Saturday, July 15, 2006

Baghdad starts to collapse as its people flee a life of death

Baghdad starts to collapse as its people flee a life of death - World - Times Online: "As I hung up the phone, I wondered if I would ever see my friend Ali alive again. Ali, The Times translator for the past three years, lives in west Baghdad, an area that is now in meltdown as a bitter civil war rages between Sunni insurgents and Shia militias. It is, quite simply, out of control.

I returned to Baghdad on Monday after a break of several months, during which I too was guilty of glazing over every time I read another story of Iraqi violence. But two nights on the telephone, listening to my lost and frightened Iraqi staff facing death at any moment, persuaded me that Baghdad is now verging on total collapse."

Ali phoned me on Tuesday night, about 10.30pm. There were cars full of gunmen prowling his mixed neighbourhood, he said. He and his neighbours were frantically exchanging information, trying to identify the gunmen.

Were they the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia blamed for drilling holes in their victims’ eyes and limbs before executing them by the dozen? Or were they Sunni insurgents hunting down Shias to avenge last Sunday’s massacre, when Shia gunmen rampaged through an area called Jihad, pulling people from their cars and homes and shooting them in the streets?

Ali has a surname that could easily pass for Shia. His brother-in-law has an unmistakably Sunni name. They agreed that if they could determine that the gunmen were Shia, Ali would answer the door. If they were Sunnis, his brother-in-law would go.

Whoever didn’t answer the door would hide in the dog kennel on the roof.

Their Plan B was simpler: to dash 50 yards to their neighbours’ house — home to a dozen brothers. All Iraqi homes are awash with guns for self-defence in these merciless times. Together they would shoot it out with the gunmen — one of a dozen unsung Alamos now being fought nightly on Iraq’s blacked-out streets.

“We just have to wait and see what our fate is,” Ali told me. It was the first time in three years of bombs, battles and kidnappings that I had heard this stocky, very physical young man sounding scared, but there was nothing I could do to help.

The previous night I had had a similar conversation with my driver, a Shia who lives in another part of west Baghdad. He phoned at 11pm to say that there was a battle raging outside his house and that his family were sheltering in the windowless bathroom.

Marauding Mahdi gunmen, seeking to drive all Sunnis from the area, were fighting Sunni Mujahidin for control of a nearby strategic position. I could hear the gunfire blazing over the phone.

We phoned the US military trainer attached to Iraqi security forces in the area. He said there was nothing to be done: “There’s always shooting at night here. It’s like chasing ghosts.”

In fact the US military generally responds only to request for support from Iraqi security forces. But as many of those forces are at best turning a blind eye to the Shia death squads, and at worst colluding with them, calling the Americans is literally the last thing they do.

West Baghdad is no stranger to bombings and killings, but in the past few days all restraint has vanished in an orgy of ethnic cleansing.

Shia gunmen are seeking to drive out the once-dominant Sunni minority and the Sunnis are forming neighbourhood posses to retaliate. Mosques are being attacked. Scores of innocent civilians have been killed, their bodies left lying in the streets.

Hundreds — Sunni and Shia — are abandoning their homes. My driver said all his neighbours had now fled, their abandoned houses bullet-pocked and locked up. On a nearby mosque, competing Sunni and Shiite graffiti had been scrawled on the walls.

A senior nurse at Yarmouk hospital on the fringes of west Baghdad’s war zone said that he was close to being overwhelmed. “On Tuesday we received 35 bodies in one day, 16 from Al-Furat district alone. All of them were killed execution-style,” he said. “I thought it was the end of the city. I packed my bags at once and got ready to leave because they could storm the hospital at any moment.”

In just 24 hours before noon yesterday, as parliament convened for another emergency session, 87 bodies were brought to Baghdad city morgue, 63 of them unidentified.

Since Sunday’s massacre in Jihad, more than 160 people have been killed, making a total of at least 1,600 since Iraq’s Government of national unity came to power six weeks ago. Another 2,500 have been wounded.

In early June, Nouri al-Maliki, the new Prime Minister, flooded Baghdad’s streets with tens of thousands of soldiers and police in an effort to restore order to the capital.

More recently, he announced a national reconciliation plan, which promised an amnesty to Sunni insurgents and the disbandment of Shia militias. Both initiatives are now in tatters.

The country is sliding fast towards civil war,” Ali Adib, a Shia MP, told the Iraqi parliament this week. “Security has deteriorated in a serious and unprecedented way,” said Saadi Barzanji, a Kurdish MP.

Mr al-Maliki told parliament: “We all have a last chance to reconcile and agree among each other on avoiding conflict and blood. If we fail, God knows what the fate of Iraq will be.”

Joseph Biden, the senior Democrat on the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, described Baghdad after a recent visit as a city in the throes of “nascent civil war”.

Most Iraqis believe that it is already here. “There is a campaign to eradicate all Sunnis from Baghdad,” said Sheikh Omar al-Jebouri, of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni parliamentary group. He said that it was organised by the Shia-dominated Interior Ministry and its police special commandos, with Shia militias, and aimed to destroy Mr al-Maliki’s plans to rebuild Iraq’s security forces along national, rather than sectarian, lines.

Ahmed Abu Mustafa, a resident of the Sunni district of Amariyah in western Baghdad, was stunned to see two police car pick-ups speed up to his local mosque with cars full of gunmen on Tuesday evening and open fire on it with their government-issued machineguns.

Immediately, Sunni gunmen materialised from side streets and a battle started. “I’d heard about this happening but this was the first time I’d seen police shooting at a mosque,” he said. “I was amazed by how quickly the local gunmen deployed. I ran for my life.”

Yesterday, General George Casey, the most senior US commander in Iraq, said that the US might deploy more American troops in Baghdad. He said that al-Qaeda, to show that it was still relevant, had stepped up its attacks in Baghdad following the killing last month of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. “What we are seeing now as a counter to that is death squads, primarily from Shia extremist groups, that are retaliating against civilians.”

A local journalist told me bitterly this week that Iraqis find it ironic that Saddam Hussein is on trial for killing 148 people 24 years ago, while militias loyal to political parties now in government kill that many people every few days. But it is not an irony that anyone here has time to laugh about. They are too busy packing their bags and wondering how they can get out alive.

My driver and his extended family are now refugees living in The Times offices in central Baghdad.

Ali is also trying to persuade his stubborn family to leave home and move into our hotel.

Those that can are leaving the country. At Baghdad airport, throngs of Iraqis jostle for places on the flights out — testimony to the breakdown in Iraqi society.

One woman said that she and her three children were fleeing Mansour, once the most stylish part of the capital. “Every day there is fighting and killing,” she said as she boarded a plane for Damascus in Syria to sit out the horrors of Baghdad.

A neurologist, who was heading to Jordan with his wife, said that he would seek work abroad and hoped that he would never have to return. “We were so happy on April 9, 2003 when the Americans came. But I’ve given up. Iraq isn’t ready for democracy,” he said, sitting in a chair with a view of the airport runway.

Fares al-Mufti, an official with the Iraqi Airways booking office, told The Times that the national carrier had had to lay on an extra flight a day, all fully booked. Flights to Damascus have gone up from three a week to eight to cope with the panicked exodus.

Muhammad al-Ani, who runs fleets of Suburban cars to Jordan, said that the service to Amman was so oversubscribed that that prices had rocketed from $200 (£108) to $750 per trip in the past two weeks.

Despite the huge risks of driving through the Sunni Triangle, the number of buses to Jordan has mushroomed from 2 a day to as many as 40 or 50.

Abu Ahmed, a Sunni who was leaving Ghazaliya with his family and belongings, said that he was ready to pay the exorbitant prices being charged because his wife had received a death threat at the hospital in a Shia area where she worked.

“We can’t cope, we have to take the children out for a while,” he said.

In one of the few comprehensive surveys of how many Iraqis have fled their country since the US invasion, the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants said last month that there were 644,500 refugees in Syria and Jordan in 2005 — about 2.5 per cent of Iraq’s population. In total, 889,000 Iraqis had moved abroad, creating “the biggest new flow of refugees in the world”, according to Lavinia Limon, the committee’s president.

And the exodus may only just be starting.

[bth: stunning that you don't see an equivalent article being published in an American paper. ... with 60% of Baghdad Shia, 20% Kurdish and 20% Sunni Arab, it seems likely that Baghdad a/k/a Beirut will become dominated by Shia - likely Sadr.]

Cost of Iraq to overtake Korea and Vietnam wars

Cost of Iraq to overtake Korea and Vietnam wars - World - Times Online: "THE Iraq war is set to overtake Korea and Vietnam as the second most expensive overseas military operation in US history, with spending expected to top the $500 billion mark by the end of the decade.

According to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), $291 billion $109 billion) has been allocated for the war, the equivalent of $1,000 for every man, woman and child in the US.

The figures were published amid intense debate in Washington over when -and how fast -the US can begin to pull out of Iraq. The CBO examined two alternative spending projections. Under the first, more optimistic scenario, the US would maintain troop levels in Iraq at 140,000 next year but quickly begin bringing servicemen home thereafter, with almost all forces out by the end of 2009. This would still cost the taxpayer another $184 billion from 2007 to 2010. "

The alternative scenario is a slower drawdown and a US military presence of 40,000 over the long term. This would cost a further $406 billion over the next decade, leaving total costs approaching $700 billion.

