Saturday, May 05, 2007

Disturbing Trends in Enlisted to Commissioned Officers’ Fatality Ratios in Iraq

Disturbing Trends in Enlisted to Commissioned Officers’ Fatality Ratios in Iraq
Analytical Rebuttal Updated May 5, 2007


In the discussion “Officer Disputes Minstrel Boy Figures” posted on www.sftt.org he says that my figures are incorrect based on his use of 2007 calendar data.

In fact I used the six time periods of the war as identified by http://www.icasualties.org/ in its Fatality Details database (sorted by country=US) not calendar years as the officer used. The last period, No. 6, began Feb. 1, 2007 identified as “The Surge or Troop Escalation Through May 4, 2007”.



Looking at Period 6, “The Surge or Troop Escalation Through May 4, 2007, there were 278 US fatalities in Iraq of which 3 are not yet identified leaving us with 275 to calculate from. Of those, 17 were commissioned officers (9 1st lieutenants, 6 captains, 1 commander and 1 lieutenant commander). Thus we can calculate as of May 5, 2007 a percentage of the total of 6.2% and a ratio of 15.2:1 commissioned officers killed to all others (258:17).

This ratio of commissioned to non-commissioned officers reported as fatalities in Period 6 stands in stark contrast to any other period of the war and is consistent with a declining level of commissioned officer fatalities to the whole as the Iraq war has progressed. The average for the Iraq war has been 11:1 or 8.3% of total US fatalities.

Now let’s look at the calendar year 2007, which blurs phases of the war but was used by the officer in his analysis. The total US military fatalities are 361 of whom 3 are not yet identified, NOT 264 as the officer calculated. The number of commissioned officer fatalities was 28. Thus for 2007, 361-3=358 total of whom 28 were commissioned officers and 330 were otherwise. Thus commissioned officers were 7.8% of total fatalities in 2007 or 11.8:1 – pretty consistent with recent years because of significant helicopter fatalities in January, and then when Phase 6 begins in February the ratio plummets.


This makes one suspect that the tactics used in Phase 6 “The Surge” are causing the shift in the ratio.

Now let’s compare this with Period 1 as defined by http://www.icasualties.com/ as March 20, 2003 through May 1, 2003 when the President declared the end of major hostilities. During this period there were 140 US military fatalities of which 22 were commissioned officers (2 1st Lt., 3 2nd Lt., 10 Captains, 1 Commander, 1 Lt. Commander and 4 Majors). Period 1 showed commissioned fatalities at 15.7% of the total and the ratio of commissioned to other was 5.36:1 (118:22).


One might also note that daily fatalities in Period 6 are now 3.12 compared to a war average of 2.41 and second only to the opening days of the war (4.02 per day).

Why are Phase 6 fatalities per day up generally -- exceeded only by the opening phase of the war -- while commissioned fatalities are down hard 15.2:1 relative to enlisted and especially compared to 5.36:1 in Period 1 or the war average 11:1 in general?

I would welcome fact based analysis.

As Funding Increases, Afghan Forces Range From Ragtag to Ready

As Funding Increases, Afghan Forces Range From Ragtag to Ready - New York Times: "KABUL, Afghanistan — Faizal Karim, a sophomore at the National Military Academy here, stood outside a classroom holding his English-language homework assignment. For a group of cadets nearby, a lecture in physics was ending. KABUL, Afghanistan — Faizal Karim, a sophomore at the National Military Academy here, stood outside a classroom holding his English-language homework assignment. For a group of cadets nearby, a lecture in physics was ending. "

Bright-eyed, articulate and in a four-year course modeled after the United States Military Academy at West Point, Mr. Karim is a hopeful face in Afghanistan’s nascent national security forces. He is 21 and rejects the Taliban. “I want to serve my country’s people,” he said, speaking in confident English.

But several days before, an altogether different side of Afghanistan’s security forces was evident when a Dutch and Afghan patrol visited a police compound in Oruzgan Province. The police officers there were cultivating poppy within the compound’s walls, openly participating in the heroin trade. The Afghan Army squad that visited them, itself only partly equipped, did nothing.

These wildly contrasting glimpses of Afghanistan’s security forces illustrate the mix of achievements and frustrations that have accompanied international efforts to create a capable Afghan Army and a police force after decades of disorder and war. They also underscore the urgency behind the renewed push to recruit and train these units, which is now under way with an influx of equipment and training approved by the Bush administration last year.

