Saturday, January 06, 2007

Biden: Bush Pushing War Loss to Next President

Biden: Bush Pushing War Loss to Next President: "Friday 05 January 2007

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that he believes top officials in the Bush administration have privately concluded they have lost Iraq and are simply trying to postpone disaster so the next president will 'be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof,' in a chaotic withdrawal reminiscent of Vietnam."

"I have reached the tentative conclusion that a significant portion of this administration, maybe even including the vice president, believes Iraq is lost," Biden said. "They have no answer to deal with how badly they have screwed it up. I am not being facetious now. Therefore, the best thing to do is keep it from totally collapsing on your watch and hand it off to the next guy - literally, not figuratively."

Biden gave the comments in an interview as he outlined an ambitious agenda for the committee, including holding four weeks of hearings focused on every aspect of U.S. policy in Iraq. The hearings will call top political, economic and intelligence experts; foreign diplomats; and former and current senior U.S. officials to examine the situation in Iraq and possible plans for dealing with it. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will probably testify next Thursday to defend the president's new plan, but at least eight other plans will be examined over several sessions of the committee.

Other witnesses invited for at least 10 days of hearings include former national security advisers and secretaries of state, including Brent Scowcroft, Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry A. Kissinger, Madeleine K. Albright and George P. Shultz.

Biden expressed opposition to the president's plan for a "surge" of additional U.S. troops and said he has grave doubts about whether the Iraqi government has the will or the capacity to help implement a new approach. He said he hopes to use the hearings to "illuminate the alternatives available to this president" and to provide a platform for influencing Americans, especially Republican lawmakers.

"There is nothing a United States Senate can do to stop a president from conducting his war," Biden said. "The only thing that is going to change the president's mind, if he continues on a course that is counterproductive, is having his party walk away from his position."

Biden said that Vice President Cheney and former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "are really smart guys who made a very, very, very, very bad bet, and it blew up in their faces. Now, what do they do with it? I think they have concluded they can't fix it, so how do you keep it stitched together without it completely unraveling?"

Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran

Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran - Sunday Times - Times Online: "ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons. "

Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

“As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished,” said one of the sources.

The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad’s assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years.

Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.

Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.

Some analysts warned that Iranian retaliation for such a strike could range from disruption of oil supplies to the West to terrorist attacks against Jewish targets around the world.

Israel has identified three prime targets south of Tehran which are believed to be involved in Iran’s nuclear programme:

Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges are being installed for uranium enrichment

A uranium conversion facility near Isfahan where, according to a statement by an Iranian vice-president last week, 250 tons of gas for the enrichment process have been stored in tunnels

A heavy water reactor at Arak, which may in future produce enough plutonium for a bomb
Israeli officials believe that destroying all three sites would delay Iran’s nuclear programme indefinitely and prevent them from having to live in fear of a “second Holocaust”.

The Israeli government has warned repeatedly that it will never allow nuclear weapons to be made in Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared that “Israel must be wiped off the map”.

Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, has described military action against Iran as a “last resort”, leading Israeli officials to conclude that it will be left to them to strike.

Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000-mile round trip to the Iranian targets. Three possible routes have been mapped out, including one over Turkey.
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Air force squadrons based at Hatzerim in the Negev desert and Tel Nof, south of Tel Aviv, have trained to use Israel’s tactical nuclear weapons on the mission. The preparations have been overseen by Major General Eliezer Shkedi, commander of the Israeli air force.

Sources close to the Pentagon said the United States was highly unlikely to give approval for tactical nuclear weapons to be used. One source said Israel would have to seek approval “after the event”, as it did when it crippled Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak with airstrikes in 1981.

Scientists have calculated that although contamination from the bunker-busters could be limited, tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be released.

The Israelis believe that Iran’s retaliation would be constrained by fear of a second strike if it were to launch its Shehab-3 ballistic missiles at Israel.

However, American experts warned of repercussions, including widespread protests that could destabilise parts of the Islamic world friendly to the West.

Colonel Sam Gardiner, a Pentagon adviser, said Iran could try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for 20% of the world’s oil.

Some sources in Washington said they doubted if Israel would have the nerve to attack Iran.

However, Dr Ephraim Sneh, the deputy Israeli defence minister, said last month: “The time is approaching when Israel and the international community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran.”

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: Casting for the Play

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: Casting for the Play: "An intelligence analyst makes judgments based on available data and interprets that data through a mental 'filter' made up of experience, contextual knowledge, probabilities and sheer, unmerited, intuitive talent. Among the most valuable indicators of intentions are the appointments of senior people to fill leadership positions.

In that regard it must be said that the appointment of Admiral William Fallon the the post of Commander, US Central Command is surely indicative of intentions.

This distinguished officer's career lay altogether within the field of naval aviation and latterly of joint staff and command functions. His official biography is posted below.

It makes very little sense that a person with this background should be appointed to be theater commander in a a theater in which two essentially 'ground' wars are being fought unless it is intended to conduct yet another war which will be different in character. pl

http://www.pacom.mil/leadership/j0/j0bio.shtml"

[bth: so just say it - an air/sea war on Iran.]

In Iran the Debate is Over Escalation (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper)

In Iran the Debate is Over Escalation (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper): "To escalate or not to escalate? In Tehran's ruling circles, these days, that is the question. The question has come up in response to the resolution passed by the United Nations' Security Council in the dying days of last year, imposing a range of sanctions on the Islamic Republic."

Tehran's initial reaction was to dismiss the resolution as "unimportant and ineffective". President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called it "a piece of worthless paper", indicating that he might just live with it.
Read from almost any angle the resolution is, indeed, a paper tiger, if that. It looks more like a sop to an aggrieved Bush administration than a serious attempt at exerting pressure on a regime that feels it is in the ascendancy as a future regional hegemon and more. Ahmadinejad's initial reaction was right on spot.

In any case, Ahmadinejad has based his strategy on avoiding a direct confrontation with the United States until President George W Bush leaves office. This is because he believes that Bush, who has imposed regime change in two of Iran's key neighbours, is an atypical American leader, and that whoever succeeds him will revert to the traditional US policy of ducking confrontation.

Nevertheless, the Islamic Republic has its own internal political dynamics- one often ignored by analysts abroad. Ahmadinejad has built his entire reputation on his promise to transform the Islamic Republic into the "core power" of a new bloc of Muslim nations capable of taking on the "infidel" West and ending its centuries' long domination of the world. Thus, he cannot allow the humiliation inflicted upon him by the UN, no matter how mild, to go unanswered. His political foes, including the business-mullahs of Tehran, are already jeering at his pusillanimity.

"We cannot be treated this way," says Hashemi Rafsanjani, leader of the business-mullahs who has vowed in private to destroy Ahmadinejad's political career.

The business-mullahs had lobbied hard to make sure that their own private assets abroad would not figure on the list of Iranian assets frozen by the UN. Thanks to efforts by Russia and China, which have substantial commercial ties with the business-mullahs, the Security Council modified the text of the resolution to that effect.

Beyond the symbolic moves already announced, it is unlikely that the Islamic Republic will take any drastic measure in response to the resolution before the issue is fully debated in the closed circles of the establishment. Even then, the final word would come from the "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi whose position was reinforced in last month's election of the Assembly of Experts. (In that election Ahmadinejad failed to secure the extra seats that he needed to replace Khamenehi.)

Khamenehi has always been a cautious player by instinct. In 1989, he even had the courage to challenge, albeit briefly, the late Ayatollah Khomeini's murder fatwa against the British novelist Salman Rushdie. (He quickly changed tack when Khomeini attacked him in public by saying he should return to the seminary to learn his theological lessons better!).

More importantly, Khamenehi has no particular dog in the domestic political fight at present. He is safe for at least another eight years- that is to say until the next election for the Assembly of Experts. And, reports that he is building up his son as a possible successor can be dismissed as malicious Tehran rumour. Awakened Ahmadinejad would suit Khamenehi's interests just fine, but not if that is achieved through a major international crisis that could threaten the very existence of the regime.

By avoiding further escalation, Khamenehi could confound the advocates of regime change both inside and outside Iran. At the same time he would achieve the Islamic Republic's goal of building the "surge capacity" that it needs to build nuclear weapons if and when it so decides. The weak resolution passed by the UN provides ample scope for endless diplomatic manoeuvring for the next five to six years, the time span that the Islamic Republic supposedly needs to fully master the military aspects of the nuclear technology.

As always since the Khomeinist revolution of 1979, the interests of Iran as a nation-state are not always identical to those of Iran as the embodiment of a revolution. The interest of Iran as a nation-state at this juncture dictates a prudent and proportionate response to the UN resolution with the clear intention of avoiding further escalation.

