Saturday, April 29, 2006

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Merits of Partitioning Iraq or Allowing Civil War Weighed

Merits of Partitioning Iraq or Allowing Civil War Weighed: "As the U.S. military struggles against persistent sectarian violence in Iraq, military officers and security experts find themselves in a vigorous debate over an idea that just months ago was largely dismissed as a fringe thought: that the surest -- and perhaps now the only -- way to bring stability to Iraq is to divide the country into three pieces.

Those who see the partitioning of Iraq as increasingly attractive argue that separating the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds may be the only solution to the violence that many experts believe verges on civil war. Others contend that it would simply lead to new and dangerous challenges for the United States, not least the possibility that al-Qaeda would find it easier to build a new base of operations in a partitioned Iraq."

One specialist on the Iraqi insurgency, Ahmed S. Hashim, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College who has served two tours in Iraq as a reservist, contends in a new book that the U.S. government's options in Iraq are closing to just two: Let a civil war occur, or avoid that wrenching outcome through some sort of partition. Such a division of the country "is the option that can allow us to leave with honor intact," he concludes in "Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq."

Bush administration officials have expressed relief and optimism since Iraqi politicians ended a four-month impasse this month by finally choosing a prime minister, Jawad al-Maliki, a Shiite politician. Such political milestones, coupled with the ongoing training of Iraqi security forces, are the cornerstones of U.S. policy and the keys to building a unified, stable Iraq, U.S. officials say.

At the same time, the continued violence across the country has convinced some analysts that U.S. options in Iraq are narrowing, as both U.S. influence inside the country and patience at home for the war wane.

The fundamental fact of Iraq is that insurgent attacks on Iraqi police and army troops continue essentially unabated, said Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst of Middle Eastern security issues.

"There are peaks and valleys," he said Friday at a seminar of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "It goes up and down, but it seems to grow over time." Also, he said, lately there has been a spate of worrisome, large-scale direct attacks on Iraqi police stations and army outposts, some involving as many as 50 fighters.

The goal of U.S. foreign policy right now, said former ambassador James Dobbins, a Rand Corp. expert on peacekeeping, should be to prevent the country from sliding into a large-scale conventional civil war. "Our economic leverage is already essentially gone," he said at a recent discussion at the American Enterprise Institute, and "our military leverage is also a waning asset." So he is calling for a much more intense campaign of regional diplomacy by U.S. officials.

Others say it is too late to go shopping for help in a region whose governments are generally hostile to U.S. goals in Iraq.
"I agree with Ahmed," said retired Marine Col. T.X. Hammes, a counterinsurgency expert who has worked in Iraq on training security forces there. "The Iraqis are positioning for civil war," and so, he said, the United States should be contemplating a "soft partition" of the country by design, rather than through violence. An all-out civil war would not only endanger U.S. troops more but also would be more likely to spill over into neighboring states and so wreak havoc on the international oil market, Hammes said.

On the other side of the debate are many military insiders who believe steady progress is being made in Iraq, despite violence and setbacks.

"I do not agree that there are only two options, especially these two options" of civil war or breaking the country apart, said Army Lt. Col. James A. Gavrilis, a Special Forces officer who participated in the invasion of Iraq and now works on Iraq issues for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gavrilis said that allowing a civil war or a partition of Iraq would be an admission of failure that is not required by the current situation.

"The potential for civil war is there, certainly, but it is not as far as many are claiming. We have not seen indicators of full-scale civil war or mass mobilizations or a collapse of politics," said Gavrilis, noting that he was expressing his personal views. He argued for continuing to emphasize the democratic revolution that he believes is changing Iraq. Likewise, Gary Anderson, a retired Marine colonel who in the past advised the Pentagon on the Iraqi insurgency, thinks that the administration should stay the course: "I think drawing down our participation . . . and continuing to grow security forces that are loyal to the central government rather than to sects is the way to go, but that is obviously easier said than done."

The U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, declined to provide a senior officer to be interviewed about the issues addressed in this article.

Even carrying out a planned division of Iraq may prove more difficult than it appears, warned an officer now serving in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, which is on its second tour there. "It's a simple, blunt approach to preventing sectarian violence," he said. "However, it won't stop all infiltrations and violence, and it may simply result in armed camps that eventually resort to all-out, partitioned state-on-state war."
Preventing major ethnic and sectarian massacres such as occurred in the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan would require huge investments of time and money, hard to come by four years into the war, warned Hammes, the counterinsurgency expert. "We will have to develop and fund some kind of displacement agency to move the families and set them up -- very manpower and civilian expertise intensive!" he said in an e-mail interview.

Because of those hurdles, Hammes said, he expects that the U.S. government will be incapable of managing a breakup of Iraq. He considers a "hard" division of Iraq, achieved through civil war, more likely. "This will spread disorder to Saudi and other Gulf states," he predicted.

Others think that dividing Iraq itself is a pipe dream because it wouldn't solve the basic problems racking the country.

"There is no way a partition would work," said Army Reserve Lt. Col. Joe Rice, who recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, expressing his personal opinion. Baghdad is a deeply mixed city, he noted: "The largest Kurdish city in Iraq? Baghdad. The largest Sunni city? Baghdad. The largest Shiite city? Yep, Baghdad." Also, he said, it would be difficult to parcel out Iraq's greatest treasure, its oil reserves, in a way that all three major groups would find acceptable.

What's more, if partition actually happened, it probably would have several unintended consequences, such as creating a hard-line, anti-American Sunni mini-state, possibly giving al-Qaeda a new haven, said Michael Quigley, a former expert on terrorism at the Defense Intelligence Agency who has served in Iraq.

The most radical view, which even now appears to have only a few proponents in the U.S. military establishment, is that the United States should step back and let a civil war occur. In this argument, the U.S. government created a revolutionary situation when it invaded Iraq and brought about a wholesale transfer of power from the country's Sunnis to its Shiites. So, this argument goes, civil war isn't something to be avoided, but rather a necessary part of the process of changing Iraq.

One of the few officers who have expressed this view publicly is Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, an inventive former planner with the 101st Airborne in Iraq who now teaches at West Point.

"Should we give civil war a chance in Iraq?" Wilson asked in an essay posted on the Internet last month. His answer: probably yes. That is, such a conflict may be what is needed to save the country.

"For Iraq, as ironic and illogical as it may seem," he said, "a true and sustainable future may come in the aftermath of the very sectarian-based civil war we have been striving to prevent."

[bth: partitioning the country is probably inevitable. The US doesn't have enough troop strength to impose its will on all parties.

The Sunnis simply aren't going to tolerate conceding power and wealth to Shia or Kurds without a long war of attrition. No militias or Iraqi Army for that matter has the logistics, helicopters, armor or artillery necessary to occupy territory inherently hostile to it - not the Sunnis, Shia or Kurds without US support.

