdrawing U.S. troops.

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there still is just one battalion able to operate independently, and 60 capable of taking the lead in operations, with support of U.S. forces.

Senators generally backed the plan to boost the Pentagon's budget by nearly 7 percent to $439 billion. In addition, the White House said it will seek another $70 billion this year for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and $50 billion early next year. That would bring the wars' cost to $440 billion, with costs expected near $500 billion by next year's end.

In unusually harsh criticism, Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, the committee chairman, said the White House has 'failed to bring together all of the resources necessary' to improve Iraq's economy and stem the joblessness that he said is fueling the rampant violence and corruption.

Warner said former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz "opined at one time" that Iraq's oil production would pay for most of its rebuilding costs, but instead Warner noted that Iraq's "oil production is slipping."

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, said he was "troubled by the suggestions" that the White House would not seek new rebuilding money for Iraq on top of the $20 billion so far. "You can cut and run economically as well as you can militarily," he said.

Warner said living conditions must improve through a better infrastructure to stabilize the country, or "it's going to obscure the gains that have been made."...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

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Oil Graft Fuels the Insurgency, Iraq and U.S. Say - New York Times

Oil Graft Fuels the Insurgency, Iraq and U.S. Say - New York Times: "BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 4 � Iraqi and American officials say they are seeing a troubling pattern of government corruption enabling the flow of oil money and other funds to the insurgency and threatening to undermine Iraq's struggling economy"

In Iraq, which depends almost exclusively on oil for its revenues, the officials say that any diversion of money to an insurgency that is killing its citizens and tearing apart its infrastructure adds a new and menacing element to the challenge of holding the country together.

In one example, a sitting member of the Iraqi National Assembly has been indicted in the theft of millions of dollars meant for protecting a critical oil pipeline against attacks and is suspected of funneling some of that money to the insurgency, said Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, the chairman of Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity. The indictment has not been made public.

The charges against the Sunni lawmaker, Meshaan al-Juburi, are far from the only indication that the insurgency is profiting from Iraq's oil riches.

On Saturday, the director of a major oil storage plant near Kirkuk was arrested with other employees and several local police officials, and charged with helping to orchestrate a mortar attack on the plant on Thursday, a Northern Oil Company employee said. The attack resulted in devastating pipeline fires and a shutdown of all oil operations in the area, said the employee, who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Ali Allawi, Iraq's finance minister, estimated that insurgents reap 40 percent to 50 percent of all oil-smuggling profits in the country. Offering an example of how illicit oil products are kept flowing on the black market, he said that the insurgency had infiltrated senior management positions at the major northern refinery in Baiji and routinely terrorized truck drivers there. This allows the insurgents and their confederates to tap the pipeline, empty the trucks and sell the oil or gas themselves.

"It's gone beyond Nigeria levels now where it really threatens national security," Mr. Allawi said of the oil industry. "The insurgents are involved at all levels."

American officials here echo that view. "It's clear that corruption funds the insurgency, so there you have a very real threat to the new state," said an American official who is involved in anticorruption efforts but refused to be identified to preserve his ability to work with Iraqi officials. "Corruption really has the potential of undercutting the growth potential here."

An example of how the insurgents terrorize oil truck drivers occurred last month, as a 60-truck convoy of fuel tankers from Baiji that was intended to alleviate fuel shortages in Baghdad was attacked by insurgents with grenades and machine guns despite the heavy presence of Iraqi security forces. In some cases Iraqi guards on the Syrian border have been paid off to let stolen shipments through, and the oil is then sold on the black market, Mr. Radhi said.

Senior officials in Iraq's Oil Ministry have been repeatedly cited in the Iraqi press as complaining about what they call an "oil smuggling mafia" that not only siphons profits from the oil industry but also is said to control the allocation of administrative posts in the ministry.

The former oil minister, Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, told the London-based newspaper Al Hayat late last year that "oil and fuel smuggling networks have grown into a dangerous mafia threatening the lives of those in charge of fighting corruption," according to a translation by the BBC.

Mr. Ulum said in an interview with the television network Iraqiya that raids on "smuggling dens" in Baghdad had netted forged documents and tanker trucks.