Regardless of future costs, operations in Iraq have far exceeded early estimates. Lawrence Lindsey, a former White House economic adviser, was dismissed after predicting that the war could cost between $100 billion and $200 billion.

Congress has approved $437 billion for military operations and other costs related to the War on Terror since the September 11, 2001, attacks. The combined costs of fighting terrorism “could reach $808 billion by 2016”, the report said.

An alternative analysis from the Congressional Research Service, which looked at how much money had been spent rather than merely authorised since the invasion began, put the tally for Iraq at $319 billion, with the war in Afghanistan costing a further $88 billion.

The figures may dampen some of the enthusiasm generated by President Bush this week when he seized on newly reduced federal budget projections as proof that his tax cuts were working. He said that his pledge to slash the deficit in half by 2009 was being fulfilled ahead of schedule.

Democrats have pointed out that the new projected $296 billion deficit for the current fiscal year would still be the fourth-highest so far. But Mr Bush has already blamed the continuing deficit on the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Fighting a War on Terror and defending the homeland imposes great costs, and those costs have helped create budget deficits,” he said.

{Is Castro Dead?} Babalu Blog: The persistence of time rumors.

Babalu Blog: The persistence of time rumors.: "We're going on day four of the latest fidel castro is dead rumors. Here are a couple more uncorroborated reports and speculations:

- Hugo Chavez supposedly took an 'urgent flight' to Cuba yesterday afternoon along with other high ranking Cuban officials. Details or news accounts of same unavailable.
- Granma once again published articles profiling Raul Castro, heir apparent to the dictator throne.

- WHPC reports that there is much action in Cuba at the moment, with reports from Granma stating that workers are 'waging a fierce battle' in attempts to have construction and other related project complete for a huge July 26 island wide celebration. WHPC also speculates that said projects and celebration and construction may be some kind of secret preparations for an elaborate state funeral for the bearded dictator.

- Ive also received unconfirmed reports that castro may not be dead, but suffering from Parkinsons or Alzeimers and not in control of his mental faculties. (natch)

- Several sources have emailed stating that they have been unable to communicate with family and loved ones on the island for several days. Other sources have emailed saying they have been in communication with family in Cuba but have heard nothing of the rumors.

- I personally have yet to hear from certain sources in Cuba via email.
- There have been no reports from local news media regarding the rumors to my knowledge.

Unfortunately, that's all I have that I feel I can publish at the moment without helping perpetuate the rumors. As I've said all along, we have but to wait until July 26 for verification.

Should fidel not appear on his holiday, chances are he is either at death's door or begging Satan not to make him recite the Pledge of Allegiance of the US in perpetuity for all eternity.
Stay "

Counterterrorism Blog: The War Widens, Hezbollah Strikes Egyptian, Israeli Ships with UAVs

Counterterrorism Blog: The War Widens, Hezbollah Strikes Egyptian, Israeli Ships with UAVs: "The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has escalated, as Hezbollah has conducted two sea strikes against an Israeli warship and an Egyptian civilian ship, possibly a cruise liner. While initial reports are stating an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was used to ram the ships, an anonymous intelligence official indicates the Egyptian ship was struck by a UAV launched antitank missile. According to the intelligence official, the Egyptian ship was hit with a Raad anti-tank missile (this is a different weapon than the Raad rockets fired against the city of Haifa.)

The two attacks occurred earlier today, as Hezbollah struck an Israeli Saar 5 navy gunship off the coast of Lebanon. Four Israeli seamen are missing and the ship has been damaged badly enough the Israeli Defense Force pulled it out of service. 'It's the first time the terrorist group -- any terrorist group -- has used a drone in combat, as far as I know,' said DefenseTech's Noah Schachtman. The current reports states an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle laden with explosives hit the Israeli warship.

The Egyptian civilian ship was hit during the same attack on the Israeli warship. 'At the same time as the incident took place in which an Israeli ship was hit, a merchant ship was also hit,' an Israeli spokeswoman stated, according to Reuters.

Initial reports, which as of yet are unconfirmed, indicate the Egyptian vessel may have been a cruise ship.

The fact that two separate ships were struck at the same time, very likely with UAV fired antitank missiles, indicates a level of sophistication far beyond that of Hezbollah. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and Imad Mugniyah clearly have a hand in these operations. The coupling of a UAV with an anti-tank missile requires extensive research, development and testing. It is unlikely Hezbollah conducted these efforts without attracting the attention of the watchful Israelis to their south. And the Iranians possess the technological capabilities; the Raad anti-tank missile is from their arsenal. The use of multiple UAVs over the Mediterranean Sea indicates Hezbollah may have a fleet of these UAVs, which must be maintained.

The UAVs can also be used to strike at Israeli land targets. But the implications of a Hezbollah UAV capable of firing an antitank missile reach farther than the current crisis in the Levant. The Iranians have displayed their ability to deploy UAVs capable of effectively attacking shipping in the Persian Gulf.

This occurs under the backdrop of an Israeli air strikes in Hezbllah-dominated neighborhoods, including an attack on Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's home and Hezbollah's headquarters. Nasrallah survived the attack, and issued a statement of defiance. "You wanted an open war, and we are heading for an open war. We are ready for it. The surprises that I have promised you will start now. Now in the middle of the sea, facing Beirut, the Israeli warship that has attacked the infrastructure, people's homes and civilians - look at it burning," Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said on an broadcast on Hezbollah's Al Manar television.

Today, Syria voiced support of Hezbollah. "The Syrian people are ready to extend full support to the Lebanese people and their heroic resistance to remain steadfast and confront the barbaric Israeli aggression and its crimes," according to the Syrian Baath party. And Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has again called for the destruction of Israel, and voiced solidarity with the Syrians. "If Israel commits another act of idiocy and aggresses Syria, this will be the same as an aggression against the entire Islamic world and it will receive a stinging response." And Moqtada al-Sadr, the Iranian backed Iraqi Shiite cleric who has fought the U.S. and the Iraqi government, has weighed in. “Let it be known to everybody that we in Iraq will not sit by with folded hands before the creep of Zionism,” Sadr said in a written statement.

Iraqi Army Struggles to Lure Sunni Arabs

Iraqi Army Struggles to Lure Sunni Arabs - Los Angeles Times: "RAMADI, Iraq -- Their televised graduation was supposed to be a moment of national celebration: A class of 1,000 Sunni Arab soldiers emerging from basic training would show Iraqis that the country's worsening religious divide was not afflicting the national army.

Two months later, only about 300 of them have reported for duty, U.S. officials say. "

The evaporation of the class underscores the struggling U.S. and Iraqi effort to increase recruitment from the disgruntled Sunni Arab minority, which forms the backbone of the insurgency. The success or failure of the effort holds broad ramifications, especially as U.S. forces begin to hand control of troublesome Sunni cities and neighborhoods to Iraqi soldiers, most of whom are now Shiites and Kurds. Unless more Sunnis join up, soldiers from one sect will increasingly target the hometowns of the other sects -- without U.S. supervision.

"Units that are purely Shiite or Kurd or Sunni are looked on by various other sectors of the community as not being representative of their needs," Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview this year. "A unit that has all Iraqis embedded in it is better able to handle whatever kind of strife comes along."

The 1,000 graduates were part of a program to recruit 6,500 Sunnis from restive Anbar province. But with two classes of enlistees trained, only 530 soldiers have been added to the ranks, said Lt. Col. Mike Negard, a spokesman for the U.S. training command.

"The program is ongoing and its duration is based not on a timetable but to achieving the recruiting goal," Negard said. Though the Iraqi army does not track the religious affiliation of its soldiers, U.S. commanders acknowledge Iraq's military lacks a proportionate number of Sunni troops. The effect of this imbalanced force has been unmistakable.

In Baghdad, civilians in Sunni Arab neighborhoods like Azamiyah and Dora have attacked Iraqi troops, thinking they were Shiite death squads that have slain hundreds of Sunnis. Such attacks have been rising in many parts of Iraq. Key Sunni Arab leaders, such as Anbar Gov. Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Alwani, say people often complain about the behavior of Shiite troops.

In Ramadi, Marines recently held public meetings where residents could scold soldiers who allegedly stole from homes or mistreated civilians. Maamoun and other Sunni Arab politicians have long complained the government waited much too long to recruit from the Sunni heartland in western Iraq.

Recruiting stations targeting Sunnis were only added west of Fallujah in late 2005 or early this year -- while tens of thousands of Shiites had been lining up to enlist in southern Iraq for a year and longer.

The Ministry of Defense blames persistent insurgent attacks in Anbar for the slow recruiting drive. But some critics fault the U.S. military for not making recruitment in Anbar a priority sooner and complain it doesn't track the religious makeup of soldiers.

"It's a mistake not to track the sectarian makeup of the security forces. In fact it's a big mistake," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution.

But he also said getting more Sunni Arabs to enlist carries problems, because of the possibility of insurgents infiltrating the army.

"If you bring too many Sunni Arabs into mixed units, you will set them (the units) up for ambushes, because filtering out insurgents is very hard and imperfect," O'Hanlon said.

U.S. officials track the religious makeup of battalion commanders and above, but say the decision not to ask common soldiers about their religious background was left in Iraqi hands.

