Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Latest in Battlefield Surgery

The Latest in Battlefield Surgery - To Your Health - "Jan. 26, 2007 - Medicine has always advanced on the battlefield; it was Hippocrates who said that “war is the only proper school for surgeons.' But the unprecedented scope of injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan has led the military's medical corps literally to rewrite the book on war surgery. At least 24,000 U.S. soldiers have been wounded since the Iraq war began, and another thousand in Afghanistan. With 20,000 more soldiers en route to the battlefield in Iraq, top military surgeons gathered this week in D.C. to discuss new strategies and technologies to help wounded warriors."

The biggest cause of death for the injured is hemorrhaging—uncontrolled bleeding. According to the military, 20 percent of the 3,416 soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan to date might have survived had they not been lost in the fog of war, unable to receive the right treatment in time. (For the other 80 percent, most of whom were hit by IED blasts, there was no chance for survival.) Since 2001, doctors have been looking for better ways to staunch the bleeding. The military has improved and reissued its tourniquet—a simple strap tied around a wounded limb to slow bleeding—with instructions based on new data. But there are also chemical powders, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, such as HemCon and QuikClot, which, when poured into a wound and accompanied by direct pressure, can stop bleeding within seconds. (The sterile clot can be rinsed out once the soldier arrives at a combat hospital.) The powders are so effective and easy to use that four months ago, a military advisory committee recommended that all soldiers carry one of each packet in their first-aid kits.

Many of the major breakthroughs come from doctors improvising in the field—even when their methods challenge convention. In 2004 at Balad Air Force Base, the major medical evacuation hub in Iraq, a surgeon started using a new type of vacuum to suck dead tissue and debris from a leg wound. The vacuum worked so well that the surgeon, Col. Mark Richardson, told his partner the wound seemed clean enough to sew up much earlier than standard protocol dictated. "I said, 'Dude, you're an idiot,'" recalls Col. Donald Jenkins. "'Look in the book.'" War Surgery, the field surgeon’s Bible, recommended leaving the wound open for cleaning and observation. But the wound did look clean, so Jenkins relented, just this once. The worst that would happen: they'd have to reopen the patient's wound and clean it again. But it stayed closed—and healthy. They started using the vacuum to clean and close up other wounds sooner, too. The rate of infections dropped 90 percent. "We ended up rewriting the book on war surgeries for soft-tissue wounds," Jenkins says. The vacuum pump is now being used more extensively in theater, pending additional FDA approval. At other trauma centers, when doctors discovered that a resistant strain of Iraqi bacteria was attacking wounds, they dreamed up a string of dissolvable, timed-release capsules full of antibiotics that can be tucked deep into open cavities to disinfect wounds for 72 hours at a time. Designed to work in the desert, the little beads won't even melt in the 150-degree heat. They're hoping for FDA approval in the next eight or nine months.

Military surgeons have had to take on challenges unique to this theater. During the gulf war, they often performed major operations on-site because it could take weeks for a patient to be evacuated. Now, patients can be flown out of the country much more quickly. Surgeons in the field still do triage, such as amputations, but their main mission is prepping patients for evacuation. That carries its own challenges. The eight-hour flight to the closest treatment facility outside of Iraq—a military base in Landstuhl, Germany—is a bumpy, deafening ride on a narrow, padded stretcher. Base trauma centers in theater also often care for Iraqis injured in American and insurgent attacks. Sometimes, they even treat suspected insurgents themselves. The doctors provide local nationals with the same care as they would to a fallen soldier, but must also consider cultural and pragmatic factors, such as the reality that most Iraqis will not have good long-term health care to support extensive procedures.

The war surgeons plan to rewrite the field manual this year to include their new strategies. The revised manual will be accessible to doctors online, a big advance from the previous version, which was available in paperback and as a CD-ROM. Further improvements are anticipated. At last year's meeting of top war surgeons—their first—they established the Orthopaedic Trauma Research Program to study battlefield injuries, receiving $6.8 million from Congress to fund competitive grants. They had actually asked for $25 million. This year they plan to double the request to $50 million, citing this year's progress and the potential for this research to benefit civilians as well as soldiers.

Medical advances have helped save thousands of soldiers who would have been lost in previous conflicts. The survival rate, with quick medical attention, is an extraordinary 90 percent. The question now, especially for so many young vets who aren't even old enough to legally buy a beer, is what kind of life they can lead after they leave the battlefield. On a large conference video screen before a roomful of uniformed surgeons, Marine orthopedic surgeon Michael Mazurek flashed a gory photograph of a leg that had been ripped open by a blast. "No. 1, our goal is to save his life," he says. "But you have to keep in mind that, 18 months later, he wants to do this." The leg fades, and a video clip shows a young man walking easily back and forth along a stretch of blue carpet—alive, yes, but thanks to his surgeon, also doing well.
© 2007 Newsweek, Inc
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Turkey’s suicide

Turkey’s suicide ( "Our old ally's bent on self-destruction

IT'S hard to watch an old pal hit the skids, making one disastrous decision after another, throwing away a brilliant future. That's the position we're in with Turkey - a former ally bent on self-destruction"

A NATO member ideally positioned to serve as a bridge between the West and the Middle East, Turkey's secular constitution and economic progress should have made it an example for other regional states to emulate. Instead, Turkey has been aping the blighted regimes of the Arab world:

* Exploiting the population's disgust with government corruption, Islamists gained power through the ballot box - and immediately started dismantling the secular legacy of Kemal Ataturk.

* On the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Turkey stabbed the United States - its only dependable ally - in the back, denying passage to our troops in the fateful illusion that Ankara could save Saddam.

* Turkey strangled its (always faint) chance of membership in the European Union with internal repression, ludicrous prosecutions, farcical legislative efforts to Talibanize society and its stubborn denial of the Armenian genocide.

* Instead of winning Europe's approval, the government-sponsored anti-American hate speech poisoning Turkey's media only strengthens European convictions that Turks "aren't our kind."

* Impatient to send Turkish troops into Iraq to attack the PKK (a radical Kurdish group with a terrorist past), Ankara might face a startling military embarrassment, further alienate Washington - and finish off its last prayer of EU membership. (The Europeans just want excuses to keep Turkey out - and Turkey has a genius for providing them.)

* Despite the potential for a mutually beneficial relationship with Iraqi Kurdistan - where Turkish businessmen make substantial profits - the Ankara government obsesses about preventing the emergence of a Kurdish state. Betting on Iraq's Sunni Arabs (who despise the Turks but use them), Turkey has set itself up to lose big if Iraq dissolves.

* With its mischief-making in Iraq, cloak-and-dagger monkey business with Syria and failure to appreciate Iranian deviousness, Turkish foreign policy is in a self-destructive shambles unrivaled since the foundation of the modern Turkish state.

All of this leaves me in sorrow, since I spent decades arguing that Turkey's strategic importance required us to be patient as this land of enormous potential found its way to the future.

For an enthusiastic visitor to Turkey for three decades, it's been heartbreaking to watch its society and economy come to life - only to fall prey to Islamist vampires. With Salafism - the Saudi brand of radical Islam - biting into the Turkish political jugular, the joke is that the despised Bedouins of Arabia have finally conquered the "Ottoman Empire."

The most primitive and backward form of Islam is increasingly at home in the heartlands that had formed the core of the most powerful Muslim state for five centuries.

Now the question isn't whether our old ally can overcome its internal difficulties, but which of its troubles will overwhelm it first. Will the Islamist destruction of Turkish culture continue, or will a rumored military coup plunge the country back into another period of internal violence and political stasis? For Washington, it's all bad news.

The march of punitive Islam (punitive, above all, to Muslims) continues to feed on wild-eyed anti-Americanism - but a military coup could lead to a misadventure in northern Iraq similar to Argentina's Falklands debacle.

Last week's murder of the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink (in which Islamo-nationalists cynically employed a 17-year-old assassin who could only be charged as a juvenile) laid bare the divide in Turkish society: 100,000 Turks turned out to protest the barbarous killing, but the government barely shrugged, since the demagogues now command far greater numbers.

Turkey's educated elite is in much the same position as Germany's elite during Hitler's rise to power. Imagining that the Islamists would sputter out, progressive Turks failed to act.

Now Turkish civilization - so great for so many centuries - is unraveling the way Germany's did in the 1930s. Turkish intellectuals made the classic error of underestimating the common man's capacity for hatred and lust for blind revenge.

As for the spectacularly virulent and dishonest anti-Americanism in the Turkish media - we need never have a "Who lost Turkey?" debate: The Turks lost it for themselves. Instead of maturing into the Western culture of responsibility, Turks succumbed to the Arab world's culture of blame. Having looked down on Arabs for centuries, Turks are now becoming functional Arabs, reclining into fantasies of greatness as surreal as a Sufi mystic's hashish dreams.

Ataturk's revolutionary vision for a modern Turkish state - betrayed by his own corrupt successors - is fading into the reality of yet another retarded Muslim satrapy. An even more accurate parallel case than 1930s Germany is today's Pakistan. Turkey is on the way to becoming another extremist-poisoned garrison state held together solely by its military.

