Saturday, June 17, 2006

Yes this is Brian Hart's Blog - Minstrelboy.blogspot.com

To those who are leaving email messages with questions.

Yes this blog is built by Brian Hart referenced in the Washington Post Magazine on June 18, 2006.

Let's continue to focus on getting the soldiers and marines at the tip of the spear the equipment, training and most of all leadership they deserve and have earned from this country.

This country can do better.

Our leadership needs to be held accountable for poor and inadequate equipment and training.

Most of all we need to restore integrity to leadership in the military.
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70pc Pakistanis back nuclear Iran

70pc Pakistanis back nuclear Iran -DAWN - Top Stories; June 17, 2006: "WASHINGTON, June 16: As many as 70 per cent Pakistanis want Iran to have nuclear weapons, said a survey report released this week. The survey by Terror Free Tomorrow, a non-governmental organisation which is patronized by several powerful US lawmakers, showed that 55 per cent people in Saudi Arabia and Turkey also favoured a nuclear-armed Iran.

The NGO -which has Senator John McCain and several members of the 9/11 commission on its advisory board -commissioned the wide-ranging poll to learn about attitudes towards Iran's nuclear programme among its neighbours and also to gauge anti-West sentiment in these countries.

As many as 68 per cent in Pakistan, 46 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 44 per cent in Turkey said that they would prefer the United States to accept a nuclear Iran rather than intervene to prevent it."

“I don’t think they really support nuclear weapons in Iran,” Wayne White, former deputy director of the State Department’s Middle East intelligence shop told the Washington Times. “It’s probably more of a pushback against the US, basically saying that they’d mind that a lot less than more US involvement in the region.”

The survey also shows that anti-American sentiment in the Muslim countries has reached startling levels, but positive US policies like disaster-relief efforts can help reverse the trend.

When asked how they viewed the United States, 89 per cent in Saudi Arabia, 84 per cent in the United Arab Emirates, 71 per cent in Turkey and 64 per cent in Pakistan answered ‘unfavourable’. Additionally, 66 per cent of Pakistanis opposed the US-led fight against terrorism.

Ken Ballen, president of Terror Free Tomorrow and a former federal prosecutor and counsel to the Iran-Contra committee, said the poll results were ‘startling’ and showed that radical anti-Western views were becoming the consensus in the Muslim world.

“US policy-makers need to take these opinions into account. I know we don’t make policies based on polls data, but we need to try to understand why these radical ideas are gaining traction and figure out if our policies are being counterproductive,” said Mr Ballen.

According to the polls, 67 per cent in both Pakistan and Turkey and 65 per cent in Saudi Arabia viewed a series of recently published blasphemous Danish cartoons as evidence that the West is antagonistic towards Islam.

Mr Ballen said there was ‘a silver lining’ to the poll results. “Positive US policies like earthquake relief in Pakistan and tsunami aid in Indonesia improved pro-Western attitudes.”

The polls showed that US aid promoted a more favourable view of the United States among 75 per cent of Pakistanis and 63 per cent of Indonesians.

Among Palestinians, 68 per cent had an unfavourable opinion of the United States, but 60 per cent said that they wanted the US to do more to help resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Mr White said: “This seems confusing because the US is seen as such a big ally of Israel. The Palestinians might not like a lot of the things that the US does, but they know if there is anyone on the globe who can talk Israel into being more reasonable, it’s Washington.”

[bth: Perhaps a smaller military footprint in Iraq - special forces and a few bases - and a larger one in Afghanistan, combined with an enlightened hearts and minds campaign toward greater Islam would do wonders.]
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Never Surrender?

Investor's Business Daily: Never Surrender?: "Iraq: Democrats have relentlessly called, or implied their support, for a pullout. But when they get a chance to bring troops home, they don't back up the talk. Perhaps they should sit out the rest of the war in silence.

Democratic senators had their first chance last week to force the administration to surrender, uh, pull the troops from Iraq. The Senate considered a resolution Thursday that would have brought U.S. soldiers home by the end of the year.

The debate was described by one reporter as 'bitter and sometimes raucous.' This might make one think that, in a Senate that is nearly evenly split between the parties, the vote would be close.

The result? By a 93-6 margin, the idea was rejected. So much for all the fuss.

The six votes in favor of withdrawal were, of course, cast by Democrats. But a large majority of Senate Democrats -37 of them -are forever on the record as voting to keep U.S. troops in Iraq.

What happened to all the heated rhetoric about the war being a blunder and the need to retreat from the 'quagmire'? Is it confined to those six who supported a pullout: Sens. John Kerry and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Barbara Boxer of California, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Tom Harkin of Iowa?

Maybe real Democratic opposition to the war is found only in the House, where on Friday congressmen voted to stay in Iraq by a margin of 256-153. All but four of those 'nay' votes came from Democrats.

Yet 42 Democrats supported it along with 214 Republicans. As pundit Robert Novak noted, that's a significant defection for a party in an election year. The observation that Democrats voted based on what they figure will give them their best chances in the upcoming elections is no more cynical than casting "...
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Poll: Bush picks up points on Iraq

United Press International�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "Just over half of Americans want a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, a new CNN poll found, and 39 percent approve of the president's handling of Iraq.

The poll found 47 percent of those asked want a deadline of one year or less for a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Approval of President George W. Bush's handling of the war was up 5 percent since May, while disapproval fell 8 percent to 54 percent.

Opinion Research Corp. interviewed 1,017 adults on Wednesday and Thursday, one week after the death of Abu Musa al-Zarqawi, head of al-Aqaida in Iraq and just after Bush's short surprise trip to Baghdad.

Forty-nine percent of respondents said they approve of Bush's handling of the war on terrorism, up 2 points from May, while 42 percent disapproved, down 3 points.
Overall, 37 percent said they approve of Bush's performance in office, a pickup of 1 percent since the last CNN poll, while 53 percent said they disapprove."

[bth: people want victory however poorly defined.]

Richard Bernstein, father of Lt. David Bernstein.
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Coalition Forces Kill 45 in Taliban Camps Across Afghanistan - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

FOXNews.com - Coalition Forces Kill 45 in Taliban Camps Across Afghanistan - International News News of the World Middle East News Europe News: "KABUL, Afghanistan � Coalition forces killed 45 insurgents at two camps in southern Afghanistan as they pressed forward with a major anti-Taliban offensive, military officials said Saturday.

On Friday, Afghan and coalition forces surrounded a 'known enemy camp' in Khod Valley, Shaheed Hasas district of Uruzgan province, killing an estimated 40 fighters, the military said in a statement"...

"Coalition forces have delivered a quick and severe blow to the enemy today," Fitzpatrick said.

In a separate incident, Afghan and coalition forces conducted a raid on a Taliban compound near Tarin Kowt, the capital of Uruzgan, killing five insurgents, the military said. They also seized about eight pounds of opium...

On Saturday, a suicide attacker on a motorcycle detonated his explosives near a group of Afghan soldiers in southwestern Nimroz province, killing himself and wounding two soldiers and three bystanders, said provincial spokesman Wahid Khairzad.

Three insurgents were killed in southern Helmand province when a bomb they were trying to plant near the road Friday exploded, said a provincial spokesman Ghulam Mohiudin. The highway between Sangin and Garisk districts is one used frequently by coalition and Afghan forces in the area.

Also Friday, Afghan authorities arrested 12 Taliban fighters who were attending the funeral of slain commander in the Qarabagh district of Ghazni province, governor Haji Sher Alam said.

Four highway policemen were killed in southern Kandahar province when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle, provincial officials said.

Operation Mountain Thrust began in mid-May with limited attacks and raids launched by coalition forces. The offensive's main phase opened Thursday and is expected to expand further over the coming days.