Te interest of the revolution, however, is to show that the Islamic Republic can give as food as it gets. As Ahmadinejad said before the resolution was passed, the Islamic Republic would bestow "double punishment" on those that defied it.

Under the compromises that made the resolution possible, Iran's response will be assessed within 60 days. And that coincides with the end of the biggest annual festival of radical groups that Tehran has hosted since 1980. Leaders of virtually all revolutionary movements- from the Peruvian Shining Path to the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah, and passing by a dozen residual Stalinist parties in Europe and Latin America, will gather in Tehran to pay tribute to Khomeini and coordinate their strategies for fighting "American Imperialism."

Known as the 10 Days of Dawn, the revolutionary jamboree this year hopes to attract a number or prominent anti-American and anti-Bush figures such as Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, and anti-Bush activists such as Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore.

Can Ahmadinejad appear at such a feast and claim the global leadership of the anti-American movement while his administration is seen in to be in retreat against the "Great Satan"? Would Ismail Haniyah of Hamas continue to believe Ahmadinejad's promise of wiping Israel off the map when the Iranian leader is seen unable to protect his own nation's interests?

Paradoxically, the business-mullahs, often portrayed by their Western lobbyists as " moderates" or even "reformers" are the ones currently pressing for escalation. Their strategy is clear: further escalation would plunge Iran's already ailing economy into full crisis, demoralise Ahmadinejad's radical base, and open the way for the return of the business-mullahs to power within the next two to three years, if jot earlier.

Iran is already feeling the psychological effects of a still hypothetical escalation. In the past two week, Iranian Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia have been shocked to find out that the Iranian currency, the rial, is no longer accepted by moneychangers there. Worse still, the Iranian rial is also disappearing from Iraqi markets where it has fallen by almost 20 per cent against the Iraqi dinar.

All that means that Tehran would now have to come up with dollars or euros to finance its clients and agents throughout the region, especially in Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf.

The argument used by the business-mullahs is simple: avoiding escalation could mean slow economic strangulation for the Islamic Republic. Thus, it is better to raise the stakes now and force a resolution one way or another as quickly as possible. And it that means the end of Ahmadinejad's dream of creating an " Islamic Superpower", so much the better.

As in so many other junctures in the past quarter of a century , Iran is once again reaching a point at which interests as a nation clash with the interests of the revolution that has captured control of the machinery of state. For ran as a nation not to be harmed it is essential that the Khomeinist revolution die its inevitable death. Ahmadinejad is ready to sacrifice Iran as a nation at the altar of the revolution. The business-mullahs are ready to sacrifice both at the altar of their interests. Khamenehi's attitude remains a mystery. For. In his position, he is supposed to represent both the nation and the revolution.

[bth: interesting and worth analyzing further.]

FOXNews.com - U.S. Army Mistakenly Sent Letters to Dead Officers Urging Return to Duty - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

FOXNews.com - U.S. Army Mistakenly Sent Letters to Dead Officers Urging Return to Duty - Local News News Articles National News US News: "WASHINGTON — The Army said Friday it would apologize to the families of about 275 officers killed or wounded in action who were mistakenly sent letters urging them to return to active duty.

The letters were sent a few days after Christmas to more than 5,100 Army officers who had recently left the service. Included were letters to about 75 officers killed in action and about 200 wounded in action. The 75 represent more than one-third of all Army officers who have died in Iraq since the war began."

"Army personnel officials are contacting those officers' families now to personally apologize for erroneously sending the letters," the Army said in a brief news release issued Friday night.

The Army did not say how or when the mistake was discovered. It said the database normally used for such correspondence with former officers had been "thoroughly reviewed" to remove the names of wounded or dead soldiers.

"But an earlier list was used inadvertently for the December mailings," the Army statement said, adding that the Army is apologizing to those officers and families affected and "regrets any confusion."

The total number of Army officers who have died in Iraq since the war began stood at 217 as of Dec. 2, according to the latest available Pentagon statistics. In all, the Army has had 1,552 soldiers — combining officers and enlisted — killed in action in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, plus 409 who died of non-hostile causes.

The number of Army officers wounded in action in Iraq stood at 894 as of Dec. 2, out of an Army total — for both officers and enlisted — of 14,165, according to the latest Pentagon figures.

Altogether, at least 3,006 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.

[bth: Army officers then represent 14% of Killed in Action and 6% of the Wounded in Action. Those are surprisingly low - its an enlisted man's war.]

Cleveland Muslim Leader Convicted of Lying About Terror Ties Deported - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

FOXNews.com - Cleveland Muslim Leader Convicted of Lying About Terror Ties Deported - Local News News Articles National News US News: "DETROIT — A Muslim leader from Ohio who was convicted of lying about his involvement with a group the U.S. government designated a terrorist organization has been deported to his native Palestinian territories, immigration authorities said Friday.

Fawaz Damra, 46, was convicted in June 2004 of concealing his ties to Palestinian Islamic Jihad when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1994."

Damra, who served imam at Ohio's largest mosque, the Islamic Center of Cleveland, was deported on Thursday, said Tim Counts, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He was flown to Amman, Jordan, then crossed to the West Bank.

A message seeking comment with his lawyer, Michael Birach, was not immediately returned.
Damra immigrated to the United States in the mid-1980s and is married with three U.S.-born children.

In Ohio, he had become involved in interfaith activities, particularly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. But soon after, a tape of a 1991 speech in Chicago became public in which Damra said Muslims should be "directing all the rifles at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation and that is the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews."

Damra apologized and said he made the remarks before he had any interaction with Christians and Jews.
At his 2004 trial, prosecutors showed video footage of him and other Muslim leaders raising money for an arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The State Department placed the group on its list of terrorist organizations in 1989.

Damra had been imam of a Brooklyn, N.Y., mosque in the mid-1980s that became a focus of fundraising for anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan. His replacement there, Omar Abdel-Rahman, was convicted in a 1995 foiled plot to blow up New York City landmarks.

[bth: so why in hell was this guy still in the country after all these years? You don't have to look very far to see a big bad apple here.]

Abide With Me, Fast Falls the Eventide

Center for Church Music :: Lyrics: "
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me."

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting?
Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Battlefield medical teams saving more troops

Battlefield medical teams saving more troops: "By Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times
Copyright 2007 The Washington Times LLC
All Rights Reserved
The killed-in-action rate in the Iraq-Afghanistan wars is half what it was in World War II and a third less than Vietnam and Desert Storm, according to internal Pentagon documents that say battlefield medical teams are doing a better job of stabilizing the wounded and getting them to doctors. "

"We have better battlefield medicine," Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told The Washington Times yesterday. "We are reviving and resuscitating many, many more of our soldiers who would have died in previous conflicts.

The improvement may be little solace to the families of the American troops who have died or been seriously wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon, however, says it has put in place a first-rate system for saving life — and limb.

The briefing papers show the killed-in-action rate is 12.5 percent for the current wars compared with 25.3 percent for World War II and 18.6 percent for Vietnam/Desert Storm. Dr. Winkenwerder, a trained internist, said the rate is based on the number of combatants who died of wounds before reaching a treatment center. He said the standard has been the same for each war.

Dr. Winkenwerder ticked off a number of improvements. Medics now carry resuscitation gear. Each soldier and Marine, not just medics and Navy hospital corpsmen, are issued tourniquets to stop bleeding.

"We had anecdotal reports of service members who died, unfortunately, because there was no tourniquet available until the medic got there," he said
.

Medical teams have also worked on arriving at the scene of injuries, in most cases caused by a roadside improvised explosive device (IED).

"It used to be the 'golden hour,'" he said. "Now we are trying to get down to the 'platinum 15' because what kills so many people is hemorrhage, massive hemorrhage."

New ways of treating the wounded emerged with the creation in 2003 of the Joint Theater Trauma System (JTTS). It involves a constant "lessons learned" data analysis designed to come up with better tactical medicine

Until JTTS, for example, doctors were sometimes missing football-type concussions that occur in troops impacted by an IED.

Dr. Winkenwerder said the "few thousand" medical personnel in Iraq is the smallest in recent wars because many wounded and diseased personnel are flown out of the country to hospitals in Germany and the U.S.

From January 2005 to November, the military evacuated nearly 15,000 troops — 23 percent for battle injuries, 21 percent for nonbattle injuries and 56 percent for diseases. During that same span, the military treated 80,448 patients in theater.

The briefing charts, which were compiled in December for presentation to retired military analysts, also credit new technologies, such as improved body armor, ballistic eyewear and hearing protection. It cites better-armored Humvee vehicles and better detection of IEDs, which are responsible for 80 percent of the Army's killed in action.