On my last visit, I got a madman's lecture from a Turkish customs officer on the resurrection of the Ottoman Empire. But instead of returning to that empire's undeniable glories, 21st- century Turkey appears determined to replay the miserable Ottoman twilight.

I wish we could save Turkey. But we can't. That's up to the Turks. Ralph Peters' latest book is "Never Quit The Fight."
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Mass Kidnapping in Central Baghdad

IraqSlogger: Mass Kidnapping in Central Baghdad: "Baghdad, Jan 27, (VOI) - Gunmen disguised as policemen and driving government vehicles kidnapped eight people working for a computer company in central Baghdad on Saturday, Iraqi police sources said. 'The incognito gunmen, who were inside 4-WD vehicles resembling those of the Iraqi police, raided al-Qimma company in al-Karada district near the Technological University, kidnapped the employees and ran away,' the sources added. The incident is the freshest mass kidnapping in the Iraqi capital, which witnessed several mass kidnappings ususally carried out by armed groups wearing Iraqi security forces' uniform. Workers for an office of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society in central Baghdad had been abducted nearly a couple of months ago and so far the fate of the people kidnapped is unknown. More than 100 employees and citizens were kidnapped from inside the higher education ministry building in the largest mass kidnapping in central Baghdad. A number of those kidnapped were released but the ministry says the fate of more than 50 is still unknown. The Iraqi government did not announce any details about these incidents or the organizations that stand behind them."

[bth: what really contrasts these kidnappings with the kidnapping of American soldiers that is blamed on Iranians? Nothing I can tell other than in the kidnapping of American soldiers, someone spoke English among the kidnappers and there are plenty of Iraqis capable of doing that, especially among sunnis.]
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Dividing Iraq means 'endless war': Turkey - News - Dividing Iraq means 'endless war': Turkey: "DAVOS, Switzerland – Turkey urged the United States not to leave a power vacuum when it exits Iraq nor allow the country to split, saying a divided Iraq would slip into 'endless war' involving all of its neighbours."

"They cannot leave a vacuum behind them," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum held in the Alpine ski resort Davos.

"If Iraq is divided, there will be a real civil war and all the neighbours will be involved in this," he said. "If that happens, there will be another dark era in Iraqi history, there will be endless war, civil war."

Gul said Turkey would not recognise any new states that might emerge if Iraq were to split up and none of its neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, wished to see the country divided.

"If there is a division, we will not recognize any new government in the region," he said. "We (Turkey and its neighbours) are all having the same target: to keep Iraq as one."

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has urged cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq's neighbours over a peaceful withdrawal of international forces from Iraq, saying the countries had a huge stake in preventing the civil war from spreading.

Separately, Gul urged the U.S. and Iraq to deal with several thousand PKK rebels that are based in northern Iraq, saying if they were not brought under control, Turkey would go in militarily.

"We are expecting the Americans to do it. Either they have to do this, or if they are not able to do this, we have to do this. It is so legitimate," he said.

Ankara has been urging U.S. forces to crack down on the Turkish Kurd PKK rebels, who use Kurdish northern Iraq as a base.

Erdogan has threatened to send troops into northern Iraq to crush the rebels if the U.S. and Iraqi government forces fail to take action, though most analysts dismiss the threats as rhetoric to impress voters.

Turkey faces presidential and parliamentary polls in 2007.

More than 30,000 people have been killed, mostly in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey, since the PKK launched its armed campaign for a Kurdish homeland in 1984.

[bth: so what help has our ally Turkey given us? Did it let the 4th ID in in 2003? No. Did it help us train police or military in Iraq? No. Did it try to sneak commandos into Kirkuk and have the US drive them out? Yes. So besides threatening the Kurds, what help have they given the US in this difficult endeavor?]
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The Karbala attack and the IRGC (The Fourth Rail)

The Karbala attack and the IRGC (The Fourth Rail): "The Iranians may be responsible the conducting the attack that resulted in the murder of five American soldiers in Karbala
On January 20th, a team of twelve men disguised as U.S. soldiers entered the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, where U.S. soldiers conducted a meeting with local officials, and attacked and killed five soldiers, and wounded another three. The initial reports indicated the five were killed in the Karbala JCC, however the U.S. military has reported that four of those killed were actually removed from the center, handcuffed, and murdered."

The American Forces Information Service provides the details of the attack in Karbala. Based on the sophisticated nature of the raid, as well as the response, or cryptic non-responses, from multiple military and intelligence sources, this raid appears to have been directed and executed by the Qods Force branch of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps. My sources agreed this is far to sophisticated an operation for the Mahdi Army or Badr Corps, while al-Qaeda in Iraq would have a difficult time mounting such an operation in the Shia south. "The Karbala Government Center raid the other day was a little too professional for JAM [Jaish al-Mahdi, or the Mahdi Army]," according to a military source.
This raid required specific intelligence, in depth training for the agents to pass as American troops, resources to provide for weapons, vehicles, uniforms, identification, radios and other items needed to successfully carry out the mission. Hezbollah's Imad Mugniyah executed a similar attack against Israeli forces on the Lebanese border, which initiated the Hezbollah-Israeli war during the summer of 2006.

The details from the Karbala raid from AFIS:

"The precision of the attack, the equipment used and the possible use of explosives to destroy the military vehicles in the compound suggests that the attack was well rehearsed prior to execution," said Army Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, spokesman for Multinational Division Baghdad. "The attackers went straight to where Americans were located in the provincial government facility, bypassing the Iraqi police in the compound."

At about 5 p.m. that day, a convoy consisting of at least five sport utility vehicles entered the Karbala compound and about 12 armed militants attacked the American troops with rifle fire and hand grenades, officials said.

One soldier was killed and three others wounded by a hand grenade thrown into the center's main office. Other explosions within the compound destroyed three Humvees.

The attackers withdrew with four captured U.S. soldiers and drove out of the Karbala province into the neighboring Babil province. Iraqi police began trailing the assailants after they drew suspicion at a checkpoint.

Three soldiers were found dead and one fatally wounded, along with five abandoned vehicles, near the town of Mahawil. Two were found handcuffed together in the back of one of the vehicles. The other two were found nearby on the ground. One soldier was found alive but died en route to a nearby hospital. All suffered from gunshot wounds.

Also recovered at the site were U.S. Army-type combat uniforms, boots, radios and a non-U.S. made rifle, officials said.

Mahawil is in Babil province, about 27 miles directly west of Karbala. While it is impossible to prove, the attackers may have been making a bee-line towards the Iranian border.

The Karbala raid makes sense in light of the U.S. raids on the Iranian diplomatic missions in Baghdad and Irbil, where Iranian Qods Force agents were captured, along with documentation that divulged Iran's involvement with and support of Shia death squads, the Sunni insurgent, and al-Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunnah. Five Iranians from the Irbil raid are still in U.S. custody, and captured U.S. soldiers would provide for excellent bargaining chips

IF it is confirmed that Iran's Qods Force was responsible, the news that the United States has authorized the death or captured of Iranian agents inside Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan and Lebanon makes all the more sense.

[bth: I don't see any hard evidence that this was an Iranian led event. Why couldn't this have been done by Sadr or half a dozen other Iraqi groups that wanted a prisoner swap?]

Pelosi, Musharraf to Meet in Pakistan

BREITBART.COM - Pelosi, Musharraf to Meet in Pakistan: "ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Pakistan Saturday for talks with the country's president expected to touch on cooperation against Taliban and al-Qaida militants and U.S. aid to the South Asian country, officials said.

Neither the U.S. delegation nor President Gen. Pervez Musharraf was scheduled to make any public comment after the meeting, which coincides with concern in Pakistan about a U.S. bill that would link American aid for Pakistan's military with its commitment to combating resurgent Taliban militants. "

The bill, introduced this month after Democrats took control of Congress, would require President Bush to certify that Islamabad is doing its utmost to counter Taliban operations in Pakistan and secure its border with Afghanistan.

Failure to do that would cut off some financial aid to Pakistan's military, though the president could waive the provision in the interests of national security.

The Senate has yet to consider it, and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State John Gastright said Friday in Islamabad that the Bush administration wanted the provision removed.

Gastright said Pelosi's decision to visit Pakistan with her first congressional delegation showed that she shared the administration's interest in close ties with Pakistan and its military president.

"We'll want to work with her (Pelosi) so that she realizes that that provision is not necessary," Gastright said.

Brian T. Hart at Memorial Park in Bedford Mass. looking at the memorial plaque for PFC John D. Hart, Killed in Action, Taza, Iraq, Oct. 18, 2003
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Secrecy, the Way It Was [John Derbyshire]

The Corner on National Review Online: "Old British journalism warhorse Bill Deedes, heading for his 94th birthday, can still do the business. Here he is writing about government secrecy, as it used to be done:
'My sister Hermione Phipps, who died this week, had spent all her professional life, including the war years, in MI5, tactfully described in the family circle as 'the Foreign Office'. I have no idea what she did, for, in a long and happy association, we never discussed her work. There was a day in the 1950s when I was a junior minister in the Home Office, and we were called on to decide whether or not to admit a certain individual to this country. I was advised to consult MI5. The voice that responded to our telephone call was my sister's. We never subsequently talked about even this minor coincidence. She belonged to an age in which the confidential business of the state remained confidential.' "

[bth: of course he fails to mention the deep penetration of MI5 by russian spies.]