Baghdad is very likely to be the next Beirut if it isn't that already. The cash flow of oil will slowly leave Baghdad and move toward the Kurdish and Shia regional governments leaving Sadrs shia slums and Sunni Baathists out in the cold.

In the end though Shia militias will likely win the battle of Baghdad with Sadr's slums pumping men into the fight paid for by Iranian money.

The southern Shia are not going to give up their new found oil wealth or territory and neither are the Kurds.

Car bombings and kidnappings will remain a regular affair.... What do we do when the Shia clergy tells the US to leave?
Will we pack and go or will we suddenly discover the wisdom of partitioning?

If the boys are going to fight then we'd better let them as the song says since we have no real way of stopping them.]
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100,000 Families Are Fleeing Violence, Iraq Official Says

100,000 Families Are Fleeing Violence, Iraq Official Says - New York Times: "BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 29 � A new estimate by one of Iraq's vice presidents has put the number of families who have fled their homes at 100,000, a number far greater than recent projections by other Iraqi officials and one that further clouds the debate over how deeply sectarian conflicts are affecting the nation"...
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Pentagon Seeks Greater Immunity from Freedom of Information Act - The NewStandard

Pentagon Seeks Greater Immunity from Freedom of Information Act - The NewStandard: "Dismissing the Freedom of Information Act as a hindrance to protecting national security, the military is asking Congress for more authority to withhold information from the public -- a move critics consider a leap on the slippery slope of secrecy."

May 6, 2005 – The Department of Defense is pushing for a new rule that would make it easier for the Pentagon to withhold information on United States military operations from the public.

The provision, proposed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, would render so-called "operational files" fully immune from requests under the Freedom of Information Act, the main mechanism by which watchdog groups, journalists and individuals can access federal documents.

Open government advocates oppose the move, arguing that the proposed exemption is worded so vaguely that it could potentially enable the Pentagon to seal off large amounts of information, including evidence of abuse and misconduct, without proper justification.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy, a research organization focusing on national intelligence agencies, said that FOIA exemption policies, which several other agencies have already obtained, fold into a growing thicket of government secrecy by handing officials "another tool with which they can obfuscate and decline to respond."...

[bth: this would be very bad.]
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Al-Qaeda leader plans an Iraq army

Al-Qaeda leader plans an Iraq army - Sunday Times - Times Online: "THE leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is attempting to set up his own mini-army and move away from individual suicide attacks to a more organised resistance movement, according to US intelligence sources.

Faced with a shortage of foreign fighters willing to undertake suicide missions, Zarqawi wants to turn his group into a more traditional force mounting co-ordinated guerrilla raids on coalition targets.

Al-Qaeda is sending training and planning experts to help to set up the force and infiltrate members into Iraq with the assistance of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the sources said. "...

[bth: seems odd that he would working with Iranian National Guard.]
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Iran's Secret Plan if Attacked by US Codenamed "Judgement Day"

Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English): "London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Eight fundamentalist Islamist organizations have received large sums of money in the last month from the Iranian intelligence services, as part of a project to strike U.S military and economic installations across the Middle East Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

The plan, which also includes the carrying out of suicide operations targeting US and British interests in the region, as well as their Arab and Muslim allies, in case Iran is attacked, was drawn up by a number of experts guerilla warfare and terrorist operations, and was revealed by a senior source in the Iranian armed forces' joint chief of staff headed by the veterinary doctor Hassan Firouzabadi,

The source added that the forces of the Revolutionary Guards-al Quds Brigades, under Brigadier General Qassim Suleimani is responsible for coordinating and providing logistical support for the groups taking part in the execution of the plan, codenamed al Qiyamah the Islamic word for 'Judgment Day'. "

The plan includes three steps, which Asharq al Awsat has examined in earlier reports. The source gave more details about how the plan will be implemented. He said, “Most of Iran’s visitors in the last four months, including the leaders of revolutionary groups in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, as well as the heads of Hezbollah cells in the Persian Gulf and Europe and North America were asked, when they met with the Iranian intelligence minister Gholamhossein Mohseni Ezhei and his aides: are you ready to defend the Islamic revolution and vilayat e faqih? If you agree to take part in the great jihad, what would you need to be ready for the great fight?

Amongst the leaders who visited were the head of one of the Iraqi armed group who was very clear and honest. He said his men would transform Iraq into a hell for the Americans if Iran were attacked.

The source also said that the military training camps of the Guards were opened for the fighters of the Mehdi army in Iran to receive the necessary training. Iran had also increased its financial assistance to Moqtada al Sadr to more than 20 million dollars.

The same applied to Islamic Jihad in Palestine which has received large sums of money, large quantities of arms and military training for its cadres in Isfahan, including street fighting methods.

As for the Lebanese Hezbollah, several loads of arms have been sent to; they include rockets, explosives, and guided missiles. Hezbollah's arsenal includes more than 10 thousand rockets short-range rockets and missiles including Fajr, Nour, Arash, Hadid.

An estimated 80 members underwent private training last year on how to carry out suicide operations from the air (through the use of kite planes) and undersea operations using submarines.

While denying that Hamas had joined the list of organizations ready to help Iran in its likely war with the U.S, the source indicated that the external success of the movement, which enjoys considerable Iranian support both financial and military, was strengthened following the latest visit by its leaders to Tehran. This was translated in the Palestinian masses’ support for Iran, against Israel and the United States .

According to Iran, the latest military plan includes:

1- A missile strike directly targeting the US bases in the Persian Gulf and Iraq , as soon as nuclear installations are hit.

2- Suicide operations in a number of Arab and Muslim countries against US embassies and missions and US military bases and economic and oil installations related to US and British companies. The campaign might also target the economic and military installations of countries allied with the United States .

3- Launch attacks by the Basij and the Revolutionary Guards and Iraqi fighters loyal to Iran against US and British forces in Iraq , from border regions in central and southern Iraq .

4- Hezbollah to launch hundreds of rockets against military and economic targets in Israel .

According to the source, in case the US military attacks continue, more than 50 Shehab-3 missiles will be targeted against Israel and the al Quads Brigades will give the go-ahead for more than 50 terrorists cells in Canada, the US and Europe to attack civil and industrial targets in these countries.

What about the last stage in the plan?

Here, the Iranian source hesitated before saying with worry; this stage might represent the beginning of a world war, given that extremists will seek to maximize civilian casualties by exploding germ and chemical bombs as well as dirty nuclear bombs across western and Arab cities.

[bth: hard to tell truth from propaganda]

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Back to Falluja

Back to Falluja: "Al Anbar Province, Iraq

I ARRIVED AT CAMP FALLUJA in Iraq's Anbar Province by Blackhawk at 4 a.m. on the morning of April 13. No sooner had I lain down in my bunk than I heard the 'thump, thump, thump' of outgoing artillery, five rounds in all. I later learned they were illumination rounds, probably called in to light up the area around the Iraqi Army's Observation Post 3 (OP3) in Karma, just northeast of Falluja. It was, I was told, the largest enemy action in the area in the last eight months.

