Saturday, November 11, 2006

Funeral of Bulent Ecevit, turns into anti-Islamic protest

Khaleej Times Online - Funeral of Bulent Ecevit, turns into anti-Islamic protest: "ANKARA, Turkey - The funeral of former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit turned into a protest against the Islamic-rooted government on Saturday when thousands of pro-secular mourners booed the Turkish premier at a mosque and vowed to defend the secular regime against radical Islamic influences."

Turkey is secular and will remain secular,’ thousands of people shouted when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived at the Kocatepe mosque for funeral prayers for Ecevit, who died at 81.

Ecevit, a much respected pro-secular political force in Turkey for almost half a century, died on Sunday after nearly six months in a coma following a stroke.

Ecevit, who served five times as Turkey’s prime minister, is best known for ordering the 1974 invasion of Cyprus, which led to the division of the Mediterranean island but made him a hero at home. His struggle for workers’ social rights also made him popular with the working class for decades.

The anti-government protests during Ecevit’s funeral underlined growing concerns about rising profile of Islam in this predominantly Muslim but officially secular country.

The crowd booed Erdogan even louder as he left the mosque. Several other government members and Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party were targets of similar protests.

Since taking power in 2002, Erdogan has increased secularists’ concerns by speaking out against restrictions on wearing Islamic-style head scarves in government offices and schools and by supporting religious schools. He also tried to criminalize adultery before being forced to back down under intense European Union pressure, and some party-run municipalities have taken steps to ban alcohol.

Erdogan’s government denies it has an Islamic agenda. It has shown a commitment to joining the EU by enacting some sweeping reforms that allowed the country to start membership talks last year. But Erdogan’s administration came under strong criticism from the EU for trying journalists and writers under repressive laws curbing freedom of expression.

Many secularists in Turkey, however, are increasingly concerned that Erdogan might become president to replace staunchly secular President Ahmet Necdet Sezer when Sezer retires in May. The parliament, dominated by Erdogan’s lawmakers, will elect the new president. Erdogan would have to give up the premiership.

A former Constitutional Court judge, Sezer has vetoed a record number of laws that he ruled violated the secular constitution, and has blocked government efforts to appoint hundreds of reportedly Islamic-oriented candidates to important civil service positions.

Turkey’s strict secular laws separate religion and state. Many fear that if left unchecked, Islamic fundamentalism will lead to a theocracy like that in Iran.

Ecevit was seen as a defender of the secular regime in Turkey.

People’s Ecevit!’ the crowd chanted in affection as his flag-draped casket was placed on a gun carriage towed by soldiers.

Tens of thousands of mourners, some weeping and throwing red carnations, thronged the funeral procession.

The funeral was originally planned for Wednesday, but was moved to Saturday according to the wishes of Ecevit’s wife, Rahsan, so that workers across Turkey would be able to attend.

Thousands of workers, wearing yellow or red protective helmets, marched behind the coffin under an overcast sky.

The burial will take place later Saturday at the state cemetery. Parliament on Wednesday amended a law to allow prime ministers to be buried alongside presidents at the state cemetery in the capital.

Political leaders and foreign dignitaries attended a state funeral at the parliament.

More than 10,000 police and paramilitary police officers closed several roads to traffic for the funeral procession and flights over the capital were canceled for security reasons. Snipers were posted on balconies and rooftops.

People were seen waving from balconies or windows in tears.

Whiskey Bar: Flashback

Whiskey Bar: Flashback: " Bush in the White House, the Democrats in control of the House and Senate, Jimmy Baker, Robert Gates and now Larry Eagleburger making U.S. foreign policy, the neocons in retreat and the Sandinistas back in power in Nicaragua.

I feel like I stepped into a political time warp and came out in 1989."
  Posted by Picasa

Abu Aardvark: public diplomacy and the elections

Abu Aardvark: public diplomacy and the elections: "Long day. In between teaching stuff and meetings, I recorded a segment for NPR's On the Media about the Arab reaction to the elections, which should air this weekend - check it out if you're so inclined. Just one quick thought that I wanted to throw out there right now. There's quite a bit of jubilant celebration about Republican defeats and Rumsfeld's resignation in exactly the places some people most feared - the jihadi forums and some of the more radical Arab newspapers. Al-Quds al-Arabi has an editorial bluntly stating that the electoral outcome was a great victory for the Iraqi resistance, and I listened to an mp3 of a statement by an Iraqi insurgency leader (I think from al-Jazeera but I'm not sure) claiming victory over the hated Rumsfeld. This doesn't really bother me. Of course those groups are going to claim victory: the election campaign featured administration officials from Bush on down announcing that a Democratic win would be a defeat for America - so why shouldn't they take Bush at his word? But we shouldn't accept their spin at face value or let them frame the interpretation of the election. The US should have had an aggressive public diplomacy campaign stressing the virtues of democracy and how the campaign and the election would only produce a stronger, more effective American policy in Iraq. But electoral considerations took priority over foreign policy interests, so here we are. Now, among the Arab mainstream, who we really should care about, there's a lot of uncertainty about how this will affect American Iraq policy. This would really be a good time to listen to and engage with those Arab voices over how to change course - a real opportunity that shouldn't be missed. More tomorrow. "
  Posted by Picasa

Pentagon to Reevaluate Strategy and Goals in Iraq -

Pentagon to Reevaluate Strategy and Goals in Iraq - "The Pentagon is conducting a major review of the military's Iraq strategy to determine 'what's going wrong and should be changed' to attain U.S. objectives in the war-torn country, the nation's top general said yesterday.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, initiated the review this fall after starkly deteriorating security in Baghdad led commanders there to rule out any significant cut this year in the level of U.S. troops in Iraq -- now at about 145,000 -- according to senior defense officials and sources."

Pace said he, Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, who as head of Central Command oversees the U.S. military in the Middle East, are all working on recommendations for how to improve Iraq strategy.

The military's growing view that Iraq is at a crossroads, a belief spurred largely by intensified sectarian fighting and mounting U.S. casualties on the ground, coincides with political pressure in Washington to find alternatives to the current Iraq policy, heightened by this week's election and the Democratic takeover of Congress.

Pace is scheduled to meet early next week with members of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission mandated by Congress to review the Bush administration's Iraq policy and propose changes, a senior defense official said. Pace's review and other military recommendations are expected to be merged with the work of the Iraq Study Group as part of a broad effort by the administration to redefine Iraq policy. "It will become part of something bigger," the source said.

"We need to give ourselves a good, honest scrub about what is working, what is not working, what are the impediments to progress, and what should we change about the way we're doing it," Pace said in an interview yesterday with CBS News.

"We'll make the changes that are needed to get ourselves more focused on the correct objectives," Pace said, adding in a later interview that the U.S. objectives are themselves in question.

In a string of television appearances to mark Veterans Day, Pace declined to provide details of any specific recommendations for major military shifts in Iraq, saying that would be "premature" and could compromise the effort. "We should not be signaling to our enemies what we're going to do next," he told MSNBC.

Pace said he and other military officials "continuously review what's going right, what's going wrong, what needs to change" and give the defense secretary and the president their "best military advice."

Still, sources said that Pace's review marks a more fundamental and open-ended look for possible solutions in Iraq than the military has undertaken to date, growing out of a realization that Iraq could descend into chaos and that the current strategy is inadequate.

"The collapse of the strategy in Baghdad . . . caused a very deep introspection by the military," said a source connected to the Pentagon, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Asked by one interviewer whether the United States is winning the war in Iraq, Pace replied: "You have to define 'winning.' I don't mean to be glib about that.

"Winning, to me, is simply having each of the nations that we're trying to help have a secure environment inside of which their government and people can function," he said, in remarks that seemed to depart from the administration's more ambitious stated goal of building a democracy in Iraq.

"You are not going to do away with terrorism," Pace continued. "But you can provide governments in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere with enough security capacity to keep the acts below a level at which their governments can function," he said.

Pace's comments also could foreshadow a reassertion of influence by senior officers in the wake of this week's resignation by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to military officers and analysts. Moreover, some military officers have voiced concern in recent days that if they do not assert a greater role in formulating a future course in Iraq, that course will be defined for them by the resurgence of congressional Democrats, many of whom favor a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"Senior military officers in Rumsfeld's watch felt their counsel was only welcomed when it was congenial to Rumsfeld's view, and they now want the whole story, good and bad, to be reflected in whatever strategy the administration pursues," said Loren B. Thompson, a national security expert at the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank.

Pace said yesterday that he was surprised and saddened by Rumsfeld's resignation, calling him "a strong advocate for all of us in the military." But he also praised President Bush's nominee to replace Rumsfeld, former CIA chief Robert M. Gates, as a "very talented, dedicated patriot." Gates "has a reputation as a man who gets things done, a man who is collaborative and solicits subordinates' opinions," Pace said.

"Unless they get a very hard push-back from Mr. Gates during the early days of his tenure, the officers will try to reassert military control over the strategy in Iraq and the investment agenda," Thompson said.

