Saturday, June 24, 2006

GAO: Poor communications put Marines at higher risk of IEDs

Stars & Stripes: "ARLINGTON, Va. � Poor communication between the Army and Marines, combined with Corps commanders' decision to up-armor only a limited number of trucks at a time, put Marines in Iraq at increased risk from roadside bombs, a Government Accoubtability Office report found.

Defense Department officials acknowledged the delay but disputed that Marines were exposed to any unnecessary danger.

The report, released this week, said the Marine Corps did not recognize that truck armor provided insufficient protection against roadside bombs until January 2004, two months after the Army had started looking for better truck armor to protect soldiers."

Had the Marine Corps began seeking armor solutions in November 2003, it might have been able to acquire the preferred type of steel in time for its March 2004 deployment to Iraq,” the report said.

Instead, it took the Marines eight months to fully upgrade the armor on its trucks in Iraq. In the meantime, the Marines used interim armor that still did not provide the protection needed against roadside bombs, GAO researchers found.

“As a result, the fielding of add-on armor and integrated armor was stretched out over a longer period, placing troops at greater risk as they conducted wartime operations in vehicles without the preferred level of protection,” the report said.

The report blames the delays on a lack of coordination between the Marine Corps and Army and the fact that the Marines could only up-armor a limited number of trucks at one time to continue conducting operations.

In a written response to the GAO report, the Defense Department said it was inaccurate to conclude that Marines were put at greater risk simply because of delays in up-armoring trucks.

“If the Operational Commanders place a large preponderance of vehicles out of service at one time, it would leave the remaining forces engaged in combat operations without a significant proportion of their combat assets, which represents an inherent high risk,” the response said.

The response also disputed that the interim armor put on Marine trucks did not provide the needed protection against roadside bombs, saying U.S. troops in Iraq faced an evolving threat in late 2003.

When a vehicle armor solution was developed and fielded, the enemy changed tactics, techniques and procedures to mitigate the protection just fielded. We are in an environment in which we have to continually validate and redefine requirements,” the response said.

The Defense Department did partially agree with the report’s assertion that a lack of coordination between the Army and Marine Corps delayed the up-armoring process, but it also said “multiple layers of communication” already exist between the two services.

The GAO report acknowledged that both the Marine Corps and Defense Department have taken steps to speed the process of getting troops the equipment they need but added, “It is unclear whether this process applies to urgent wartime needs such as armor because it excludes the development of new technology solutions.”

[bth: watching this unfold realtime during this period and knowing that the plants, humvee, truck and retrofit armor plants, were all not running at capacity because they had not received the purchase orders was infuriating.

Then we watched the same thing happen again in the second quarter of 2005 as the marines and the army said that they didn't need new armored humvees in April 2005 and to let the production of M1114s end in May, only by July to learn that the marines were short 2000 armored humvees. Now the shortage is 6000 for all forces.

The statement in the report that the insurgents changed tactics before the equipment was fielded or could be changed speaks volumes about the enemies ability to observe, orient and modify tactics faster than we can. IT MEANS WE ARE ALWAYS GOING TO BE TOO LITTLE TOO LATE on critical equipment defeated by the enemy until we change our procurement and planning process!]

Think Progress -Fox Gets "Fair And Balanced" Access to Guantanamo

Think Progress � Fox Gets �Fair And Balanced� Access to Guantanamo: "Last week, the Pentagon �shut down access entirely� to the Guantanamo Bay prison after the suicide deaths of three detainees. Journalists covering the suicides had their clearances revoked and were immediately flown back to the United States, and regular visits between detainees and their lawyers were cancelled. Human rights groups protested:

This press crackdown is the administration's latest betrayal of fundamental American values. The Bush Administration is afraid of American reporters, afraid of American attorneys and afraid of American laws.

Afraid of American journalists, that is, as long as they're not from Fox. This morning, Fox News analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano described how the Defense Department had personally invited him on a trip to Guantanamo on Wednesday:

NAPOLITANO: I was doing my radio show with Brian Kilmeade the other day and I get an email from the Defense Department saying, "We have an extra seat on a flight down to Guantanamo, would you like to come?" So, of course, I cleared it all -I cleared it here with our superiors."

HOST: What'd you see?

NAPOLITANO: Well, we saw everything. "We saw all six camps. "We had FBI interviews, I actually sat down and examined the evidence they're going to use at trial with prosecutors. It was very detailed.

HOST: That was some kind of access.

NAPOLITANO: It was. It was great.

Napolitano offered his fair and balanced review of conditions at the prison: among other glowing reviews, he claimed it is "now gentle, almost child-like the way they treat the detainees."

[bth: DOD is about to screw this up again.]

Karzai questions Nato campaign as Taliban takes to hi-tech propaganda

Independent Online Edition > Asia: "Karzai, has attacked Britain, the US and other nations with troops in Afghanistan, calling on them to 'reassess the manner in which the war on terror is conducted', as the death toll in Afghanistan passed 600 in four weeks.

The Afghan President, who has seen support for his government collapse in the violent and economically stagnant south of the country in recent months, distanced himself from the ongoing military operations there, which involve 11,000 troops including 3,300 British soldiers.

'It is not acceptable for us that in all this fighting, Afghans are dying,' he told reporters at his first press conference for at least six months. 'In the last three to four weeks, 500 to 600 Afghans were killed. [Even] if they are Taliban, they are sons of this land.'

The Afghan President's words are a blow for US and British forces in the country. The British Armed Forces minister, Adam Ingram, defended the continued British presence in Afghanistan."

He told the Commons: "Completing this process is not simply a moral obligation to the Afghan people, success is also essential for future British security interests. If the Karzai government were to fail and Afghanistan were to be an unpoliced and impoverished black hole, there could be no greater boost for worldwide Islamist extremism and no more certain way of ensuring abundant and uninterrupted supplies of heroin on our streets."

However, political commentators remain fearful that the Afghan President has lost support across the south, with the Taliban displaying an aptitude for the sort of sophisticated propaganda campaign waged by Iraqi militants.

The Taliban now have three different press spokesmen covering three separate regions of the country. In Kandahar this summer, Taliban cassettes, DVDs and magazines are available in numbers never previously seen. Their focus is the "puppet" government of Mr Karzai and its complicity in what is portrayed as the Western military persecution of ordinary Afghans.

"This propaganda does have an effect, particularly when it is repeated again and again," Hamidullah Tarzi, a political analyst and former finance minister, said. "As Goebbels used to say, it doesn't matter whether propaganda is a lie or not, if you repeat it enough people will believe it."