"That's not for me to decide," said Negard. Many U.S. commanders play down the importance of balancing the Iraqi army's religious makeup, arguing the main problem is retaining troops who have already joined. "It has nothing to do with them being Sunni or Shiite.

It's all about an army that doesn't have a conscription program. They can leave whenever they want," said Lt. Col. Mark Simpson, head of a U.S. team training an Iraqi army brigade that has only 70 percent of its authorized soldiers.

It's a problem in many places, particularly Iraq's unstable areas. Iraq's 1st and 7th army divisions in Anbar should have a total of about 20,000 soldiers, but U.S. officers acknowledge the units have only half that.

They haven't given up on the Sunni class of 1,000, however. "We've put out the message to get them back.

We've asked city leaders to help get the message out," said Marine 1st Lt. David Meadows. "It doesn't mean they're lost."

[bth: we are training a predominantly Shiite or Kurdish sectarian army. The fact that the divisions are only half staffed has to do also with the graft system set up to pay soldiers. Because they are paid in cash, there are ghost soldiers. This is why there are a lot of divisions but all seem to be at half the expected personnel level. It allows officers to pocket the payroll.]

Missing sailor's body recovered

Missing sailor�s body recovered - News from Israel, Ynetnews: "...A senior IDF officer said the ship was struck by an Iranian-made C802 missile, but he refused to say whether or not Iranian activists were behind the launching itself.

The army said two C802 missiles were fired at the vessel; the first missed the ship and struck an Egyptian boat some 60 kilometers (37 miles) off the Lebanon coast.

The stern of the ship was hit shortly after 8:30 p.m. Friday night and a conflagration ignited on the helicopter landing pad. The hit also damaged the ship's internal operating systems. ..."

Report: Israel gives Syria ultimatum

Report: Israel gives Syria ultimatum - News from Israel, Ynetnews: "The London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Saturday that "Washington has information according to which Israel gave Damascus 72 hours to stop Hizbullah's activity along the Lebanon-Israel border and bring about the release the two kidnapped IDF soldiers or it would launch an offensive with disastrous consequences."

The report said “a senior Pentagon source warned that should the Arab world and international community fail in the efforts to convince Syria to pressure Hizbullah into releasing the soldiers and halt the current escalation Israel may attack targets in the country.”

Al-Hayat quoted the source as saying that “the US cannot rule out the possibility of an Israeli strike in Syria,” this despite the fact that the Bush administration has asked Israel to “refrain from any military activity that may result in civilian casualties.”

'Hizbullah made the same mistake'

The report also mentioned that President George W. Bush has repeatedly put much of the blame for the recent escalation on Syria.

“It is no coincidence that the Hizbullah operation comes at a time when the international community is working to impose sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear program and settle the score with Syria by establishing an international court to try those behind the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri,” the Pentagon source said.

According to the source, Hizbullah made the same mistake as Hamas when it did not predict the ramifications of its actions and ignored the regional and international changes since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The source said that Israel has indicated that it “will not end its military activity until a new situation is created that will prevent Syria and Iran from using terror organizations, such as Hamas and Hizbullah, to threaten its security.”

Gunmen abduct 50 people, Iraqi Olympic chief

Gunmen abduct 50 people, Iraqi Olympic chief - Yahoo! News: "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms abducted about 50 people, including the head of Iraq's national Olympic committee, while they were holding a meeting in Baghdad on Saturday, police sources said. "

Details of the mass abduction were sketchy, but police said the incident took place at a major conference center in central Baghdad. Some mass kidnappings reported by police have later turned out to be arrests made by other security departments.

Police sources said the well-known Olympic Committee chief Ahmed al-Hadjiya and 21 bodyguards had been taken, along with some 30 athletes, by gunmen in blue camouflage uniforms who were driving official-looking four-wheel drive vehicles.

A Reuters journalist saw a convoy of such vehicles with a large number of young people apparently under arrest driving at speed through the Karrada neighbourhood close to the conference hall around 1.30 p.m. (0930 GMT). It was not clear if the incidents were related.

Iraq's Olympic Committee was dominated by
Saddam Hussein''s son Uday until the U.S. invasion of 2003.

Robots: The Future is Here

Robots: The Future is Here: "...Dr. John Leonard of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said that the six fundamental challenges in autonomous robot development are locomotion, mapping and navigation, motion planning, object recognition, manipulation of objects, and cooperation between robots. Dr. Leonard's research focuses on Autonomous Underwater and Sea Surface Vehicles whose uses include undersea mapping and mine detection and minefield mapping, as well as ship inspection. Groups of networked autonomous underwater vehicles could potentially provide position, mapping, communication, and surveillance capabilities to surface fleets or ships. Dr. Leonard has also built autonomous surface craft with off-the-shelf technology that could have applications in disaster-relief situations such as hurricanes, tsunamis, or floods, where they could rescue survivors, deliver food, water, and medical supplies, or even help establish an emergency communications network for emergency personnel. "...

In the past 15 years, better electronics and computers have led to progress in robotics, according to Dr. Lumelsky. Robots have become very good at structured tasks—such as automobile body welding—but are still not good at unstructured interaction with humans. NASA is working on sensor-studded "skin" that can be used to cover robotic arms so that they can interact with their environment in an unstructured manner.

According to Mr. Stephen Welby of the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), robotics use in national security is trending towards more autonomy in increasingly complex environments. Robots have advantages over humans in areas such as strength, size, mobility, expendability, and the types of environments in which they can work. For example, the U.S. Air Force's aircraft with the single most combat hours is a RQ-4A Global Hawk robotic surveillance aircraft. This aircraft can operate for over 24 hours at an altitude of over 65,000 feet—something a human pilot cannot do. ...

CEO of Point Blank's parent resigns 07/14/2006 CEO of Point Blank's parent resigns: "The head of Pompano Beach-based Point Blank Body Armor's parent company intends to resign, ending a tumultuous reign that lately has been dogged by federal and internal investigations.

Parent DHB Industries also announced it will settle shareholder lawsuits for $34.9 million and nearly 3.2 million shares of company stock. The agreement requires approval by a New York federal court.

Point Blank produces protective vests for soldiers and police at plants in Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach and Oakland Park. The company employs about 880 people in South Florida.

Westbury, N.Y-based DHB offered no additional details on the resignation of Chairman and Chief Executive David Brooks, who has been at the helm of DHB since its inception in 1992. DHB gets its name from Brooks' initials.

A company spokesman had no more details. Brooks' lawyer, C. Neil Gray, declined to comment. Brooks is expected to fund personally some of the litigation settlement.

Brooks oversaw DHB's growth from a tiny company into a significant supplier of bullet-resistant gear to the military. DHB's revenue soared with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with revenues for the first nine months of last year reaching $264 million. That's the last time it reported results; the company has since warned investors not to rely on its financial reports for the period.

But Brooks' tenure has been mired in various controversies. Among them:"

• A Marine Corps Times investigation in May 2005 questioned the safety of Point Blank's combat vests, prompting a recall. DHB responded that it knew of no reported casualties.

• DHB's shareholders sued the company and Brooks, accusing him of selling $195 million in stock in late 1994 while failing to disclose adverse information. DHB had said the suits were baseless.

• DHB had to replace body armor sold to police agencies and officers to settle a lawsuit filed in Broward County, costing the company at least $45 million.

• Securities and Exchange Commission staff in May recommended the agency bring a civil action against the company for accounting violations. That same month, Newsday reported that federal officials opened a criminal investigation into possible fraud and insider trading at DHB.

The paper said the company denied any wrongdoing.

The announcement of Brooks' departure comes three days after he was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of investigations into DHB's accounting.

As part of the settlement, DHB agreed to adopt corporate governance provisions and replace unnamed directors within a year.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Israel Says Hezbollah Drone Damages Warship

: "JERUSALEM (AP) -- An unmanned Hezbollah aircraft rigged with explosives slammed into an Israeli warship late Friday, causing heavy damage to the vessel, military officials said.

The attack indicated that Hezbollah has added a new weapon to the arsenal of rockets and mortars it has used against Israeli troops.

The army said the warship suffered severe damage and several hours after the attack, was still on fire as it headed back to Israel. There was no word on casualties, though the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera reported the Israeli military was searching for four missing sailors after the ship was hit by a rocket"

The military officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak to the media. The army spokesman's office would say only that the cause of the attack was still under investigation.

Hezbollah has managed to fly unmanned spy drones over northern Israel at least twice in recent years.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV had reported that guerillas attacked an Israeli warship that had been firing missiles into south Beirut.

"Now in the middle of the sea, facing Beirut, the Israeli warship that has attacked the infrastructure, people's homes and civilians - look at it burning," Hezbollah's leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said.

Immediately after Nasrallah's pre-recorded audio tape was aired, Arab television showed nighttime footage of what they said was the Israeli warship burning. But the footage was unclear.

[bth: the use of simple ground, air and surface (water) unmanned vehicles is fundamentally changing warfare.]


'BAT MITZVAH' BROOKS NAILED By PAUL THARP with Post wires - New York Post Online Edition: Business: "July 14, 2006 -- David Brooks - who made headlines last December for stiffing people who staged his lavish $10 million Rainbow Room bat mitzvah for his daughter, featuring Aerosmith and rapper 50-Cent - has been ordered to cough up millions to investors in his flopped body-armor company.

