Saturday, July 08, 2006

General faults Marine probe into Haditha, Iraq killings

The Raw Story General faults Marine probe into Haditha, Iraq killings: "The second-ranking American commander in Iraq has concluded that some senior Marine officers were negligent in failing to investigate more aggressively the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians by marines in Haditha last November, two Defense Department officials said today,' reports The New York Time in a front page story set for Saturday's edition.

Excerpts from the article written by Eric Schmitt and David S. Cloud:

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The officer, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, concluded that in the slayings, including those of 10 women and children and an elderly man in a wheel chair, senior officers failed to follow up on inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the initial reporting of the incident that should have raised questions.

General Chiarelli faulted the senior staff of the Second Marine Division, commanded at the time by Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck, and the Second Regimental Combat Team, then headed by Col. Stephen W. Davis, and recommended unspecified disciplinary action for some officers, said the two defense officials. The officials, who have been briefed on General Chiarelli's findings, agreed to discuss the unpublicized conclusions only after being promised anonymity.
'He concludes that some officers were derelict in their duties,' said one of the officials, who declined to identify which or how many officers were singled out.

If Marine commanders are found to have been negligent in pursuing the matter, the punishments could range from a relatively mild admonishment to a court-martial that potentially could end their military careers, according to a military lawyer.
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FULL TIMES ARTICLE HERE"

New Links Between Abramoff, White House

New Links Between Abramoff, White House: "Lobbyist Jack Abramoff had a half-dozen White House appointments in the early months of the Bush administration, according to logs released yesterday by the U.S. Secret Service."

Friday, July 07, 2006

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TownOnline.com - Opinion & Letters: Rosenberg: The Harts' mission is to help soldiers

TownOnline.com - Opinion & Letters: Rosenberg: The Harts' mission is to help soldiers: "(Editor's note: This is the first of three parts.)

'People need to put a face to an abstract problem,' Brian Hart observes. 'John has become the face people associate with issues of equipment and self-sacrifice - which is a bit awkward for us. You basically end up baring your soul.'

He was referencing the lead story in the June 18 Washington Post Sunday magazine. The cover said it all, in big black type over a white backdrop: 'Pfc. John Hart Didn't Have to Die.' Underneath, a secondary headline elaborated: 'A father struggles to understand why America went to war without the armor that would have saved lives.'"

The Sunday Post has a circulation of 1.1 million, and April Witt, the author, told Hart it was the longest article it ever published, at 11,000 words. "John would have been embarrassed," his father muses. "People in town knew he was a shy kid."

John Hart died in his Humvee on Oct. 18, 2003, trying to repel an ambush near Kirkuk, Iraq. The 2001 Bedford High School graduate had told his father a week earlier that his vehicles were not properly armored. And as the article reports, "This was not the first time John had confided that the U.S. military was failing to provide him with essential equipment."

The rest of the story is a chronicle of equipment and procurement problems that have plagued the war effort, personified by Brian Hart's unceasing efforts to expose, confront and correct. Beginning with a November 2004 Senate hearing on the shortage of body armor, "The Harts had become the poster family for preventable deaths in unarmored Humvees," the story reports.

"You have all this energy and it just has to go somewhere," he explains a few days after publication. So he and his wife Alma "directed it toward what John asked us to do. We had no idea that two-and-a-half years later, we would still be focusing on it... How long does it take to fix something so obvious? In retrospect, it sounds absolutely naïve."

Witt, who covered the war in Afghanistan solo for nine months, spent more than two days in Bedford with the Harts back in April. They stopped at Memorial Park, where small monuments mark the supreme sacrifice of John Hart and Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Desiato, killed in action in November 2004. They passed the Town Common, where a "Speak Out for Peace" banner on the First Parish façade incensed Brian Hart in the early days of the war. "She even got (librarian) Sharon McDonald's third-grade lecture on the Bedford Flag," Brian Hart smiles.

"I actually think Bedford has had a tremendous willingness to have a public discourse that the country needs to follow," Hart observes. "Bedford has allowed almost a town-hall type discussion of this larger social issue. That needs to occur nationally in some form."

Hart says the magazine story engendered a range of responses "from an awful lot of people wanting to find ways to help... So many people weren't aware of the problems we had been addressing. It was as if people had turned off their televisions or changed the channel when discussion of the war occurred. April Witt's belief is that this article captured the attention of many people who weren't paying attention."

The day after the Post story, Hart joined Witt at an online discussion. Over an hour-and-a-half, they fielded comments from all over the world. He also did a spot on the paper's radio station, which was carried on the Internet and in syndication.

"We received an e-mail from an elderly man on a fixed income who wants to donate $1,000 to whatever cause makes the most sense to help troops," Hart reports. "I'm going to direct him to Doreen Kenney. Her son Jacob Fletcher was killed a month after John was... She started a foundation. She has delivered over 60,000 pounds of donated items to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The office of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy "was inundated as well, trying to get together a short list of groups or agencies people can help with," Hart says. "There are plenty of other ways, small groups doing specific things that will help soldiers."

Last week Hart met with the president of Easter Seals in New Hampshire. "He is trying to organize services for returning veterans and their families that would complement normal federal programs. Alma is working with the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans. Surprisingly, there are 26 homeless Iraq war veterans. That's stunning, if you think about it."

The Post received a letter from the Defense Department regarding the story, Hart notes. "It was a letter of condolence, and appreciation for discussing the topics. Their only criticism was that some of the issues addressed were being resolved.

But equipment is always coming 14-18 months after requests from the field. And that request may take three-six months, so we're always 18 months to two years behind."

Next week: Encouraging shared responsibility and sacrifice.
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How to deploy the SAS

The Sun Online - News: How to deploy the SAS: "A SECRET military file found in a roadside ditch reveals how SAS troops and bomb disposal experts would be deployed in the event of a terrorist blitz.

The dynamite document -handed to us by the Sun reader who discovered it -tells how the elite forces would fly all over Britain in an emergency fleet of scrambled helicopters. It also:
DETAILS how Cabinet ministers, top brass and intelligence chiefs meet to discuss national emergencies on the "COBRA" security committee.

LISTS a host of ongoing anti-terror operations, along with their code names and commanders.

PROVIDES an A to Z telephone directory of the nation's most important military figures, including the Defence Secretary, the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Director of Special Forces, and

REVEALS the home addresses and even wives' names of the Defence Ministry's 28 leading counter-terrorist personnel, including one of the Army's most senior brigadiers.

The 46-page blueprint, which has come to light on the eve of the first anniversary of the 7/7 suicide bombings, was lost in a scandalous security blunder.

And it could easily have fallen into the wrong hands.

It would make a perfect handbook for more fanatics intent on blitzing Britain."

It throws up a frighteningly long list of potential targets for al-Qaeda assassins, bombers and kidnappers.

And at the very least, terrorists could use the secret information at their disposal to cripple the Government’s response to a major attack.

Armed with just a single telephone, a determined extremist could call around with bogus orders and fake information.
Security officials and resources could be tied in knots for hours.

The dossier, entitled Directorate Counter Terrorism & United Kingdom Operations Duty Officer File, was lost in a SUPERMARKET CAR PARK by Major Guy Jones, 38.

He is an Army staff officer who works for the MoD’s counter-terrorist wing.

Incredibly, he slipped the file into his gym kitbag. Then, during a shopping trip to his local Sainsbury’s in a Home Counties town, he left the bag behind the front seat of his car.
It could easily be seen by passers-by — and a thief broke into the vehicle and pinched it.

At the time of the theft, Major Jones was on duty as the military’s ranking officer to represent the entire MoD at any hastily-summoned national crisis meeting.

The Sun reader found the dossier along with the soldier’s MoD ID card and gym shorts, shirt and trainers.

The reader, who contacted us to highlight the security lapse, does not wish to be named.

But he said: “I found the bag just lying in the ditch by the side of the road as I was passing by.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened it up and saw what it contained.

“There it was, this secret stuff in the middle of a lot of smelly gym kit.

“Surely documents like that should not be allowed to leave a military base, let alone be put in the same bag as a gym kit and left in a supermarket car park.” The Sun will not publish any information that could harm national security.

But we CAN reveal it would tell potential enemies how quickly the military can respond to a call for help from civilian authorities.

For example, it explains how many helicopters are available to be scrambled at short notice, and how quickly they would be ready for action.

It also shows how police cars may be commandeered to whisk Army chiefs to top secret meetings at COBRA — the Cabinet Office Briefing Room.

These are only convened rarely at times of national emergency.

The Prime Minister usually chairs the meetings, held a few yards from Downing Street in a suite of hi-tech offices rigged with banks of TV screens and visual aides. They are attended by senior civil servants, top cops, forces chiefs and intelligence experts to plan immediate responses to crises. The most recent meeting followed last year’s July 7 horror.

