Saturday, February 17, 2007

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Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility -

Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility - "Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."...

[bth: this article needs to be read by every American.]

Bomber kills at least 15 in Pakistani court

swissinfo - Bomber kills at least 15 in Pakistani court: "QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - A suicide bomber in Pakistan killed 15 people, including a judge, in a courtroom in the city of Quetta on Saturday, the latest in a series of suicide blasts to have sent shudders through the country.

Intelligence officials have attributed other attacks to sectarian Sunni militants linked to al Qaeda and groups operating from tribal areas, regarded as hotbeds of support for the Taliban."

Police made a string of arrests this week, including two suicide bomb teams caught in southern Pakistan.

The bomb in Quetta exploded while a lower court was in session. A senior judge and six lawyers were among those killed, police in the capital of Baluchistan province said.

"According to our reports a man entered the room and blew himself up. A head has been found," Baluchistan province Chief Minister Jam Mohammad Yousuf said.

"It could be a continuation of what is happening in other parts of the country."

At least 25 people were injured and police chief Rahu Khan Brohi told Reuters six of them were in a critical condition.

The suicide attacks started after an army air strike on a militant base in South Waziristan tribal region in mid-January.

Including the death toll from Quetta, nearly 45 people have been killed in bomb attacks since then, as militants have sought to destabilise President Pervez Musharraf's government and weaken his resolve to confront the Taliban, al Qaeda and their allies.


Police arrested two suicide bomb teams in southern Sindh province on Friday, and identified them as factions of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni Muslim sectarian militant group that has established ties with al Qaeda.

One team of three militants was captured after a gunfight in the southern city of Karachi, and another team of three was caught in the evening boarding a train at Sukkur, 515 km (321 miles) northeast of the port city.
"We found explosives, splinters, circuits and jackets used in suicide bombings, as well as Jihadi literature on them," district police officer Mazhar Nawaz, told Reuters from Sukkur.
Police said the militants arrested in Karachi and Sukkur had been planning attacks on Pakistan's Muslim Shi'ite minority at the end of the holy month of Muharram, which falls in the first week of March.

On Thursday , police arrested two members of Laskar-e-Jhangvi in Rawalpindi, the garrison town next door to Islamabad.

Road blocks had been set up in Islamabad, and police were stopping and questioning drivers of small cars, taxis and trucks. Foreign embassies have told their staff to limit their travel in the capital.

Officials in Quetta were unsure who carried out Saturday's blast.

"Initially we suspect nationalist extremists, as well as Afghan Taliban could be behind the attack," Razak Bugti, a spokesman for the Baluchistan government, said.

Television footage from the wrecked courthouse showed people and police walking through pools of blood, collecting belongings. Body parts and torn clothes could be seen all around.

Pakistan has been under mounting pressure from the United States and Afghanistan to tackle Taliban sanctuaries on its territory.

Taliban leaders are widely believed to be operating from in and around Quetta, capital of the restive province of Baluchistan, though Pakistan consistently denies their presence.

Baluchistan is also beset with unrest due to ethnic Baluch militants, who are fighting for greater autonomy.
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In Iraq, Kurdish militia has the run of oil-rich Kirkuk

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 02/16/2007 | In Iraq, Kurdish militia has the run of oil-rich Kirkuk: ..."Senior Kurdish leaders have said in public that they'll pursue only peaceful means to wrest control of the city.

That same leadership has intentionally stocked Iraqi security forces with Peshmerga, said Fadil Haider, a senior member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union, a small but powerful political party, and a former member of the Iraqi national parliament. "

The two main Kurdish parties - the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) - have done so as an insurance policy, he said.

"I can give you two scenarios: If Iraq is in an all-out civil war, then the PUK and KDP have put themselves in a position to protect Kurdistan by very quickly taking Kirkuk and making it a part of an independent Kurdistan," Haider said. "Or, if we exhaust the peaceful, political means of gaining Kirkuk for Kurdistan, we will take it by force."

Kurdish officials are confident that when Kirkuk becomes a part of the Kurdish regional government, its security will be maintained by Peshmerga, a process that presumably would be made easier by the fact that so many Iraqi police and army there are former members, said Suzanne Shahab Nouri, a member of the regional Kurdish parliament.

"The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are the strongest (Iraqi) military force in Iraq," said Jafar Mustafa Ali, the minister state for Peshmerga affairs - essentially a defense minister - in Sulaimaniyah. "If they (Kurdish opponents in Kirkuk) don't respect the democratic process, we could take over Kirkuk and they could do nothing."

[bth: when you read this isn't it obvious that Iraq is going to break up? I believe the elections referred to are in 2007]

In Iraq, anyone can make a bomb - Los Angeles Times

In Iraq, anyone can make a bomb - Los Angeles Times: "PRESIDENT BUSH HAS now definitively stated that bombs known as explosively formed penetrators — EFPs, which have proved especially deadly for U.S. troops in Iraq — are made in Iran and exported to Iraq. But in November, U.S. troops raiding a Baghdad machine shop came across a pile of copper disks, 5 inches in diameter, stamped out as part of what was clearly an ongoing order. This ominous discovery, unreported until now, makes it clear that Iraqi insurgents have no need to rely on Iran as the source of EFPs. "

The truth is that EFPs are simple to make for anyone who knows how to do it. Far from a sophisticated assembly operation that might require state supervision, all that is required is one of those disks, some high-powered explosive (which is easy to procure in Iraq) and a container, such as a piece of pipe. I asked a Pentagon analyst specializing in such devices how much each one would cost to make. "Twenty bucks," he answered after a brief calculation. "Thirty at most."

EFPs work by using explosives to compress, melt and shoot a metal projectile — formed from those disks, molded in a concave shape — in a particular direction. They are feared above all else by troops in Iraq because not only can they punch a hole through the armor of an M-1 tank, they are small and light, and thus far easier to carry and plant undetected than the traditional Iraqi improvised explosive device, which is often made from hefty artillery shells.

"You can do as much or more damage with a 5-pound EFP, which is aimed, as with a 200-pound conventional IED, where most of the energy is dissipated away from the target," the Pentagon analyst said. The U.S. has (belatedly) responded to the IED threat by "up-armoring" Humvees and other vulnerable vehicles, but EFPs can cleave through the very thickest armor "like butter," as one Iraq veteran told me.

As of now, these weapons represent only a small fraction of the bombs used against U.S. forces. Last month, according to my Pentagon sources, out of 3,000 IEDs directed at occupation troops, only 2.5% were EFPs. But a further statistic explains why these particular weapons are so feared by soldiers encased in their armored vehicles: Despite the relatively tiny number deployed, since November they have accounted for fully 15% of U.S. bomb casualties, and that percentage is ticking up. Anyone pondering the implications of this trend need only look to the Israeli experience in Lebanon during the 1990s to see where it might end. "These bombs drove the Israelis out of Lebanon," a former Pentagon weapons-effects expert told me unequivocally.

Hezbollah's expertise with EFPs is one reason why the administration, despite minimal intelligence, has been quick to blame Hezbollah's Iranian allies for the proliferation of the devices in Iraq. But EFPs have a venerable history. The IRA used them with lethal effect against British troops in Northern Ireland, as did French resistance fighters against the Germans in World War II. It is only a question of time before someone shows the Taliban how to make them, and then NATO forces in Afghanistan will begin the same ordeal.

Despite their known lethality, these weapons weren't taken into account by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's program of military "transformation." Indeed, Rumsfeld bequeathed the Army the Future Combat Systems, a $168-billion extravaganza of computers, sensors and robots deemed by its proponents so deadly to a foe that armor on U.S. military vehicles might be dispensed with altogether.

Once it became impossible to ignore the threat of all kinds of "home-made" bombs, and EFPs in particular, Rumsfeld responded in orthodox fashion by throwing money at the problem.

A "joint IED defeat" task force was created to address the issue, and last year it was granted $3.32 billion, but with little result. True, each Humvee patrolling Iraqi roads now carries two specially designed jammers, costing $100,000 apiece, that jam radio signals detonating roadside bombs. The other side has simply switched to wire detonators or infrared systems. One hundred towers spouting remote cameras, at $12 million each, watch main roads for bomb planters, with no improvement in attack and casualty statistics.

Rumsfeld's mentor, defense intellectual Andrew Marshall, marketed the phrase "revolution in military affairs" as a justification for high-tech programs such as Future Combat Systems. But those copper disks represent the real revolution in military affairs, and it is not in our favor.