This was my second visit to Al Anbar, a hotbed of enemy activity that stretches out west of Baghdad all the way to the Syrian and Jordanian borders. It's almost entirely Sunni and was heavily Baathist before Saddam's overthrow, and it's also the pipeline into Iraq for jihadists from the rest of the Islamic world. When I was in Camp Falluja a year ago for about a week, I heard no outgoing fire, and there was no incoming fire. Ramadi, the reputed headquarters of al Qaeda in Iraq, remained wracked with violence, but Falluja was a tame pussycat.

Now it has sprouted long nails and sharp teeth. Before I left the city and its environs, I would hear outgoing artillery on all three nights I spent time at Camp Falluja, withstand a mortar attack on one of the small outposts I stayed at, and hear more firefights in the distance, either from the outposts or out on patrol, than I could count.

Did we seize Falluja in November 2004 only to slowly cede it back to the enemy? And if so, what does it say about the "grab and hold" strategy underway to secure this huge Sunni province, without which the war cannot be won? Is the Iraqi Army (IA) that we are training up to the job? The answers are complex, and I often felt like each of the nine blind men grappling with the elephant--at one point feeling a trunk, at another the tail. But this is what I saw and heard.

...Normally, what the MiTTs are doing would be the job of the Army Special Forces, the vaunted Green Berets who performed so brilliantly in leading the Northern Alliance to victory in Afghanistan. But "we don't have enough SF to do what we're doing now, in the magnitude and at the pace we want to do this," explains Col. Thomas C. Greenwood. "We have over 50 adviser teams just in Al Anbar. You'd use up every Green Beret team in the world if you were to use just them." Greenwood, from the First Marine Expeditionary Force, is the assistant chief of staff for Marine advisers to all three branches of the Iraqi security forces: the army, the border forces, and the police.

Friendly Fire

...Seven insurgents had attacked a checkpoint at a vital bridge over the Euphrates that I would later visit. The IA were already jumpy from having three rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) fired at them earlier in the day, two of which hit the bridge. Now they were shooting back from both the bridge position and an upper floor of a building near the bridge where they had more soldiers stationed. At some point the insurgents slipped out, but in the meantime a Marine quick reaction force had arrived. The Marines, unfortunately, were unaware that there was an IA post on the bridge and took them under fire. The IA, paying no attention to the color of the Marine tracer rounds, assumed they were bad guys and fired back.

The commander of the unit I was embedded with, Maj. William Rummel, worked his walkie-talkie furiously to get both sides to cease fire. He succeeded just in time. The Marines, he later told the Iraqis, were about to call in a helicopter gunship to spray the bridge and probably rocket the building. Although about 2,000 rounds had been fired off (300 Marine, 1,700 Iraqi), nobody was hurt. That's not particularly surprising. It's not like in the movies where it usually only takes one or two rounds to bring down a soldier. Unless a good sniper is at work, it takes a lot of bullets to kill a man.

...The bad guys had hit us with 122-millimeter mortars, the largest size they normally use, and large they are (about 5 inches in diameter and a couple feet long). The shells flew over the tiny camp and landed just outside. It's perhaps telling that I had heard enough gunfire in the past few days that I just rolled over and went back to sleep.

More encouraging was the response to an attack on Observation Post 3, which I visited two days after the attack.

Manned by about 80 IA and three Marines, OP3 was stealthily enveloped on three sides by about 50 to 80 enemy firing from buildings that were anywhere from several hundred yards away to practically across the street. They attacked with RPGs and numerous light machine guns. The IA had nothing more than a few light machine guns and their AK-47 automatic rifles. (Their commanders are adamant that they need heavier weapons, especially large-caliber machine guns, but for various reasons the U.S. military isn't ready to supply them yet.)

Normally, both IA and American forces can get air support--helicopters or fighter-bombers--within 20 minutes, assuming there's enough space between good guys and bad guys to prevent fratricide. Often there isn't. Further, in what may have been a coordinated attack, fighting was raging in Ramadi at the same time and tying down air support. So the IA and the Marines had to hold on for 45 minutes for relief, in a war in which many firefights are over in just a few minutes.

Finally, Marine quick reaction units arrived from two different directions only to find themselves under fire. But now the Iraqis and Americans switched to the offensive and got helicopter support.

For 17 hours they pursued the enemy through the city, killing 18 and taking prisoners. One IA officer was killed, a lieutenant, along with five Iraqi soldiers. Interestingly, that death was a source of pride and encouragement to the IA, in that the lieutenant died a hero--barking out orders with his dying breath. What could have been an absolute disaster became, in this war of small actions and small arms, a stunning success.

Why the Increased Violence?

And yet it must be reiterated that a year ago this area was quiet. Is beating off enemy attacks somehow better than not having them at all? It wouldn't seem so unless you consider the major demographic changes during that time.

A year ago, residents had just started trickling back to their homes. Now the people have returned and, à la Mao Zedong's rules for guerrilla warfare, have become "the sea" in which the enemy can swim. Further, shortly after the Battle of Falluja in November 2004, U.S. troop strength in the area was somewhere north of 3,000 and was still high when I arrived in May 2005. Now it's down to about 300, with a few thousand IA and IP (Iraqi Police) filling the vacuum. (Exact numbers are confidential.)

The enemy will and do attack the Marines. At Second Battalion in Karma, the unit proudly displays a sign reading: "Go out of our country saveges [sic]. If you don't we shall kill you all because you are terrorists and killers." It's signed "Islamic Resistance." But clearly, around Falluja at least, they prefer Iraqi targets. Is that because the Iraqis are softer targets? Col. Greenwood says no. "I think the insurgents target the Iraqis not because they're lesser fighters; I think it's because they can have a huge psychological effect. Any small victory they score helps them. It puts a damper on recruiting and allows the local populace to see insurgents have strength." He also says the "increased spike in violence is an act of desperation," a last ditch effort to win before the coalition grows any stronger. But we've been hearing that "last ditch" stuff for the last couple of years, haven't we?

I don't doubt there's truth to what Greenwood says, but it remains the case that the enemy needs softer targets. I watched a video of an attack on a Falluja police station with a surrounding wall. The tape had fallen into coalition hands when the cameraman dropped his equipment and ran. The "actors" in the film were no more competent. One fired an RPG while running, making the odds of hitting the target slightly less than zero. Another was too scared to take the safety off his RPG and just stood there looking like an idiot. Another fired his light machine gun at a wall directly in front of him, while yet another kept tripping over the ammo belt that dangled from his machine gun and dragged on the ground. Others would simply hold their weapons above their head and fire over the wall. Yet they appeared to be taking almost no return fire from the police. They could have safely aimed their weapons, but made no effort to do so. All they got for their efforts was that most were captured after being identified from the film.