As news of the dossier blunder swept Whitehall last night, a senior security source said: “This could have been dynamite for anyone who wanted to do the nation harm.

“The document contains everything al-Qaeda or their sympathisers would ever want to know about what we do in a crisis.

“Used in the wrong way, the whole system could have ground to a halt and more lives lost.

“It’s nothing less than a public scandal — no amount of excuses can change that. The military really should know better.”

There is no doubt top brass have been hugely embarrassed by the shambles.

An MoD spokesman said he followed all set procedures while the dossier was in his hands.

And he reported the file’s loss to his superiors immediately.

The Sun last night returned the dossier to the Defence Ministry’s Whitehall HQ.

The MoD spokesman said: “We are very grateful to The Sun for returning the document, which was stolen from a locked car, so swiftly. In light of the incident we have reviewed our procedures accordingly.”

The bungle follows a spate of recent security breaches and scares.

Plans to protect Tony Blair from a terrorist attack were left in a Manchester hotel in May.

The same month, files from John Prescott’s office revealing private details of senior politicians were found on a grass verge.

In April, spies lost three laptops containing vital information about al-Qaeda.

A year earlier, a man searching for computer parts at a rubbish tip was handed a laptop containing 70 secret files outlining details of an Army camp and Navy base.
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Aljazeera.Net - Author says Iraq worse than reported

Aljazeera.Net - Author says Iraq worse than reported: "The author of In the Belly of the Green Bird tells Aljazeera.net that the conflict in Iraq is far more terrible than reported and could spill over and threaten the entire Middle East.

Nir Rosen - who speaks Arabic and has Middle Eastern looks - went to Iraq in April 2003, just days after Baghdad fell.

Entering mosques and tribal meeting halls, and afforded access to fighters' secret meetings and Iraqi homes, he documented the deadly behind-the-scenes manoeuvring in the post-Saddam power vacuum."

The freelance journalist's writings have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and Time, among other publications. He is also a fellow at the New America Foundation.

Aljazeera.net: Let's start with the title of your book. What is the green bird?

Rosen: When I was in Falluja, and other parts of Iraq where the resistance was very strong, you would often hear this quote in mosques, or see it in resistance propaganda - that the martyrs were in paradise.

You often saw or heard the statement that the martyrs die with a smile on their faces, die with smelling sweet and the martyrs went to paradise in the bellies of the green bird.

To write your book, you gained access to both Sunni and Shia resistance more than any other American reporter. How did you do that?

I have a very good smile (he laughs). I definitely had more access than many other people. Some of it was because I am Middle Eastern; my father is Iranian.

I looked like everybody else which I think is an important advantage because you get to places more easily. People don't notice you.

I think it's mainly having the right friends. Friends from the right Sunni tribes, friends from the right Shia neighbourhoods who could introduce me to the right people. You need somebody from the right tribe, from the right neighbourhood, from the right sect. More and more, that's what determines whether you can survive.

Has al-Zarqawi's death impacted the insurgency?

I think it's insignificant. I don't think he was so important in the first place.

If anything, he was sort of an advertisement. He came into Iraq to kill infidels and the Shia, become a martyr and go to paradise. He succeeded.

The Americans created Zarqawi, sort of the Zarqawi myth. Right at the beginning, they refused to accept the fact that the Iraqis had liberated or supported popular resistance so they had to blame everything around foreign fighters for the sake of the American [public].

So it seemed for a while like every suicide car bombs was been blamed on Zarqawi. And I just think that created a myth throughout the Arab world. It only helped his cause.

Osama Bin laden recently warned in an internet message Iraqi Shia of retaliation if they continued to attack Sunnis. How seriously should we take his warning?

I don't think Osama bin laden matters much either. First of all, Iraqi Shia are being killed every day anyway.

Every day by the end of 2003, they were being slaughtered on the streets by the resistance and of course by Zarqawi. But I don't think Osama bin laden commands any fighters. He is hiding in some cave somewhere in Pakistan issuing these statements, trying to sound important but he is not the leader of anybody anymore. So it's kind of ridiculous.

I didn't see anyone in Iraq take Osama bin laden seriously. It's definitely true that Shia are resented because they are perceived as the beneficiaries of the occupation. And in many ways, they are in charge now; they control Iraq so everything has been reversed.

In a recent article, you wrote "The occupation has been one vast extended crime against the Iraqi people and most of it has occurred unnoticed by the American people and the media". Can you explain?

Well Abu Ghraib, Haditha, these are the kind of things that get attention. These are only two incidents so they make them seem like the crimes are exceptions.

In fact the occupation is a daily crime, it is little Abu Ghraibs, little Hadithas, being forced to do what the Americans tell you to do. Having American machine guns pointed at you everywhere, having American security convoys shoot at you when you're off the streets, having American tanks block off your roads, American concrete barriers block off your city, American helicopters fly over your house, American soldiers break into your house and raids.

So many little acts and so many innocent Iraqis killed or arrested or humiliated or terrified. Probably hundreds of thousands have been traumatised by this, especially children.

I was "embedded" for two weeks of my entire time in Iraq but for me that was the most traumatic experience that I had in Iraq.

Normally, if I'm on the streets and I see someone pushing an old lady or bullying a child, I'd want to interfere. But here I was with soldiers and they were doing the same thing with Iraqis. I would just stand there and watch and not get involved. And Iraqis looking at me thinking I was some Iraqi collaborator and it made me feel even worse.

In a recent Washington post/ABC News poll, nearly half of all Americans support a timetable for withdrawal. Do you support a withdrawal?

I supported a withdrawal certainly until 2005. In my articles, I was saying that an American withdrawal would prevent a civil war from happening and would force Sunnis and Shia to step up and take responsibility and to co-operate. And it would allow Sunnis to participate in the government.

But now that I think the civil war is sort of open and intense, I don't think an American withdrawal would make much difference and it's possible that an American withdrawal would actually make things worse because there will be nobody patrolling the borders and would allow even more foreign fighters to come into the Sunni areas.

It would allow greater intervention from Iraq's neighbours which will only increase the civil war. I think the Americans should leave. The Americans shouldn't be here occupying Iraq and killing Iraqis but an American withdrawal wouldn't make things better at this point because of the civil war.

In your book, you say that Iraq has been in a state of civil war shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government. How bleak is the future of Iraq?

It's more difficult for me to feel more optimistic because as a journalist on the ground you see the bloodshed every day. You hear about people getting killed, people telling you about their neighbours getting killed; it seems like short-term there is no hope because I think things still have to get much worse before they might get better. The process of ethnic cleansing is only beginning.

I think all mixed areas of Iraq are going to be unmixed, are going to be cleansed like Bosnia before this ends. So there's still a lot left to go. I think Sunnis and Shia hatred at this point in Iraq are so intense that they are beyond the point of reconciliation and the fact that the Shia are so confident because they control the army and the police. I think you're going to see sectarianism spreading to the whole region.

Do you think Iraq should be split into three semi-autonomous provinces?

The Kurds certainly want independence. They don't feel Iraqi, they don't speak Arabic, they don't want to belong to Iraq.

When you ask them about the Iraqi flag, they tell you it is a symbol of their pain. I've never heard a Kurd express any desire to belong to Iraq. And they have virtual independence anyway so it's only a question of time for the Kurds.

But regarding the rest of Iraq, it's much more complicated because the Sunnis don't want to have some form autonomous province. They want all of Iraq just like the Shia want all of Iraq.

Everybody wants Baghdad. Sunnis of course want the oil and the Sunnis are so mixed that even if you divide it into autonomous provinces what would you do with Baghdad and Kirkuk? It would just be as bloody because most of the bloodshed is happening in mixed areas. So there's no solution at this point I think.

How will the war in Iraq impact the Middle East in the long term?

The idea of a nation might be less important because you have Sunni Arab tribes in Iraq who have relatives in Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and for them borders were never an issue in the first place.

Once the people start really being victimised by the Shia, you'll see their relatives coming in larger numbers to give them more support.

I just don't believe that the Arab world is prepared to tolerate an aggressive Shia Iraq. We've heard statements from Saudi leaders, Jordanians and even from [Egyptian President Hosni} Mubarak warning about the Shia threat. I don't think you will see a Shia Iraq, the situation is only going to get worse.

How has the war in Iraq affected you personally?

My journalistic career began at the age of 26 when I got to Iraq. I'd never been a journalist before. So everything I've learned in the past three years was from Iraq.

In some sense, it has made me an angry person. When I go back to the United States, I feel angry because people don't know how terrible the situation is.