[bth: so it bears worth repeating some key conclusions:
- these were being made in Iraq in 2006. that doesn't mean they weren't made in Iran too as they are made in Lebannon since at least the 1980s, but it means that the US military press conference on Monday was at best misleading about their origin.
- It costs $30 in materials to take out a $225K M1114 factory produced armored humvee plus $200K in electronic jammers. The jammers are defeated with radio shack parts and passive IR dimmers acquired at any electronics, hardware or home improvement store.
- We spent $1.2 billion on 100 towers with cameras on them and billion on jammers that were defeated by a change in technique even before we could field them. It takes us 18 months to field and 3 months for insurgents to change tactics according to the GAO.
- Driving down the same road day after day is nuts when we left 8-10 million artillery and landmines (not to mention EFPs) unguarded for years. Its like ducks at a shooting gallery. The tactics are bad and we won't admit it.
- We've got to get these patrols out of range. Note the webstatement a few postings below saying that they will begin attacking US troops in Baghdad now that they are visible in the neighborhoods. Think about it. The tactics are bad and equipment isn't going to solve this problem.]

IraqSlogger: Iraqi Papers Saturday: Mahdi Army Scattered

IraqSlogger: Iraqi Papers Saturday: Mahdi Army Scattered: ..."Az-Zaman (international edition) explained the decrease in violence by the fact that the death squads have either left Baghdad, or are in hiding, waiting for the storm to pass, so to speak. While the government was reporting the return of refugee families to Baghdad, Az-Zaman published reports by international agencies saying that the numbers of those fleeing Iraq remain unabated. Moreover, new areas in Iraq seem to be producing refugees, notably the south of the country. According to Global Commission on International Migration, over 15,000 Iraqis have been displaced from the south and center of Iraq in the last three weeks. "

Lastly, Pan-Arab al-Hayat published a long report on the northern city of Kirkuk, which remains one of the major unsolved issues in Iraq, and a constant source if instability. Al-Hayat’s Nizam Mardini said that tensions rose after a decision was made to grant every Kurdish family that wishes to live in Kirkuk $7,000 and a plot of land, which was seen by the Arabs and Turkmens of the city as yet another attempt to change the demographics of Kirkuk and ‘Kurdify’ the city.

Mardini mentioned that in parallel to the internal tensions, Turkey is weighing in on the issue of Kirkuk, notably with its support and quasi-‘adoption’ of its Turkmen population. While the Kurdish parties insist that Kirkuk is decidedly Kurdish, there are opinions in Turkey that call to place the entire area of Mosul (including Kirkuk) under Turkish mandate.

Upon the independence of modern Turkey in the 1920s, Turkish Nationalists considered Mosul to be a part of Turkey that was taken away from the “homeland” by the British. The instability in Kirkuk seems to be reviving these old ideas, which does not bode well for the future in Northern Iraq

[bth: while our troops build in Baghdad and are pulled from other areas of the country, the problem shifts or seems to melt away. Note the heavy displacement now in the south. Also note that Turkey is becoming more open about its ambitions within Iraq from Mosul to the oil fields just south of Kirkuk. We will need to maintain a military presence at the air base near Kirkuk otherwise there will be a regional war between the Kurds in Iraq and the Turks who aspire to fill the void when we begin to withdrawal.]

Gulfnews: Violence may force a million to flee homes

Gulfnews: Violence may force a million to flee homes: "Geneva : Unrelenting violence and insecurity in Iraq could cause as many as 1 million Iraqis to flee their homes this year, the world's migration body said yesterday.

'The numbers of people that are being displaced are increasing every day,' said Jemini Pandya, spokeswoman for the International Organisation for Migration. 'The security situation is not improving. It's not changing.' Geneva : Unrelenting violence and insecurity in Iraq could cause as many as 1 million Iraqis to flee their homes this year, the world's migration body said yesterday

'The numbers of people that are being displaced are increasing every day,' said Jemini Pandya, spokeswoman for the International Organisation for Migration. 'The security situation is not improving. It's not changing.' "....

[bth: what is amazing is little the sunni arabs are willing to do, namely the Saudis, the assist Syria or to take in people themselves. They talk a lot about charity, bt its action that matters. OBL seems to have no trouble getting money in contrast.]

Iranian Force, Focus of U.S., Still a Mystery

Iranian Force, Focus of U.S., Still a Mystery - New York Times: ..."As part of the Revolutionary Guard, the force officially answers to the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and not the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though Mr. Ahmadinejad is believed to have personal ties to many senior guard officials."

But the Quds Force is cloaked in secrecy inside Iran and is the subject of considerable guesswork from scholars in the United States, who in interviews this week offered estimates of its size ranging from 3,000 to 50,000 men. The true number, along with details of the strength and budget of the entire Revolutionary Guard, is hidden even from the Iranian Parliament, said Mr. Milani, according to legislators he has spoken with.

Some specialists even question whether the Quds Force exists as a formal unit clearly delineated from the rest of the Revolutionary Guard.

“It could be that anyone with an intelligence role in the Revolutionary Guard is just called Quds,” said Vali R. Nasr, who studies Iran and political Islam at the Naval Postgraduate School....

[bth: considering how important this matter is and how diabolical this group has been, killing Americans across the middle east, you'd think we'd know more about them. US intel sucks and isn't getting better.]

Basra Lockdown: Mahdi Army Targeted?

IraqSlogger: Basra Lockdown: Mahdi Army Targeted?: "The Mahdi Army may be the major target of joint Iraqi-UK operations in Basra, sources in the city have told IraqSlogger.

A curfew is in force in the city, and Iraqi forces conducted house-to-house searching today, especially in areas near Basra University, IraqSlogger has learned from eyewitnesses. "...

[bth: events in Basra are usually about one group versus another securing oil revenues from exports. Its about cash flow]

On to the Hard Part on Iraq - New York Times

On to the Hard Part on Iraq - New York Times: "President Bush lost touch long ago with Iraq’s political reality — not to mention Americans’ anguish and disbelief at his mismanagement of the war. So we welcome the House of Representatives’ long-overdue attempt to shake some sense into Mr. Bush with a resolution opposing his decision to send another 20,000 combat troops to fight this disastrous war without any plan to end it. "

Yet yesterday’s vote, in which 17 Republicans joined the Democrats to produce a margin of 246 to 182, was the easy part. It takes no great courage or creativity for a politician to express continuing support for the troops and opposition to a vastly unpopular and unpromising military escalation. Even if the Senate manages to overcome its procedural self-hobbling and approve a similar resolution, the war and the mismanagement will go on.

The next necessary steps will require harder thinking and harder choices. Congress needs to do what Mr. Bush is refusing to do: link further financing for the war to the performance of Iraq’s Shiite-led government, which is making no serious effort to rescue its country from civil war.

Congress needs to impose clear benchmarks and rigorous timetables, insisting that the Iraqi government stop equivocating and start disarming sectarian militias, adopt a formula to share oil revenues equitably and end employment discrimination against Sunni Arabs. Congress must be prepared to cut off financing if the Iraqis refuse.

We fear that clever maneuvers like the one proposed by Representative John Murtha, reportedly with the backing of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to dress up a reduction in troop strength as a “support the troops” measure won’t help contain the war or make American troops safer. Mr. Murtha would link this year’s war financing to the Pentagon’s adoption of new deployment rules, including longer stretches from the battlefield for returning troops, more specialized training and better defensive equipment. That would let representatives cast a politically safe vote for financing the war, while forcing the Pentagon to gradually reduce the number of active duty troops available to serve in Iraq.

This page has advocated many of the same reforms — but not as a back-door way of forcing lower troop numbers in Iraq. Congress’s overriding goal must be to find the most responsible way to extricate American troops from what is becoming an increasingly unwinnable war, while trying to contain the suffering and minimizing the damage to American interests in the region.

Instead of camouflaged troop squeezes, Congress needs to grasp the problem straight on and do what the administration won’t do. It must impose tough requirements and deadlines on the Iraqi government, and link the future of all American troops in Iraq to the timely achievement of these goals.

[bth: the problem with this analysis is that while we are great at imposing tough and courageous requiremenets on the Iraqis we are unwilling to have an up front and hard debate in congress about the war powers act and the limits congress should apply to it.]

Patient Safety Through Technology

Patient Safety Through Technology - New York Times: "At least 1.5 million preventable drug-related injuries occurred in 2006 in American hospitals, long-term care institutions and outpatient clinics, according to the Institute of Medicine. And, the institute said, 98,000 deaths occurred both because of mistakes in administering drugs and because of infections contracted in hospitals."

Kerry Clark, 54, chief executive of Cardinal Health, a maker of health care products with $81 billion in annual sales, said hospitals should correct these problems with the help of new technologies.

Mr. Clark, who arrived at Cardinal in April 2006 after 32 years at Procter & Gamble, discussed both drug mistakes and infections in a recent conversation. Following are excerpts:

Q. What can be done to make sure that the right medication gets to the right patient?

A. Problems can happen when a patient moves around from one setting to another within a hospital. They can happen when nurses go from one shift to another. And it even happens when a patient transfers from hospital to home.