[bth: amazing surge of IED attacks in Afghanistan in the last year as technology and tactics have migrated from Iraq to Afghanistan.]

Friday, June 16, 2006

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Japan Likely to Begin Early Troop Withdrawal From Iraq - Iraq

FOXNews.com - Japan Likely to Begin Early Troop Withdrawal From Iraq - Iraq: "TOKYO � Japan's foreign minister said Friday it was likely that the country's soldiers would be brought home early from Iraq, amid reports that coalition troops will transfer security responsibilities in southern Iraq to local authorities next week.

'We feel that conditions are falling into place for an early withdrawal,' Taro Aso told reporters Friday. Japan's deployment of about 600 noncombat troops were scheduled to remain in southern Iraq until Dec. 14.

Aso's comments came after a news report said British, Australian and Japanese troops will transfer security responsibilities in southern Iraq to Iraqi authorities next week, and soon withdraw from the area"

At a defense meeting of the three countries last week in London, British officials told their counterparts that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will announce the transfer of security authority in southern Iraq on Tuesday, Kyodo News agency reported, citing people close to the coalition forces.

London will then immediately announce the pullout of its forces from the southern province of al-Muthanna, and Japan and Australia will follow with a similar announcement Wednesday, Kyodo said.

Japan's pullout could be complete as early as July, according to the report
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2 U.S. Soldiers Missing in Iraq After Attack - Iraq

FOXNews.com - 2 U.S. Soldiers Missing in Iraq After Attack - Iraq: "BAGHDAD, Iraq � The U.S. military says two soldiers are missing after their team came under attack at a traffic control point in Yusafiyah, Iraq Friday night, that left one other coalition soldier dead"...
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Islamists pushing further into Somalia - Jun 16, 2006

CNN.com - Islamists pushing further into Somalia - Jun 16, 2006: "MOGADISHU, June 16 (Reuters) -- Islamist militia, who control the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and other strategic towns, are seeking to expand their grip on Somalia by pushing northeast to the semiautonomous Puntland region, an official said.

Militias loyal to sharia courts ousted rival secular warlords from Mogadishu last week after battles that have killed 350 people since February.

They also seized the warlords' last stronghold of Jowhar, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north, and appear to be flanking the weak interim government's base in nearby Baidoa in a rapid march across the Horn of Africa nation.

Militias backed by local clerics early Thursday surrounded Baladwayne, a government-allied town near the Ethiopian border -- in striking distance of Baidoa.

A Puntland government official said Islamists were planning an uprising to take control of the relatively peaceful self-governed region, home of Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf.

'Local clerics who joined the Mogadishu courts are trying to make Puntland like Baladwayne,' Puntland State Assistant Interior Minister Ibrahim Artan said in a statement late Thursday. 'We are aware of this and will take appropriate measures.' "

The Islamists now control a sizable portion of southern Somalia, from coastal Mogadishu almost to the Ethiopian border.

Somalia's interim government -- the 14th attempt to bring real government to a country in chaos since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre -- is too weak to enter Mogadishu and has helplessly watched the Islamists gain ground

[bth: is anyone in Washington paying attention to this deteriorating situation?]
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Pols eye funds for troops' bandages

Newsday.com: Pols eye funds for troops' bandages: "Acting on reports that soldiers in Iraq remain without special anti-bleeding bandages capable of saving lives, Sen. Charles Schumer is pressing for an additional $20 million in Army spending to ensure that all U.S. troops on the battlefield carry the field dressings.

Schumer plans to include that money in an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill, now before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

'No one disputes that these clotting bandages are life saving in so many instances,' Schumer said. 'To have soldiers have to write home to ask their families to send it to them is terrible and troubling.'"

Schumer's proposal yesterday came as fellow Democrat Rep. Steve Israel of Huntington prepared to grill U.S. military leaders about the reported shortages at a hearing today before the House Armed Services Committee.

Soldiers in Iraq have reported trouble obtaining specially treated clot-promoting material capable of halting bleeding from severed arteries and other life-threatening injuries.

Last September, Army Surgeon General Kevin Kiley ordered the special bandages be carried by all Army combat troops.

Army officials have said half of those who die on the battlefield bleed to death within minutes, before hospital care can be obtained.

Kiley specified that combat medics should carry five of the bandages; specially trained soldiers known as "combat lifesavers" should carry three.

Army officials have said the service has enough of the HemCon bandages to make them available to all soldiers, but acknowledged that distribution bottlenecks may be a problem.

Two types of clot-promoting medical dressings have been available since 2002. But the HemCon bandage that the Army chose proved difficult to manufacture.

The Marines chose a different product, making QuikClot, a standard issue in June 2004, more than a year earlier than the Army made HemCon standard issue.

Army officials had been critical of QuikClot because the material can get hot during treatments.

But officials at Z-Medica, the Connecticut-based manufacturer, said the Army placed a large order for QuikClot after Newsday wrote of reported HemCon shortages last week.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

[bth: Unfreak'n believable. This should have been fixed last year when we went through this whole thing with tourniquets - marines issued them, army didn't though a common military study in 03 showed 10-15% fatality reduction possible - that's about 250 so far by my math not counting amputees and Afghanistan.

I researched this HemCon and QuickClot issue last year.

Here is my conclusion: Soldiers and marines should have both on them because they are better at different types of wounds and don't cost much.

Neither is perfect, but that isn't determining how they are being purchased or deployed. Its about not invented hear between the Army and the Marines and Americans die over this nonsense.

The Navy developed QuikClot that can stop a massive artery cut but it will give you a second degree burn (140F for 2 seconds if I recall - about like putting your hand under a restaurant water tap for 2 seconds- because it works so fast. Do you really care if your leg stump gets a second degree burn when you'll bleed to death in 5 minutes without help?

So if your leg is blown off by an IED, this is the one for you along with a single handed tourniquet because the medic can't get to you when they leave you in the kill zone until the ambush is over. QuikClot is great for wounds to arms and legs but not so good with an internal wound. HemCon does a better job there but its stiff and can fall off. So they are both useful in their own ways.

Marines were issued this along with special forces in 2003 but the Army's docs had a buddy that had developed HemCon under their R&D contract. The Army didn't want to acknowledge that they navy beat them by at least two years to a useful solution. HemCon was more expensive and couldn't be produced in volume without QA issues so the Army just didn't buy anything except for special forces.

So when the Baltimore Sun ran a series of studies showing how it also hadn't fielded a single-handed tourniquet critical to saving soldiers penned in vehicle wreckage after IED blasts during the Spring 05 even through their own studies strongly recommended it back in Feb 03, the Army brass immediately announced they would authorize fielding it that week (which seemed to have happened Fall 05) after Congress called a hearing on it. So for only a few dollars per soldier, we solved this problem which the marine corp had solved for all marines in combat by mid-03. The Army spokesman at the hearings said it couldn't decide what kind of nylon pouch to put the tourniquet in according to their testimony. What man killing bull shit.

So incredibly the Army hasn't fielded QuikClot in quantity now even in 2006 - even though they can't produce enough HemCon and get it distributed.

The Iraqi army has had QuickClot and tourniquets for over a year! You can buy this stuff online from Ranger Joes and other places. This incompetence is killing soldiers!

Note the last line "the Army placed a large order for QuikClot after Newsday wrote of reported HemCon shorages last week." Man that tells it all.

I guess its time to host another bake sale to raise money for the fighting men and women of this country... How come you don't see bake sales for nuclear attack submarines and overpriced fighter bombers?... makes you wonder don't it. Blood clotting agents and tourniquets don't have enough Glory or Profit to get generals and lobbyists to support it - it take families and public outrage to see that the averge Joe gets fitted out right with low tech-low cost equipment that saves their lives.]
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News - Marines' families knocking heads with Corps brass for helmet pads - print version

News - Marines' families knocking heads with Corps brass for helmet pads - print version: "By VIK JOLLY
The Orange County Register

John Maxie was riding in a Humvee in Iraq's Anbar province last week when two roadside bombs went off, searing him with blasts of intense heat and explosive force that felt like a 2-by-4 hit him on the head.