Yet, even after several years of efforts to create new army and police units, it remains difficult to fully assess their readiness. Some units, especially in the army, are motivated and much better equipped than any Afghan forces were five years ago. Others, especially in the police, remain visibly ragtag, underequipped, disorganized, of uncertain loyalty and with links to organized drug rings.

American officials say it will take at least a few years before most of the Afghan forces become more ready and reliable, and perhaps a decade before they are capable of independent operations. But they also say that the resources and plans are now in place to make such ambitions possible.

These ambitions are important because American military officials say a principal element of any Western exit strategy from Afghanistan will be to create competent national security forces. Such forces are regarded as necessary to contain, and eventually defeat, the Taliban insurgency that expanded in 2006, and to provide stability in regions where the government’s influence remains weak.

To this end, the United States plans to spend $3.4 billion this fiscal year on army and police units here, according to the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, the American-led military unit that supervises the development of the security forces.

Defense officials hope to spend an additional $5.9 billion during the next fiscal year. Plans call for indigenous forces to grow to 132,000 soldiers and police officers, or even as many 152,000, from about 100,000 that exist on paper now, and to equip them with helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and armored vehicles, as well as small arms from NATO.

Signs of new programs are apparent within the capital and out. The first armored vehicles have begun to arrive. At the military academy, where Mr. Karim studies, an engineering laboratory was recently built, and construction is visible on dormitories, an infirmary, a dining center, a gymnasium and more.

But several Western officers cautioned that it would take at least three years before the equipment and training were in place, and that much must be done to improve units, which in many cases remain ill led or corrupt, both in the traditional manner of shaking down citizens and in the now pervasive poppy trade, which undermines rule of law.

There are questions as well about whether Afghanistan’s government can afford to maintain the larger and more heavily equipped forces that it is soon to receive, and whether increases in security spending are out of proportion with efforts to rebuild the country’s civilian infrastructure, another component of counterinsurgency planning.

For now, however, military officials and outside analysts say the immediate steps are necessary.

“Regardless of what happens in Afghanistan, the security forces need to be beefed up,” said Steven Ross, a research consultant for the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It was highly underinvested in the first years after 2001, and almost everyone sees the money coming in from the big supplemental as a positive.”

As the money flow quickens, the various army and police forces on the ground display a widely varying range of skills and abilities. For example, during a week of foot and vehicle patrols in Oruzgan Province, the Afghan Army captain who led the patrols, a 25-year veteran of wars against the Soviet Union and the Taliban, was seasoned, decisive and skilled. But the 12-man unit he led lacked any visible sergeants. The captain led all the soldiers himself, giving directions to each man.

In a Western unit, several noncommissioned officers would be leading small teams within a unit of similar size. Afghan and American officers said the absence of this core of enlisted leadership had stemmed from high rates of illiteracy and the enduring influence of the Soviet Union’s training of its own Afghan proxies, which emphasized centralized leadership.

The squad’s equipment was also uneven. The soldiers wore Kevlar helmets and fragmentation vests, which proved their value in an ambush when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near two soldiers, who were wounded only slightly. But on the same foot patrol, an Afghan soldier left the base with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher without a sight, which drastically reduced his accuracy when he came under fire.

Other equipment shortages were evident days later on a mounted patrol, when the squad’s trucks were equipped with frames for machine guns, but did not have mounts so the weapons could be attached. The guns were lashed onto the trucks with twine, limiting their range and mobility.

The police units in the province were in worse shape, and more poorly led. At many remote posts few officers were on duty, and officers wore civilian clothes, not uniforms.

Many posts also have separate tribal allegiances, and do not cooperate tactically, Western military officials said. “They just have their own islands, and protect their families, and protect their villages, and that is it,” said a Dutch officer, Captain Ninke. (Dutch military rules allow most deployed soldiers to be identified only by rank and first name.)

The Dutch were also trying to encourage the local police to act against a group of Taliban who had stolen a police truck. Two local chiefs, Abdul Karim and Sadiq, said their general had told them that whoever captured the truck could keep it, so they were trying to steal the truck back, rather than kill the Taliban driving it.