There are things that can be done using the type of technology that Cardinal provides. Specifically, it’s continually verifying that when the medication is drawn at the nursing station on the patient’s floor that it is checked against the patient record. The time and dose are confirmed. Then it can be verified at the patient’s bedside. Technologically speaking, the verification at the nursing station comes through a product called Pyxis, which is a fairly sophisticated medication dispensing piece of hardware and is present in more than 60 percent of hospitals.

Q. What is the key technology of this medication-dispensing system?

A. It’s software-based. I like to think of it as a computerized dispensing machine. The nurse enters in her code and scans in the patient data. Very specific pillboxes then open to allow only the right medication to be withdrawn.

Q. So the system physically controls what medications are available?

A. Correct. It’s all connected to the patient’s record and the billing record for the hospital. The next most challenging step is the last 100 feet, from there to the patient’s bedside. Recently, Cardinal acquired a company called Care Fusion which offers a software and scanning device that allows bar-coded medication to be scanned at bedside.

Q. Are these patient safety efforts paying off?

A. The answer is, we think so. This week, we’ll be presenting at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society the first and only clinical data that is connected among products involved in the last 100 feet. Basically, we’re going to demonstrate that the clinical data can flow from the hospital pharmacy to the med station on the floor, also to the infusion pumps that deliver injectable medicine and also to the hand-held Care Fusion device.

Q. Are you the only company doing these things or is the entire industry doing likewise?

A. We’re the only company that has a complete end-to-end solution.

Q. But certainly your competitors are trying to do some of these things?

A. People have various parts of the solution. But we have the very first comprehensive solution.

Q. Why do so many people get infected in hospitals?

A. One out of 20 patients admitted to a hospital will contract an infection. And hospital-acquired infection is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. It’s higher than diabetes, Alzheimer’s or auto accidents.

When patients are on respirators, there’s the possibility of ventilator-assisted pneumonia. The other place where patients can get infections is through catheters and the lines from the injection pumps. Medical personnel tend to keep those sites open for a period of time. You can get infections from surgical sites, which stem from how the patient’s skin is prepped. Clipping hair is better than shaving, for example. There also are very virulent forms of infection in hospitals.

Q. What are you doing to try to address this hospital-infection problem?

A. Cardinal is working with a new technology from a company we acquired called MedMined. They use data-mining technology, using hospital lab data and other hospital information to determine whether there are emerging infections developing. By looking at all the blood data, it can identify certain precursor markers that suggest an infection is rising.

[bth: while this article is little more than a public relations piece for Cardinal they are right about the death and injury rates and the fact that most of this is covered up by hospitals who can hide their negligence and in fact do. These are preventable problems that will save more lives than those lost on highways each year. It is a no brainer that they should be required by law in most cases. I'd like to say that the private sector would handle this but they don't and won't unless compelled by law or financial requirement.]

IraqSlogger: U.S. Military Detains Iranian Delegates in Baghdad

IraqSlogger: U.S. Military Detains Iranian Delegates in Baghdad: "Al-Melaf reports that U.S. troops have detained the members of a Shiite delegation visiting parliament minister Sheikh Jalal Al-Din Al-Sagheer at his home in Baghdad. The delegation included two Iranian nationals, Abdul Zahra Al-Daghiri, a cleric from Iran’s Arab Khuzestan province, and Ahmed Frauzenda. Al-Daghiri entered Iraq after 2003 and joined the Shaheed Al-Mihrab Foundation, headed by the son of Aziz Al-Hakim, head of the largest Shia bloc in Iraqi parliament"

Al-Sagheer's office issued a press release calling claims made by U.S. troops at Camp Victory as “false.” The U.S. statement said that the Buratha Mosque, raided two days ago by Iraqi troops, was harboring militias and was used as a weapons storage. Al-Sagheer denied that the mosque was raided by Iraqi troops, explaining that it was an Iraqi Special Forces battalion under direct U.S. command, and not Iraqi governmental troops that are part of the Defense and Interior ministries. It also denied that the mosque contains torture chambers, as “terrorists” have claimed, or that militias have used it to stage attacks against other areas. The statement added that all weapons and ammunitions confiscated by U.S. troops from the mosque were registered as property of the Interior Ministry, and that the guards were also employees of the Defense and Interior ministries.

Al-Melaf also published the findings of a recent survey in Najaf revealing that 75 percent of the city’s residents will not participate in any upcoming elections in Iraq, citing widespread corruption among current elected officials and a failure to improve services and respond to the needs of the community. Other reasons included the struggle for political power between different Islamic movements in the city and the evident overnight rise in the wealth of elected officials. The source added that the report was sent to the leaders of several Shi’ite political parties.

Hundreds of young men have signed up to carry out “martyrdom operations” against U.S. troops if there is an attempt to detain or move against Muqtada Al-Sadr, according to unnamed sources in the Hawza of Najaf, the Sadrist Nahrain Net website reports.

The sources stated that not all volunteers are Sadrists or members of the Mahdi Army but come from various Shi’ite movements and follow different clerics, and many of them have been seeking legal permission from their clerics to carry out “martyrdom operations” against U.S. troops. The sources, which added that this phenomenon was registered in Najaf, Karbala and other southern cities, did not divulge if this was spontaneous or an organized effort to counter any American action against Sadr or the Mahdi Army.

And in regard to Sadr’s whereabouts, a senior Mahdi Army commander stated that Sadr would be returning to Iraqi within days, and that any attempt to detain him would be an “uncalculated risk aiming to escalate the situation in Iraq and to end the political process.” He added that although Muqtada Sadr had ordered his followers to exercise restraint and not to respond to provocative actions by U.S. and Iraqi troops, his arrest would “inflame the emotions of millions of his followers resulting in an uncontrollable situation.”

The Ansar Al-Sunnah insurgent group published an Internet statement today calling on Iraqi Sunnis not to abandon their homes in Baghdad during the U.S. security operation. “To our people in Baghdad,” the statement reads, “Do not leave your homes and your Baghdad, because if you do, it means that you have given up Baghdad for the rejectionists (Shia).”

The statement, which was signed by the Diwan Al-Jund of the Ansar Al-Sunnah, said that the group is planning its response to the operation. “We will confront, with great wisdom, the large numbers of Crusader troops and their lackeys of apostate rejectionists and Peshmerga on the streets of Baghdad, by gradually exhausting them, now that we have forced them to take to the streets and expose themselves for us.”

Islam Memo had also reported that “resistance groups” in Baghdad had announced the “zero hour” for its counterattack against U.S. and Iraqi troops in the capital in response to the security operation in several Sunni districts south of Baghdad.

Eye on Iraq Media Agency reports that Iraqi security forces arrested 26 suspected members of the Jund Al-Samaa’ movement at a small village north of Kut, in the Wasit Governorate, according to a source in the governorate’s police command. While SCIRI’s Buratha News Agency reported that the Interior Ministry’s Scorpion Brigade in the Babel Governorate, south of Baghdad, arrested 35 suspected members of Jund Al-Samaa’ during raids on several districts of Hilla, according to police sources.

The Sunni fundamentalist Islam Memo website denied U.S. reports yesterday of the injury of Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir (identified as Abu Ayoub Al-Masri by the Iraqi Interior Ministry) and the killing of Abdullah Al-Mujama’I, one of his senior aides. The website quoted an “official from the Islamic Emirate of Iraq” in Balad who compared these reports to the rumors he said U.S. troops had spread during the Fallujah battles in 2004 to demoralize “the resistance,” adding that they can’t even get the name of their leader right.

Iraq War Hopeless for 56% of Americans

Iraq War Hopeless for 56% of Americans: Angus Reid Global Monitor: "(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Many adults in the United States have lost faith in the coalition effort, according to a poll by Ipsos-Public Affairs released by the Associated Press. 56 per cent of respondents think the war in Iraq is a hopeless cause, while 39 per cent deem it a worthy cause."...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Kennedy invokes Massachusetts war dead in Iraq speech

Eyewitness News WPRI / FOX Providence - Providence, Rhode Island News, Weather, Traffic and Sports | Kennedy invokes Massachusetts war dead in Iraq speech: "WASHINGTON Senator Edward Kennedy delivers a solemn anti-war speech on the Senate floor, reciting the names of Massachusetts soldiers killed in Iraq."

Kennedy says the death toll among Massachusetts soldiers has been heavy, with 65 service members killed ranging in age from 19 to 46.

Kennedy is one of President Bush's harshest critics on the war.