Maxie, 20, a Camp Pendleton-based Marine corporal, survived.

He and his parents believe they know what saved him from serious brain injury: a pad insert that he attached to his helmet before deployment in March.

'This pretty much validates the fact that the suspension kit is doing its job,' said Maxie's father, Greg. 'Our son was very lucky to be that close to a 'kill zone' of a blast and walk away with nothing but scratches and a hearing loss.'

The Maxies are among many Marine families who are following the lead of Bob Meaders, a former Navy doctor and the grandfather of another Camp Pendleton Marine, who has launched a drive to add non-regulation pads to standard-issue helmets.

There's little scientific evidence on whether extra padding means better blast protection. But the Iraq war is yielding a higher percentage of brain injuries than any previous U.S. conflict, according to researchers. While some families take comfort in buying the pads themselves - and manufacturers are pushing the product in publications aimed at military audiences - the Marine Corps disputes the benefits."

Today, the issue gets its first airing on Capitol Hill when Meaders, expected to be joined by singer Cher, testifies before a congressional panel.

It's about time, says Meaders, who came out of retirement to launch Operation Helmet two years ago, aiming to get helmet liner kits sent to his grandson, Justin, and other Marines. To date, the group has shipped more than 8,000 helmet inserts to Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It just needs to be done to save lives," said Meaders in a telephone interview from Glen Rose, Texas, about 70 miles southwest of Dallas. "My dream of this would be at the end of the day for the military to say that it can be handled and you, Dr. Bob, can go back to playing golf again."

Cher's interest was sparked by a newspaper story. The panel also will hear from military officials, but that portion of the hearing is closed to the public.

The U.S. Army and the Marines once used similar helmets. Now, the Army has issued the Army Combat Helmet, costing $306 each and manufactured with the pads already incorporated for Iraq-bound soldiers.

The Marines are updating their helmets but without the pads.
The Marine Corps says its new headgear - the Light Weight Helmet, at $190 each - is effective and meets the demands of its fighters. It contends that a padded helmet lowers protection against bullets, a point that is disputed by pad manufacturers and families, who say the Corps does not provide evidence to support that claim.

"At this point in the fielding process of the LWH, any donation to 'Operation Helmet' is just going to interfere with the protection system being fielded to our deployed Marines," said Capt. Jeff Landis, a public affairs officer at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va., in an e-mail response to the Register.

"Their consistent marketing campaign is creating doubt with some of our leadership who are not part of the development and acquisition process and not abreast of our latest helmet programs," Landis wrote. "The campaign is also reducing the confidence of the operating forces in the equipment being fielded to them - the equipment that is saving their lives and reducing the severity of their wounds."

If included in the process of manufacturing the helmet, the pad system would cost about $60, said Mike Dennis, founder, president and CEO of Oregon Aero, a Scappoose, Ore., company that sells the helmet liner kits.

"For significantly less than $100, we can add this lifesaving addition, but it's being fought at the highest levels," Dennis said.

The Marine Corps has not stopped anyone from retrofitting its older helmets but says the pad kits are not authorized or needed with its new helmets.

Still, some Marines find them useful.

"In my opinion, they offer more protection and are more comfortable," said Capt. Randy Walsh, commanding officer of the headquarters and support company of the 7th Marine Regiment, in an e-mail from Iraq forwarded by a public information officer at Camp Pendleton. Walsh got the pads last year.

Researchers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., have found that about 30 percent of those admitted since the start of the fighting in Iraq were diagnosed with brain injury. Historically, the share of brain injuries in previous conflicts has been 16 percent to 18 percent.

Gale Strassberg's son Shane, 25, a Camp Pendleton-based Marine corporal, was deployed with John Maxie this year. It was his second tour in Iraq.

To date, her nonprofit group - Staten Island Project Homefront - has raised $35,000 and provided 291 pad inserts to Marines, 205 of them in her son's unit, AABN 3rd Track Charlie Company.

"I am not stopping fundraising until I get a cease and desist order," she said, adding that the Marine Corps should be ordering the pads. "Why are people like me and other people around the country doing this? You'd think we have an ATM in our back yard that we could just spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars here."

Strassberg, a Staten Island, N.Y., real estate broker, doesn't buy the Marine Corps' argument that its new helmet meets its specifications.

"I don't care what they say. Put (procurement officers) on the front lines and let them get hit by the IEDs and then ask what they say," she said, using the military acronym for improvised explosive devices, usually roadside bombs. "If the helmet insert saves one life, that's good enough. To me as a parent, my son is over there risking his life. I want to put my son in a rubber box."

Like the Maxies, Strassberg says she doesn't need more proof that the pads work.

Shannan Limon, formerly of San Clemente, sees the pads as a device that could help her Marine husband escape brain injuries in the war zone.

"The more I learned about it, I learned how important these kits are," said Shannan Limon, who went on a mission to raise $30,000 to retrofit about 300 helmets for those in her husband's company at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.

Phillip Limon saw the pads as insurance. When Limon, a gunnery sergeant, went to Iraq for a second time last year, he took along the inserts, hoping they would blunt the impact of a bomb blast.

"The helmet stays on my head better," he said in an interview before deployment. "It fits like a football helmet, really nice and snug."

Harold Henson, a former Ohio State University fullback, knows something about helmets. He made sure his son Clayton has a helmet liner kit before he goes to Iraq next month. Clayton, 24, is a lance corporal based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Henson said he helped raise $20,000 for Operation Helmet.
The Marines "are saying we're interfering with what they do. How can I - a farmer - interfere with what the Marines do?" Henson asked.


LITTLE SCIENTIFIC BLAST DATA

The Marines say there have been no studies on the impact of blasts on head injury.“There is currently no direct study linked to blast waves of IEDs with respect to head trauma and head injuries. There is no way of categorically analyzing any data in this subject area due to the varying degrees of IED lethality, size, percussion, blast distance, detonation, type, etc,” said Capt. Jeff Landis, a public affairs officer at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va., in e-mailed responses to questions. “The true fact is that this is an area that needs a lot more work to garner true effects and develop effective solutions.”The manufacturer of the Marine’s new helmet, Gentex Corp. of Pennsylvania, which also makes Army helmets, said the Marines did not seek a padded helmet.“If you take the Marine Corps helmet and put the pads in you get the best of both worlds,” said Richard Long, the company’s ground equipment product specialist. “And as far as (head) area coverage, Marine Corps (helmet) is better.”He said as a field test, he had sent padded helmets to a handful of Marines, who responded they liked the comfort and fit.Gentex did not do any independent blast testing on the helmets.Because of concerns about the pads, the manufacturer is being asked to include a disclaimer about the liners with any new shipments of the Marine helmets.“It will be done with any future orders, and the exact wording is not yet finalized,” said Long in an e-mail.