Is the media to blame?

A little bit. They are too slow to expose America's crimes and they still are. I mean I was embedded for two weeks and I saw so many horrible things happen. There are journalists who have been embedded for months, for much of the occupation on and off, and they must have seen things much worse than what I saw.

And not to write about them and glorify the hometown heroes from the US is in itself collaborating with the crime.

[bth: this guy couldn't give a damn about American troops or probably the US, but he does provide an interesting insight into the thinking going on among Iraqis and their various factions. In the end, one asks are these peopel really worth fighting for? Does America get anything out of staying at this point? He clearly feels the ethnic civil war is only just beginning and will have to work itself out probably like Bosnia through ethnic cleansing. Not a pleasant prospect. Welcome to Beirut err Baghdad.]
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Drones reshaping Iraq's battlefields

USATODAY.com - Drones reshaping Iraq's battlefields: "WASHINGTON � The use of unmanned surveillance planes over Iraq has soared, revolutionizing the way U.S. troops wage war and crowding the skies above Iraq.

The Army says that before the Iraq war started in March 2003, it had 14 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); it now has about 700 in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them small.

In 2003 and 2004, the Army flew the aircraft about 1,500 hours per month, the Army says. In the past year, the aircraft flew 9,000 hours a month.

The unmanned scout planes and sensor systems have made it easier to spot insurgents and roadside bombs, thus saving American lives, Pentagon officials and experts say. Using the aircraft, troops can often get an instant picture of what lurks behind the next hill or building. 'One can argue that the standard equipment for a Marine or infantryman now is the helmet, rifle, boots and UAV,' says Christopher Bolkcom, a defense expert for the Congressional Research Service.

Pilotless aircraft have changed fighting much as night-vision technology did in the 1980s and 1990s, says Col. John Burke, project manager for the Army's UAV program. 'It's very seldom that you see a revolution in warfare like this.'

The increased use of drones led to a midair collision with a helicopter in 2004, the Army says. No one was hurt. Bolkcom says there have also been several near misses. 'Collision avoidance is an issue that they haven't quite gotten the hang of yet,' says John Pike, a military analyst at GlobalSecurity.org.

The aircraft are more common because they're easier to use. An 18-year-old soldier can learn how to launch and fly a Raven and avoid midair collisions in eight hours, Burke said. The controls look 'very much like a PlayStation controller,' he says.

In previous wars, troops found the enemy by patrolling until they bumped into them, Pike said. Now U.S. troops can peek beyond the horizon. "They have gone bonkers over them because they work."
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The Kabul Bombings: Taliban or AGE?

Counterterrorism Blog: "The string of four bombings over two days in Kabul, Afghanistan, have raised the tension level in the city and stoked media speculation of a Taliban resurgence in the capital. On July 4, two roadside bomb were detonated; one in front of the Ministry of Justice, another several hundred meters from President Hamid Karzai's palace.

Eleven were wounded in the attacks. On July 5, two more bombs were detonated, one near the 'Pigeon Mosque,' about 500 meters west of the Ministry of Communications, another 'essentially in the middle of nowhere' in Northern Kabul, according to a contact in Afghanistan. The casualties range from 3 to 47. One person was killed, and it appears he was one of the bomber that attempted to use a pushcart to deliver the bomb. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, and al-Qaeda claims to be in possession of 26 more bombs in the city.

But the facts on the ground indicate the bombing may not be al-Qaeda or Taliban related, but the work of political opponents to the Karzai government, much like the riots in Kabul at the end of May. Walt Gaffney, a representative from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), was on the scene of both bombing sites. Tim Lynch, the country manager for World Security Initiatives, a contracting firm, describes Walt's experience at the blast site:

Walt noted that as soon as the BBC rolled up (which was right behind him at both sites) an older man would step out of the crowd and start on an anti-Karzai rant. It would appear that the current rash of IED’s is aimed at the locals and probably designed to put more pressure on Karzai – who is widely considered to be a weak and thus vulnerable leader. Walt also said the on-scene impromptu local color commentators seemed... disciplined... sticking to a set of talking points. If true, that represents a pretty sophisticated IED/media campaign.

Mr. Lynch also notes the bombs were crude, and likely designed to avoid deaths:

All three of these devices were very small – bigger than a frag [fragmentation grenade] but smaller than a 105 [105 mm artillery shell]. The pushcart was probably to allow for an escape – suicide bombers are rare here and normally outsiders. An outsider (even an unknown Afghani) with a pushcart would find it impossible to travel far with it without getting stopped by ANP [Afghan National Police] who (when they want) will stop and search every male they don’t recognize in their respective neighborhoods. That is probably why the Pushcart attack took place in the outskirts... There is a huge marketplace out there where farmers from all over the country bring produce and strangers can move about in relative anonymity. He could have never got that cart into downtown Kabul today as the police were all stirred up by the attack on their headquarters yesterday.

Whoever is lighting these things off is trying to avoid too much collateral damage. The AGE [Anti-Government Elements] know that if they kill too many Afghans, a blood feud is the certain result if they are unmasked. Those get ugly in this country when multiple families feel compelled to settle up. We have never seen an Iraqi style IED here and doubt we will. They just won’t take the risks of using that much explosive and killing that many civilians.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda are not known for holding back firepower to limit casualties. Walt Gaffney explains the complexities of sorting out who initiates much of the violence in Afghanistan.

There is a reason that we, in theater, call these incidents, "AGE", anti-government elements because it is damn hard determining who is whom, even after you've been in an engagement with them. There are so many competing and conflicting elements here that it is sometimes impossible to figure it out. Afghan politics makes the Italian parliament look like a cohesive group. Hig in the east/north east, Khan in the west, Atta/Dostum in the north, Talibs in the south/south east, different tribal interests across the entire country, blood feuds, Hajiks, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Pashtuns (different in different parts of the country), Iranian influence, Pakistani influence, Indian influence, American/Coalition...it goes on and on.

Media reports are often quick to credit the Taliban for attacks they may have played no part in and the Taliban gladly will take credit for these attacks. This nicely augments the Taliban's media campaign as it builds their stature in the eyes of the international community.
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Counterterrorism Blog: Yemen Officials Reportedly Deny Capturing Jamal al-Badawi

Counterterrorism Blog: Yemen Officials Reportedly Deny Capturing Jamal al-Badawi: " posted yesterday on the reported recapture of Jamal al-Badawi, USS Cole bombing mastermind and leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who had escaped from prison in February. ABC News posted yesterday that U.S. law enforcement sources had confirmed the capture. But a UPI story out this afternoon quotes 'a statement published Thursday in official newspapers that the news about recapturing Badawi, who had escaped from Sanaa's main prison with 22 other al-Qaida members last February, are untrue.' I assume there is more to come on this important story."
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Oil Companies Reluctant to Invest in Iraq

Oil Companies Reluctant to Invest in Iraq: "07-06) 10:49 PDT DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) --
In Iraq's peaceful north, a trio of foreign oil companies have begun classic wildcat exploration, hoping a gusher of black gold will bring them untold wealth.

But the companies are little-known outside the industry -something that's unlikely to change until security improves.

And the deals they have cut with the Kurdish regional administration bypassing the central government leaves them in a murky legal situation.

More than three years after the U.S.-led invasion, no big oil company has stepped forward to spend the huge sums necessary to tap Iraq's giant oil reserves and get crude flowing and revenues pouring into Iraq's government to help pay for food, jobs and even medical care."

"It will take a lot more to bring in the big guys," said Sharif Ghalib, a senior analyst with Energy Intelligence Research in New York.

None is likely to start prospecting until company chiefs feel reasonably assured that their workers won't be sent home in coffins and that their investments have legal protection that won't be taken away by a new government.

"We are interested and they are interested. But we need those conditions in place to take it to the next level," Shell Oil Co. President John Hofmeister told The Associated Press. "It's too soon to make a judgment on how close we are. I suspect we could be a few years away."

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is eager to get them in quickly. Even with the resources of major oil companies, it would take at least five years to dramatically boost production and refining.

"Of course we want major foreign oil companies to come into Iraq. We need funds and we need technology," said Assem Jihad, spokesman for the Oil Ministry, which has called for up to $20 billion in investment.

But big companies like Shell and ConocoPhillips won't budge until Iraq has a law governing oil-sector investment and figures out just who owns the country's underground oil.

The constitution is frustratingly unclear on whether mineral wealth is controlled by the central government or the largely Shiite and Kurdish regions where it is found.

No less important, Iraq has no legal guidelines for foreign investment in the oil sector. Al-Maliki's government hopes to issue a hydrocarbons law this year that sets parameters for foreign involvement in oil fields, refineries and pipelines, Jihad said.