The senator cited the loss last week of Marine Captain Jennifer Harris of Swampscott. She died when the helicopter she was piloting crashed in a field northwest of Baghdad.

Kennedy says Harris is the first woman from Massachusetts to make the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq.

Kennedy's speech comes as the House wraps up a four-day debate on the Iraq war today.
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Up-Armored HUVMEE (UAH)

...Up-Armored HUVMEE (UAH): "The latest addition to the HMMWV is the fragmentation (FRAG) protection kit #5. The kit provides added protection to the vehicle by replacing the doors and much of the side armor."The actual kit weighs about 2,200 lbs., but the overall vehicle weight is only increased by 760 lbs. Current production Humvees are sent fully armored from the factory. FRAG 5 kits are sent to the field where install teams remove the existing doors and side armor and replace them with the new kit.

Future protection enhancements considered for Up-Armored HMMWVs include several safety improvements, enhancing crew survivability from vehicle accidents and rollovers. These enhancements range from improved seat belts, gunner's restraints, vehicle intercom systems and vehicle fire suppression system designed to mitigate the fire effects of an IED attack.

Murtha Moves to Forefront of Iraq Debate -

Murtha Moves to Forefront of Iraq Debate - "WASHINGTON -- Rep. John Murtha is quickly emerging as one of President Bush's most formidable foes in the Iraq war debate.

Many Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, match Murtha's fiery opposition to Bush's policies. But the Marine combat veteran's prowess on military matters, strong relationships with Republicans and _ most important _ control of the Pentagon's spending bills has put him at the forefront of the debate."

The Pennsylvania Democrat is leading the charge among members of his party to end the war by limiting funding. That fight, which will probably be waged next month, is expected to overshadow this week's battle over a nonbinding resolution opposing Bush's troop buildup.

Part kindly Irish Catholic grandfather and part political pit bull with two Purple Hearts in his pocket, Murtha seems the Democrats' best chance of using the budget to curtail the war without appearing to be leaving troops in the lurch.

"Many of the roads (in Congress) lead through Murtha," said Darrell West, a political science professor at Brown University. "So Bush has to deal with him."

Murtha retains clout among his Democratic colleagues, especially on defense issues, despite losing a postelection challenge to Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., to become majority leader.

Hoyer and Pelosi have tapped Murtha to address caucus meetings on the issue of the war and used him to assure the more liberal members of their base that Democrats will do everything they can to bring troops home.

So far, Democrats and Republicans alike are listening closely.

"Do most people have enormous respect for Mr. Murtha? Oh, yes," said Pelosi.

By mid-March, Murtha will offer legislation that he says would set such stringent rules on combat deployments that Bush would have no choice but to begin bringing troops home.

His legislation would dictate how long troops can stay, the equipment they use and whether any money could be spent to expand military operations into Iran. Murtha says few units could meet the high standards he envisions, meaning Bush's plan to keep some 160,000 troops in Iraq for months on end would be thwarted.

Under his plan, he says, Democrats would be helping and not hurting troops by making sure they have what they need before being thrown into combat.

"This vote will be the most important vote in changing the direction of the war," Murtha, D-Pa., told an anti-war group in an interview broadcast on the Internet Thursday.

"The president could veto it, but then he wouldn't have any money," he later said.
Murtha, 74, joined the Marine Corps during the Korean war and volunteered to return to active duty in Vietnam, where he earned his two Purple Hearts _ awards given to troops wounded or killed in action.

On Capitol Hill for 33 years, the retired Marine colonel rarely seeks the limelight, often avoiding reporters and speaking on the House floor only to debate the annual defense spending bill.

In November 2005, he stunned his colleagues by turning against the war. Three years after voting in favor of the Iraq invasion, Murtha declared in a tearful speech: "It's time to bring them home."

But it is his reputation as a defense hawk that makes him such a threat to Bush. As a staunch supporter of military spending in the past, Murtha has earned a strong alliance of Republican friends, who say they are watching to see precisely what he proposes.

"I will say it's an interesting concept," said Sen. John Warner, a leading Republican defense figure who opposes sending more troops to Iraq.

"He is a fighter," Warner, R-Va., later added. "Be he right or wrong, he is a fighter and that says a lot."

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, one of about a dozen House Republicans who announced this week they oppose Bush's Iraq strategy, said he thinks Congress should seriously consider Murtha's ideas.

"To brush these (proposals) off the table is irresponsible," said Gilchrest, R-Md.

Murtha also has his opponents.

"While Rep. Murtha is unveiling his plan to choke off funding for American troops serving in harm's way, Republicans like Rep. Sam Johnson _ a distinguished Vietnam War veteran _ are on the House floor explaining the demoralizing impact that the majority's political maneuvers will have on our men and women in uniform," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Bush this week seemed keenly aware of Murtha's political momentum. In recent days, the president shrugged off the significance of House vote expected Friday on a symbolic resolution stating opposition to his war plans. Instead, the president has focused his sights on the upcoming war supplemental.

Bush says he needs $93 billion more to continue paying for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through Sept. 30; the military is expected to run out of money by May, making passage of the bill critical.

"We have a responsibility, Republicans and Democrats have a responsibility to give our troops the resources they need to do their job and the flexibility they need to prevail," Bush said in speech Thursday.

Chairman Jack Murtha (D-PA) Briefs

Rep. Murtha Partners With MoveOn Against Troop Escalation in Iraq

Rep. Murtha Partners With MoveOn Against Troop Escalation in Iraq: "WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Congressman John Murtha will deliver a videotaped message to tens of thousands of MoveOn members across the country this Thursday night in an effort to help block President Bush's attempt to escalate his failed policy in Iraq.

The action will coincide with the viewing of the new film, 'The Ground Truth' -- a powerful documentary told through the eyes of veterans of the Iraq war. The movie reminds us that this is not just about troop numbers and dollar amounts. This is about real lives that will never be the same even if the soldiers do make it home."

Representative Murtha is a leader in stopping the escalation of a failed war in Iraq," said Tom Matzzie, Washington Director of Political Action. "We are honored that the Congressman is speaking with our members on this extremely important issue," concluded Matzzie.

After some words of inspiration from the Congressman, MoveOn members will write letters to their representatives. The letters will urge Congress to vote against the President's escalation and support a plan to responsibly redeploy troops out of harms way.

The letters will be delivered to the district offices of Congress on Thursday, February 22nd.
President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq is generating a new outpouring of opposition activities all over the country. Since the president's January 10th speech, MoveOn:

-- Held more than 500 Emergency Rallies to Oppose Escalation in Iraq. -- Ran 2 TV advertising campaigns opposing escalation in Iraq. -- Grew by almost 200,000 new members. -- Posted bus ads in the Washington DC area to remind Congress that voters are strongly opposed to escalation. -- Sent over 1 million messages to Congress as part of a virtual march in opposition to Bush's escalation. -- Launched Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, a new organization aimed at showing public opposition to Bush's escalation. -- Raised over $1.5 million since January 1. -- Held meetings with over two hundred members of Congress. -- Organized over 1,200 movie night events.

These events are held in coordination with Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI). AAEI includes the Service Employees International Union, Political Action,, Center for American Progress Action Fund, USAction, Win Without War, Campaign for America's Future, Progressive States Network, Campus Progress, TrueMajority, Working Assets and the United States Student Association. Political Action

Bush, Congress Could Face Confrontation on Issue of War Powers -

Bush, Congress Could Face Confrontation on Issue of War Powers - "...But as the debate in Congress shifts from nonbinding resolutions of disapproval for adding troops in Iraq to attaching conditions on funding for the war, a constitutional clash between the legislative and executive branches may be inevitable, say lawmakers and legal scholars with close ties to the administration."

After a vote today on a resolution condemning the new deployments to Iraq, House Democratic leaders will serve notice that they intend to attach conditions to the coming spending bill on the war that could arguably encroach on the president's constitutional powers as commander in chief to control tactics and operations.

These include riders that would prevent Bush from sending units to Iraq unless they are certified as combat-ready and that would require Army troops be given a year at home before an additional deployment to Iraq.

Democrats have described these conditions as part of a slow strategy to stop the war without cutting funding completely, which most parties agree would be legally permissible -- but politically difficult.

White House press secretary Tony Snow declined to be drawn into a discussion with reporters yesterday about whether such provisions would be "micromanaging" the war -- which some scholars think would be unconstitutional. The new White House counsel, Fred F. Fielding, is considered a pragmatist not particularly interested in new fights with Congress, but administration allies in the conservative legal world predicted that the White House would eventually chafe at such restrictions....

As Dellinger suggested, there is little question among most scholars that Congress has ample constitutional authority to shut down the war. "I am not aware of a serious dispute over whether it is constitutional for Congress to defund or otherwise terminate the war in Iraq," said Brad Berenson, who was in the White House counsel's office from 2001 to 2003. "The big debate is over whether it is wise."