The indictment against Mr. Juburi, who is now believed to be hiding in Syria, charge that he stole money intended to hire and equip thousands of guards in 2004 and 2005 to protect an oil pipeline running between Baiji and the northern city of Kirkuk, Mr. Radhi said. Iraqi officials also suspect, but have not proved, that Mr. Juburi funneled some of the money he was given to protect the pipeline to the insurgents who were attacking it.

An Iraqi Army battalion commander Mr. Juburi hired was arrested recently and accused of organizing insurgent attacks on the pipeline, said a high-ranking Iraqi official who is close to the investigation. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the indictment. It is not clear whether Mr. Juburi knew that the commander was helping plan the attacks, the official said.

Frequent insurgent attacks on the pipeline have been one reason Iraqi oil exports have plummeted over the past year. The mortar attack on Thursday that led to the arrests of oil company officials and police officials was described by Northern Oil company employees as one of the most damaging in years.

The battalion commander hired by Mr. Juburi was identified as Ali Ahmed al-Wazir, commander of the second battalion of the first brigade of the Special Infrastructure Brigades, based in the Wadi Zareitoun district, said the high-ranking Iraqi official close to the investigation. Mr. Juburi fled Iraq just before a warrant was issued for his arrest in late Dece
mber, Mr. Radhi said. Mr. Juburi's son, Yazen Meshaan al-Juburi, has also been charged in the case and is believed to have fled with him.
Mr. Juburi's party, the Conciliation and Liberation Bloc, won three seats in December's elections. But the charges against him are not likely to affect the current negotiations over forming a new Iraqi government, Mr. Radhi said, because the party Mr. Juburi formed can nominate someone to replace him in the new National Assembly.

Mr. Juburi has long been a controversial figure in Iraq. He was once intimate with the family of Saddam Hussein, but joined other Iraqi exiles in calling for Mr. Hussein's overthrow after fleeing Iraq in 1989.

He claimed that he worked with American Special Forces in the weeks before the war in a covert attempt to undermine the Iraqi military, broadcasting calls to military commanders to lay down their arms from a television station in Kurdistan. He claimed to have taken control of Mosul by the outbreak of the war, but he was later ousted by American commanders.

Mr. Juburi's tribe, the Juburis, is powerful in Salahuddin Province, through which the oil pipeline from Baiji runs. Partly for that reason, Mr. Juburi was asked in 2004 to organize 17 battalions of soldiers to protect the pipeline. In January 2005, Mr. Juburi was elected to the National Assembly, becoming one of a few Sunni Arab members and a hard-line critic of the government, led by Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Iraqi and American officials say they believe that some members of the Juburi tribe are involved in the insurgency.

After attacks on the pipeline grew worse in 2005, a three-month investigation found that Mr. Juburi had hired only a small number of commanders, paying them to appoint hundreds of ghost soldiers on paper and funnel the salaries back to him, Mr. Radhi said.

Mr. Juburi's son, Yazen, was responsible for supplying food for the soldiers, and he appears to have pocketed much of the money allocated for that purpose, the Iraqi official said.

Oil smuggling is only one part of a broader corruption problem that ranges from small-scale kickbacks to major fraud of the kind that took place in Iraq's Defense Ministry, where investigators last August said they had identified more than $1.3 billion in misspent military contracts. Hazem Shaalan, who was defense minister under former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and gave Mr. Juburi the job of protecting the Baiji pipeline, was charged with public corruption last year and is now living in London.

Not all the corruption is related to the insurgency. But American and Iraqi officials say its scale is so broad as to be a serious threat to Iraq's economic rebirth.

The Commission on Public Integrity has referred about 450 cases for prosecution, and it has more than 1,000 other cases under investigation, Mr. Radhi said.

The reports of corruption have set off a major reform effort in recent months, with American advisers assisting internal investigations and promoting new rules like requiring financial disclosure forms for government officials.

But the changes have often been stymied by intimidation and violence. Iraq set up a new post in each government ministry to do internal monitoring, the inspector general, but two of the officials were assassinated last year just as they were about to publicize the results of investigations. Six other employees of the Commission on Public Integrity have been killed, and the rest live in constant fear of retaliatory violence.

"When the corruption is large, people incline to terror," Mr. Radhi said.

