Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Blotter-Prison Time for Former Bush Aide in Lobbying Scandal

The Blotter: "A former Bush Administration official convicted in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.

David H. Safavian, the former chief of staff of the General Services Administration, was convicted by a federal jury last spring of obstruction of justice and lying to investigators. His lawyer says they will appeal.

In court today, Safavian asked the judge for leniency and admitted, 'I'm disgusted with myself.' He claimed he'd been manipulated by the powerful lobbyist. "

In happier days, Safavian accepted lavish favors from Abramoff, including a 2002 golf trip to Scotland, while helping Abramoff make business deals with the GSA.

Safavian's case was the first in the Abramoff scandal to go to trial; six others, including Abramoff himself and Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), have entered guilty pleas.

Abramoff's sentencing has been postponed twice while he continues to cooperate with investigators. As Brian Ross reported on the Blotter, federal law enforcement officials say he has spent "hours and hours" with FBI agents detailing his relationships with dozens of members of Congress.

Rep. Ney, who also went on the golf trip to Scotland, pleaded guilty earlier this month but did not resign from his seat in Congress. House Republican leaders say they'll move to expel him when Congress reconvenes after the elections, but until then Ney continues to draw his $165,200-a-year salary.

Al Qaeda's Winter Headquarters

The BlotterU.S. intelligence sources tell ABC News they are "dismayed and alarmed" by published reports that nine men arrested last year during a raid on "al Qaeda's winter headquarters" have been released.

The nine men are family members of a local cleric, who is wanted by Pakistan for providing "extensive help and protection" to al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Ayman al Zawahiri, intelligence sources tell ABC News.
Pakistani intelligence officials believe Zawahiri is hiding somewhere in a 40-square-kilometer area of Bajaur, near the Afghan border.

"Al Qaeda's winter headquarters" was a high-walled compound located near the village of Shin Kot, about eight miles from the Afghan border, U.S. and Pakistani sources tell ABC News.

A U.S. intelligence source said CIA and special forces had the compound under such close surveillance, "We could see their children playing soccer in the courtyard."

According to that source, al Qaeda's operational commander, Abu Faraj al Libbi, was among those staying at the house. He was captured elsewhere in May 2005.

The CIA and the Department of Defense decided not to raid the compound, fearing civilian casualties and harm to U.S.-Pakistani relations.

The "winter headquarters" compound was later burned to the ground by Pakistani officials.

[bth: you've got to wonder if we are letting OBL and friends live happily ever after.]

9/11 only "make-believe," Iranian government official says

The Raw Story 9/11 only "make-believe," Iranian government official says: "Tehran- An Iranian government official on Friday accused the US of orchestrating the attacks of September 11, 2001, saying New York's World Trade Center towers were actually blown up by a bomb rather than planes hijacked by terrorists. 'What we watched on the TVs regarding the slamming of two planes into the New York Twin Towers, was in fact a make-believe scene,' Deputy Culture Minister Mohammad-Hadi Homayoun was quoted by state news agency IRNA as saying, in an address to the Iran-Russia Dialogue among Civilizations Conference in Moscow.

'The sky-scrapers were destroyed through bomb explosions and afterwards the massive US media propaganda and the crusade issue began,' the minister said, making reference to the controversial remarks by US President George W Bush outlining a 'crusade' against terrorism following the September 11 attacks."

[bth: you've got to wonder what his motivation is for saying such stupid things to a Russian delegation.]

Friday, October 27, 2006

Add on armor team empowers engineer capability, saves lives

The Derby Reporter - News: "CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - By adding armor to engineer construction equipment, maintenance personnel assigned to the 16th Engineer Brigade’s Add-on-Armor Installation site not only saved the military vast amounts of money and precious time, they saved lives by enabling fellow engineers to safely perform dangerous construction missions outside the wire.

When military leadership in Iraq began planning for armor installation sites across the country, maintenance personnel from the 62nd Engineer Battalion, 16th Eng. Bde., offered their expertise; the 12-member crew is the only Soldier-operated installation site of four in Iraq, and they have out-produced their civilian counterparts in all aspects of their mission.

“Our equipment was originally slated to go to Balad for the installation, but we were able to work through channels to establish a site in Baghdad, which means we wouldn’t have to risk Soldiers’ lives transporting the equipment to and from Balad,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 James Markley, 16th Eng. Bde. “We also saved a lot of our units’ time without the equipment as we worked directly with them to schedule installations with respect to their missions.

For the complete story, see Thursday's Derby Reporter.

“Our equipment was originally slated to go to Balad for the installation, but we were able to work through channels to establish a site in Baghdad, which means we wouldn’t have to risk Soldiers’ lives transporting the equipment to and from Balad,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 James Markley, 16th Eng. Bde. “We also saved a lot of our units’ time without the equipment as we worked directly with them to schedule installations with respect to their missions.

For the complete story, see Thursday's Derby Reporter"

Shelby conference focuses on explosives

Hattiesburg American - www.hattiesburgamerican.com - Hattiesburg, Miss.: "CAMP SHELBY - Many of the improvised explosive devices exploded in Iraq and Afghanistan are set off by terrorists who are paid by different factions in those countries, Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré said Thursday.

'These factions could be religious groups, criminal elements or political factions seeking revenge for something,' Honoré said during a Thursday morning press conference at Camp Shelby."

"The more sophisticated the IED, the chances are that it is being made and set off by members of a well-financed, organized faction," Honoré said.

Honoré is commander of the U.S. First Army, which is responsible for training the National Guard and Army Reserve to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

He was at Camp Shelby with 200 other military commanders for a conference on improvised explosive devices, better known as IEDs.

"The IED (which is set off remotely by terrorists) is still the number one killer of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan," Honoré said.

The conference, he said, was designed to give the commanders the most current information on IEDs being used in Iraq and Afghanistan and to discuss countermeasures against them.

That information is used at Camp Shelby to train troops and reservists going to the Middle East, he said.

"We have teams in Iraq and Afghanistan that are fighting IEDs," said Brig. Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver, incoming First Army deputy commander. "When they see something new, they get that information to us."

"We get that information within three to five days and then a day or two later, we have it included in our training," said Col. John Hadjis, commander of the 3rd Brigade 87th Division, which oversees training at Camp Shelby.

That information also includes training with "jammers" - devices used to jam the frequencies used to set off IEDs. Honoré said soldiers are now being trained with jammers.

"This battle has evolved," he said. "This war is changing. Every two to three months, we have to update our techniques and tactics, because the guys setting off the IEDs are changing."

Honoré said the information on IEDs and the environments that soldiers will encounter on deployment are used as part of the theater immersion training at Camp Shelby - a process in which troops are placed in surroundings that make them feel that they have arrived in either Iraq or Afghanistan as soon as they begin their training.

Areas around Camp Shelby have been developed to recreate Iraqi and Afghan towns or villages, complete with actors from the local area and Iraqi-Americans who play the parts of residents that soldiers would encounter once they arrive for missions.

That also means preparing roads leading to and around the training areas that resemble conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There is a lot of debris - mostly construction debris - along the roads," Honoré said. "The IEDs are hidden in that debris."

Honoré said one of the hardest things to do is to prepare the soldiers psychologically for their tours.

Rodeheaver said the First Army uses soldiers who have just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan as instructors.

Rodeheaver said soldiers from Mississippi's 155th Brigade Combat Team and the 278th Regimental Combat Team from Tennessee are currently working with units preparing to go to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hadjis said the IED training also involves convoy escorts. He said the escort training involves sending convoys on a 75-mile route along Camp Shelby's paved and dirt roads and on the four-lane highways surrounding Hattiesburg

[bth: I applaud the improved training. It is saving lives. Also the faster cycle of information is important as the threat is evolving. The insurgents are able to change tactics faster, cheaper and easier than we are able to adapt. Equipment, jammers, robots, armor, they all take time and huge amounts of money.]

Administration, Congress have secure place in history

American News 10/27/2006 Administration, Congress have secure place in history: "If President George Bush's hasty news conference on Iraq this week was the Republican October Surprise - unveiling some sudden presidential flexibility after three and a half years of stubbornly staying a losing course - it didn't work."

With the midterm elections now days away, it smacked more of a change in semantics than a serious change in the direction of a war that seems to be spiraling out of control.

"Benchmark" is the new White House buzzword. We're not setting a "timetable" for the withdrawal of America's 147,000 troops in Iraq. We're not putting any real heat on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. No cutting and running for us.

And, yes, the president has full faith and confidence in the chief architect of the war in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. You're doing a heckuva job, Rummy. Never mind that your approval rating is at 12 percent among the American people, Don. The Decider puts you at 110 percent.

So we're going to stay put in Iraq; going, in fact, to stay the course all the way to victory. We aren't going to be drawing down our troops, who are square in the middle of a burgeoning Iraqi civil war. In fact, we might even send more troops over there if the president can find any to send from an Army and Marine Corps already stretched so thin that you can read your morning paper through them.