"The majors are especially hesitant about the constitution. It's so ambiguous," said Neil Patrick, an Iraq analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit in London. "It's still not clear who they deal with and who makes the decisions."

The Kurdistan regional government, for example, views the legal gray area as an opening to bring in foreign companies to develop fields, over the objections of the national government in Baghdad.

Exploration by Norway's DNO, Canada's Heritage Oil and Britain's Sterling Energy is soon to start or already under way, with DNO reporting a modest discovery.

Al-Maliki appears intent on quashing such regional claims on oil resources and bringing them under Baghdad's control. But to do that, the Shiite prime minister will have to alienate key Shiite and Kurdish allies.

That is a tall order, said Muhammad-Ali Zainy, an energy economist at the Center for Global Energy Studies in London.

"I sympathize with him," Zainy said. "To come up with a truly national plan, he has to rid himself of the political parties surrounding him — including his own party."

An even bigger worry is security. The government claims U.S. and Iraqi troops can protect foreign oil companies from insurgent attacks, but analysts note rebels routinely sabotage oil infrastructure.

Some oil majors would probably be willing to work in Iraq before the insurgency is quelled — if Iraq creates a clear legal framework. But big oil would probably follow the lead of the three smaller companies by limiting its presence to the safety of the northern Kurdish lands.

That won't do much to quench global oil demand. Kurdish fields aren't nearly as lucrative as Iraq's giant southern oil fields, home to around 85 percent of the country's 115 billion barrels of crude reserves.

In the meantime, Iraq's hobbled oil sector limps along.

The Oil Ministry announced last month that crude production had risen to 2.5 million barrels a day, its highest level since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. But the country's No. 2 oil shipping terminal, on the Persian Gulf at Khor al-Amaya, caught fire and remained closed last week.

"This chaotic situation will not continue forever," Zainy said. "There will be a solution."
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A War Democrats Can Win - New York Times

A War Democrats Can Win - New York Times: "IN 2003, the Bush administration left the war in Afghanistan unfinished and moved on to overthrow Saddam Hussein. This grand diversion of military, intelligence and diplomatic resources not only jeopardized success in Afghanistan but also initiated the collapse of international support and respect for the United States.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, American and NATO forces are fighting a resurgent Taliban. Leaders like Mullah Muhammad Omar remain at large, and Osama bin Laden emerges regularly to threaten the West and inspire his followers."

It is true that Afghanistan has taken historic steps toward democracy. President Hamid Karzai is doing his best to unify the country, and there has been no insurgency comparable to the one in Iraq. But Afghanistan is hardly the shining example to the Muslim world that George Bush and Tony Blair promised. With warlords and drug barons largely in control and the Pakistani border still porous, the country has become the forgotten front in the war on terrorism.

On June 28, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to Kabul to insist that Washington is still committed to Afghanistan. But I was also in the Afghan capital last week, as well as in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. What I heard from military officials, politicians, diplomats and aid workers was this: Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is still winnable, but American involvement is insufficient.

Back in Washington last week, partisan warfare had erupted over a Democratic proposal to establish a timeline for withdrawing American forces from Iraq. Even though the top commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., was working on just such a plan, Republicans battered the Democrats as quitters, unwilling to hang tough in the fight against terrorism.
Next time, the Democrats should try a different strategy.

Instead of calling for troop cuts in Iraq, they should call for transferring forces and resources from Iraq to Afghanistan.

American forces are no longer the crucial factor in stabilizing Iraq. That will come only through politics, when Shiites and Sunnis commit to sharing power. But in Afghanistan, our efforts could still be decisive. Afghans are less hostile than Iraqis to American forces. And the British, who are leading the NATO mission set to take over next month, desperately need more combat power and air support in order to finally defeat the Taliban.

By forcing a debate on transferring American forces back to Afghanistan, the Democrats can avoid the trap of allowing Republicans to claim they are weak. They can argue that their proposal is not a withdrawal from the front, but rather a deployment to an equally important front where American leadership can make the difference in securing a long-term victory.

Democrats can justifiably argue their goal is to reverse the Bush administration's premature diversion to Iraq. If nothing else, such a debate would focus attention on the Bush administration's failure to finish the job in Afghanistan.

Americans know that Iraq has become a drain on our resources and reputation, but they are wary of giving up. On the other hand, since the Sept. 11 attacks were planned in Afghanistan, public support for finally finishing off the Taliban and their allies in Al Qaeda can be sustained for a long time to come.

By marrying good policy with good politics in this way, the Democrats can help win the war on terrorism and help themselves at the same time.

James P. Rubin, an assistant secretary of state from 1997 to 2000, is the international news anchor for Sky News.
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Thursday, July 06, 2006

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Iraq Provincial Governor Threatens to Quit

Chron.com Iraq Provincial Governor Threatens to Quit: "BAGHDAD, Iraq � A provincial police chief resigned Tuesday and the governor said he would leave his post after coalition forces turn over security to Iraqi forces in the southern area later this month, citing fears that violence will increase.

A member of the Muthanna provincial council said the decisions were made at a meeting after nearly 300 fired policemen stormed into the local government headquarters in Samawah earlier in the day to protest their lost jobs. Other former policemen also reportedly beat another council member after breaking into his house Monday night."

The panel accepted the resignation of Col. Mohammed Najim Abu Kihila, the chief of Muthanna police, "amid the deteriorating security, demonstrated by the assault on the provincial council's members and some citizens," councilman Mohammed al-Zayadi said.

He also said provincial Gov. Mohammad Ali Hassan offered his resignation and the council agreed to accept it as long as he stayed in his position until security was transferred from coalition forces to Iraqis later this month.

Another council member, speaking on condition of anonymity because he said he wasn't authorized to disclose the information, said earlier that other members of the panel also had offered to resign to protest the security handover because Iraqi forces were not ready.

"We reject the transfer of security from the coalition forces to the Iraqi forces because security will deteriorate more and more," the council member said.

But Kihila said it was only the governor and the police chief. He said Col. Ali Mutashar was appointed to fill the police post until a new chief is chosen.

The Japanese Kyodo News agency also said last-minute negotiations were under way between Hassan and the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq to complete the transfer of provincial security to the Iraqis on July 13.

Japan is in the process of withdrawing its 600 troops from its base near the provincial capital, Samawah. British and Australian troops also operate in the province but are preparing to withdraw after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraqi forces would be ready to take over security responsibilities sometime this month.

Handing over control of provinces does not necessarily mean the Americans or their allies would pull out entirely.
Instead, U.S. officials have said it means the provincial governor would have control, and civilian police would be the first to respond. U.S.-led coalition forces would only nominally intervene following a request from Iraqi officials.

Short of Blood Coagulants Again?

Jacob's Light Foundation seeks info from units in Iraq and Afghanistan that are short of blood coagulants.

This non-profit outfit is prepared to ship needed item direct to users, & can use your help with funding to purchase these coagulants for our troops. They've sent 700 units of coagulants so far & have more requests to fill.

Please contact Dorine Kenney, Gold Star Mom, at www.jacobsprogram.org or call her at 631 667 1197.

Dorine reports to me that three different groups including marines in Ramadi have contacted her in the last week reporting shortages.

Video Shows Arabs Fighting in Somalia

South Carolina Now (SCNow.com) - APNews: "NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- A recruiting video issued by members of the fundamentalist Islamic movement in Somalia shows Arab radicals fighting alongside the local extremists in Mogadishu, and invites Muslims from around the world to join in their 'holy jihad.'

The video, obtained by The Associated Press, provides the first hard evidence that non-Somalis have joined with Islamic extremists in Somalia.

The Supreme Islamic Courts Council, which defeated U.S.-backed warlords in Mogadishu last month and is now the country's most powerful force, has repeatedly denied links to extremists such as al-Qaida.

But the one-hour video appears to confirm U.S. fears - and al-Qaida's boasts.

President Bush expressed concern last month that Somalia could become an al-Qaida haven like Afghanistan was in the late 1990s. And recordings attributed to Osama bin Laden portray Somalia as a battleground in his war on the United States.

The videotape, produced to both recruit new fighters and raise funds, glorifies the Islamic victory over U.S.-backed, secular warlords in Somalia. U.S. officials cooperated with the warlords, hoping to capture three al-Qaida leaders allegedly protected by the Islamic council, especially three men accused in the deadly 1998 bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Those singled out by the United States include the courts council leader, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, branded a terrorist by the Americans."

Aweys, speaking on Somali radio over the weekend, said his movement had no contacts with bin Laden or al-Qaida. He also rejected accusations that foreign fighters were in Somalia.