PADS MANUFACTURERS IN THE FRAY

Oregon Aero, based in Scappoose, Ore., says it has invested $7 million in research and development of its pad liner and suspension system since 1997. That, officials say, is when their company was contacted by the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., to produce a better suspension system for an improved helmet under development for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, called the MICH helmet. The Natick lab, as described by its Website, is “the Army’s one-stop soldier-support organization. Natick is responsible for researching, developing, fielding, and managing food, clothing, shelters, airdrop systems, and soldier support items.” Technical experts there could not be reached.Oregon Aero developed its patented padding kit that was included in the MICH, which was one of the winners of the Army Material Command’s Greatest Inventions for 2002 award, company officials said.The manufacturer of the new Army Combat Helmet – which evolved from the MICH – used 500,000 of Oregon Aero’s helmet pad kits and in a later run used a competitor’s pads, according to company officials.Through continued research, Oregon Aero officials said they developed a similar suspension and padding system for the old and the new Marine Corps helmet. Inexplicably, they say, the Marines have shunned protection that would make the new helmet far better and safer for the troops.“The old helmet has a high probability of serious injury in a bomb blast,” said Mike Dennis, founder, president and CEO of Oregon Aero. But with the inserts “in a survivable blast environment, there’s a low probability of head injury and that’s a significant change.”Mike Buchen, CEO of Skydex Technologies Inc, in Centennial, Colo., a new entrant in the field of providing liners for helmets of all kinds, said Oregon Aero and his company are fighting the same fight.“The battle is actually fighting the head injury in the concussion war,” he said. “The helmet pad is making these guys walk away, it’s (not) just about stopping the bullet anymore.”Buchen said there is a grassroots belief among Marines that “the pads make a lot of sense.”“And some of the pressure and grassroots movement on the Marines has been quite healthy,” he said. “They’re always looking for ways to protect the Marines and the helmet is no exception. If they can come to the same conclusion that the Army does, my experience with the Marines is that they work very quickly to correct the problem because there’s only 200,000 of them.”

A culture questionScientific evidence is scarce, and some experts say there are too many unknown variables to measure which helmet protects troops better – the Army or the Marine version.The Register attempted to reach Army technical experts who could speak to why the pads are used in Army helmets and how that decision was made but got no response.John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, said so long as the Marines’ new helmets met the Corps’ safety requirements, that’s what counts.“They did not set their specification out of willful indifference to the welfare of their Marines,” he said. “The Marines have been running around wearing helmets for centuries now.”

[bth: thanks to the Orange County Register for producing this important and under reproted story.]
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Shoe bomber kills 10 inside Iraq mosque - Yahoo! News

Shoe bomber kills 10 inside Iraq mosque - Yahoo! News: "BAGHDAD, Iraq - A shoe bomber blew himself up inside an important Shiite Mosques during Friday prayers, killing at least 10 people and wounding 20, as violence persisted in the capital despite a massive security operation aimed at restoring order. "

The imam of the Buratha mosque in northern Baghdad, a leading politician and deputy with the governing Shiite coalition who often spoke out against the late terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, blamed al-Qaida in
Iraq' for the attack.

The security operation in Baghdad has imposed a driving ban during Friday prayers to prevent suicide car bomb attacks, as well as a curfew. About 75,000 troops are in the streets of the capital.

"They were targeting me for the second time and the prayers also," said the imam, Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, in an interview with The Associated Press.

It was the second time the Buratha mosque has been hit in just over two months. It also was attacked during Friday prayers on April 7, when four suicide bombers, including a woman, killed 85 worshippers as they left the mosque after the main weekly service.

The U.S. military blamed that attack on al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida in Iraq leader who was killed June 7 in a U.S. airstrike. The group issued a statement Tuesday vowing to avenge al-Zarqawi's death and threatening horrific attacks "in the coming days."

Al-Sagheer, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's United Iraqi Alliance, said al-Qaida in Iraq had threatened to kill him in an Internet posting earlier this week.

He said the group accused him of being behind death squads targeting Palestinians living in Baghdad. According to al-Sagheer, the April attack had been preceded by a similar posting.

"Al-Qaida is trying to restore some respect after the killing of al-Zarqawi by targeting a leading Shiite cleric, but they will fail," he said.

Al-Sagheer said the explosives were inside a worshipper's shoes, adding that the bomber blew himself up when confronted by the guards as they began searching those with shoes beside them in the mosque....
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Pentagon confirms Iranian directorate as officials raise new concerns about war

The Raw Story Pentagon confirms Iranian directorate as officials raise new concerns about war: "Current military and former intelligence officials remain concerned about a US-led strike on Iran, despite the recent appearance of diplomacy on the part of the US State Department and the offer of an incentives package to Iran.

Officials point to new developments, such as a recent meeting in Rome between an Iranian arms dealer and controversial neoconservative Michael Ledeen and the March creation of the Iranian directorate inside the Pentagon, as examples of recent events similar to the lead up with war in Iraq.

These officials also add that an as-yet uncompleted -Phase II- investigation into pre-war Iraq intelligence suggests the same problems may recur when addressing Iran. They note that the Pentagon's Iranian directorate mirrors the so-called Office of Special Plans, which played a major role in feeding intelligence to the President that bolstered a case for war.

Ledeen goes to Rome

A recent trip by Michael Ledeen to Rome has raised red flags among those concerned about a potential war with Iran. Some believe that Ledeen -- a long-time advocate of Iranian regime change -- was involved in the Niger forgeries scandal.

In late 2001, Ledeen, mid-east expert Harold Rhode and Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin (who later pleaded guilty to passing classified information to a Washington pro-Israel lobbying group) traveled to Rome to meet with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and various Italian, Iranian, and Egyptian intelligence agents. Not long after, documents falsely purporting that Iraq had attempted to buy yellowcake uranium surfaced in the international intelligence community, ending up at an Italian magazine, Panorama, for which Ledeen wrote periodic articles.

Ghorbanifar and Ledeen were directly involved in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, which implicated then-President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George H. W. Bush and the highest ranking members of the Reagan administration in the illegal sales of weapons to Iran.

Ledeen’s recent visit to Rome and meeting with Ghorbanifar have created new concern that something is developing with regard to US plans for Iran. Ledeen, however, denies that his visit to Italy was anything other than a personal trip with his wife Barbara....

Pentagon confirms Iran Directorate

Military and non-military intelligence sources have also raised worries over what some describe to as “the Iran group” and others as “the Iran working group” and still others as a “cabal” operating out of the Pentagon.

A recent article by Laura Rozen for the Los Angeles Times revealed the Pentagon has created yet another Office of Special Plans-type body called the Directorate for Iran, or the Iranian Directorate.

...The notorious Office of Special Plans – which focused on Iraq -- is now believed by most experts to have provided a secondary conduit of cherry-picked intelligence on Iraq to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the White House. (More here)

One former intelligence official, wishing to remain anonymous for this article, described OSP in a mocking tone as a “separate channel of information.”

John Pike of Global Security, a Washington-based intelligence clearinghouse, was less polite in his description of OSP.
“It was created to, as Dean Acheson urged Harry Truman, to scare hell out of the American people by making things a little bit clearer than the truth,” he said.

...“Venable also confirmed that the new directorate falls under the policy side -- more specifically -- under the new number three at the Pentagon, Eric Edelman. Edelman, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, holds the same position that Douglas Feith held when he ran OSP at the Pentagon in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Moreover, sources say that the Iranian Directorate is staffed with many of the same people, including OSP’s former director Abram Shulsky, and receives expert analysis from such controversial figures as Project for the New American Century member Reuel Marc Gerecht, who by all accounts was a failure as a CIA field officer. It also includes military personnel such as Ladan Archin, who appears to be serving in the Larry Franklin analyst role among a sea of think-tank operatives and neoconservative war hawks. ...

[bth: this cabal is going to cook the intel again with the hope of pushing the USA into war with Iran just like their predecessor group did for Iraq. If you want the hell scared out of you, research the "Project for the New American Century". Many of these folks were affiliated with it along with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Cheney and draw your own conclusions. Research the background of Feith, Ledeen and others listed in this article. Our US intel is being cooked within special departments of the DoD and VPs office.]
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Newly released emails suggest Army Corps lied about Cheney role in Halliburton contract

The Raw Story Newly released emails suggest Army Corps lied about Cheney role in Halliburton contract: "New documents obtained by a conservative watchdog group suggest that the US Army Corp of Engineers may have publicly lied regarding the involvement of the Vice President's office in awarding a 2003 multi-billion dollar, no-bid contract to Kellogg Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, RAW STORY has learned.