The president says that there'll be tough fighting to come, which is hardly news to a military that's already suffered more than 2,800 killed and 22,000 wounded; a military so ground down that it won't be able to man the next annual deployments without once again reaching out and activating thousands of Army National Guard and Reserve troops that have maxed out their active duty availability.

Oh yes. One other bit of news: the White House that says nothing is too good for our troops has turned its back on a plea by Army leaders for a $25 billion increase in its 2008 budget so it can carry out the missions the administration has assigned to it.

The president declared himself confident that Republicans would sweep to victory and maintain their stranglehold on both houses of a Congress that's done nothing but rubberstamp Bush's war policies and Republican efforts to enrich their fat-cat donors and themselves, of course.

If he's right and that's the result of the Nov. 7 elections, then the American people will finally have fulfilled H.L. Mencken's prophecy that we'd continue choosing the lowest common denominator until, in the end, we get precisely the government we deserve.

Meantime, Vice President Dick Cheney confirmed that some of the senior al-Qaida terrorists in our custody have been subjected to "water-boarding," a torture that brings the victim within a hair of drowning and suffocation. Cheney declared that it was a "no-brainer." My thoughts exactly: Only people with no brains opt to torture a captive in violation of domestic and international law.

This unseemly circus and its clowns in Congress can't go away fast enough and with enough dishonor and disgrace to suit the circumstances. Their place in America's history is secure: They will go down as the worst administration and the worst Congress we've ever had. Period.

They deserve to lose both the House and the Senate on Nov. 7, and the White House in 2008. They bullied their way into a war that they thought would be a slam-dunk and then so bungled things that the only superpower left in the world has been humbled and hobbled in a world that they've made more dangerous for us.

Thanks, guys. You've done a heckuva job. We won't forget it.

Joseph L. Galloway is a columnist for McClatchy Tribune Information Services. His column appears most Fridays. Readers may write to him at: P.O. Box 399, Bayside, Texas 78340; e-mail: jlgalloway2cs.com.

[bth: word.]
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Taliban to use suicide bombers more: militiaman - Yahoo! News

Taliban to use suicide bombers more: militiaman - Yahoo! News: "LONDON (AFP) - The Taliban will increasingly resort to using suicide bombers to fight NATO troops in Afghanistan, one of the militia's members told the BBC. "

Speaking to the broadcaster, the hard-line Islamist militia's official spokesman also denied accusations that the Taliban has been burning schools in the country.

"So far, you see just individual suicide attacks. But in the future, you might see us when we are six people committing attacks," Hajimullah Wahidullah, one of the Taliban's fighters, told the BBC here on Wednesday.

"Countless people have enlisted to become suicide bombers. This upsurge is the result of the pressure we are under," he said.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Anif, the Taliban's spokesman, told the BBC that accusations that the militia burned schools were false.

"To destroy a school building or a hospital causes damage to the people. The mujahedin do not do anything that can cause damage to the people," he said.

Anif said that those who were burning schools were the Afghan army, "to discredit the Mujahedin."
But Wahidullah disputed Anif's comments, saying that his forces were "against those schools that teach secularism."

"We do burn those schools. We are not against education. But while they burn our religious schools and our Koran, we want to stop those schools that teach girls to wear a kind of uniform that reveals their bodies," he said.

Anif also rejected suggestions that coalition forces were in Afghanistan to reconstruct the country's infrastructure.

"That's completely wrong. It's just an excuse for the British and American governments when they say they've come here to rebuild Afghanistan."

Asked why the Taliban declined to participate in democratic elections in the country, the militia's spokesman said: "America used force and attacked us, they invaded our country and occupied it. They killed our women and children. That's why the Mujahedin want to throw them out of the country."

"Democracy set up under the shadow of B-52 bombers, and elections under the shadow of F-16s is not acceptable for the Afghan nation," he said.
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Kirkuk: a city at boiling point

Kirkuk: a city at boiling point Special reports Guardian Unlimited: "The tribal chiefs, in traditional robes and chequered headdresses, emerged from the dust stirred up by their convoy of pick-up trucks and walked towards the big white tent, gesturing welcomes to each other as they sat."

Accompanied by about 500 clansmen and a gaggle of local journalists, the 35 Sunni sheikhs - from Mosul, Tikrit, Samarra and Hawija - converged last week on Hindiya, on the scrappy western edges of Kirkuk, to swear their undying opposition to "conspiracies" to partition Iraq and to pledge allegiance to their president, Saddam Hussein.

Under banners exalting the man now standing trial in Baghdad for war crimes and genocide, the gathering heard speeches from prominent northern Iraqi sheikhs, Sunni Arab politicians and self-declared leaders of the Ba'ath party calling for the former dictator's release.

"If the Iraqi government wants national reconciliation to succeed and for the violence to end, they have to quickly release the president and end the occupation," said Sheikh Abdul Rahman Munshid, of the Obeidi tribe. "But most important of all," he added, "Kirkuk must never become part of Kurdistan. It is an Iraqi city, and we will take all routes to prevent the divisions of Iraq."

The heated debate about federalism in Iraq is no better exemplified than in Kirkuk. Though largely free of the sectarian wars taking place in Baghdad and its surrounding area, observers say the ethnic faultlines running through the city, which lies atop Iraq's second largest oilfield, make it a ticking time bomb that could pit Kurd against Arab and draw in neighbours such as Iran and Turkey.

"There are few more sensitive issues in Iraq today than what happens to Kirkuk," said a western diplomat in Iraq who works closely with the issue. "All eyes are on it, and all the ingredients for either consensual agreement or a devastating discord are there. If Kirkuk survives, then there's hope for Iraq."

As if to reinforce that message, within hours of the Sunni gathering a wave of suicide bombs rocked Kirkuk's city centre, including one in a crowded market and another in front of a women's teaching college. At least 15 civilians were killed and scores wounded.

Despite the oil riches that lie beneath, above ground Kirkuk appears a forlorn and neglected city. Street after street consists of humble two-storey dwellings with barely a modern building in sight. Litter is strewn everywhere, and there are huge queues at the petrol pumps. The tumbledown shops and market stalls in the centre of the city sell cheap consumer goods from Iran and Turkey.

The city's ancient citadel lies in ruins. The governor, Abdul Rahman Mustapha, a Kurd, blames the dilapidated state of the city on years of Ba'athist misrule. Neither does he have a good word for the current government in Baghdad. "They have ignored us and set so many obstacles in the path of our progress and reconstruction," he said.

Only now, three years after the end of the war, is money beginning to filter through for much-needed infrastructure work. In partnership with the US Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the provincial government has undertaken projects to provide fresh water to the mostly Arab south of the city, as well as garbage collection and treatment and the renovation of schools.

"A good sign is that Kurds, Turkomans and Arabs still eat in the same restaurants, and mix together," said Mr Mustapha. Yet, as with so many other of Iraq's major cities, the trauma of history is close to the surface. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the Ba'ath party systematically drove out as many as 200,000 Kurds and Turkomans from urban and rural Kirkuk to weigh the city's ethnic balance towards the Arabs and ensure strategic control of the oil fields.

After the fall of Saddam's regime, thousands of Kurds returned to the city, demanding the restitution of their land and property and the right to vote for Kirkuk to join the Kurdish autonomous region in the north. The Iraqi constitution promises to remove Arab settlers, who would receive compensation, and return Kurds to Kirkuk - an explosive issue for many non-Kurds.

"It will be disastrous," said Ali Mehdi, a Turkoman member of the provincial council. "The people won't accept the rule of the Kurdish parties. A civil war could break out any minute." He said Kirkuk should achieve special independent status unallied to any regional blocs.

Kurdish leaders insist, however, that they are neither after ethnic supremacy nor Kirkuk's oil, which could give them an economic base for future independence. Instead they are seeking to right historical wrongs.

"We want to see the issue resolved in a legal and peaceful way, as designated in the constitution," said Fuad Hussein, a senior aide to the Kurdish president Massoud Barzani. "Kirkuk is historically part of Kurdistan, but we will make sure it is well-run and safe for everyone regardless of race or religion."
But he expressed dismay at the Sunni leaders' meeting. "Ba'athists meeting openly under the nose of Americans is not a good sign for the future," he said.

Relatively peaceful in the first two years after the fall of Saddam - defying observers who said civil war would start here - Kirkuk is witnessing an alarming increase in bloodshed as the political tensions rise. The wave of violence is terrifying residents and testing to the limit the fragile relations among its Kurdish, Arab and Turkoman residents.

The US military in Kirkuk says the city has been hit by 20 suicide bombs and 63 roadside bombs in the past three months. Local police and community leaders have been assassinated and politicians attacked.

This despite a series of security sweeps by US and Iraqi forces and the digging of a large trench ringing Kirkuk's southern approaches, designed to funnel traffic into the city through official Iraqi army checkpoints.

Colonel Patrick Stackpole, who commands 5,000 US troops in a province of about one and a half million people, said the "violence is mainly by outsiders, though undoubtedly they have facilitators inside the city". "Jihadis from east and west, belonging to groups such as Ansar al-Islam and Ansar al-Sunnah, are targeting the city, trying to stoke civil war," he said. "But there's also a large element of former regime loyalists who don't want the city to succeed."