Democrats Try to Increase Leverage Over Iraq Policy

Democrats Try to Increase Leverage Over Iraq Policy - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 — Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the House majority leader, said Friday that Congress might consider legislation revising the authorization it gave President Bush in 2002 to use military force in Iraq.

Mr. Hoyer set out a road map for the House to exercise more control over Iraq strategy, as he and other Democratic leaders continued on Friday to exert pressure against the president’s plan to send in an additional 21,500 troops.

Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, moved on Friday to force a debate on a resolution opposing the troop increase that had been offered by Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska.

But Mr. Reid said that he also expected debate on other similar resolutions. Ultimately, he said, he expects the Senate to come together behind one resolution when the debate begins the week after next, with broad bipartisan opposition to the president’s plan.

Public opinion, he predicted, will compel many Republicans to support a resolution opposing the troop increase.

Twenty-one Republicans are up for re-election this time,” Mr. Reid said. “If they think this is going to be a soft vote for them, they’ve got another think coming.” "....

U.S. Plan for Iraqi Force Surprises Senator

U.S. Plan for Iraqi Force Surprises Senator - "Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new top U.S. commander in Iraq, told Congress that he might supplement efforts to secure Baghdad using the Iraqi Facilities Protection Service, a 150,000-man force that guards Iraqi government agencies. But that service is widely considered unreliable, and elements were described in July by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as 'more dangerous than the militias,' according to Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.)."

"The prime minister said he wanted to get rid of the FPS as fast as possible," Reed said this week, recalling his meeting with Maliki in Baghdad last summer. There are "bad elements" in FPS units that "are carrying out murders and kidnappings . . . [and] attacking the infrastructure that they are supposedly protecting," Reed said in his trip report about what Maliki had told him. "Because of the FPS," Reed wrote, Maliki said that "some governmental ministries' guards are more dangerous than the militias."

The FPS was formed in 2003 by order of L. Paul Bremer, then administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, to protect the 27 Iraqi ministries and their facilities throughout Iraq. Each minister, who generally represents one of Iraq's political parties, has his or her own FPS unit, whose armed members wear military uniforms.

The Iraq Study Group described FPS members as having "questionable loyalties and capabilities." It quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official as saying that they are "incompetent, dysfunctional and subversive," with some serving the manpower needs of sectarian party militias and death squads.

Reed said in an interview that, with security being the main concern of President Bush in pressing for additional U.S. troops in Baghdad, he was "surprised" that Petraeus would describe FPS units, also known as ministerial security forces, as assisting in the protection of the city. The Senate confirmed Petraeus yesterday as the new top U.S. commander in Iraq.

"There are tens of thousands of contract security forces and ministerial security forces that do, in fact, guard facilities and secure institutions, and so forth," Petraeus said in testimony earlier this week, "that our forces -- coalition or Iraqi forces -- would otherwise have to guard and secure."

When Reed responded that he was "shocked" that the FPS was mentioned in those terms -- because Maliki had told him "that some of these ministerial forces are worse than the insurgents" -- Petraeus replied: "Some, indeed." Later, in answer to a question, the Army general acknowledged that "some of those ministerial forces are part of the problem instead of part of the solution."

Maliki was not the only official who spoke to Reed in July regarding concerns about the FPS. Army Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, described the FPS members, along with about 8,700 personal security guards provided to Iraqi political figures, as among "the proliferation of armed groups . . . [presenting] a serious challenge to stability." Dempsey said the Iraqi Defense Ministry paid the salaries of the personal security details "but has no control over them." Each of the 275 members of Iraq's Council of Representatives, as its national assembly is called, is entitled to 20 guards, many of whom are chosen from within their families.

Dempsey was particularly critical of the FPS, saying: "They have a reputation for gross misconduct." He specified as "particularly notorious" the FPS units associated with the ministries of transportation and health, both under the control of associates of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The FPS units employed by those ministries are "a source of funding and jobs for the Mahdi Army," Sadr's militia, according to the Iraq Study Group report.

Dempsey told Reed last summer that the FPS and the personal security details "should be reformed" and "outfitted with different uniforms to distinguish them from the police and clearly identify them." More recently, Dempsey told reporters that the FPS should be brought under the control of Iraq's Interior Ministry this year.

In Basra, Reed was told by Maj. Gen. John Cooper, commander of the British troops in that area, that the FPS was "a major problem." In Fallujah, members of the Marine Expeditionary Force said that when they retook the hospital in Ramadi, local leaders insisted "that the FPS be barred from returning because of their corruption and unreliability."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), upon returning from a brief trip to Iraq this month, announced that she will introduce legislation that would require -- as a condition of continued funding -- certification that the FPS and the private security contractors for the Iraqis are free of sectarian and militia influence.
"Instead of cutting funding to American troops, cut the funding to the Iraqi forces and to the security forces . . . that we pay for to protect the members of this government," Clinton said last week on the PBS's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." "We have to do something to get their attention in order to force them to deal with the political and the economic and the diplomatic pieces of the puzzle that confront us," she added.

[bth: hard to believe we are even having this discussion.]

The Bait-and-Switch White House - New York Times

The Bait-and-Switch White House - New York Times: "We often wonder whether there is a limit to the Bush administration’s obsession with secrecy, its assault on the rule of law, its disdain for the powers of Congress, its willingness to con the public and its refusal to heed expert advice or recognize facts on the ground. Events of the past week suggest the answer is no.

In his State of the Union speech, Mr. Bush stuck to his ill-conceived plans for Iraq, but at least admitted the situation was dire. He said he wanted to work with Congress and announced a bipartisan council on national security.

That lasted a day. By Wednesday evening, Vice President Dick Cheney was on CNN contradicting most of what Mr. Bush had said. We were left asking, once again, Who exactly is running this White House?

While Mr. Bush has been a bit more forthright lately about how badly things have gone in Iraq, Mr. Cheney spoke of “enormous successes” there and refused to pay even curled-lip service to consulting Congress. Whatever votes Congress takes on Iraq, Mr. Cheney said, “it won’t stop us.”

Whenever the vice president does this sort of thing, and it’s pretty often, Americans are faced with an unpleasant choice: Are Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney running a bait-and-switch operation, or does the vice president simply feel free to cut the ground out from under Mr. Bush?

All of that was distressing enough. But in Friday’s Times, Adam Liptak gave an account of the way the administration — after grandly announcing that it was finally going to obey the law on wiretapping — is trying to quash lawsuits over Mr. Bush’s outlaw eavesdropping operations by imposing outrageous secrecy and control over the courts.

Justice Department lawyers are withholding evidence from plaintiffs and even restricting the access of judges to documents in cases involving Mr. Bush’s decision to authorize the warrantless interception of e-mail and phone calls. In one suit, Justice Department lawyers tried to seize computers from the plaintiffs’ lawyers to remove a document central to their case against the government.

In response to these and other serious concerns, the Justice Department offered only the most twisted excuses, which a federal judge rightly compared to “Alice in Wonderland.”

When government lawyers tried to take back a document that has circulated around the world, the judge asked a Justice Department lawyer, “Who is it secret from?” The answer: “Anyone who has not seen it.”

These are not isolated events. The government has made the same Orwellian claims of secrecy in a lawsuit over the president’s decision to create secret C.I.A. prisons for terrorism suspects. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales routinely stonewalls legitimate Congressional requests for documents and information on a wide range of issues. He negotiated a secret agreement to give supposed judicial oversight to Mr. Bush’s wiretapping program, with a court that does not permit anyone into its hearings to argue against the government.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney claim that they are protecting the powers of the presidency. At least that’s the bait they use to explain their trampling on civil liberties and the constitutional balance of power. But by abusing the government’s legitimate right to claim secrecy in court hearings, they will make it harder for other presidents to do that when it is actually justified. And with that switch, they have done grievous harm to the credibility of the Oval Office and the country.

[bth: Cheney-Bush don't give a damn about the separation of powers or the constitution. They care about raw power and will do what it takes to get it.]

Iraq Is And Will Remain The Issue

IraqSlogger: Blogwatch: Iraq Is And Will Remain The Issue: "Jonathan Singer of My Direct Democracy has an interesting posting on his blog, discussing whether Iraq will be an election issue or not."

Excerpt: "Over in Breaking Blue Matt makes an interesting catch that bears expanding on: According to an article today in The Politico by Ben Smith, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Chuck Schumer believes that the 2008 elections will not center on the issue of Iraq. To be specific, Schumer told Smith, "I think Iraq will not be as strong an issue in the 2008 elections," and that he believes that "the surge will fail and the president will have no choice but to begin removing troops."

Leaving aside, for a moment, whether or not the President will admit that his surge is a failure and will begin to redeploy troops out of Iraq before the election, it's instructive to take a look at how public sentiments currently stand on American involvement in Iraq, not only in terms of sheer numbers, with somewhere between 50 percent and 70 percent of the country disapproving of the war, but also in terms of what these numbes mean. Over at the Mystery Pollster blog on, Mark Blumenthal writes the following:

You rarely see media pollsters cite correlation coefficients in their reports. On the other hand, you rarely see a correlation as strong as the one ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer cites in his tour de force summary of public attitudes on the State of the Union:

The root of Bush's problems can be summed up in three words: Iraq, Iraq and Iraq. It drives his unpopularity. Among people who oppose the war, a mere 10 percent approve of Bush's job performance; among war supporters, three-quarters approve. The correlation between attitudes on the war and on Bush is a near-perfect .98.