Brooks, 51, is currently under investigation for rigged trading on his company. He agreed to pay back investors as much as $22 million of the nearly $900 million that was wiped out from shares of his former high-flyer, DHB Industries and its Point Blank Body Armor. "

The deal would end class action lawsuits pending in Brooklyn federal court, but won't stop a probe by regulators over allegations of a pump-and-dump scheme involving management, cooked books and insider trading.

Westbury, L.I.-based DHB said it also resolved a second complaint, brought by shareholders on behalf of the company, by agreeing to replace some board members and make other changes, according to a DHB statement distributed by PRNewswire.

"The company has not admitted and will not admit to any wrongdoing in the cases," DHB said. "The actions are being settled because of expense and uncertainty."

Brooks was accused in lawsuits of dumping $186 million of his own shares when he learned that his bullet-proof vests were going to be recalled for failing to block bullets.

He made a fortune peddling his body armor to the U.S. military and cops around the country.

The Marine Corps recalled more than 15,000 vests from its troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa following reports the armor didn't stop bullets.

Gold Star Mothers National Convention July 2006. Alma Hart at left, Mrs. Helen Latanovich from Somerville, MA at right. Helen is a Vietnam era Gold Star Mother and has volunteered at the Bedford VA Hospital for 37 years. One amazing lady. Posted by Picasa

Capitol Hill Blue's The Rant: Who hired these clowns?

Capitol Hill Blue's The Rant: Who hired these clowns?: "Yeah, I'm feeling real safe, secure in the knowledge that George W. Bush's American Gestapo, also known as the Department of Homeland Security, is keeping Islamic-spouting madmen from bombing the shit out of petting zoos, Amish popcorn factories and fast food outlets."

A peek at the DHS list of "top terror targets" also has me wondering "what bozo hired these shitheads?"

Let's face it. The Bush Administration long ago surpassed the Keystone Kops as a law enforcement joke. The only difference between these assholes and The Three Stooges is that the Stooges didn't have nuclear weapons and heavy artillery.

DHS obviously believes it can keep America safe by guarding Old McDonald's Petting Zoo in Indiana while leaving this country's ports wide open to smuggle in a suitcase nuke in a standard cargo shipping container.

Indiana leads all other states in potential terror targets according to DHS. Yes, Indiana. I've spent a fair amount of time in the Hoosier State and while it is a nice enough place to drive through I can't image Ahmed and his merry band of suicide bombers targeting the place as a blow to U.S. imperialism. Hell there's some places there that an explosion or two might qualify as an improvement or at least urban renewal.

And while DHS is making sure Amish popcorn is protected from rampaging terrorists, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is over in Iraq making fun of soldiers who don't have enough armor to protect them from real threats in Bush's manufactured war.

When a soldier spoiled Rumseld's carefully-scripted Iraq "town meeting" by daring to ask why his unit couldn't get the new armored Humvees when New York City seems to have no trouble obtaining such vehicles, Rummy tried to turn it into a joke. Yeah, Americans dying in Iraq while the Secretary of Defense jokes about it. That's really funny.

The absurdity of DHS's terror target list is the latest example of a police state out of control. The Department of Homeland Security is the largest federal bureaucracy in American history, soaking up billions in taxpayer dollars and bloating the deficit to absurd proportions.

DHS money is used to buy assault weapons for one-man sheriff's departments in out-of-the-way western towns and armored personnel carriers in places that haven't had a murder or violent crime in decades.

"The DHS answer for every situation is to throw money at it," says security expert Mike Swearington. "Small town police forces see DHS grants as a gravy train and way to buy new patrol cars they don't need, fancy weaponry they will never use and anti-terror equipment for a place that a terrorist couldn't find with a GPS unit."

Or perhaps DHS has covered a new wrinkle in terror plots. Perhaps Osama has run out of virgins to promise his merry men and now plans to send an elite al-Qaeda force into Old McDonald's Petting Zoo in Indiana to kidnap sheep as replacements.

It's nice to know DHS is on the job, keeping us safe from attacks on the heartland. The next time my wife and I pull over to buy some popcorn from the local Amish we'll feel secure in knowing the feds are making sure Osama's boys don't crash a hijacked Cessna into that stand.

Mrs. Florence Johnson (a/k/a "FloJo"). Gold Star Mother - Vietnam. Past president of the Gold Star Mothers Posted by Picasa

DHB Industries Agrees to Settle 2 Suits DHB Industries Agrees to Settle 2 Suits: "POMPANO BEACH, Fla. � Body armor maker DHB Industries Inc. said Thursday it will pay $34.9 million, as well as replace several directors and adopt new corporate governance standards, to settle pending class-action and shareholder suits.

DHB will pay $34.9 million in cash and 3.2 million shares of stock to settle the class-action securities lawsuit filed against the company and some of its current and former directors and officers. The company will pay $300,000 and adopt the stricter corporate governance controls to settle the derivative suit brought by a shareholder."

Chief Executive David Brooks, who was placed on administrative leave on Monday, also will resign from the company's board and as CEO, DHB Industries said.

The company has been under scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is looking at related-party transactions and executive compensation issues, according to SEC filings. The SEC's staff told the company in May that it may recommend civil injunctive action against it.

The company said it has not and will not admit to any wrongdoing. It said it is settling the cases because of expense and uncertainty.

Under the settlement agreement, which still needs court approval to be final, the company agreed to replace certain unnamed directors within one year. It will also adopt new corporate governance standards, with controls on financial and performance reporting.

The company said it expects liability insurance to cover $12.9 million of the $34.9 million being paid in the settlement. The balance will come from the company. Brooks is expected to help fund the payment by exercising 3 million warrants.

The cases are pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

DHB Industries shares rose 9 cents, or 6.9 percent, to $1.40 in over-the-counter trading. The stock has traded between 50 cents and $9.48 over the past 52 weeks.

[bth: I can't believe Brooks negotiated such as a sweetheart deal. So he sold $175 million in stock and options on insider information that the marines had been sent defective vests but before that information was public. His public investors took a freefall and he sold his shares around $17. He pockets the cash. He then gets in the in the money warrants from what I can see last year - 2005 which he evidently is going to exercise as part of his cash settlement. Of course the financials of the company are so screwed up 2005s financials aren't event out. So if the stock is now traded and goes back up in price as a result of this settlement, he is likely to make money on the warrants and use a portion of the proceeds to pay off the class action settlement? Such a deal! Crime does pay. Fascinating.]

Mrs. Adams. Gold Star Mother from Buffalo, NY- USS Iowa. Gold Star Mothers at the NJ Vietnam Memorial Posted by Picasa

Rosenberg: Harts want official record �straightened out� - Opinion & Letters: Rosenberg: Harts want official record �straightened out�: "Brian Hart of Bedford has spent most of the 33 months since his son John's combat death in Iraq researching, investigating, inquiring, etworking, demanding. He says his mission is 'increasing awareness of the problem'- troops without proper armor and other basic supplies, failed preparedness, and frustrating military procurement practices "

Hart and his wife Alma and their personal loss were the focus of the June 18 Washington Post magazine cover story, an article that documented all aspects of the "problem" as personified by the Bedford family’s tragedy.

Reflecting on this latest exposure, Hart says, "We have been pretty outspoken, but have not allowed ourselves to be diverted from a few simple messages."

"There are two things I want to accomplish now," he explains. "I want the official record straightened out on John’s incident... And I want Americans to start to take responsibility for their own government. I don’t want a very small percentage of the population bearing a disproportionate burden of this war."

Army Pfc. John Daniel Hart was fatally shot on Oct. 18, 2003 while repelling insurgents from the back seat of an unarmored cargo Humvee. His father knows the details of the ambush from Pvt. Chris Williams, who was next to John when he died and who served as military escort for his body. Other details were provided by the specialist who was driving. But the official records, Brian Hart says, are missing.

"The captain who led the convoy apparently attributed the fightoff of the insurgents to Chris Williams, who in actuality didn’t fire a shot. And John, in fact, had fired everything defending the convoy while it was still off the road. He was shot after he ran out of ammunition," Hart recounts. "The article did an excellent job of recording the eyewitness accounts, but the significance of it was somewhat lost because she didn’t say those accounts differed from the captain’s."

"I just feel like before the third anniversary passes, I would like the official record set straight," he said. "I suspect I’m going to have to go through congressmen or senators to make it happen. And it may involve an official investigation, because the report does not reconcile with reality."

Hart’s other goal is one that has been articulated by various commentators and policy-makers. "It is kind of a simple message, but people need to understand what’s happening," he said. "Only two or three percent of the population is actually engaged in this conflict, and the rest of the country is able to skirt responsibility of discussing the war and whether or not we should be prosecuting it."

"There’s no increase in taxes. There’s no conscription. There’s really no obligation on most people’s part at all," he continues. "And until normal Americans are willing to address this issue head-on, it won’t change. It’s just too easy to send someone else’s son to war."

Based on the widespread and generous response to the supply issues he has raised, Hart is convinced that "people feel a duty and a responsibility... It’s not that there isn’t a willingness to have shared sacrifice. It’s that they haven’t been asked to do it. I don’t understand why that is. Hundreds of people save written us, wanting to help. They just don’t know how to do it. People do care."