“Do you know how hard it is to capture a truck from the Taliban without damaging it?” Sadiq said.
Poppy cultivation was also widespread at, or near, the police posts. At best, the police were tolerating the trade, the Dutch said. At worst, they were part of it. American officials said, however, that more experience and training could turn many problems around.

Maj. Gen. Robert E. Durbin, who leads the American effort to reform Afghanistan’s security forces, acknowledged in an interview that poppy production was widespread. But he said that Afghan Army units, which have been working with American forces for several years, were much less involved in it than were the police. With more training, he said, the police involvement in the drug trade should decline.

“If we can do it for the army, we can do it for the police,” he said.

[bth: hard to believe that after 6 years we are still having this discussion and so little progress has actually been made.]

Army Gen. Abrams: Deeds Not Words

"Effective now, the overall public affairs policy of this command will be to let results speak for themselves. We will not deal in propaganda exercises in any way, but will play all of our activities at a low key . . . achievements, not hopes, will be stressed."

Army Gen. Creighton Abrams, in 1968, as reported by Lewis Sorley

[bth: look how far the current military structure has drifted from this statement.]
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KENNEDY URGES ARMY TO RECONSIDER BAN ON MILITARY BLOGS

"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
Laura Capps/Melissa Wagoner

May 4, 2007 (202) 224-2633


KENNEDY URGES ARMY TO RECONSIDER BAN ON MILITARY BLOGS

WASHINGTON, D.C – Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy sent the following letter to the Acting Secretary of the Army Peter Geren urging him to reconsider the recent ban on military blogs on the Internet. The US Army has recently revised their policy on soldiers’ use of the Internet and their freedom to post on military web blogs. Below is the text of the letter that the Senator has sent to Secretary Geren in response to this policy.

A PDF version is available upon request.

May 4, 2007
The Honorable Peter GerenActing Secretary of the Army
1001 Army Pentagon
Room 3E560
Washington DC 20310-0100

Dear Acting Secretary Geren:

It has come to my attention that the Army has recently revised its policy on soldiers’ use of the Internet, particularly their ability to post to military web logs, commonly known as blogs. This policy, Army Regulation 530-1, requires soldiers to clear the proposed content of their messages with a superior officer.

This policy is a serious mistake that will have a chilling effect on opportunities for the public to connect personally with these brave fighting men and women. Today’s Army is comprised of educated and articulate volunteers, and these dedicated men and women have earned our trust. With proper training and education, the Army should have faith that our troops are capable of discussing topics relevant to them without disclosing classified or other sensitive information.

I was pleased to see that the author of the new policy, Major Ray Ceralde, believes there is some leeway in the policy, and that unit commanders can simply have soldiers register their blogs and then review the content for adherence to the policy.

However, the plain language of the policy does not support such leeway: it is unlikely that commanders, faced with harsh penalties such as court-martial called for by the policy, will apply such a loose reading of the policy.

As it stands, this policy will overburden immediate supervisors and OPSEC officers by requiring them to screen mundane communications. It will also prohibit soldiers from using internet chat-rooms unless the soldiers’ immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer approve each message. In today’s high tech world, such a policy doesn’t make sense.

Soldiers, their families, and the public who read blogs and use other public forums will lose valuable insights into the lives of our soldiers if the policy continues to be enforced. This loss is particularly troubling, since it comes at a time when there is a deep need for Americans to connect with their soldiers.

I fully understand that sensitive information must be safeguarded, and that our nations’ adversaries may monitor and use relevant information to their own advantage. However, I believe we can meet that challenge by educating our troops rather than silencing them. I urge you to consider a common-sense policy that trains our troops so that they can continue to communicate with their families and the public at large. I also ask you to provide a more thorough justification for the policy. What was the impetus for instituting it? Have any soldiers been charged with knowingly disseminating sensitive information though media outlets such as blogs and internet chat-rooms? What efforts has the Army made to address this issue without requiring prior approval of content? What guidelines will be used by officers who review such content?

The Army should address this issue in a way that conveys faith and confidence in our troops. The current policy indicates a troubling lack of trust and a serious failure to educate and instruct the troops.

I urge the Army to re-evaluate this decision. At a minimum, the Army should redraft the policy to reflect the interpretation offered by Major Ceralde. I look forward to hearing your response.