But the video, shot on a handheld recorder, shows Arab fighters preparing for a major battle on the northern outskirts of Mogadishu. Arabic anthems and poetry play on the audio track urging Muslims to join the global holy war to advance Islam and defeat its enemies.

The video starts with a black flag featuring a Quranic verse and a saber fluttering in the wind. Such black banners have only recently appeared in Somalia but have been used by Islamic extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon for years.

After a few minutes of battle footage, the tape documents the Arab fighters' predawn preparations for battle, including prayers, a commander's speech to his troops and the preparation of weapons. The Arab fighters then climb onto two pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, which the Somalis call "technicals."

As the sun rises, the location of the Arab camp north of Mogadishu becomes clear and six more trucks loaded with Somali fighters come into view. A senior member of the Islamic group, Yusuf Indohaadde, is filmed walking among the men before the pickups roll out of an old warehouse compound.

The rest of the footage follows one group of Somali militiamen as they battle troops loyal to warlords who controlled Mogadishu for 15 years and had ties to the United States. The tape ends with the capture of Essaleh, a small town with strategic air and sea ports three miles north of Mogadishu.

Most of the tape's audio is filled with Arabic prose and songs urging Muslims to join the holy war against the West, or recordings of speeches given by Somali Islamic extremists. One of the voices speaking Somali is clearly not a native speaker.

There are also subtitles in Arabic and Somali calling the battle part of "the sacred, holy jihad in Somalia" and "the holy war that began in Somalia."

The tape is similar to other videos produced by Islamic extremists in Iraq and other countries where al-Qaida is active.

Evan Kohlmann, an international terrorism consultant who closely follows statements and videos from militant Islamic groups, said the video has traits similar to those produced by Islamic militants elsewhere in the world. If it is confirmed that Arab militants fought alongside likeminded Somalis, it likely would affect how the international community treats the Islamic group.

"I think it is tremendously significant and may be the determining piece of evidence that will decide U.S. policy on Somalia," he said. "Sounds a lot like al-Qaida when the Taliban were just getting started in Afghanistan."

Since the defeat of the warlords, the United States has set up the International Somali Contact Group to coordinate policy toward Somalia with other interested nations. U.S. officials have said that counterrorism is the primary focus of policy toward Somalia.

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

Main Yemeni al-Qaida operative re-captured

United Press International - Intl. Intelligence - Main Yemeni al-Qaida operative re-captured: "SANAA, Yemen, July 5 (UPI) -- Security forces seized runaway al-Qaida leader in Yemen, Jamal Badawi, who had escaped from Sanaa's main prison with 22 other members of the terrorist group.

The opposition Yemen's Children League Party quoted security sources in the southeastern province of Hadramout as saying security forces captured Badawi in the area five days ago before he was transferred to Sanaa amid strict security measures.

The party said on its Web site Wednesday that the official authorities are keeping silent about the operation for security reasons.

The sources refused to give details about the operation which they described as an intelligence maneuver, noting that security agents intercepted and monitored Badawi, who was found hiding in a house in Mukalla, the capital of Hadramout.

There was no information about a possible intelligence contribution by the United States in tracing Badawi, the main convict in the bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden in October 2000.

Washington has offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to the capture of Badawi, regarded as one of the most dangerous al-Qaida operatives in Yemen and the mastermind of most terrorist attacks against foreign interests in the poor Arab Gulf country.

Badawi was also the mastermind of two escapes by al-Qaida prisoners in Aden in 2003 and last February's mass flight of 23 terror suspects and convicts from the central intelligence prison in Sanaa, which sparked U.S. accusations against Yemen and a large controversy about the extent of al-Qaida's infiltration of Yemeni security agencies.

U.S. intelligence reports suggested recently that Badawi might lead al-Qaida's branch in Iraq, succeeding Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after he was killed in a U.S. air raid near Baghdad last month.

In September 2005, a special criminal court sentenced Badawi to death, but an appeal court reduced the sentence to 15 years in prison.

[bth: so he's the main convict for the Cole bombing, he's escaped twice and he was only given 15 years for blowing up the Cole. Amazing]

House wants Abu Ghraib Whistleblower info

House wants Abu Ghraib Whistleblower info - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - Lawmakers have issued a subpoena seeking Pentagon information on a soldier who says he suffered retaliation for reporting abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. "
The subpoena from the
House Government Reform Committee' seeks all communications relating to information provided by Army Spc. Samuel Provance about the Iraq' prison, where U.S. mistreatment of detainees caused an international uproar.

It also seeks information on the interrogation of an Iraqi officer there, identified by Provance as Gen. Hamid Zabar.

Provance had helped interrogate Zabar's 16-year-old son and was later told the boy had been captured and abused to compel the general to give information, Provance said in testimony prepared for Congress.

The subpoena, issued Friday, was necessary because lawmakers got no response from a March 7 letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld requesting the information, according to a statement from Rep. Christopher Shays (news, bio, voting record), R-Conn., chairman of the panel's national security subcommittee.

"If the department won't even return a call, after three months ... we really have no choice but to subpoena the material and compel their attention to our request," added the committee chairman, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who signed the subpoena.

Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros said Wednesday the Pentagon already has provided much of this information to the House Armed Services Committee and given Davis' committee many of those documents. They are "responsive in the matter under discussion," Ballesteros said.

Provance has said his rank was reduced for disobeying orders not to speak about mistreatment he saw at Abu Ghraib. He was one of five government whistleblowers who testified before Congress in February, saying they faced retaliation for calling attention to alleged government wrongs.

The subpoena, issued at the request of Shays and Rep. Henry Waxman (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., the committee's top Democrat, gives the Pentagon until 5 p.m. July 14 to produce the documents.

Robot sought for 209th

Journal and Courier Online - News: "Members of a group supporting the Lafayette-based 209th Quartermaster Company hope to raise money to buy robotic protection for their Iraq-bound loved ones.

A car wash, garage sale, fish fry, motorcycle poker run and raffles are all being planned in an effort to raise about $5,000 to purchase a robotic device, called a BomBot, that could check out suspected roadside bombs when members of the water and fuel supply unit are traveling in convoys in Iraq.

'It's possible if the technology had been available a few years ago, Luke would still be here and Chris Leverkuhn would still have his leg,' said Patti Frist, head of the family support group for the 209th. The gas and water supply company is training in Camp Shelby, Miss., in preparation for a possible August deployment to Iraq.

Frist's son, Spc. Luke Frist of Brookston, died after being severely burned when a roadside bomb blew up next to the fuel truck he was driving Jan. 2, 2004, near Ramadi, Iraq, during the 209th's first deployment.

Sgt. Chris Leverkuhn had most of his leg amputated, and Sgt. Chris Henderson suffered shrapnel wounds in the same explosion.

Another Lafayette soldier, Army Spc. Matthew Frantz, was killed Jan. 20 when an improvised explosive device blew up a Humvee in which he was traveling.

Those deaths have inspired Saundra Whiddon, grandmother of Spc. Aaron Whiddon, a member of the 209th, to organize the effort to raise enough money to buy three BomBots.

'This was my personal inspiration for the possibility of acting as Rosie the Riveter-type mothers and grandmothers -- to equip our forces, through a grass-roots movement, with those things that will ensure their being more safe than they have been in the past few months,' Saundra Whiddon said. ...

[bth: what she needs is a Marcbot not a Bombot. Marcbot is for recon while bombot is for EOD teams.]

NPR report: Street costs of Iraqi weapons are rising

The Raw Story NPR report: Street costs of Iraqi weapons are rising: "On NPR's All Things Considered, Phillip Reeves reported on the rising street costs of Iraqi weapons.

'In a dark and tiny room inside his home, a young man - let's call him 'Muhammed' - shows off his wares,' reports Reeves.

'He's reluctant to give his full name, he says it's too risky, afterall, selling weapons in Iraq these days is a dangerous business.'

The sounds of guns being handled are heard as 'Muhammed' describes the bullish market for weapons.

'Look, this is a glock pistol, now it costs 1400 dollars,' says 'Muhammed.' 'Two months ago you could buy it for less than seven hundred dollars.'

'That pistol is not the only weapon to have become dramatically more expensive in recent months,' reports Reeves. ''Muhammed' says there's been a sharp rise in weapons prices across the board in Baghdad.'

'Just after Saddam fell, a Russian AK-47 sold for fifty dollars,' says 'Muhammed.' 'Now it costs 350 dollars.'

'Immediately after the regime collapsed, a rocket propelled grenade was very cheap, no more than 50 dollars,' said the arms dealer. 'Now one costs about 11,000 to 12,000 dollars.'

'Muhammed' blames the rising costs on the 'rise of supply and demand from political groups,' such as the Shiite militia and the Mahdi Army."