In the run-up to the Iraq invasion, the Pentagon failed to predict or prepare for the deadly insurgency that attacks military troops and civilians daily. Soldiers and Marines early on lacked armored Humvees that could blunt the force of IED blasts. The Army embarked on a crash program to produce armor kits for existing vehicles and to assemble armored Humvees from scratch.

The Pentagon also created a special unit, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, and gave it more than $2 billion to find technologies and tactics to find and defuse IEDs.

The internal Pentagon briefing comes as the U.S. military suffered 115 combat deaths in December, the most since November 2004 and the third deadliest month since the March 2003 invasion to oust Saddam Hussein. Total U.S. deaths yesterday stood at 3,005 for Iraq and 357 for Afghanistan.

The number of wounded has reached more than 23,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan. This includes 759 amputees: 497 who lost a leg, arm, hand or foot; and 262 who lost a finger, toe, or part of a hand or foot, the Pentagon says.

[bth: information regarding bleeding out from a lack of tourniquets was not anecdotal. It was fact and was known to the army as early as Feb 2003 when the army published a study showing a 15% or so reduction in fatalities if they were universally issued. They did not universally issue them until 2005 when we worked with Rich Little at the Baltimore-Sun to expose the deficiency. Within a week of the publicity around March 05 and an inquiry from Congress, they agreed to universally field tourniquets which happened around August 2005 - said the delay came down to selecting a suitable nylon pouch to put the tourniquets in. Right. Marines univerally fielded them in 2003.]

Pentagon Redefines 'Emergency' - WSJ.com

Pentagon Redefines 'Emergency' - WSJ.com: "Lockheed Martin Corp.'s new Joint Strike Fighter plane won't be ready to see action for years. But that didn't stop the Air Force from inserting two of the jets into the coming emergency-funding request for operations in Iraq.

The Pentagon's supplemental budgets traditionally pay for war costs such as personnel, equipment repairs and ammunition. But as the Joint Strike Fighter request shows, the coming supplemental is being used by the military services for more than replacing what has been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is being used to acquire future weapons that normally would be funded through the regular Pentagon budget."

The fighter-jet request, which was confirmed by a senior Air Force official, is part of the Pentagon's proposed $99.7 billion war-fighting budget for the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. It comes on top of $70 billion in war funds already approved and the regular U.S. defense budget of $436.6 billion. The emergency supplemental budget has been cleared by the Pentagon and is awaiting approval by the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees funding requests for the White House. It is to be formally submitted to Congress after President Bush next month unveils the fiscal 2008 Pentagon budget request, which defense analysts expect to be nearly $470 billion.

An October directive from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England opened the floodgates by allowing the services to request emergency funds to replace equipment and upgrade to newer models for the "overall efforts related to the global war on terror," not just operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's a feeding frenzy," says an army official involved in budget planning
. "Using the supplemental budget, we're now buying the military we wish we had," he says, referring to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's 2004 quote about inadequate equipment for troops.

Each year, the president submits his federal budget request to Congress, which in turn makes changes and works to appropriate funds. Supplementals -- which aren't limited to defense spending and have been used for matters such as Hurricane Katrina relief -- move on a parallel track, but are targeted to specific areas. In recent years, they have been treated as emergency funds outside the budget entirely -- which has become a sore point in Congress.

Of the supplemental's total $99.7 billion, $34 billion is slated for weapons procurement. Much of the $47.6 billion for operations and maintenance also will be available to contractors to repair and modernize equipment they supplied. About half of the $9.75 billion slated for Iraqi and Afghan forces is likely to be used to buy weapons and equipment, says James McAleese, a defense consultant in McLean, Va.
About $21 billion in the supplemental is headed to the Army, and several companies stand to benefit.

General Dynamics Corp. likely will snare business from $3.9 billion for armored vehicles such as its Abrams tank and $7.4 billion to buy radios. ITT Corp. and Harris Corp. likely will be the biggest beneficiaries of radio purchases. BAE Systems PLC will win work for its Bradley fighting vehicle, while Armor Holdings Inc., AM General LLC and Oshkosh Truck Corp. will divvy up the proposed $5.4 billion for trucks. Lockheed and Raytheon Co. are expected to gain from demand for short-range tactical missiles.

In another boost for combat-vehicle makers General Dynamics and BAE, the Army is requesting $3.67 billion to accelerate the reconfiguration of ground forces into smaller units -- a process normally funded through the regular budget.

Among Air Force requests is $62 million for ballistic missiles, an unusual supplemental-budget item because they are strategic assets that haven't been used in Iraq or antiterrorism operations. The Navy is requesting $3.04 billion for new and repaired aircraft, an amount that likely exceeds battle losses. The Navy appears to be using supplemental funds to secure money ahead of the fiscal 2008 budget, expected next month, when it will face pressure to cut aircraft purchases to free up billions of dollars for a new aircraft carrier.

Lockheed and Boeing Co. stand to gain from Air Force and Navy aircraft requests. The Air Force has budgeted for 17 Lockheed C-130 cargo planes. Boeing, which gained 10 C-17 cargo planes in the most recent supplemental budget, could receive fresh orders for its Navy F-18 fighter jet and V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, which is made with Textron Inc.'s Bell Helicopter unit and has yet to be used in combat.

It is unclear whether new Defense Secretary Robert Gates will seek to change the supplemental budget, which awaits White House approval. The new largess is a turnaround from two years ago, when the Pentagon tried unsuccessfully to rein in weapons spending. Defense officials say they hope the prospect of defense-industry jobs will help ease passage in Congress. The coming Democratic leadership -- and many Republican members of Congress -- are wary of supplemental budgets because there is less room to review and change the funding. Even the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, criticized this funding method, saying the war should be paid for through the main Pentagon budget.

"The latest supplemental budget is wildly out of synch with the political system, which wants more discipline and oversight," says Loren Thompson of the Washington-area Lexington Institute think tank.

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: More Deluded Foolishness

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: More Deluded Foolishness: "The Commentariat is in full cry, analyzing the carefully timed 'trial balloons' drifting across Washington from the launch pad secreted in the bushes of the Rose Garden.

The message is that 'Surge and Accelerate' will be the war cry:"

1-20,000 additional combat troops formed in units as I have previously prophesied. These troops and their Iraqi "comrades" to secure the Baghdad area so as to insure the survival of the Government of Iraq for a while.

2- Political "pressure" on Maliki and company to "reconcile" enough people across the ethno-religious spectrum to stabilize the government for a while.

3- An economic development program (we were not doing this?) to provide jobs in the belief that jobs will prove to be the key to undercutting the insurgency (Sunni). The administration still believes that economic deprivation is the cause of insurgency and civil war. Why a devout Christian would cling to the nonsense of economic determinism in the face of all evidence is a mystery. (Maybe it is a tenet of a mystery religion that '43 really believes in while claiming to be a Christian in a sort of western "Taqqiya") Remember, George, "Man does not live by bread alone." We are supposed to believe that, right?

'43 spoke in the Rose Garden (close to the hidden launch site) today "unveiling his plan to balance the budget (that he unbalanced) by '012 (three years after he leaves office). He promised expenditures at least as high as the present defense and other security budgets and pointed to the need to control "entitlements," mentioning Social Security and Medicare. Get the idea? I doubt if the American people will be deceived by this transparent Rovian attempt to derail any efforts the Congress might make over Iraq, but, "nothing ventured, nothing gained."

It is rumored that the military have expressed a desire to have some effective effort made in the political and economic fields in Iraq since they have worked their way to an understanding that the real problems in Iraq are not about "Bang! Bang!." They are right in that judgment. I don't think that propaganda and news management (Information Operations) are the key either.

No. The Surge military operations will not produce the desired outcome and the Political thingy will not either for the same reason that has be-deviled our efforts in Iraq from the time we started listening to the INC and the OSP boys. (Bless Them!)

That reason is simple. We do not have "politics" in Iraq. We have tribal warfare expressed through; elections, constitutions, militias, the Shia partisan nature of the "security" forces, the Maliki government, terrorism, oil allocations, tribal fury at executions.

There is no Iraqi People. There once were the beginnings of such a people, but that is gone now, swept away, "Gone With the Wind."

Now there is only tribal warfare among the Shia Arabs and the Sunni Arabs while the Kurds wait to see if we are going to screw them as we (I) have so many others.

Since compromise is viewed by the tribal contestants as weakness, dangerous weakness by the "tribes," there will be little of that.

So, forget the political reconciliation. What a silly idea.