Sincerely, Edward M. Kennedy

###

[bth: I want to applaud Sen. Kennedy for making a statement on this ridiculous decision by the Army which will make enemies of loyal soldiers and citizens, suppress speech and knowledge among Americans, disrupt a useful flow of information between soldiers, their countrymen and those interested in their action not to mention a wanton and unnecessary waste of manpower and resources in the oversight of this directive. ... A similarly stupid decision came from Sec. Rumsfeld when he tried to ban digital cameras in 2004 as a tool for preventing Abu Ghraib scandals - as if the cameras were the root of the problem. ... Major Ceralde and the other thought police are doing this country a great disservice and only serve to further alienate American soldiers from their countrymen. Just plain stupid. Perhaps Sen. Kennedy will get some support on this effort to put some common sense back into the military's treatment of soldiers' blogs and emails.]

The Newshoggers: More EFP Nonsense

The Newshoggers: More EFP Nonsense: "By Cernig

It isn't too long ago that the New York Times was making protestations of scepticism (albeit faint) regarding US claims of Iranian complicity in EFP attacks in Iraq. It would seem that the Washington Post has no such standards, as today they printed a bit of blatant stenography with absolutely no attempt to fact-check or set the story in a context of changing claims."

In the WaPo's article, we are told that:

Attacks in Iraq involving lethal weapons that U.S. officials say are made in Iran hit a record high last month, despite efforts to crack down on networks supplying the armor-piercing weapons known as explosively formed projectiles, according to a senior U.S. commander.

At no point does the article, by staff writer Ann Scott Tyson, suggest the obvious conclusion - that either said crackdown is failing or it is aimed in entirely the wrong direction, at Iran instead of indigenous Iraqi efforts.

It continues:

The U.S. military in recent weeks captured the Iraqi leader of a network that brings the projectiles into Iraq from Iran, as well as other members of extremist cells provided with funding, training and munitions by the al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, said at a news conference in Washington last week.

Also seized were computer documents and records detailing attacks against U.S. forces, presumably kept to justify financing by the Quds Force, Petraeus said.

While the captured head of the weapons cell "certainly reports to the very top," Petraeus added, there was nothing that would "absolutely indicate" knowledge or involvement by Iran's leaders.

Followed by the obligatory "fair and balanced" single sentence noting that Iran denies all involvement in EFP manufacture or smuggling.Lets re-phrase that paragraph above, shall we?

The US military captured some people who, after aggresive interrogation (i.e. torture) confessed what their interogators wanted them to. In an entirely seperate raid, acting on information provided by a terrorist goup, the MeK, computer records were seized which recorded attacks on US forces. Purely on the say-so of the MeK, the US military decided these records were to provide justification for finace by the Quds Force.

But no-one is asking how the MeK knew those records would be there, or why anyone would be so stupid as to keep such records for such a covert operation, or even connecting the dots between this and previous MeK-provided computer evidence that turned out to be utterly made up.Then, there's this:

Iraqi fighters have been making their own versions of the weapons, but so far none has been effective against U.S. forces, Odierno said. The Iraqi-made projectiles, using brass and copper melted on stoves, have failed to fully penetrate U.S. armor and are more likely to be used against Iraqi forces, whose vehicles often have thinner armored protection than U.S. vehicles, U.S. military officials said.

"We have not seen a homemade one yet that's executed properly," Odierno said, adding that such weapons are not a major concern "as of yet."

First, the WaPo's stenographer could have noted that this statement is yet another step in the evolution of the US military's narrative on EFP's from Iran - and that at every stage the narrative only changes because independent experts point out how wrong the narrative is. Since January, we've moved from "only Iran can make these weapons" to "only Iran can make these weapons properly".

Yet every independent expert says that Iraqis have plenty of experience and equipment to make their own - and all the EFP's so far seized have been inside Iraq already, including in Iraqi manufacturies, not coming across the border.Yet the only criterion for deciding whether an EFP is Iranian or Iraqi-made applied by the US military is itself subjective - a biased guess. If it would work well, it is Iranian - if not, it's Iraqi.

There's no proof for this, they just decide that's the way it is. The latest version of the spin, that Iraqis cannot mill EFP discs correctly and must instead rely on poured discs is just plain insulting of people's intelligence.

Iraqis have a long history of oil exploration, and EFP's have a long history of being used to open the sides of wells to allow the oil to flow more freely.