The extraordinary polarizing effect of the Iraq War explains more than Bush's problems. It is also the lens through which Americans currently view much of our national politics. While pollsters have been making that point since the 2004 elections, the dominance of the Iraq War on our politics has obviously intensified. Right now, for better or worse, it's all about Iraq.

It would be difficult to illustrate more clearly, beyond Langer's numbers cited by Blumenthal, that Iraq is the schism within the electorate today.

ABC News Exclusive: Murder in a Teapot

The Blotter: "British officials say police have cracked the murder-by-poison case of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, including the discovery of a 'hot' teapot at London's Millennium Hotel with an off-the-charts reading for Polonium-210, the radioactive material used in the killing."

A senior official tells ABC News the "hot" teapot remained in use at the hotel for several weeks after Litvinenko's death before being tested in the second week of December. The official said investigators were embarrassed at the oversight.

The official says investigators have concluded, based on forensic evidence and intelligence reports, that the murder was a "state-sponsored" assassination orchestrated by Russian security services.

Officials say Russian FSB intelligence considered the murder to have been badly bungled because it took more than one attempt to administer the poison. The Russian officials did not expect the source of the poisoning to be discovered, according to intelligence reports.

Russian officials continue to deny any involvement in the murder and have said they would deny any extradition requests for suspects in the case.

Sources say police intend to seek charges against a former Russian spy, Andrei Lugovoi, who met with Litvinenko on Nov. 1, the day officials believe the lethal dose was administered in the Millennium Hotel teapot.

Lugovoi steadfastly denied any involvement in the murder at a Moscow news conference and at a session with Scotland Yard detectives. Russian security police were present when the British questioned Lugovoi, and British officials do not think they received honest answers from him.

British health officials say some 128 people were discovered to have had "probable contact" with Polonium-210, including at least eight hotel staff members and one guest.

None of these individuals has yet displayed symptoms of radiation poisoning, and only 13 individuals of the 128 tested at a level for which there is any known long-term health concern, officials said.

The Millennium Hotel has closed the Pine Bar and other areas where Litvinenko and Lugovoi met on Nov. 1, although the hotel says the remaining public areas "have been officially declared safe" and are open to the public.

Read the"Response to Press Speculation" released by Millennium & Copthorne Hotels.
Watch World News With Charles Gibson tonight for moreon this report.

Battlefield's 'Doc' now in a nation's care

Brought home by his best friend, lost medic unites perfect strangers

Rocky Mountain News - Denver and Colorado's reliable source for breaking news, sports and entertainment: Local: "By Jim Sheeler, Rocky Mountain News
December 15, 2006

The skinny sailor sat in the Philadelphia airport terminal in his deep-blue dress uniform, cracking his knuckles, shifting in his seat, waiting for his best friend.

A woman from the airline walked over and motioned for him to follow. She saw the nervous look on the sailor's face and stopped. "

"Wait," she said. "Is this your first time doing this?"

"Yes, ma'am," the 22 year-old said, his voice cracking.

"Well, unfortunately, it's not the first time for me," she said. "Not even the first time this week."

She led him toward the gate and gave him a soft smile.

"You'll do fine," she said.

Inside the airport, the public-address system pumped out Peggy Lee's Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree. A nearby group of passengers loaded up their ski clothes, readying for a vacation. Suit-and-tied businessmen with premier privileges watched as the sailor was led in front of them all.

None of them knew his mission.

On board the nearly empty plane, a flight attendant was one of the first to shake his hand.
"I understand you're escorting today," he said. "Is this the fella from Longmont? I live in Boulder. I've been reading about him in the papers."

"Yes, sir," the sailor said in a warbled voice that sounded like an eighth-grader.

"I'm sure you'll do yourself and your service proud," the flight attendant said.

After speaking with the crew, the pilot walked over and offered his hand.

"I understand he was your friend," the captain said.

"I'm sorry."

The sailor nodded. He carried his soft, white hat in his hands. The patch on his left shoulder signified his status as a Navy hospital corpsman.

The captain then looked at one of the crew members.

"Are there any seats in first class? I'd like to bring him up here."

After the sailor stowed his bags, the woman from the terminal walked him back out to the jetway, where he waited as the other passengers boarded the plane. As they filed past, some stole glances at him, some smiled at him, and he tried to smile back.

As the sailor waited, another flight attendant, a Vietnam veteran, walked over.

"Hello," he said, grasping the sailor's hand. "Thirty years ago, they didn't say thank you to us. I wanted to say thank you now."

The sailor nodded again and managed a grin. Then the chief of the ground crew opened the door to the stairs that led to the tarmac.

"OK," he said. "We're ready."

In cardboard box, a casket

Underneath a whining jet engine near the rear cargo hold, baggage workers lifted the tarp on a cart, and the sailor swallowed hard. He checked to see if the name on the cardboard box matched that of his best friend.

An American flag was printed atop the box, which encased the polished hardwood casket, protecting it during transit from Dover Air Force Base to the airport, and then to Denver, where the box would be removed before anyone saw it. On each end, the box was stamped with a large official seal of the Department of Defense.

The last time Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class John Dragneff saw his friend was the same day Hospital Corpsman Christopher Anderson left for Iraq. They talked endlessly that day, about taking care of each other's families, about taking care in general. That was, after all, what they had in common.

Often in restaurants, the waitperson would ask the sailors, "Are you brothers?" The first few times, they laughed it off. After a while, they started answering without hesitation, "Yes."

The two men had met at field medical training school, and they clicked right away. They soon studied together, went to the beach in Camp Lejeune, N.C., where Anderson surfed, and just generally hung out, talking about where life was headed for both of them.

More recently, they spent time talking about what it meant to hold somebody's life in your hands — and to lose it.

Tuesday afternoon, the young sailor stood on the chilly tarmac in Philadelphia. As the casket made its way up the conveyor belt, he snapped to attention, grasping his hands into fists, thumbs at the seams of his pants, trying to squeeze back the tears.

His eyes emptied as he brought his hand to his face in a salute, which he tried to hold steady until the casket disappeared into the plane's belly.

As he turned, the sailor's face melted, and he walked into the embrace of Pamela Andrus, the United Airlines service director. The ground manager took his other side, supporting him.

"I'm so sorry," Andrus said.

Together, they walked back up the stairs, into the plane, where a cheery flight attendant came over with several tissues plucked from the lavatory.

"You can cry," Christine Sullivan told him. "All of us want to send our love and blessings to you and be here for you.

"You're going to do great."

Corpsmen have long history

On Dec. 4, Chief Hospital Corpsman Kip Poggemeyer wasn't supposed to be in his office at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora. It was his day off, but the 37 year-old was busy trying to finish medical reports that would send another batch of Navy reservists from Colorado to Afghanistan.

Only last year, the Navy corpsman had returned from Marine Corps Air Station Al Asad in Iraq, the closest medical base to some of the heaviest fighting in the country — a base that shook with mortar attacks 26 times during his deployment.
Within his first week, he saw massive combat wounds while performing the same job that his grandfather held during World War II, the same job he knew he wanted since he was a little boy.
The history of the Navy hospital corpsman dates back to the Spanish-American War. The Marines needed a field medic, and looked to the Navy to provide one.

According to Navy historian and Hospital Corpsman Mark Hacala, the Navy hospital corpsman has provided front-line medical care that has saved countless lives on the battlefields of every conflict since, earning a disproportionate share of accolades and awards and suffering a similarly large percentage of casualties.

Despite both services living under the umbrella of the Navy, Marines and sailors hold an intense traditional rivalry. When new hospital corpsmen are assigned to Marine units, the Marines may tease them as "squids" — or worse. Still, the hospital corpsmen have to learn to think, act and react with the speed of their Marine unit.

When a hospital corpsman is first attached to a unit, the Marines will call them by their last name, or maybe just "corpsman." Eventually — only when corpsmen earn the Marines' respect — they earn the nickname "Doc."

"The first time they call you 'Doc,' it's like, 'Yes! I have arrived,' " Poggemeyer said. "It makes you feel like you're part of the team."
Once the fighting begins, the corpsman's duty is usually one of the riskiest — carrying their own weapon along with medical gear.

The Marines say they will take a bullet for the corpsman, because he's the only one who can take it out.

"If they yell, 'Corpsman up,' they know Doc is going to be right there," Poggemeyer said. "When the Marines call you 'Doc,' you know you'll never let them down, you'll never leave their side. That bond between a Marine and a Navy corpsman is something that will last forever. We call them 'My Marines' — they call us 'My Doc.' "

Somewhere near Ramadi on Dec. 4, Christopher Anderson's Marines called on their Doc. Details of the attack have not been released by the military, other than the information Poggemeyer received in his office that afternoon.