Pace said the military will forge ahead with its work in Iraq, regardless of the change in civilian leadership at the Pentagon. "The change in leadership itself will not have a direct impact on what we do or don't do in Iraq," he said. "We in the military are used to changes of command."

[bth: Pace is desparate to get some input into the debate and to frame the objectives and new pecking order. The generals have lost their excuse with Rumsfeld's departure. Now they are on the line and have a small chance to influence the way this war is being fought and more importantly its realistic objectives. I hope he can add some reality to the discussion.]
  Posted by Picasa

US intelligence reveals extent of Iraq carnage

US intelligence reveals extent of Iraq carnage - World - "WHILE Australia and the US remain committed to staying in Iraq until local security forces are strong enough to keep the peace, a report to US Congress has revealed that the task could take a long time to achieve.

The quarterly report, measuring stability and security in Iraq, was presented to Congress in August. It reveals that more than 6000 Iraqi police have been killed since the war officially ended in 2003."

At least 20 per cent of those joining the police force were quitting each year. It said record keeping was so poor that it was not known how many police on the payroll were still reporting for duty. But up to 40 per cent of police were believed to be absent.

Up to 8 per cent of soldiers were likely to be absent without leave at any time.

"Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq," the report said. "Nevertheless the current violence is not a civil war and movement towards civil war can be prevented."

The future of coalition operations in Iraq will top the agenda when Prime Minister John Howard meets US President George Bush at the APEC meeting in Vietnam next week. Separately, Australia's Defence Minister Brendan Nelson will meet new US Defence Secretary Robert Gates in Washington next month.

The US Department of Defence report noted sectarian tensions in Iraq were increasing, with more killings, kidnappings and attacks on civilians.

Many killings were carried out by death squads of terrorists, militias, "illegal armed groups" and in some cases, rogue elements of the Iraqi security forces. Coalition forces were the targets for 63 per cent of attacks.

Extremists were increasingly locked in retaliatory violence and fighting over ethnically mixed areas to extend their areas of influence.

About 1600 bodies arrived at the Baghdad coroner's office in June and more than 1800 in July. Ninety per cent of the victims had been executed.

The report said key goals in Iraq were to bring democracy, a sound market economy and "an environment where Iraqis are capable of defeating terrorists and neutralising insurgents and illegal armed groups". Each goal depends on success in the other two, it said.

It said about 277,600 Iraqi soldiers and police had been trained so far and Iraqi units were increasingly able to take the lead in combat operations against insurgents.

But there was no judicial punishment system in the Iraqi army so commanders had limited ability to compel soldiers to fight "and soldiers and police can quit with impunity".

Poor security for judges and courts undermined advancements in the rule of law.

In many areas, judges were afraid to prosecute insurgents. While 1500 judges were needed, only about 740 were serving.

On the positive side, the report said terrorists had failed to derail the political process.

Electricity was available for 14 hours a day in July, a significant improvement on the previous quarter. And oil production, which provides 90 per cent of Iraqi revenue, was up by 18 per cent to 2.2 million barrels a day.

But Iraq owed nearly $40 million in war reparations after the first Gulf War, including about $25 million to oil companies that lost profits and equipment.

"Paying these reparations each year while simultaneously attempting to rebuild its economy places a significant strain on Iraq's limited resources," the report said.
  Posted by Picasa

Counterterrorism Blog: Al-Muhajir's audiotape: an important salad bowl

Counterterrorism Blog: Al-Muhajir's audiotape: an important salad bowl: "On 10 November, the website of the Islamic Renewal Organization, a Saudi dissident group headed by Muhammad al-Mas'ari and based in the United Kingdom, posted several links to a new audio message issued by Shaykh Abu-Hamzah al-Muhajir, AKA Abu-Ayyub al-Masri, leader of Al-Qa'ida Organizations in Iraq. I obtained the original tape from the Laura Mansfield research group, and I do thank her for that."

After listening carefully to the tape, I realized that it is not just about one particular message as it was projected in the international media. Yes indeed, the most striking part was al Muhajir's statements about the results of the midterms elections in the US, and his direct threat against the White House. Without any doubt, to Americans today, this tape falls in the midst of their ongoing political transformations. And on that level, I will (later) provide a special reading of these statements. But the audiotape message included a revealing number of other important Jihadi issues, a real salad bowl. Here are the most salient ones:

1) al Qaeda's penetration of American politics:

Interestingly, the message asks (American) politicians if they will implement their electoral promises to withdraw from Iraq. al Muhajir praises the choices by the voters of the enemy to "defeat Bush." More interestingly, he uses and American vocabulary by calling the War "stupid." Usually Jihadists calls it evil or infidel and rarely qualify it in secular "electoral" terms. But the most striking words used by a Jihadi commander is "lame duck." When I heard him uttering the words al-batta al arjaa' I realized he was off the classical Jihadi speech. The introduction of such words will certainly affect our reading of the speech (we will expand later on this particular point)

2) Phonetics

The speech is definitely being read from a prepared text. Different subjects, with different concerns have been sawed to each other, with a variety of tones. Moreover, it is easy to realize the initial taping has been edited. His passion would explode mostly when the issues has to do with intra-Jihadist or intra Islamic issues, and his reading is faster when it is about the enemy, the infidels. The speech is a salad bowl from this perspective.

3) The intra-Islamic conflicts

They are of great concerns: The rise of Iranian-Shiite power, the Sunnis who are not joining his Jihad yet and the bad Arab regimes including the Hashemites of Jordan.

4) The allegiance to a higher commander in the region

Intriguing: al Muhajir, with great passion, committed 12,000 al Qaeda fighters to the "ameer al Mu'mineen" al Baghdadi. So, the Emir of al Qaeda in Iraq has pledged support to a regional "emir." Hence, the experts should be paying attention to the matter and watch for a transnational "Jihad chief" in the whole region.

5) Last but not least, from the whole speech, I begin to see that the final product is the result of two types of "material." On the one hand, the complex Jihadi jungle in the region with all the local stuff; and on the other hand Western-based (in this case American-based) Jihadist advice, relaying concepts not-native to the Iraqi Jihadists. Which explains the "salad bowl" structure of the speech and the use of alien political terms.

These and more items are very helpful in the continuous analysis of the Jihadi war of ideas against the West, the United States and emerging freedom in the region.


Dr Walid Phares is a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of Future Jihad: terrorist Strategies against America.
  Posted by Picasa

Iraqi terrorists 'are being supplied with arms smuggled from Iran'

Telegraph | News | Iraqi terrorists 'are being supplied with arms smuggled from Iran': "Iran is sustaining the insurgency against British and American forces in Iraq by supplying terrorists with weapons and cash, senior military figures have claimed."

British forces are enduring daily bombardments of mortar bombs and rockets at their bases in Basra. The weapons are believed to be sponsored, funded and smuggled from Iran whose border is just over 10 miles from the southern Iraq capital.

Military sources have disclosed that there is "very, very strong intelligence" that elements inside Iran have continued to fund and support the gun-running. There is still no "concrete evidence", in part, it is claimed, because Iranian weapons are designed to be untraceable.

"But we know when something goes bang there is an Iranian influence on that bomb," an intelligence official said.

In Basra, Iranian trucks could be seen going through customs with little hindrance from the Department of Border Enforcement.

British soldiers claimed that when they appeared the guards would spring into action, stopping vehicles, but as soon as they left the customs officers waved the traffic through.

At Basra Palace barracks, there have been only four days in the past month in which it has not been attacked. The heavy shelling has claimed the lives of a British soldier and a civilian contractor in the last two months and has led to the British consulate, which is housed in the barracks, to withdraw all but a skeleton staff.

Lt Col Simon Browne, the commanding officer of 2 Bn The Royal Anglians, who finished their tour of Iraq this week, said: "I'm sure there is outside influence here and it is from Iran.

"It is clear the insurgents are getting resupply from somewhere. I would believe it comes from Iran, or at least comes from Iranian sources." While hundreds of rounds have landed on his troops, it would be nearly impossible to definitively prove that they had been manufactured in Iran because the country's arms industry has been "past masters" at hiding its fingerprints on weapons, according to an arms source who has connections with Teheran.

"They are superb at ensuring that, apart from the date of manufacture, there is no identification that can trace the armaments back to Iran."
He claimed that it was "unquestionably Teheran" that was supplying the weapons to insurgents, including the single and twin 107mm rocket launchers adapted from a Chinese design. To try to prevent the influx of weapons, the British have put out long-range patrols along the 300-mile border in Maysan province in an attempt to catch smugglers.

But the porous border, which includes thousands of miles of waterways where the Marsh Arabs live, has yet to yield a weapons cache that would point the finger at Iran's mullahs.

Senior military commanders said they would not be surprised if Iran wanted to influence Iraq as it is a predominantly Shia state with strong ties to the new Baghdad government.