Nevertheless, he described himself as "guardedly optimistic" and offered rare praise for the province's security forces. "They are taking over more and more functions, leading operations, and performing more effectively without the scale of problems of corruption and disloyalty seen in other forces in Iraq," he said. "We haven't seen death squads."

Douglas Farah: After 12 Years, Some Small Progress in Hezbollah-Argentina Case

Douglas Farah: After 12 Years, Some Small Progress in Hezbollah-Argentina Case: "After 12 years of dogged work hindered by corrupt judges and investigators in their own ranks, Argentine prosecutors have finally reached the point of asking a federal judge to order the arrest of senior Iranian and Hezbollah officials for the 1994 car bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires."

This important step is unlikely to have any immediate impact on those seven people charged with having planned the attack, which killed 85 people and wounded 200 others. Former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani still holds an official position within the government, former intellignece chief Ali Fallahijan and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati are protected, and the Hezbollah operatives who actually put it all together are not to be found.

Still, the statements of the prosecutors and their willingness to press forward are extremely important, as is the willingness to state clearly and concisely what the investigation has concluded:

“We deem it proven that the decision to carry out an attack July 18, 1994 on the AMIA (Argentine Jewish Mutual Association, a Jewish charities association headquarters in Buenos Aires) was made by the highest authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran which directed Hezbollah to carry out the attack,” Argentine chief prosecutor Alberto Nisman said.

It is also a stark reminder that the reach of terrorist-sponsoring states (Iran) are aided and abetted by non-state actors (Hezbollah) operating from areas of state failure and black holes (the Tri-Border Area, where the attack was planned). This is a pattern that has been often repeated, from Sudan to Afghanistan to Syria, Libya and Iran.It is unlikely, one Argentine investigator told me, that the attack could have been carried out without the Hezbollah presence in the TBA, where the organization has an infrastructure to collect money, protect individuals, and insure their safe infiltration and exfiltration.

Naming and shaming is never the same as arresting and prosecuting. But, within the limits of the prosecutors’ ability, they have sought the truth about a terrorist attack, followed the leads, fired corrupt colleagues who muddled the investigation for years, and refused to indulge in political niceties of hiding the findings.

It is important to remember these events. Iran has not fundamentally changed is way of doing business, Hezbollah remains its long but informal arm and areas like the TBA not only exist but continue to expand. If we don’t learn from these events we are sadly destined to repeat them.

Cleric 'meat' remarks spark fury

Cleric 'meat' remarks spark fury - CNN.com: "SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Australia's most prominent Islamic cleric will not give sermons for two or three months, but will not face censure from his mosque for a sermon comparing women who do not wear head scarves to 'uncovered meat,' the mosque's spokesman said Friday.

The board of the Lakemba Mosque Association met late Thursday with Sheik Taj Aldin al Hilali and decided afterward to accept his apology for the comments, which triggered a storm of protest."...

Healing from bomb blast

BCNG Portals Page: "After narrowly escaping being blown up by a bomb in Iraq in August, a Salmon Arm man is back with the U.S. Navy.

Joel Grey, who just turned 22, traveled last week to Okinawa navy base in Japan, where he will be performing light duty for the next six months.

“You couldn’t have kept him from going back – he was so eager,” said his father Steve, who is a pastor with the Back to the Bible Fellowship in Salmon Arm.

Up until Aug. 23, Joel was serving with the Explosion Ordinance Deployment Division as a medic. He had been in Iraq seven months. His team would deploy bombs, as bombs are the weapon of choice in Iraq.

Steve explains that booby traps are everywhere. Bombs may be placed in a dead animal that a soldier attempts to move off the road.

On Aug. 23, Joel’s life changed irrevocably. "

His team was checking out a rocket-propelled grenade launcher they’d found. First, they sent in a robot to disarm it. The launcher was fine, so they moved in.

“As soon as my son Joel picked up the tube that launches the rocket, the whole thing blew up,” explains Steve.

The young man two feet away from Joel was killed. The other members of the four-person team were injured, including Joel.

A piece of shrapnel landed on his carotid artery. Another bounced off the bone just above his eye. One ear drum was blown out by the blast. A portion of Joel’s tibia leg bone was chipped. Two vertebrae in his neck were cracked. He suffered a severe concussion.

The blast was so strong it literally blew off all his clothes, Steve says. His body was covered in blood.

“Joel had so many pieces of shrapnel in his body, just touching him, there were lots of bumps under his skin.”

Yet, despite his condition, he helped stabilize the other injured members of his team.

Understandably, the incident and its aftermath created emotional turmoil for Joel.

“Joel’s had a lot of emotional struggle – ‘Had I done this, had I done that, that man wouldn’t have died,’ explains Steve. “But he realized it wasn’t his fault.”

Initially he didn’t want to talk about the incident, but later he realized talking was useful. When Joel left Salmon Arm last week, he was progressing, says Steve. He was walking well and will be having surgery to repair his ear drum. Because it was already damaged with scar tissue from infections as a youngster, he may end up hearing better than before.

For Steve and his wife Suzanne, the turmoil began with a phone call Aug. 23.

“From the moment we heard he was critically injured, it was seven days before we heard any more news. No information, not even the severity of his wounds.”

Their religious beliefs stood them in good stead.

Joel was first sent to hospital in Germany, then to Maryland.

Steve says Joel received a visit from the commander of the NATO forces when he was in Germany.

He said the commander read the post-blast assessment report and said, “Joel, there’s no way you should be here. You must know something we don’t.” Steve says Joel replied, in reference to his faith, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

As for reconciling his own beliefs with the savagery of war, Steve says he doesn’t have a problem with it.

“I think there are lots of situations where people are called on to fight for freedom,” he said. “You’re either going to fight them (terrorists) here or fight them there.”

He adds, “I can’t say I love George Bush’s approach to everything, but I sure wasn’t keen on the 9/11 thing either.”

Steve says one of the things Joel found hard to understand was the extremes of attitudes to the soldiers in Iraq.

“When they walk down the streets, people fall down at their feet, almost worshipping them, then they walk around a corner and see a little kid shooting at them. Joel couldn’t understand it as the general response was of thanks and welcome.”

Joel will have another year to finish his term, then he’ll be off to medical school to become a doctor.

“They pay for everything. It’s phenomenal training,” Steve said, noting that Joel has dual citizenship in Canada and the United States.

Steve has high praise for those who helped Joel get started on this path, particularly one of his high school teachers, Tony Say.

“At high school at SAS, he found a real passion for emergency medicine. Mr. Say, the science teacher, hooked him up with the paramedic guys,” Steve says.

“From our perspective, you never know what part teachers will play in kids’ lives – good or not – but Mr. Say got Joel on a wonderful track.”

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rumors On the Internets: The Advantages of Moral Bankruptcy on the Campaign Trail - Wonkette

Rumors On the Internets: The Advantages of Moral Bankruptcy on the Campaign Trail - Wonkette: "Jean Schmidt afraid that after losing her seat in the House, she’ll also be forced to relinquish the title of most moronic elected official from Ohio. [Talking Points Memo]

For Dick Cheney, a day without waterboarding is like a day without air. [MoJo Blog]

New Bob Corker campaign ad being “checked” by Tennessee television stations. The ad won’t be aired unless it meets a minimum threshold of racist content. [Wizbang Politics]

White House spokesman freely admits Iraq policy is driven by political concerns, MSM finds it too obvious to report. [Media Matters]

Iraqi Insurgents For Lamont to begin airing campaign ads. [The Carpetbagger Report]

South Korean panic over North Korean nuclear ambitions being assuaged by copious amounts of life-affirming sex. [Outside the Beltway]

Roll Call steals our idea, improves it by using research tools other than Google. [TPM Muckraker]

The Swiss cheese memory of Dennis Hastert strikes again as he replaces “forgotten” facts with made up ones. [Think Progress]"
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Iran, Hezbollah charged in 1994 bombing

Iran, Hezbollah charged in 1994 bombing NEWS.com.au: "PROSECUTORS formally charged Iran and the Shiite militia Hezbollah today in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish charities office in Argentina, which killed 85 people and injured 300."

We deem it proven that the decision to carry out an attack (on) July 18, 1994, on the AMIA (Argentine Jewish Mutual Association) was made by the highest authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran which directed Hizbollah to carry out the attack," Argentine chief prosecutor Alberto Nisman said.

Prosecutors called for the arrest of top Iranian authorities at the time, including then-president Ali Rafsanjani.

In Beirut, a Hezbollah source said she had not yet heard that the Shiite militia had been formally charged but that it came as no surprise.

"I have not yet heard that but it is not new," she said. "The Zionists want that (the two parties be charged)."

No one has been tried for the crime in more than a decade since Argentina's worst-ever terror attack.

On September 2, 2004, an Argentine court acquitted 21 former police officers and a trafficker of stolen cars who were charged with aiding the attackers.