Indeed, some Republicans seem to be baiting the Democrats to try to defund the war. John Yoo, a former Justice Department official who became well known for his expansive assertions of presidential authority, co-wrote a piece in the New York Times this week suggesting Congress has all the power it wants to stop the war but is engaging in "bluster" with nonbinding resolutions.

Dellinger said he is baffled by such arguments. "Although it does not become law, how can it possibly be considered meaningless for each house of the Congress to exercise the view in a formal recorded vote that a planned addition to U.S. forces is a mistake?" he said. "I think that the framers of the Constitution would be astonished that a president would proceed to increase U.S. involvement in a foreign war over the expressed objection of both houses of Congress."

Congress's next Iraq moves could open party rifts |

Congress's next Iraq moves could open party rifts "A probable move to curb funding for a 'surge' may put Democrats at odds with one another.

By Gail Russell Chaddock Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - The House debate on a nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq opened rifts in Republican ranks, as lawmakers were forced to take a tough vote on the war. "

But the next move – to curb war funding – could do the same for Democrats, if not handled with a high level of political skill.

Such a rift is what Rep. John Murtha (D) of Pennsylvania hopes to avoid, as he announced Thursday details of a strategy to use his Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to oppose a troop buildup in Iraq, without cutting funds to troops in harm's way.

"What we're saying will be very hard to find fault with," said Mr. Murtha in a webcast on the antiwar site "We're supporting the troops. We're protecting the troops. But on the other hand, we're going to stop this escalation, because this escalation is not going to work."

The interview confirmed a line of action that Murtha and House Democrats have signaled for weeks.

Instead of cutting off the funds, Murtha is proposing conditions on the use of funds that would limit the president's military options.

In mid-March, the House Appropriations Committee plans to take up Mr. Bush's $99.6 billion
supplemental war request for this fiscal year. Murtha's panel plans to complete its hearings and report to the full committee by March 14, he says. The bill would be on the floor a few days later, he adds.

Any vote that appears to undermine US forces in the field is potentially toxic for members on either side of the aisle. That's why Republicans tried – and failed – to force a recorded vote on war funding in the House this week.

On the Senate side, GOP leaders had calculated that Democrats would cave if forced to vote on war funding – a vote that would have diminished the impact of a resolution opposing the "surge." The impasse derailed a vote on either measure in the Senate.

"That's the bind the House and Senate find themselves in," says Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

"[Lawmakers] can easily support resolutions critical of the troop surge, but when they take the next step, which is to do something about the funding of the war, they venture into political quicksand, unless what they are doing is phrased in such political delicacy that it can't be interpreted as a vote against the troops," he adds.

Antiwar activists have held back as the House moved toward a nonbinding vote this week. But they are watching closely how forcefully Democrats who now control Congress follow up a resolution victory in the House.

"To debate for a week and end up with a nonbinding vote on just the escalation has people nervous," says Tom Andrews, national director of Win Without War and a former Democratic representative from Maine. People are anxious to see that this leads to real action, as soon as possible, he says.

Murtha, for one, is proposing several conditions on the use of war funding. These include requiring the military to certify that troops are "fully combat ready," with the training and equipment that they need.

He is also proposing an end to the "stop loss" program, which has forced soldiers to extend their enlistment period, and to ensure that a serviceman or servicewoman can't be sent back into battle until he or she has had a year at home.

These are "technical things," Murtha says, but they are "very harmful to the people who are serving." If Congress insists on enforcing these conditions, it means that the "the surge can't be sustained," he adds.

In the longer term, it will force the president to deploy troops outside Iraq, he says.

Reid and Pelosi Demand Adequate Armor and Equipment for Troops in Iraq

Reid and Pelosi Demand Adequate Armor and Equipment for Troops in Iraq: "WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi today sent the following letter to President Bush, urging him to take the necessary steps to ensure that the tens of thousands of soldiers being sent to escalate the war in Iraq have the armor and equipment needed to perform their mission and protect their lives. Unfortunately, reports suggest that the President is once again sending troops into Iraq without adequate supplies and support. Democrats, who join the overwhelming majority of Americans in opposing the President's escalation, believe the men and women serving bravely in Iraq should receive the equipment and support they need and deserve."

Quotes from the letter:

As Iraqi leaders bicker, the violence in Iraq continues to inflict casualties on our troops at unacceptably high rates. Equally disturbing is the fact that thousands of the new troops you are sending to Iraq as well as those already there will apparently not have the armor and equipment they need to perform the mission and reduce the likelihood of casualties."

"Mr. President, it is wrong to deploy troops to the Iraqi theater until they have the up-armored Humvees, equipment, lodging, training and other support required to carry out their mission. We hope you will work with us to make sure that they do. Our troops and their families deserve nothing less."

The full text of the letter is below. February 14, 2007 The President The White House Washington D.C., 20500 Dear Mr. President:

As you know, conditions in Iraq continue to deteriorate at a rapid pace. The brunt of the problems in Iraq stem from long-standing sectarian differences, as well as the failure of Iraqi leaders to make the compromises necessary to reach a sustainable political settlement. In such an environment, current and former senior military leaders have concluded that additional military force will not end the civil war in Iraq, it will only inflame it.

That is why we oppose your plan to deepen our military involvement in Iraq with the deployment of more than 20,000 additional troops. We regret that despite the broad bipartisan opposition to your plan in the Congress and in our nation, you have chosen to proceed with this unwise escalation. With this latest troop surge, you have delivered exactly the wrong message to the Iraqi regime, namely that our military commitment is open-ended and there will be few if any consequences for their failure to make progress toward a national political reconciliation.

As Iraqi leaders bicker, the violence in Iraq continues to inflict casualties on our troops at unacceptably high rates. Equally disturbing is the fact that thousands of the new troops you are sending to Iraq as well as those already there will apparently not have the armor and equipment they need to perform the mission and reduce the likelihood of casualties.

According to recent news reports, the Army lacks thousands of advanced armor kits for Humvees that could protect against roadside bombs, the cause of 70% of American casualties in Iraq. In addition, we understand that existing shortages of trucks and other crucial equipment such as jamming devices, radios and other gear will only be exacerbated by the troop surge. Lodging and logistical support is also reportedly in short supply for the newly deployed forces. We hope these reports are wrong, but we suspect they are not.

Mr. President, it is wrong to deploy troops to the Iraqi theater until they have the up-armored Humvees, equipment, lodging, training and other support required to carry out their mission. We hope you will work with us to make sure that they do. Our troops and their families deserve nothing less.

Thank you for your consideration of our views on this important matter. Sincerely, Harry Reid Nancy Pelosi Senate Majority Leader Speaker of the House CONTACT: Jim Manley / Rodell Mollineau, Reid, 202-224-2939 Brendan Daly / Jennifer Crider, Pelosi, 202-226-7616
Senate Democratic Communications Center

Pentagon seeks $100M to speed equipment and arms to troops "WASHINGTON — Fierce fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has forced the Pentagon to speed new weapons and equipment to troops at faster rates than ever, according to military records and officials."

The Pentagon budget proposed by President Bush adds even more money for what military leaders call "urgent need" requests. For the first time, the budget includes $100 million for a Pentagon "rapid acquisition fund" aimed at getting vital supplies to troops in the field more quickly.

Although the rapid-acquisition fund will be controlled by the Defense secretary, each branch of the military has its own pools of money to fill urgent needs. The Marine Corps, which faces some of the heaviest fighting in Iraq in Anbar province, has made 75% more urgent-need requests per month in the past six months than it did in the first 3½ years of the war.

"There is a sense of urgency here," says Len Blaisol, director of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Integration Division in Quantico, Va. "Over time, the enemy has adapted to our successful operations."

The urgent-need requests aren't necessarily for new technology. Most of the weapons or equipment already exist but weren't bought or deployed to troops in the field. When combat commanders notice a problem in the field, such as the increased use of homemade bombs, they send the urgent requests through their chain of command or to a special Pentagon office, which then decides whether to buy the material or not.

Many of the requests reflect the increased intensity of the Iraq insurgency. Others stem from threats that were not anticipated before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, such as homemade bombs called improvised explosive devices (IEDs). They include:

New vehicles to withstand IEDs and insurgent ambushes. The Marines have awarded contracts for prototypes of "Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles" that feature V-shaped hulls to disperse the force of blasts from under the vehicles. The Marines are leading tests for the vehicles, which could be used by all services. After choosing the model it wants, the Pentagon hopes to have 4,100 in combat by year's end.

•Advances in first aid. IED attacks have prompted urgent-need requests that have resulted in improved bandages, artificial blood-clotting agents and a new blanket to keep injured troops from going into shock, Blaisol says.