RAW STORY has obtained a copy of the emails, which were acquired by the government watchdog group Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act.

The newly released emails show the Army Corps attempting to deflect attention from Cheney's office by distributing talking points that would mask Cheney's purported role."...

[bth: go to the original link to read the rest of the details along with links. Cheney lied.]
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Paul Rieckhoff: The Iraq Debate--New Ideas Series, Volume 1: "The Gelb/Biden Plan" | The Huffington Post

The Blog Paul Rieckhoff: The Iraq Debate--New Ideas Series, Volume 1: "The Gelb/Biden Plan" The Huffington Post: "...I'll start this new series with the proposal from Les Gelb and Joe Biden.

Les Gelb is the President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. Joe Biden is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (he is also likely running for President in 2008).

The proposal suggests breaking Iraq into three pieces, and is largely based off the model created for Bosnia a decade ago at the Dayton Accords. The full plan was presented in a recent New York Times Op/ed here, but I'll give you a summary.

The Gelb/Biden plan has five components:

1) '...establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.'

2) 'entice the Sunnis into joining the federal system with an offer they couldn't refuse. To begin with, running their own region should be far preferable to the alternatives: being dominated by Kurds and Shiites in a central government or being the main victims of a civil war. But they also have to be given money to make their oil-poor region viable. The Constitution must be amended to guarantee Sunni areas 20 percent (approximately their proportion of the population) of all revenues.'

3) "ensure the protection of the rights of women and ethno-religious minorities by increasing American aid to Iraq but tying it to respect for those rights. Such protections will be difficult, especially in the Shiite-controlled south, but Washington has to be clear that widespread violations will stop the cash flow."

4) "The president must direct the military to design a plan for withdrawing and redeploying our troops from Iraq by 2008 (while providing for a small but effective residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbors honest). We must avoid a precipitous withdrawal that would lead to a national meltdown, but we also can't have a substantial long-term American military presence. That would do terrible damage to our armed forces, break American and Iraqi public support for the mission and leave Iraqis without any incentive to shape up."

5) "under an international or United Nations umbrella, we should convene a regional conference to pledge respect for Iraq's borders and its federal system. For all that Iraq's neighbors might gain by picking at its pieces, each faces the greater danger of a regional war. A "contact group" of major powers would be set up to lean on neighbors to comply with the deal."

A few of my quick thoughts: The plan is obviously not perfect.

But there are no perfect plans for Iraq. The thing I like most about this plan is that it is brash. Any serious proposal must be. Gelb and Biden are not just meddling around on the edges here. They are offering an entirely new way to tackle the problem in which security is the number one issue. Gelb and Biden understand that in order to get anything done, we need to find a way to control the violence--we must stop the bleeding. Security will drive everything else in Iraq. The best way to battle the insurgency is to discourage Iraqis from joining the fight. Showing that we can ensure safety for the average Iraqi helps do that. The current (inadequate) number of troops playing Whack-a-Mole for the next three years won't do it. Forcing the three main ethnic groups into neutral corners might give us a shot at stabilizing the situation.

There are of course problems with this plan (as with any plan). As Anthony Cordesman pointed out in his critique, the main weakness of the Gelb/Biden proposal is that Iraq does not have a clean set of lines that divide the ethnic groups.

There is also no reliable data to show how the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and other factions are spread out, and where exactly they live. Splitting the large cities like Baghdad would be very complicated. The Gelb/Biden plan would also create massive displacement issues that could instigate violence.

That being said, this plan is surely better than "Stay the Course," and might buy us all some much needed time to force the political situation to take root. The 2008 date is much more realistic than dates offered by some of the other plans (like John Kerry's idea to withdraw troops by the end of 2006). President Bush doesn't need to give a specific date. But how about a ballpark? One year? Five years? Fifty years? Every military mission I ever executed had a timeline. The American people, the Iraqi people, and our troops all need an idea of how far away the goal line is....

[bth: Paul's got a good idea here of posting alternative and thought provoking strategy proposals regarding Iraq in Huffington Post as a series.]
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Zarqawi Replacement: Trained Professional

The Blotter: "The mystery man identified by U.S. authorities as the successor to Abu Musab al Zarqawi is an Egyptian with close ties to Osama bin Laden's No. 2 man, Jordanian intelligence officials tell ABC News.

Abu Ayyub al Masri was first named last week following Zarqawi's death. An al Qaeda website used a different name, but U.S. officials today said they are one and the same.

Masri is in his late 30s, Jordanian officials say. He joined the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the 1980s and became part of the circle around Ayman al Zawahiri, bin Laden's No. 2.

Masri was one of the militants in charge of the al Qaeda training camp where Zarqawi trained in Afghanistan.

Both men fled Afghanistan in November 2001 after the U.S. bombing began and were given a safe haven in Iran, the officials said.

U.S. military sources say Masri helped set up the first al Qaeda cell in Iraq in mid-2002 before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

He surfaced publicly in February 2005, when he was included on an Iraqi government 'most wanted' list with a $50,000 reward for his capture or death.

European intelligence sources tell ABC News that Masri was put in charge of Zarqawi's international network in 2004. He reportedly sent 'envoys' throughout the Middle East and to North Africa and Europe.

He is believed to have played a role in the recent bombings on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Alexis Debat is an ABC News consultant."
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Iraqi leaders: Memo details al-Qaeda plans

USATODAY.com - Iraqi leaders: Memo details al-Qaeda plans: "BAGHDAD � A captured al-Qaeda in Iraq document says the terrorist group considered drawing the United States into a war with Iran in order to undermine the success U.S. and Iraqi forces have had in weakening the organization.
Iraqi national security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie said the document, released Thursday, proves al-Qaeda in Iraq is in 'pretty bad shape.'

'We believe that this is the beginning of the end of al-Qaeda in Iraq,' al-Rubaie said.

The author of the document complained that the terrorist group was weak and suggested that opening another front in the war would divert U.S. efforts in Iraq.

A copy of the original document, handwritten in Arabic, was provided to USA TODAY by al-Rubaie. He also released an English translation."...

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Congress Erupts in Partisan Fight Over Iraq War

Congress Erupts in Partisan Fight Over Iraq War - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, June 15 � The House and the Senate engaged in angry, intensely partisan debate on Thursday over the war in Iraq, as Republicans sought to rally support for the Bush administration's policies and exploit Democratic divisions in an election year shadowed by unease over the war."

It was one of the sharpest legislative clashes yet over the three-year-old conflict, and it came after three days in which President Bush and his aides had sought to portray Iraq as moving gradually toward a stable, functioning democracy, and to portray Democrats as lacking the will to see the conflict through to victory.
In the House, lawmakers moved toward a vote Friday after more than 11 hours of debate on a Republican resolution promising to "complete the mission" in Iraq, prevail in the global fight against terrorism and oppose any "arbitrary date for withdrawal." In the Senate, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to shelve an amendment calling on the United States to withdraw most troops by the end of this year, although Democrats vowed to revisit the debate next week.

Both actions were carefully engineered by the Republicans in charge, and for the moment put both chambers on a path to rejecting Congressional timetables for withdrawal ...

In a highly unusual attempt to influence the debate, the Pentagon sent a 74-page "prep book" to several members of Congress, outlining what it called "rapid response" talking points to rebut criticism of Mr. Bush's handling of the war and prewar intelligence. The Pentagon sent the book to Democratic leaders on Wednesday night, apparently in error, then sent an e-mail message two hours later asking to recall it. ....