The full interview can be heard at NPR's Website.

[bth: interesting that the cost of RPGs has gone up so much.]

President Bush answers questions from downrange

: "ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE � President Bush has met hundreds of families of fallen soldiers, but he has yet to attend a servicemember's funeral, he said Tuesday.

"Because which funeral do you go to? In my judgment, I think if I go to one I should go to all. How do you honor one person but not another?" he said.

The appropriate way to express his appreciation to the family members of fallen troops is to meet with them in private, he said."

In an exclusive interview, Bush sat down with Stars and Stripes to answer questions solicited from U.S. troops now downrange, including the one asking whether he had ever attended a slain soldier’s funeral.

One soldier now serving in Iraq asked how many times he would have to return to the war zone in the next five years. Bush said he did not have an answer.

“The conditions on the ground will determine our troop levels, and one of the main conditions on the ground is the capacity for the Iraqis to take the fight to the enemy, and therefore it is very difficult for me to predict with certainty how many times this particular person would be sent back to Iraq,” Bush said.

Another soldier asked if Army rotations in Iraq could be shortened from one year to six months.

“In asking that question through the chain of command, the response I get is that it’s important to manage the Army flows in such a way that we can sustain our efforts, and they believe — they being the planners in the Army itself — the best way to do it is for a year. And therefore … my answer to the troop is that really depends on what the leadership recommends.”

Last month, the Army secretary, Francis Harvey, said the Army is working toward shortening the combat tours to perhaps six or nine months, but nothing had been settled.

Bush was asked if he was planning any special benefits for U.S. troops who had served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he had already worked to increase military benefits but he had nothing specific in mind for troops who had deployed many times.

“I will work with Congress if people bring up good ideas,” he said.

The questions came from soldiers at FOB O’Ryan, home of D Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, of the 4th Infantry Division of Fort Carson, Colo.

In a question from Stripes, Bush was asked if a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would be acceptable in return for a cease-fire by insurgents.

Bush called the question hypothetical and deferred comment to Gen. George Casey, commander of Multinational Force-Iraq.

Media outlets have reported that Sunni insurgents have offered such a trade-off. Bush said, however, “I’m not sure they have or haven’t. … I will tell you that whatever decisions I make will be made upon the recommendations of commanders and and with one thing in my mind: Can we win?”

Bush was also asked if the strategy of putting relatively few U.S. troops in Afghanistan had backfired, given the resurgent Taliban.

“The strategy all along was to help internationalize the effort, and NATO troops are now moving into where the Taliban thinks that they may be able to make a foothold, or gain a foothold. … We, the United States, have got some quick-strike teams capable of moving, got some good air power in support of the NATO troops, and I compliment the Brits and the Canadians and the Dutch for taking the lead in a tough area,” Bush said.

[bth: actually it is the policy of this administration to down play funerals. To my knowledge the highest ranking civilian to attend one was Wolfowitz. That was for a Colonel. This approach to ignoring them began around Nov 2003 because NPR called me and we did an interview on the subject. They did this at the same time they implemented a policy of blocking photographic coverage at Arlington and Dover. It was one year before the 2004 election Karl passed down the marching orders. Reagan's speech writer was also a guest on the NPR show. He had just written an editorial talking about how important it was for the country to share in the sacrifice and for the president to acknowledge it. He had organized Reagans visit to the aircraft hanger full of dead marines from Beirut. Now as I look back I remembers that scene vividly though I didn't realize it until current times that he actually didn't give a speech. He just stood and acknowledged the flag draped caskets and the families. Bush cannot engage the American public at that deep and emotional level. He just doesn't give a damn.]

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

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Vietnam Was Actually Dangerous in the Air

Regarding Roger Charles’ article (“Abandoned on the Killing Fields – No Medevac Coming,” DefenseWatch, June 23, 2006):Few articles have made me more upset and angry than this Medevac piece. ...

"...As for the Medevac, a LZ has to have ZERO possibility of hostile fire?

Who came up with that? This is a goddamn war for Christ's sake. You'd get zero possibility of hostile fire out on the backside of Fort Bragg, but not Iraq! Once an IED pops off it's done, it's past tense, it already exploded. The Joes roll in, secure the area and a bird still can't come in? What's the worst that could happen? Some hadji pops off some small arms fire either aimed or pot shot, maybe a rocket. There is not a regimental strength size VC/North Vietnamese unit down there.

As absurd as this may sound, what I am about to say, to the layman or someone who had only done a few years in the military, the reason for no Medevac if there is hostile fire might be as simple as this: Some married General or whoever wrote this inanity about Medevac has a chickie poo and chickie poo is maybe a captain, maybe a major and Medevac pilot. If something happens to chickie poo then there will be no more drinking cappuccinos together at the food court in the Green zone, no more late night hooch visits. He can't get her grounded or transferred to his command, too obvious, eyebrows would raise. So all he can do is make it safe as possible for her, while some grunt lies out there bleeding to death. This might sound absurd and is just conjecture, but it shows just how selfish, how self-serving, how hypocritical our senior military leaders have become. Their motto is "Don't do as I do, do as I say." They end their emails with "Soldiers First"or "Taking Care of Soldiers" or some phrase in Latin.

Every formation, every speech, is about "taking care of soldiers"and, "The soldier is our most vital asset"etc. The Polyester Prince isn’t an anomaly; he is the norm.

Was watching on the History Channel the other day a show about SF CCN Strike team Alabama. They were surrounded by battalion-sized elements of VC and NVA and needed extraction desperately. Everything humanly possible was done to get these guys and their Vietnamese counterparts out. F-4 Phantoms were rolling in, cocks to tree tops. One Phantom pilot inverts his aircraft upside down to dump his napalm so he can ensure the canisters hit the treeline where its needed. The Marines “Scarface” helicopter unit is down on the deck, getting riddled with bullets so they can skip their 2.75-inch rockets off of the ground into the treeline where its needed. Army Hueys are down on the deck with miniguns blazing, killing hundreds of VC/NVA, hundreds.

Our guys now can’t be saved when a Medevac is needed because an IED had popped off (past tense, it’s over) and there might be a few hadjis out there?

Heads need to roll on this one.

There are a handful of Vietnam veterans still in service, mostly NG in Iraq. I had the pleasure of talking with one, a 58-year-old helicopter pilot with a MACV combat patch and I’m sure many others on different uniforms. Stars and Stripes had done a piece on them actually last year sometime, these two guys.

I asked him what was the main difference between flying here and flying in Vietnam, other than the lack of trees and different terrain, obviously. He stated quite simply, “Vietnam was actually dangerous in the air.”

--Sargebo
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U.S. Thinks Osama bin Laden Hides in One of CIS States

Armenian News - PanARMENIAN.Net Armenian News Agency - U.S. Thinks Osama bin Laden Hides in One of CIS States: "PanARMENIAN.Net/ Osama bin Laden is hiding on the territory of one of the central Asian states of the former USSR, Richard Clarke, former presidential adviser on counter-terrorism said in an interview with the National Public Radio. "You are looking for him throughout Pakistan and can't find him. Maybe it's just because he is not there," he said. However he did not exclude bin Laden may be in Somali or Iran. Russia refused to comment on the statement.

"We do not know whether such statements are grounded and cannot comment on them," said the press office of the Russian Intelligence Service. In response to the statement by the U.S. official the law enforcement bodies of Kyrgyzstan said today they do not possess any information on the issue.

"This statement should be given serious treatment," Secretary of the Security Council of the republic said. He underscored he doesn't exclude the possibility of bin Laden's appearance in the region. The Central Asian republics should be vigilant, he added.

Bin Laden is the 'most wanted' man in the western countries. As part of an intensified effort to capture terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, the State Department is considering doubling the bounty on his head to $50 million.

Bin Laden was rumored in the press to have died, however the rumors did not prove true. In an address to the U.S. Osama bin Laden urged to return the body of his top deputy Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in Iraq June 7. Washington said the voice was genuine, reported Vsglyad Russian newspaper"
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In Ramadi, Fetid Quarters and Unrelenting Battles

In Ramadi, Fetid Quarters and Unrelenting Battles - New York Times: "RAMADI, Iraq, July 4 � The Government Center in the middle of this devastated town resembles a fortress on the wild edge of some frontier: it is sandbagged, barricaded, full of men ready to shoot, surrounded by rubble and enemies eager to get inside. "

The American marines here live eight to a room, rarely shower for lack of running water and defecate in bags that are taken outside and burned.

The threat of snipers is ever present; the marines start running the moment they step outside. Daytime temperatures hover around 120 degrees; most foot patrols have been canceled because of the risk of heatstroke.
The food is tasteless, the windows boarded up. The place reeks of urine and too many bodies pressed too close together for too long.