"They told me it was a corpsman, KIA (killed in action) in Ramadi from a mortar attack. . . . It brought back all the memories," he said. "I had come full circle. I was in Iraq and saw people die. But I had never seen this side."

That afternoon, Poggemeyer and another casualty-assistance officer met the Navy chaplain in Longmont. The chief carried with him a sheet with the name of 24-year-old Hospital Corpsman Christopher A. Anderson — and his parents' address in Longmont.

Together, the sailors drove to the modest home with an American flag flying from the porch, and another special flag in the window.

After they parked the government sport-utility vehicle at 5:30 p.m., Poggemeyer saw the blue-star flag, signifying the family had a loved one overseas.

"Doc Anderson," it said underneath the star.

"When I saw that, my heart just sank," he said. "My mom and dad had one of those flags up while I was gone. My wife had one up."

Still, he made his way to the door.

"I pushed the doorbell," he said, "and I felt like a horse kicked me in the stomach."

Debra Anderson opened the door and saw the men in uniform.

"Oh, honey," she said with a smile, calling to her husband.

"The sailors are here. The recruiters are here."

Rick Anderson came to the stairs and his face paled. A former Navy SEAL, he recognized the uniforms.
"Honey, we need to sit down," he said.

"These aren't recruiters."

With service came emotion

In the first-class section of United Airlines Flight 271 from Philadelphia to Denver, the sailor looked through a booklet called Manual for Escorts of Deceased Naval Personnel.

"It's weird. I think back, and I was never an emotional-type person until I joined the military," Dragneff said. "In the past, I've had relatives who died, but I never really cried. I guess that since I've been in, it all means a lot more."

He thought back to one of the last times he saw his friend, Chris, when they went to visit Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, and Dragneff found the grave of a sailor he had trained with.
"When we went out to Arlington, standing there, I just started crying, and I couldn't understand why. I didn't really know the guy that well," Dragneff said.

"Chris just grabbed me and hugged me and let me sit there and cry. As we were walking away, a man walked up and shook my hand and said, 'Thank you.' So then, Chris started to cry. So there were just the three of us standing there, crying.

"A few minutes later, just trying to cheer me up, he made up some story about a squirrel on crack. Just like that. He could make you smile."

Dragneff was the responsible one, relatively shy, the designated driver who didn't drink or smoke. He was the one happy in a sweat shirt and jeans, while Anderson would change clothes five times before going out, a neatnik who splurged on Armani and Ralph Lauren.

At 6-foot-2 inches tall, with short-cropped, jet-black hair and hazel eyes, the muscular, outgoing 24-year-old never lacked in self-confidence.

"Damn, I look good," he wrote on one of the photos displayed on his account. On the Web site, Dragneff posted regular updates about his friend while he was in Iraq. He was also the one to inform them of Chris' death.

"Dec 5 2006 12:56P," he wrote.

"Christopher Anderson, you weren't a 'real' brother, but you were still my brother. A person could not ask for a better friend or brother. You will be greatly missed. Love your brother, John.

"Rest in peace."

Brother gets a phone call

On the evening of Dec. 4, Kyle Anderson wound through the remote roads of Weld County, making his regular rounds in his Schwan's food-delivery truck, when he realized he had a message on his cell phone.

"It was my dad, saying that he had a problem and he needed my help, and that h
e wanted me to come home right away," he said.
The 22-year-old shook his head.

"My dad is a Navy SEAL. There's nothing he can't handle. I knew something was wrong," Anderson said.
"When I called back, the first thing I said was, 'Is my brother alive?' And he said 'No.' "

He hung up the phone.

On the other end of the line, his parents worried. The notification team offered to go and pick up the young man who was now their only son.

When Kyle called back, his parents asked him to pull over, saying the sailors would meet him to help drive back. He parked his truck at the intersection of Interstate 25 and Colorado 66, and waited, crying alone in the dark.

"It was so surreal. I wondered, 'Is this really happening?' " he said. "As I waited longer, I thought, 'Maybe they won't show up. Maybe it's not real.' "

When the government SUV arrived, Kyle dropped his head.

"It was about 25 degrees outside, and we were standing on the side of I-25 telling him about his brother," Poggemeyer said. "And giving him hugs."

Once back at the home in Longmont, the family talked to the notification officers about their son, breathing life into the name on the casualty list.

"We spoke to him on Dec. 3," his father said. "He talked about the Christmas presents he wanted us to buy for a neighbor, and that he wanted us to send out Christmas cards for him."

At his funeral service today in Longmont, the family plans to hand out their son's Christmas cards to everyone who attends.

He asked that the card end with a single phrase: "Please Remember Our Troops!!!!"

Fourth-generation serviceman

When Christopher Anderson enlisted in the Navy in 2005, the Longmont High School graduate became the fourth generation in his family to do so. At boot camp, he was voted the "honor graduate" in his class. After that, he wanted to excel in everything.

Before he left for Iraq, Christopher and his father mined military supply shops, looking for any equipment that might help him in the field. He looked for anything that might help him blend in with the Marines, since he knew corpsmen were prime targets.

"I have to be able to do this in the dark," he told his father.

In Iraq, he asked to be stationed with the front-line Marines and was assigned to a 12-man unit. One of his first tasks was to memorize each Marine's medical records. His medical expertise stretched beyond his unit to the Iraqi people, who would talk to him "because he was 'the dictor' (as the Iraqis called him).
"There were times that nobody would talk to anyone except him," Rick Anderson said.

Once, he told his parents, an angry crowd had mobilized, but it was quashed when a woman recognized the corpsman and stepped in.

"She said, 'This is the one who helped my baby,' " Rick Anderson said, "And that dispersed the group, and everything was OK."

After some of his weekly early morning calls home, it was impossible for the couple to fall back asleep.
"One time, he called us at 5 a,m. My wife heard some funny noises and heard shouts of 'Where's that coming from? Where's that coming from?' " Rick Anderson remembered.

The Andersons, still in bed, listening with the phone between them, heard gunfire.

"I'm going to stay down here," he told them. "I'll just belly-crawl down the hallway so I can talk to you."

In one mortar attack, he was blown across a room, bruising him. Not long afterward, after another attack, he was in the back of a Humvee, his hands covered with his sergeant's blood, speeding toward a field hospital, tying tourniquets and offering encouragement.

"The sergeant told him, 'Tell my wife and kids I love them.' He told him he wouldn't need to do that, while he was pinching off an artery because the tourniquet came loose," his father said.

That sergeant is now recovering at Walter Reed Army Hospital, the family said, and plans to attend Anderson's burial at Arlington National Cemetery on Dec. 21.

Before he left, Christopher and his father talked about the possibility that he wouldn't return, and Christopher had asked for a burial at Arlington.

He had only one other request:

"If something happens," he told his father, "I want John there."

Word spreads through plane

At 31,000 feet, the word slowly slipped through the plane about the sailor in first class — and his mission.
When the passengers found out, their emotions spanned the debate that continues to split the country.

Some cursed President Bush by name. Others cursed anyone who says they support the troops without supporting the war. Despite their political leanings, they all said they appreciated the sailor that most of them called "the kid" in the front of the plane — and, even more, the one in the cargo hold beneath them.

Seat 33F, Patrick Mondile, Philadelphia:

"I look at my own situation — I'm 24 years old. I think about, it very well could have been me, if I'd chosen that path. I have friends over there right now," Mondile said. "I don't understand why we're there (in Iraq), but I feel for the families — not just for this soldier, but the thousands who have died."

Seat 14A, Pam Anderson, New Jersey:

"God bless him. God bless him," she said of the sailor in first class. "If he wants any free hugs, just send him back here," the 62 year-old said. "I'm serious. I'm completely serious. I joined the Air Force as a flight nurse, and my squadron is taking a lot of men and women out of the field right now."

Seats 8D, 8E, Dave and Lindy Powell, Monument:

"To me, it's a sense of honor. We didn't know him, but he's part of the Colorado family. We're from Monument. So he's part of our family, too," Dave Powell said.

"Our nephew is a C-130 pilot who's flying into Iraq and Afghanistan. Kids in my Scout troop joined the Marines and went right to Baghdad."

His voice broke.

"They all came home safely."

Seat 22D, Terry Musgrove, Ontario, Ore.:

"If we don't support them, then it's going to embolden the terrorists," he said, fuming as he spoke about a new poll indicating that support for the war is declining. Before the flight took off, he was the only passenger to shake the skinny sailor's hand at the terminal.

"It breaks my heart to know that he's on the plane. I had no idea," he said, as he began to cry. "But I'm proud to tell you, I'm proud."

Seat 16F, Michael Lipkin, Aspen

"I think it's extremely sobering. This is a war where few of us have family and friends over there, and despite the fact that it dominates the media, I think most of us don't feel the cost, the real cost of this war. And we're going to be paying it for a long time," Lipkin said.

"I'm just chilled that that body is on here."

Inside the cabin, flight attendant Christine Sullivan walked back after visiting with the sailor again.

"It just makes it real," she said. "It's separated from politics at this point. It's just about the humanity."
Airline pilot pays tribute

As the plane began its initial descent, Captain George Gil's voice crackled over the intercom.

"Ladies and gentlemen, pardon the interruption, but if I could have your attention," he said, and then paused.