It also remains true that the IP and IA provide softer targets; they are not yet up to the job of defeating these Keystone Kop "warriors."

The police are still woefully undertrained and undermanned; they spend all too much time sitting in their reinforced stations and often require protection themselves. Infiltration also remains a problem, and there have been local reports of the police showing up at a firefight and for some reason the enemy won't shoot at them. In other words, apparently they've cut a deal: "You leave us alone; we'll leave you alone."

The IA are clearly superior to the IP in terms of ability and weapons, yet the "jundi" (pronounced "joon-dee"), as the IA like to be called (although strictly speaking it refers to the low rank of private), simply lack the aggressiveness of American troops. While reports of individuals taking to their heels during a firefight are rare, the IA often seem to think that merely breaking off an enemy attack is the equivalent of victory.

...In addition to lack of aggressiveness, the IA seem incapable of exercising fire control. Even without being able to distinguish the sound of an American weapon from an Iraqi one, you can often tell the difference in an instant. The well-drilled Americans fire off short bursts; Iraqis just pull that trigger and hold it. This makes it almost impossible to aim. Guns pull up as you fire them, and before you know it you're shooting at the clouds. It also wastes vast amounts of ammunition. (This is why, in the modern versions of the venerable M-16 rifle and its shorter M-4 counterpart, "full automatic" mode is mechanically limited to three-round bursts.)

On patrol with the IA in Falluja, they repeatedly needed to be urged to fully perform their jobs, such as stopping suspicious cars and interrogating the passengers. (In Ramadi, where every daytime patrol is a matter of life and death, the IA performed considerably better and more autonomously.)

Everyone understands that the IA will never be up to the level of American soldiers. On the other hand, judging by the even more woeful performance of the enemy, they'll hardly have to be. Further, there's absolutely no evidence the insurgency is growing, while the IP and IA in Falluja clearly are. In Al Anbar, as well as in Iraq as a whole, while it's common to hear that time is on the side of the enemy, it's really not.

"We only have about 3,000 IP now," says Greenwood, "but we expect to break the 10,000 point by next fall. They go to a police academy, we train them, give them gear, and give them leadership." Further, "we have about 18,000 Iraqi soldiers in Al Anbar and had only half of that last year." Nevertheless, Greenwood and others told me, it's the Iraqi Police that will really make the difference. Just as the Marines are turning larger and larger swaths of Falluja over to the Iraqi Army, the IA will one day have to start turning those areas over to the police. "A big challenge is building the Iraqi Army, but that's not a permanent solution," says Greenwood. "Once the police network is up and operating, it's the swan song for insurgents."

Hearts, Minds, and High-Fives

...But civilians are fair game for shootings, bombings, and intimidation. New structures such as schools and hospitals are regularly targeted by mortar and rocket attacks. Cell phone towers are blasted so that civilians can't call in tips to American and Iraqi forces. In Ramadi, the bad guys waited until a hospital was 95 percent completed and then blew it up.

Nobody had the heart to start over. As Col. Greenwood explains it, there are four phases to defeating the enemy. "You need security, then stability, then reconstruction, and finally prosperity in that order," he says. "We're still somewhat between the first and second. The insurgent knows if he can keep us from devoting resources to the last two, ultimately you can't win over the people--you're just using their neighborhoods as a battleground."

Throughout much of the country, not just in Al Anbar, ambitious American programs of electrification and building are often crippled, in part by attacks, but mostly by fear of attacks, causing inordinate expenditures on security. A couple of insurgents with a couple of mortar rounds that widely miss their mark can nonetheless scare off construction crews. That was a tactic used to try to prevent the building of Camp India.

"Insurgents would fire mortars into the camp and invariably a sizable number [of workers] wouldn't return the next day," ...

Ultimately the war isn't going to be decided just by killing lots of bad guys, as important (and satisfying) as that can be. Guerrilla conflicts are political, and the best Iraqi commanders know that. ...

He complains that he's outgunned by the bad guys. "My soldiers only have AKs and PKCs [light machine guns, essentially an AK-47 with extra kick], and my soldiers ask me why the Army has no heavy machine guns." But he's delighted that his sector has recently been enlarged. "The men are proud that the Marines trust us to give us more space. We have informers, and because we have good relationships with people, we can do stuff the Marines can't. But we can share information with Marines as well."

And he acknowledges that his troops can't do it all. He believes the linchpin is a strong government. "The more the people trust the government, the easier my job becomes," he says. Or as Greenwood puts it, "I think we're making progress, but what the American people have to understand is that insurgency is essentially a political contest between both sides competing for the popular will."

From Falluja all the way west to the Syrian border, Abdullah acknowledges, there is much sympathy for the enemy and many hiding places, including farms and caves. "When there is a political solution with them," he says, "they will help stop the foreign guys."

....Michael Fumento, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, last wrote for The Weekly Standard about the avian flu.

[bth: This article is worth a read in full.

When I really decided that we needed to start getting troops out was when I realized that in 2005 we were denuding our forces in Anbar province. Without sufficient forces we were simply going to be retaking the same territory and unable to hold it. A year later that seems to be the case though gradually the IA seems to be gaining strength.

Perhaps in time the Iraqi Army will strengthen though it should be noted that we haven't given them logistical capacity, artillery, armored vehicles or heavy weaponry. This means that they are effectively outgunned on their own and unable to hold their positions against insurgents that have indigenous Sunni support.

Why aren't the US forces being shifted from relatively peaceful areas of Iraq enmass into Anbar to overwhelm insurgent strongholds like Ramadi? Don't you just wonder? I'll bet there are plenty of American soldiers and Marines that wonder the same thing especially in light of insurgent beginning to group and attack 100 at at time and in Ramadi there may have been as many as 500 involved in this weeks attacks. While the Sunni insurgents in aggregate may not be getting bigger they seem to be getting more organized and there is no indicaton they are short of volunteers or weaponry.]
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US Forces Arrest Cameramen with IEDs in Mosul

Kuna siteStory pageUS forces arrest two armed groups'' cameramen in N...4/29/2006: "BAGHDAD, April 29 (KUNA) -- The US army arrested two cameramen working for armed groups in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a statement by the army said Saturday.

US soldiers 'noticed the two men video taping their convoy as they conducted a security patrol in the city,' the statement said.

It added, 'As soon as the Soldiers began to move towards the camera crew, the two individuals scrambled in an attempt to flee. Effective maneuvering allowed the troops to box in the men without incident.' According to the statement, weapons and an initiating improvised explosive device was found in the vehicle of the camera crew. "
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US troops in Iraq 'home by 2008'

US troops in Iraq 'home by 2008' - World - theage.com.au: "AMERICAN troops will probably be gone from Iraq by mid-2008 as the Iraqi forces they are training take over from them, Iraq's national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie said.