Brigadier James Everard, the commander of 20 Armoured Brigade in Iraq, said that during operations, troops had come across weapons manufactured in Iran but that did not necessarily prove that Teheran was trying to destabilise the country. One would need "a doctorate in Iraqi politics" to understand the exact influence Iran has on its neighbour, he added.

American generals are particularly keen to stop the smuggling, which they say is responsible for providing insurgents with infrared triggers and new explosives that are capable of penetrating thick armour.
  Posted by Picasa

Sunni-Shiite Mortar War Marks Escalation

Las Vegas SUN: Sunni-Shiite Mortar War Marks Escalation: "1110dvs-iraq-latest Mortar battles have erupted between Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad, and the once-mixed city is reeling as the two sides adopt the weapons and tactics of urban civil war.

Throughout the capital and in towns and villages within a 50-mile radius of Baghdad, whole populations have shifted as Shiite and Sunni flee violence from death squads and suicide bombers to the safety of places where their Islamic sect is the majority. "

The highly portable though inaccurate mortar is increasingly the weapon of choice as Shiite and Sunni populations separate, because it allows sectarian fighters to fire into a district from a distance.

Mortars can be quickly pulled from the trunk of a car and fired over several miles, causing death and destruction without the dangers of close-quarters combat or the sacrifice of a suicide bomber.

For Arkan Maher, a 28-year-old electrician and father, it was just another workday this week when mortar rounds crashed to earth in a market in the Sunni enclave of Azamiyah. He fell wounded in both legs, an eye and one arm.

Maher was near the Abu Hanifa mosque, Sunni Islam's holiest shrine in Iraq and a regular target of Shiite mortar teams.

"I saw dozens of wounded people on the ground around me," he said, sitting in his house with bandages on his arm and legs. "Azamiyah has been hit with mortars every day for a week now."

Across the Tigris River, in the Kazimiyah neighborhood - site of the most important Shiite shrine in Baghdad - retaliatory mortar rounds have rained down daily as well.

Other Shiite strongholds in eastern Baghdad, the Shaab neighborhood and Sadr City, are regularly bombarded as is the dangerous Sunni stronghold of Dora, in south Baghdad.

The attacks that have driven the two Muslim sects away from each other in the capital skyrocketed after the Feb. 22 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad.

The destruction of the golden-domed mosque enraged Shiites, particularly members of the Mahdi Army militia. The militia, loyalists of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, stormed out of their Sadr City stronghold and have been on a rampage of revenge killing ever since. Sunnis have fought back with equal vengeance.

The Mahdi Army and the larger, Iranian-trained Badr Brigade of Iraq's largest Shiite political bloc, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, also have sunk deep roots in the country's police and security forces.

The militia members and offshoot death squads have been largely responsible for running Sunnis from neighborhoods where they were a minority. Sunni insurgents, meanwhile, have been attacking Shiites throughout Iraq, including in Sunni-dominated neighborhoods, in what looks increasingly like a successful bid to ignite a civil war.

Iraq's Immigration Ministry says about 1.5 million people are internal refugees, while the United Nations says a similar number of Iraqis have fled the country altogether. That would be about 12 percent of Iraq's prewar population of 26 million, and both figures are probably low estimates.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdel-Karim Khalaf - a Shiite as is his boss, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani - sought to blame the mortar campaign solely on Sunni insurgents, claiming it was the work of Saddam Hussein loyalists and extremists of al-Qaida in Iraq.

"Al-Qaida is facing a major failure, and Baathists are trying to prove something after Saddam was sentenced to death" last week, Khalaf said in a telephone interview. "These are terrorist, cowardly and dirty acts caused by their failure against Iraqi security forces. Now they fire on civilians from a distance, then flee."

Sunnis in Azamiyah blame the Shiites.

Khaled al-Waleed said mortar attacks on the neighborhood started after Shiite militias were pushed back in recent bids to invade the district.

"If they ever decide to enter Azamiyah again, they will be committing suicide," al-Waleed said. He claimed that the mortars falling on the neighborhood are fired from the Shiite neighborhoods of Oteifiyah, Qahira and Ur.

The exchange of mortar fire began in earnest this month when four mortar rounds poured down near Azamiyah's Abu Hanifa Mosque, killing at least five people. The next day three more people were killed in rocket and mortar attacks in the same neighborhood. Two other civilians were killed by mortars in Dora.

Mortars also fell on both Sunni Azamiyah and Shiite Kazimiyah over the following days. The Sunni-operated Baghdad Television urged the Shiite-dominated government to intervene.

On Tuesday, in apparent retaliation for mortar attacks on Sunni areas, a suicide bomber struck a coffee shop in Kazimiyah, killing 21 people and wounding 25. The next day, a pair of mortar rounds slammed into a field in the Shiite district of Sadr City, killing eight soccer players and fans.

Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared Wednesday night that both neighborhoods were being targeted by "Saddamist" and Sunni extremists firing from Taji, 10 miles north of the capital.

Sadr City resident Wissam Jabr, 28, pleaded with the government to stop these "terrible acts that target innocent civilians."

But Sunnis claim the attacks on their neighborhoods are fired from Shiite districts, a sentiment that percolated to the surface during Friday prayers at the Abu Hanifa mosque.

"Azamiyah will remain a stick in the eyes of those who hate us, regardless of mortar bombings and the lack of services," Sunni Sheik Sameer al-Obeidi told worshippers. "We will remain steadfast."

[bth: Baghdad is the newe Beirut]
  Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 10, 2006

Marine to receive Medal of Honor for Iraq heroism

Marine to receive Medal of Honor for Iraq heroism - "CNN) -- President Bush announced on Friday that the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration, will be awarded posthumously to Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.

In April 2004, Dunham was leading a patrol in an Iraqi town near the Syrian border when the patrol stopped a convoy of cars leaving the scene of an attack on a Marine convoy, according to military and media accounts of the action."

An occupant of one of the cars attacked Dunham and the two fought hand to hand. As they fought, Dunham yelled to fellow Marines, "No, no watch his hand." The attacker then dropped a grenade and Dunham hurled himself on top of it, using his helmet to try to blunt the force of the blast.

Still, Dunham was critically wounded in the explosion and died eight days later at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

"As long as we have Marines like Corporal Dunham, America will never fear for her liberty," Bush said Friday as he announced that Dunham would receive the award. Bush spoke at the dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia.

"His was a selfless act of courage to save his fellow Marines," Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Huff of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, was quoted as saying in Marine Corps News that April.

"He knew what he was doing," Lance Cpl. Jason A. Sanders, 21, of McAllester, Oklahoma, who was in Dunham's company, was quoted as saying by Marine Corps News. "He wanted to save Marines' lives from that grenade."

In various media accounts, fellow Marines told how Dunham had extended his enlistment shortly before he died so he could help his comrades.

"We told him he was crazy for coming out here," Lance Cpl. Mark E. Dean, 22, from Owasso, Oklahoma, said in Marine Corps News. "He decided to come out here and fight with us. All he wanted was to make sure his boys made it back home."

"He loved his country, believed in his mission, and wanted to stay with his fellow Marines and see the job through," Vice President Dick Cheney said when speaking of Dunham's heroism at a Disabled American Veterans conference in July 2004.

The Scio, New York, native would have been 25 years old on Friday.

In a letter urging Bush to honor Dunham with the Medal of Honor, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, called the Marine's actions "an act of unbelievable bravery and selflessness."

Dunham's story was told in the book "The Gift of Valor," written by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Phillips.

Dunham will be the second American to receive the Medal of Honor from service in Iraq.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith was the other, honored for action near Baghdad International Airport in April 2003, in which he killed as many as 50 enemy combatants while helping wounded comrades to safety. Smith was the only U.S. soldier killed in the battle.
  Posted by Picasa

Sistani representative demands Saddam execution in Karbala

Sistani representative demands Saddam execution in Karbala: "Baghdad - A representative of Iraq's powerful Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani demanded Friday that the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein takes place in Karbala. "

Ahmad al-Safi in the Friday prayer sermon said that the execution must take place between the two shrines of Shiite Imams, Hussein and Abbas.

Al-Safi said the guilty verdict against Saddam and the sentence of execution - issued by the Iraqi special tribunal in the case involving the killing of 148 Shiites in the town of Dujail in 1982 in retaliation for an attempt on Saddam's life - were good omens.

He said hat even if Saddam were executed a thousand times it would not be equal to one drop of blood of the martyrs, an apparent reference to the Shiites who were killed by Saddam.

Neocons, National Review & the AEI — evading responsibility for their war

Finally forced by reality and public opinion to confess what a disaster their invasion of Iraq has been, most neoconservatives are desperately seeking to heap the blame on George Bush, Don Rumsfeld, military leaders, the American media — anyone but themselves. Others are trying, even more despicably, to blame the Iraqis for the gross failure of the Epic Neoconservative War.