The milling, once you understand the principles and equations, can be done by any precision engineering shop, of which Iraq has plenty.Oh...and stoves don't get hot enough to melt copper or brass without modification.

A standard propane stove heats to around 900 degrees farenheit. Copper melts at 1981 degrees and brass is right on the borderline at 940 degrees. Melting and casting such materials needs, at least, a requires a high-temperature firebrick foundry, a big propane torch and a graphite crucible.In other words, just more EFP nonsense.

[bth: I have every reason to think EFPs are coming from Iran including sources that I trust who have confirmed this. Also I have no reason to think EFPs produced in Iraq aren't effective. Though there may be imperfections in the copper discs or in the type or packing of the explosives there is nothing particularly difficult about making these devices and no reason any quality machine shop could not be making them in quantity in Iraq or anywhere else. ... It is interesting to see how the narrative from the US military has changed - the EFPs can only come from Iran to only the effective EFPs come from Iran as evidence of multiple Iraqi EFP production shops surfaced to discredit earlier statements. We are no longer getting truthful statements, I'm afraid.... Also as an aside, EFPs appear to be used within the Shiite community as assassination tools against passing convoys. My suggestion is that Sadr, Badr and the others are using them against each other - that's my speculation. We'll see if I'm right or not.]
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Clinton joins effort to revoke war authorization

McClatchy Washington Bureau 05/03/2007 Clinton joins effort to revoke war authorization: "WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose vote to authorize the Iraq war is a sore point with anti-war Democrats, joined an effort Thursday to revoke the authorization. "

Legislation being drafted by Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., would terminate congressional approval for the war on Oct. 11 - exactly five years after Congress cleared the way for the 2003 invasion. The war authorization gave President Bush permission to use military force against Iraq "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate."

Revoking the authorization would force Bush to return to Congress for another vote or wage war without explicit approval from lawmakers. The revocation effort opened a new line of attack against the war a day after Congress upheld the president's veto of a war-spending bill that included a timetable for withdrawal.

"If the president will not bring himself to accept reality, it is time for Congress to bring reality to him," Clinton said in a Senate speech.

The legislation's prospects are uncertain, but Clinton's support for it could help her campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Her past support for the war has drawn criticism from anti-war activists, an influential force in the Democratic Party.

Within minutes of her Senate speech, Clinton trumpeted her support for revocation on her presidential campaign Web site - www.hillaryhub.com - under the headline: "Breaking - Hillary: Deauthorize the War."

"Welcome to politics `08-style," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "What's so troubling is that these political actions, taken a day after the bipartisan leadership agreed to work with the White House on a bill to fund the troops, ignores the long-term security interests of Iraq, the Middle East region and our own country."

Clinton was one of 29 Senate Democrats who supported the 2002 war authorization. Twenty-one voted against it. She has refused to apologize for her vote, despite pressure from anti-war activists, but has expressed some regrets.

"It was a sincere vote based on the information available to me. And I've said many times that, if I knew then what I know now, I would not have voted that way," she said at an April 26 Democratic campaign debate in South Carolina.

Clinton and other advocates of revoking the war authorization contend it's no longer relevant to the situation in Iraq.

The authorization, which passed the Senate by 77-23, contains several paragraphs denouncing the regime of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. It authorizes force to defend the United States against "the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and to enforce all relevant U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

Saddam has been executed, the new Iraqi regime has declared itself a U.S. ally and the U.N. resolutions demanding Iraq's disarmament are moot.

"The October 2002 authorization to use force has run its course. It is time, past time, to decommission this authorization and retire it to the archives," Byrd said. "If the president has more that he wants to do in Iraq, then he needs to make that case to Congress and to the American public."

The legislation Byrd and Clinton suggested hasn't been written. Byrd said it might be attached to the new war-spending bill being negotiated now by White House aides and congressional leaders, or it could be attached to other defense bills later this spring.
---
Readers who wish to review the terms of the 2002 authorization to use force against Iraq can find it at:
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Waxman to Rice: Step Back

TPMmuckraker May 4, 2007 12:55 PM: "Here's the latest volley in the ongoing battle between Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."

Waxman, the chairman of the House committee on oversight, wrote to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice today to complain that State Department officials had attempted to prevent a nuclear weapons anaylst at the department from speaking with his staff. This comes after Waxman's committee issued a subpoena last week for Rice's testimony on how she dealt with claims before the war that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. Rice has said that she won't comply with the subpoena.