"Hey, can you get somebody to clean the toilet on the second floor?" one marine yelled to another from his office. "I can smell it down here."

And the casualties are heavy. Asked about the wounded under his command, Capt. Andrew Del Gaudio, 30, of the Bronx, rattled off a few.

"Let's see, Lance Corporal Tussey, shot in the thigh.

"Lance Corporal Zimmerman, shot in the leg.

"Lance Corporal Sardinas, shrapnel, hit in the face.

"Lance Corporal Wilson, shrapnel in the throat."

"That's all I can think of right now," the captain said.

So it goes in Ramadi, the epicenter of the Iraqi insurgency and the focus of a grinding struggle between the American forces and the guerrillas.

In three years here the Marine Corps and the Army have tried nearly everything to bring this provincial capital of 400,000 under control. Nothing has worked.

Now American commanders are trying something new.

Instead of continuing to fight for the downtown, or rebuild it, they are going to get rid of it, or at least a very large part of it.
They say they are planning to bulldoze about three blocks in the middle of the city, part of which has been reduced to ruins by the fighting, and convert them into a Green Zone, a version of the fortified and largely stable area that houses the Iraqi and American leadership in Baghdad.

The idea is to break the bloody stalemate in the city by ending the struggle over the battle-scarred provincial headquarters that the insurgents assault nearly every day. The Government Center will remain, but the empty space around it will deny the guerrillas cover to attack. "We'll turn it into a park," said Col. Sean MacFarland.

Ramadi, a largely Sunni Arab city, is regarded by American commanders as the key to securing Anbar Province, now the single deadliest place for American soldiers in Iraq. Many neighborhoods here are only nominally controlled by the Americans, offering sanctuaries for guerrillas.

While the focus in Baghdad and other large Iraqi cities may be reconciliation or the political process, here it is still war.

Sometimes the Government Center is assaulted by as many as 100 insurgents at a time.

Last week a midnight gun battle between a group of insurgents and American marines lasted two hours and ended only when the Americans dropped a laser-guided bomb on an already half-destroyed building downtown. Six marines were wounded; it was unclear what happened to the insurgents.
"We go out and kill these people," said Captain Del Gaudio, the commander here. "I define success as continuing to kill the enemy to allow the government to work and for the Iraqi Army to take over."

Government Mostly in Name

That day seems a long way off. The Iraqi government exists here in little more than name. Last week about $7 million disappeared from the Rafidain Bank — most of the bank's deposits — right under the nose of an American observation post next door. An Iraqi police officer was shot in the face and dumped in the road, his American ID card stuck between his fingers.

The governor of the province, Mamoun Sami Rashid al-Alwani, still goes to work here under an American military escort. But many of the province's senior officials deserted him after the kidnapping and beheading of his secretary in May.

The previous governor was assassinated, as was the chairman of the provincial council, Khidir Abdel Jabar Abbas, in April. At a meeting of the provincial cabinet last week, only six of 36 senior officials showed up.

"The terrorists want to keep Anbar people out of the government," said Taha Hameed Mokhlef, the director general for highways, who went into hiding last month when his face appeared on an American-backed television station here showing him in his job. He has since re-emerged. "My friends told me that the terrorists were planning to kill me, so I went to Jordan for a while," he said.

The Iraqi police patrol the streets in only a handful of neighborhoods, the ones closest to the American base. In the slow-motion offensive that has been unfolding, in which the Americans have been gradually clearing individual neighborhoods, nearly all of the fighting has been done by American marines and soldiers, not the Iraqi Army.

The 800-member Third Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment, which until recently was responsible for holding most of the city on its own, has lost 11 marines since arriving in March.

Commanders declined to disclose the number of wounded. Over all in Iraq the number of American wounded in action is roughly seven times the number killed.

Be Polite, and Ready to Kill

One of the "habits of mind" drilled into the marines from posters hung up inside: "Be polite, be professional and have a plan to kill everyone you meet."

The humor runs dark, too. On a sheet of paper hung up in the Government Center, marines wrote down suggestions for their company's T-shirt once they go home. Most are unprintable, but here is one that got a lot of laughs: "Kilo Company: Killed more people than cancer."

The marines at the Government Center have held on, but the fighting has transformed the area into an ocean of ruin. The sentries posted on the rooftops have blasted the larger buildings nearby so many times that they have given them nicknames: Battleship Gray, Swiss Cheese. The buildings are among those that will be bulldozed under the Green Zone plan.

"Aesthetically it will be an improvement," Lt. Col. Stephen Neary said.

Holding the place has cost blood. A roadside bomb killed three marines and a sailor on patrol here in March. Another marine was shot through the forehead by a sniper, just beneath the line of his helmet.

The number of Iraqi casualties — insurgents or civilians — is unknown and impossible to determine in the chaotic conditions.

As in the rest of Iraq, the insurgents' most lethal weapon is the homemade bomb. The bombs virtually cover Ramadi: an American military map on display here showed about 50 places where roadside bombs had recently been discovered.

Two weeks ago a marine sniper was killed by a homemade bomb when he ran from a house where he had been spotted.

Bombs Nearly Everywhere

Sometimes it feels as if the bombs are everywhere. On a single hourlong patrol one night last week, a group of marines spotted two likely bombs planted in an area that is regularly inspected, meaning that they had been laid within the previous few days.

One was hidden under a pile of trash. Another was thought to be under a pair of gasoline cans that had been set in the middle of the road. The marines spied them with their night vision glasses; without them, it is likely that the Humvees would have run over them.

Indeed, the marines often manage to spot bombs — covered in trash, made of metal and wires — in streets that are themselves covered in trash, metal and wires.

"Right there, look at that," Gunnery Sgt. John Scroggins said from the passenger seat of his Humvee, pointing to the street.

And there it was: a thin metal tube, with a long green wire protruding and sticking into the pavement, almost certainly a bomb. The pipes typically contain what is called a pressure trigger, which closes an electrical circuit — and detonates a bomb — when crushed by a vehicle. The Humvee was about two feet away when the marines spotted it.

Some of the marines have been hit by so many bombs that they almost shrug when they go off. On Sunday a Humvee carrying four marines on a patrol dropped off a reporter and photographer for The New York Times at the Government Center. The Humvee rumbled 100 yards down the road and struck a bomb. No one was killed, and the marines returned to base as if they had encountered nothing more serious than a fender bender.

"It's my fifth," said Cpl. Jonathan Nelson, 21, of Brooklyn. "It's the best feeling in the world to get by one and live — like bungee jumping."

In the end, whether the Americans can succeed in bringing security to Ramadi will depend on how much support they can draw from the Iraqis.

Many Iraqi civilians have spent the last three years caught between the two warring camps, too afraid to throw their lot with one group or the other. It is, by nearly all accounts, a miserable situation, with individual Iraqis often simultaneously under threat by insurgents and under suspicion by the Americans.

Many complain of bad treatment and unjustified killings by both sides. That civilians have been killed here is beyond dispute, but the circumstances are nearly impossible to verify.
Qais Mohammed, 46, owned a dress shop across the street from the Government Center but moved away when the Americans set up and the fighting began. Then a mortar shell hit his home and he moved with his wife and 10 children to a refugee camp outside the city.

Fed up with conditions at the camp, Mr. Mohammed and his family moved back to the city not long ago, into a seedy little place much reduced from the comfort he once knew.

"We do not want gold, or dresses or the food of kings," Mr. Mohammed said. "We want to live without fear for our lives and our kids. These days neither your tribe nor the police can protect you. It is the jungle law."

The marines say their highest priority is winning over people like Mr. Mohammed, even at the cost of letting insurgents escape. Indeed, the marines seem far less aggressive than they were during their earlier tours here, when the priority was killing insurgents. Now they seem much more interested in capturing the loyalty of the residents.

Civilians in the Middle

Iraqi civilians, by and large, did not seem to fear the American marines as they passed on patrol. When the Americans rumbled past, the Iraqis often continued whatever they were doing: talking, sitting, standing, eating. The children held up their hands for soccer balls, and occasionally a marine would toss one to a child.

"Football! Football!" the children cried.

"The people are in the middle, between us and the insurgents," Lance Cpl. Sean Patton said as he wheeled his Humvee through a neighborhood downtown. (He says he is a great-great-grandnephew of Gen. George S. Patton.) "Whoever is friendly, they will help."

A few moments later, Corporal Patton and his men were reminded of just how bewildering this city could be. As he turned slowly down a street, all the Iraqis milling about, maybe 30 people in all, suddenly disappeared.

"They're going to hit us," the corporal said, convinced that the crowd had been tipped off to the presence of a bomb or an impending attack.