Keep your heads down, boys. pl

US hunts al-Qa'eda suspects fleeing Somalia

Telegraph News US hunts al-Qa'eda suspects fleeing Somalia: "US Navy warships stepped up patrols off Somalia yesterday, boarding fishing boats and oil tankers to search for al-Qa'eda agents who fled after their Islamic allies were chased into hiding."

At the same time, Washington's chief Africa diplomat, Jendayi Frazer, met Ethiopia's prime minister for the first time since Ethiopian troops led the advance that crushed the Islamic Courts Union that had ruled much of Somalia until a few weeks ago. She hoped that peacekeepers drawn from African nations would be deployed in Somalia "by the end of January".

The US has played a key role behind the scenes. Analysts said this helped the sudden, almost complete rout of the Islamic forces. Their leaders are being hunted near Somalia's border with Kenya, but aid agencies have complained that closing the border leaves 1.8 million Somalis without access to assistance.

Offshore, the USS Ramage, a guided missile destroyer, and the USS Bunker Hill, both from the American Fifth Fleet, were among several vessels sent from the British-led Combined Task Force 150, based in Bahrain, to waters off Somalia.

Cdre Bruce Williams, the task force's Royal Navy commander, said: "Coalition forces will continue routine operations in this unstable area as long as the need exists for our presence."

No British ships are involved, according to the Ministry of Defence.

Security sources in Nairobi said intelligence from US spy satellites had been passed to Ethiopian defence forces ahead of an attack on Tuesday on a convoy in southern Somalia, which was said to include the ICU's leaders.

Four Ethiopian helicopters dropped six bombs on the position, Kenyan police said, but failed to destroy the convoy. The US defence department refused to comment on "intelligence specifics".

Yesterday, Ms Frazer, Washington's under-secretary of state for Africa, said US intelligence believed that the Islamist leaders had been hiding in Mogadishu, but might have fled and their whereabouts were unknown.

"All of us in the international community were quite surprised how fast the [Islamic movement] melted away and lost support," she said.

Aircraft Carrier Heads to Persian Gulf as Iran Warning

Aircraft Carrier Heads to Persian Gulf as Iran Warning: "WASHINGTON -- The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis is scheduled to leave the United States this month for the Persian Gulf region in a Naval buildup aimed partly as a warning to Iran.

Officials decided to send the Stennis strike group on top of a carrier group already in the region on a request late last year from the U.S. Central Command, the military unit in charge of activities there as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the Defense Department perfers not to publicly announce upcoming ship movements for security reasons.

Pentagon officials said last month that the extra ships would serve as a show of force to Iran, at odds with the United States over its nuclear program and alleged support of violence in Iraq. They said the ships also would be available to help in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - and possibly nearby in Indian Ocean waters off the coast of Somalia, a lawless nation that authorities say has been a haven for Islamic radicals.

The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower left its Norfolk, Va., port in September and is already in the gulf region. The Stennis is homeported in Bremerton, Wash.

Bush puts finishing touches on Iraq plan

Bush puts finishing touches on Iraq plan - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - President Bush is putting the finishing touches on his new Iraq plan, reshuffling his national security team and scheduling private briefings with lawmakers. "

The president also planned to replace his two top generals in Iraq, according media reports.

Bush next week will unveil his strategy, which is expected to entail new political, military and economic steps to win the war. The military approach, which has attracted the most attention and skepticism from Congress, is expected to include an increase in U.S. forces, possibly 9,000 additional troops deployed to the Baghdad capital alone.

"One thing is for certain: I will want to make sure the mission is clear and specific and can be accomplished," Bush said Thursday.

Before the president provides more details, however, he is putting in place a new team to help oversee his Iraq policy.

Ryan Crocker, a veteran American diplomat now U.S. envoy to Pakistan, was expected to replace Zalmay Khalilzad as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Khalilzad will be nominated to become the U.S. ambassador to the

United Nations' , according to a senior Bush administration official.

Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, and Gen. George Casey, the chief general in Iraq, are both expected to leave their jobs in coming weeks.

Media reports Thursday said Bush wants to replace Abizaid with Adm. William Fallon, the top U.S. commander in the Pacific. They also reported that Casey's replacement would be Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who headed the effort to train Iraqi security forces.

Also, retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell, a veteran of more than 25 years in intelligence, was to be named Friday by Bush to succeed John Negroponte as national intelligence director, said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision was not yet public.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (news, bio, voting record), D-Hawaii, a member of the Senate Defense appropriations subcommittee, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he understands Bush wants to appoint Fallon to head the U.S. Central Command, a position responsible for directing the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan' .

"He's highly knowledgeable and well-educated and respected," Inouye said of Fallon. "I would think that his nomination, if the president is to submit it, would go flying through."

Each of the personnel changes comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Robert Gates replacing Donald H. Rumsfeld, the architect of the unpopular war.

Besides ushering in new personnel, Bush on Friday was to discuss his plans for the Iraq war privately with more than a dozen senators, a list that includes some of his biggest critics, as well as his most ardent supporters.

Briefings with lawmakers were expected to continue through next week, culminating in a meeting with bipartisan leadership on Wednesday, according to lawmakers and aides.

Bush spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a secure video hookup for nearly two hours Thursday. The president said he sought assurances from al-Maliki that he would do what's necessary to protect Iraqis against rising sectarian violence.

"I believe Prime Minister Maliki has the will necessary to make the tough decisions," the president said.

Bush appeared Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and recounted some of his discussions with al-Maliki. The president said he talked with the prime minister about the final moments of
Saddam Hussein' 's life, when the deposed Iraqi leader was taunted before being hanged Saturday and then filmed dangling from a rope.

"My personal reaction is that Saddam Hussein was given a trial that he was unwilling to give the thousands of people he killed," Bush said. "I wish, obviously, that the proceedings had gone on in a more dignified way."

One option being considered by Bush includes sending 8,000 to 9,000 more troops to Iraq, primarily to reinforce Baghdad. There are roughly 140,000 troops in Iraq.

The option involves sending two additional Army brigades, or roughly 7,000 soldiers, to Baghdad, and two Marine battalions, totaling about 1,500 troops, to western Anbar Province, the center of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

Lawmakers said Thursday they were skeptical of such a plan.

"My conclusion was that it would be a mistake to send more troops to Baghdad," said Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine. "I think the sectarian violence there requires a political not a military solution."

This concern was echoed by Abizaid in testimony on Capitol Hill in November. He said 20,000 more troops could be deployed, but that the Army and Marine Corps are too taxed to sustain the increase for long.

Giving Fallon and Petraeus the top military posts in the Middle East would help Bush assert that he is taking a fresh approach, and help pave the way for him to turn policy there in a new direction.

As with Abizaid, Casey also has expressed reservations about the potential effectiveness of boosting troop strength in Iraq. He told reporters in Iraq last month that he is "not necessarily opposed to the idea" of sending in more troops, but said any increase would have to "help us progress to our strategic objectives."

Besides military, Bush's new plan is expected to contain economic, political and diplomatic components.
Given the need to reduce high unemployment and draw Iraqis away from Shiite militias and the Sunni insurgency, the president is considering loans to businesses. He is looking at getting Iraqis into short-term jobs by proposing a significant increase in the discretionary funds that military commanders can use for reconstruction projects.

[bth: Casey is a toddy but Abizaid is critical for his understanding of the middle east and his command of language and culture. What an admiral from the pacific can add in replacement is unclear.]

Terror plot link to rocket 'theft'

Terror plot link to rocket 'theft' NEWS.com.au: "THE 28-year-old Sydney man today charged for possessing seven rocket launchers was involved in the group last year arrested for plotting to blow up the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said."

Taha Abdul Rahman was arrested at a house in Leumeah, in Sydney's south-west, and charged with 17 offences related to the receipt, supply and possession of the weapons. He appeared briefly in court this afternoon and was remanded in custody until January 10. Mr Keelty said Mr Rahman was involved in the group arrested last year for plotting to blow up the bridge and nuclear reactor but said it was important not to "over-sensationalise" matters before the court.

"Clearly alleged possession of a rocket launcher by a civilian with alleged connections to the other persons before the court is of serious concern,'' he said. He said the arrested man had no immediate connections to the ADF, and no members of the ADF were said to be under investigation at this point. The focus of the AFP investigation was now shifting from how the weapon got from the ADF and into the hands of an potential terrorist organisation, Mr Keelty said.

"We still haven't satisfied ourselves that there were other missing weapons and that's the reason why the Department of Defence have announced their audit that's already started to take place and that's an audit that's been joined by ASIO and we think that's an appropriate step,'' Mr Keelty said.