He expected the 133,000 US troops to be cut to less than 100,000 by the end of the year and an 'overwhelming majority' to have left by the end of 2007 under a US-Iraqi plan for progressively handing over security. 'We have a road map, a condition-based agreement where, by the end of this year, the number of coalition forces will probably be less than 100,000,' he said on Friday.

'By the end of next year the overwhelming majority of coalition forces would have left the country and probably by the middle of 2008 there will be no foreign soldiers in the country.'"....

[bth: one might recall that mid-2008 is just before the November 2008 presidential elections in the U.S.]

Pentagon halts security passes for contractors

Pentagon halts security passes for contractors: "WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon stopped processing security clearances for government contractors this week, potentially exacerbating a shortage of employees authorized to work on the government's most secret programs.

The Defense Security Service blamed overwhelming demand and a budget shortfall for the halt, which caught the government contracting community by surprise. Already, 3,000 applications have been put on hold, said Cindy McGovern, a DSS spokeswoman."...

The Office of Personnel Management can also charge a premium of 19 percent to 25 percent for the work, which was not factored into the DSS budget, said David Marin, staff director for the House Government Reform Committee. He estimates the agency's shortfall at between $75 million and $100 million....

"It sure could get to be a real problem really fast," said John Douglas, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, a lobby group that represents companies including Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. "There doesn't seem to be any exceptions, and you would think that if you were working on a classified project to stop [improvised explosive devices], there would be."

[bth: you've just got to wonder how screwed up this government can be.]
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DOJ Seeks to Dismiss Domestic Spying Suit

New York Post Online Edition: Breaking News: "SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Justice Department said Friday it was moving to dismiss a federal lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's secretive domestic wiretapping program.

The lawsuit, brought by the Internet privacy group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, does not include the government.

Instead, it names AT&T, which the San Francisco-based group accuses of colluding with the National Security Agency to make communications on AT&T networks available to the spy agency without warrants.

The government, in a filing here late Friday, said the lawsuit threatens to expose government and military secrets and therefore should be tossed. The administration added that its bid to intervene in the case should not be viewed as a concession that the allegations are true.
As part of its case, the EFF said it obtained documents from a former AT&T technician showing that the NSA is capable of monitoring all communications on AT&T's network, and those documents are under seal. The former technician said the documents detail secret NSA spying rooms and electronic surveillance equipment in AT&T facilities.

Next month, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker will hold a hearing on whether they should be divulged publicly.
President Bush confirmed in December that the NSA has been conducting the surveillance when calls and e-mails, in which at least one party is outside the United States, are thought to involve al-Qaida terrorists.

In congressional hearings earlier this month, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales suggested the president could order the NSA to listen in on purely domestic calls without first obtaining a warrant from a secret court established nearly 30 years ago to consider such issues."....
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FBI Investigated 3,501 People Without Warrants

AOL News - FBI Investigated 3,501 People Without Warrants: "WASHINGTON (April 29) - The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday.

It was the first time the Bush administration has publicly disclosed how often it uses the administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without a judge's approval or a grand jury subpoena.

Friday's disclosure was mandated as part of the renewal of the Patriot Act, the administration's sweeping anti-terror law.
The FBI delivered a total of 9,254 NSLs relating to 3,501 people in 2005, according to a report submitted late Friday to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In some cases, the bureau demanded information about one person from several companies.
The numbers from previous years remain classified, officials said.

The department also reported it received a secret court's approval for 155 warrants to examine business records last year under a Patriot Act provision that includes library records. However, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said the department has never used the provision to ask for library records.

The number was a significant jump over past use of the warrant for business records. A year ago, Gonzales told Congress there had been 35 warrants approved between November 2003 and April 2005. "....

[bth: remember when the constitution meant something? The fourth amendment protecting us from unwarranted search and seizure was to protect us from our own government, not foreign powers. The checks and balances that protected us from an intrusive and authoritarian government are no longer functioning.]

Friday, April 28, 2006

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Insurgent attacks in Iraq's Baquba kill 30

Reuters AlertNet - Insurgent attacks in Iraq's Baquba kill 30: "BAGHDAD, April 28 (Reuters) - Thirty people were killed, including seven Iraqi soldiers, when more than 100 rebels attacked Iraqi police and army posts in Baquba on Thursday, the U.S. military said on Friday.

In one raid, insurgents attacked a police station and five police checkpoints with mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. Iraqi soldiers and police killed 17 rebels, the U.S. military said. One Iraqi soldier was killed and two were wounded, it said in a statement."...
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$187.3M Delivery Order to Fix Desert Damaged Vehicles (updated) (defense acquisition, defence purchasing, military procurement)

$187.3M Delivery Order to Fix Desert Damaged Vehicles (updated) (defense acquisition, defence purchasing, military procurement): "BAE Systems Land & Armaments in York, PA has received a delivery order amount of $187.3 million as part of a $227.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for repair of desert damaged vehicles. DID has discussed the maintenance overhang facing US equipment as a result of use in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this is one small piece of that. A subsequent release by BAE offers details: BAE Systems, in partnership with Red River Army Depot (RRAD), will return a total of 361 Bradley Combat Systems (262 M2 Bradley IFVs, 55 M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles and 44 M7 Bradley BFIST artillery spotters) to a combat ready status. DID has covered BAE's partnership with RRAD and Bradley RESET program details before."...
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Pro-Taliban tribes unite to challenge Pakistan Army in North Waziristan

Daily Times - Site Edition: "Up to 5,000 people believed to be actively supporting local Taliban

ISLAMABAD: Pro-Taliban tribes in North Waziristan have buried ancient feuds and joined forces to fight the army, posing a new threat to President General Pervez Musharraf's anti-militant drive, analysts and officials have said.

Up to 5,000 tribesmen are launching near-daily rocket and bomb attacks on military bases and convoys in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, while the headless bodies of alleged US spies are dumped on the streets, they said.

Brought together by religion and their hatred of Musharraf's ties to Washington, the tribes are stepping up their defiance of military efforts to control the region and flush out foreign Al Qaeda suspects, they added.

Local sources said that the prolonged military campaign has resulted in Wazir tribesmen linking hands with their long-term rivals, the Dawar tribe, to protect their joint independence.

The two firebrand clerics -Abdul Khaleq and Sadiq Noor - identified by the military as being behind the current resistance are both from the Dawar clan and are commanding members of their rival Wazir clan, the sources said."

A former security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that between 3,000 and 5,000 people had joined the local Taliban. Military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan, while stressing that the army was only employing force as a last resort, acknowledged that the use of force “does result in the army taking more casualties but our effort is to prevent collateral damage and we avoid using big force”.

He admitted that the situation was “not that good” but stressed that the problem lay with militants from Afghanistan, along with some locals, who wanted to use the region to launch attacks on coalition troops across the border.Analysts say that Pakistan’s military offensives in North Waziristan have led to a situation where the only functioning structures are the army and the militants.