The same court then ordered former top government officials investigated for botching the 10-year case.
Investigation of the bombing has been a festering issue in Argentina for 10 years, as Argentine Jews and international rights groups have criticised Argentine leaders for their inability or unwillingness to find those behind the bombing.

Argentina, with more than 300,000 Jews, has South America's largest Jewish community.

[bth: the prosecution wasn't botched, it was bribed by Iran for years.]
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Iran may have Khan nuke gear:

Iran may have Khan nuke gear: Pakistan The World The Australian: "DISGRACED Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan smuggled several nuclear centrifuges to Dubai that may have been transferred to Iran, a Pakistani military official has admitted.

The P2 nuclear centrifuges were also sent to North Korea, said the official, who did not want to be identified.

Reports in Pakistan yesterday quoted the official, who was speaking in Washington, as saying: 'If you ask for an educated and intelligent guess, I would say, yes, they might have been sent to Iran too, but we have no evidence to prove it.'

Pakistani newspapers said the briefing was intended to reassure the world that Islamabad was not officially involved in the proliferation of nuclear technology and that the network operated by Dr Khan had been destroyed.

Islamabad is highly sensitive about charges of official complicity in proliferation and involvement in the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran.

International inspectors have found evidence of Pakistani centrifuges at Iranian nuclear sites, although Tehran denies receiving them. The military official is reported to have said that in 1995, long after Pakistan stopped using the old P1 machines, Dr Khan ordered 200 centrifuges 'out of Kahuta (the Khan laboratories at Islamabad) to Dubai'. They were then sent to Iran.

Asked if he knew how many P2s were smuggled out, the official said: 'Three or four P2s were sent to Dubai.'

He said Pakistan had no objection to subjecting Dr Khan to a polygraph test to determine if he was telling the truth to interrogators, but claimed the US had refused to supply Islamabad with a polygraph.

He said the Pakistani Government could never allow a foreign agency to interrogate Dr Khan, because he was still seen as a national hero.

There's not a single Pakistani who does not consider him a national hero," he was quoted as saying. "It will be a highly controversial move (if he is interrogated) and the political repercussions will be huge."
The official said Dr Khan was recovering from surgery for prostate cancer, but was fit enough to be interrogated.
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Levin: Get U.S. out of Iraq

Levin: Get U.S. out of Iraq - 10/25/06 - The Detroit News Online: "WASHINGTON -- Forcing President Bush to consider a withdrawal from Iraq 'sooner rather than later' will be the goal of Democrats after the upcoming election, regardless of which party controls congress, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, said Wednesday.

Levin, who would take over as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee if Democrats take control of the Senate in the Nov. 7 elections, said a Democratic majority would give greater freedom to what he called a growing number of Republicans uncomfortable with the Bush administration's Iraq policy."

"Our major focus has got to be to press this president and this administration to get out of Iraq sooner rather than later, to end this vagueness and inconsistency," Levin said in a conference call with reporters.

"I think you're going to see there will be a greater willingness on the part of Republicans after the election to try to come up with some sort of bipartisan mechanism to force the administration to change direction. And I think that's more likely to happen if Democrats take control."

Earlier this year, Levin sponsored a resolution calling for U.S. forces to begin pulling out of Iraq within six months, but setting no timetable beyond an initial withdrawal, which Levin said would signal to Iraqi leaders that the United States wanted Iraqis to take more control over their nation's future -- an approach he said he would continue to pursue.

Earlier Wednesday, President Bush told reporters that the Iraqi government had "agreed to a schedule" on issues disarming sectarian militias and sharing the nation's oil revenues. But almost immediately, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki dismissed any talk of such an agreement, denying his government had agreed to any timetables.

"I don't think you can square that circle," Levin said. "There's a disconnect between what the president is saying and what the Iraqis are saying. President Bush has a bit of explaining to do."
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PM condemns cleric's rape claims

PRIME Minister John Howard today labelled comments by Australia's mufti likening immodestly dressed women to meat that attracted cats as appalling and reprehensible.

"They are quite out of touch with contemporary values in Australia," Mr Howard said while on a drought inspection tour of western New South Wales.

"The idea that women are to blame for rapes is preposterous. I not only reject the comments, I condemn them unconditionally." Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilaly's comments, reportedly made in a Ramadan sermon, compared women who wore make-up and dressed immodestly to meat that attracted cats.

"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?" the sheik said.

Mr Howard said the sheik's remarks clearly related to a "particularly appalling" rape trial in Sydney.

Asked if the sheik should resign, Mr Howard replied: "It's not for me to say what position he should hold in the Islamic faith.

"But it is for me as prime minister to say I totally reject the notion that the way in which women dress and deport themselves can in any way be used as a semblance of justification for rape."

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, Treasurer Peter Costello and Health Minister Tony Abbott have also condemned the comments. Islamic community joins comdemnation THE United Muslim Women Association (MWA) today joined the chorus of condemnation.

Maha Abdo, manager of the association, said she was shocked by the comments, which they did not reflect mainstream Muslim beliefs and warned they would create a backlash against Muslim women.

"From what I know of the imam, he's always been very supportive of women's rights and women's issues, and advocate of women," she said. "We are constantly having to justify our position as Muslim women," she said.

"We are continually having to say Muslim women have rights. We are concerned about the consequences of the reporting today." ...
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Cheney confirms that detainees were subjected to water-boarding

McClatchy Washington Bureau 10/25/2006 Cheney confirms that detainees were subjected to water-boarding: "WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called 'water-boarding,' which creates a sensation of drowning. "

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.

Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.

The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider water-boarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that's banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture. Some intelligence professionals argue that it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell their interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the water-boarding stop.

Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have said that a law Bush signed last month prohibits water-boarding. The three are the sponsors of the Military Commissions Act, which authorized the administration to continue its interrogations of enemy combatants.

Graham, a military lawyer who serves in the Air Force Reserve, reaffirmed that view in an interview last week with McClatchy Newspapers.

"Water-boarding, in my opinion, would cause extreme physical and psychological pain and suffering, and it very much could run afoul of the War Crimes Act," he said, referring to a 1996 law. "It could very much open people up to prosecution under the War Crimes Act, as well as be a violation of the Detainees Treatment Act."

A revised U.S. Army Field Manual published last month bans water-boarding as "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

"There is a disconnect between the president and the vice president and on the other side leading proponents from their own party and leading experts on the laws of war," said Neal Sonnett, the chairman of the American Bar Association's Task Force on Enemy Combatants.
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The radio interview Tuesday was the first time that a senior Bush administration official has confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding against important al-Qaida suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammad was captured in Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and turned over to the CIA.

Water-boarding means holding a person's head under water or pouring water on cloth or cellophane placed over the nose and mouth to simulate drowning until the subject agrees to talk or confess.

Lee Ann McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, denied that Cheney confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding or endorsed the technique.

"What the vice president was referring to was an interrogation program without torture," she said. "The vice president never goes into what may or may not be techniques or methods of questioning."

In the interview on Tuesday, Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D., told Cheney that listeners had asked him to "let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives."

"Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?" Hennen said.

"I do agree," Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday. "And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation."

Cheney added that Mohammed had provided "enormously valuable information about how many (al-Qaida members) there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth. We've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that."

"Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" asked Hennen.

"It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president `for torture.'
We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in," Cheney replied. "We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that."

The interview transcript was posted on the White House Web site. Interview of the Vice President by Scott Hennen, WDAY.

CIA spokeswoman Michelle Neff said, "While we do not discuss specific interrogation methods, the techniques we use have been reviewed by the Department of Justice and are in keeping with our laws and treaty obligations. We neither conduct nor condone torture."

McClatchy correspondents James Rosen and Marisa Taylor contributed to this report.
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bulletproof politics | Salon.com

Bulletproof politics Salon.com: "Sept. 29, 2006 Rarely does an incumbent U.S. senator panic over the possibility that a new and little-known advocacy organization might broadcast a political attack in his home state. Yet the mere prospect of confrontation with VoteVets.org -- a political action committee organized by military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan -- seems to have frightened Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., into launching his own preemptive attack on the group. "

Two weeks ago the second-term senator, who faces a spirited but uphill challenge from state Democratic Party chairman Jim Pederson, charged into the Phoenix offices of the Arizona Republic, the state's largest newspaper. He told the newspaper's editorial board that he anticipated an imminent assault from VoteVets, which had started running a dramatic television ad in Virginia, accusing Sen. George Allen of failing to provide adequate body armor to thousands of American troops in Iraq. Four days later, the paper dutifully ran an editorial criticizing the ad as "deceitful."

What Kyl accomplished, of course, was to provide precious free publicity to the veterans -- and to encourage them to buy airtime in Arizona, where they never had any intention to advertise.

"The irony of it is, we hadn't even planned on running an ad against [Kyl]," said Jon Soltz, the former Army logistics captain who serves as executive director of VoteVets. "But since he seems so eager to talk about this issue, we've reconsidered, and we're releasing the ad on his votes against body armor for the troops so we can discuss it." The VoteVets media team quickly arranged to send the ad to every newsroom in the state with a new punch line hitting Kyl.