But one of the most vocal warmongers — Michael Ledeen, the "Freedom Scholar" at the neocon American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Contributing Editor of National Review – is desperately attempting, like a good Stalinist, to re-write history by blatantly lying and claiming that he opposed the invasion of Iraq, even though he was a vocal advocate of it. Yesterday, at National Review's Corner, Ledeen wrote:

I do not feel "remorseful," since I had and have no involvement with our Iraq policy. I opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place and I advocated—as I still do—support for political revolution in Iran as the logical and necessary first step in the war against the terror masters.

Ledeen's claim that he "opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place" cannot be described in any way other than as an outright lie. As Meteor Blades pointed out yesterday over at Daily Kos, Ledeen gave an August, 2002 interview to Jamie Glazov at David Horowitz's Front Page and repeatedly urged the invasion of Iraq, including:

Question #2: Okay, well if we are all so certain about the dire need to invade Iraq, then when do we do so?

Ledeen: Yesterday.

And as Mona of Inactivist discovered yesterday, Ledeen even wrote an August, 2002 article — in National Review – devoted to urging what he called "the desperately-needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein." In sum, Ledeen was a repeated and vocal advocate for invading Iraq.

Numerous readers of my blog and others have e-mailed National Review Editor Rich Lowry (here) to demand a correction/retraction and ask how Lowry can permit Ledeen to so blatantly lie about his position on the Iraq War, but Lowry has thus far said nothing. Ledeen himself purported to respond to the accusations, but in doing so, did not link to any of the posts documenting his lies (to ensure that NR readers could not review the evidence against him), ignored the evidence compiled against him, and then simply reaffirmed his lie that he was opposed to the invasion of Iraq.

The fact that those who led the U.S. into this war are seeking to blame others for its failure — or, in Ledeen's case, outright lying about their support for the war — reveals just what a disaster the war has become. Like rats leaping from a sinking ship, they are desperate to find a way to evade responsibility for what they have done.

But it is vitally important that the guilty parties not be allowed to escape responsibility, because people like Michael Ledeen and his comrades at the AEI and National Review still harbor a lengthy warmongering agenda filled with more regimes that need changing and many more countries that need to be attacked. They intend to use the two years left in the Bush administration to fulfill that agenda — with or without continued one-party rule (though a change of control of one or both houses of Congress will make that more difficult). Documenting the fundamental dishonesty which motivates them and their utter lack of credibility, judgment and integrity is therefore of the highest importance. It is nothing short of urgent to ensure that our country is never again guided by the likes of Michael Ledeen.

The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq

Truthdig - The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq: "Thirty-eight years ago, on Jan. 20, 1968, I was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down during my second tour of duty in Vietnam. It is a date that I can never forget, a day that was to change my life forever. Each year as the anniversary of my wounding in the war approached I would become extremely restless, experiencing terrible bouts of insomnia, depression, anxiety attacks and horrifying nightmares. I dreaded that day and what it represented, always fearing that the terrible trauma of my wounding might repeat itself all over again. It was a difficult day for me for decades and it remained that way until the anxieties and nightmares finally began to subside. "

As I now contemplate another January 20th I cannot help but think of the young men and women who have been wounded in the war in Iraq. They have been coming home now for almost three years, flooding Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center and veterans hospitals all across the country. Paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded and maimed, shocked and stunned, brain-damaged and psychologically stressed, over 16,000 of them, a whole new generation of severely maimed is returning from Iraq, young men and women who were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx veterans hospital in 1968.

I, like most other Americans, have occasionally seen them on TV or at the local veterans hospital, but for the most part they remain hidden, like the flag-draped caskets of our dead, returned to Dover Air Force Base in the darkness of night as this administration continues to pursue a policy of censorship, tightly controlling the images coming out of that war and rarely ever allowing the human cost of its policy to be seen.

Mosul, Fallouja, Basra, Baghdad, a roadside bomb, an RPG, an ambush, the bullets cracking all around them, the reality that they are in a war, that they have suddenly been hit. No more John Wayne-Audie Murphy movie fantasies. No more false bravado, stirring words of patriotism, romantic notions of war or what it might really mean to be in combat, to sacrifice for one’s country. All that means nothing now. The reality has struck, the awful, shocking and frightening truth of what it really means to be hit by a bullet, an RPG, an improvised explosive device, shrapnel, a booby trap, friendly fire. They are now in a life-and-death situation and they have suddenly come face to face with the foreign policy of their own nation. The initial shock is wearing off; the painful reality is beginning to sink in, clearly something terrible has happened, something awful and inexplicable.

All the conditioning, all the discipline, shouting, screaming, bullying and threatening verbal abuse of their boot camp drill instructors have now disappeared in this one instant, in this one damaging blow. All they want to do now is stay alive, keep breathing, somehow get out of this place anyway they can. People are dying all around them, someone has been shot and killed right next to them and behind them but all they can really think of at this moment is staying alive.

You don’t think of God, or praying, or even your mother or your father. There is no time for that. Your heart is pounding. Blood is seeping out. You will always go back to that day, that moment you got hit, the day you nearly died yet somehow survived. It will be a day you will never forget—when you were trapped in that open area and could not move, when bullets were cracking all around you, when the first Marine tried to save you and was shot dead at your feet and the second, a black Marine—whom you would never see again and who would be killed later that afternoon—would carry you back under heavy fire.

You are now with other wounded all around you heading to a place where there will be help. There are people in pain and great distress, shocked and stunned, frightened beyond anything you can imagine. You are afraid to close your eyes. To close your eyes now means that you may die and never wake up. You toss and turn, your heart pounding, racked with insomnia ... and for many this will go on for months, years after they return home.

They are being put on a helicopter, with the wounded all around them. They try to stay calm. Some are amazed that they are still alive. You just have to keep trying to stay awake, make it to the next stage, keep moving toward the rear, toward another aid station, a corpsman, a doctor a nurse someone who can help you, someone who will operate and keep you alive so you can make it home, home to your backyard and your neighbors and your mother and father. To where it all began, to where it was once peaceful and safe. They just try to keep breathing because they have got to get back.

They are in the intensive-care ward now, the place where they will be operated on, and where in Vietnam a Catholic priest gave me the Last Rites. Someone is putting a mask over their faces just as they put one over mine in Da Nang in 1968. There is the swirl of darkness and soon they awaken to screams all around them. The dead and dying are everywhere. There are things here you can never forget, images and sounds and smells that you will never see on TV or read about in the newspapers. The black pilot dying next to me as the corpsman and nurse tried furiously to save him, pounding on his chest with their fists as they laughed and joked trying to keep from going insane. The Green Beret who died of spinal meningitis, the tiny Vietnamese nun handing out apples and rosary beads to the wounded, the dead being carted in and out like clockwork,19- and 20-year-olds.

There is the long flight home packed with the wounded all around you, every conceivable and horrifying wound you could imagine. Even the unconscious and brain-dead whose minds have been blown apart by bullets and shrapnel make that ride with you, because we are all going home now, back to our country. And this is only the beginning.

The frustrations, anger and rage, insomnia, nightmares, anxiety attacks, terrible restlessness and desperate need to keep moving will come later, but for now we are so thankful to have just made it out of that place, so grateful to be alive even with these grievous wounds.

I cannot help but wonder what it will be like for the young men and women wounded in Iraq. What will their homecoming be like? I feel close to them. Though many years separate us we are brothers and sisters. We have all been to the same place. For us in 1968 it was the Bronx veterans hospital paraplegic ward, overcrowded, understaffed, rats on the ward, a flood of memories and images, I can never forget; urine bags overflowing onto the floor. It seemed more like a slum than a hospital. Paralyzed men lying in their own excrement, pushing call buttons for aides who never came, wondering how our government could spend so much money (billions of dollars) on the most lethal, technologically advanced weaponry to kill and maim human beings but not be able to take care of its own wounded when they came home.

Will it be the same for them? Will they have to return to these same unspeakable conditions? Has any of it changed? I have heard that our government has already attempted to cut back millions in much needed funds for veterans hospitals—and this when thousands of wounded soldiers are returning from Iraq. Will they too be left abandoned and forgotten by a president and administration whose patriotic rhetoric does not match the needs of our wounded troops now returning? Do the American people, the president, the politicians, senators and congressmen who sent us to this war have any idea what it really means to lose an arm or a leg, to be paralyzed, to begin to cope with the psychological wounds of that war? Do they have any concept of the long-term effects of these injuries, how the struggles of the wounded are only now just beginning? How many will die young and never live out their lives because of all the stress and myriad of problems that come with sending young men and women into combat?

It is so difficult at first. You return home and both physically and emotionally don’t know how you are going to live with this wound, but you just keep trying, just keep waking up to this frightening reality every morning. “My God, what has happened to me?” But you somehow get up, you somehow go on and find a way to move through each day. Even though it is impossible, you go on. Maybe there will be a day years from now, if you are lucky to live that long, when it will get better and you will not feel so overwhelmed. You must have something to hope for, some way to believe it will not always be this way. This is exactly what many of them are going through right now.