Most of the Afghan population are illiterate, but there are hundreds of tapes on sale in the bazaars of the south that feature songs against the government and foreigners, eulogising the martyrs of the Taliban; typical are titles such as "The Martyrs of Showli-kot" and "Bush the Infidel".

"The buyers have increased for these tapes with all the recent fighting," a tape seller named Zalmai said. "The government banned them, but we just take the covers off."

The Taliban have also begun broadcasting a pirate station called the "Voice of Sharia" from mobile transmitters in at least two southern provinces.

On the internet, unknown in Afghanistan while the Taliban were in power, there is also a sophisticated website, www.alemarah.org. In Arabic and Pashto it offers news, poetry, messages from the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, and regularly updated videos of the last messages of Taliban suicide bombers.

A DVD called Lions of Islam is one of a number that is widely available. It was largely filmed in Pakistan's tribal areas and includes the beheading of an Afghan alleged to be an American spy and the execution of local criminals according to Taliban Sharia justice.

In response, Western forces in the country are extending a fledgling military funded radio channel called Radio Peace into the south to counter anti-government propaganda.

"It is perhaps something we haven't paid enough attention to in the past," a Nato military spokesman, Major Luke Knittig, said.

The Afghan government issued a directive through its intelligence service on Monday which banned Afghan journalists from filming or interviewing alleged members of the Taliban. The directive also included a ban on reports "that aim to represent that the fighting spirit in Afghanistan's armed forces is weak".

The Afghan media were also told not to lead with stories about "terrorist activities". The directive was later said to bea request by the office of Hamid Karzai reflecting "the need to help the nascent media sector in Afghanistan to approach the complex issue of terrorism and terrorist activities in a principled manner".

The Taliban tapes

One tape purchased by The Independent features two singers engaging in an imagined debate between President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar; in a style not dissimilar to that of American rappers.

"I have brought peace and stability, I defeated al-Qa'ida and the terrorists," sings the voice that represents Karzai. "You have killed your Muslim brothers to satisfy the Jews and the Infidels," sings back the voice representing Omar.

"I was elected president by free and fair elections," sings Karzai. Omar replies: "What kind of election is it that everywhere there are American and British tanks and infidel soldiers? The infidels have tanks, artillery and air support, but we have God's support."

It continues for half an hour with Karzai eventually admitting defeat.

[bth: so the US is paying the Rendon Group and the Lincoln Group around $100 million and they have largely just put fake news into the ethos so the US media services pick it up and report it as fact. In the meantime, we could have produced high grade news and entertainment radio and video and educational radio programs that could be broadcast to millions of Afghans and Pakis that would have explained to them why we are there, about 9-11, about education of women, about fighting evil wherever it comes from, about the importance of human rights, about who Afghan has a future in the modern world and how they can be a part of it. Imagine the DVDs that could be produced with Hollywood that would be action packed and full of useful information. This type of media might be the only way to actually reach women in the population. ... But here we are fumbling around again.]
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AL-QAEDA'S IRAQI KNOW-HOW COMES TO AFGHAN VALLEY

TERRORISM: AL-QAEDA'S IRAQI KNOW-HOW COMES TO AFGHAN VALLEY: "Kunar Valley, 23 June (AKI) - (by Syed Saleem Shahzad) - The rugged Kunar Valley, near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, has been the focus of US troops' attention since soon after 2001. They are convinced that top level al-Qaeda operatives, the leader of Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and pro-Taliban warlords are holed up there. However an al-Qaeda video obtained by Adnkronos International (AKI) suggests penetration of the area entails new risks. Improvised Exposive Devices (IEDs) or roadside bombs, with techniques perfected by militants in Iraq, now litter the valley waiting for foreign convoys to pass.

A Taliban spokesman has hailed the NATO military operation in Kunar valley saying that more foreign troops would operate there and therefore more Taliban or jihadis would get a chance to strike at them.

Earlier this week, three Afghan policemen were also killed and another three injured after US-led coalition troops shot at their vehicle by mistake at a checkpoint in Kunar. Reports say that the policemen were reportedly travelling in civilian clothes, and the troops opened fire as they felt that 'they were in imminent danger'.

Kunar, one of Afghanistan's most dangerous provinces, has seen a number of attacks and suicide bombings linked to suspected Taliban militants. "

The video CD obtained by Adnkronos International (AKI) - [to view click to left of photo on this page] specifically sheds light on how IEDs effectively work in Kunar Valley with its difficult green mountain terrains and thick jungles where vehicles have only narrow spaces to move forward. The high-altitude landscape plays to the advantage of the militants.

Local Afghan soldiers are keenly aware of the specific threat and when they patrol on any narrow artery they try to ensure they do not encounter an IED, however as many are buried underground it is near impossible.

The video shows militants digging a hole along a main road, where foreign troops patrol as a matter of routine. The militants place explosives into the hole which are connected to another remote control device hidden in the mountain a safe distance away from the explosives. A person would then see a vehicle used by the foreign troops travelling on that road and when it crosses the marked position, where the explosives have been placed, he would then blow the vehicle up.

Sources said that IEDs are the main problem in Kunar valley where the Taliban has hardly made an appearance and coalition forces appear to be dealing with faceless enemies.

Sources maintained that the Taliban would cut back on present guerrilla operations for the immediate future and the IED will now be the central weapon of the insurgency in Afghanistan.

[bth; the rise in IED attacks over the last 12-18months in Afghanistan directly correlates with the surge in casualties.]
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Militants likely captured soldiers alive

Chron.com Militants likely captured soldiers alive: "WASHINGTON - The two American soldiers whose mutilated bodies were recovered earlier this week near Baghdad were likely captured alive, though possibly wounded, after an attack and were killed later by insurgents after a hasty trial, military officers familiar with an investigation said Friday.

Evidence gathered so far indicates that Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and another soldier survived a firefight June 16 and were taken by insurgents to a hideout in the area."

There they were tried by a hurriedly convened Islamic court and killed, execution-style, according to an officer familiar with the Army inquiry in Iraq....
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Tehran's red card to human rights Nasrin Alavi

Tehran�s red card to human rights Nasrin Alavi - openDemocracy: "The United Nations inaugurated its new Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday 19 June 2006, replacing the discredited human-rights commission. It should be a historic, inclusive, optimistic moment that marks a new departure for the world body and for the cause of human rights worldwide.

But between the thought and the act falls the shadow. The launch of the new body was witnessed by two Iranian representatives whose human-rights records - even by the standards of the Islamic Republic - are infamous: justice minister Jamal Karimirad and Tehran's prosecutor-general Saeed Mortazavi.