The AFP, ASIO and the NSW Police are jointly investigating the theft of the seven rocket launchers from the ADF. Meanwhile, NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas said the Lucas Heights reactor was one of a number of sites believed to have been considered a target by those in possession of a stolen ADF rocket launcher.

"Certainly it's something that may have been considered. There were a couple of sites that were probably being considered and that's one of them,'' Mr Kaldas told Macquarie Radio. But Mr Keelty would not comment on where the rocket launcher, which the AFP came into possession of last September, may have been used.

"We do know and have evidence of a proposed target, but I don't want to reveal the target right now because it may be that those details are suppressed by the court, but we are obviously making inquiries in relation to the target,'' Mr Keelty said. The rocket launcher is believed to be one of seven stolen from the Australian Defence Force (ADF)

The rocket launchers are reportedly of the type designed to be fired from the shoulder by infantry.

They have enough punch to destroy a tank.

Mr Kaldas said he believed Mr Rahman was one link in a "chain of supply'' but did not know exactly where he fitted in.

"I want to assure the public that we have significant resources working on finding these weapons,'' he said.
With AAP

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

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Insurgents torch newly-built refugee school

Insurgents torch newly-built refugee school NEWS.com.au: "INSURGENTS torched a newly built school for refugee children in eastern Afghanistan, officials said, in the first such attack in 2007 blamed on Taliban militants."

A spate of similar attacks last year on schools and teachers were mostly blamed on Taliban rebels conducting an insurgency to overthrow the Government and expel foreign troops trying to bring stability.

The school was set alight in the eastern province of Nangarhar near the border with Pakistan was made up of tents from the UN children's fund, UNICEF, provincial spokesman Hazrat Hussain said.

“Five tents of a new UNICEF-built school were burned down last night in Behsud district,” he said.

[bth: there is hardly a better indication of vile intention than watching someone burn a school.]

IRAN: SUPREME LEADER 'GRAVELY ILL'

IRAN: SUPREME LEADER 'GRAVELY ILL': "Tehran, 2 Jan. (AKI) - Iran's top spiritual and political figure, Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei is seriously ill and will have to be replaced in the coming months as he is no longer capable of holding office, according to Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Nasseri. The powerful clerical body appoints and oversees the country's supreme leader.

'Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei is gravely ill - he can no longer see very well, has difficulty hearing, and is no longer able to properly perform his duties,' Nasseri told a women's group.

Iranians have speculated for sometime about Khamenei's health. But talk of the 67 year-old Khamenei's health is taboo and officials have denied he is seriously ill, although United States sources had previously said Khamenei had cancer. He is widely regarded as the figurehead of the country's conservative establishment. The survivor of an assassination attempt, his supporters call him a 'living martyr.'

The country's supreme leader since 1989, Khamenei succeeded the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as president in 1981 and served two terms. His death or removal from office by the Assembly of Experts will trigger a power struggle within Iran's clergy, according to observers.

The names of three possible successors to Khamenei are currently on the lips of Iranians: Khamenei's son, Mjtaba; Iran's former reformist president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; and Gholam Ali Mesbah Yazdi, the ultra-conservative ayatollah who is considered the spiritual father of Iran's current hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."
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» Rice’s stillborn talks with the Iraqi resistance - Conflicts Forum

» Rice’s stillborn talks with the Iraqi resistance - Conflicts Forum: "Over the last three months, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her top aides have scrambled to build a “new security architecture” for the Middle East — one that will maintain pressure on Iran at the same time that it provides a cover for U.S. efforts to salvage some respectability from its collapsing position in Iraq. This “GCC-plus-two” security front is hardly news, but what is news is that it has been used as a potential back-channel by the Secretary of State to open talks with representatives of the Iraqi resistance — talks that, in spite of Rice’s best efforts, have been stillborn"


The most important meetings with the “GCC-plus-two” have taken place in the region: in Riyadh, Amman and Cairo; and the most important of these meetings — and the one that included a potential opening to the Iraqi resistance — took place in Cairo in early October. Just last week our reporter in Baghdad talked with Iraqi officials, one of whom provided details of Rice’s efforts to use her meetings with the “GCC-plus-two” ministers to explore an opening to Iraqi resistance leaders. Our reporter obtained the following details of that early October meeting in Cairo and the results of that opening:

On October 3, 2006, in Cairo the U.S. Secretary of State met with ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jordan, and Egypt. Afterwards the ministers from Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar received unexpected phone calls from one of Rice’s assistants asking them to attend a private meeting with Rice in a secure location in Cairo that same evening.

One of the ministers who attended that evening meeting with Rice in Cairo later met a senior member of the Iraqi Muslim Council (the MUC, Muslim Ulama Council, also known as the Association of Muslim Scholars) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He briefed the Muslim Council representative on the meeting’s topics the most important of which was an offer from the Bush Administration to open talks with the Iraqi resistance movement. This was in accord with Rice’s express desire that the Muslim Council be informed of U.S. views. At her meeting in Cairo, Rice told the four ministers that she wanted to talk to them about the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. The U.S. administration, Rice said, understood that they had “committed mistakes” in Iraq. She said that the president was very concerned about these mistakes and wanted to set them aright. “You are our friends and I want you to help us,” she told the four ministers.

“Please forget the past and its complications. I admit that we made mistakes and we ignored your warnings and did not take your advice. But let us cooperate to sort out all problems in Iraq. I invited you to this meeting here in Cairo in order for us to discuss this, and after I contacted the White House to make sure that they knew we were going to discuss this issue in this more private setting.”

After Rice’s short introduction, apology and plea for help, a Saudi diplomatic official asked Rice in what way the Arab governments could help the United States. She replied, without hesitation, that the U.S. administration “wants extensive and detailed talks with Iraqi Sunni resistance leaders about ways to end the insurgency and bring stability to Iraq.” She said that she wanted those present at the meeting to return to their countries and “use their influence” to convince the Sunni resistance to participate in talks with the Americans. Rice went on to say that the Bush Administration is ready to talk to Sheikh Harith Al Dari, Secretary General of the MUC, in addition to “any senior member of the Baath Party or any ex-senior high-ranking commander of the Iraqi Army” about finding ways to stabilize the situation and ending the resistance. Rice said that the United States would speak with any high-ranking official of the resistance, but would not speak with any officials of al-Qaeda.

In the wake of this meeting, Sheikh Harith al-Dari visited Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Emirates and had several meeting with senior officials in these countries on Rice’s proposal. Even so, after these briefings al-Dari flatly refused the idea of conducting any direct meetings with U.S. officials until the United States had responded positively to six “decisive demands” of “the Sunni Resistance and Opposition to the American Occupation of the Nation of the Two Rivers.” The six demands were put in writing — apparently by al-Dari — and delivered to U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley during his visit to the Saudi capital in December. After reading these demands, Hadley paid a surprise visit to Irbel, in northern Iraq, where he met the president of the Kurdistan region in Iraq, Masoud Barzani, and Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, to seek their advice on how to respond to the demands.

The six demands are:

1. The United States must agree to enlarge the current national reconciliation endeavor to include all political parties, including the major parties of the Iraqi resistance movement;

2. The Iraqi government should without any preconditions grant and adhere to a national pardon and full amnesty for those who were part of the resistance;

3. The United States and the Iraqi government must agree to abolish all aspects of the current de-Baathification law and return Baathist officials to their positions in the government and in the military;

4. Starting immediately the United States and the Iraqi government must agree to the dismantling of all militias and death squads and bring their leaders to justice;

5. The United States and the Iraqi government must agree to abolish all programs aimed at federating the country into three regions;

6. The United States and the Iraqi government must approve a plan to equitably distribute oil revenues fairly to all Iraqi provinces.

We have subsequently been informed that the Muslim Council has held several talks with representatives of the Iraqi resistance who emphasized their intention of fully participating in the political process if these demands are achieved. A representative of the Muslim Council noted, however, that he and the leadership of the council doubted that either the United States or the Iraqi government would agree to these demands and further, that the Iraqi Shiite Alliance would firmly veto any such proposal.

It seems unlikely, in view of the substance of these six demands, that the U.S. search for a diplomatic solution to its crisis in Iraq will be successful. Certainly, senior U.S. military officers in Baghdad do not believe that such a solution is possible. Moreover, most if not all of those in the higher echelons of the U.S. military in Iraq disagree with both the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff plan for a troop “surge” to bring stability to the country.