[bth: for career military officers that are supposed to be non-partisan, this is certainly a partisan action.]

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Post-al-Zarqawi Raids Kill 104 Insurgents

Associated Press Pop-up Link: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- American and Iraqi forces have carried out 452 raids since last week's killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 104 insurgents were killed during those actions, the U.S. military said Thursday.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the raids were carried out nationwide and led to the discovery of 28 significant arms caches.

He said 255 of the raids were joint operations, while 143 were carried out by Iraqi forces alone. The raids also resulted in the captures of 759 'anti-Iraqi elements.'"

[bth: superb action by the soldiers in Iraq. Compare that the the next story about Ft. Sam Houston being threatened with hits electricity being cut off.]

CPS Energy Sends Over 1,000 Cutoff Notices to Fort Sam Houston

WOAI: San Antonio News - CPS Energy Sends Over 1,000 Cutoff Notices to Fort Sam Houston: "SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Fort Sam Houston has received 1,300 utility service termination notices for delinquent bill payments, which officials blamed on a major budget shortfall.

CPS Energy warned commanders at the post to pay $4.2 million by Wednesday or risk losing power. The post is three months behind on its bills, but both Army and utility officials said the two parties were talking and no cutoff was imminent.

'Who would imagine us not paying our bill?' said Col. Wendy Martinson, Fort Sam Houston's garrison commander. 'I worry about it. I can't sleep at night.'

The post, which trains medics, faces a $26 million budget shortfall this year - a problem that officials said is symptomatic of the financial woes facing posts worldwide.

Only commands at Fort Sam Houston funded by the Army Installation Management Agency are affected, which excludes Brooke Army Medical Center.

The installation management agency is wrestling with a $530 million deficit and is awaiting funding from a $94.5 billion supplemental appropriations bill. The Senate is set to vote on a revised supplemental bill following House approval earlier this week. The funds are intended for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as hurricane relief
.

Martinson said the supplemental funding would be a temporary fix. To deal with the budget crunch, the post has fired 100 contract workers, frozen hiring, shut off cell phones and BlackBerry devices, turned in leased cars and stopped troops from using government credit cards.

Steve Oertwig, a spokesman for the installation management agency, said funding allocations from the supplemental bill would be prioritized on the basis of support for permanent civilian employees."....

[bth: this is no way to run a war. unbelievable.]

Iraq Announces Info From Al-Zarqawi Raid

My Way News - Iraq Announces Info From Al-Zarqawi Raid: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's national security adviser said Thursday a 'huge treasure' of documents and computer records was seized after the raid on terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's hideout, giving the Iraqi government the upper hand in its fight against al-Qaida in Iraq.

National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie also said he believed the security situation in the country would improve enough to allow a large number of U.S.-led forces to leave Iraq by the end of this year, and a majority to depart by the end of next year. 'And maybe the last soldier will leave Iraq by mid-2008,' he said.

Al-Rubaie said a laptop, flashdrive and other documents were found in the debris after the airstrike that killed the al-Qaida in Iraq leader last week outside Baqouba, and more information has been uncovered in raids of other insurgent hideouts since then.

He called it a "huge treasure ... a huge amount of information."
Al-Rubaie said a laptop, flashdrive and other documents were found in the debris after the airstrike that killed the al-Qaida in Iraq leader last week outside Baqouba, and more information has been uncovered in raids of other insurgent hideouts since then.

He called it a 'huge treasure ... a huge amount of information.'"

When asked how he could be sure the information was authentic, al-Rubaie said "there is nothing more authentic than finding a thumbdrive in his pocket."

"We believe that this is the beginning of the end of al-Qaida in Iraq," al-Rubaie said, adding that the documents showed al-Qaida is in "pretty bad shape," politically and in terms of training, weapons and media.

"Now we have the upper hand," he said at a news conference in Baghdad. "We feel that we know their locations, the names of their leaders, their whereabouts, their movements, through the documents we found during the last few days."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, pressed forward with his initiative to crack down on violence in Baghdad. Government forces fanned out across Baghdad for a second day, setting up checkpoints and frisking motorists.

Al-Maliki has promised the crackdown would not target any ethnic or sectarian group....

In addition to announcing the security crackdown, al-Maliki opened the door Wednesday for talks with insurgents opposed to the country's political process as part of a national reconciliation initiative, but he said any negotiations would exclude terrorist groups. The plan could include a pardon for some prisoners. ...

A top al-Maliki adviser told The Washington Post the plan could include pardons for those who had attacked U.S. troops. Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi told the Post "there is a patriotic feeling among the Iraqi youth and the belief that those attacks are legitimate acts of resistance and defending their homeland. These people will be pardoned definitely, I believe."

The security crackdown in Baghdad includes a curfew extended by 4 1/2 hours - from 8:30 p.m. until dawn - and a weapons ban. The government did not say how long the crackdown would last and declined to give precise numbers about checkpoints and troops. ....

During Bush's visit, Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi asked him for a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq, the president's office said.

"I supported him in this," President Jalal Talabani said in a statement released Wednesday. Al-Hashimi's representatives could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Bush made it clear that a U.S. military presence - now at about 132,000 troops - would continue, although he stressed the fate of the Iraqis was in their own hands.

Al-Hashimi also said there were "promises to free about 3,500 detainees" by June 26, the statement from Talabani's office said. That number that would be above the 2,500 to be freed as part of a bid by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to soothe Sunni Arabs over allegations of random detentions and maltreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government.

More than 450 detainees were being released Thursday as part of al-Maliki's national reconciliation efforts, according to the U.S. military.

Many Baghdad residents were hopeful about al-Maliki's efforts, although some were clearly impatient as they waited for 15 minutes or more to get through the checkpoints.

"The reconciliation plan should exclude those responsible for bloodshed of the Iraqi people," resident Abdul-Sada Ali told AP Television News. "It is a very good step by Mr. Nouri al-Maliki."

The security operation was al-Maliki's first major action since his new government of national unity was sworn in on May 20, and a week after he gained the consensus he needed from Iraq's ethnic and sectarian groups to fill three key posts - defense, interior and national security.

[bth: So its OK to kill Americans?]

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

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General: Baghdad crackdown reveals hostages - Jun 14, 2006

CNN.com - General: Baghdad crackdown reveals hostages - Jun 14, 2006: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi troops Wednesday uncovered a kidnapping ring, seized weapons -- including three rockets -- and defused two roadside bombs after beginning a security clampdown on the often lawless streets of Baghdad.

In the first day of the new government's push to restore order in the capital, Iraqi troops also enforced a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and issued a weapons ban for civilians.

Four insurgents were detained at one checkpoint after three people emerged from a car 'screaming for help,' said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

'We found eight people that had been kidnapped now for four days that we were able to return back under control of the Iraqi government,' Caldwell said. 'They worked for an electrical company down south of Baghdad.'"...
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Brian & Alma Hart on NECN June 13, 2006 - Link to NECN

This link should take you to two video segments filmed last night at New England Cable News. Alma and I were on with Jim Braude along with Carie Lemack, a founder of the 9-11 families.

The segment was broken into two parts and both can be found here. We went in thinking we would talk about Ann Coulter's latest Rottweiler attack on 9-11 families, but because the day's events in Iraq were breaking hard and fast (Bush in Baghdad and Hillary booed on stage) our segment was split out and shifted to politics and Iraq. I was very, very impressed with Carie Lemack and found her comments on Coulter and the 9-11 Commissions actions insightful and worth watching. I look forward to working with her in the future.

Anyway, the segments are worth the watch. Jim Braude and his staff research their topics and are always up to date and informed hosts. It is a shame that more tv news isn't this good especially at the national level.