Mortazavi was the presiding judge of the infamous Court 1410 and hailed as the 'butcher of the press' for his vicious rulings against journalists and freethinkers. He is credited with the closure of more than 100 publications and the harassment and imprisonment of many writers, activists, lawyers and bloggers in recent years. Shirin Ebadi, the lawyer and Nobel laureate, has even accused Mortazavi of being present in 2003 when Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was tortured and killed.

Mortazavi's arrival at the UN has rightly provoked an outcry from human-rights groups. He is undeterred. His first official meeting in Geneva was with Zimbabwe's infamous minister of justice, Patrick Chinamasa. "...
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The US's bottom line on Iran: Regime change

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News - The US's bottom line on Iran: Regime change: "WASHINGTON - In every statement on Iran, officials of the Bush administration routinely repeat the party line that 'the president never takes any option off the table'.

Despite the constant invocation of a possible military attack on Iran, however, a little-noticed section of the administration's official national-security strategy indicates that President George W Bush has already decided that he will not use military force to try to prevent Iran from going nuclear.

Instead, the administration has shifted its aim to pressing Iran to make internal political changes, based on the dubious theory that it would lead to a change in Iranian nuclear policy. "
News coverage of the US National Security Strategy (NSS) issued on March 16 emphasized its reference to the doctrine of preemption. But a careful reading of the document reveals that its real message - ignored by the media - was that Iran would not alter its nuclear policy until after regime change had taken place. ...

This carefully worded statement thus explicitly makes regime change - not stopping Iran's progress toward a nuclear capability - the goal of US policy toward Iran. ...

A report by David Sanger in the New York Times on March 19 quoting an administration official in an interview a few weeks earlier further underlines the administration's decision against using force to prevent Iran from going nuclear. "The reality is that most of us think the Iranians are probably going to get a weapon, or the technology to make one, sooner or later," the official was quoted as saying. The hope, according to the official, was that by the time it happened, "We'll have a different relationship with a different Iranian government."

The official said the "optimists" hoped to delay Iran's nuclear capability by "10 or 20 years". That statement clearly inflated the time administration officials believe it would take Iran to be able to make a nuclear weapon. Intelligence estimates have been consistent that Iran will be capable of building a bomb within five to 10 years. ...

Despite the evidence of Iranian success in entering the first stage of uranium enrichment in April, however, Rice has continued to express confidence that the threat of diplomatic and economic isolation of Iran from other major powers would be devastatingly effective.

Appearing on the Fox News show The O'Reilly Factor on May 31, for example, Rice declared, "I don't believe that the Iranians can tolerate the level of isolation that they will endure if they don't make the right choice."

Rice's confidence in the isolation strategy makes little sense, except as a cover for the administration's quiet abandonment of the military option and its real focus on regime change.

That objective is also being pursued through overt funding of Iranian opposition groups (including US$75 million to "promote democracy") as well as covert support for armed resistance elements operating in Iran's border areas.

But the advocates of war against Iran are already up in arms over the administration's Iran policy. In the May 8 edition of the neo-conservative Weekly Standard, William Kristol ridiculed claims apparently made by Rice and her colleagues privately that they have been merely "reassuring Europeans so as to keep them on board".

"Much of the US government," Kristol concluded, "no longer believes in, and is no longer acting to enforce, the Bush doctrine."
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Abandoned On The Killing Fields - No Medevac Coming

...To: Soldiers For the Truth

From: The NCOs of the 4th INP Brigade SPTT Team The 4/1 SPPT Team was traveling back from Salman Pak to Camp Rustamiyah along EFP alley (RTE Pluto South) on Sunday May 14th about 5:15pm in a 3 vehicle convoy. About 3 miles from Camp Rustamiyah, the first Humvee was hit by a massive roadside bomb called an EFP. The bomb blew the HUMVEE into the air and created a giant cloud of debris, dirt and pavement. We stopped as fast as we could and when the smoke cleared enough, we could see the first HUMVEE had been completely blown off the road and was lying upside down in a ditch. To make matters worse it was also on fire. The rest of the team tried to free the driver and vehicle commander from the wreckage but the frame of the HUMVEE was bent and the door would not open. The two soldiers in the front were trapped inside the burning vehicle and died. We could only pray that they were already dead from the EFP blast and did not burn to death. We tried to pull the front doors off with a winch and a tow strap, but the burning ammunition inside the wreck started to explode and the entire vehicle caught fire and blew up. The gunner was pulled from the wreckage and was severely wounded with shrapnel wounds from the spalling. The Medic with the SPTT Team was able to start working on the gunner to save his life and we gave the interpreter aid as best as we could. A MEDIVAC was immediately called for the litter urgent and critical soldier and the QRF rolled from the FOB. About 10 minutes later the tanks and HUMVEES of the QRF got there and secured the area. What happened at this point is what we need your help with.


: "The MEDIVAC was denied because we could not guarantee the LZ was not hot. Even with the QRF securing the area, the MEDIVAC was not launched. We were told we had to transport the severely wounded soldier and interpreter back to the FOB, have the aid station stabilize them and the MEDIVAC would then fly to the FOB to pick them up. To complicate matters the QRF did not have an ambulance with them, because the medical until will not roll any of the 20 odd HUMVEE and M113 combat ambulances with the QRF because it is too dangerous outside the FOB. We had to put the soldier in a HUMVEE and drive him to the FOB, where the chicken shit medics were waiting inside the FOB gate to transport him, via ambulance to the TMC. Thank God this soldier is still alive and on his way to Landstuhl. The two soldiers were eventually pulled from the wreckage after a HEMMIT with a tank pump unit put out the fire that engulfed the wrecked HUMVEE. It took the HEMMIT almost an hour to get to the site, 3 miles away from the FOB, because the KBR contracted Fire Department and EMT unit refused to leave the FOB, because their contract states they will ONLY work within the protection of the FOB.

Their brand new fire engines and rescue vehicles were waiting inside the gate when we finally towed the wrecked HUMVEE back. By the time the HEMMIT arrived, both soldiers were burned beyond recognition. to the point where their own wives could not recognize them. Last night at 1:00am in the morning, we loaded the body bags on a helicopter to BIOP and to start their trip home

When we asked why the MEDIVAC would not land on a secured LZ to MEDIVAC the critically wounded soldier, we were told "the policy is that we cannot afford to lose a Blackhawk and crew flying into potentially hostile LZ"We work in Salman Pak, which is almost an hour southeast of Baghdad. If a soldier is wounded, we are expected to self evac him back to Rustamiyah because “it is too dangerous to send a MEDIVAC, Ambulance or M113 combat medic vehicle (even if it is with the QRF). From he time we landed in Kuwait and after we arrived in Iraq, we were given MEDIVAC procedure cards and even given a MEDIVAC Freq . We were told that all we had to do is call and follow the procedures on the card and a MEDIVAC would be launched. This is BOGUS! ALL Soldiers need to know that unless they are at a FOB, the MEDIVAC will not be launched. Fire departments, EMT, combat medic vehicles, field ambulances all have orders not to leave the FOB because it is to :”dangerous.” The reality is if you are wounded, you are SOL until your own unit puts you into a HUMVEE and you get back to the FOB. Please help us contact [deleted] about this policy. 4th ID is telling us that “this is just the way things are.” That, “these things happen.” We need your help before this is swept under the rug....