According to defence analyst Hasan Askari, however, “with the passage of time, the tribal chiefs have weakened and three years of military operations have further weakened this institution (Pakistan Army)”.

This has led to a situation, Askari asserts, whereby “the mullah is now the point of political attraction in the tribal areas”. And it is the mullah who “is now defiant of the tribal chief, the Pakistan military and the United States”. AFP
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Thursday, April 27, 2006

With 'Grannies' in Dock, a Sitting Judge Is Bound to Squirm - New York Times

With 'Grannies' in Dock, a Sitting Judge Is Bound to Squirm - New York Times: "Imagine having grandmotherhood on trial in your courtroom. This is the awkward situation in which Judge Neil Ross finds himself in Manhattan Criminal Court"

The defendants are 18 women who call themselves grannies — somewhat loosely, since although all of them are old enough, a few of them do not actually have grandchildren. They are on trial for, as Judge Ross put it in a casual aside, "protesting," and more specifically, protesting the war in Iraq, by sitting outside the Times Square military recruiting center last October....
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Sen. Specter Threatens to Block NSA Funds

Sen. Specter Threatens to Block NSA Funds: "WASHINGTON - Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said Thursday he is considering legislation to cut off funding for the Bush administration's secret domestic wiretapping program until he gets satisfactory answers about it from the White House.

Specter said he had informed President Bush about his intention and that he has attracted several potential co-sponsors. He said he's become increasingly frustrated in trying to elicit information about the program from senior White House officials at several public hearings. "...

Election 2006 Poll Election 2008: Democrats by 12

Election 2006 Poll: "April 27, 2006--Democrats currently hold a 12-point advantage over Republicans on a generic 2008 Presidential ballot. However, a third-party candidate focusing on immigration enforcement issues could fundamentally alter those political dynamics.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national opinion survey finds that 44% of Americans say they would vote for a Democrat if the Presidential Election were held today. Just 32% would vote for a Republican. Those figures are likely a reflection of unhappiness with the Bush Administration rather than a commentary on prospective candidates from either party (see crosstabs).

The survey also asked respondents how they would vote if 'a third party candidate ran in 2008 and promised to build a barrier along the Mexican border and make enforcement of immigration law his top priority.' "....

Wrong Body Sent to Australian Family After Iraq Death

FOXNews.com - Wrong Body Sent to Australian Family After Iraq Death - International News News of the World Middle East News Europe News: "SYDNEY, Australia -The grieving relatives of an Australian soldier killed in Iraq were distressed to learn that the wrong body accidentally was sent home, the defense minister said Thursday.

Pvt. Jacob Kovco, 25, died in a U.S. military hospital in Baghdad last week after he was accidentally shot inside the city's secure green zone, military officials said.

He was the second soldier with Australian citizenship to die in Iraq since the U.S.-led war began in 2003, but he was the Australian military's first.

Kovco was due to be buried near the southern city of Melbourne with full military honors, but the casket that arrived Thursday in Australia contained the wrong body, the Defense Department said in a statement"...
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Projected Iraq War Costs Soar

Projected Iraq War Costs Soar: "The cost of the war in Iraq will reach $320 billion after the expected passage next month of an emergency spending bill currently before the Senate, and that total is likely to more than double before the war ends, the Congressional Research Service estimated this week.

The analysis, distributed to some members of Congress on Tuesday night, provides the most official cost estimate yet of a war whose price tag will rise by nearly 17 percent this year. Just last week, independent defense analysts looking only at Defense Department costs put the total at least $7 billion below the CRS figure."

Once the war spending bill is passed, military and diplomatic costs will have reached $101.8 billion this fiscal year, up from $87.3 billion in 2005, $77.3 billion in 2004 and $51 billion in 2003, the year of the invasion, congressional analysts said. Even if a gradual troop withdrawal begins this year, war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to rise by an additional $371 billion during the phaseout, the report said, citing a Congressional Budget Office study. When factoring in costs of the war in Afghanistan, the $811 billion total for both wars would have far exceeded the inflation-adjusted $549 billion cost of the Vietnam War.

"The costs are exceeding even the worst-case scenarios," said Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

Such cost estimates may be producing sticker shock on Capitol Hill. This year, the wars will consume nearly as much money as the departments of Education, Justice and Homeland Security combined, a total that is more than a quarter of this year's projected budget deficit. Yesterday, as the Senate debated a $106.5 billion bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ongoing hurricane relief, 59 senators voted to divert $1.9 billion from President Bush's war-funding request to pay for new border patrol agents, aircraft and some fencing at border crossings widely used by illegal immigrants.

When some Democrats said the move would take money from needed combat funds, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the bill's sponsor, called the criticism "pure poppycock."

In another challenge to Bush, the Senate moved, in a veto-proof 72 to 26 vote, to shelve an amendment that would have struck spending on all items -- from farm drought assistance to a $700 million measure to move a Mississippi railroad away from the Gulf Coast -- not requested by the administration. The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it much exceeds the $92.2 billion Bush requested in February.

Because of the controversy surrounding the railroad funding, the Senate held a separate vote, 49 to 48, to retain the funding, which critics have singled out as a non-emergency. But advocates of the project, including Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran and Sen. Trent Lott, both Mississippi Republicans, defended it as part of a vital economic development effort along the Gulf Coast.

"It's built on marshes and on sand," Lott said of the railroad, displaying on the Senate floor enlarged photos of the tracks, which run along the coastline. "It will not stand."

But for a bill devoted largely to funding the war, the cost of the Iraq conflict so far has played little part in a political debate focused mainly on energy prices, immigration and pork-barrel spending.

Defense specialist Amy Belasco, the CRS study's author, stressed that the price tag is only an estimate because the Defense Department has declined to break out the cost of Iraqi operations from the larger $435 billion cost of what the administration has labeled the global war on terrorism. That larger cost applies to military, diplomatic and foreign aid operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, enhanced security efforts begun after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and related medical costs of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Although DOD has a financial system that tracks funds for each operation once they are obligated -- as pay or contractual costs -- DOD has not sent Congress the semiannual reports with cumulative and current obligations for [Iraq] and [Afghanistan], or estimates for the next year, or for the next five years that are required by statute," the CRS noted.

The report goes on to outline a series of "key war cost questions" for Congress to pursue and "major unknowns" that CRS has not been able to answer: How much has Congress appropriated for each theater of war? How much has the Pentagon obligated for each mission per month? What will future costs be? How much will it cost to repair and replace equipment? And how can Congress receive accurate information on past and future troop levels?

Such questions are highly unusual for a congressional research agency report, congressional budget aides said yesterday, and they point to growing frustration in Congress with a Pentagon that has held war-cost information close to the vest.

Lt. Col. Brian Maka, a spokesman for the Defense Department's comptroller, said the Pentagon will study the report before commenting on it.