Last week Hart posted there "Four Ways You Can Make A Difference" on his Web site, (named for an Irish folk song about a young casualty of war):

Soldiers’ Angels ( "supports wounded soldiers with transitional backpacks, personal visits, phone calls, etc." Hart says simple items such as mittens and slippers are invaluable to wounded troops on the long, cold flight to the U.S. from Landstuhl Hospital in Germany.

"There are a number of items which can be donated or purchased for any budget up to and including Kevlar blankets for protection," Hart writes.

Operation Helmet ( provides free helmet upgrade kits for Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. "This wonderful program upgrades the helmets which need padded protection for comfort, stability and protection," Hart reports.

Jacob’s Light Foundation ( sends necessities and comforts from home to troops overseas, especially to personnel without family or support from home. The organization was founded by Dorine Kenney, whose son Jacob was killed in Iraq in November 2003. "Most recently Mrs. Kenney raised money for blood clotting agents when the Army ran out of funds, and got Sen. (Charles) Schumer to sponsor legislation that increased the appropriation for this vital and lifesaving item," Hart explains. The foundation packs and sends toiletries, foods and snacks, reading and writing materials as well as bug wipes, sunscreen, batteries and other necessities along with special items for the holidays.

Soldiers For The Truth (, "a superb advocacy group created by Col. David Hackworth,the most decorated soldier of our era" and run by a retired Marine Colonel named Roger Charles. "Without his shining spotlight, many issues of equipment, training and leadership... would go unchecked and uncorrected." Hart says, noting that the organization is non-partisan and is funded with donations.

"In the craziness of this war," Hart declares, "American values are being reasserted."

(Next week: Mobilizing Gold Star families.)

Gold Star Mothers from Massachusetts and Rhode Island at the national convention in NJ. July 2006. Alma Hart is at right. Posted by Picasa

War and Piece: Analysis on Lebanon July 14

War and Piece:: "Lebanon to send its army to Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon?

Lebanese leaders began talks Thursday evening that might extend government control to the southern border with Israel.

Currently, Hezbollah fighters operate freely in the south. In a statement, the cabinet said only that the government had a right and duty to implement its power over all Lebanese territory.

But officials speaking on condition of anonymity said sending the Lebanese army to the southern border was a possibility.

Hezbollah, which is often dismissive of the Lebanese army's ability, has opposed such a move.

Michael Young, opinion editor of Beirut Daily Star, writing in the NYT, on the Lebanese domestic aspect of Hezbollah's decision to kidnap two Israeli soldiers three days ago:

By unilaterally taking Lebanon into a conflict with Israel, Hezbollah sought to stage a coup d'tat against the anti-Syrian parliamentary and government majority, which opposes the militant group's adventurism.

Hezbollah holds seats in the 128-member Parliament but has an uneasy relationship with the majority, which has been on the defensive as Syria has tried to reassert control over Lebanon after its military withdrawal last year.

Hezbollah hoped to humiliate the anti-Syrian politicians by forcing them to endorse the kidnappings and showing how little control the government has over the party.

Israel wants Lebanon to pay an onerous price for its ambiguity on Hezbollah...

What's his proscription? UN-ordered gradual Hezbollah disarmament, written guarantees Israel would respect Lebanon's sovereignty, and prisoner releases on both sides:

"It would be far smarter for Israel, and America, to profit from Hezbollah’s having perhaps overplayed its hand. The popular mood here is one of extreme anger that the group has provoked a conflict Lebanon cannot win. .... While the United Nations has been ineffective in its efforts toward Middle East peace, it may be the right body to intervene here, if only because it has the cudgel of Security Council Resolution 1559, which was approved in 2004 and, among other things, calls for Hezbollah’s disarmament."

[bth: Israel's silence on Syria suggests the outcome stated above might in fact be the end game.]

The gentleman at left wrote and produced "Twilight's Last Gleaming" a short movie shown at the NJ Vietnam Memorial about an elderly mother in search of her MIA son. It was very powerful. Please go to the NJ memorial. It is worth the trip. Posted by Picasa

Is the Administration Finally Ready to Pull the Trigger on bin Laden?

Is the Administration Finally Ready to Pull the Trigger on bin Laden?: "To the au courant terror analyst, al Qaeda is no longer a terror syndicate, but a brand. Like McDonald's, its franchises are springing up all over the world. It's not a turn-key operation though -- funding and planning are the franchisee's responsibility. On the other hand, any odd amalgam of psycho- and sociopaths can lay claim to the al Qaeda logo.

On board with that point of view, the CIA just announced that at the end of last year it brought a curtain down on its unit assigned the task of hunting for bin Laden, called Alec Station, and reassigned its analysts. To allay concerns that they're letting him skate, CIA officials assured the public that nothing could be further from the truth."

Meanwhile, according to Zaki Chehab in The New Statesman, bin Laden's "presence in the mountainous, tribal areas of Waziristan in Pakistan, is no secret to those in the know. . .

When Hamid Mir, a Pakistani journalist who has interviewed Bin Laden three times, took his family for lunch one day to a restaurant in Peshawar [just east of Waziristan], he spotted two of Bin Laden's bodyguards."

Some have speculated Alec Station was closed because its analysts had grown obsessed. But, CIA vow to continue searching or no, the real reason its doors were shut may have been because it actually completed its mission.

No, bin Laden isn't in custody waiting to be unveiled on election day. In fact, as Chehab explains, despite the "billions of dollars' worth of surveillance equipment [we've spent] on the area. . . it is hard to see how it will penetrate Bin Laden's inner circle."

It's common knowledge that bin Laden hasn't used a cell or satellite phone in years and that his people set up one-time accounts in Internet shops to send emails.

In other words, Alec Station may have globally positioned bin Laden's coordinates, but, typical of today's CIA, running agents is a lost art, thus rendering it incapable of zeroing in on his exact whereabouts.

Bush & Co. have been accused of reluctance to pressure Pakistan's president to apprehend bin Laden.

While Musharraf has flushed out 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 700 others labeled al Qaeda, it's feared seizing or killing bin Laden might push forces antagonistic to him, such as al Qaeda and tribesmen in the border provinces, to the point of no return.

They then might wrest the helm of the ship of state from Musharraf's shaky grip.

With the help of elements within the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) -- Pakistan's Stasi-like "state within a state" -- they could then fulfill every Islamist's dream of turning Pakistan's nuclear weapons into the communal property of Islam.

Another convincing reason the administration has taken its time reeling in bin Laden is his usefulness to them on the loose. His status as the poster bogeyman of terrorism helped the administration scare the public into falling in line behind its rollbacks of civil liberties.

Other reasons float through the ether, such as an allegation in La Repubblica by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's first wife.

She contends that an Al Qaeda source disclosed Zarqawi's whereabouts to the Americans to buy time for bin Laden before we close in on him.Meanwhile, all those reports on the decentralization of al Qaeda and its newfound lack of hierarchy diminish bin Laden's usefulness as either a bogeyman or a trophy.

They telescope the administration's time frame for corraling him before he's reduced to utter impotence.

Then, on June 28, spokesperson Tony Snow announced that the administration had notified Congress of a proposed sale to Pakistan of "18 new F-16 aircraft with an option to purchase another 18 new planes, a support package for up to 26 used F-16s, a munitions package, an upgrade package for Pakistan's current fleet of 34 F-16s, and logistical support."

For 15 years, the US had blocked such sales to Pakistan as a form of sanctions against its nuclear weapons program. The current sale is the result of a decision the administration made in March 2005 to reward Pakistan for its help with al Qaeda.

Of course, the sale is also a way of fortifying Pakistan against its enemies -- not our pal India, but from within, against the day the US finally calls in its markers. It's a safe bet that bin Laden's intinerary, however ad hoc, is familiar to the ISI, from whom Musharraf would then be forced to extract it.

In spite of themselves, even those who suspect the US government is complicit in 9/11 can't help but look forward to the day bin Laden is eliminated. Those who claim he's relinquished power or is broke underestimate him. It behooves us to remember his efforts -- like as not, successful -- to procure suitcase nukes from the Russian mob or Chechyan rebels.

Still, there are two domestic downsides to finding bin Laden. First of course, it might help the Republicans retain one or both houses of Congress. Second, the administration can paddle an attack on Iran into position to catch the wave of popularity bin Laden's demise generates.

July 2006, Gold Star Mothers national convention. Georgie from Florida has the great marine emblem jacket. Posted by Picasa

President's Claim That Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves Refuted By Administration�s Own Analysis, 7/11/06

A Smoking Gun: President�s Claim That Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves Refuted By Administration�s Own Analysis, 7/11/06: "In remarks on July 11 touting revised deficit projections in the Mid-Session Review of the Budget, President Bush once again claimed that tax cuts pay for themselves:

"Some in Washington say we had to choose between cutting taxes and cutting the deficit". Today's numbers show that that was a false choice. The economic growth fueled by tax relief has helped send our tax revenues soaring. That's what has happened."1]

These remarks mirror previous statements by the President, the Vice-President, and key Congressional leaders that the increase in revenues in 2005 and the increase now projected for 2006 prove that tax cuts pay for themselves - that the economy expands so much as a result of tax cuts that it produces the same level of revenue as it would have without the tax cuts.[2]

Economists and budget analysts outside of the administration have explained that these claims are not supported by data or economic theory.[3] Now a Department of Treasury analysis presented in the Mid-Session Review itself confirms what outside experts have consistently said -tax cuts do not come remotely close to paying for themselves.[4] ...