•Improved rifle scopes. New scopes allow Marines to kill enemies from farther away and in less light than before, says Scott Allen, a Marine Corps acquisition official in Quantico. "Insurgents think we've got a whole lot of snipers out there," Allen said. "Marines can see much better, hit them from a greater distance."

In recent weeks, the Navy has also made urgent orders for more radios, the Army for flame-resistant uniforms and the Air Force for more Global Positioning System devices for its aircraft, Pentagon purchasing records show.

Although Congress first gave the Pentagon rapid-acquisition authority in 2004, the Pentagon didn't use it enough, according to a May 2005 House Armed Services Committee report. That report also said former Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld "failed to provide sufficient resources and authority" to the Pentagon's rapid-acquisition programs.

Now, however, the Pentagon is acting more quickly, said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.

"People think that industry has moved too slowly," Thompson says. "This shows that may not necessarily be the case."

[bth: Rumsfeld had this authority for several years and didn't use it. Criminal negligence really. Industry has always in every case been able to meet or exceed procurement requests. That blood clotting bandages ($20 ea) similar items would still be in short supply is criminal. Its about procurement, note production! Same thing with the vehicles and the armor. Pure criminal negligence]

Iraq Troop Boost Erodes Readiness, General Says

Iraq Troop Boost Erodes Readiness, General Says - "Outgoing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said yesterday that the increase of 17,500 Army combat troops in Iraq represents only the 'tip of the iceberg' and will potentially require thousands of additional support troops and trainers, as well as equipment -- further eroding the Army's readiness to respond to other world contingencies.

Although final decisions on deployments have not been made, Schoomaker said, U.S. commanders in Iraq have requested an additional 2,500 soldiers to serve as embedded trainers for Iraqi forces, and 5,000 to 6,000 additional soldiers could be needed to provide logistical and other support to the five Army combat brigades flowing into Baghdad."

"We are having to go to some extraordinary measures to ensure we can respond," he said, but he added that even then he could not guarantee the combat units would receive all the translators, civil affairs soldiers and other support troops they request. "We are continuing today to get requests for forces that continue to stress us."

Schoomaker, in one of his last congressional testimonies as Army chief, also made it clear that he had raised concerns in advance about President Bush's plan to increase troops in Iraq because it would further deplete Army units at home....

Virtually all of the U.S.-based Army combat brigades are rated as unready to deploy, Army officials say, and to meet the immediate needs in Iraq and Afghanistan they are finding it necessary to transfer personnel and gear to those units now first in line to deploy.

"I am not satisfied with the readiness of our non-deployed forces," Schoomaker told the Senate Armed Services Committee, noting that the increased demands in Iraq and Afghanistan "aggravate that" and increase his concern. "We are in a dangerous period," said Schoomaker, adding that he recently met with his Chinese counterpart, who made it clear that China is scrutinizing U.S. capabilities.

The Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James T. Conway, said in the same hearing that his chief concern is that Marines are not training for other types of conflicts beyond the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan -- such as conventional ground wars. "My largest concern has to do with training," he said. "We're not doing amphibious training, we're not doing mountain training," as well as some large-scale exercises, he said.

About 40 percent of Army and Marine Corps equipment is now in Iraq or Afghanistan or undergoing repair or maintenance. To outfit the additional forces for Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is drawing gear from prepositioned stocks of armored Humvees, tanks and other major equipment that would not then be available for another conflict, Conway said.

Schoomaker stressed the ongoing need for funding to repair, replace and upgrade Army equipment, criticizing funding shortfalls in 2005 and 2006 that forced layoffs and slowdowns in production at Army repair depots.

Even if the United States were to carry out a significant troop reduction in Iraq, Schoomaker said he would advise going ahead with the Army's plan for a permanent increase of 65,000 active-duty soldiers by 2013. "The Army's too small for the century we're in," he said.

[bth: there are over 10,000 pieces of equipment in repair depots that were not funded or fixed. The 40% figure cited above is astounding given that the wear rate is seven times normal there. Our entire land fleet is going to need to be replaced as a result of this conflict.]

Iraq debate shows separate problems for GOP, Democrats "...Both were cool to Rep. John Murtha's proposal to require soldiers to receive more time at home between deployments and more training before being shipped out. The Marine combat veteran's plan — outlined in a Thursday fundraising webcast for the liberal group — would choke off the president's supply of soldiers.

'The answer is no,' Reid said when asked whether there are any legally binding measures he's prepared to support.

Pelosi was non-committal. 'What he's doing is putting out ideas,' she said of Murtha. 'Until you see his proposals in writing, nobody can tell what the level of support is.'

Iraq presents Republicans and Democrats with different political problems. For Republicans, the question is how far to go in backing a policy that is losing public support. The prospect of a Friday House vote on the president's policy set off another round of skirmishing in the Senate, which delayed its week-long President's Day recess after some Republicans pressed for an end to the procedural logjam that has prevented an Iraq debate there.

'The Senate is in real danger of becoming irrelevant,' said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. "....

Most Americans Say U.S. Should Withdraw From Iraq, Poll Finds Worldwide: "Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Public support for the war in Iraq declined, with an increasing number of Americas saying the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. "

A majority of Americans -- 53 percent -- said the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq, according to Pew.

That is up 5 points in the past month and the highest percentage favoring a troop pullout since the war began almost four years ago. Thirty-five percent said the withdrawal should be gradual over the next year or two, and 16 percent said it should be immediate.

President George W. Bush is pressing ahead with a plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq to help quell sectarian violence. The House of Representatives is debating a resolution that disapproves of Bush's strategy and a vote is planned for tomorrow. The measure has the support of most Democrats, who have a majority in the chamber, and some Republicans.

Confidence in a successful outcome in Iraq, which remained high last year even as violence began escalating, also has dropped in the Feb. 7-11 Pew survey. The public is now evenly divided over whether the U.S. is likely to achieve its goals in Iraq: 47 percent said it will definitely or probably succeed, and 46 percent disagreed. Three months ago, 53 percent saw success as at least probable and 41 percent disagreed.

Two-thirds of Americans, or 67 percent, said things aren't going well with the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and 68 percent said the U.S. is losing ground in preventing a civil war.

Independent Swing

In recent Pew surveys on this topic, voters who identified themselves as independent split evenly over whether to bring the troops home. In January, 47 percent of independents favored a troop withdrawal, while 49 percent said the troops should remain in Iraq until the situation there stabilized.

In the current survey, 55 percent of independents said they favored bringing the troops home as soon as possible, compared with 40 percent who said the troops should remain.

The poll also found that public perceptions of the threat posed by Iran didn't increase in the past year. A quarter of Americans said Iran is the country that represents the ``greatest danger'' to the U.S. -- a figure little changed since last February, when 27 percent said that.

Nineteen percent cited Iraq as the top threat, 17 percent named North Korea and 14 percent said China.

On another issue, 64 percent said the country is ``losing ground'' on the federal budget deficit. Bush last week said he was on track to erase the federal budget deficit by 2012. While there was a slight improvement in the public's assessment of the economy in December, this month's poll shows a reversal of that trend.

Thirty-one percent in the new poll said economic conditions are excellent or good, down from 38 percent in December. Bush's job approval rating was 33 percent, virtually unchanged from last month.

Pew polled 1,509 adults nationwide for the survey, which has a 3 percentage-point error margin.
To contact the reporter on this story: Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington at

IraqSlogger: It's "Bull" That You Would Send Your Son To War

IraqSlogger: It's "Bull" That You Would Send Your Son To War: "A friend stopped by this weekend with a nice bottle of wine, a Cakebread chardonnay. He wanted to talk about the war, he always does. He is just a little too young to have been drafted during Vietnam. But he remembers the neighborhood kid who was drafted and the family friends who went to Vietnam. He also watches a lot of war movies so he knows a lot about war."

As I enjoy the nice glass of wine, he tells me what life is like for my son in Iraq. I listen as he babbles on and on, describing what my son is going through in the foxholes.

I wonder if I should tell him about my son's last mission. My son said, "Basically we sat there pulling security on the surrounding village and waited them out. You see, we have a very good support system that allows us to be resupplied with fuel, food, and water and we also have very warm Humvees, while the insurgents were hiding in very cold and muddy holes that they dug into the canals to hide from us."
Of course, this is not as dramatic as the last war movie my friend had watched.

Most of the time war is boring. When heroic moments come they are rarely dramatic like the movies, they are just messy. When an IED goes off and kills your friend, there is no one to shoot at. The insurgent who planted it is long gone, hiding at some safe distance watching his handiwork. You are angry and there is nothing you can do except pick up the pieces of your friend, so they have something to send home to his parents. But of course this isn't what my friend wants to hear. So I tell him about my son's last mission, trying to make it a little more exciting than it was. It was a successful mission; they did clear the village with as little destruction as possible to the village.