This is not the first time that the U.S. has attempted to deal with the Iraqi resistance, or has requested or even held meetings with resistance leaders. One such meeting was held in Amman in 2004, but officials at the Pentagon later determined that the individuals they met did not truly represent the most powerful groups operating against the Americans. The same was true of several meetings held in Iraq in 2005 — where U.S. officials later determined that the delegation with whom they spoke actually had little influence in ending resistance activities. Since that time, and at the insistence of Rice, the U.S. has determined that it will use go-betweens in communicating its desire to Iraqi resistance leaders, as they are in the best position to identify the resistance leadership. Nevertheless, American willingness to directly or indirectly engage with the resistance has resulted in little progress in bridging the political chasm that still divides the U.S. and its opponents in Iraq.
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Top Iraqi Sunni chief thrown to his death

Top Iraqi Sunni chief thrown to his death NEWS.com.au: "A 75-year-old chief from Iraq's powerful Tamim tribe was thrown to his death from the top of a Baghdad building after gunmen kidnapped him from a funeral, a relative said today."

Sheik Hamed Mohammed Suhail, a Sunni leader in a mixed Sunni and Shi'ite tribe, was seized from the funeral in Agarguff area near Abu Ghraib on the western outskirts of Baghdad on Monday.

"He was dragged from the funeral and taken to Shuala area in Baghdad and then thrown from the top of a building,'' his nephew, tribal leader Sheik Ali Suhail al-Tamimi, said, blaming Shi'ite militants.

Shuala is a Shi'ite neighbourhood in western Baghdad.

Although Mohammed Suhail is a Sunni, nearly two thirds of his tribe is Shi'ite and he was known as a moderate who was working to reconcile Baghdad's warring communities, his nephew said.

"We accuse the Mahdi Army of killing him in this ugly way,'' Mr Suhail said, pointing the finger at radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's militia, which has been accused of killing Sunni Arabs in Iraq's sectarian conflict. Mr Suhail said his uncle died in a Shuala hospital.

"We demand that Mahdi army operating in the Agarguff area be investigated. These militias want nothing but sectarian war,'' Mr Suhail said. Tamim is a leading tribe in the Arab world with clans in countries like Syria and Jordan as well as Iraq.
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rangeragainstwar: The New Centurians

rangeragainstwar: The New Centurians: "'Only Fourteen Shooting Days Until Christmas,'
--sign on a USMC tank in the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir."

If television ads are correct, then ED (erectile dysfunction) is the new blight of the American male, much as Dutch Elm Disease and Citrus chancre hit the trees a while back. Victory, however, is as close as your nearest bottle of Viagra, Cialis or Levitra, drugs whose roots suggest vigor, skyward movement or levitation of the lagging member. The little blue pill will soon leave you hanging tough and hard. A panacea that comes with the caveat that you should first be healthy enough to have sex prior to taking the pill. This would seem to imply that not getting it up might be an indicator that one is not healthy enough to have sex. What happened to the old remedy--just buy a powerful, flashy hot sports car. This is an adequate response to ED that is time-tested.

Now, how does all this apply to Iraq and Afghanistan? Well, as with the ads, an important question is posed: Is America healthy enough to have a war, or are we simply over-compensating with flashy sports cars?

The ads further stress that having an erection for more than four hours is not normal, and in case of such a event, medical help should be sought.at once. Similarly, a war that lasts more than four years needs more than medical attention, as it's a danger to the entire nation.

Sex, power and combat go hand in hand. Driving, relentless combat wins wars, or at least, used to win wars. We used to have Generals who participated in a hands-on way, if not on the front lines.

They were soldiers, apart from the political establishment, charged with the business of conducting warfare, as decreed by their Commander in Chief. Yes, they were accountable, and had to dialog with their superiors, but their provenance was on the field of battle. That is where they excelled. They enjoyed a rapport with their men which produced results.The little blue pill may raise the flag, but it is an ersatz happening. Better than nothing, but not quite spontaneous, either. I analogize the use of the pill to the use of present-day Generals like Pace and Powell. They look good, but both have nominal combat experience in their careers. Neither have any major combat decorations, mostly thanks-for-coming and I've-Been-There awards. What qualifies them to be Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), or to hold any other National Command Authority position? Pace and Powell have no stature compared to the Generals discussed later in this piece.Powell lacked the depth or major combat background required of this level of leadership. He did not command Centcom or NATO before he moved to the JCS. Both Powell and Pace are talking points-type of Generals. The military now uses General Officers to brief the press. Needless to say, these Generals always appear clean, professional and spiffy, but can they really be called soldiers? Maybe if they take their little pills.

In fact, Brigadier General Brooks at the inception of the Iraq mess was the briefing officer, and he was resplendent with his Expert Infantry Badge proudly displayed in his chest. What a joke. No grenades here.

As a quick tour, let's look at the Generals who forewent the spit and polish required of current presentation, in favor of simply doing their duty as soldiers. General U.S. Grant never wore more than a private's coat, with his stars simply attached. He was often muddy and never carried a sabre, since it served no function at his level of command. He did not need to be propped up by a sabre to proclaim his Generalship.

Look at MacArthur on the Missouri in Tokyo Harbor signing the WWII Japanese surrender documents. The Japanese diplomats and military were fully arrayed and appeared magnificent, but they were losers. MacArthur and company were conspicuously down-dressed, wearing stripped down uniforms with no awards or decorations, but they were the winners. MacArthur had the Medal of Honor and nine Silver Stars to his name, but he never wore these items as eye candy.

This General didn't need ribbons. At Tokyo Harbor, MacArthur was simply a soldier. After that point he became a warrior-king, but he still retained his humility of uniform.However, a new construct of what constituted a General was emerging about the same time. This was the political-soldier--as embodied by Generals Eisenhower and Marshall. Both of these men were soldiers, but their power was based upon maneuvering within the political arena, affecting strategic combat operations of U.S. forces. Up to this point, Generals were soldiers first, politicians second. Now, the hardness of combat became of secondary importance, and even dispensable.

Many other Generals continued to remain apart from the political-soldier model, but they paid in terms of curtailed promotions. In Korea, when U.S. forces were being relentlessly pushed back, General Matthew Ridgeway was assigned to reverse the trend. Ridgeway didn't use briefings and Power Points--his trademark was two Frag grenades attached to his combat harness at his chest. The message was clear: attack, using rifles, grenades and bayonets...but this army is going to attack. Far more persuasive than any Power Point.

General Dean of the 24th Infantry Division was captured in Seoul while attempting personally to kill enemy tanks. Howling Mad Smith, Chesty Puller, Walker--these were the Generals leading our combat troops. Puller, with a bad heart, walked out of the Chosen perimeter after giving his Jeep to the wounded. This was in temperatures of minus 30 to 40 degrees.

All these Generals were dirty, plain-spoken and effective. They were doing what Generals were paid to do,which was to lead by example. As an aside, Puller had five Navy Crosses and U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross, so his actions were consistent throughout his military life, as were those of the others mentioned. These Generals were leading by example. They were healthy enough without mother's little helpers.

Puller never became Commandant of the USMC because he lacked political savvy.
He was a combat leader, not a corporate executive. But the die was cast, and top positions were now reserved for that new animal, the political general. Much is said about the need for more soldiers in the Army, but there seems no shortage of Generals. When the Army shrinks, do General Officer slots get cut? The Army now has nine 4-Star Generals on board. Why so many when the Army is so small? This doesn't take into account the 2- and 3-Stars. The Gitmo penitentiary has a General Officer commanding the facility, which houses 500 prisoners. A good sergeant could do that job. Remember Abu Ghraib, which was commanded by Brigadier General Janis Karpinski. Heck of a job there.

I believe the Army has lost its ability to function at the General Officer level. Generals are now managers wearing meaningless awards and looking good.As always, the soldiers carry the burden for leadership that depends on little blue pills and Power Points. All show and no go. Present day Generals are technically and tactically proficient, but they go limp when dealing with political issues. Keep the Generals in the Army. When they go limp, make them Secretaries of State a la Marshall, Haig and Powell. But don't make them politicians or statesman while they're wearing a uniform. Keep the grenades on their chest, and they won't need little pills.

YouTube - Kan. Sergeant Killed In Afghanistan Ambush

YouTube - Kan. Sergeant Killed In Afghanistan Ambush: ""

- Iraq Orders Closure of TV Station Office

My Way News - Iraq Orders Closure of TV Station Office: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The Iraqi government Monday ordered the closure of the Baghdad office of a Dubai-based television station whose newscaster wore black mourning clothes while reporting on the hanging of Hussein."

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said the Al-Sharqiya station, owned by a former chief of radio and television for Saddam, had incited violence and hatred in its coverage and had ignored warnings to stop.