[bth: to scrape it all away, the stimulation from the tax cut occurs through government deficit spending. If spending were adjusted down by the government along with the cuts then the impact is negative.]

NJ Vietnam Memorial. Gold Star Mothers July 2006 Posted by Picasa

Mrs. Meyer from NY. Gold Star Mother. National Convention, July 2006 at the NJ Vietnam Memorial. Mrs. Meyer is seen here standing to announce the name of her marine son and the date of his death. Posted by Picasa

Is it Twilight Time for the Green Zone?

Is it Twilight Time for the Green Zone?: "I try to imagine the Green Zone in Iraq. Even the adjective 'green' conjures up images of lushness, wealth, or both. Some call it 'The Bubble.' Others refer to it as 'Little America.' To most Iraqis, this area is just a distant dream, a Disney World, exotic in its security-a fantasy nearby but, totally and despairingly, out of reach.

One could almost hear an Iraqi family member's saying, 'If we could only make it inside the Green Zone, everything would be all right.' Some Iraqis actually managed to accomplish this and set up housekeeping in what is now called 'The Slum.'

Certainly, this slum within an oasis is infinitely better than a slum in the hell we've created for the people of Iraq. Most of this fortress, though, is for the privileged and is a paradise where money is dumped into wheelbarrows for contractors to play with and distribute at their whim. "

Often referred to as the "Ultimate Gated Community" with its armed checkpoints, razor wire, and a perimeter of impenetrable slabs of concrete, the area in central Baghdad is controlled by "coalition" officials and the New Iraqi Government. Saddam Hussein's former residence, the Presidential Palace, stands there along with multiple villas where his family lived.

Once, I was walking past the Waldorf Astoria when I noticed sand-filled dump trucks, parked front to back around the entire block that surrounds the hotel. Police officers were everywhere as a motorcade of black SUVs brought all other traffic to a halt.

I asked an officer about this and he said, "The President is here."

When George comes to NYC, the Waldorf is his Green Zone.

Sporadically, when our mainstream media feel like defiant adolescents and ignore Lord George's edict that positive images of our accomplishments in Iraq be shown, we see that Baghdad is aflame. Sectarian violence enters our homes as we watch television, basking in the comfort of air-conditioning just like people in the Green Zone. Yes, they have satellite TV, DVDs, telephones, and computers.

They party, have a swimming pool, eat pizza, and can shop at an international flea market.

Occasionally, an insurgent launches a missile, lobs a grenade, or fires mortar shells into this sheltering womb. But other than feeling paranoid about who is trustworthy, most people inside the Green Zone have been pretty content especially when compared to those who are prevented from entering.

Think about this: Suppose there was one area, just one, within your community, where safety was guaranteed.

You have a husband or wife, children, parents, other relatives, friends, all people you love, those you want desperately to protect. But surrounding that single sanctuary is a system that forbids your access.

And this system is operated by the very people who said they were entering your society as saviors to free you from fear and oppression. Would you perceive those within this citadel as liberators? Would you be grateful?

I'm thinking that right about now not even those in the Green Zone are sleeping peacefully. There can be no hiding from the sound of exploding car bombs. There can be no avoiding the smell of fire, billowing smoke, and burning flesh.

I doubt George Bush would pack on 25 pounds of body armor today and fly unannounced into Baghdad to shore up his polls and give the troops a pep talk.

If this zone of safety is penetrated, will the anchors stop saying "edge" and "brink" and finally admit what many of us already recognize-that this is a civil war?"

And will BushCo ever pay for crimes against my family (we will soon mark the first anniversary of my nephew's death in Iraq), every family who's lost a loved one, every troop with a devastating injury, every soldier who will suffer a lifetime from PTSD, every Iraqi changed forever by the neocons' bloodthirsty quest for oil?

It's too late for many of us. Nothing will completely heal our hearts. Peace will help but justice must be served.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She's written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she's a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,'05, she has been writing political articles.

Gold Star Mothers. July 2006. National Convention. NJ Vietnam Memorial Posted by Picasa

Iraq Army Remains Ill-Equipped

The Evening Bulletin - Iraq Army Remains Ill-Equipped: "A new study from The Center for Strategic and International Studies claims that the United States has failed to transfer heavy armored platforms and weapons to the Iraq Army. In a report entitled 'Iraqi Force Development in 2006,' CSIS said most of the weapons delivered to the army were assault rifles, light and medium vehicles and body armor."

"The level of equipment delivered to Iraqi forces do not, however, provide the armor, artillery, heavy weapons, and tactical mobility they needed to operate without U.S. support, and left the police particularly vulnerable," the report, authored by senior fellow Anthony Cordesman, said.

"At the same time, central and national facilities were generally better funded and more secure than facilities in the field and urban areas, presenting problems in deploying and protecting forces in the field."

Released in June, the report said the Iraq Army has advanced in procurement efforts.

By the end of 2005, the army received more than 95,000 assault rifles, 4,400 machine guns, almost 95,000 sets of body armor, more than 3,500 vehicles, 83,000 batons and more than 105,00 sets of handcuffs.

"According to coalition planners, the Iraqi Armed Forces received equally light equipment between January 2006 and May 2006," the report said.

The Iraq Army, with about 125,000 troops, received some heavy platforms in 2005.

The report said the army's 9th Mechanized Division received 77 Hungarian-donated T-72 tanks and 36 Greek-donated BMP-1 armored personnel carriers.

The report said these vehicles were integrated into the 2nd Brigade, comprised of two tank battalions and one mechanized battalion.The Iraqi Defense Ministry has been blamed for some of the shortage of heavy equipment.

In 2005, the ministry spent $1.3 billion on equipment that was either substandard or never delivered."

As a result, equipment deliveries and plans became a growing issue with Iraqi commanders during 2006, with complaints that a lack of proper equipment precluded decisive advantage over relative well armed and equipped insurgent forces," the report said.

In April 2006, a leading U.S. analyst, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, wrote that Iraq Army units were "very badly equipped with only a few light vehicles, small arms, most with body armor and one or two uniforms. They [had] almost no mortars, heavy machine guns, decent communications equipment, artillery, armor, or [air force] transport, helicopter and strike support.

"The report said the U.S. military has not decided how much heavy equipment to leave the Iraq Army as American troops withdraw from Iraq. CSIS said the Defense Department has assessed that the Soviet-origin Iraq Army was not prepared to absorb many U.S. platforms.

"Because the bulk of Iraqi equipment at the time consisted of former Soviet and Warsaw Pact vehicles, doubts had arisen as to Iraq's ability to afford maintenance of more advanced U.S. vehicles," the report said.

[bth: if we wanted we could provide them hundreds of soviet era vehicles and artillery pieces. Further we could leave them hundreds of M113s and thousands of Level II armored humvees which for all practical purposes won't be usable in our army. As to maintenance sophistication that is suspect as they seem to be effective at running just about any kind of modern vehicle and much of our maintenance is outsourced anyway.

One good thing is that by not providing helicopters and offensive weapons like artillery, we have limited the scope of the civil war. It is unlikely that any groups has the firepower to occupy territory which does not provide popular support.]

NJ State Troopers who did an excellent job escorting the Gold Star Mothers to the NJ Vietnam Memorial. I couldn't be more praiseworthy of them. My deepest appreciation for their help. Posted by Picasa

Iraq's Helpless Government

Iraq�s Helpless Government - New York Times: "Once again, Iraqis fear their country may be slipping toward civil war as a particularly gruesome and deadly series of sectarian massacres and countermassacres spins out of control with the country's new national unity government looking on almost helplessly.

All the much-praised parceling out of cabinet posts among Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis is not worth very much unless it produces a government capable of holding Iraq together and yanking it back from the precipice.

Even by the bloody standards of Iraq, this has been a terrible week. On Sunday, Shiite militiamen invaded a Sunni neighborhood, herded Sunni men into side streets and executed them. Two days later, Sunni gunmen retaliated in kind by emptying a bus carrying a Shiite funeral party through a Sunni neighborhood and executing the mourners. More than 140 people in Baghdad alone were killed in such incidents in the first four days of this week."

This is scarcely what Americans were led to expect last month when President Bush flew to Baghdad to celebrate the completion of a national unity cabinet. The very day of that visit, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki announced a huge military drive that was supposed to secure Baghdad against such sectarian killings. And Mr. Maliki had earlier pledged to halt “sectarian cleansing” in Baghdad and eliminate nongovernmental militias and death squads.

Why were the tens of thousands of Iraqi and American troops who were mobilized for this operation so ineffective at stopping this week’s organized mayhem? And why are sectarian militias still the ultimate power in Baghdad’s residential neighborhoods?

Nobody expected Iraq to turn into the peaceable kingdom overnight. But it is not too much to insist that this government live up to its own fine words. Instead, for the past few days Mr. Maliki has been almost as invisible as he has been ineffective.