When the Americans left the street, the Iraqis returned.
Corporal Patton turned onto the street again, and the people vanished a second time.

"We're going to get hit," he said, bracing himself.

The attack never came.

[bth: it seems that we either ought to abandon Ramadi , level it or put so much military force on it that we retake control. What is the point of the current strategy? Isn't it about the best case scenario for the insurgents - to get in close, to ambush to hide to level the playing field in an urban environment against embattled Americans? The Lance Corporals deserve a better plan.]

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

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Gunmen kidnap Iraqi deputy minister, 19 bodyguards

ABC News: Gunmen kidnap Iraqi deputy minister, 19 bodyguards: "Jul 4, 2006 � BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Gunmen abducted Iraq's deputy electricity minister and 19 bodyguards after ambushing their convoy in eastern Baghdad on Tuesday, police and Interior Ministry sources said.

Deputy Minister Raad al-Harith was traveling in a convoy near Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City district when gunmen in up to seven vehicles wearing military uniforms blocked their way and kidnapped them, police said.

The Electricity Ministry said it could not confirm the report, but an official said Harith had not arrived for work. Police said the abduction took place at 7.30 a.m. (0330 GMT).

It comes three days after gunmen kidnapped Sunni legislator Taiseer Najah al-Mashhadani and seven of her bodyguards in a northern district bordering Sadr City.

Sunni lawmakers have boycotted the last two sessions of parliament, refusing to return until she is released. Some Sunni leaders have blamed the kidnapping on Shi'ite militias."
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Taliban Kill Afghan Interpreters Working for U.S. and Its Allies

Taliban Kill Afghan Interpreters Working for U.S. and Its Allies - New York Times: "KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, July 3 � Troops of the American-led coalition in this country are taking a hard look at their security procedures after the deaths of at least 10 Afghans working as interpreters for the coalition in the last month, a military spokesman said Monday."

Some were killed while accompanying foreign troops during combat, but others seem to have been singled out by Taliban insurgents for working for the coalition, other interpreters said.

Most of them are young Afghans who have taken English language courses in Afghanistan.

Taliban-led violence has increased significantly in the last six months, with insurgents making a determined show of force as NATO prepares to take over military command of southern Afghanistan from the United States later this month.
Many civilians have been caught in the violence, including more than 100 employees of the United States Agency for International Development in the last three years, according to the departing chief of the agency's mission in Afghanistan, Alonzo Fulgham. Most of those killed were Afghans, he said....
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ICU attempts to distance itself from bin Laden; Ethiopia Army pushes into central Somalia

Counterterrorism Blog: "Osama bin Laden's endorsement of the Somali al-Qaeda affiliate Islamic Courts Union has caused some consternation within the organization. Osama bin Laden referred to the Islamic Courts as 'our kinfolk and brother mujahidin,' and implored them to 'Seek God's help and prepare the necessary means, especially tank mines and anti-armor RPG's. Be patient like your brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan in this world crusade against our Islamic nation.

You have seen several years ago the defeat of the United States and its allies on your land.'

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the former leader of the ICU, has downplayed bin Laden's remarks. 'Osama bin Laden is expressing his views like any other international figure. We are not concerned about it,' said Ahmed. With the Islamic Courts seizing control of Mogadishu less than a month ago, the leadership is likely trying to obscure relations with al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden's offer of praise and support only draws undue international attention to the actions of the Islamic Courts.

The government of Ethiopia has not ignored the rise of the Islamic Courts. Over the past few weeks it has been reported the Ethiopian Army crossed the border into Somalia (the Ethiopian government vigorously denies this). Multiple sources indicate the Ethiopian Army has occupied the border towns of Berdale & Jawil in the Hiiran region (a region is analogous to a county in the U.S., see map of Somalia), undisclosed towns in the Gedo region, and have pushed as far east as Baidoa in the Bay region.

Baidoa is the seat of the Transitional Government run by President Abdullahi Yusuf who bin Laden singled out for elimination. "There must be no dialogue with Abdullahi Yusuf and his collaborators except with the sword. Don't waste your time. Fight them immediately," said bin Laden. The Ethiopian government backs Yusuf, and is said to be patroling Baidoa with infantry and armor to prevent the Islamic Courts from overrunning the city and toppling the government.

Yesterday we noted approximately 200-300 Ethiopian troops entered Somalia (about two infantry companies with two armored platoons in support). If the Ethiopians have pushed as far east as Biadoa (approximately 140 miles drive to the Ethiopian border), then more than two companies would be needed to secure the lines of communication which extend over three regions.

On Sunday, the African Union has unanimously approved a peacekeeping force to deploy into Somalia. "The African Union will give all its support to the interim government," said Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, the chairman of the African Union. The AU has also called for "dialogue" with the Islamic Courts.

The peacekeepers are to be comprised of African Union countries along with IGAD (the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development), a regional security group made up of the east African nations of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Eritrea. IGAD is based in Djibouti, the home of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. Expect CJTF-HOA to provide logistical, intelligence, communication and close air support to the Ethiopian and future IGAD/African Union peacekeeping forces. With the failure of the warlord Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism, the Ethiopian and African Union mission appears to be Plan B for the United States' efforts to prevent the Talibanization of eastern Africa. The al-Qaeda backed Somali terror camps can no longer be ignored.
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Britain fears 'mission creep' in Afghanistan

Britain fears 'mission creep' in Afghanistan: "London - 'We knew it was going to be a tough fight. The Afghan has fighting in his blood,' said the commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier Ed Butler.

The confident brigadier ought to know what he is talking about, having lost five men to Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan in just three weeks.

The astonishing toll has reinforced fears in Britain that the deployment in Afghanistan could turn into 'mission creep,' an unforeseen escalation and expansion of a project beyond its original goals.

When British troops moved into southern Afghanistan two months ago, their mission was officially defined as one of 'peacekeeping, reconstruction and helping the ordinary Afghan farmer to a better life.'

But after daily confrontations with Taliban militants, it is clear that this rosy picture does not reflect the reality on the ground.

Some experts in London are already predicting that it will not take long for the British death toll in Afghanistan to match the 113 soldiers who have died in Iraq in the last three years.

Butler predicted there would be more death: 'Like the start of any operation, one anticipates casualties and we are prepared.

In the majority of engagements we have had with the Taliban, we have overwhelmingly defeated him and he is starting to suffer from this attrition.' "

But the brigadier, echoing officials and military leaders in London, rejects and comparisons with Iraq: 'They are two different missions.'

The government was at pains Monday to deny press reports that Britain was preparing to deploy 1,000 more combat troops to the southern Helmand province and its 'rebel-infested' northern town of Sangin.

But experts believe it will only be a question of time when London will have to give in to pressure for 'more boots on the ground' in Afghanistan.

Last week, senior generals told Prime Minister Tony Blair they needed more troops and aircraft if the mission was to succeed, while military commanders openly concede that they are 'struggling' to control the province.

Following the deployment of 3,300 soldiers in May, as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) committed itself to a 'peak deployment' of 5,700 men and women.

It is now widely expected that this figure will be exceeded in view of daily 'deadly confrontations' between western troops and Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan.

When the deployment was announced a year ago, its mission was said to be two-fold: Reconstruction of the poor and war-torn region and eradication of the poppy harvest, which accounts for 95 per cent of the heroin on Britain's streets.

The pledge by John Reid, defence secretary at the time, that British troops would not be involved in fighting the Taliban, has been exposed as false, as even government officials admit that the 'nature of the mission in Afghanistan has changed radically.'

British commanders in Afghanistan concede that the Taliban is a well-organized and equipped force that has the capability to mount a serious challenge to British efforts to assert control over Helmand, said the Guardian Monday.

Militant Taliban fighters were no longer written off as a 'spent force' in western military circles, as their 'emboldened tactics seem near-suicidal,' the Guardian added.

Taliban fighters account for most of the 1,100 Afghan combat deaths this year. The Taliban regularly lose 20 men for every Afghan or western casualty, according to unconfirmed coalition death tolls cited in the Guardian.

The role of securing the main towns in Helmand province was originally supposed to be undertaken by Afghan army units. But only 500 Afghans have so far been recruited for the task, the Daily Telegraph reported Monday.

'It's no good us defeating the Taliban, the moment we turn our backs, they creep back into the towns and take control,' a senior British officer told the Telegraph. 'We need to be able to establish a permanent presence in all the key towns, and to do that we need more troops.'

Blair, meanwhile, whose Premiership has been blighted by the Iraq war, is desperately trying to avoid British troops being sucked deeper into the Afghan conflict, instead appealing to other NATO states to provide 'practical support for British troops' in Helmand.

[bth: we're spread too thin.]