They are alone in their rooms all over this country, right now. Just as I was alone in my room in Massapequa. I know they’re there—just as I was. This is the part you never see. The part that is never reported in the news. The part that the president and vice president never mention. This is the agonizing part, the lonely part, when you have to awake to the wound each morning and suddenly realize what you’ve lost, what is gone forever. They’re out there and they have mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives and children. And they’re not saying much right now. Just like me they’re just trying to get through each day. Trying to be brave and not cry. They still are extremely grateful to be alive, but slowly, agonizingly they are beginning to think about what has really happened to them.

What will it be like for them when one morning they suddenly find themselves naked sitting before that mirror in their room and must come face to face with their injury? I want to reach out to them. I want them to know that I’ve been there too. I want to just sit with them in their room and tell them that they must not give up. They must try to be patient, try to just get through each day, each morning, each afternoon any way they can. That no matter how impossible and frustrating it may seem, how painful, regardless of the anxiety attacks and nightmares and thoughts of suicide, they must not quit. Somewhere out there there will be a turning point, somewhere through this all they will find a reason to keep on living.

In the months and years that are to follow, others will be less fortunate. Young men and women who survived the battlefield, the intensive-care ward, veterans hospitals and initial homecoming will be unable to make the difficult and often agonizing adjustment.

Is this what is awaiting all of them? Is this the nightmare no one ever told them about, the part no one now wants to talk about or has the time to deal with? The car accidents, and drinking and drug overdoses, the depression, anger and rage, spousal abuse, bedsores and breakdowns, prison, homelessness, sleeping under the piers and bridges. The ones who never leave the hospital, the ones who can’t hold a job, can’t keep a relationship together, can’t love or feel any emotions anymore, the brutal insomnia that leaves you exhausted and practically unable to function, the frightening anxiety attacks that come upon you when you least expect them, and always the dread that each day may be your last.

Marty, Billy, Bobby, Max, Tom, Washington, Pat, Joe? I knew them all. It’s a long list. It’s amazing that you’re still alive when so many others you knew are dead, and at such a young age. Isn’t all this dying supposed to happen when you’re much older? Not now, not while we’re so young. How come the recruiters never mentioned these things? This was never in the slick pamphlets they showed us! This should be a time of innocence, a time of joy and happiness, no cares and youthful dreams—not all these friends dying so young, all this grief and numbness, emptiness and feelings of being so lost.

The physical and psychological battles from the war in Iraq will rage on for decades, deeply impacting the lives of citizens in both our countries.

As this the 38th anniversary of my wounding in Vietnam approaches, in many ways I feel my injury in that war has been a blessing in disguise. I have been given the opportunity to move through that dark night of the soul to a new shore, to gain an understanding, a knowledge, an entirely different vision. I now believe that I have suffered for a reason and in many ways I have found that reason in my commitment to peace and nonviolence. We who have witnessed the obscenity of war and experienced its horror and terrible consequences have an obligation to rise above our pain and suffering and turn the tragedy of our lives into a triumph. I have come to believe that there is nothing in the lives of human beings more terrifying than war and nothing more important than for those of us who have experienced it to share its awful truth.

We must break this cycle of violence and begin to move in a different direction; war is not the answer, violence is not the solution. A more peaceful world is possible.

I am the living death
The memorial day on wheels
I am your yankee doodle dandy
Your John Wayne come home
Your Fourth of July firecracker
Exploding in the grave

Listen: Poem read by the author

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: A Mass Delusion?

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: A Mass Delusion?: "For days now my telephone has been ringing with calls from people who want me to tell them that sanity and adult leadership are returning to the shores of the Potomac. A man called today to have me say a few words for his national radio network. The theme of his program was clearly supposed to be that the cumulative effect of; the Iraq Study Group, the wipeout of Republican power in the Congress, the assembly of Bush '41 elders and the coming of the newly resuscitated Robert Gates to the Pentagon mean that - ALL WILL BE WELL!!!"

I told the foreign gent that I would believe that to be true when I begin to see something in the President and Commander in Chief of the armed forces which makes me think that "the decider" has decided a different decision. I don't see it yet.

I watched his press conference yesterday and what I saw is a man who is writhing in what must be torture for him. He is no longer able to scold the American people for fear that they may savage him yet further, but is still enraged by resistance to his will.

Let's see what his reactions are to the recommendations of the Baker -Hamilton Group ..... Then we will know.

Pat Lang
  Posted by Picasa

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: Webb’s Dog-Tags

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: Webb’s Dog-Tags: "Jim Webb doesn’t want his friends to talk about his combat record. He thinks it is 'unseemly' to trade on one’s service to country for political gain. It is like him to use that word. He is an old fashioned patriot and warrior. For the same reason, he never talks about George Allan. It would be unseemly. Politics in the United States has degenerated mightily during my lifetime. We used to have leaders like Harry Truman who really did believe that the “buck” stopped with him. Senior military leadership is not what it once was. We once had leaders like George C. Marshall, who, without complaint of any kind, accepted FDR’s appeal that he stay in Washington and allow Eisenhower to command the Normandy invasion. Marshall knew that FDR was effectively denying him future national leadership. He never said a word about it. He maintained a principled silence until his death."

Since Jim Webb won’t talk about what he did in Vietnam when the “chips were down,” I will. Here is the substance of the citation that describes why he was awarded the Navy Cross in Vietnam.

“..deep in hostile territory, First Lieutenant Webb's platoon discovered a well-camouflaged bunker complex…. First Lieutenant Webb was advancing to the first bunker when three enemy soldiers armed with hand grenades jumped out. Reacting instantly, he grabbed the closest man and, brandishing his .45 caliber pistol at the others, apprehended all three of the soldiers. … He then approached the second bunker and called for the enemy to surrender. ….Continuing the assault, he approached a third bunker and was preparing to fire into it when the enemy threw another grenade. Observing the grenade land dangerously close to his companion, First Lieutenant Webb simultaneously fired his weapon at the enemy, pushed the Marine away from the grenade, and shielded him from the explosion with his own body. Although sustaining painful fragmentation wounds from the explosion, he managed to throw a grenade into the aperture and completely destroy the remaining bunker.” It is unseemly to talk about this? The Navy Cross is the country’s second highest medal for battlefield courage.

Think about this. This very young man led his forty-five marines into a fortified enemy position. Three enemy soldiers suddenly appeared. He personally captured the three of them. Then, he moved to a second bunker and in spite of what has just happened, called on them to surrender. The risk in this was appalling. Not many of us would have taken the chance of waiting to see what these new enemies would do. I would not have. In attacking a third bunker, Webb used his own body to shield one of his men from the blast of an enemy grenade. I am surprised that he did not receive the Medal of Honor.

Unseemly to talk about this? Think about the complete lack of focus on self that these actions exemplify. Do we not need leaders like this?

My God. I pray that we will always have leaders like this who can unflinchingly do their duty, and then, a generation later persist in principled silence and self-sacrifice in the way that Jim insists must be.

Senator Allen is reported to treasure the “dog tags” of a constituent, a man who was killed in Iraq. The man’s mother gave Allen the identity tags. Soldiers everywhere will appreciate Allen’s sentiment in this matter, but it should be kept clearly in mind that Jim Webb has his own “dog-tags.”

Webb’s “dog-tags” were not given to him. He paid for them in blood.

W. Patrick Lang
Colonel (Ret.) US Army
Alexandria, Virginia

James Mann - Understanding Gates -

James Mann - Understanding Gates - "In the early months of 1989, the overriding foreign policy issue for the new George H.W. Bush administration was how to deal with Mikhail Gorbachev. Did the Soviet leader represent fundamental change, or was he merely a new face for the same old policies?

The administration was divided. James Baker, the secretary of state, wanted to test out Gorbachev. The anti-Gorbachev hawks were led by Robert M. Gates, the deputy national security adviser. Gates's principal ally was then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney."

Baker vs. Gates/Cheney: That alignment should serve as a warning to those who view Wednesday's appointment of Robert M. Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld as representing the triumph of Bush the Father's administration over Bush the Son's. Any such analysis is far too simplistic. Gates's nomination unquestionably stands for one proposition: a long-awaited recognition that the administration's war in Iraq has been a disaster. But the broader interpretation of the appointment as representing a victory of Bush 41 over Bush 43 -- or of one school of thought over another -- breaks down when you look at Gates's background and the history of the 1980s and early '90s.

For one thing, that analysis depends on a selective view of the Bush 41 administration. Yes, it included Gates; then-national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, a determined opponent of the current Iraq war; and Baker, who is now head of a bipartisan group searching for a new Iraq policy. But Vice President Cheney was a charter member of the Bush 41 administration. So were Cheney's former aide Stephen Hadley, the current national security adviser, and Condoleezza Rice -- who have been among the principal architects of the war in Iraq.

Moreover, as that 1989 debate over Gorbachev illustrates, the Bush 41 foreign policy team was hardly united. Its members bickered about the Soviet Union, about China, about the Middle East. One of the few things it was in complete harmony on was the belief that American troops shouldn't go on to Baghdad at the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. At the time, everyone thought that would be a bad idea, including Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, then undersecretary of defense.