"The great song from Francis Scott Key says that to live in the land of the free, it must also be the home of the brave. Today, we're bringing home two brave men: Petty Officer 3rd Class John Dragneff, and, in great sadness, a fallen hero, Hospitalman Christopher Anderson."

He asked the passengers to let Dragneff off first to meet the casket, then addressed the escort:

"Please know that our prayers and blessings are with you and the family. Thank you for your courage."

A phalanx of pallbearers

As the plane taxied to the gate at Denver International Airport on Tuesday evening, the passengers saw the flashing lights of the police cars, the hearse parked on the tarmac, and they spoke in hushed whispers.
As Dragneff left the plane, a phalanx of pallbearers — three Marines and three sailors — walked toward the plane, for the sailor who died saving Marines.

Inside the belly of the plane, ramp workers removed the cardboard box protecting the casket, while sailors arranged the American flag.

The family embraced as the casket was lowered on the conveyor belt. Some of the plane's passengers watched from their windows. Some watched from the windows inside the terminal.

The pallbearers loaded the casket into the hearse, and Dragneff hugged the family before climbing into the passenger's seat.

As the motorcade made its way toward Longmont, the three sailors who served as pallbearers jumped into a white van, which pulled in behind the limousines.

As they left the airport, police officers and firemen stood in salutes, bathed in the flashing emergency lights.

"This is so cool that they do this," said Storekeeper 3rd Class Ben Engelman. "This is so amazing."

At the Erie and Dacono exit, firetrucks and ambulances, lights flashing, were parked on the overpass. As the procession turned toward Longmont, the lights burned even brighter.

"He deserves this. He was doing good," said Petty Officer Rick Lopez.

On Colorado 66, cars pulled over, along with firefighters, who continued to salute.

Then there was Longmont's Main Street.

At 20th Avenue and Main, the flags began. Kids holding plastic flags, Korean War veterans holding worn American flags, bandana-clad Vietnam veterans holding POW/MIA flags.

At 18th and Main, groups held candles and signs. "God Bless Your Son. Thank You." A boy held his candle to his mother's to light it, as the hearse passed.

At 17th and Main, hands over hearts. Hats over hearts.

"Dude, this is giving me chicken skin," Lopez said, shivering. "I've never seen anything like this."
At 15th and Main, people came out of a restaurant to watch the procession. Police cars with blue lights and medical cars with red lights shone on the Christmas decorations wrapping the trees of downtown.

Outside, it was about 40 degrees. Still, the crowds continued to line the streets. More children with wobbly salutes. A woman in a walker. A couple that embraced in a hug as soon as the hearse passed.

They drove in silence for a few minutes, then Lopez spoke again.

"You know," he said, "sometimes I wish they would do this for us when we come home alive."

A 'smile in his voice'

Inside the funeral home, a few feet from her son's flag-draped casket, Debra Anderson held tight to a single photo.

"I had to have my picture of my smiling Christopher," she said, staring at it, then at the casket.

While Christopher was deployed, his parents talked with him at least once a week — mostly for only a few minutes. The last time they spoke, the day before he died, he ended his conversation the way he always did, telling his parents, "I love you."

"You could hear his smile in his voice, you could hear it on the phone," his father said. "He was going back to work, back to do his job, back to doing what he wanted to do."

Inside the funeral home, Debra Anderson leaned into her husband of 26 years, wiping her face with a tissue.

"My boy, my boy," she said. "Christopher said he'd be OK. He promised he'd be safe, Rick — he PROMISED me. I miss him. I miss the phone calls. I miss him terribly. I want to talk to him."

"Hey," Rick Anderson said softly, "now we can talk to him anytime we want."

"Ooooh," she moaned. "My heart hurts. My heart hurts. It was my job to take care of him. I shouldn't have let him go. I shouldn't have let him go."

"You were going to stop Christopher?" his father asked. "Since when?"

They both managed a smile, and their eyes again fell on the casket.

As the family told Christopher stories from chairs in a corner of the room, Kyle Anderson stood at the foot of the casket, refusing to leave his place, patting his hand on the rough, wrinkled flag.

The brothers had grown up as opposites — Christopher the well-dressed go-getter, Kyle the rebel who shopped at thrift stores. They fought like most brothers fight. Sometimes, they fought worse than most brothers fight.

Since his brother's death, Kyle now says, they talk all the time.

As the family continued to share stories, sniffling and laughing, Kyle Anderson refused to move from the casket.

"Why don't you come over here with us?" Rick Anderson asked him. "Why are you standing there all alone?"

Kyle looked at his father, his eyes red, and patted the casket again.

"I'm not alone," he said.

More than 16 hours after John Dragneff's day began, the skinny sailor walked into the room, after finishing his final paperwork, and handed Christopher's parents a condolence card.

"Instead of saying, 'I'm sorry for your loss,' I wanted to say 'thank you' for Christopher. We claimed each other as brothers."

"You did good, John," Rick Anderson said. "You did good."

As they sat together in the quiet room dominated by the casket, Debra Anderson grasped the young man's hand and looked into his eyes.

"I'm glad you came with him. It's what he wanted. You did a good job. You got him home," she said, gripping his hand even tighter.

"Thank you for bringing him home."

or 303-954-2561.

[bth: until you have experienced this first hand, it is difficult to appreciate the intensity of this moment. That said, this beautifully written article captures much of the mechanics of the process and some of the emotions.]

Friday, January 26, 2007

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Gates Working to Accelerate Deployment -

Gates Working to Accelerate Deployment - "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday that he was working to accelerate the deployment of 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, suggesting that the influx of American troops is no longer contingent upon the Iraqi government fulfilling its commitments for Baghdad security operations.

Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, confirmed yesterday by the Senate as the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, testified this week that he needs all of the troops -- and possibly more -- for the mission to quell sectarian violence in Baghdad. 'As long as he feels he needs them, they're all going to flow,' Gates told reporters at the Pentagon in his first news conference as defense secretary"

"We are going to see if the timetable for the dispatch of the brigades can be accelerated," Gates said, although he added that logistical hurdles may prevent speeding up the movement for all or some of the troops.

The U.S. troop increases now underway in both Iraq and Afghanistan reflect a deliberate effort to "create an environment in which the commanders feel open to requesting what they think they need," Gates said, suggesting that in the past U.S. commanders have not felt comfortable asking for reinforcements. Still, he said, "there is no blank check," and requests for more troops will be vetted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff before being presented to him and President Bush for a decision.

In congressional testimony and statements earlier this month, Gates had suggested that the flow of additional U.S. troops to Iraq would be dependent upon the Iraqi government meeting specific pledges -- such as sending three more Iraqi army brigades to Baghdad and lifting restrictions on U.S. military operations targeting certain Baghdad districts or individuals.

"The timetable for the introduction of additional U.S. forces will provide ample opportunity early on and before many of the additional U.S. troops actually arrive in Iraq to evaluate the progress of this endeavor and whether the Iraqis are fulfilling their commitments to us," he said at a White House news conference earlier this month.

Yesterday's statements made it clear that any decision on withholding troops would be left to Petraeus, who has said he favors moving the troops to Iraq as quickly as possible....

[bth: this has everything to do with beating the February resolution from Congress prohibiting this action. Pure calculating political bullshit that has nothing whatever to do with winning a war.]
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Dana Milbank - In Ex-Aide's Testimony, A Spin Through VP's PR

Dana Milbank - In Ex-Aide's Testimony, A Spin Through VP's PR - "Memo to Tim Russert: Dick Cheney thinks he controls you.

This delicious morsel about the 'Meet the Press' host and the vice president was part of the extensive dish Cathie Martin served up yesterday when the former Cheney communications director took the stand in the perjury trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby."

Flashed on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Option 1: "MTP-VP," she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under "pro," she wrote: "control message."

"I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used," Martin testified. "It's our best format."

It is unclear whether the first week of the trial will help or hurt Libby or the administration. But the trial has already pulled back the curtain on the White House's PR techniques and confirmed some of the darkest suspicions of the reporters upon whom they are used. Relatively junior White House aides run roughshod over members of the president's Cabinet. Bush aides charged with speaking to the public and the media are kept out of the loop on some of the most important issues. And bad news is dumped before the weekend for the sole purpose of burying it.

With a candor that is frowned upon at the White House, Martin explained the use of late-Friday statements. "Fewer people pay attention to it late on Friday," she said. "Fewer people pay attention when it's reported on Saturday."

Martin, perhaps unaware of the suspicion such machinations caused in the press corps, lamented that her statements at the time were not regarded as credible. She testified that, as the controversy swelled in 2004, reporters ignored her denials and continued to report that it was Cheney's office that sent former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate allegations of Iraq's nuclear acquisitions. "They're not taking my word for it," Martin recalled telling a colleague.

Martin, who now works on the president's communications staff, said she was frustrated that reporters wouldn't call for comment about the controversy. She said she had to ask the CIA spokesman, Bill Harlow, which reporters were working on the story. "Often, reporters would stop calling us," she testified.

This prompted quiet chuckles among the two dozen reporters sitting in court to cover the trial. Whispered one: "When was the last time you called the vice president's office and got anything other than a 'no comment'?"