[bth: Roger has been wanting to get this published for weeks. Its a shame the national media didn't run with it the way it should. Soldiers die over this stuff. This article is worth reading in full if you command soldiers or have family over there. .... The up take is this, a medivac helicopter or ground ambulance isn't coming to get you unless there is no fighting around you. You will bleed out waiting for help. Does this make sense? Why not at least allow the M113 ambulances out the gate? What is the point of having them if they aren't used to bring wounded in quickly?]
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Saddam ends hunger strike after missing one meal

Saddam ends hunger strike after missing one meal - Yahoo! News: "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein ended a brief hunger strike after missing just one meal in his U.S.-run prison, a U.S. military spokesman said Friday. "

The former Iraqi leader had refused lunch Thursday in protest at the killing of one of his lawyers by gunmen, but the spokesman said he ate his evening meal.

Former Saddam aides being held in the same prison had refused to eat three meals since Wednesday evening but ended their fast with the ex-president.

"They all took their dinner meal," the spokesman told Reuters.

Saddam is on trial for crimes against humanity for his role in the 1982 killing of 148 Shi'ites in Dujail. His lead counsel, Khalil al-Dulaimi, has blamed pro-government Shi'ite militias for the murder of his deputy Khamis al-Obaidi Wednesday.
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The Supersonic Shape-Shifting Bomber - Popular Science

The Supersonic Shape-Shifting Bomber - Popular Science: "For years, the U.S. military has wanted a plane that could loiter just outside enemy territory for more than a dozen hours and, on command, hurtle toward a target faster than the speed of sound. And then level it. But aircraft that excel at subsonic flight are inefficient at Mach speeds, and vice versa. The answer is Switchblade, an unmanned, shape-changing plane concept under development by Northrop Grumman.

When completed (target date: 2020), it will cruise with its 200-foot-long wing perpendicular to its engines like a normal airplane. But just before the craft breaks the sound barrier, its single wing will swivel around 60 degrees (hence the name) so that one end points forward and the other back. This oblique configuration redistributes the shock waves that pile up in front of a plane at Mach speeds and cause drag. When the Switchblade returns to subsonic speeds, the wing will rotate back to perpendicular.

Smart plan. Now for the hard part: designing the thing. Darpa, the Pentagon�s way-out research arm, has coughed up $10.3 million to Northrop Grumman to produce a detailed blueprint by November 2007. A flying test vehicle is due about four years later. The initial concept calls for a single wing with engines situated in a pod underneath, along with munitions and surveillance equipment. This setup will enable the wing to pivot while the engines remain pointed in the direction the craft is traveling."....

[bth: very cool. check out the pics with the article.]
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'Incomplete' Report Used to Save Lockheed Project, Pentagon Says

'Incomplete' Report Used to Save Lockheed Project, Pentagon Says: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld relied on potentially faulty data when he saved Lockheed Martin Corp.'s C-130J Hercules from cancellation last year, the Pentagon inspector general said in a report yesterday that partly blamed a poorly written contract for keeping the transport plane alive.

The Pentagon had recommended canceling the program, which had been plagued by rising costs and questions about its performance. However, an Air Force report to Rumsfeld concluded that it would cost nearly as much to cancel the contract -- about $1.78 billion -- as it would to complete it. That finding, along with intense pressure from members of Congress worried about jobs in their districts and industry leaders worried about Lockheed, prompted Rumsfeld to reverse course."

The new report challenged the Air Force's conclusions, saying it may have overstated the cost of canceling the contract by as much as $1.1 billion.

The cost estimate used by Rumsfeld to revive the Hercules was "incomplete and did not provide reliable information for making an informed decision," the report said. With the information given, Rumsfeld could not decide "the cost-effectiveness of continuing or terminating" the contract.....
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Fear Invades a Once-Comfortable Iraqi Enclave

Fear Invades a Once-Comfortable Iraqi Enclave - New York Times: "BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 23 � Mansour is Baghdad's Upper East Side. It has fancy pastry shops, jewelry stores, a designer furniture boutique and an elite social club. "

But it is no longer the address everyone wants.
In the past two months, insurgents have come to Mansour to gun down a city councilman, kidnap four Russian Embassy workers, shoot a tailor dead in his shop and bomb a pastry shop.

Now, Mansour, a religiously mixed area just three miles from the fortified Green Zone, feels more like wartime Beirut than Park Avenue, and its affluent residents worry that the wave of violence that has devoured large swaths of Baghdad has begun encroaching on them.

"It's falling to the terrorists," said Hasaneen F. Mualla, director of the Hunting Club, Mansour's social center. "They are coming nearer to us now. No one is stopping them."
For most of the past six months, Iraq drifted without a government and its security forces largely stood by and watched at crucial moments, like the one in February when Shiite militias killed Sunnis after the bombing of a sacred shrine.

Now, as Iraqi leaders in the Green Zone savor their recent successes — the naming of the first full-term government since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq's most wanted guerrilla leader — Iraqis outside its walls are more frightened than ever. Neighborhood after neighborhood in western Baghdad has fallen to insurgents, with some areas bordering on anarchy. Bodies lie on the streets for hours. Trash is no longer collected. Children are home-schooled.

The paralysis that shut down life in western Baghdad is creeping ever closer to the heart of the city, and Iraqis in still-livable areas are frantic for the government to halt its advance, something the new leadership pledged to do when it started its new security plan for Baghdad last week. ...

[bth: this is worth reading in full. Baghdad has become Beirut.]

Friday, June 23, 2006

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' Saudi forces shoot dead six al-Qaida men

Guardian Unlimited Special reports Saudi forces shoot dead six al-Qaida men: "Saudi security forces stormed a suspected al-Qaida hideout in the capital early today, killing six militants in a gun battle, according to the interior ministry and local media.

One policeman also died in the clashes and a seventh suspect was injured and arrested, the ministry said.

The ministry's statement, carried by the official Saudi news agency, said security forces had chased seven members of a 'deviant' group to a house in al-Nakheel district of Riyadh.