Well, then, does Wednesday's appointment of Gates represent a change of philosophy, the triumph of realism over neoconservatism? That doesn't quite work, either. Rumsfeld was never a neoconservative; he was an obstreperous contrarian, committed not to putting forward any particular philosophy but to aggressively challenging whatever ideas his bureaucratic opponents and critics put forward.

Gates is being characterized as a "realist," but his record is more complex than that, too. He was an ardent Cold War hawk who did not shrink from moral judgments. "The Soviet Union was an evil empire," Gates wrote in the concluding chapter of his 1996 memoir, "From the Shadows." Gates believed he was simply being skeptical when he insisted that Gorbachev was just another Soviet leader. But others in Washington saw this stand as ideological in nature. Former secretary of state George P. Shultz complained that Gates and the CIA had repeatedly tailored intelligence to fit the policy interests they favored. "You deal out intelligence as you deem appropriate," Shultz complained to Gates in one icy confrontation he recounted in his own memoir. "I feel an effort is made to manipulate me by the selection of materials you send my way."

On America's role in the world and the use of military force, it is hard to detect in Gates's record many far-reaching, principled differences with the present administration. He was deputy national security adviser when the Bush 41 administration dispatched American troops to Panama to overthrow Manuel Noriega. That intervention was, at the time, the largest U.S. military action since Vietnam, and in its essentials -- that is, the use of force to replace a dictator -- it was the closest single precedent one can find for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On the defense budget, it was the Bush 41 administration that decided there should be no significant "peace dividend" after the Cold War.

So what does the appointment of Gates to succeed Rumsfeld really represent? The Panama example provides one guide: It succeeded, unlike the intervention in Iraq. Whatever their underlying philosophy, American leaders and officials are above all accountable for knowing what's going to work and what isn't; for understanding whether the United States has the ability -- militarily, politically, economically, diplomatically -- to accomplish something before setting out on a venture, particularly one that could cost many thousands of American lives.

Rumsfeld was the living personification of the error on Iraq, which America will be paying for over many years. But of course the ultimate responsibility lies with the president of the United States, the person who once said, "I'm the decider." Now, he's decided, without saying so, that his original judgment was wrong.

James Mann is author in residence at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and the author of "Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet."

AP: Startling findings in Tillman probe

AP: Startling findings in Tillman probe - Yahoo! News: "In a remote and dangerous corner of Afghanistan, under the protective roar of Apache attack helicopters and B-52 bombers, special agents and investigators did their work. "

They walked the landscape with surviving witnesses. They found a rock stained with the blood of the victim. They re-enacted the killings — here the U.S. Army Rangers swept through the canyon in their Humvee, blasting away; here the doomed man waved his arms, pleading for recognition as a friend, not an enemy.

"Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat (expletive) Tillman, damn it!" the NFL star shouted, again and again.

The latest inquiry into Tillman's death by friendly fire should end next month; authorities have said they intend to release to the public only a synopsis of their report. But The Associated Press has combed through the results of 2 1/4 years of investigations — reviewed thousands of pages of internal Army documents, interviewed dozens of people familiar with the case — and uncovered some startling findings.

One of the four shooters, Staff Sgt. Trevor Alders, had recently had PRK laser eye surgery. He said although he could see two sets of hands "straight up," his vision was "hazy." In the absence of "friendly identifying signals," he assumed Tillman and an allied Afghan who also was killed were enemy.

Another, Spc. Steve Elliott, said he was "excited" by the sight of rifles, muzzle flashes and "shapes." A third, Spc. Stephen Ashpole, said he saw two figures, and just aimed where everyone else was shooting.

Squad leader Sgt. Greg Baker had 20-20 eyesight, but claimed he had "tunnel vision." Amid the chaos and pumping adrenaline, Baker said he hammered what he thought was the enemy but was actually the allied Afghan fighter next to Tillman who was trying to give the Americans cover: "I zoned in on him because I could see the AK-47. I focused only on him."

All four failed to identify their targets before firing, a direct violation of the fire discipline techniques drilled into every soldier.

There's more:

_Tillman's platoon had nearly run out of vital supplies, according to one of the shooters. They were down to the water in their CamelBak drinking pouches, and were forced to buy a goat from a local vendor. Delayed supply flights contributed to the hunger, fatigue and possibly misjudgments by platoon members.

_A key commander in the events that led to Tillman's death both was reprimanded for his role and meted out punishments to those who fired, raising questions of conflict of interest.

_A field hospital report says someone tried to jump-start Tillman's heart with CPR hours after his head had been partly blown off and his corpse wrapped in a poncho; key evidence including Tillman's body armor and uniform was burned.

_Investigators have been stymied because some of those involved now have lawyers and refused to cooperate, and other soldiers who were at the scene couldn't be located.

_Three of the four shooters are now out of the Army, and essentially beyond the reach of military justice.

Taken together, these findings raise more questions than they answer, in a case that already had veered from suggestions that it all was a result of the "fog of war" to insinuations that criminal acts were to blame.

The Pentagon's failure to reveal for more than a month that Tillman was killed by friendly fire has raised suspicions of a coverup. To Tillman's family, there is little doubt that his death was more than an innocent mistake.

One investigator told the Tillmans that it hadn't been ruled out that Tillman was shot by an American sniper or deliberately murdered by his own men — though he also gave no indication the evidence pointed that way.

"I will not assume his death was accidental or 'fog of war,'" said his father, Pat Tillman Sr. "I want to know what happened, and they've clouded that so badly we may never know."

And so, almost two years after three bullets through the forehead killed the star defensive back — a man President Bush would call "an inspiration on and off the football field" — the fourth investigation began.

This time, the investigators are supposed to think like prosecutors:

Who fired the shots that killed Pat Tillman, and why?

Who insisted Tillman's platoon split and travel through dangerous territory in daylight, against its own policy? Who let the command slip away and chaos engulf the unit?

And perhaps most of all: Was a crime committed?


The long and complicated story of Pat Tillman's death and the investigations it spawned began five years ago, in the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center.

"It is a proud and patriotic thing you are doing," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wrote to Tillman in 2002, after Tillman — shocked and outraged by the Sept. 11 attacks — turned down a multimillion-dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the elite Army Rangers.

The San Jose, Calif., native enlisted with his brother Kevin, who gave up his own chance to play professional baseball. The Tillmans were deployed to Iraq in 2003, then sent to Afghanistan.

The mission of their "Black Sheep" platoon in April 2004 sounded straightforward: Divide a region along the Pakistan border into zones, then check each grid for insurgents and weapons. They were to clear two zones and then move deeper into Afghanistan.

But a broken-down Humvee known as a Ground Mobility Vehicle, or GMV, stalled the unit on an isolated road. A mechanic couldn't fix it, and a fuel pump flown in on a helicopter didn't help.

Hours passed. Enemy fighters watched invisibly, plotting their ambush.

Tillman's platoon must have presented an inviting target. There were 39 men — including six allied Afghan fighters trained by the CIA — and about a dozen vehicles.

Impatience was rising at the tactical operations center at Forward Operating Base Salerno, near Khowst, Afghanistan, where officers coordinated the movements of several platoons. Led by then-Maj. David Hodne, the so-called Cross-Functional Team worked at a U-shaped table inside a 20-by-30-foot tent with a projection screen and a satellite radio.

(Hodne, now a lieutenant colonel and executive officer for the 75th Ranger Regiment, declined to be interviewed on the record by the AP — as did nearly every person involved in the incident.)

When the Humvee broke down, the Black Sheep were nearing the end of their assignment; all that was left was to "turn one last stone and then get out," Hodne would testify. The unit was then to head for Manah, a small village where it would spend the night.

The commanders had already given the Black Sheep an extra day to get into its grid zones. High-ranking commanders were "pushing us pretty hard to keep moving," said Hodne.

"We had better not have any more delays due to this vehicle," he told his subordinates.

At the operations center, the Black Sheep's company commander, then-Capt. William C. "Satch" Saunders, was feeling the heat to get the platoon moving.

"We wanted to make sure we had a force staged to confirm or deny any enemy presence in Manah the next day, so we would not get ourselves too far behind setting ourselves up for our next series of operations," he recalled later to an investigator.

The order came down to split the platoon in two to speed its progress.

Saunders initially told investigators that Hodne had issued the order, but later, after he was given immunity from prosecution, he acknowledged it was his decision alone.

Hodne later said he was in the dark — "I felt like the village idiot because I had no idea what they were doing," he recalled. The decision was foolhardy, he said. Divided in two, "they didn't have enough combat power to do that mission" of clearing Manah, he testified. (Other commanders have insisted that splitting the platoon was perfectly safe and a common practice.)

One thing is clear: The order sparked a flurry of activity by the Black Sheep.

One of the gunners who shot Tillman said his unit didn't even have time to look at a map before getting back on the road.