Some of the officials in charge of fighting corruption appear to have been drawn into it instead. The Iraqi inspector general program has suffered from "significant missteps and lapses in progress," and several inspector generals have been relieved of their jobs pending indictments, according to a State Department report on Iraq's reconstruction efforts.

The threat of violence has also deterred many Iraqi journalists from reporting on corruption, despite a campaign by American officials, who have optimistically declared the week starting Feb. 19 to be Anti-corruption Week.

"We have talked to three editors in the past week about anticorruption stories," said an American official in Baghdad who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "They are afraid of getting whacked if they print them."

In other cases, anticorruption officials have helped to hide illegal behavior, joining what Mr. Radhi called "Mafia type" organizations within the government ministries.

The Iraqi government has begun requiring all employees to sign a code of conduct, and all high-level officials must fill out complete financial disclosure forms. But 40 percent of them have refused to do so, saying they fear that filling out such forms will be equivalent to telling kidnappers what ransom to charge, Mr. Radhi said.

There have been some successes, he said: eight government officials have been convicted on corruption charges and sentenced, though many more have escaped prosecution by fleeing to other countries.
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Top Al Qaeda convicts escape from Yemen jail

Reuters AlertNet - Top Al Qaeda convicts escape from Yemen jail: "SANAA, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Thirteen al Qaeda militants convicted in the attacks on the U.S. warship Cole and the French supertanker Limburg in Yemen were among 23 men who broke out of jail in Sanaa, a state-run Web site said on Saturday.

The September 26 site (www.26sep.net) quoted unnamed sources saying the 13 convicts included top militants Jamal Badawi and Fawaz al-Rabe'ie, who managed to flee the central prison by digging a 70-metre-long tunnel.

Rabe'ie -- the leader of the group convicted of bombing the Limburg in 2002 -- was facing the death sentence, while Badawi was serving 15 years in jail for the bombing of the Cole in 2000 after his sentence was commuted from the death penalty.

Badawi had escaped from prison in Aden in 2003 but was later arrested and sent back to prison, the Web site said.
Yemen, the ancestral home of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has cracked down on al Qaeda-linked militants following attacks at home. "
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Taps found clues, not Al Qaeda, FBI chief says

New York Daily News - World & National Report - Taps found clues, not Al Qaeda, FBI chief says: "WASHINGTON - The National Security Agency's secret domestic spying hasn't nabbed any Al Qaeda agents in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 attacks, FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress yesterday.

Mueller told the Senate Intelligence Committee that his agents get 'a number of leads from the NSA,' but he made it clear Osama Bin Laden's henchmen weren't at the end of the trail.

'I can say leads from that program have been valuable in identifying would-be terrorists in the United States, individuals who were providing material support to terrorists,' Mueller testified.

His assessment of the controversial NSA snooping appeared to undercut a key claim by President Bush. As recently as Wednesday, Bush defended bypassing courts in domestic spying by insisting that 'one of the people making the call has to be Al Qaeda, suspected Al Qaeda and/or affiliate.'

The committee's chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), let slip that one disrupted plot involved Iyman Faris' scheme to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. 'I think as to the number of lives that have been saved, it might have been how many were on the Brooklyn Bridge if it had blown up,' Roberts said.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official later told the Daily News that the NSA program was used after Faris agreed to cooperate in the investigation but 'that was not what initiated it.'"
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Murtha's Letter To The President..."Iraq Has Diverted Our Attention Away From The Fight Against Global Terrorism"... | The Huffington Post

Wednesday February 1, 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

This March will mark the beginning of the 4th year of the war in Iraq. In contrast, U.S. involvement in WWI came to an end after 19 months. Victory in Europe was declared in WWII after 3 years 5 months. In the Korean War, a cease-fire was signed after 3 years and 1 month. But after more than three and a half years into the war in Iraq, your administration finally produced what is called a 'Plan for Victory' in Iraq.
Iraq is not the center for the global war on terrorism. I believe Iraq has diverted our attention away from the fight against global terrorism and has depleted the required resources needed to wage an effective war. It is estimated that there are only about 750 to 1,000 al-Qaeda in Iraq. I believe the Iraqis will force them out or kill them after U.S. troops are gone. In fact, there is now evidence that Iraqi insurgent groups are increasingly turning against al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists.