At length, Martin explained how she, Libby and deputy national security adviser Steve Hadley worked late into the night writing a statement to be issued by George Tenet in 2004 in which the CIA boss would take blame for the bogus claim in Bush's State of the Union address that Iraq was seeking nuclear material in Africa.

After "delicate" talks, Tenet agreed to say the CIA "approved" the claim and "I am responsible" -- but even that disappointed Martin, who had wanted Tenet to say that "we did not express any doubt about Niger."

During her testimony, Martin, a Harvard Law School graduate married to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and a close pal of Bush counselor Dan Bartlett, seemed uncomfortable, shifting in her chair, squinting at her interrogators, stealing quick glances at the jury, and repeatedly touching her cheek, ear, nose, lips and scalp.

Martin shed light on the mystery of why White House press secretary Scott McClellan promised, falsely, that Libby was not involved in outing CIA operative Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife. After McClellan had vouched for Bush strategist Karl Rove's innocence, Libby asked Martin, "Why don't they say something about me?"

"You need to talk to Scott," Martin advised.

On jurors' monitors were images of Martin's talking points, some labeled "on the record" and others "deep background." She walked the jurors through how the White House coddles friendly writers and freezes out others. To deal with the Wilson controversy, she hastily arranged a Cheney lunch with conservative commentators. And when New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof first wrote about the Niger affair, she explained, "we didn't see any urgency to get to Kristof" because "he frankly attacked the administration fairly regularly."

Questioned by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Martin described how Hadley tried to shield White House spokesmen from the Niger controversy. "Everybody was sort of in the dark," she explained. "There had been a decision not to have the communicators involved."

But Martin, encouraged by Libby, secretly advised Libby and Cheney on how to respond. She put "Meet the Press" at the top of her list of "Options" but noted that it might appear "too defensive." Next, she proposed "leak to Sanger-Pincus-newsmags. Sit down and give to him." This meant that the "no-leak" White House would give the story to the New York Times' David Sanger, The Washington Post's Walter Pincus, or Time or Newsweek. Option 3: "Press conference -- Condi/Rumsfeld." Option 4: "Op-ed."

Martin was embarrassed about the "leak" option; the case, after all, is about a leak. "It's a term of art," she said. "If you give it to one reporter, they're likelier to write the story."

For all the elaborate press management, things didn't always go according to plan. Martin described how Time wound up with an exclusive one weekend because she didn't have a phone number for anybody at Newsweek.

"You didn't have a lot of hands-on experience dealing with the press?" defense attorney Theodore Wells asked.

"Correct," Martin replied. After further questions, she added: "Few of us in the White House had had hands-on experience with any crisis like this."

Staff writer Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report

[bth: the Friday afternoon press statement is a common trick used by the Pentagon as well as the White House to get bad news out with minimum coverage.]

War Saving Certificates - Things You Won't see In This War

So here is something you won't see in this war. In my opinion one of the quickest ways to end this war and get 'moderate republicans' to suddenly see the folly of our current Iraq strategy is to make them pay for it - not with a tax cut rollback, but an honest to got tax on high income individuals and corporations. It's one thing to send the neighbor's kid to war, its quite another to have to pay for it. There has been no common sacrifice in this war whatever.
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Michael J. Totten: “They Had Machine Guns Welded in Windows”

Michael J. Totten: “They Had Machine Guns Welded in Windows”: "I went to South Lebanon looking for Lebanese civilians who witnessed the July War between Israel and Hezbollah and who could, perhaps, clarify some controversial claims. Did Israel bomb indiscriminately? Did Hezbollah use human shields?"

Some civilians did testify that Hezbollah used people in their village as human shields. And I found evidence that Israel at least sometimes struck with precision, if not at all times.

Lebanese civilians, though, weren’t the only witnesses to the war. Hezbollah was there, too – although I’m officially blacklisted with the organization and am denied access to interviews.

The Israeli Defense Forces also were there. I found a soldier who spent the entire war in and out of South Lebanon. He was willing to talk to me by phone even though our interview was illegal – he’s still in the army and is not supposed to talk to anyone in the media about what he did and what he saw. He did anyway, though, and he did not say what I thought he would say. The number of people killed in South Lebanon may be more heavily tilted toward Hezbollah fighters than most of us realized.

To preserve his anonymity I can only identify him as “an Israeli soldier in a long-range patrol unit.” So I’ll just call him Eli, which isn’t his name. Our conversation by phone was recorded. Here is the transcript.

MJT: There is a controversy about whether or not Hezbollah was using the civilian population and infrastructure as shields, whether were hiding behind people and apartment buildings and the like.

Eli: Did they use populated areas to fire? It was clear that they did. Except Israel also dispersed flyers ordering all the civilian population of South Lebanon to leave. So it was in those villages after the, I don’t remember the date, except anyone who was in those villages was probably helping Hezbollah fighters.

MJT: Where in Lebanon was your unit?

Eli: We went all around the West. Opposite Metulla there’s all these villages called Hula, Abbasieh, Markaba, Jwayya. It was 15 kilometers in. So we would go in 15 kilometers, mark targets.
MJT: So you were marking targets yourself? What kind of targets were you marking? I was on the border at the end of the war, and I watched a lot of Israeli artillery being fired, but it was impossible to tell what you guys were shooting at.

Eli: I can’t explain exactly what we use, but we use very advanced scopes and thermal scopes and stuff like that so you can see exactly what’s going on in villages at night or during the day or whenever. We could see armed personnel walking around there, carrying big bags. So as long as they’re armed they are targets for us to mark, for Air Force and artillery.

MJT: The reason I ask what kind of targets you were marking is because the majority of people inside Lebanon think the Israelis were firing at civilians deliberately.

Eli: If you ask me what should have been done in the villages in Lebanon during this war, I think Israel wasn’t harsh enough. Now, I’m not right-wing, I’m not…I just think that if we are in a war…it’s like, if you play with fire, people get burned. There’s nothing you can do about it. These whole villages, they were empty, just filled with Hezbollah terrorists. They should have been totally wiped off the map. Except Israel left them standing. Many of our soldiers were killed because of that, so Israel wouldn’t
be blamed after the war for war crimes and destroying civilian houses.

When they say that Israeli artillery was aimed at civilian targets, I can tell you a bit about how the artillery works. If I find a target in the middle of a village, like one house that I see that there are armed people going in, and I will aim artillery, heavy artillery, on it. Not Air Force, not like pin-pointed targets. Artillery will dispense rounds 100 meters from that target also. It’s not accurate. Anyway, even if a target is next to it, these houses were empty. No civilians were walking around South Lebanon. I know. I was in their villages. In their houses. Anyone who was there was definitely working for the Hezbollah or working as a Hezbollah fighter.

MJT: So you didn’t see any women? It was mostly men and no children?

Eli: I never saw one woman or any children in Lebanon. I was going in and out for the whole time since the day when the soldiers were kidnapped. We flew from my unit straight to the north in helicopters, and since then we were there until a week after the cease-fire.

MJT: An article was recently published in the Washington Times, and it wasn’t sourced very well, that said…Hezbollah is known for doing charity work in South Lebanon. One of the things that they had supposedly done, according to the article, was build houses for poor people with Katyusha rocket launchers embedded inside the center of the house, walled off on four sides in sealed rooms so the residents didn’t even know they were there. And supposedly when the war started Hezbollah peeled off the roofs and fired rockets from inside the houses. Did you see anything like this?

Eli: I didn’t see any Katyusha rockets being installed inside houses. But I’ve seen stuff…like we went toward this house, we were fired upon from inside the house. We went into the house. We cleared the house. Anyone who was in the house was neutralized. We went down to the basement. And also in the basement everything was neutralized. And we saw a periscope in the basement that was looking up toward the main road.

MJT: A periscope like something they use in a submarine?

Eli: Yeah, a periscope. You know, you can be underground and see above. It was a pipe that had mirrors that were reflecting up. And a small kind of detonator. Our team checked it out. There were 500 kilos of explosives under the road waiting for Israeli tanks. There were really ready. They built these houses for that purpose because they knew this was going to happen some day. They were just waiting for the tanks to roll in.

MJT: Do you have any idea when you found houses that were being used militarily if they were Hezbollah houses per se, or had they taken over other people’s civilian houses?
Eli: I don’t know.

MJT: You couldn’t tell.

Eli: No. But they could take any house they wanted because the whole place was empty. Everyone left. When we were fighting we were fighting from house to house. They would just skip houses, they would go a different house. We would detonate one house, they would fire a few from another house, and skip to yet another house. They would go wherever they want, it was their area in South Lebanon. It’s not like they thought about them as civilian houses.

MJT: What do you know about that went on in South Lebanon that has been under-reported in the media?

Eli: Not so much in South Lebanon, but in Israel. The way the Israeli army and the prime minister and the chief of staff, the chief of military staff, used the war and controlled the war, if you ask me, was wrong.

MJT: In what ways?

Eli: The chief of the military in Israel did not come from the army. He came from the Air Force. He used to be an Air Force Commander. He was not an army grunt. And the first three weeks of the war he tried to really win this war with air strikes, in the South and in the area in Beirut, what do you call it?

MJT: The dahiyeh.