'Deviant' is the term normally used by Saudi authorities to describe supporters of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network."...
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Combat Tourniquet One of Army's Top 10 Inventions for '05

Combat Tourniquet One of Army's Top 10 Inventions for '05 - Medgadget - www.medgadget.com: "A new design for a tourniquet for use in combat has brought the devices back into favor with Army surgeons."

The Combat Application Tourniquet was tested along with eight other tourniquets in 2004 at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio, Texas. The evaluation was prompted because many deploying Soldiers and units were purchasing tourniquets off the Internet, but the tourniquets' effectiveness had not been determined. Once testing was complete, the institute's researchers recommended the Combat Application Tourniquet be pushed to deployed troops to stop otherwise lethal blood loss.

"If USAISR (U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research) hadn't done the work, there still wouldn't have been an effective tourniquet out there," said Dr. Tom Walters of the institute that studies how to save the lives of Soldiers who are wounded in combat.

Up until that point, he added, the tourniquets that were available through the military's supply system included a cravat-and-stick tourniquet that Soldiers were taught how to use in basic training and the strap-and-buckle tourniquet that dated back to the American Civil War. The latter "had always been known to be ineffective," Walters said.

In the "tourniquet-off" held at the institute during the summer of 2004, 18 volunteers helped evaluate the nine tourniquets' ability to cut off blood flow. When the results were in, the CAT, as well as two other tourniquets, came out on top. The CAT had a smaller learning curve than the others, so researchers recommended it for the Army. The Marine Corps has adopted it as well.

"Tourniquets are being used on almost every extremity injury, and they are saving lives," said Holcomb, who was recently deployed as a surgeon at the 10th Combat Support Hospital in Iraq. "Tourniquets were rarely seen early in the war, and now it's abnormal to see a severe extremity injury without a functional tourniquet in place. There is no pre-hospital device deployed in this war that has saved more lives than tourniquets."

While it's certainly come at a tremendous human cost, the Iraq war has shown us entire fields of technology where we've been lacking. Say what you will about technology that improves offensive potential, but innovations to keep soldiers and civilians alive are always good ideas.

[bth: The Iraqi Army had full deployment of these devices in early 2005. The US Army fielded them to all soldiers in late 2005 after a series of Baltimore-Sun articles layed out the fact that the army had failed to act in upgrading its medical kits and procedures as the marines had done in 2003. To my knowledge modern tourniquets are now ubiquitous.]
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Iran to halt gasoline imports, impose rationing

Iran to halt gasoline imports, impose rationing - Yahoo! News: "TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will halt gasoline imports from September 23 and start rationing gasoline supplies to motorists because of budget constraints, Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh said on Friday. "

Parliamentarians in the OPEC' producer approved a budget for the year to March 2007 that cut the amount to be spent on gasoline imports to $2.5 billion from $4 billion.

This meant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's populist government, which draws its support from the poor, was faced with an unappetising choice of hiking petrol prices or rationing, both potential sources of social discontent.

"Next week will be time to decide when we start rationing. Because there is no budget for importing gasoline in the second half of the year, naturally imports will be stopped and gasoline will be supplied by rationing," he said on state television.

"With 99 percent certainty there is going to be no dual pricing system, just rationing."

Despite being the second biggest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Iran has relied heavily on gasoline imports for many years.

It lacks refining capacity after directing most of its oil revenues into social spending. It now imports more than 40 percent of its 70 million litters per day (440,000 barrels per day) of gasoline consumption.

Most of this comes from western Europe, with trading house Vitol the leading supplier, market sources said. India has also featured as a key exporter, at times supplying up to 25,000 bpd.

[bth: stunning lack of investment in their own energy infrastructure - gasoline not nukes. Obviously their economy and war fighting ability would be greatly retarded with minor air and sea actions against their refining and shipping capacity. The religious mullahs must be looting the treasury and not repatriating funds within the country. Have the cash reserves of Iran's powerful left the country?]
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Experts Say Iraqi Forces Not Ready

Experts Say Iraqi Forces Not Ready: "News reports fingering Iraqi soldiers in the 2004 shooting deaths of two California National Guardsmen have again raised the perennial issues: How reliable are Iraqi forces? And when can U.S. and British militaries fully turn over security in Iraq to native troops?
The answers, it seems, are 'not very' and 'not soon' -- with qualifiers.

'Restoring Iraq to military self-sufficiency will require at least a decade,' says John Pike, a military expert at the think tank Globalsecurity.org. 'For that reason alone, Iraq will remain an American protectorate well into the next decade ... [and] I would not expect to see a significant drawdown [of U.S. troops] prior to 2007.'

Three years after the first post-Saddam Iraqi troops were stood up, Iraqi security forces remain unevenly trained and equipped, according to Brig. Gen. Alan Gayhart, commander of the Idaho National Guard's 116th Regiment, which recently returned from a deployment to northern Iraq.
Last year, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, former 1st Infantry Division commander, called the Iraqi police in particular "a challenge."

The best Iraqi units -- perhaps a few thousand personnel out of more than 200,000 -- are nearly on par with the coalition units that coached them. The worst are not only poorly trained and ill-equipped but also suspected of actively contributing to Iraq's unrest.

Despite the number of corrupt and untrustworthy Iraqi units, the most common complaint coalition trainers direct at Iraqi troops is that they're unmotivated and even lazy."...
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Security & Terrorism - Casey: Iran has Shi'ite surrogates in Iraq

United Press International - Security & Terrorism - Casey: Iran has Shi'ite surrogates in Iraq: "WASHINGTON, June 22 (UPI) -- Iranian forces are providing increasing numbers of sophisticated roadside bombs and training for Shi'ite insurgents in Iraq, a top U.S. general said Thursday.

Gen. George Casey, the commander of coalition forces, said Iraq's security environment has become more complex since the February bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, and attributed that in some part to an 'upsurge' in Iranian influence since January.

'We are quite confident that the Iranians, through their covert special operations forces, are providing weapons, IED technology and training to Shi'a extremist groups in Iraq, the training being conducted in Iran and in some cases probably in Lebanon through their surrogates. They are ... using surrogates to conduct terrorist operations in Iraq, both against us and against the Iraqi people. It's decidedly unhelpful,' said Casey.

He would not quantify the increase.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards are believed to be providing to Shi'ite insurgents roadside bombs, which the military calls Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs, designed specifically to pierce U.S. armor with explosively formed projectiles. The number exploding and being found before they detonate are both increasing, Casey said.