Brigadier Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the spokesman, said the order was issued after an allegedly false report by the news channel about the abduction of three Sunni Arab female students from a university.

But the order also followed criticism of the tone of Al-Sharqiya's coverage of Saturday's execution, which struck some as sympathetic to the ousted dictator.

In contrast to state-run television reports that described Saddam as a "tyrant" and "criminal," a newscaster on Al-Sharqiya - which means "The Eastern One" - referred to him Sunday as "president."

Iraq's government is dominated by the country's Shiite Muslim majority. Al-Sharqiya is sometimes mocked by critics as "Al-Baathiya" for its alleged sympathies for Saddam's outlawed Baath Party, which had helped Iraq's Sunni minority rule the country.

Shiite and Sunni are now locked in a sectarian war that has claimed thousands of lives.

It's not clear how the closure might effect Al-Sharqiya, which broadcasts to Iraq from Dubai by satellite.

Al-Sharqiya reported Monday night that its offices in Baghdad were raided and sealed by Iraqi authorities. But the station said those offices were vacated three months ago in response to attacks on staff.

Al-Sharqiya remained on the air Monday, broadcasting video of a protest against Saddam's execution that was staged by the Professional Associations - an umbrella group of unions representing doctors, engineers and lawyers - at the group's offices in Amman, Jordan.

Saddam's eldest daughter, Raghad, briefly attended the demonstration in her first public appearance since his execution.

State-run Al-Iraqiya may have referred to the controversy over Al-Sharqiya's coverage, when it criticized reporting on Saddam's death by rival Iraqi and regional Arab television stations.

"The execution of Saddam unveiled the many masks of those who don't like to see a strong, civilized and developed Iraq," an Al-Iraqiya newscaster said Monday. "The male and female news readers of some Arab and Iraqi satellite channels rushed to their cupboards to wear their black clothes, announcing their sorrow about the joy of Iraqis."

Newscasters on the influential Al-Jazeera satellite channel also wore black in the aftermath of Saddam's hanging.

The government did not specifically cite the controversy over Al-Sharqiya's coverage of Saddam's execution in explaining the closure.

"We had sent many warnings to the channel previously, but it insisted on circulating false news that provoked violence and hatred," said Khalaf, the interior ministry spokesman.

On Nov. 30, the Interior Ministry said it had formed a special unit to monitor news coverage and vowed to take legal action against journalists who failed to correct stories the ministry deemed to be incorrect. The ministry runs the Iraqi national police and a separate paramilitary force.

The purpose of the monitoring unit, Khalaf said at the time, was to find "fabricated and false news that hurts and gives the Iraqis a wrong picture that the security situation is very bad, when the facts are totally different."

Al-Sharqiya's programming includes a number of Iraqi soap operas. Its owner, Saad al-Bazzaz, fled Iraq years before Saddam's fall and returned after the regime collapsed.

Prominent employees of Al-Sharqiya have fallen victim to Iraq's violence. Those slain include correspondent Ahmed al-Rasheed, and Walid Hassan, a famous comedian who was shot while driving in western Baghdad.

Hassan had performed in a comedy series called "Caricature," which mocked coalition forces and Iraqi governments since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

---
AP reporter Saad Abdul Kadir contributed to this report.

[bth: kind of a difficult problem for the government to shut down a station that is broadcasting overseas and being piped in by satellite.]

YouTube - future weapons-bangalore blade

YouTube - future weapons-bangalore blade: ""
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Robertson predicts 'mass killing'

Robertson predicts 'mass killing' - Yahoo! News: "VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - In what has become an annual tradition of prognostications, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson predicted Tuesday that a terrorist attack on the United States would result in 'mass killing' in 2007. "

I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network. "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

Robertson said God told him during a recent prayer retreat that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.

Robertson said God also told him that the U.S. only feigns friendship with Israel' and that U.S. policies are pushing Israel toward "national suicide."

Robertson suggested in January 2006 that God punished then-Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon' with a stroke for ceding Israeli-controlled land to the Palestinians
.

The broadcaster predicted in January 2004 that President Bush' would easily win re-election. Bush won 51 percent of the vote that fall, beating Democratic Sen. John Kerry' of Massachusetts. He also predicted Bush's victory for a second term in 2005.

"I have a relatively good track record," he said. "Sometimes I miss."

In May, Robertson said God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America's coastline in 2006. Even though the U.S. was not hit with a tsunami, Robertson on Tuesday cited last spring's heavy rains and flooding in New England as partly fulfilling the prediction.

[bth: Jean Dixon here is nuts.]

FBI: Workers saw prisoner abuse at Guantanamo

FBI: Workers saw prisoner abuse at Guantanamo - CNN.com: "WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI on Tuesday released documents showing at least 26 FBI employees witnessed aggressive mistreatment and harsh interrogation techniques of prisoners by other government agencies or outside contractors at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

"On several occasions witnesses saw detainees in interrogation rooms chained hand and foot in fetal position to floor with no chair/food/water; most urinated or defecated on selves and were left there 18, 24 hours or more," according to one FBI account made public. One FBI witness saw a detainee "shaking with cold," while another noted a detainee in a sweltering unventilated room was "almost unconscious on a floor with a pile of hair next to him (he had apparently been pulling it out through the night)."

Another witness saw a detainee "with a full beard whose head was wrapped in duct tape." One FBI statement said that an interrogator squatted over the Quran and that a German shepherd dog was ordered to "growl, bark and show his teeth to the prisoner." Another detainee was draped in an Israeli flag.

The FBI surveyed all 493 FBI personnel who had been assigned to the military prison facility in the aftermath of 9/11 and determined no FBI agent or support personnel had participated in any of the controversial practices.

"This thorough internal assessment shows the FBI was not involved in these activities in any way," said chief FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.

The FBI Office of General Counsel in September 2004 ordered the "special inquiry" into any FBI participation or observations of a series of alleged incidents at the prison camp for suspected terrorists and al Qaeda sympathizers, but the results were not made public.

The FBI released the documents in response to an ACLU Freedom of Information request but stressed that most of the findings had already been disclosed.

"Note these documents have been vetted by both DoD and FBI, and that FBI believes this or substantially similar information has already been released in this litigation," the FBI said.

Results of the 26 "positive responses" and several more "not purely negative responses" reported by FBI personnel in the internal inquiry were made available Tuesday on the Web site at www.FBI.gov. (Read the report)

Other actions FBI witnesses reported included:

Placing a detainee in a darkened cell with the intent of interrogating him for 24 hours straight; the witness reported being told that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had approved this technique.

Keeping detainees awake for days on end with strobe lights and loud music.

Dressing as a priest and "baptizing" a detainee.

Subjecting a detainee to a lap dance by a topless female guard.

Interrupting detainees' attempts to pray by putting fluid on their faces and telling them it was menstrual blood.

Beating a detainee who said he had recently undergone abdominal surgery.

[bth: let us weigh what we have gained by what we have lost. We have gained enough useful intelligence over 5 years to - to do what? Get OBL? Nope. What have we lost? Our respect in the world. Our respect for the rule of law and our collective soul.]

16,273 deaths reported in Iraq in 2006 - Yahoo! News

16,273 deaths reported in Iraq in 2006 - Yahoo! News: "BAGHDAD, Iraq - As enraged crowds protested the hanging of Saddam Hussein across Iraq's Sunni heartland Monday, government officials reported that 16,273 Iraqi civilians, soldiers and police died violent deaths in 2006, a figure larger than an independent Associated Press count for the year by more than 2,500. "

The tabulation by the Iraqi ministries of Health, Defense and Interior, showed that 14,298 civilians, 1,348 police and 627 soldiers were killed in the violence that raged in the country last year.

The Associated Press accounting, gleaned from daily news reports from Baghdad, arrived at a total of 13,738 deaths. The United Nations' has said as many as 100 Iraqis die violently each day, which translates into 36,500 deaths annually....

With Iraq War Come Layers of Loss

With Iraq War Come Layers of Loss - washingtonpost.com: "...At a Pentagon service to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that more than 1.3 million troops had been deployed to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is almost one in every 230 Americans."

In a USA Today-Gallup poll in October, 11 percent of respondents said they had a close friend, family member or co-worker who was wounded or killed in the Iraq war; an additional 43 percent had a friend, relative or colleague who had served in it.

For much of the rest of the country, the reverberations of the conflict are limited to headlines and television images of explosions or discussions about Iraq policy. The nation's war dead are returned to the United States privately, their flag-draped coffins shielded from cameras.

"The fatal flaw was when right after September 11 the president asked everyone to go on with their lives.
That set the stage for no one sacrificing," said a Special Forces team sergeant who recently served in Iraq. "That's why they aren't behind it, because they don't have a stake in this war. They aren't losing or gaining anything. If you don't see it, smell it, feel it, how are you connected?"...