Produced by independent media consultants Bill Hillsman and Bob Grossfeld, the ad (which can be viewed here) shows a young Army Reserve vet in the desert, firing an AK-47 into a pair of dummies wearing different armored vests. One vest stops the bullets, but the other doesn't. The ad blames the Republican senators who refused to appropriate money for the newer and more effective armor. Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos called it "more relevant and hard hitting than anything else I've seen this cycle."

Shortly after the ad's first appearance in Virginia earlier this month, its claims were disputed by FactCheck.org, a "nonpartisan, nonprofit" Web site that claims to "reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics." The FactCheck critique charged that the specific vote cited in the ad -- an April 2003 amendment to the supplemental defense appropriations bill sponsored by Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu that was defeated on a party-line vote -- had nothing to do with body armor. It went on to insist that the scarcity of adequate armor had nothing to do with funding, as the ad implies, but occurred only because of manufacturing and supply bottlenecks. The ad's accusation against Allen and the rest of the Senate Republican majority, said FactCheck, was false.

Soltz and the media team at VoteVets responded nimbly to FactCheck. They corrected a minor mistake (about the vintage of the older vest in the ad), bolstered their argument by defending the reference to the Landrieu bill and cited further proof that Republican senators had voted against full funding for body armor -- namely, an amendment sponsored by Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd in October 2003. The progressive media analysts at Media Matters entered the debate with a powerful rebuttal of the FactCheck critique and the Arizona Republic editorial.

Media Matters pointed out that although Landrieu had not mentioned body armor in her floor speech on the amendment, her press release the following day identified the items she meant to fund in the "Unfunded Requirement Lists" compiled by the National Guard and Army Reserve, including the "shortage of helmets, tents, bullet-proof inserts, and tactical vests." Six months later, when Dodd sought a similar $300 million amendment, he clearly stated that he meant to ensure funding for up-to-date body armor.

On points the debate went to the vets, who held the moral high ground. The journalistic "fact checkers" looked more like nitpickers, and their intervention actually served to sharpen the veterans' argument.
Now an improved version of the ad is not only up and running against Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania but will soon begin airing in Montana against Conrad Burns.

But the more salient question is not whether VoteVets won the argument, but why the ad scared Kyl so much. The veterans' new brand of political activism -- which also includes support for several Democratic veterans challenging Republican congressional incumbents -- shows that the GOP can no longer take for granted the support of the next generation of military families. Many of today's soldiers and officers are angry at the cynicism and incompetence that led them into the quicksands of Iraq, and infuriated by the treatment they receive from the government when they return home.

"I think there's a feeling among the men and women who fought on the ground in Iraq that the leadership has been poor," Soltz says. "But Republicans have not done a lot to recruit veterans of the Iraq war into politics, and neither have Democrats. That's why we're here, to give these troops the support they need." If Democratic leaders have any foresight -- an arguable proposition at best -- they will get behind these veterans, their ads and their candidates, and lift the Vietnam-era "anti-military" stereotype from their party.

[bth: Thanks to Ed Fields for pointing this out to me. For the record, the plants were NOT running at capacity and the issue was indeed funding for most of this period, both for body and for vehicular armor. If you want to take this further look at the April 2005 votes in the senate to close the armored humvee plant in the summer of 2005! Unfucking believable. I have the rollcall vote from the senate framed and on my wall.]

The Blotter Report Card on Homeland Security

The Blotter: "A leading expert at the Council on Foreign Relations has issued his report card on how the Department of Homeland Security is doing -- and they're not grades you'd want to bring home to your mother.

Here are the grades assigned by Stephen E. Flynn, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations:

Port Security: D+

This grade is actually up from the 'F' Flynn says they deserved until about two years ago. Flynn says DHS has created a 'framework' for improving port security, 'but we still have such a long way to go.'"

Nuclear Plant Security: B/B+This was a high priority even before 9/11, and Flynn says it's pretty strong.

Air Defense: BFlynn says the small plane that crashed into a New York City high-rise building earlier this month points out a gap in our air defense capabilities: anything flying below 1500 feet. On the positive side, fighter jets can be scrambled quickly, and monitoring has improved on planes flying in from overseas.

Airport Security: CPassenger and baggage screening does better, 'B' or 'B+,' but Flynn says air cargo shipped in the hold of commercial jets "is still a major vulnerability," a 'D+.'

Border Control and Immigration: CFlynn says the borders are "a hot topic for political reasons, but they don't have a lot to do with security."

Chemical Plant Security: D-/F"This is totally unsatisfactory in light of the threat that some very deadly chemicals can pose," Flynn says. The Department of Homeland Security has just gotten legal authority for the first time to check the security plans at facilities around the country but has limited money for enforcement.

Disaster Response: C-Flynn says the Department of Homeland Security "got religion" after Hurricane Katrina, but FEMA has limited assets, and there's still a struggle to coordinate plans with the military.

Infrastructure: C Flynn says our bridges and tunnels tend to be "over-engineered" and would be difficult for a terrorist to blow up, "but there is still a lot that could be done on surveillance."

Public Relations: DIn Flynn's opinion, "This is probably one of the weakest areas." He says DHS needs "Madison-Avenue-type help" to keep Americans engaged and alert when there hasn't been a major attack since Sept. 11, 2001.

U.S. generals call for Democratic takeover

U.S. generals call for Democratic takeover Salon News: "Oct. 25, 2006 WASHINGTON -- Two retired senior Army generals, who served in Iraq and previously voted Republican, are now openly endorsing a Democratic takeover of Congress. The generals, and an active-duty senior military official, told Salon in separate interviews that they believe a Democratic victory will help reverse course from what they consider to be a disastrous Bush administration policy in Iraq. The two retired generals, Maj. Gen. John Batiste and Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, first openly criticized the handling of the war last spring, when they called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

'The best thing that can happen right now is for one or both of our houses to go Democratic so we can have some oversight,' Batiste, who led the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, told Salon. Batiste describes himself as a 'lifelong Republican.' But now, he said, 'It is time for a change.' "

Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004, agrees that Democratic control of Congress could be the best way to wrest control from the Bush administration and steer the United States away from a gravely flawed strategy in Iraq. "The way out that I see is to hand the House and the Senate to the Democrats and get this thing turned around," Eaton explained, adding that such sentiment is growing among retired and active-duty military leaders. "Most of us see two more years of the same if the Republicans stay in power," he said. He also noted, "You could not have tortured me enough to vote for Mr. Kerry or Mr. Gore, but I'm not at all thrilled with who I did vote for."

An active-duty senior military official who also served in Iraq said that, among a surprising number of his otherwise "very conservative" colleagues, there is hope that Democrats will gain control of Congress. "I will tell you, in the circles I talk to, the only way to enable or enact change is to change the leadership," he said.

Political experts say there is no evidence of a large exodus of military voters from the GOP, and it remains unclear how Iraq will affect military voters at the polls. Particularly among officers and the top brass, the military has long been heavily Republican. President Bush led John Kerry 73 percent to 18 percent just prior to the 2004 election in a Military Times poll, which largely surveyed higher ranking and career members of the military. Three separate studies in the past decade, including one due in dissertation form from Columbia University next spring, have put the ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the upper ranks of the military at 8-to-1.

But last spring a handful of retired commanders shook the military establishment to its core by publicly calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And palpable frustration and anger among officers over the Bush administration's Iraq strategy clearly is driving some to do what was previously unthinkable: switch their allegiance to the Democratic Party, at least for the time being.

That may also be the case among the rank and file. As Salon reported recently, there are signs that support for Bush and the GOP is eroding in a Virginia congressional district saturated with military voters. Salon has also learned that more than 100 current members of the military have now joined a campaign formally appealing to Congress to immediately withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq.

"The rest of us still in uniform cannot publicly articulate our own concerns, but there is a whole bunch of people out there who feel [this] way," said the active-duty senior military official. When asked if he was a Republican, he responded, "I was in the past." He railed against the Bush administration's head-in-the-sand approach to the war.

"What do we have today? Holy shit. Now you have sectarian violence? That is a new term, by the way," the official fumed, emphasizing that before the war and even well into a volatile occupation nobody in the Bush administration "would even believe there would be an insurgency."

It's not that the current and former military leaders are suddenly eager to see liberal House Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi take more power in Congress if the Democrats win control. Instead, the embrace of the Democrats, they say, is purely pragmatic. They hope the Democrats will succeed where Republicans failed and conduct critical oversight to help the Bush administration fix its stalled and failing strategy for Iraq. "Over five years our Congress has abrogated [its] oversight responsibilities," Batiste said. "They have not held serious hearings about this war."

The military leaders also say that Democrats might be willing to put up the massive infusion of cash they believe will be required to fix a military stretched thin, and to permanently increase the size of the Army.

In July 2005, Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Sen. Hillary Clinton introduced a bill that would boost the Army by 100,000 soldiers. In the House, Pennsylvania's John Murtha and Missouri's Ike Skelton, ranking Democrats in military matters, have also indicated support for a beefed-up military. While the Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation temporarily increasing the size of the Army, a permanent move in that direction is anathema to Rumsfeld -- who has battled for a smaller, ever more technology-dependent military.