Casey said Iranian agents are not directing the attacks themselves but are providing the training and materiel.
'I have no evidence that there are Iranians in Iraq that are actually directing attacks. They are providing the materiel to Shi'a extremist groups that operate as their surrogates,' he said. 'There are some indications that Lebanese Hezbollah is also used in some of the training functions for the Iranians. So, another surrogate.'

Casey said the insurgency has not expanded throughout the country -- 14 of 18 provinces remain relatively stable in the number of daily attacks -- and most of the sectarian violence occurs within a 30 miles radius of Baghdad.

"It is much more complex but the security environment is not necessarily worse," Casey said.
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The Cougar - zero casualties

gizmag Article: The Cougar - zero casualties: "June 23, 2006 Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the number one killer of US soldiers in Iraq, and the focus of an enormous effort by the US military - in 2005, the U.S. military spent US$3.3 billion to defeat IEDs and one of the key answers found in the quest was the 28,550-pound Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Cougar. The Cougar's v-shaped hull assists deflection of a mine or improvised explosive device blast away from the vehicle's capsule, keeping the passengers safe and the vehicle intact. The ballistic glass with gun ports allow the passengers to engage insurgents ambush attempts without leaving the cab.

The Cougar is driven by a six-speed, split-shift, all-wheel drive transmission, produced in both 4 and 6 wheel form and can be customized for multiple tasks including troop transport, mine and EOD disposal, command and control, reconnaissance, ambulance, and as a lead convoy vehicle. The Cougar is also built to roll over to absorb blast and is equipped with multi-point, motor racing harnesses, so passengers avoid injury."

The Cougar began arriving in Iraq late in 2004 as part of an accelerated Defence acquisition program and has been getting rave reviews ever since – indeed, despite IEDs claiming between a dozen and five dozen American servicemen in Iraq each month, the Cougar has not yet experienced one death from an occupant – indeed, not even close.

"These vehicles provide unmatched protection capabilities for combat engineers and EOD teams by withstanding both armor-piercing and anti-tank mine blasts," Marine Maj. Gen. William D. Catto told House Armed Services Committee members during a June 15 hearing here. The Marines have fielded 26 Cougars in Iraq, thus far, Catto said.

Joint EOD rapid response vehicles, known by the acronym JERRVs, are another, similar variant of the Cougar concept. The Marine Corps has ordered 122 JERRVs, Catto said, for overseas deployment to joint-military explosive ordnance disposal teams. The Marine Corps is slated to get 38 JERRVs of its own.

These vehicles "are designed with protection capabilities that are very similar to the Cougar," Catto, who heads Marine Corps Systems Command, said at the hearing.

Catto said all 122 JERRV deliveries are to be completed this month. And MCSC, he added, awarded a contract in May 2006 for 57 more trucks earmarked for joint forces' use.

"The Marine Corps is committed to aggressively matching our equipment to changing threats," Catto told the committee. "Our ability to rapidly modify our vehicle armoring systems is another testament to this commitment."

The Cougar is a product of South Carolina company Force Protection, which has become a world leader in designing and producing ballistic- and blast-protected vehicles, which have been used to support armed forces and security personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and other hot spots around the globe.

[bth: This appears to be an excellent step in the right direction. More please]
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Federal agents raid armor plant in Fort Totten

Federal agents raid armor plant in Fort Totten: "Federal agents raided an American Indian-owned armor plant based in Fort Totten on Wednesday, confiscating boxes of company records under a search warrant involving questionable business practices.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Peterson said Sioux Manufacturing Corp. was under investigation by the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney's office for 'alleged contract irregularities.' He would not elaborate.

Carl McKay, the company's president and chief executive officer, said nothing criminal has gone on at the plant. He said he was told the federal investigators were 'looking at our quality control.'

'About 25 to 30 agents came in with their shotguns out and locked down the place,' McKay said. 'It just scared the dickens out of our employees.'

'There were some agents at the site' from the Justice Department and the FBI, Peterson said."

FBI special agent Paul McCabe in Minneapolis said one FBI agent participated in the raid. "We're just assisting in a liaison capacity," he said

The plant, which opened in 1974, manufactures protective armor for soldiers, tanks, ships and aircraft. Nearly all of the 210 employees are American Indians.

The plant is owned by the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe, on the Spirit Lake reservation in northeastern North Dakota. The tribe, which numbers about 5,000, also owns a casino and other manufacturing businesses on the reservation.

McKay said the plant shut down Wednesday after the raid and employees were told to go home. The plant runs three shifts and had been operating nonstop since the war in Iraq began, he said.

The plant was expected to reopen on Thursday."We have nothing to hide," McKay said. "Whatever you want to look at, you're free to look at.

"The matters that I was interviewed on was the quality of out Kevlar cloth - to ensure that the cloth we weave meets government requirements," he said. "No one was arrested or read their rights, or anything like that."

McKay said some disgruntled former workers might have given federal investigators bad tips.

"Six months ago, we were audited by the Department of Defense, and there were some issues and those issues were resolved," he said. "But it was nothing criminal or anything like that."

Because of the war in Iraq, the company surpassed $20 million in revenue for 2005, a record, McKay said.

The company reported $17 million in revenue in 2003. Officials said revenue was down slightly in 2004 because of a shortage of special fibers used for the bulletproof material that protects U.S. troops.

[bth: Major, major red alert.]

Monday, June 19, 2006

Murtha claims support for Iraq pullout plan

Murtha claims support for Iraq pullout plan�-�Nation/Politics�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "Rep. John P. Murtha says Democrats are uniting around his call to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. The Pennsylvania Democrat's plan was echoed yesterday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, widely considered one of her party's leading voices on national security.

'Two-thirds of the Democrats agree with my position now,' Mr. Murtha told NBC's 'Meet the Press' host Tim Russert. 'Every place I go, people understand what I'm saying. The public has been way ahead.'

Mrs. Feinstein, appearing on CNN's 'Late Edition,' said the Iraq mission has taken too long.

'I don't know why we are so afraid to stand up and say, look, we want to see an end to this thing. ... Three years and three months into a mission that was supposed to take 30 or 40 days -- that isn't cutting and running,' she said.

Although the House passed a resolution in support of the Iraq war last week, Mr. Murtha said the 150 Democratic and three Republican votes against the resolution were evidence of a change. "...

The Project That Wouldn't Die

The Project That Wouldn't Die: "Over the past decade Vibration & Sound Solutions Ltd., a small Alexandria defense contractor, has received a steady flow of federal contracts to work on 'Project M' -- $37 million in all from annual 'earmarks' by congressional supporters such as Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.).

Project M, a technology involving magnetic levitation, was conceived as a way to keep submarine machinery quieter, was later marketed as a way to keep Navy SEALs safer in their boats and, in the end, was examined as a possible way to protect Marines from roadside bombs."