The report details how operations, maintenance and procurement costs have surged from $50 billion in 2004 to $88 billion this year, citing rising expenditures for body armor, oil and gasoline; equipment maintenance; and training and equipping Afghan and Iraqi security forces.

"These factors, however, are not enough to explain a 50-percent increase of over $20 billion in operating costs," the report states.

War-related investment costs have more than tripled since 2003, from $7 billion to $24 billion, as money has been spent on armored vehicles, radios, sensors and night-vision goggles, as well as on equipment for reorganized Army and Marine Corps units.

"These reasons are not sufficient, however, to explain the level of increases," the report states again.

Other analysts are also scratching their heads. Michael E. O'Hanlon, a defense budget expert at the Brookings Institution, suggested that the military may be slightly padding its request for fear that Congress will be less giving on future emergency spending bills.

"I don't think these guys would make things up, but there is an assumption in the military that these supplementals might dry up, and if there are things that might be considered even Iraq-related, they should get them funded right now," he said.

Of the total war spending, the CRS analysis found $4 billion that could not be tracked. It did identify $2.5 billion diverted from other spending authorizations in 2001 and 2002 to prepare for the invasion.

That discovery helped push the CRS cost estimate higher than estimates from independent budget analysts. The CRS total also includes expenditures on foreign aid and diplomacy not counted in the military cost tallies by groups such as the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

[bth: our casualty rates are about the same mounting a full invasion as they are driving around without military purpose being IED bait.

We spend $250K on an armored humvee plus jammers, etc. to fight off a $150 IED composed of stolen artillery shells, a cell phone and a motorcycle battery.

Most of the incresase in budgets is due to deferred maintenance and replacement vehicles for prior years I'm guessing. War costs were hidden from 2002-2005 and its finally catching up because the equipment is simply breaking down.

The cost of body armor and even the armored humvees is a small fraction of this total cost. There is tons of padding especially with subcontractor costs. We've outsourced much of our logistics train unlike prior wars. That outsourcing costs money whereas in the past it was often supplied by draftees.

Look for padding on Iraqi training costs. I'd bet we've tucked enough in there to make the payroll for the Iraq army and police.

Isn't it interesting that no one in the media isn't asking Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz or Zakheim or even the President why their budget estimates were so wrong?]
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Saudi releases 500 al-Qaida sympathizers

United Press International�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "Saudi Arabia released 500 al-Qaida sympathizers after they underwent religious counseling to bring them back to the moderate path of Islam.

Member of the counseling committee Mohammed Bin Yehya Nujeimi was quoted Wednesday by al-Jazeera as saying the committee, affiliated with the interior ministry, had conducted dialogue with 800 Saudis who had allegedly sympathized with prisoners convicted in cases of terrorism.

Out of the total, 500 were released following intensive studies and counseling sessions which moderated their views. "...

[bth: just dandy.]
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Army Chief Laments Defense Budget Fights

Army Chief Laments Defense Budget Fights: "Americans spent as much on 'plastic Santa Clauses,' tinsel and other holiday purchases last year as they will for defense in the coming year, the Army's top general said Wednesday, lamenting complaints about the military's budget requests.

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, told reporters: 'I just don't understand. ... What's the problem?'

Schoomaker said the defense budget the Bush administration requested for the fiscal year starting in October - nearly $440 billion - plus the costs of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, is 3.9 percent of the nation's nearly $13 trillion overall economy.

During World War II, military expenditures accounted for more than one-third of the economy, he said, calling today's piece of the pie the 'lowest percent ... that we've ever spent in wartime.'

'Here's what is amazing to me. ... What do you think we spent on plastic Santa Clauses and tinsel and all this stuff for Christmas last year ... the holidays?' Schoomaker asked during a meeting with reporters. 'The answer is $438.5 billion, roughly equivalent to the defense budget.'"

The general said he got the figure on Christmas spending from a newspaper clipping quoting the National Retail Association.

The actual number from the National Retail Federation was a few billion less — $435.3 billion — and it was a projection for "winter holidays," meaning it included Thanksgiving turkeys and other seasonal spending, said federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis.

Even so, the general's point was clear: America is a rich country, and he thinks it needs to spend more on defense.

Schoomaker was discussing his concern that it might take a fight to get enough money from Congress to rebuild the Army's equipment and supplies worn down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Officials have said the military would continue to submit requests for such money for at least two years after the last troops come home — which President Bush has said will probably be years from now.

"I've told Congress this," he said to a defense writers group. "I've told everybody this: What's the problem?"

"I mean I don't get it," Schoomaker said. "We've got a lot to be thankful for in this country, and we've got a lot to lose. And one of the first responsibilities of government is to defend the country. The Constitution says that."

Asked about Schoomaker's remarks, the No. 2 House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said he believed the general was frustrated over the budget pressures his agency is facing.

"My gut is, his real problem is he knows we're spending a very large amount on Iraq and Afghanistan and, at the same time, spending is squeezed very tightly in other areas" like training and equipment, Hoyer said.

The Bush administration recently requested an additional $68 billion for those wars for 2006. That would bring the total proposed for approval for this year for the wars to $118 billion.

[bth: What's the problem? ...

Well for one thing in 2004 we were able to embarrass Washington politicians into funding the war to protect the troops. In 2005 the Pentagon brass told the pubic back in April that they didn't need more armored humvees; that retrofit armor Level II was adequate when it wasn't, and in January of this year and again in April Army generals told the American public that we had the best body armor there ever was and would ever be and nothing more need be said

All this was untrue, but the Friday evening puff pieces from the Pentagon were believed. ...
Now the tab for deferred maintenance is coming due and no one wants to pay it; not the politicians, not the public. ...

Just like in Vietnam in the late 1970s, money will be tight and bullets will be counted - and troops will be left once again without equipment or resources in the field.

Unless its your son or daughter or husband over there, most people simply won't think about it much less pay for it. They're worried about gas at $3.50. ...

Post Katrina the public has shifted toward domestic problems.

Meanwhile Pentagon brass understated the cost of the war - maintenance, replacement vehicles, parts, body armor, bullets, tourniquets, radios, night vision goggles, uniforms, you name it. ....

All the while Pentagon brass carried on a 'no lobbyist left behind' strategy of unprioritized and overpriced Future Combat Systems and "net centric" bull crap. ...

Our President told the people they can have their permanent tax cuts.

The public has come to believe this is a "no pain" war.

Now that the military and the administration have lost the trust of the American public, there will be no further funding increases short of a disasterous homeland terrorist attack.

Defective body armor, completely inadequate restoration of the land fleet - tanks, Bradleys, armored humvees and trucks simply will not be brought to full strength for years to come.

The national guard will be denuded of equipment - at least 100,000 pieces without replacement.

Bleak budgetary times are ahead.]
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Is the Press Covering the Iraq War On the Cheap?