Maj. Mitchell Watkins, 40, of Vonore, Tenn., has had seven operational deployments in his career and is on his third tour in Iraq, now as the executive officer of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, based in Tall Afar. Watkins said that each combat death is intensely tragic -- he lost one of his closest friends during his last tour -- but that what the troops have given for their country should never be forgotten.

"I willfully continue to serve here because I believe that our sacrifice is still appreciated by many Iraqis who desire to truly be free, and by the people at home who are supporting us," Watkins said in November. "Having lost two close personal friends here in this war and almost 3,000 comrades, I understand the sacrifice this presents to my family, but I have no regrets."...

Most Americans don't understand that people are numbers and numbers are people," she said. They grasp the gravity of the situation only when tragedy strikes close to home. "We had one young man die from our town," she said. "It was a very big deal. The post office was renamed after him."

USATODAY.com Blast that killed Pfc. Salas still echoes months later

USATODAY.com: "The roadside bomb that killed Pfc. Ricky Salas Jr. last year lay buried along a deserted stretch of highway outside Tal Afar, Iraq.

The Pentagon announced the death in a three-paragraph news release, blaming it on an 'improvised explosive device' or IED, the acronym for the weapon that has claimed the lives of more U.S. troops than any other used by Iraqi insurgents.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that the number of Americans killed since the war in Iraq began — U.S. troops and seven Pentagon civilian workers — reached 3,000. At least 35% of them died as Ricky Salas did: in IED explosions. In December, the deadliest month of 2006, at least 48 of 69 Army combat deaths were caused by roadside bombs. "

In all, 111 U.S. troops were killed last month.

IEDs can be made from a variety of explosives. In Iraq, insurgents sometimes use ammunition that was looted from Iraqi military facilities in the months after the U.S. invasion. Detonators can be wired to the bomb, activated by pressure from a vehicle that rolls over it or triggered remotely by an electronic signal.

A military task force established in 2003 continues to look for ways to combat the devices, and the Pentagon has spent billions of dollars on devices that jam electronic signals. It has also added armor to vehicles to defend against explosions and trains troops from the early weeks of enlistment on how to spot IEDs.

Brig. Gen. Dan Allyn, a deputy director for the task force, says one in five bomb attacks causes casualties. When that happens, he says, several people can be killed or wounded at once.

Like the death announcements for the hundreds who died before and after him, the Pentagon news release about Salas, 22, only hinted at the human cost of the March 6 explosion.

No mention was made of the three other soldiers in the Humvee who were wounded in the blast. Also left unsaid were the stories of those the death toll fails to acknowledge: Salas' 22-year-old widow, the two small children she is left to raise alone, a mother emotionally adrift and a father who drowns his despair in alcohol.

Salas hoped that by enlisting, he could support his young family in Roswell, N.M. His death — because of the benefits his wife, April Baca-Salas, subsequently received — made that possible.

"The plan Ricky had for us to live our lives, to have a new house, to be able to support our kids — he's made that. But it's not the way I wanted it," says Baca-Salas. "I wish I didn't have a penny to my name and had my husband."

The explosion of that IED extended beyond the borders of Iraq and touched other lives. The stories of those closest to Salas speak to the other casualties of war — the mothers and fathers, the children and the spouses of the 3,000 killed since fighting began.

The mission that killed Salas was routine. The five soldiers in the Humvee were part of Charlie Company of the Army's 1st Armored Division and were commanded by 1st Lt. Charles Bies, 24, of Palm Coast, Fla., who rode in the front passenger seat next to Salas. Salas didn't need to go. He volunteered for the patrol.
After a long day of trying to clear highways of roadside bombs on March 6, the soldiers followed an Abrams tank back to their fortified outpost in a village outside Tal Afar, Bies recalls. It was almost midnight.

Bies says they drove about 10 mph and swapped stories about being chewed out by superior officers, all the while searching the darkness with flashlights for booby traps.
They missed one.

The bomb blew off the entire left side of the Humvee. Bies says he could hear Salas scream. Soldiers on the scene say Salas died quickly. He was pronounced dead at a military hospital March 7.

Hours after his death, a police officer stopped Baca-Salas, 22, outside a Home Depot in Roswell.

Two members of the New Mexico Army National Guard had stopped at her parents' home earlier that day to give Baca-Salas the news. When she wasn't there, they asked local police to assist in gently directing her to go back home.

Instead, Baca-Salas demanded answers. "I just started screaming at him and yelling," she recalls.

"Oh my God! Is it my husband?" she recalls asking the officer. "He's in Iraq," she told them. "Is he OK?

"Ms. Salas, I don't know," the officer told her. "Please go home. I'll follow you."

Arriving home minutes later, she saw the Army casualty officers and fainted on the driveway. Police officers rushed to distract the two children still in the car: Jordan, who will turn 4 on Jan. 11, and Jarrod, now 22 months old.

Baca-Salas had hated her husband's decision in 2005 to join the Army. Even so, she supported him. She says he wanted a chance for his children to see the world, something Ricky Salas Jr. had never experience growing up in West Texas.

He also wanted financial security.

"All he was doing was trying to better himself," Baca-Salas says.

He succeeded for his family. A rush by Congress in 2005 to increase death benefits for those killed in combat resulted in families receiving $500,000 in benefits.

In addition, the state of New Mexico waives state college tuition for the children of those killed in war.

Baca-Salas is buying a home and setting up investment accounts for Jordan and Jarrod. She's also financing her education to become a massage therapist.

The money is a salve, she says, but it is not a cure.

She is reminded of her husband everywhere: at the Home Depot, where police found her the day he died; in the telephone that never carries his voice; on the computer that never displays his e-mail; in the features of his son and the personality of his daughter, who has the same mischievous streak.

Jordan, who has many memories of her father, tells people he is an angel now. "He has big wings," she says.

Baca-Salas, however, remains hurt and angry at everyone and everything, including the husband she lost.

"I'm very mad at Ricky," she says. "I have these two kids that aren't going to know him.
"And no matter what I tell them, it's not the same.

"It's ugly to hear my daughter say her daddy's got big wings. It's hard to take my kids to the cemetery on his birthday."

The Army required a closed coffin for Salas' rosary and funeral Mass. His mother, Brenda Robertson, of Lubbock, Texas, understood that the blast damage was catastrophic. But without a viewing, it seemed as though her son had simply vanished, she said.

"There's no closure because we can't see him," says Robertson, 43. "We don't know."

That's why she requested his autopsy report.

When it arrived by Federal Express six weeks after his death, it carried a warning that was hard to miss: "It is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that you read this in the presence of people that can provide you with emotional support."

She was alone but read it anyway.

The report listed 55 wounds to her son's body: smashed and broken bones, torn body parts, pulverized organs. When she saw mention of a tattoo on his left arm she put the report down. She knew her son had a tattoo there that read "Salas" in Chinese characters.

"Rick always said he was going to keep me under his wing," Robertson says listlessly.

With the death of her son, who was posthumously promoted to the rank of specialist, Brenda Robertson's life went into a tailspin.

Ricky Salas Jr. was the second of five children and the oldest of four sons of Robertson and her ex-husband, Ricky Salas Sr.

As "Little Ricky" grew to manhood, married and had a family, his mother relied on him as a steady presence in what she concedes was an unsettled life of moving from one job or residence to another.

For years, Ricky pushed her to enroll in college and study bilingual education.

"He said I'd have a better life and a better future," she recalls. Robertson says she studied at Clovis Community College in Clovis, N.M., for two semesters, working steadily in a campus clerical job. But when her son died, she mourned for weeks and let the education and job slip away.

Now unemployed, she lives with her daughter in Lubbock, recently moving from a three-bedroom trailer that belongs to her ex-husband. A few times, she has found solace in spending time with Jordan and Jarrod, her grandchildren. "I just couldn't deal with it," she says of her son's death. "It's been real hard for me to get back on track."

Her ex-husband, 44, is a former construction worker disabled by a car accident in 2002. He lives on Social Security. His oldest son would always call, even from Iraq, to talk about conditions there. When Ricky Jr., died, the father says he turned increasingly to alcohol.

"Drinking my problems away," he says, "but they don't go away."

These days, there are no calls from Iraq, and Salas often sits in his trailer in Lubbock, staring at the pictures of his son.

"I'm proud. But I've lost the words about how I feel for him doing that," he says of his son's decision to volunteer for the patrol that killed him. "It's a big loss. I don't wish this even on my worst enemy."