Anyway, the Washington Post Magazine is doing a feature article on the PFC John D. Hart family and several others in New England this Sunday, June 18. It will be a major article we're told.

Because of our work on vehicular armor, body armor and our policies in Iraq it is likely that Coulter will be coming after us. Coulter is the first wave of a Republican campaign for 2006 to silence critics by intimidation and personal slander.

Rove uses surrogates, cut outs, to attack adversaries which gives the Administation plausible deniability especially when doing something disgusting like attacking widows. They uses "journalists" like Coulter or Judith Miller to appear objective and thoughtful when in fact they are shills or operatives - Rotweillers who slip their leashes when convenient.

There is hardly any defense for the Administration against charges of gross incompetence in the handling of Katrina, 9-11 or some aspects of Iraq - so the best defense Rove has is an offense of slander with the hope of silencing critics.

9-11 Families and Gold Star Families have had the worst happen to them already. They aren't afraid. They will fight. They know if they don't speak out, who will?
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AL-ZARQAWI HEIR CHOSEN AT AL-QAEDA'S WAZIRISTAN HQ

TERRORISM: AL-ZARQAWI HEIR CHOSEN AT AL-QAEDA'S WAZIRISTAN HQ: "Karachi, 13 June (AKI) - (Syed Saleem Shahzad) - The new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq has a name, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, but not an identity. Depending on the expert consulted he could be a Libyan, a Saudi or a Yemeni. But there is one certainty - he was chosen far from the battle grounds of Iraq, in the rugged borderlands between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Adnkronos International (AKI) has learnt from jihadi sources in Taliban-controlled South Waziristan that in choosing a replacement for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda leaders followed two priorities - regaining control of the wider Iraqi resistance and seeking revenge against Jordan for his death."

Well-placed sources in South Waziristan maintained that al-Qaeda had taken a tactical decision in recent times to cope with a loss in operational capacity, caused by various arrests of high level members and a reduction in its financial flow.

After a long debate it was decided to suspend routine activities for a period and that all members would converge into the mainstream mujahadeen groups - be they in Iraq or in Afghanistan.

However shortly after Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi's death, these sources told AKI, the al-Qaeda leadership outlined two priorities.

One was the swift installation of a new al-Qaeda chief in Iraq, the other was a mission to target Jordan whom they hold responsible for killing al-Zarqawi. Jordanian intelligence was believed to have played a key role in identifying the hideout of the militant leader who was killed along with six others by a US bombing raid last Wednesday.

A key figure in this process, this correspondent has learnt, has been played by Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi based in South Waziristan who is the main link between Iraqi resistance and Al-Qaeda leadership holed up in the mountainous border terrain. Al-Iraqi, in his mid forties, was born in Iraq and served in Iraq's Army, before traveling to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invasion.

In a 2005 article, American magazine Newsweek claimed that al-Iraqi had negotiated the reconcilation between Osama bin Laden and al-Zarqawi.

There were unconfirmed reports that Abdul Hadi Al-Iraqi was missing in the US air raid in Pakistan's remote Bajaur agency which was targeting a meeting of al-Qaeda heads after an intelligence tipoff.

However the sources in South Waziristan insisted that he is alive and kicking.Abdul Hadi Al-Iraqi's character was first exposed in a report on the newswebsite Asia Times Online in 2003 which dubbed him the main architect behind the attempts on President Musharraf's life.

Since then he has played an ongoing role as the financier or coordinator in many al-Qaeda-led terror missions.

Most sources agreed that the new head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir,is a cover identity and that this time al-Qaeda would not reveal the real identity of its new head."

This is a Kuniyat (pseudonym - Abu Hamza could mean father of Hamza) and Kuniyat is vastly used during jihad," explained Khalid Khawaja, a retired Pakistani Air Force squadron leader who once worked closely with Osama bin Laden. "I had been in touch with Osama Bin Laden for months but only knew him as Abu Abdullah.

Many months after, I knew that the real name of Abu Abdullah was Osama," Khawaja told Adnkronos International (AKI) in an interview. Khalid Khawaja was a senior official of Pakistani secret service ISI when they were fueling jihadi resistance movements against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and after being forced to retire he went to Afghanistan and fought along side with Osama bin Laden.

"Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir sounds like a cover name and is meant to hide the identity," Khalid Khawaja maintained. He added that a decade ago, when he left the Afghan jihad, he knew several prominent Abu Hamzas. "One was from Saudi Arabia, one was from Yemen, one from Iraq and one from Pakistan (Karachi)" he said.

"Most of these would now be in their early or mid forties, with only the Iraqi being slighly older," he said."Of course, the Abu Hamza who is installed in Iraq must be an Arab and certainly not from Iraq as he still uses the word Al-Muhajir (immigrant) though all Arab mujahadeen used Al-Muhajir during the Afghan war against the Soviets. Once they go back to their country of origin though they remove Al-Muhajir," Khawaja maintained."

Regardless who exactly Abu Hamza is, resistance against the American occupation will continue.

After US attack on Iraq I maintained publicly that it would breed thousands of Osama Bin Laden and it turned out to be true. Now I say that killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would never solve the problem, as there are hundreds of others lining up to take his place," Khawaja concluded.

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TERRORISM: 20TH HIJACKER NAMED BY QAEDA CELL

TERRORISM: 20TH HIJACKER NAMED BY QAEDA CELL: "Riyadh, 13 June (AKI) - The twentieth hijacker of the 11 September attacks was not meant to be Zacarias Moussaoui, recently convicted for his role in the attacks on the US, but another terrorist, Turki Bin Fheid al-Muteiri, a statement from a Saudi al-Qaeda cell claims.

The communique, posted to an Islamist website on Tuesday, announces the imminent release of a video showing the May 2004 attack on the Saudi oil complex at al-Khobat, in which 22 people were killed.The Saudi jihadi group said that the attack was carried out by four people including the man it says was destined to be the 20th hijacker.

'The operation at al-Khobar was carried out by four heroes of Islam, including Turki bin Fheid al-Muteiri (Fawaz al-Nashmi), who previously had been chosen by Sheikh Osama Bin Laden to be the 20th suicide bomber in the 11 September attacks. Brother Zacarias Moussaoui had not been chosen and had no links with the 11 September attacks, as the sheikh recalled in his last message,' the statement said.

Moroccan-born Moussaoui, 37, received a life sentence from a US court last month, rather than the death penalty, for his role in the hijacking plot.

'But for some reasons, brother Mohammed Atta, through brother Ramzi Ben Sheba, had brought forward the date of the attack and therefore it was not in Allah's design for Turki to become a martyr along with his 19 brothers. Instead he (Allah) decided that his martyrdom would occur on the Arabic peninsula with the leader Abu Hajir, with whom he died in the attacks in the al-Malaz area of Riyadh.'

In a video message on 24 May, Osama bin Laden, denied that Moussaoui had been chosen as the 20th member of the terrorist cell. "

[bth: I wonder why this statement was made?]
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Al Qaeda's Leader in Iraq: Abu Hamza al Muhajir "More violent than Zarqawi"

Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English): "London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Al Qaeda in Iraq�s new leader is more violent than his predecessor, warned an Egyptian Islamist on Monday.

Following the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi and five others after two 500-pound bombs were dropped in a US air raid on a safe house near the restive northern Iraqi city of Baquba on Wednesday, al Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers appointed Abu Hamza al Muhajir (the immigrant) as its new leader.

An Islamist leader told Asharq al Awsat on Monday, on condition of anonymity, that Abu Hamza is renowned for his knowledge of Shariaa and was one of the founding Fathers of al Qaeda in Iraq.

For his part, Dr. Hani al Sibai, head of al Maqrizi Center in London, said Abu Musab's successor was originally from a country neighboring Iraq, believed to be Saudi Arabia.