As everyone from the White House to the streets of Baghdad now recognizes, the Maliki government probably represents Iraq’s last chance to fulfill its people’s hopes for a better, more secure life. Fearful Iraqis have every right to expect a more competent and reassuring performance than they have seen this week.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

American Gold Star Mothers Posted by Picasa


Battle Plans: "The next Middle East war--Israel against genocidal Islamism--has begun. The first stage of the war started two weeks ago, with the Israeli incursion into Gaza in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the ongoing shelling of Israeli towns and kibbutzim; now, with Hezbollah's latest attack, the war has spread to southern Lebanon. Ultimately, though, Israel's antagonists won't be Hamas and Hezbollah but their patrons, Iran and Syria. The war will go on for months, perhaps several years. There may be lulls in the fighting, perhaps even temporary agreements and prisoner exchanges. But those periods of calm will be mere respites.... "

Iraq PM: Insurgents Trying to Split Baghdad Iraq PM: Insurgents Trying to Split Baghdad: "BAGHDAD, Iraq � Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday that insurgents are trying to take control of western Baghdad, but he vowed they won't succeed.

The Shiite prime minister addressed parliament minutes after the largest Sunni Arab bloc of legislators ended their boycott of the meetings."

The Sunni United Accordance Front thanked the parliament for its help in seeking the release of kidnapped legislator Tayseer al-Mashhadani and called for a new spirit of cooperation amid rising sectarian violence. Shiite gunmen are believed to be holding al-Mashhadani, who was seized in a Shiite neighborhood earlier this month.

Al-Maliki said that insurgents have plans to take control of Karkh, a large swath of western Baghdad that extends north.

"They have intentions to occupy Karkh (west Baghdad) but be sure that Iraqi forces are capable of repulsing them and have started striking them," he said.

"The government cannot protect every child and every woman," al-Maliki said. "Military forces will deter anyone who tries to occupy any area."

He also called on Iraq's myriad ethnic and sectarian groups to unite to stem the violence instead of casting blame solely on his government.

"It is not only the government that should be responsible. You chose the ministers and the prime ministers. You should not stand up and criticize the government," al-Maliki said in an apparent reference to some legislators who blamed the government for the country's bad security situation.

The prime minister added that the government will work on cleaning up the security and armed forces in order "to make them far from political groups and sectarianism."

[bth: Beirut or Baghdad? There is a civil war going on or at least ethnic cleansing neighborhood by neighborhood.]

K-9 Statue in New Jersey Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

U.S. Terror Targets: Petting Zoo and Flea Market?

U.S. Terror Targets: Petting Zoo and Flea Market? - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, July 11 � It reads like a tally of terrorist targets that a child might have written: Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified "Beach at End of a Street"

But the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, in a report released Tuesday, found that the list was not child’s play: all these “unusual or out-of-place” sites “whose criticality is not readily apparent” are inexplicably included in the federal antiterrorism database.

The National Asset Database, as it is known, is so flawed, the inspector general found, that as of January, Indiana, with 8,591 potential terrorist targets, had 50 percent more listed sites than New York (5,687) and more than twice as many as California (3,212), ranking the state the most target-rich place in the nation.

The database is used by the Homeland Security Department to help divvy up the hundreds of millions of dollars in antiterrorism grants each year, including the program announced in May that cut money to New York City and Washington by 40 percent, while significantly increasing spending for cities including Louisville, Ky., and Omaha.

“We don’t find it embarrassing,” said the department’s deputy press secretary, Jarrod Agen. “The list is a valuable tool.”

But the audit says that lower-level department officials agreed that some older information in the inventory “was of low quality and that they had little faith in it.”

“The presence of large numbers of out-of-place assets taints the credibility of the data,” the report says.

In addition to the petting zoo, in Woodville, Ala., and the Mule Day Parade in Columbia, Tenn., the auditors questioned many entries, including “Nix’s Check Cashing,” “Mall at Sears,” “Ice Cream Parlor,” “Tackle Shop,” “Donut Shop,” “Anti-Cruelty Society” and “Bean Fest.”

Even people connected to some of those businesses or events are baffled at their inclusion as possible terrorist targets.

“Seems like someone has gone overboard,” said Larry Buss, who helps organize the Apple and Pork Festival in Clinton, Ill.

“Their time could be spent better doing other things, like providing security for the country.”

Angela McNabb, manager of the Sweetwater Flea Market, which is 50 miles from Knoxville, Tenn., said: “I don’t know where they get their information. We are talking about a flea market here.”

New York City officials, who have questioned the rationale for the reduction in this year’s antiterrorism grants, were similarly blunt.

“Now we know why the Homeland Security grant formula came out as wacky as it was,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said Tuesday. “This report is the smoking gun that thoroughly indicts the system.”

The source of the problems, the audit said, appears to be insufficient definitions or standards for inclusion provided to the states, which submit lists of locations for the database.

New York, for example, lists only 2 percent of the nation’s banking and finance sector assets, which ranks it between North Dakota and Missouri. Washington State lists nearly twice as many national monuments and icons as the District of Columbia.

Montana, one of the least populous states in the nation, turned up with far more assets than big-population states including Massachusetts, North Carolina and New Jersey.

The inspector general questions whether many of the sites listed in whole categories — like the 1,305 casinos, 163 water parks, 159 cruise ships, 244 jails, 3,773 malls, 718 mortuaries and 571 nursing homes — should even be included in the tally.

But the report also notes that the list “may have too few assets in essential areas.” It apparently does not include many major business and finance operations or critical national telecommunications hubs....

Hizbollah says captured two Israeli soldiers

Hizbollah says captured two Israeli soldiers�� "BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hizbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in attacks from Lebanon on Israeli border posts on Wednesday, Hizbollah television said.

It said the Islamic Resistance, the military arm of Hizbollah, announced the capture in a statement."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pentagon Struggles With Cost Overruns and Delays - New York Times

Pentagon Struggles With Cost Overruns and Delays - New York Times: "On Sept. 10, 2001, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld stood before hundreds of military officers and civilian employees at the Pentagon and delivered a blistering attack on what he saw as the next national security threat: Pentagon bureaucracy. "

He called for quicker decision-making, greater accountability and a streamlined process to get weapons into the hands of soldiers faster. “We must transform the way the department works and what it works on,” he said. “It could be said that it’s a matter of life and death — ultimately, every American’s.”

The terrorist attacks the next day did more than put Mr. Rumsfeld’s transformation plans in suspension. As new weapons systems were ordered to help fight the war on terror, Pentagon spending after 9/11 jumped by hundreds of billions of dollars. And so did waste.

Now, almost five years later, Congress has promised to clamp down on the inefficiencies and wasteful practices that Mr. Rumsfeld identified, which critics and government oversight agencies say have only grown worse with the flood of new money into military spending.

Members of Congress from both parties are concerned that runaway costs threaten to weaken the armed forces as higher price tags mean they can afford fewer weapons.

In the current Pentagon budget for 2007, steps have been taken to, among other things, require fuller disclosure of cost overruns, set spending caps and use more fixed-price contracts that require contractors to stay within budget.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and chairman of a Senate Armed Services subcommittee, plans to hold hearings this summer and next year on the issue.

Cost overruns have long been a Pentagon staple. But what has alarmed government oversight agencies and Pentagon observers, and spurred Congress to act, is the magnitude of the spending increases. Projects are as much as 50 percent over budget and up to four years late in delivery.

“We have been living in a rich man’s world for the last five years,” said Jacques Gansler, Pentagon under secretary for acquisition from 1997 to 2001 and vice president for research at the University of Maryland. “The defense budget has been growing so rapidly that we are less likely to put in many cost-sensitive reforms.”

In recent Congressional hearings and reports from the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s investigative arm, the Pentagon has been portrayed as so mired in bureaucracy and so enamored of the latest high-tech gadgetry that multi-billion-dollar weapon systems are running years behind in development and are dangerously over budget.
The Pentagon reported last April, in response to questions from lawmakers, that 36 of its major next-generation weapon systems are over budget, some by as much as 50 percent.

The G.A.O. estimated that cost overruns on 23 weapon systems it studied in April came to $23 billion. In addition, there were delays of at least a year in delivering these weapons, with some programs running as much as four years late, like the Army’s $130 billion Future Combat Systems to provide soldiers new computerized ground equipment.

David Walker, comptroller general of the United States, said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee last April that “the Department of Defense is simply not positioned to deliver high-quality products in a timely and cost-efficient fashion.”

Rising costs can also mean that fewer weapons are ultimately built. For instance, the budget for a military rocket launching program, the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, has increased from $15.4 billion to $28 billion. Even so, the program is anticipating fewer launchings: 138 instead of the 181 initially planned.

Costs for an information-gathering satellite program, called the Space-Based Infrared System, have grown from $4.1 billion to $10.2 billion. Meanwhile, the number of satellites has decreased from five to three.

“It’s a perfect storm,” said Lawrence J. Korb, a former Pentagon assistant secretary, who served in the Reagan administration and is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “You had this big buildup in military spending. That took a bubbling problem and made it worse. It made it more difficult to audit and keep track of what was going on. It’s always been bad, but I’ve never seen it this bad.”

Blame for the cost overruns is not easily assigned. Even though Mr. Rumsfeld identified the Pentagon itself as a problem in early 2001, the rapid buildup and cost overruns in recent years resulted from widespread calls for more military might.

While Mr. Rumsfeld has been successful in getting a few outmoded weapons systems deleted — his main triumphs have been killing the $11 billion Crusader artillery program and the $38 billion Comanche helicopter program —any momentum he developed for Pentagon transformation was overtaken by his focus on Iraq.