My friend has a son, just a year younger than my son. His son is not in the military. His son has a good job, a wife, and a child. They just brought their first home. When he calls his father, he wonders if he should divorce his wife. Since she had the baby two years ago, she doesn't keep house quite as nice as he would like. As my friend pours me a second glass of wine, he assures me that his son would serve in the military if his country needed him.

I look at the wine, I want to enjoy it, so I keep quiet and don't tell him that is a bunch of bull. His country does need his son now. The military is having trouble meeting enlistment goals. They have had to increase entitlements and lower enlistment standards to meet the needs of the military for new soldiers.

Our country does need bright, intelligent, strong young men to serve. The only way his son is going to Iraq is if there is a draft. Even then, I suspect his dad would do what ever he could to get his son a deferment.

Don't get me wrong. These are good Americans. My friend has asked me several times about how to send a care package to the troops--although I don't think he has actually ever sent one. But he does have a magnetic "support the troops" ribbon on his SUV. I know this weekend when he opens another bottle of wine, and sits down to watch a WWII movie he will be thinking about my son and the troops in Iraq.

Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the mother of a soldier, Democratic Party Editor Editor of, and a freelance writer. She can be reached at

The Blotter Pakistan Braces for Another Attack

The Blotter: "Amid intelligence reports that terrorists were planning a third strike on the Pakistani capital today, anti-terrorist police were posted on street corners, and traffic cops searched vehicles that headed down roads leading to government offices and the heavily-fortified diplomatic enclave. "

In two earlier strikes this year, a suicide bomber detonated himself outside Islamabad's Marriott Hotel on Jan. 26, and another attacker, identified by Pakistani authorities as an Islamic cleric from central Pakistan, was killed Feb. 6 by security guards when he tried to hurl a grenade at Islamabad's airport.

Officials say thousands of extra police have since been brought in from neighboring provinces to set up checkpoints around the city.

The attacks in the normally quiet Pakistani capital are believed to be retaliation for a January air strike in South Waziristan that obliterated a terrorist hideout, killing dozens of Taliban and al Qaeda supporters.
Pakistani officials have told diplomats that they believe a dozen or so attackers were dispatched to the capital to carry out attacks. All but four have been captured or killed

The Blotter New Al Qaeda Leader Is U.S. Prison Escapee

The Blotter: "An al Qaeda figure who escaped from a U.S. military prison 18 months ago has re-emerged as a field commander leading attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, ABC News has learned."

Abu Yahya al Libi was one of four al Qaeda figures who escaped from the prison at the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan in July 2005.

An al Qaeda propaganda tape posted on the Internet this week identifies him as sheikh, a commander of an al Qaeda unit operating in Afghanistan.

Watch excerpts from the al Qaeda propaganda video.

"It is a double embarrassment that he has now come back as one of the field commanders," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism director.

The re-emergence of the al Qaeda escapee comes as al Qaeda itself is reforming and re-establishing bases in the mountainous border region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

President Bush today implicitly conceded the terror group was making a comeback, planning a spring offensive against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

"We can expect fierce fighting to continue," the President said in a speech today. "Our strategy is not to be on the defense but to go on the offense. This spring there is going to be a new offensive in Afghanistan, and it's going to be a NATO offensive."

U.S. officials worry not only about the destabilization of Afghanistan but about the ability of al Qaeda to plan new attacks in the U.S. and Europe.

"There are indications that from that central al Qaeda headquarters inside Pakistan on the Afghan border, orders are going to cells in places like the United Kingdom," said ABC News consultant Clarke.

"So once again, al Qaeda central has a headquarters, and through covert means, through couriers, it is communicating its intentions, its orders to cells around the world," Clarke said.

IraqSlogger: Biden Plans Effort to Rescind Force Authorization

IraqSlogger: Biden Plans Effort to Rescind Force Authorization: "Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) is upping the ante of an Iraq discourse that has already engendered much bitterness between the parties.
At a Brookings Institute event today, Biden announced, 'The 2002 (Use of Force) authorization is no longer relevant to the situation in Iraq. I am working on legislation to repeal that authorization and replace it with a much narrower mission statement for our troops in Iraq.'

This professed effort has no chance of achieving its stated cause, but the timing of such a bold statement must be taken into consideration to determine its true intent."...

Here's a lengthier excerpt of Biden's prepared comments, with the complete transcript available on Brookings' site.

"The House is about to pronounce itself on the President’s surge plan for Iraq and the Senate will, too. Some minimize the significance of a non-binding resolution. If it is so meaningless, why did the White House and the President’s political supporters mobilize so much energy against it? Opposing the surge is only a first step. We need a radical change in course in Iraq. If the President won’t act, Congress will. But Congress must act responsibly. We must resist the temptation to push for changes that sound good but produce bad results. The best next step is to revisit the authorization Congress granted the President in 2002 to use force in Iraq. That’s exactly what I’m doing. We gave the President that power to destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and, if necessary, to depose Saddam Hussein. The WMD were not there. Saddam Hussein is no longer there. The 2002 authorization is no longer relevant to the situation in Iraq. I am working on legislation to repeal that authorization and replace it with a much narrower mission statement for our troops in Iraq. Congress should make clear what the mission of our troops is: to responsibly draw down, while continuing to combat terrorists, train Iraqis and respond to emergencies. We should make equally clear what their mission is not: to stay in Iraq indefinitely and get mired in a savage civil war."

Pak-backed outfits raising millions for strikes against India

Pak-backed outfits raising millions for strikes against India: NSA-India-NEWS-The Times of India: "NEW DELHI: Terror groups operating with the support of Pakistan have resorted to carefully charted manipulation of Indian stock exchanges through ghost companies to raise millions of dollars for planning and carrying out strikes against India"

The operation allows jehadi outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and Al-Badr to tap funds through an ostensibly legitimate route. The companies, which often exist only on paper with addresses in the Middle East, are fronts for Pakistani agencies.

The stunning disclosure, which marks the evolution of anti-India terrorism into a well-choreographed, sophisticated operation and points to the resolve to sustain the campaign against India, has come from national security adviser M K Narayanan.

Speaking at a conference on international security at Munich last week, Narayanan said: "Isolated instances of terrorist outfits manipulating the stock exchanges have been reported... stock exchanges in Mumbai and Chennai have, on occasion, reported that fictitious or notional companies were engaging in stock market operations."

Narayanan also spoke of a conspiracy by "official agencies" in Pakistan, a euphemism for ISI, for the plot to carry out "economic subversion".

He gave his audience - an influential gathering of heads of governments, foreign ministers and other dignitaries - a detailed view of the unconventional threat posed by terrorists raising funds within India to strike against the country.

He outlined the complex mix of funding routes - through stock exchanges, banking channels, ordinary ATM withdrawals and hawala trails as well as operation of legitimate businesses like hotels and transport - used by modern terrorists to sustain and launch their operations.

The challenge, he said, lay in forging cooperation between governments to choke terror funding.

This is the first time that the national security adviser, who had previously disclosed a jehadi plot against India's atomic facilities, has revealed that stock exchange operations were being used to fund terror.

Counterterrorism Blog: Al-Qaeda Affiliate Urges New Attacks on Oil Facilities

Counterterrorism Blog: Al-Qaeda Affiliate Urges New Attacks on Oil Facilities: "The Associated Press reported yesterday that in the online magazine Sawt al-Jihad (Voice of the Jihad), the terrorist faction Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called for attacks on oil facilities throughout the world. The terrorist group included Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela in the list of targeted countries:"

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said in its monthly magazine posted on an Islamic Web site that "cutting oil supplies to the United States, or at least curtailing it, would contribute to the ending of the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan." The group said it was making the statements as part of Usama bin Laden's declared policy.

Al-Qaeda's position on attacks on oil installations has been developing for some time. When Osama bin Laden declared war against the West in 1996, he stated that the oil wealth in Muslim countries was off limits as a military target because he viewed it as a critical resource of the coming caliphate: "I would like here to alert my brothers, the Mujahideen, the sons of the nation, to protect this [oil] wealth and not to include it in the battle as it is a great Islamic wealth and a large economical power essential for the soon to be established Islamic state, by Allah's Permission and Grace." But as bin Laden came to see crippling the U.S. economy as critical to the defeat of the West, his thinking evolved. In the video that bin Laden dramatically released just before the 2004 election, he trumpeted his "bleed-until-bankruptcy plan" for defeating America. Later that year, in December 2004, bin Laden for the first time called for attacks on oil facilities as an outcropping of the "bleed-until-bankruptcy" strategy:

One of the main causes for our enemies' gaining hegemony over our country is their stealing our oil; therefore, you should make every effort in your power to stop the greatest theft in history of the natural resources of both present and future generations, which is being carried out through collaboration between foreigners and [native] agents. . . . Focus your operations on it [oil production], especially in Iraq and the Gulf area, since this [lack of oil] will cause them to die off [on their own].