The Bush administration's handling of the war, meanwhile, has come under extraordinary fire from within the military. More than 100 service members, including those on active duty and members of the Reserves, have now sent "appeals for redress" to members of Congress asking for the "prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq." The appeals are a form letter designed to air a complaint without running afoul of official regulations restricting what members of the military can say.

Although they are sent individually, the unusual wave of appeals has been organized by antiwar groups including Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for Peace.

It appears to be one of the first examples of an organized effort by active-duty and reservist military members in opposition to the war in Iraq. It also signals a level of desperation -- since those troops who contacted Congress have potentially invited retribution from their superiors and put their military careers at risk. "It is significant because it is a clear voice from people who are dedicated to the military and dedicated to service, but not dedicated to this war," said J.E. McNeil, the executive director at the Center on Conscience & War who is providing some legal advice to those participating. "For every one of those guys," McNeil claimed, "there are 2,000 or 3,000 guys who are not willing to go public like this. These men and women represent the tip of the iceberg."

Army Lt. Col. Brian Maka, a Pentagon spokesman, said he was unaware of the appeals for redress, and declined to comment further.

A prompt withdrawal of troops, which some Democrats have called for, is not part of the major strategic overhaul sought by Batiste and Eaton. But the retired generals are hoping that a Democratic-controlled Congress can push back more forcefully against President Bush, who continues to argue in favor of establishing democracy in Iraq, and against partitioning the country along sectarian lines. Some in the military say that partitioning the country may now be the only hope of success in some form -- a plan aired publicly by Sen. Joe Biden in May and backed by a number of Democrats.

"It will never be democracy," Batiste said, pointing to the military's several years of experience battling the insurgency in Iraq. Democracy, he said, simply runs counter to the powerful tribal and religious fault lines of Iraqi society. But he thinks that the country might still be successfully carved up among the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds. Sharing oil resources might seal the deal, Batiste said, and it could be spun as "some form of representative government" -- if not a democracy.

"Either partition it into three countries or go into a loose confederation and have assurances on the sharing of natural resources," Eaton agreed. "I think that is the best we can get out of this deal now."

It's too early to tell whether the acute dissatisfaction with Republicans will have staying power, says Stephen Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University who has lectured at West Point.

But Wayne says it reflects real and widespread disappointment among military officers at the Bush administration's wrongheaded approach. "I think in the short run, you are seeing anger" at the Bush administration, he explained. The uniformed officers "have been completely marginalized" by an administration that refuses to take their advice.

Batiste said he was tormented by reading daily casualty reports and knowing that the deaths are, in part, the result of a bungled, backward strategy that focuses on lofty but unattainable goals. But while he and others admit they have no particular love for the Democrats, they see the party as perhaps their last, best hope of reaping anything other than more death and destruction in Iraq.

[bth: I completely agree with these two generals. a change in party leadership in the House is the only way to effect any accountability or meaning in the debate.]

Frist to GOP hopefuls: Don't stress Iraq

Frist to GOP hopefuls: Don't stress Iraq - Yahoo! News: "CONCORD, N.H. - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says if Republican candidates want to succeed on Election Day, they should turn their focus away from the Iraq war. "

"The challenge is to get Americans to focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issue," Frist said in an interview with the Concord Monitor on Tuesday.

Frist suggested that Republicans remind voters of subjects like tax cuts and lower gas prices, the result, he said, of the energy bill passed by Congress last year.

"These are all things the media has not covered," Frist said. "People don't say, 'This Congress passed tax cuts.' But that means something to every American."

Frist, a possible candidate for the presidency in 2008, visited New Hampshire on Tuesday to help local Republicans running for office and to accompany his wife, Karyn, on a promotional tour for her new book.

Frist, who is retiring from the Senate when his term expires at the end of this year, said he has been campaigning for candidates in his native Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa and New Hampshire. He said those trips have shown him a "worried, discontented and confused" electorate, with voters fed up with the politics of Washington.

Frist suggested two issues that Republicans should use to highlight their differences with Democrats: homeland security and taxes. He criticized Democratic opposition to renewing the Patriot Act as "not equipping the government and military with the best tools to defeat terrorists." He also said proposals by Democrats to repeal tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would be a drain on all taxpayers.

Gallup: 54% Want Iraq Pullout Within a Year

Gallup: 54% Want Iraq Pullout Within a Year: "NEW YORK Politicians, top administration officials -- and editorial writers -- may be reluctant to do it, but a majority of Americans now embrace the concept of a speedy U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. A new Gallup poll released today finds that 20% urge an 'immediate' pullout with another 34% backing a full withdrawal within one year, for a total of 54%.

Only 9% want to send more troops. The poll of 1,007 adults was taken Oct. 20-22.

The poll also found near record level of 58% calling the war a 'mistake.'

Slightly more (21% vs. 19%) say the insurgents, not our forces, are winning , with 58% declaring neither.

About 2 in 10 Democrats say the war is 'going well,' compared with nearly 6 in 10 Republicans -- but the key is that Independents side very closely (26%) with the Democrats.

According to the survey, 64% of Americans say things are going badly for the United States in Iraq, including 35% who say they are going 'very badly.' Just 35% of Americans say things are going well -- although most Republicans still feel that way. 'That matches the worst assessment of the situation in Iraq Gallup has measured,' the organization points out. "

Israeli jets clash with German ship near Lebanon

World Crises Reuters.com: "BERLIN, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Two Israeli warplanes and a German navy vessel have clashed off the Lebanese coast, the Defence Ministry in Berlin said on Wednesday without giving further details. Germany daily Der Tagesspiegel earlier on Wednesday quoted a junior German defence minister as telling a parliamentary committee that two Israeli F-16 fighters flew low over the German ship and fired two shots.

The jets also released infra-red countermeasures to ward off any rocket attack, the paper quoted him as saying.

The minister did not say when the incident happened or what had caused it, the paper said.

'I can confirm that there was an incident,' a ministry spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday. An investigation was underway and he therefore was unable to provide further information, he added.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was checking the report.

Germany assumed command of a United Nations naval force off the coast of Lebanon 10 days ago and has sent a force of eight ships and 1,000 service personnel to join the international peace operation in the region.

The naval force is charged with preventing weapons smuggling and helping maintain a ceasefire between Israel and radical Lebanese-based Islamic group Hezbollah."
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Iraqi Realities Undermine the Pentagon’s Predictions

Iraqi Realities Undermine the Pentagon’s Predictions - New York Times: "BAGHDAD, Oct. 24 — In trying to build support for the American strategy in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said Tuesday that the Iraqi military could be expected to take over the primary responsibility for securing the country within 12 to 18 months. "

But that laudable goal seems far removed from the violence-plagued streets of Iraq’s capital, where American forces have taken the lead in trying to protect the city and American soldiers substantially outnumber Iraqi ones.

Given the rise in sectarian killings, a Sunni-based insurgency that appears to be as potent as ever and an Iraqi security establishment that continues to have difficulties deploying sufficient numbers of motivated and proficient forces in Baghdad, General Casey’s target seems to be an increasingly heroic assumption.

On paper, Iraq has substantial security forces. The Pentagon noted in an August report to Congress that Iraq had more than 277,000 troops and police officers, including some 115,000 army combat soldiers.

But those figures, which have often been cited at Pentagon news conferences as an indicator of progress and a potential exit strategy for American troops, paint a distorted picture. When the deep-seated reluctance of many soldiers to serve outside their home regions, leaves of absence and AWOL rates are taken into account, only a portion of the Iraqi Army is readily available for duty in Baghdad and other hot spots.

The fact that the Ministry of Defense has sent only two of the six additional battalions that American commanders have requested for Baghdad speaks volumes about the difficulty the Iraqi government has encountered in fielding a professional military. The four battalions that American commanders are still waiting for is equivalent to 2,800 soldiers, hardly a large commitment in the abstract but one that the Iraqis are still struggling to meet.

From the start, General Casey’s broader strategy for Iraq has been premised on the optimistic assumption that Iraqi forces could soon substitute for American ones. In February 2005, General Casey noted that in the year ahead the United States would begin to “transfer the counterinsurgency mission to the increasingly capable Iraqi security forces across Iraq.”

In June 2006, General Casey submitted a confidential plan to the White House projecting American troop withdrawals that would begin in September 2006 and which, conditions permitting, would lead to a more than 50 percent reduction in American combat brigades by December 2007. Iraq’s security forces were to fill the gap. In keeping with that strategy, American forces cut back their patrols in Baghdad during the first half of 2006.

It did not take long before the plan had to be shelved and American forces increased to try to tamp down the sectarian killings there. Still, General Casey continued to portray the current surge in fighting as a difficult interlude before the Iraqi security forces could begin to assume the main combat role and some variant of his withdrawal plan for American forces could be put back on track.

As he said Tuesday, “It’s going to take another 12 to 18 months or so till, I believe, the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security, still probably with some level of support from us, but that will be directly asked for by the Iraqis.”