“Clearly, since 9/11, transformation has not been a focus of Rumsfeld,” Mr. Korb said.

War Expenses Add to Pressure

These cost overruns come as the Pentagon is under pressure on two fronts. It is trying to get weapons to soldiers in Iraq while embarking on a complex new procurement program costing hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Pentagon wants to fundamentally transform the military with more lethal and technologically superior “megasystems.”

The Navy is spending $80 billion for advanced submarines and $70 billion for destroyers. The Air Force is in the midst of a $320 billion program to recapitalize its fighter jet fleet and the Army has ordered $130 billion in computerized replacements for tanks and other vehicles.

With numbers this large, even slight delays and overruns can quickly become billion-dollar problems.

Meantime, the Bush administration has warned the Pentagon that the current high level of military spending cannot be sustained, raising new questions of whether the Pentagon can afford everything it has committed to — or in the numbers it wants.

Some in Congress say the prospect of paying more for fewer weapons is, in itself, a kind of threat to national security.

“Acquisition inefficiencies may, in the end, drive American vulnerabilities more than any other dimension of America’s national security complex,” said Representative Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

The Pentagon says it is fully aware of these problems and is moving to correct them.

“We’ve got a lot of traction in the building, and I’m coming to help harness that traction and take it to the end zone,” said James I. Finley, under secretary for acquisition.

Mr. Finley, a former General Dynamics executive, is working to speed Pentagon decision-making, make the high-tech requirements for new weapons more realistic, and reduce the numerous design changes ordered by the Pentagon.

The impact on the Pentagon’s budget from the overruns is hard to gauge. That is because simply determining how much money the Pentagon has is difficult, the G.A.O. said last year.

The recordkeeping is so flawed and lacking in basic financial controls that government auditors are unable to provide a “clean” or conclusive opinion under basic accounting rules.

The G.A.O. found that financial sloppiness went beyond weapon systems. For instance, at a time when the Pentagon was buying new chemical suits for use in Iraq for $200 each, it was also selling them on the Internet for $3 each after some military units misidentified the suits as surplus. And about $1.2 billion in supplies that were shipped to Iraq never arrived — or were never found — because of logistical problems.

But the really big money is in weapons. New weapons are expected to cost at least $1.4 trillion from now to 2009, with $800 billion of those expenditures yet to be made, according to the Pentagon. Weapons systems are one of the largest purchases made by the federal government, and the Pentagon’s weapons-buying program has doubled from $700 billion before 9/11.

Since 9/11, the Pentagon budget and supplemental spending on Iraq have grown to over $500 billion a year. This compares with a Pentagon budget of $291 billion before 9/11. (If measured in today’s dollars, pre-9/11 spending would come to $330 billion, according to the Pentagon.)

A number of Pentagon improvement efforts — Mr. Rumsfeld’s best known is called the Business Management Modernization Program — have been tried in the last five years, to little effect. This shortcoming has not gone unnoticed in business circles.

A group called Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, which includes 600 executives from companies like Bell Industries, the Pacific Stock Exchange and the Stride Rite Corporation, issued a report on Pentagon financial practices last May called “No One Is Accountable.”

It concluded: “The Defense Department’s financial management practices would put any civilian company out of business.”

A Move Toward More Control

In the last few months, Congress has moved to assert more control. In the House, Mr. Hunter put provisions in the Pentagon budget requiring more reporting on overruns, allowing for the rebidding of contracts with exceptional overruns and imposing spending caps on some weapons.
In the Senate, the Armed Services Committee has enacted provisions calling for more fixed-price weapons contracts, limiting award fees to contractors and providing for more Congressional oversight of prime contractors on major programs.

The Pentagon’s finances are under increasing scrutiny because the Bush administration has indicated that Pentagon budgets will begin to flatten in 2008. In addition, annual supplemental funding of $100 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to go away, with the funds to come instead from the Pentagon budget.

A federal budget deficit remaining around $300 billion and the rising demands to support entitlement programs as society ages also mean the Pentagon will have to compete harder for dollars. Inside the Pentagon, the growing gap between available resources and future demands is called the bow wave: a surge of costs that threatens to swamp the Pentagon just as military budgets begin to decline.

Military contractors are aware of these problems, but have little incentive to address them. Critics say contractors fail to object to the Pentagon’s business practices since the industry is paid regardless of the outcome. The industry says its hands are tied.

“This industry is rather unique,” said Norman R. Augustine, a former chief executive of Lockheed Martin Corporation and a former Army under secretary. “It has only one customer, but it is the most powerful customer in the world. It makes and enforces the rules, and if you want to do business with that customer, you do what that customer wants.

“Where the big money is lost,” he added, “is in starting programs and stopping, cutting the budget and then raising it, slowing and then accelerating programs, setting requirements and then revising them.”

Instead, Mr. Augustine said, “what is needed most is to make it extremely difficult to start a new program” and not until “the need is clear, the technology is there and there is money to do the job.”

Critics say the solution is not more money, but a different approach. The Pentagon, they say, is unable to separate wants from needs and approves far more than it can afford.

The Pentagon then sets technical requirements unrealistically high and compounds this problem by trying to rush weapon systems with unproven technologies into production. Rather than producing weapons faster, the opposite effect occurs, as the inevitable technological difficulties lead to cost overruns and developmental delays. In addition, once weapons programs are started, the Pentagon often imposes new requirements, adding further delays and costs.

Frequent turnover in program managers at the Pentagon, as well as a lack of either responsibility or accountability by officials for specific weapons programs, means there are few consequences when programs go astray, the G.A.O. said. It added that lack of accountability can extend to contractors as well.

In the civilian world, development costs are borne by companies themselves. Boeing, for instance, must absorb all the costs of developing a new line of commercial jets before selling them. But pay starts for military contractors even during development of new weapons, and the contractors do not face market forces to get weapons quickly to their customer, the Pentagon.

Nor are contractors held accountable when they underperform. A G.A.O. study in December found that the Pentagon had paid $8 billion in bonus award fees to military contractors regardless of whether performance goals were met.

For instance, contractors on the Joint Strike Fighter, a next-generation fighter jet, received their full bonus award of $494 million from 1999 to 2003, even though the program was $10 billion over budget and 11 months behind schedule.

Contractors in the F-22A fighter jet program, over the same time period, received 91 percent of their performance bonus, or $849 million, even though the current phase of the program was $10 billion over budget and two years late.

Mr. Walker, the comptroller general, said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon needed to make it “clear who is responsible for what and holding people accountable when these responsibilities are not fulfilled.”

The biggest program in the Pentagon pipeline is the Air Force’s replacement of its tactical aircraft fleet, primarily F-16’s, with F-22A’s and the Joint Strike Fighter. The combined price tag for the replacement plan is $320 billion, with $75 billion of that already appropriated. But problems are already cropping up from what critics say is a “conspiracy of hope” rather than hard-edged planning.

One consequence of rising costs is that about 4,500 F-16’s and other jets will be replaced by only 3,100 new jets. And as the Air Force waits for its new jets, it has stopped buying F-16’s. This means the newest models are flown by the United Arab Emirates and Poland, which have recently placed large orders.

When it was planned 19 years ago, the F-22A was an ambitious project by any measure. It was to fly invisibly, at supersonic speeds and with the latest in avionics and engines. All this was to counter Soviet threats in air-to-air combat. Initially, the Air Force had planned to spend $82 billion and buy 648 planes.

Since then, the Soviet threat ended and the F-22A encountered numerous cost overruns and schedule delays.

The Air Force also added new requirements so the jet could also conduct bombing missions — even though some critics question the feasibility of using an expensive fighter jet that flies at nearly twice the speed of sound to attack ground targets.

In the end, the F-22A is costing nearly twice as much per plane as planned, and the Air Force is getting only one-quarter the number it had initially sought. The cost for each plane has soared to $361 million, making it the most expensive fighter jet ever. It is still not ready for combat.

Fewer Planes for More Money

The Air Force maintains it needs at least 381 F-22A’s to satisfy national security requirements. But the Pentagon has only enough money to buy 181, leaving a shortfall of about 200 aircraft. By contrast, the F-16 fighter jet began as a less ambitious program and was built in four years, using proven technology. It has been flying, with continual upgrades, for 30 years and is considered the most successful fighter jet in history.

Many in Congress are concerned that the replacement for the F-16, the Joint Strike Fighter being developed under a $257 billion program, may not be as cost-effective. Development costs have already risen by $23 billion, or 28 percent. This has caused the Pentagon to cut 400 planes from the program, which is now set for 2,443 planes.

Equally troublesome to critics is that the Pentagon has invested in manufacturing and producing the plane before it has been fully tested. The G.A.O. reports that when initial production of the Joint Strike Fighter begins next January, only 1 percent of its preflight testing will be completed.

Longtime Pentagon watchers say that optimism about weapons and budgets is part of its inherent character. But the reality of limited funds and a growing chorus of critics may ultimately force the gap to close between what the Pentagon wants and what it can afford.

“We’ve always wanted to provide the best for our boys and we have been willing to pay for it,” said Mr. Gansler, the former acquisitions under secretary. “The belief has been that next year we will be richer and the budget will climb even more. But now, as the Pentagon has to be more-cost sensitive, you have to question the belief.”