All the applications have one thing in common: The Pentagon hasn't wanted them.....

[bth: that funding could have purchased blood clotting agents and tourniquets for the entire force in combat.]
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From the Embassy, a Grim Report

From the Embassy, a Grim Report: "Hours before President Bush left on a surprise trip last Monday to the Green Zone in Baghdad for an upbeat assessment of the situation there, the U.S. Embassy in Iraq painted a starkly different portrait of increasing danger and hardship faced by its Iraqi employees. This cable, marked 'sensitive' and obtained by The Washington Post, outlines in spare prose the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government.

Click here to view the cable."

[bth: if you haven't read anything worthwhile today, open the link to the cable and read it yourself. No need to let someone else interpret this for you. Read it.]
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Democrat Assails Rove's Remarks on Iraq - New York Times

Democrat Assails Rove's Remarks on Iraq - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, June 18 � Representative John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat and Vietnam War veteran pushing for a quick withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, on Sunday mocked Karl Rove, the president's senior adviser, for championing the war while 'sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside.'"

Mr. Murtha, in an appearance on the NBC News program "Meet the Press," was responding to a speech Mr. Rove delivered in New Hampshire last week attacking Democrats for what he called "that party's old pattern of cutting and running."

When Mr. Murtha was asked on Sunday for his reaction to Mr. Rove's remarks, he said: "He's making a political speech. He's sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside saying, 'Stay the course.' That's not a plan."...

[bth: I maintain that if you strapped Rove or some generals onto the sides of trucks and humvees until armor came to replace them, the problem would have been resolved much quicker. ... a reporter told me once that he only traveled with generals in Iraq because that was the only way he could be assured of getting a fully armored vehicle. ... It just says it all.]
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7 U.S. Troops Wounded Looking for Comrades

My Way News - 7 U.S. Troops Wounded Looking for Comrades: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The U.S. military said Monday that seven American troops have been wounded, three insurgents have been killed and 34 detained during an intensive search for two missing American soldiers.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said fighter jets, unmanned aerial vehicles and dive teams had been deployed to find the two men. The men went missing Friday during an attack on their checkpoint in the volatile Sunni area south of Baghdad that left one of their comrades dead.

'We have surged intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms and employed planes, boats, helicopters and UAVs to ensure the most thorough search possible on the ground, in the air and in the water,' Caldwell said in a statement issued Monday.

He did not comment on reports that the two men had been seized by insurgents, saying only that they were listed as 'duty status and whereabouts unknown.' He said seven other U.S. service members had been wounded in action during the search efforts that began Friday night.

The Defense Department identified the missing men as Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore. It said Spc. David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., was killed in the attack. The three were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky."...

[bth: get them. do what it takes but get them.]
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Sunday, June 18, 2006

U.S. Airstrikes Rise In Afghanistan as Fighting Intensifies

U.S. Airstrikes Rise In Afghanistan as Fighting Intensifies: "As fighting in Afghanistan has intensified over the past three months, the U.S. military has conducted 340 airstrikes there, more than twice the 160 carried out in the much higher-profile war in Iraq, according to data from the Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for the Middle East.

The airstrikes appear to have increased in recent days as the United States and its allies have launched counteroffensives against the Taliban in the south and southeast, strafing and bombing a stronghold in Uruzgan province and pounding an area near Khost with 500-pound bombs."

U.S. officials say the activity is a response to an increasingly aggressive Taliban, whose leaders realize that long-term trends are against them as the power of the Afghan central government grows.

"I think the Taliban realize they have a window to act," Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commander of the 22,000 U.S. troops in the country, said in a recent interview. "The enemy is working against a window that he knows is closing."

But some experts believe that the Taliban, the fundamentalist Muslim rulers ousted by the U.S. invasion in 2001, have sensed an opening in the south as the central government in Kabul has failed to gain much influence there and as the United States prepares to transfer command to NATO.

"I think it is an attempt by the Taliban to preempt the changeover from coalition to NATO command," said Barnett R. Rubin, a political scientist at New York University. "They are trying to show that there is a war in the south and that the British, Dutch, Canadian or any other forces will have to take casualties and fight, not just patrol and build schools. They hope that this will have an impact on internal politics in these countries."

The arrival of late spring, historically the beginning of Afghanistan's fighting season, usually brings an increase in combat. Since early May, a resurgent Taliban militia has launched numerous attacks in southern Afghanistan in which more than 300 insurgents, soldiers and civilians have died. It has attacked in larger numbers and more frequently, burning 200 schools in the south and driving out foreign aid groups. Suicide bombings, a tactic relatively new to Afghanistan, have also increased....

[bth: this is an article worth reading in full. There seems to be some discrepancy in the number of air attacks (reports last week were of higher numbers) but all seem to agree that the trend line in Afghanistan is unquestionably up.

When we went to war in Iraq we stripped many assets from Afghanistan including troops, drones and aircraft.

I hope that this diversion of resources which snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and prolonged the Afghan conflict will not ultimately cause us to let the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and Omar off the hook permanently.

The thought that Osama Bin Laden could die of old age before we kill him is indeed a disturbing though as we move toward the 5th anniversary of 9-11]
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Haditha And My Lai - No Comparison

: "By Roger Charles

When the news broke on allegations of Marine misconduct at the Iraqi village of Haditha, It did not take today's generation of mass media morons even half a news cycle to vaguely recall that something bad had happened at a Vietnamese village called My Lai. Soon the television screens, computer monitors and front pages were full of the baying pack's hyper-heated prose as they linked Haditha to the earlier massacre of innocent civilians.

In some fewer cases, the media mavens only questioned, were there similarities between the events? I have yet to see any factual comparison of the two, hence this article."

The few "facts" known about what occurred at Haditha were initially primarily from leaks from the Pentagon and White House spinmeisters who sought to control the public's perception and to minimize damage to the public support for the war in Iraq.

There was also the bizarre case of one former Marine, member of Congress John Murtha, whose guilty conscience seems to drive him further and further into flagellating the war, even if it means pronouncing his "beloved" Marines guilty of heinous of crimes before the investigations are complete, much less the court-martial verdicts rendered.

It is in this current PR campaign being waged by the political factions -- those for and those against the current policies -- that My Lai and Haditha most closely resemble each other. "Pro-war" and "Anti-war" faced off over My Lai, and the same is happening today. What is best and fairest, i.e., justice for the troops involved, does not seem to be a factor.

For it is beyond dispute that the essential "similarities" between the two are only the figments of the imaginations of headline editors and other historically-challenged members of the mass media.