"We were rushed to conduct an operation that had such flaws," said Alders. "Which in the end would prove to be fatal."

"If anything, this sense of urgency was as deadly to Tillman as the bullet that cut his life short," Alders wrote in a lengthy statement protesting his expulsion from the Rangers. "We could have conducted the search at night like we did on the follow-up operations or the next morning like we ended up doing anyway. Why, I ask, why?"

An investigator, Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones, would later agree that an "artificial sense of urgency" to keep Tillman's platoon moving was a crucial factor in his death: "There was no specific intelligence that made the movement to Manah before nightfall imperative."

An officer involved in the incident told AP there was, however, general intelligence of insurgent activity in this region, historically a Taliban hotbed.

That suspicion would be confirmed when the Black Sheep drove through a narrow canyon, its walls towering about 500 feet, and came under fire from enemy Afghans. Chaos broke out and communications broke down.

After the platoon split, the second section of the convoy roared out of the canyon, into an open valley and straight at their comrades a few minutes ahead. A Humvee packed with pumped-up Rangers opened fire, killing the friendly Afghan and Tillman, though he desperately sought to be recognized.

Later, at least one of the same Rangers turned his guns on a village where witnesses say civilian women and children had gathered. The shooters raked it with fire, the American witnesses said; they wounded two additional fellow Rangers, including their own platoon leader.


Had it happened in the United States, police would have quickly cordoned off the area with "crime scene" tape and determined whether a law had been broken.

Instead, the investigations into Tillman's death have cascaded, one after another, for the past 30 months.

For Mary Tillman, getting to the bottom of her son's death is more than a personal quest.

"This isn't just about our son," she said. "It's about holding the military accountable. Finding out what happened to Pat is ultimately going to be important in finding out what happened to other soldiers."

In the days after the shootings, the first officer appointed to investigate, then-Capt. Richard Scott, interviewed all four shooters, their driver, and many others who were there. He concluded within a week that the gunmen demonstrated "gross negligence" and recommended further investigation.

"It could involve some Rangers that could be charged" with a crime, Scott told a superior later.

Then-Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bailey — the battalion commander who oversaw Tillman's platoon — later assured Tillman's family that those responsible would be punished as harshly as possible.

But no one was ever court-martialed; staff lawyers advised senior Army commanders reviewing the incident that there was no legal basis for it.

Instead, the Army punished seven people; four soldiers received relatively minor punishments known as Article 15s under military law, with no court proceedings. These four ranged from written reprimands to expulsion from the Rangers. One, Baker, had his pay reduced and was effectively forced out of the Army. The three other soldiers received administrative reprimands.

Scott's report circulated briefly among a small corps of high-ranking officers.

Then, it disappeared.

Some of Tillman's relatives think the Army buried the report because its findings were too explosive. Army officials refused to provide a copy to the AP, saying no materials related to the investigation could be released.

The commander of Tillman's 75th Ranger Regiment, then-Col. James C. Nixon, wasn't satisfied with Scott's investigation, which he said focused too heavily on precombat inspections and procedures rather than on what had happened.

Scott "made some conclusions in the document that weren't validated by facts" as described by the participants, Nixon would tell later investigators.

Nixon assigned his top aide, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, to lead what became the second investigation. Kauzlarich harshly criticized Baker and the men on his truck.

Among other things, Baker should have known that at least two of his subordinates had never been in a firefight, and should have closely supervised where they shot.

"His failure to do so resulted in deaths of Cpl. Tillman and the AMF soldier, and the serious wounding of two other (Rangers)," Kauzlarich concluded. "While a great deal of discretion should be granted to a leader who is making difficult judgments in the heat of combat, the command also has a responsibility to hold its leaders accountable when that judgment is so wanton or poor that it places the lives of other men at risk."

Still, the Tillman family complained that questions remained: Who killed Tillman? Why did they fire? Were the punishments stiff enough?

"I don't think that punishment fit their actions out there in the field," said Kevin Tillman, who was with his brother the day Pat was killed but was several minutes behind him in the trailing element of a convoy and saw nothing.

"They were not inquiring, identifying, engaging (targets). They weren't doing their job as a soldier," he told an investigator. "You have an obligation as a soldier to, you know, do certain things, and just shooting isn't one of your responsibilities. You know, it has to be a known, likely suspect."

And so, in November 2004, acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee ordered up yet another investigation, by Jones.

The result was 2,100 pages of transcripts and detailed descriptions of the incident, but no new charges or punishments. The report, completed Jan. 10, 2005, was provided — with many portions blacked out or removed entirely — to the Tillman family. It has not been released to the public; the family found it wanting.

Pressed anew by the Tillmans, the Pentagon inspector general announced a review of the investigations in August 2005. And in March 2006, they launched a new criminal probe into the actions of the men who shot at Tillman.


The veteran Pentagon official who is overseeing these latest inquiries, acting Defense Department Inspector General Thomas Gimble, has called the Tillman probe the toughest case he has ever seen, according to people he recently briefed.

Investigators are looking at who pulled the triggers and fired at Tillman; they are also looking at the officers who pressured the platoon to move through a region with a history of ambushes; the soldiers who burned Tillman's uniform and body armor afterward; and at everyone in the chain of command who deliberately kept the circumstances of Tillman's death from the family for more than a month.

Military investigators under Gimble's direction this year visited the rugged valley in eastern Afghanistan where Tillman was killed. It was a risky trip; the region is even more dangerous today than it was in 2004.

According to one person briefed by investigators, the contingent included at least two soldiers who were there the day of the incident — Staff Sgt. Matthew Weeks, a squad leader who was up the hill from Tillman when he was shot, and the driver of the GMV that carried the Rangers who shot Tillman, Staff Sgt. Kellett Sayre.

When the current inquiry began, the Pentagon projected it would be completed by September 2006. Now Gimble and the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, known as CID, are aiming to finish their work by December, say lawmakers and other officials briefed by Gimble.

CID is probing everything up to and including Tillman's shooting. The inspector general's office itself has a half-dozen investigators researching everything that happened afterward, including allegations of a coverup.

The investigators have taken sworn testimony from about 70 people, some of whom said they were questioned for more than six hours. But Gimble said investigators have been hindered by a failure to locate key witnesses, even some who are still in the active military.

Moreover, those who are now out of the Army, including three of the four shooters, can't be court-martialed. They could be charged in the civilian justice system by a U.S. attorney, but such a step would be highly unusual.

The law that allows it, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, has been invoked fewer than a half-dozen times since its enactment in 2000, said Scott Silliman, executive director of Duke Law School's Center on Law, Ethics and National Security and a high-ranking Air Force lawyer until his retirement in 1993.

The investigation, Gimble has said, is also complicated because of "numerous missteps" by the three previous investigators, particularly their failure to follow standards for handling evidence.

Gimble promised lawmakers in a series of briefings this fall that his investigation "will bring all to light." He has committed to releasing his detailed findings to key legislators, Pentagon officials and the Tillman family, as well as a synopsis to the general public, congressional aides said.

Gimble declined an AP request for an interview.


To date, a total of seven soldiers have been disciplined in Tillman's death.

Bailey, the 2nd Ranger Battalion commander who was camped out about two miles down the road with another unit the night Tillman died, surveyed the shooting scene hours after it occurred.

"I don't think there was any criminal act," he said. "It was a fratricide based upon a lot of contributing factors, confusion," he testified to an investigator in late 2004.

Some high-ranking officers, including Bailey, believe a lack of control in the field was to blame — starting with the platoon leader and including the soldiers who didn't identify their targets.

Bailey, who approved punishments for several of the soldiers, said he disagreed with the platoon's protests that they were "doing what we asked them to do under some very difficult circumstances, and that there were mistakes made but they weren't negligent mistakes."

He also testified that "three gunners were, to varying degrees, culpable in what had happened out there." And he said he wanted a fourth soldier involved — the squad leader, Baker — "out of the military."

Baker soon left the Army.

As for others involved:

_The three other shooters — Ashpole, Alders and Elliott — remained in the service initially but Elliott and Ashpole have since left. Elliott struck a deal with authorities; in exchange for his testimony to investigator Jones, the Army gave him immunity from prosecution "in any criminal proceedings."

_The platoon leader, Lt. David Uthlaut, was later bumped down from the Rangers to the regular Army for failing to prepare his men prior to the shootings, according to Bailey.

"They didn't do communications checks. They didn't check out their equipment. So they'd been there 24 hours," Bailey testified. "For example, some of the weapons systems weren't even loaded with ammunition. Many of the soldiers didn't know where they were going. They didn't have contingency plans."

A non-commissioned officer on the ground that day, however, testified that the unit carried out required communications checks.

Uthlaut was also wounded by fellow Rangers in the incident. He was awarded the Purple Heart and later promoted to captain.

_Saunders, the company commander, was given the authority to punish three soldiers — even though he himself was reprimanded for his own poor leadership. Both Saunders and Hodne received formal written reprimands for failing to "provide adequate command and control" of subordinate units — administrative punishments lighter than the Article 15s handed down to the soldiers who shot at Tillman. This obviously hasn't hurt Hodne's career; he has since been promoted.