Eli: Yeah, the dahiyeh. The dahiyeh area. He did not use the ground troops as well as he should have. He would send ground troops one kilometer in, they would stay for a few days, and walk out. Only during the last week of the war did the army take up the war. And every time we went in and went out, people got killed.

MJT: Do you think the air war was effective at all? Or should the war have been fought on the ground only?

Eli: Of course it should always be together, air and ground. You can’t win one without the other. You have to place your air strikes exactly where you need them. Just dropping thousands of tons of bombs on that area in Beirut was useless if you ask me.

Because they couldn’t get Nasrallah. He’s planned this out for how many years? I mean, he knew where he was going to go and how to avoid Israeli intelligence in Lebanon. The bottom line is that they should have aimed more air strikes in the area of South Lebanon.

For the first few weeks they called it a mission. They didn’t call it a war. The enemy was firing rockets from inside Lebanon. And Israel went out to stop that enemy. Which is…kind of like a war. It is war. In any war civilian houses get damaged and there’s nothing you can to do stop it. When you play with fire, people get burned.

Israeli troops went into standing villages where they just were ambushed. Our unit was ambushed also once. And I know lots of other units who were ambushed. Standing villages were there. There could have been nothing, we could have rolled into rubble.

MJT: Hezbollah claims they tried to keep their fighters away from civilian areas, that they keep their fighters away from the towns and the villages and more out in the countryside. So, when you say that you were ambushed, were you inside one of the towns when this happened?

Eli: Yes. We were also ambushed in more open areas. They have these small bunkers, they built bunkers and caves and stuff in open areas. They were ready. They had machine guns welded in windows. They were welded in already. They were ready. They were ready for urban warfare. That’s where they killed the most Israeli soldiers, in urban warfare.

In open warfare? They didn’t have much of a chance. It’s in urban warfare where they can skip house to house and leave very large amounts of explosives under asphalt where you can’t even see it.
MJT: So you’re saying that a lot of the damage done in South Lebanon towns was done by Hezbollah themselves, not all of it was by the Israeli Defense Forces?

Eli: I can tell you about the places I’ve been. Some of the places you’ve heard about, like Bint Jbail, I haven’t been there. My unit didn’t go there.

We got to one village one time and the information was that there weren’t going to be very many armed Hezbollah. It was just going to be like a few helpers or spotters. So the whole village was going to be left standing and there was not going to be any problem.

As soon as we got around 500 meters from the village they started firing everything they had at us.

From inside the village. So of course Israel retaliated with a few rounds of artillery, some war planes came down on the place. It wasn’t really…a round of artillery won’t bring a house down. It will make a big hole in it. And the airplane, unless it’s a big bomb, it won’t bring a house down. You know, maybe it will make it an unsafe house to live in. So you’ll see big holes in walls, and some tank shells blew holes in walls. Except the only reason why those holes are there is because they were shooting from these villages. They were shooting from within mosques. They were firing Katyushas from behind mosques and stuff.
MJT: Were they also firing from churches?

Eli: I didn’t see any churches. I wasn’t in any Christian villages. Most of the Christian villages, the Israelis detoured around them because they thought they were probably anti-Hezbollah, that Hezbollah would not be in there. Except the Hezbollah, they often dressed up as Israeli soldiers.

MJT: Did you actually see this yourself? Hezbollah wearing Israeli uniforms?

Eli: Yes.

MJT: Really. How many Hezbollah soldiers did you see wearing Israeli uniforms?

Eli: Once they hit us with a few anti-tank missiles. And I saw straight away like six of them.
MJT: Was it just the one time that you saw this?

Eli: I’m not the only one who has seen this happen in Lebanon. There are lots of other people from lots of other units who have seen this. It’s, it’s guerilla warfare.

MJT: Where do you suppose they get the uniforms? Do they make them themselves? Or are they stealing them?

Eli: Well, all of them are probably stolen. When Israel left Lebanon in 2000 they left a ton of army supply stuff.

MJT: They claim that they have their own uniforms.

Eli: Yeah, they have like a kind of a dark khaki colored, like dark American colors. They have camouflage and stuff like that. But they’re also wearing, they’re people walking around towns, with weapons, who aren’t wearing uniforms. They look like civilians. I mean, in every civilian house in Lebanon there is a shotgun. And that’s not because they’re against the IDF or because they’re against Israel, it’s that most people in the small villages, they’re hunters. They hunt for food. But we also saw people walking around with AK-47s and hand guns and stuff. There are definitely Hezbollah people in, in civilian clothes.

MJT: So, okay, what’s the most common appearance for a Hezbollah fighter in South Lebanon during a war? Do most wear civilian clothes? Hezbollah uniforms? Israeli uniforms?
Eli: It changes all the time.

MJT: Hezbollah claims they had some missiles from Iran, specifically the Zelzal missiles, and that they chose not to fire them. I wonder, do you know if they’re lying about that, if the Israelis perhaps took the Zelzal missiles out at the beginning of the war and that they were unable to fire them?

Eli: The greatest bulk of the long-range missiles that they had were destroyed. By the Air Force. This is what I heard, but I don’t really know, it’s not what I do in the army.

MJT: Have you fought in the West Bank or Gaza?

Eli: Yes.

MJT: How much more skilled are Hezbollah than Hamas and Islamic Jihad?

Eli: Much more skilled. Much more skilled. You can’t compare with fighting against Hezbollah and fighting against Palestinians. Hezbollah has had such a long time to get prepared for these attacks. And they were dug in. Everything was planned, and the weapons, the ammunition, everything was accurate, everything. And the mortar rounds they were all fixed, everything, all the mortars were already fixed on targets where they knew the Israelis were going to come through.

With the Palestinians, it’s very amateur with the Palestinian freedom fighters or whatever they call themselves.

MJT: Alright. From where I was during the war, which was the Israeli side, it looked like the Israelis won every engagement with Hezbollah.

Eli: In the end, Israel won every engagement, this is true. Except the problem is winning an engagement against people who are fighting guerilla warfare. You will win, but you will sustain losses, heavy losses.
With guerilla warfare you have one or two guys on a mountain hidden in small holes holding an anti-tank missile. And really at the end of the day he’ll shoot the missile at a few soldiers. He’ll maybe kill one or two, I don’t know. Except you won’t be able to find him afterwards. Unless you were looking in exactly the same direction when it was fired, you won’t. That’s the problem with guerilla warfare.

If there was a full-out war, you know, tanks against tanks, combat units against combat units, and everything done out in the open, Israel would definitely, totally defeat and win. Except the problem is guerilla warfare is extremely hard, it’s, I don’t know how to explain it except that it’s stressful because it’s not a real army, it’s not an army, it’s like cells. Fighting against cells that are operated by bigger cells, you don’t know where they could be, it’s not a big army.

MJT: Do you think it would be possible for Israel to defeat Hezbollah completely in a future war? If you killed every Hezbollah fighter they could always recruit more, but that aside, do you think you could eliminate all or most of them? Or would it just take too long because of the nature of the fighting?

Eli: The problem is, if you kill their combat units…which was possible, during the war the Israelis killed 700 to 800 Hezbollah fighters, which is a third of their whole combat fighters. Which is quite a lot of people.

MJT: It is, yeah.

Eli: Except killing them all…I’ve read MEMRI where there are Arab newspapers translated into English. It’s on the Internet. You can read it. Hezbollah said they were bringing in 3,000 to 4,000 Somali fighters.
MJT: I remember reading that. Did you see anybody who looked Somali, like they were from Africa?
Eli: No.

MJT: A lot of Lebanese people think this is just Hezbollah propaganda, that it’s not true. And I suspect they’re right. Like you said, Hezbollah is a professional guerilla army, whereas Somali fighters are pretty amateurish, like Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

Eli: Hmm. You can’t compare the Hezbollah fighter to the Israeli soldier. The Israeli soldier is much better trained. He’s much more fit. Better weapons. And they’re trained for much longer. Except fighting guerilla warfare is just much harder than fighting a regular war.

MJT: Right.

Eli: That’s just it, at the end. And you asked me about getting rid of Hezbollah. Surely getting rid of all the Hezbollah fighters is not the solution. You have to get it from the root. And the root of the Hezbollah is, in the end, it’s the road toward Syria, and from Syria toward Iran. They are the big funders and the people who give Hezbollah the ok. In the end.

MJT: It looks like it’s an unresolvable problem without dealing with Syria and Iran in some way, somehow.

Eli: It’s a matter of time. Because the way I see it, the way I look at the situation now in Lebanon, at the parliament there, that within a few months or a year, I don’t know, the Hezbollah are getting stronger again. And they might push out the Lebanese government. They’ll take over the government there. And they’ll ask the UN peacekeepers to leave. And they will have to leave. And then we’ll have it all over again.

Post-script: If you like what I write, please click the Pay Pal button and help make it happen. I have to eat and pay bills, and your donations are the only thing that makes my work possible. I would do this for free if I could, but we don’t live in a Star Trek money-free universe yet.

If you would like to donate money for travel expenses and you don't want to use Pay Pal, you can send a check or money order to:
Michael TottenP.O. Box 312Portland, OR 97207-0312
Many thanks in advance.

[bth: interesting commentary.]