Certainly, the Iraqi security forces have made some gains. The Iraqi military is larger and better trained, and has taken control of more territory in the past year. Some Iraqi soldiers have fought well. But in Baghdad, which American commanders have defined as the central front in the war, it is still a junior partner.

To improve the Iraqi forces, the American military is inserting teams of military advisers with Iraqi units. American officials also say their Iraqi counterparts are trying to use the lure of extra pay to persuade reluctant troops to come to the aid of their capital.

But longstanding problems remain. A quarter or so of a typical Iraqi unit is on leave at any one time. Since Iraq lacks an effective banking system for paying its troops, soldiers are generally given a week’s leave each month to bring their pay home.

Desertions and absenteeism are another concern. According to the August Pentagon report, 15 percent of new recruits drop out during initial training. Beyond that, deployment to combat zones, the report adds, sometimes results in additional “absentee spikes of 5 to 8 percent.”

As a result, the actual number of Iraqi boots on the ground on a given day is routinely less than the official number. In areas where the risks and hardship are particularly great, the shortfall is sometimes significant. In fiercely contested Anbar Province in western Iraq, the day-to-day strength of the Seventh Iraqi Army Division in August was only about 35 percent of the soldiers on its rolls, while the day-to-day strength of the First Division was 50 percent of its authorized strength.

Another complication is that the even-numbered divisions in the 10-division army have largely been recruited locally and thus generally reflect the ethnic makeup of the regions where they are based. So, much of the Iraqi Army consists of soldiers who are reluctant to serve outside the areas in which they reside. Several battalions have gone AWOL rather then deploy to Baghdad, an American military officer said.

The Iraqi government is well aware of such problems. Its plan is to increase the overall size of the military by 50,000, calculating that if it assigns extra troops to each unit they can be maintained near full strength when soldiers go on leave or are otherwise absent.

The difficulties with the Iraqi police, who are supposed to play a major role in protecting cleared areas under the Baghdad security plan, are considerable and include corruption and divided loyalties to militias.

According to the Pentagon report, the Interior Ministry also lacks an effective management system. The Americans know how many Iraqis have been trained to work as police officers but not how many are still on the job.

The National Police have been a particular worry. One National Police unit has been withdrawn from duty in Baghdad because it was linked to sectarian killings. National Police brigades are now being removed from duty one by one for retraining with an eye to changing, as General Casey put it, the “ethos of these forces.”

In the final analysis, the problem is more one of institution building than numbers. Until Iraq has a genuine unity government that its own forces respect and are willing to fight for, it seems likely that the American military will continue to shoulder most of the burden.

[bth: about half the army and police are ghost soldiers used to collect paychecks - graft - for the officers. That's why there are so many partially filled divisions. Its about the graft. As to the police, well early this year the Shiites started refusing to accept US trained police and padded the police with militiamen to get them on the payroll. As a result we have death squads in the police and untrained officers. Our military knew this and I can recall only seeing it reported once. This collapse of the police and failure of the Iraqi military to project power beyond home turfs was both known and predicted. So now the reality has hit, and surprise, surprise the folks in charge are saying "another 12 to 18 months". When you see Gen. Casey giving the speech you know almost with certainty that he's the mouth piece for the administration's position of the day.]
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Censoring Iraq

Why are there so few reporters with American troops in combat? Don't blame the media. by Michael Yon

Censoring Iraq: "In a counterinsurgency, the media battlespace is critical. When it comes to mustering public opinion, rallying support, and forcing opponents to shift tactics and timetables to better suit the home team, our terrorist enemies are destroying us. Al Qaeda's media arm is called al Sahab: the cloud. It feels more like a hurricane. While our enemies have 'journalists' crawling all over battlefields to chronicle their successes and our failures, we have an 'embed' media system that is so ineptly managed that earlier this fall there were only 9 reporters embedded with 150,000 American troops in Iraq. There were about 770 during the initial invasion. "

Many blame the media for the estrangement, but part of the blame rests squarely on the chip-laden shoulders of key military officers and on the often clueless Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad, which doesn't manage the media so much as manhandle them. Most military public affairs officers are professionals dedicated to their jobs, but it takes only a few well-placed incompetents to cripple our ability to match and trump al Sahab. By enabling incompetence, the Pentagon has allowed the problem to fester to the point of censorship.

My experiences with the U.S. military as a soldier and then as a writer and photographer covering soldiers have been overwhelmingly positive, and I feel no shame in saying I am biased in favor of our troops. Even worse, I feel no shame in calling a terrorist a terrorist. I've seen their deeds and tasted air filled with burning human flesh from their bombs. I've seen terrorists kill children while our people risk their lives to save civilians again, and again, and again. I feel no shame in saying I hope that Afghanistan and Iraq "succeed," whatever that means. For that very reason, it would be a dereliction to remain silent about our military's ineptitude in handling the press. The subject is worthy of a book, but can't wait that long, lest we grow accustomed to a subtle but all too real censorship of the U.S. war effort.

I don't use the word lightly. Censorship is a hand grenade of an accusation, and a writer should be serious before pulling the pin. Indeed, some war-zone censorship for reasons of operational security is obviously desirable and important. No one can complain when Delta Force will not permit an embed. In fact, I have turned down offers to embed with some Special Operations forces because the limitations on what I could write would not be worth the danger and expense. But we can and should complain when authorities willfully limit war reporting. We should do so whether it happens as a matter of policy, or through incompetence or bureaucratic sloth. The result is the same in any case. And once the matter has been brought to the attention of the military and the Pentagon--which I have quietly done--and still the situation is not rectified, it is time for a public accounting.

For generations journalists have been allowed to "embed" with various U.S. military units, including infantry outfits. Infantry is perhaps the most dangerous, underpaid, and unglamorous job on the planet.

Infantrymen are called grunts, trigger-pullers, cannon fodder, and ground-pounders. Long hours, low pay, and death, death, death. If they survive, they get a welcome-home party. Sometimes. And that's it:

Thanks. In World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, reporters were given wide latitude to travel with the infantry, even if few could stand it for long. Up to last year, this war was no different. A journalist could stay out with the infantry for as long as he could take it. I spent most of 2005 in Iraq, and most of that was with infantry units in combat.

I went to Iraq initially at the behest of military friends who insisted that what Americans were seeing on the news wasn't an accurate reflection of the reality on the ground. Two of my friends died on consecutive days. When the charred remains of American contractors were strung from a bridge in Falluja, I put aside a book I was writing to attend the funerals. In Colorado we laid to rest a Special Forces friend who'd been killed in Samara; then on to Florida for the funeral of the friend who'd been murdered and mutilated in Falluja. A photo of the dang ling corpses won a Pulitzer.

I purchased and borrowed the equipment required for the journey. Camera, satellite phone, laptop, body armor, helmet, and so on. Like most of the people who would later be called "alternative media," I bore these expenses myself, including the flights to Kuwait. Without media affiliation, I went, saw, wrote, and photographed. There was a dearth of information about the daily experiences of our troops in the U.S. media, and my work, published as a series of photo essays on my website, filled some of that void. My military background helped me navigate the system and provided critical context that informed my observations. I didn't need to be told when to duck, or what not to photograph, or why there had to be a red lens on my small flashlight (it's dim: harder for the enemy to see and saves your night vision). My reports and photographs from 2005 were seen by tens of millions of people.

I believe now as I did then: The government of the United States has no right to send our people off to war and keep secret that which it has no plausible military reason to keep secret. After all, American blood and treasure is being spent. Americans should know how our soldiers are doing, and what they are doing while wearing our flag. The government has no right to withhold information or to deny access to our combat forces just because that information might anger, frighten, or disturb us.

By allowing only a trickle of news to come out of Iraq, when all involved parties know the flow could be more robust, the Pentagon is doing just that. Although the conspicuous media vacuum can be partly explained by the danger--Iraq is arguably more dangerous for journalists than Vietnam or even World War II, when reporters were allowed to land on D-Day--some of the few who will risk it all are denied access for no good reason.

This information blockade is occurring at the same time that the Pentagon is outsourcing millions of dollars to public relations firms to shape the news. This half-baked effort has the unintended consequence of putting every reporter who files a positive story under scrutiny as a possible stooge. A fraction of those dollars spent on increasing transportation support might persuade more reporters to request an embed. A reasonable expectation of being able to get to units and get stories filed on time is all most reporters ask. The media people I encountered in Iraq were not looking for four-star accommodations. They knew full well what to expect from a war zone, but they cannot waste days, sometimes weeks, stranded in logistics limbo, held up for reasons that almost never have anything to do with combat.

There's little comfort in the supposition that this mess might be more the result of incompetence than policy. After all, what does it matter whether the helicopter crashed because it ran out of gas or because someone didn't tighten the bolts on a rotor? Our military enjoys supremely onesided air and weapons superiority, but this is practically irrelevant in a counterinsurgency where the centers of gravity for the battle are public opinion in Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, and at home. The enemy trumps our jets and satellites with supremely onesided media superiority. The lowest level terror cells have their own film crews. While al Sahab hums along winning battle after propaganda battle, the bungling gatekeepers at the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC) reciprocate with ridiculous and costly obstacles that deter embedded media covering our forces, ultimately causing harm to only one side: ours. And they get away with it because in any conflict that can be portrayed as U.S. military versus media, the public reflexively sides with the military.