For more on the evolution of al-Qaeda's strategy to attack oil facilities, see my October 2005 Daily Standard article, "Al Qaeda's Oil Weapon." And in late November, I documented on this blog the general trend of increased terrorist attacks against oil facilities.

Overall, al-Qaeda and its affiliates are correct that a stable supply of oil is critical to the U.S. economy, and to U.S. war efforts. Thus, much hinges on the oil-producing states' ability to safeguard their production. A late 2005 report in Newsweek outlines a possible "nightmare scenario" for oil prices, noting former CIA agent Robert Baer's belief that "a concerted attack at several points" of production in Saudi Arabia could "push[ ] oil prices up from their current prices in the range of $60 to $70 a barrel to well over $100 for weeks or even months."

[bth: I think there is more here than the author suggests. First, besides blowing up a couple of guard houses and shooting some expat engineers, there have been no al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia or in the gulf while Iraq has been virtually crippled. Why? Well its extortion. OBL and al Qaeda are extorting payoffs from the Saudi families and other rich arabs in the region. A couple of years ago when a movie house was blown up in, if I recall the UAE, it was about resetting the payoff rate according to local news sources. Second, these al Qaeda statements often show up when oil prices fall. Why? Well first off its about bilking the US for cash just like the man says, but moreover its about protecting the private donation source he depends on - incremental disposable income for rich Saudi families willing to make 'private charitable donations'. Third, its like this. An oil futures speculator who knows an announcement like this, and more importantly a terrorist attack on oil facilities in advance, with certainty has a tremendous trading advantage and could virtually guarantee himself multi-millions in sure gains on the commodities markets. Get tipped off. Buy oil futures. Terrorist attack. Sell oil futures for big gain - buy low, sell high, and give al Qaeda a cut for their troubles.]

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Congressman Murtha Crafts Bill to Prevent Iraq Troop Deployments - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum - Congressman Murtha Crafts Bill to Prevent Iraq Troop Deployments - Politics Republican Party Democratic Party Political Spectrum: "WASHINGTON — A powerful Democrat and Iraq war foe said he intends to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would effectively end President Bush's plans to send 21,500 more troops into Iraq by setting limits on which troops can be sent."

Using an unusual medium — a recorded interview posted on the Internet — Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said his bill would prevent troops from being sent back to Iraq too soon or too poorly equipped. Troops being sent back to Iraq for another tour would have to stay in the United States at least one year before being redeployed. The bill would also end "stop-loss" policies by preventing the president from retaining troops in Iraq after their enlistments expire.

Murtha, who is chairman of the defense subcommittee to the House Appropriations Committee, said he is formulating legislation with teeth because he doesn't think Bush's plan to send more troops to Baghdad and al Anbar province would accomplish the goals of bringing peace to the country or returning troops home sooner.

The Bush administration "won't be able to continue. They won't be able to do the deployment. They won't have the equipment. They don't have the training and they won't be able to do the work," Murtha said in the post on the Democrat-friendly Web site "This vote will limit the options of the president and should stop this surge."...

[bth: the congressional battlelines are being drawn. The republicans are trying to force the democrats to cut funding and Murtha just outsmarted the Administration with this move. Go Jack! Go]

Pelosi: Bush Lacks Authority to Invade

My Way News - Pelosi: Bush Lacks Authority to Invade: "WASHINGTON (AP) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that President Bush lacks the authority to invade Iran without specific approval from Congress, a fresh challenge to the commander in chief on the eve of a symbolic vote critical of his troop buildup in Iraq."...

[bth: Pelosi and Murtha are laying down the parameters]

al-Qaida in Iraq Leader Wounded

My Way News - al-Qaida in Iraq Leader Wounded: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq was wounded and an aide was killed in a clash Thursday with Iraqi forces north of Baghdad, the Interior Ministry spokesman said."

The clash occurred near Balad, a major U.S. base about 50 miles north of the capital, Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said.

Khalaf said al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri was wounded and his aide, identified as Abu Abdullah al-Majemaai, was killed.

Khalaf declined to say how Iraqi forces knew al-Masri had been injured, and there was no report on the incident from U.S. authorities.

Deputy Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Hussein Ali Kamal said he had no information about such a clash or that al-Masri had been involved.

Al-Masri took over the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq after its charismatic leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike last June in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.

[bth: interesting if true. How do we know?]

Ex-aide says Rice misled U.S. Congress on Iran

Ex-aide says Rice misled U.S. Congress on Iran - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice misled the U.S. Congress when she said last week that she had not seen a 2003 Iranian proposal for talks with the United States, a former senior government official said on Wednesday.

"Flynt Leverett, who worked on the National Security Council when it was headed by Rice, likened the proposal to the 1972 U.S. opening to China. He said he was confident it was seen by Rice and then-Secretary of State

Colin Powell' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Colin Powell but "the administration rejected the overture."

Speaking at a conference on Capitol Hill, Leverett said "this was a serious proposal, a serious effort" by
Iran' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Iran to lay out a comprehensive agenda for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement.

"The Bush administration up to and including Secretary Rice is misleading Congress and the American public about the Iran proposal," he said.

Testifying before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee last week, Rice told lawmakers who asked about Leverett's previous public comments and writings on the Iranian proposal: "I don't know what Flynt Leverett's talking about."

She faulted him for not telling her, "We have a proposal from Iran and we really ought to take it."...

A Prewar Slide Show Cast Iraq in Rosy Hues - New York Times

A Prewar Slide Show Cast Iraq in Rosy Hues - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 — When Gen. Tommy R. Franks and his top officers gathered in August 2002 to review an invasion plan for Iraq, it reflected a decidedly upbeat vision of what the country would look like four years after Saddam Hussein was ousted from power. "

A broadly representative Iraqi government would be in place. The Iraqi Army would be working to keep the peace. And the United States would have as few as 5,000 troops in the country.

Military slides obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act outline the command’s PowerPoint projection of the stable, pro-American and democratic Iraq that was to be.

The general optimism and some details of General Franks’s planning session have been disclosed in the copious postwar literature. But the slides from the once classified briefing provide a firsthand look at how far the violent reality of Iraq today has deviated from assumptions that once laid the basis for an exercise in pre-emptive war.

The archive, an independent research institute at George Washington University, has posted the slides on its Web site, ...

[bth: this was all about minimizing the expected cost of the war in men and money.]

Not Supporting Our Troops - New York Times

Not Supporting Our Troops - New York Times: "How do you explain to the thousands of American troops now being poured into Baghdad that they will have to wait until the summer for the protective armor that could easily mean the difference between life and death?"

It’s bad enough that these soldiers are being asked to risk their lives without President Bush demanding that Iraq’s leaders take any political risks that might give the military mission at least an outside chance of success. But according to an article in The Washington Post this week, at least some of the troops will be sent out in Humvees not yet equipped with FRAG Kit 5 armor. That’s an advanced version designed to reduce deaths from roadside bombs, which now account for about 70 percent of United States casualties in Iraq.

The more flexible materials used in the FRAG Kit 5 make it particularly helpful in containing the damage done by the especially deadly weapon the Bush administration is now most concerned about: those explosively formed penetrators that Washington accuses Iran of supplying to Shiite militias for use against American troops.

Older versions of Humvee armor are shattered by these penetrators, showering additional shrapnel in the direction of a Humvee’s occupants. The FRAG Kit 5 helps slow the incoming projectile and contains some of the shrapnel, giving the soldiers a better chance of survival.

Armor upgrades like this have become a feature of the Iraq war, as the Pentagon struggles to keep up with the constantly more powerful weapons and sophisticated tactics of the various militia and insurgent forces attacking American troops. But the Army, the National Guard and the Marine Corps have been caught constantly behind the curve.

Unglamorous and relatively inexpensive staples of ground combat, like armor, have never really captured the imagination and attention of military contractors and Pentagon budget-makers the way that “Top Gun” fighter jets, stealthy warships and “Star Wars” missile interceptors generally do.

The Army says it is now accelerating its production of FRAG Kit 5 armor and handing it out to Baghdad-bound units on a priority basis. But it acknowledges that the armor upgrading project will not be completed until summer. Right now, it’s February, and the new American drive in Baghdad has already begun.

That’s a shame, if not an outright scandal, because up-to-date armor is essential for saving American lives.
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