Is the Press Covering the Iraq War On the Cheap?: "The media needs to send more 'troops' to cover the war and provide much-needed coverage. What's stopping them? Fear of violence, certainly, but also limits on training and insurance. Joe Galloway also notes the military's 'growing resistance' to embeds.

By Bruce Kesler

(April 25, 2006) -- Journalists are reviled by many for alleged negativism and over-focus on bad news in Iraq. Or perhaps the problem is: Their employers are just trying to do it on the cheap. Ironically, the same media that criticizes the U.S. for sending too few troops to stabilize Iraq send too few reporters to cover much more than the dramatic bombings around Baghdad.

"I hope we keep out of the post-Vietnam thing that the press lost the war" Joe Galloway, soon to retire military editor for Knight Ridder, recently told me in an interview. But discrepancies in what's reported, or an imbalance, are daily highlighted by military bloggers in Iraq and conservative commentators here at home. "

If truth is journalism’s goal, cheapness within journalism undermines it. Embedded reporter Paul McLeary wrote in Columbia Journalism Review not long ago, “In Iraq, the untold stories pile up, one by one by one,” because “there just aren’t enough of them [journalists] to give the conflict its due.”

I turned to Joe Galloway’s 41years of experience in military reporting to see what can improve military-press relations.

Some 692 journalists embedded during the invasion of Iraq.

Interviews by the Institute for Defense Analysis reported, “The participants’ overall assessment …was that it was successful and that it benefited the military, the media, the public, and the military families.” Yet, the program has withered to several dozen embeds today. Why? Galloway says there’s “growing resistance from the military to [those] embeds” it considers negative.

Meanwhile, the $30,000 or more per month (above wages) cost of supporting reporters in Iraq is more than most media organizations want to spend, even though this is a major war and more important than many other beats.

Media bureaus in Baghdad now operate largely through inexpensive Iraqi stringers.

I asked Galloway how such Iraqis are vetted for reliability. Galloway said that in the case of Knight Ridder, the bureau chief is fluent in Arabic as her primary check.

Perceived danger is important in the reluctance of reporters to get out and about. Most reporters in Iraq stay close to Baghdad, and that’s where the bloody news and contentious politics are, often staged for their coverage. Articles about boring days patrolling peacefully in other 15 provinces, or of Iraqis rebuilding, are not considered as newsworthy. ...

[bth: there are on average 36 embedded reporters and photographers in Iraq - not enough to cover the stories and certainly skewed by access and safety consideration.]
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Iran bars single women from sports

Iran bars single women from sports - World Breaking News - Breaking News 24/7 - NEWS.com.au: "A SENIOR Iranian sports official said that a presidential order to end a ban on women spectators in stadiums did not apply to unmarried females.

'The plan to have women in stadiums is merely for families. It does not consider single women. They are still banned from entering stadiums,' said Mohammad Aliabadi, the head of Iran's Physical Education Organisation.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced this week that Iranian women could finally go to stadiums to watch sporting events, putting an unexpected end to a quarter-century ban."...
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NATO says expect more Afghanistan casualties

NATO says expect more Afghanistan casualties: "BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Governments in NATO countries must prepare public opinion for the risk of more casualties in Afghanistan as their troops move into the volatile southern region in an expanding security mission, the alliance's secretary general warned Tuesday.

'It is a dangerous mission, but NATO cannot afford to fail,' Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a news conference. 'Realism demands that there will be more incidents, there will be more casualties, but NATO will stand firm.' "...

Attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan have mounted in recent months as NATO troops have been moving into the southern region to expand their mission from the relatively calm north and west. About 6,000 mainly British, Canadian and Dutch troops are due to move into the south by late July when NATO takes over responsibility for the region from a separate U.S.-led coalition force.

Smaller contingents from Denmark, Estonia and Romania will also move into the south, along with U.S. and Australian troops under NATO command. Four Canadian soldiers were killed Saturday in southern Afghanistan by a roadside bomb in the deadliest attack on Canada's forces in the country. ...

[bth: nothing is leading me to believe these countries are mentally of logistically ready for this undertaking.]
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Gunmen Kill Sister of Iraq's Sunni VP - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

FOXNews.com - Gunmen Kill Sister of Iraq's Sunni VP - International News News of the World Middle East News Europe News: "Mayson Ahmed Bakir al-Hashimi, whose brother, Tariq al-Hashimi, was appointed by parliament as vice president on Saturday, was killed by unidentified gunmen in a BMW sedan as she was leaving her home at 8 a.m. with her bodyguard in southwestern Baghdad, said police Capt. Jamel Hussein. The bodyguard, Saad Ali, also died in the shooting, Hussein said.

It was the second recent killing in Tariq al-Hashimi's immediate family. On April 13, his brother, Mahmoud al-Hashimi, was shot while driving in a mostly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad."...

[bth: with family members murdered and kidnapped, I don't see why the government members or the militias will ever consider unilaterally weakening themselve by voluntarily disarming.]
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CIA warns ex-agents over talking to media

CIA warns ex-agents over talking to media - Financial Times - MSNBC.com: "The Central Intelligence Agency has warned former employees not to have unapproved contacts with reporters, as part of a mounting campaign by the administration to crack down on officials who leak information on national security issues.

A former official said the CIA recently warned several retired employees who have consulting contracts with the agency that they could lose their pensions by talking to reporters without permission. He added that while the threats might be legally 'hollow,' they were having a chilling effect on former employees. "...

[bth: people can be controlled by fear, but the price is a loss of trust in the administration. If the administration wants to take action against Iran, it will require trust on the part of the public - trust it lost and can't recover.]
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Rice Visits Iraq With Rumsfeld to Press Leader

Rice Visits Iraq With Rumsfeld to Press Leader - New York Times: "...The secretaries spent much of their joint visit, which officials said had been ordered by President Bush and which had not been previously announced because of security concerns, speaking with Iraqi officials in the heavily guarded Green Zone in central Baghdad.

Administration officials said that in his meeting with Ms. Rice, Mr. Maliki spoke of 're-establishing trust' among Iraqis by acting quickly to restore electrical power and root out the influence of militias in Iraq's police forces, which number about 135,000 nationwide.

With an estimated thousands of these forces in Baghdad alone infiltrated by the Badr brigade, a Shiite militia whose members have been accused of kidnapping and killing Sunnis, American officials said they did not know what sort of muscle or conciliation Mr. Maliki would use to carry out this pledge.

'It's clearly one of the high priorities for the government,' Ms. Rice said. 'How they go about that I think is something they will have to work through.' Mr. Rumsfeld, asked how American armed forces could do the job, said: 'The first thing I'd say is, we don't. The Iraqis do.' The new Iraqi government 'undoubtedly and unquestionably will be addressing the question,' he added. 'Other countries have dealt with these issues. It's possible that these things can be done.'"...