"I thought it was (the commanders') fault, or part of their fault that we were even in this situation, when they're telling us to split up," said Ashpole.

Some lawmakers have warned that if this probe does not clear up all questions on Tillman's death, they may press for congressional hearings. Others have said Congress could call for an independent panel of retired military officers and other experts to conduct an outside probe.

Rep. Mike Honda, a Democrat who represents the San Jose district where Tillman's family lives, has pressed the Pentagon for answers on the status of its investigations.

"I'm very impatient and at times cynical," Honda said. But, he said, the honor of the military — and the confidence of the public in the military and the government — are at stake.

"So if we pursue the truth and wait for it," he said, "it may be worthwhile."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Staggering New Bill For Iraq?

A Staggering New Bill For Iraq? - "The U.S. armed services have requested a $160 billion supplemental appropriation to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the remainder of fiscal year 2007--a staggering amount that, if approved by the Defense Department, may hasten the showdown between resurgent congressional Democrats and the Bush administration over the budget-busting War on Terror."

The request--which will likely include all costs related to the war on terrorism--far surpasses the $94 billion supplemental authorized earlier this year to fund the ongoing wars as well as hurricane recovery in the Gulf and is nearly double the $82 billion Iraq war supplemental outlay of 2005. It comes within days of Republicans' stunning losses in the midterm elections and the resignation of embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was set to decide on the request Nov. 15.

President Bush said Wednesday that he would nominate as Rumsfeld's replacement Robert Gates, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency under the presidency of his father, George H.W. Bush.

While House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has vowed not to undercut the troops in the field, defense experts said that she and other Democratic leaders probably hadn't anticipated the massive request.

"I'm not sure they've grasped the potential size of this forthcoming supplemental request. We'll just have to see whether they can choke down that amount of dough," said Tom Donnelly, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Bush said in a White House news conference Wednesday morning that he had reached out to the Democratic leadership of the new Congress and hopes to work closely with them. He made no mention of this supplemental appropriation for the War on Terror.

While a good chunk of the $160 billion request will be used to replace worn equipment, it also covers additional systems, armor and weaponry and thus is a blueprint for pressing on with the current troop levels in Iraq and strategy in the War on Terror.

"It's not just going to be 'I broke my tank, and I want to fix it,'" Donnelly said.

Small-cap defense contractors, such as DRS Technologies (nyse: DRS - news - people ), Essex (nasdaq: KEYW - news - people ) and Armor Holdings (nyse: AH - news - people ), are particularly sensitive to defense supplementals because they don't hold as much sway over the regular defense appropriations process. However, they are not likely to be counting on a defense supplemental of such size.

Critics contend that the Bush administration has skirted the normal budget process for these defense expenditures to avoid scrutiny of the costs of the ongoing wars. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has sponsored legislation to fold these war costs into regular defense spending bills.

Such emergency supplementals are often used for spending that doesn’t past muster in the light of the normal budget process: For example, more than $7.5 billion in spending slashed from the 2005 defense appropriations bill was restored in the next supplemental, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

And they are magnets for pork from both sides of the aisle. In the 2005 defense and tsunami relief supplemental, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, added $40 million for flood damage and mitigation in the Manoa Valley on the island of Oahu.

A long to-do list in Congress | 11/09/2006 | A long to-do list in Congress: "Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is gone, but there's little time for celebration, even for those of us who long ago began calling for his removal. The damage that men do lives after them, and it's time at last for an accounting. The nation's voters have spoken, and it's reasonable to expect that the Congress finally will begin to exercise some oversight of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after five years of serving as rubberstamps and doormats."

Can you spell ``subpoena''?

For the Democrats who will soon take charge of the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate, too, here's a laundry list of some of the things that need doing:

• A comprehensive investigation of the pre-war intelligence on Iraq and how it was perverted, how the mine was salted and by whom.

• A thorough investigation of pre-war advice offered by senior American military commanders on troop strength, equipment requirements and strategy and tactics. Did even one general ignore the bullying from on high and ask for more troops? How did Rumsfeld respond?

• Why did the Pentagon send American troops into battle without enough armored vests, armored vehicles, rifles, ammunition, food and water? Who's responsible for that debacle, which cost so much in blood and money?

• Where did our money go? Billions of dollars of taxpayer money disappeared down various rat holes in Iraq, forked over to contractors without even so much as a handwritten receipt. Who got the money? What did they do for it? This is a fertile field that can be drilled for years, with a steady stream of indictments, trials and prison sentences.

• What about those no-bid Defense Department contracts that were parceled out to the Halliburtons and KBRs and Blackwaters in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other more costly weapons and equipment contracts that went to big defense industry conglomerates accustomed to writing very generous checks to the Republicans?

• Why did an administration that was hell-bent on going to war, with the inevitable and terrible human casualties, consistently underfund the Veterans Administration, which is charged with caring for our wounded and disabled?

• What has been the effect of the grotesque politicization of the selection and promotion system for senior military commanders by the office of the secretary of defense? What failures have resulted from that ill-conceived action? What responsibility do those generals and admirals chosen by Rumsfeld bear for the failure to prepare for and conduct effective action against an inevitable Iraqi insurgency?

• Who at the top bears responsibility for the torture and mistreatment of prisoners and detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and the Guantánamo detention camp? A score of Pentagon investigations got to the bottom of the chain of command but declared that the top, in Rumsfeld's office and the White House, was innocent.

• Who's responsible for breaking our understrength Army and Marine Corps with endless combat duty tours in Iraq and Afghanistan? Who refused all suggestions that the force was too small for the mission, and that 50,000 or 100,000 more men and women were needed in uniform? Who stubbornly refused even to consider the inevitable consequences of an Army so tied down trying to man these wars that it no longer could react to an emergency anywhere else in a dangerous world?

Simply put, the jig is up. President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld have come to the end of their free ride. No longer can they act without thought or ignore the boundaries of the Constitution, the law and common sense.

Did they really think that they could get away with all of this without ever being called to answer to history and the American people? They all deserve what's about to descend on their heads. They deserve every subpoena. They deserve every indictment. Most of all, they deserve a reserved place atop the ash heap of history.

©2006 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Spymaster takes secrets to grave

Spymaster takes secrets to grave - World - Times Online: "Markus Wolf, the sinister East German spymaster who spun his web across Western Europe, has died peacefully in his sleep — taking with him some of the darkest secrets of the Cold War. "

A solitary red rose was deposited by a sympathiser yesterday on the doorstep of his Berlin apartment block. But few tears were being shed for the 83-year-old Stasi general who dispatched some 30,000 agents to seduce Nato secretaries, buy up politicians, vacuum up secrets and train terrorists.

Normally voluble politicians contacted for comment yesterday refused to utter a word, as if Mr Wolf were a demonic presence. “Let him rot in hell,” spluttered one conservative deputy.

Germany, 17 years after the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, has still not quite got over the damage wrought to the national psyche by the spy chief. Even now the coalition government led by Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, is divided over the question of whether to continue vetting civil servants for their Stasi links. A draft law due to be introduced today has been withdrawn — because Germans still cannot agree on how far former Stasi collaborators and agents should be pursued, making victims out of spies.

Despite being dubbed the Man without a Face — for decades no photograph of him reached the West — Mr Wolf became the public standard bearer for veteran communist agents after the end of the Soviet empire. Urbane, well read and expensively dressed, he eloquently defended his activities in a Düsseldorf courtroom in 1993. “Why should I be in the dock and not Klaus Kinkel?” he asked, referring to the former head of the West German security service.

East German spies worked, he said, in the service of an internationally recognised state to protect its national interests — just as West German agents worked for Bonn and British spies for London.

To his great satisfaction, Mr Wolf (known as Mischa to secret service colleagues) ended up with a mild two-year suspended jail sentence. Helped by his young wife Andrea, he promptly reinvented himself: as an author of a cook book and a lion of the literary salons. With a rich cultural background — his father Friedrich was a German Jewish playwright and his brother Konrad was a film maker — Mr Wolf constantly hinted that he was a notch above the peasant politicians who ran communism. Even so, he remained a man of the Left, taking part in demonstrations and the annual procession to the Berlin grave of the revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg. Many elderly Germans could not forgive him for placing a spy, Günther Guillaume, at the side of the West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. It led to Brandt’s downfall and removed a key player in attempts to reconcile East and West Germany. Nothing better illustrated the destructiveness of Mr Wolf’s activities: his greatest spying triumph directly harmed the interests of the communist state he was supposedly trying to defend.

“There is suddenly a large public interest in the theme of secret police penetration of society,” said Joachim Gauck, who first opened Stasi police files after communism.

This could lead to a revival of interest in Mr Wolf. But for many minor officials who were blackmailed, bullied or seduced into betrayal by Mr Wolf’s case officers, his death on Wednesday night will come as a relief.