To save Defense Watch readers from having to do their own research on My Lai, although it is strongly encouraged, here's some of the most pertinent data to keep in mind as the Haditha case slowly plays itself out.

On March 16, 1968, an infantry company under the immediate command of Task Force Barker (named after LtCol Frank Barker, the TF commander) of the Americal Division's 11th Light Infantry Brigade entered an undefended hamlet in central Vietnam near the South China Sea. In the space of four hours, members of the company murdered around 500 Vietnamese non-combatants -- old men, women and children. At the time the actual butchery was underway, there was no pretense that these victims were collateral casualties who were dying as the consequence of legitimate military actions.

The company commander, Captain Ernest Medina, knew, or should have known, that mass murder was erupting all around him.

The principal subordinate "executioner," Lieutenant William Calley not only knew full well that mass murder was occurring, but actively participated in the slaughter. As one book put it, "It was Calley who, seeing a baby at My Lai crawling away from a ditch already filled with dead and dying villagers, seized the child by the leg, threw it back in the pit, and shot it." (From an excellent book, "Four Hours in My Lai," by two British authors who also did a riveting television documentary that aired in the UK and on PBS here.)

In an aspect little noted until decades later, the misconduct at My Lai included numerous sexual assaults, both rape and sodomy.

Additionally, mutilations and other barbaric acts bespoke a unit totally without appropriate leadership. Good order and discipline, such as it existed, focused on ensuring that the innocents died.

It is important to note that no, repeat no, friendly casualties were suffered due to enemy action. One soldier shot himself in the foot. That was the extent of the "action."

Yet, the company commander's report up the chain of command to the division commander claimed 128 enemy KIA, and three weapons captured. Within a couple of days, the Americal Division's newsletter ran an article titled: "TF Barker Crushes Enemy Stronghold."

If there were a darker stain on the honor of the US Army, it has not yet seen the light of day. Even the worst of the abuses against Native Americans during the "pacification" of the American wilderness do not measure up to the shocking, criminal conduct at My Lai. While the killing of women and children was common in both, the sexual assaults that accompanied the murders put My Lai in a special category of depraved conduct.

The worst of the current rumors about misconduct at Haditha are that two dozen non-combatants were killed in cold blood. The specific circumstances surrounding these fatalities are alleged by anonymous leaks from the Pentagon and Congress to be without military justification, and not to have been incidental to legitimate military operations as the Marines cleared buildings from which insurgents had fired at the Marine patrol following a successful, and fatal, IED attack.

Last weekend some attorneys representing the Marines fired back, and on the record, with claims that the deaths were legitimate, collateral casualties, inflicted as Marines sought to close with and destroy their enemies -- our country's enemies. An unpleasant reality of combat, whether up close and personal, or from 20,000 feet AGL, is that non-combatants can find themselves within the blast radius of a hand grenade, or a 500-pound JDAM.

At My Lai there were initial questions about what did the different echelons of the chain of command know, and when did they know "it."

The same is now true of Haditha.

Defense Watch readers interested in having detailed facts about My Lai upon which to base any comparison, can read the report -- it's been published as a book -- of a special commission, named the Peers Commission after it's head, LtGen William R. Peers. (Peers was widely respected for his extensive experience in ground combat and special operations, beginning with OSS service in World War II. He had commanded the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam for 14 months before being promoted to three stars and given command of 1 Field Force with 50,000 US combat troops, plus coordination with four Vietnamese and two South Korean divisions. He knew how the US Army was supposed to conduct itself on the battlefield, and had the personal experience that melded the theory of the Geneva Convention with the reality of the killing fields.)

At the end of his investigation, Peers requested charges against 28 officers: two generals, four full colonels, four lieutenant colonels, four majors, six captains and eight lieutenants. This included two chaplains, the senior one of which, a lieutenant colonel, Peers particularly thought deserving of court-martial due to his extensive guilty knowledge about the events in My Lai.

But, following the guidance in the phrase later made famous in the Watergate scandal, "a limited, modified hangout," not a single soldier served hard time for the My Lai war crimes, even though Calley was convicted of premeditated murder for the killing of 22 villagers.

Read the previously cited "Four Hours in My Lai" for a detailed description of the interplay of the White House's desire for damage control and the Army's objective to minimize institutional injury. Both the Nixon/Kissinger team and the highest levels of the US Army realized that a full airing of what happened in the village and in the ensuing cover up could prove disastrous to more "vital" interests. The key to successful damage control was to control the public's perception of events. (There are already credible reports that two commercial PR firms under contract to the Pentagon for "messaging" have been brought into manage the media play on Haditha, which has clearly been taken away from the Marine Corps.)

So, as the odious term, "war atrocity," is bandied about in the media coverage of Haditha, America's citizens should keep in mind that even if the worst of the allegations and rumors about misconduct at Haditha are proven true, the crimes in the Iraqi village cannot begin to approach the documented, proven crimes at My Lai.

Before the accused Marines and their supporters take comfort in this historical comparison, they should recall the punishments meted out to the Army Reserve soldiers for much lesser crimes at Abu Ghraib. They might share my puzzlement that all those who participated in the truly heinous war crimes in My Lai, or in the following cover up, got so much less punishment than did Chip Frederick, Charles Graner, Lindy England, et al.

Go figure.
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Gender-Based Violence Galvanized Warlords' Foes

Gender-Based Violence Galvanized Warlords' Foes: "MOGADISHU, Somalia, June 17 -- Sometimes, the women here said, it began with a knock on the door after dark or with a kidnapping in broad daylight. And sometimes, the gunmen who ruled this city would use a long, sharp knife to slice open the tin shacks of poor families and snatch their daughters away.

The girls would return -- if they returned -- in the morning, sobbing and marked permanently as castoffs in a traditional Islamic society that demands virginity at marriage"...

New Jersey Demands Data on Phone Call Surveillance and Is Sued by U.S.

New Jersey Demands Data on Phone Call Surveillance and Is Sued by U.S. - New York Times: "TRENTON, June 15 � The New Jersey attorney general has issued subpoenas to five telephone companies to determine whether any of them violated the state's consumer protection laws by providing records to the National Security Agency. Experts say it is the first legal move by a state to question the agency's program to compile calling records to track terrorist activities.
On Wednesday, the United States filed a lawsuit to block the subpoenas, setting up a legal showdown pitting the state's authority to protect consumers' rights against the federal government's national security powers.

'People in New Jersey and people everywhere have privacy rights,' the state's attorney general, Zulima V. Farber, said on Thursday. 'What we were trying to determine was whether the phone companies in New Jersey had violated any law or any contractual obligations with their consumers by supplying information to some government entity, simply by request, and not by any court order or search warrant.'"...