Waxman said that when his staff sought to meet with Simon Dodge, a nuclear weapons analyst at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, a State Department official called and objected.

According to Waxman, the official "informed Committee staff that you [Rice] were prohibiting Mr. Dodge from meeting with Committee investigators. This official claimed that allowing Mr. Dodge to speak with Committee staff would be 'inappropriate' because the Committee voted to issue a subpoena to compel your attendance at a hearing on your knowledge of the fabricated evidence."

Waxman wants to speak to Dodge because he raised alarms about the Niger evidence two weeks before President Bush cited it in his State of the Union address in 2003.

Waxman said he was giving Rice the benefit of the doubt:

I assume that your legislative staff was acting without your authorization in this matter. It would be a matter of great concern - as well as an obvious conflict of interest - if vou had directed your staff to impede a congressional investigation into matter that may implicate your conduct as National Security Advisor.

Waxman informed Rice that the committee would be interviewing Dodge next week.

And he also requested several documents from Rice "relating to the claim that Iraq sought uranium from Africa."

[bth: I think Rep. Waxman is about to make his point.]

Iraq Reimposes Freeze on Medical Diplomas In Bid to Keep Doctors From Fleeing Abroad

Iraq Reimposes Freeze on Medical Diplomas In Bid to Keep Doctors From Fleeing Abroad - washingtonpost.com: "BAGHDAD -- Iraq is hemorrhaging doctors as violence racks the nation. To stem the flow, the Iraqi government has recently taken a cue from Saddam Hussein: Medical schools are once again forbidden to issue diplomas and transcripts to new graduates."

Hussein built a fine medical system in part by withholding doctors' passports and diplomas. Although physicians can work in Iraq with a letter from a medical school verifying their graduation, they say they need certificates and transcripts to work abroad.....

Study: Anxiety, depression, acute stress in combat troops - CNN.com

Study: Anxiety, depression, acute stress in combat troops - CNN.com: "WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The latest Pentagon survey assessing the mental health of troops in Iraq found one-third of soldiers and Marines in high levels of combat report anxiety, depression and acute stress."

The survey also dealt with ethical attitudes on the battlefield.

A key finding was that more than a third of soldiers and Marines reported that torture should be allowed to save the life of a comrade.

Fewer than half of the U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq would report a comrade for unethical behavior, according to the results of the survey by the Defense Department's Mental Health Advisory Team.

The survey of more than 1,300 soldiers and nearly 450 Marines was conducted last year. It was the fourth in a series of surveys on troops' mental health but the first to include Marines and the first to look at ethics in Iraq. (Read the report)

While fewer than half of the troops agreed that "all noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect," a quarter of those surveyed said, "I would risk my own safety to save a noncombatant in danger."

When mistreatment of noncombatants was reported, the most common behavior was cursing or verbal insults (28 percent of soldiers and 30 percent of Marines). Physical abuse was reported by 4 percent of soldiers and 7 percent of Marines.

The survey found the death of a team member led to an increase in ethics violations.
Soldiers who deployed more than six months or multiple times were more likely to screen positive for a mental health issue, the survey found.

"Effective small unit leadership" -- or when officers closest to the troops did a good job -- promoted better mental health, according to the survey.

Results concerning combat stress in the latest survey were similar to those from a more extensive study of veterans who sought care from the Department of Veterans Affairs after returning from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. (Full story)

In that study, published in the March 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine and carried out by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 31 percent of more than 100,000 veterans studied were diagnosed with mental or psychological problems.

Post-traumatic stress disorder was the most common condition reported, affecting 13 percent of all Iraq or Afghanistan veterans who sought VA services, according to the study.

That's slightly less than the 15.2 percent tallied for veterans of the Vietnam War, but far above the 3.5 percent reported in the general population.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Record Number of Attacks Using Projectiles Registered in Iraq

A Record Number of Attacks Using Projectiles Registered in Iraq - Politics news - InfoNIAC: "Despite the fact that the U.S. forces took certain measures to prevent the supply of armor-piercing weapons, by cutting down the weapon-supply networks, the lethal weapons made in Iran were the main reason of a record number of attacks in Iraq last month, United States officials stated. The weapons are known as explosively formed projectiles."