Our country needs a vigorous and comprehensive strategy for victory against global terrorism. The architect of 9/11 is still out there but now has an international microphone. We must get back to the real issue at hand - we have to root out and destroy al-Qaeda's worldwide network.

There are 4 key elements that I recommend to reinvigorate our global anti-terrorism effort: Redeploy, Replace, Reallocate, and Reconstitute.

Redeploy

The war in Iraq is fueling terrorism, not eliminating it. Our continued military presence feeds the strong anti-foreigner fervor that has existed in this part of the world for centuries. A vast majority of the Iraqi people now view American troops as occupiers, not liberators. Over 80% of Iraqis want U.S. forces to leave Iraq and 47% think it is justified to attack Americans. 70% of Iraqis favor a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces, with half favoring a withdrawal in the next six months. In fact, 67% of Iraqis expect day-to-day security for Iraqi citizens will improve if U.S. forces withdraw in six months and over 60% believe violent attacks, including those that are ethnically motivated, will decrease. Our military presence is the single most important reason why the Iraqis have tolerated the foreign terrorists, who account for less than 7 percent of the insurgency. 93% of the insurgency is made up of Iraqis. Once our troops are re-deployed, the Iraqis will reject the terrorists and deny them a safe haven in Iraq. The Iraqis are against a foreign presence in Iraq of any kind.

The steadfast and valiant efforts of the United States military and coalition partners have provided the Iraqi people with the framework needed to self govern. The Iraqis held elections that have been touted as highly successful, based primarily on the accounts of Iraqis who went to the polls. But our continued military presence in Iraq, regardless of the motives behind it, is seen by Iraqis as interfering in Iraq's democratic process and undercuts the chances for the newly elected government to be successful. Recently, Iraq's National Security Adviser accused U.S. negotiators of going behind the back of the Iraqi government on talks with insurgents, saying the process could encourage more violence. He said, "Americans are making a huge and fatal mistake in their policy for appeasement and they should not do this. They should leave the Iraqi government to deal with it... The United States should allow the new Iraqi government to decide on how to quell the insurgency."

In December 2005, an ABC News poll in Iraq produced some noteworthy results. 57% of Iraqis identified national security as the country's top priority. When asked to rate the confidence in public institutions, they gave Iraqi police a 68% confidence level, the Iraqi army 67%, religious leaders 67%. But the U.S./U.K. forces scored the lowest, a mere 18%. The longer our military stays in Iraq, the more unwelcome we will be. We will be increasingly entangled in an open-ended nation building mission, one that our military can not accomplish amidst a civil war. Our troops will continue to be the targets of Iraqis who see them as interfering occupiers.

Redeploying our forces from Iraq and stationing a mobile force outside of the country removes a major antagonizing factor. I believe we will see a swift demise of foreign terrorist groups in Iraq if we redeploy outside of the country. Further, our troops will no longer be the targets of bloody attacks.

Replace

The ever-changing justifications of the war in Iraq, combined with tragic missteps, have resulted in a worldwide collapse of support for U.S. policies in Iraq.

The credibility of the United States of America will not be restored if we continue down the path of saying one thing and doing another. We must not lower our standards and tactics to those of the terrorists. In order to keep our homeland secure, we must hold true to the values that molded our American democracy, even in the face of adversity. Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, said it best during a speech in March 2004 to the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies: "America knows we cannot seek a double standard. And, America knows we get what we give. And so we must and will always be careful to respect people's privacy, civil liberties and reputations. To suggest that there is a tradeoff between security and individual freedoms -- that we must discard one protection for the other -- is a false choice. You do not defend liberty to forsake it."
Restoring the world's confidence in America as a competent and morally superior world leader is essential to winning the war on global terrorism.

A recent pubic opinion poll, conducted jointly with Zogby International and taken in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, found that 81% said the war in Iraq had brought less peace to the Middle East. A majority of the respondents said they view the United States as the biggest threat to their nations.

Mr. President, I believe in order to restore our credibility, you must hold accountable those responsible for so many missteps and install a fresh team that demonstrates true diplomatic skill, knowledge of cultural differences and a willingness to earnestly engage other leaders in a respectful and constructive way. This would do much to reinvigorate international participation in a truly effective war on global terrorism.