In September, when the popular blog conglomerate Pajamas Media reported that there were only nine embedded journalists in Iraq, readers lashed out, blaming a cowardly media. But the reality is convoluted. The Pentagon permits an extremely limited number of journalists access, while denying other embed requests that would have been permitted as recently as a year ago.

Following up on the Pajamas Media report, I con tacted Major Jeffrey Pool, the Marine officer in charge of tracking media in Iraq. He confirmed the figure of only nine embedded reporters. Three were from Stars and Stripes, one from the Armed Forces Network, another from a Polish radio station who was with Polish forces, and one Italian reporter embedded with his country's troops. Of the remaining three, one was an author gathering material for later, leaving two who were reporting on a regular basis to what you might think would be the Pentagon's center of gravity: American citizens.

Although the number of embeds is in constant flux, on the day of Major Pool's report there was approximately one independent journalist for every 75,000 troops. Most embeds last for a matter of days. So, how are our troops doing in Iraq? Afghanistan? Who knows?

The bulk of the reporting on Iraq comes from the "Baghdad News Bureaus"--the mainstream media correspondents who, because of the danger, generally gather information from the safety of their fortresses by using Iraqi stringers. But there are people who would go to war and report on our troops.

Walt Gaya, a highly skilled photographer who received two Purple Hearts last year as an infantryman, recently received two invitations to embed with combat troops: The first came from the 4th Infantry Division, and the second was from Brigadier General Dana Pittard to embed with military training teams. I've had invitations from countless outfits. Yet when Walt and I requested embeds, Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, the director of the Combined Press Information Center, dismissed both requests out of hand.

Johnson, who has been described as "the most quoted man in Iraq," was quoted last March saying this: "We don't turn down embeds at all. When we get a request, it may be very specific or broader. We go to the unit involved. They manage their own embeds. We don't force them to take anyone; we're not going to force anyone to interact with media. We may offer advice and talk to them about their reasoning. In the end, we respect the wishes of the unit." Walt and I both had requests, and in each case the commanders had put their wishes in writing. In both cases, Johnson denied the embeds.

Johnson was pressed for an explanation during a radio interview. I have listened to the tape. He claimed to have been worried because I have no insurance. "How would Johnson know whether I have insurance?" I wondered. "He never asked." Johnson told the interviewer that he had been in communication with me. This was true, but not in the way he implied, because the only words Johnson ever sent my way were in an email on July 18, 2006, where he wrote:

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Mr. Yon;

I do not recognize your website as a media organization that we will use as a source to credential journalists covering MNF-I operations.

LTC Barry JohnsonDirector, CPICwww.mnf-iraq.com

In fact, before Walt Gaya attempted to embed, he and I had a dozen or so phone conversations about his insurance policy. CPIC, for its part, never requested any information about insurance coverage. At the same time Walt and I were being given the brush-off, a blogger and freelance photographer named Chad Hunt was heading for an embed in Afghanistan. (Afghan slots are not controlled by Johnson.) When I asked Hunt if he had insurance, he replied, "Do you think I need it?" Hunt said that nobody had asked him about insurance, which didn't surprise me because it is not part of the standard process during which all embeds sign a detailed Hold Harmless agreement covering matters of injury, dismemberment, and/or death.

Johnson's emailed denial was unconditional. I take him at his word that he refused to recognize my online magazine as a media outlet he was willing to work with. His attitude may, however, come as a surprise to readers like the CentCom soldier who emailed me on October 13: "I have been a reader of your blog for some time. The stories and photographs are some of the best I have seen in the Milblog community. As you may or may not be aware, Central Command Public Affairs has been making an effort to get the military's story out via the blogosphere. The support of people like you and others in the milblog community is invaluable . . . ."

Walt Gaya, though, was intending to shoot pictures for the Veterans of Foreign Wars magazine VFW, which is distributed to the approximately 1.8 million VFW members. Surely that is not a media organization with which CPIC is unwilling to work.

After hearing Johnson's insurance excuse, I checked back with Chad Hunt to find out if the public affairs officers he had dealt with had inquired into his insurance arrangements. Hunt's email response: "Nope. What is that?" Hunt was headed for Afghanistan, and on September 3, I emailed him again, "Did you get insurance?" "Yes, I'm here and no insurance." Chad Hunt, like most alternative media, paid his own way to cover the war. As he explained on his website, chadhuntphotography.com :

I have paid for the cost of the plane ticket, body armor, kevlar helmet, ballistic glasses and all the other gear. I never expected to make money off of this and I even had one agency tell me that they would not back me "because embedded images don't sell."

(In fact, Hunt has already sold one of his Afghanistan images. It appeared as a half-page in the October 8 issue of U.S. News & World Report.)

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson has repeatedly gone on record decrying the lack of press coverage in Iraq, all while alienating the last vestiges of any press willing to spend month after month in combat with American soldiers. Meanwhile, "the most quoted man in Iraq" has become a major media source in his own right. Too bad there is no one else to tell the story of our troops. Too bad the soldiers' families have little idea what they are up to from day to day.

As stated at the outset, many PAO officers are extremely hardworking and dedicated. My dealings with other PAOs, such as USMC Major Jeffrey Pool and Army Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, have been exemplary. But a system that so easily thwarts the work of good men and women is a system in desperate need of an overhaul.

The enemy knows that in modern day counterinsurgency, the media are an extension of the battle space. When Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the late and unlamented leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, began losing some of his media battles by broadcasting videos of hostages having their heads sawed off, Ayman al Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's second-in-command, scolded him in a missive later recovered in a raid:

However, despite all of this, I say to you that we are in a battle and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma. And that however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us. And we can kill the captives by bullet. That would achieve that which is sought after without exposing ourselves to the questions and answering to doubts. We don't need this. [Translation: Just shoot them, dummy.]

During the beginning of the war, when some of us called an insurgency an insurgency, our patriotism was questioned. Is there any question now? Are there just a few "dead-enders" that we are still "mopping up"? When I called a civil war a civil war a full year ahead of the media, out came the dogs. When I predicted success in Mosul even while the guns were hot, many mainstream journalists thought I was hallucinating. But these were all things I learned from being embedded for months with our troops.

There was tremendous progress in Iraq in 2005, and I reported it, all while warning about the growing civil war that could undermine everything. I reported extensively on a unit that was getting it right--the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment (Deuce Four) of the 25th Infantry Division--and as I traveled to Mosul, Baqubah, and other places, I was mostly alone as a writer.

Early this spring, when I reported from Afghan farms about this year's bumper opium crop, people thought I was using that opium. Now it is common knowledge that the opium trade is fueling a Taliban comeback. Mark this on your calendar: Spring of 2007 will be a bloodbath in Afghanistan for NATO forces. Our British, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, and other allies will be slaughtered in Afghanistan if they dare step off base in the southern provinces, and nobody is screaming at the tops of their media-lungs about the impending disaster.

I would not be surprised to see a NATO base overrun in Afghanistan in 2007 with all the soldiers killed or captured. And when it happens, how many will claim they had no idea it was so bad and blame the media for failing to raise the alarm? Here it is: WARNING! Troops in Afghanistan are facing slaughter in 2007!

The media do matter. Our troops are naked without them. Our people would probably still be driving down Iraqi roads in unarmored Humvees were it not for the likes of journalist Edward Lee Pitts, who got a National Guardsman to pose the now infamous "hillbilly armor" question to the secretary of defense.

Seven days a week I communicate with wounded service members and families of service members killed in action. They ask, "When are you going back?" They long to hear the details--good, bad, or ugly--that bring them closer to their loved ones. Some get impatient and short with me, perhaps not realizing that Lt. Col. Barry Johnson has the final say and doesn't recognize my work or that of Walt Gaya as warranting an embed on his watch. As this magazine goes to press, military sources tell me that Johnson is on his way out of CPIC, and his successor is said to be much better. This may count as good news. But a system so dependent on the whims of a single officer cannot be relied upon.

The media are far from perfect. War reporters, like everyone else, get things wrong. Some of them, unsympathetic to the war aims, undoubtedly try to twist the news. But no coverage at all is even worse.

It does a disservice to American soldiers. It is cruel to their families. It leaves the American public in the dark. If we lose the media war, we will lose Iraq, Afghanistan, and the entire "war on terror."

If our military cannot win the easy media battles with writers who are unashamed to say they want to win the war, there is no chance of winning the hearts and minds of Afghans and Iraqis, and both wars will be lost. And some will blame the media. But that will not resurrect the dead.

Michael Yon is an independent writer and photographer who embedded in Iraq for nine months in 2005. He writes on his website at www.michaelyon-online.com.

© Copyright 2006, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

[bth: way to go Michael!]