In April around 65 attacks using projectiles were registered in Iraq, which is a record, said Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who currently oversees United States military day-to-day operations in the region. This week Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno stated that the attacks occured mainly in Shiite eastern Baghdad. The U.S. Officials mentioned that the lethal weapons are used exclusively by the Shiite fighters against U.S. military targets.

The continuously increasing number of attacks using projectiles is American commanders' major concern due to the fact that these weapons are so powerful than even the heaviest armor used on U.S. vehicles is not an obstacle, this includes the Abrams tank. Thus the lethal weapons cause more damage than roadside bombs.

The average size of projectiles is about the size of a coffee can, they detonate and send a slug of metal, having the shape of a cone, at high speed towards the target. Thus the projectile acts like a spear, being able to cut through armor and shatter it. In such a way they create debris that cause further destruction.

In order for projectiles to function properly they require components with complicated machining.
According to the United States military officials such components in most cases come from Iran.

In recent weeks American military forces were able to capture a leader of a projectiles-supplying network. The captured Iraqi managed the exports of weapons from Iran to Iraq. U.S. military captured several other members of extremist cells that were supplied with funding, training and munitions. Their main supplier was the al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Documents and records on the attacks against United States forces were also found. Despite the fact that the captured leader of the network undoubtedly reported to the very top, according to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, there is no proof that might indicate the connection with the Iran's leaders.

The Iranian leaders have denied all U.S. statements regarding the involvement of the Iranian government in supporting militant groups in Iraq.

It is worth mentioning that Iraqi fighters, though making their own lethal weapons, were not successful in attacks against U.S. Forces. The projectiles made in Iraq could not fully penetrate the armor.

[bth: several statements are highly suspect. First, I suspect that Iraqi made EFPs are very effective or soon will be. Second the number of IED attacks is over 2500 and rising monthly. 65 EFP attacks is up from an average 50 per month and while they are more lethal I doubt they are soley at fault. The insurgency is growing and the number of IED attacks continues to rise. Putting personnel dispersed into abandoned police stations in Baghdad only increases their vulnerability. Third, note that Petraeus doesn't specifiy who the Iraqi reported to. When he says the top, he doesn't compete the sentence and tell us whether that is to the top of the Sadr network or to the top of the Iranian government and if so to which branch of it. Games are being played here is the news.]

Armor-piercing bombs hit U.S. forces

United Press International - NewsTrack - Top News - Armor-piercing bombs hit U.S. forces: "BAGHDAD, May 4 (UPI) -- A top U.S. commander in Iraq said attacks with bombs powerful enough to pierce the armor of tanks have increased to record levels. "

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told the Washington Post that in April there were 65 attacks with the bombs, called explosively formed projectiles, which U.S. officials said are made in Iran.

Most of the attacks with the lethal bombs occurred in eastern Baghdad, Odierno said, and most are used by Shiite militants against the U.S. military.

The commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, said at a news conference last week that the United States had captured the Iraqi leader of a weapons network that brings the bombs from Iran to Iraq.

Petraeus said the prisoner "certainly reports to the very top," the Post reported. Petraeus also said the military had nothing to "absolutely indicate" the involvement of Iran's leaders.

Iranian officials have denied U.S. allegations that Tehran is supporting militants in Iraq.

Marines Skirt Procurement Maze to Rush Tougher Trucks to Iraq

Bloomberg.com: Worldwide: "May 4 (Bloomberg) -- A suicide car-bomber pulled alongside a U.S. Marine Corps Buffalo mine-clearing truck in Iraq and detonated. Inside, Gunnery Sergeant Anthony Lindsey felt a bump. "

``We got a flat tire and that was about it,'' Lindsey, 27, says of the 2006 blast near Habbaniyah. ``Those vehicles, outside of maybe a tank, are the safest things in Iraq.''

The Buffalo, an off-the-shelf Marines purchase, is an exception: Most armored trucks in Iraq can't withstand the latest enhanced homemade bombs. So the Marines are quickly buying more blast-resistant vehicles, rewriting Pentagon procurement practices as they go.

Instead of handing prototype awards to one or two contractors, the Marines signed deals with nine.
Within 19 days, two companies with test vehicles won early-production contracts, including the Buffalo's builder, Force Protection Inc. A week later, three more got the go-ahead. The U.S. plans to spend $8.4 billion over two years for as many as 7,700 trucks. That's $1 million apiece, including electronics gear and services costs.