He expected al Qaeda's new leader to seek to prove himself as courageous as the Jordanian-born al Zarqawi, by carrying out an operation that would take the American military in Iraq by surprise.

"No one gets appointed to this position without having earned the group's trust and gained fighting experience. Perhaps Abu Hamza had traveled to Afghanistan or Bosnia to fight, or he took up armed resistance after the US military invaded Iraq .

He might have carried out a number of operations famous throughout the organization," he said.

"No person would be appointed to head the organization or be its deputy unless they combine Shariaa knowledge and military experience."....
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Terror group plans 'water insurrection'

Gulfnews: Terror group plans 'water insurrection': "Manila: A terror group based in the southern Philippines has been preparing for underwater terror attacks, two anti terror experts and other sources told Gulf News.

The Abu Sayyaf Group has a plan to poison the drinking water system of the US forces which are now based for medical and military mission in Sulu, said a source."...

US officials seeing new home-grown terror cells

New Zealand's source for World News on Stuff.co.nz: US officials seeing new home-grown terror cells: "WASHINGTON: US intelligence and law enforcement authorities are discovering new home-grown cells of Islamist radicals in the United States that draw inspiration and moral support from al Qaeda, officials said on Tuesday.

Like local terrorism cells that have recently come to light in Canada and Europe, officials said the groups are comprised of disaffected young men in their teens and 20s who rely on the Internet to try to organise and plan potential attacks on the US homeland.

Concern about attacks inside the United States gathered pace after the arrest earlier this month in Canada of 17 men � all Canadian citizens or residents � accused of planning al Qaeda-inspired attacks across densely populated southern Ontario.

Scott Redd, director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, said in a written statement to the Senate that the emergence of home-grown terrorist groups is posing 'real challenges' for US authorities despite law enforcement successes at disrupting potential attacks.

'We are grappling with a whole new set of questions: what forces give rise to this violent ideology in immigrant communities that may appear otherwise to be quite well assimilated? ... What signs should we be looking for to try to draw early warning of potential problems?' the statement said.

In later oral testimony, Redd said home-grown cells were a new domestic phenomenon for which the FBI and law enforcement agencies had no 'baseline' for measuring the scale of the problem.

Redd declined to discuss details with senators in public but cited recent arrests of terrorism suspects in California and Georgia. "...

Everyone I've spoken to in the intelligence community says there are more cells now in the United States, there's more activity in the United States," Biden said.

Intelligence officials have long warned the international battle against al Qaeda had encouraged Islamist militants to operate in small groups like the cell that carried out bombings in London in 2005.

The Bush administration has also pointed to the flexibility of al Qaeda operatives as justification for President George W. Bush's domestic spying programme, which has caused an outcry by allowing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on US citizens without a warrant while in pursuit of militants.

Biden noted that word of new cells inside the United States comes at a time when the Bush administration has proposed 40 percent cutback in counterterrorism funding for New York and Washington – the two cities hit in the Sept. 11 attacks.

He also blasted the administration for not meeting security funding recommendations by the Sept. 11 commission.

"We're spending $US740 ($NZ1189.71) million for the whole shooting match and the recommendation is $44 billion over five years," the Delaware senator said.

"I find it absolutely on the verge of criminal."

[bth: The under or un-funding of homeland security counter terrorism is in fact criminal so the strategy is to attack the 9-11 widows instead of addressing the legitimate security issues of our time. ... Also isn't it sad that to find this article I had to read a New Zealand newspaper?]

Poll sees a boost for Bush, Iraq war

USATODAY.com - Poll sees a boost for Bush, Iraq war: "WASHINGTON � In the wake of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death, President Bush is seeing improvement in public confidence that the Iraq war is winnable, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows.

The new poll found that 48% believe the United States probably or definitely will win the war, up from 39% in April. It also found that 47% believe things are going well in Iraq, up from 38% in March.

The survey, taken Friday to Sunday and released Monday, also showed Bush's approval rating going up to 38% from 36% earlier this month and an all-time low of 31% in May. The poll news came as Bush and members of his Cabinet met at Camp David to discuss ways to help the recently formed government in Iraq. "...
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A Shameful Silence On Coulter's Spewing

NYO - Joe Conason: "With the predictable regularity of a locust plague, Ann Coulter and her enablers at the once-reputable firm of Random House have issued yet another volume of fascistic entertainment. Now the hard-drinking, trash-talking, fortysomething bachelorette bills herself as a Christian moralist, in holy battle against the liberal heathens.

That whiff of brimstone in the air may only be the match she is striking for her next cigarette.

But her version of "Christianity" turns out to be a strangely modern and convenient faith, which encourages heaping scorn on bereaved widows, bearing false witness against them on television and publicly gloating over the ill-gotten profits thus attained. Leaving behind the golden rule of the Gospels to "do unto others as you would have them do to you," she embodies a new rule of gold: You can never be too rich, too thin or too vicious.

Too vicious, however, is the only way to categorize Ms. Coulter's attempted assassination of the 9/11 widows known as the Jersey Girls, whom she accuses of "enjoying" the horrific deaths of their husbands in the World Trade Center inferno. She harangues them as "broads.""witches and "millionaires," guilty of being "self-obsessed" and "reveling in their status as celebrities" while they are "lionized on TV and in articles about them."...

The truth about the Jersey Girls—Kristen Breitweiser, Patty Casazza, Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie van Auken—is that they loved their husbands deeply, of course. They and their children continue to suffer from the loss that Ms. Coulter so heartlessly mocks. The truth is that in their suffering, these courageous women joined with other widows and family members to demand a serious investigation of 9/11. Together, they organized, researched and lobbied for thousands of hours to win the appointment of an independent commission, against the determined political opposition of the White House. The truth is that their success was an important victory for every American, without regard to party or ideology, and a vindication of grassroots democracy. The nation owes them all a debt of gratitude.

What is most disturbing about this episode is not that these women can be victimized by a brutal bully like Ms. Coulter, nor even that the mainstream media, which abandoned traditional standards of fairness and decency years ago, would eagerly assist her. That is our hideous political culture. What is most disappointing is the abject dereliction of the prominent politicians who worked so closely with the Jersey Girls.

John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, the Senate sponsors of the bill that created the 9/11 Commission, both believed that an independent investigation was essential for reasons of honor and national security. They both know that they could not have prevailed against the White House—and the Republican Congressional leadership—without the help of the widows.

In the fall of 2002, when their bill passed the Senate and the House, Mr. McCain acknowledged the efforts of the widows and their comrades. “I also want to put in a special word for the families,” he said after thanking his fellow statesmen. “Without their unstinting support and efforts, we would not be where we are today.”

In the summer of 2004, when the commission’s reform recommendations were debated, Mr. Lieberman praised all of the 9/11 families, including a special acknowledgment for the Jersey Girls. “I continue to be awed and inspired by your ability to turn your personal tragedies into better public safety for this nation,” said the Connecticut Senator.

And in the fall of 2005, when Mr. McCain needed citizen support for his worthy amendment to ban torture in the war against terrorism, the Jersey Girls rallied to his cause. He was glad enough of their support then.

But that was then, and this is now—and these two pious politicians remain silent in the face of a malevolent attack visited on their erstwhile friends. Both men know that it is a lie to call these women partisans or profiteers. Both know that these women—and the families they helped to lead—brought honor and purpose to a legislative process that is often petty and corrupt.

Shame on the silent Senators. And please, let’s hear no more from either of them for a while about tolerance, respect and decency.

[bth: Coulter is Rove's Rottweiler. This is the opening salvo of the 2006 campaign to silence the critics. There will be more to come. This is the 2006 version of swift boating.]
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