Reallocate

The Department of Defense has been allocated $238 billion for the war in Iraq, with average monthly costs growing significantly since the beginning of the war. In 2003 the average monthly war cost was $4.4 billion; by 2005 the average monthly cost had reached $6.1 billion.

Despite the urgent homeland security needs of our country, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission issued a dismal report card on the efforts to improve our counter-terrorist defenses. Even the most basic of recommendations, such as the coordination of fire and police communication lines, still have not been accomplished.

In the face of threats from international terrorists, we need to reallocate funds from the war in Iraq to protecting the United States against attack. A safe and swift redeployment from Iraq will allow us to do just that.

Reconstitute

The U.S. army is the smallest it's been since 1941. It is highly capable. But this drawn out conflict has put tremendous stress on our military, particularly on our Army and Marine Corps, whose operations tempo has increased substantially since 9/11.

The Government Accountability Office issued a report in November 2005 addressing the challenges of military personnel recruitment and retention and noted that the Department of Defense had been unable to fill over 112,000 positions in critical occupational specialties. This shortfall includes intelligence analysts, special forces, interpreters, and demolition experts-- those on whom we rely so heavily in today's asymmetric battlefield.

Some of our troops have been deployed four times over the last three years. Enlistment for the regular forces as well as the guard and reserves are well below recruitment goals. In 2005, the Army missed its recruitment goal for the first time since 1999, even after offering enlistment bonuses and incentives, lowering its monthly goals, and lowering its recruitment standards. As Retired Army officer Andrew Krepinevich recently warned in a report to the Pentagon, the Army is "in a race against time" to adjust to the demands of war "or risk 'breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment.

The harsh environment in which we are operating our equipment in Iraq, combined with the equipment usage rate (ten times greater than peacetime levels) is taking a heavy toll on our ground equipment. It is currently estimated that $50 billion will be required to refurbish this equipment.

Further, in its response to Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard realized that it had over $1.3 billion in equipment shortfalls. This has created a tremendous burden on non-deployed guard units, on whom this country depends so heavily to respond to domestic disasters and possible terrorist attacks. Without relief, Army Guard units will face growing equipment shortages and challenges in regaining operational readiness for future missions at home and overseas.

Since 9/11, Congress has appropriated about $334 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the insurgents have spent hundreds of thousands. We have seen reports estimating that the total cost of the wars may reach as high as $1 trillion. These estimates are said to include such costs as providing long-term disability benefits and care for injured service members. It is estimated today that over 16,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq, 10,481 of whom have been wounded by "weaponry explosive devices."

But while war costs continue to climb, cuts are being made to the defense budget. As soon as the war is over there will be pressure to cut even more. This year, even while we are at war, 8 billion dollars was cut from the base defense spending bill. You ordered another $32 billion in cuts to the defense budget over the next five years, with $11.6 billion coming from the Army. The Pentagon told Congress only last year that it needed 77 combat brigades to fulfill its missions, but now insists it only needs 70. In fact, 6 of the 7 combat brigades will be cut from the National Guard, reducing its combat units from 34 to 28. Even though all of the National Guard combat brigades have been deployed overseas since 9/11, your Administration has determined that, because of funding shortfalls, our combat ground forces can be reduced.

Not only will these cuts diminish our combat power, but our ability to respond to natural disasters and terrorist threats to our homeland will be adversely affected. It is obvious that the cost of the war, in conjunction with the Army's inability to meet recruitment goals, has impacted this estimate. My concern is that instead of our force structure being based on the future threat, it is now being based on the number of troops and level of funding available.

I am concerned that costly program cuts will lead to costly mistakes and we will be unable to sustain another deployment even if there is a real threat. The future of our military and the future of our country could very well be at stake. The high dollar forecasts of our future military weapons systems and military health care add pressure to cut costs on the backs of these programs. As our weapons systems age, the concern becomes even greater.

During a time of war, we are cutting our combat force, we have not mobilized industry, and have never fully mobilized our military. On our current path, I believe that we are not only in danger of breaking our military, but that we are increasing the chances of a major miscalculation by our future enemies, who may perceive us as vulnerable.
Sincerely,

JOHN P. MURTHA
Member of Congress
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