``It's unprecedented,'' Captain Jeffrey Landis, a Marine Corps spokesman, says of the purchasing push.
The Marines' effort is taking on urgency as the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq rises. Homemade bombs accounted for 57 percent of 2,698 U.S. combat deaths through April 21, according to the Defense Department. The attacks also led to 59 percent of the 24,912 combat injuries.

Compromises

To offer better protection with advanced trucks, the Marines will make some compromises. Conceding the battle for cost-efficiency by paying $1 million a vehicle is only one. The new trucks, for example, are being produced only for immediate use in Iraq and Afghanistan and won't serve longer-term needs.

The Cougar, the smallest of the three classes of trucks built by Ladson, South Carolina-based Force Protection, weighs 19 tons, or more than three times that of armored Humvees used in Iraq. That's too heavy to carry on amphibious ships or by helicopter, the Marine Corps deputy commandant, Lieutenant General Emerson Gardner, told Congress in February. They must be hauled by ocean freighters or transport planes.

In addition, multiple truck types at the front will lead to higher maintenance costs, says Jim Tinsley, an analyst at the Avascent Group, a Washington-based aerospace and defense consulting firm.

``You are not going to have any standardization of parts for repair,'' Tinsley says.

For some critics, though, the issue is still one of speed.

`Been So Slow'

``I'm encouraged to hear that the Marines will be ordering better-protected vehicles, but I continue to be outraged that the Pentagon has been so slow to respond to this obvious urgent need,'' Senator Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in an e-mail.

Among those who have briefed Kennedy is Brian Hart, founder of Black-I Robotics in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, which develops bomb-disposal robots. He quit as a drug industry executive in 2004 to push Congress for safer vehicles and more body armor for troops after his son, Private First Class John Hart of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was shot to death at age 20 in an unarmored Humvee in Taza, Iraq, in 2003.

``The problem I see is the attrition rate on vehicles is getting way up there,'' Hart says. ``The attrition rate is far in excess of the production rates.''

The U.S. went to war in Iraq in 2003 with unarmored Humvee trucks designed for non-combat transport. As casualties of roadside bombings mounted, the uproar that followed from parents of soldiers and from members of Congress pushed the military to equip vehicles with armor.

V-Shaped Hull

After insurgents began taking out armored trucks with more powerful bombs made from new combinations of artillery shells, the Marines started testing super-armored vehicles that Force Protection created without a Pentagon contract.

The Cougar and the Buffalo offered a new design. Their V- shaped hulls deflect explosive forces away from the underside of the truck rather than absorbing the blast along a flat bottom.

About 200 of the trucks have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Vehicles such as the Buffalo -- at 13 feet (four meters) high and almost 22 tons -- have withstood more than 2,000 attacks with mines and improvised explosives.

``They are not a traditional government contractor,'' says Force Protection investor Don Cochran, 47, who says he holds about 160,000 shares. ``They raised their own capital and took their own risk to build Cougar and Buffalo with the intent if they built a good vehicle, the government would be a buyer.''

Four Times Safer

A Marine in a blast-protected vehicle is four times safer than in a Humvee, says the Marine Corps commandant, General James Conway. The Humvee's maker, AM General LLC, declined to comment.

The base price of Force Protection's two smaller trucks ranges from $510,000 to $570,000, compared with about $167,000 for the M1151 armored Humvee.

The Marines' truck push, involving the rapid awarding of contracts to multiple builders, is unique. Each of the three main vehicles currently used in Iraq are built by a single supplier: the Humvee by South Bend, Indiana-based AM General, which is closely held; the Stryker troop-transport by General Dynamics Corp. and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle by BAE Systems Plc.

The Humvee took more than five years to develop, from the time the Army issued specifications in 1979 until delivery of the first full-rate production models in 1985.

`It Takes Decades'

``It takes decades to get certain major weapons systems fielded,'' says Eric Hugel, a New York-based analyst with Stephens Inc., who rates General Dynamics shares ``equal weight'' and doesn't own any.

``Normally, it's not realistic to expect to get a new weapon in any quantity in any short timeframe.''

In the case of blast-resistant vehicles, the Marines' limited off-the-shelf purchases have shifted into a larger-scale Defense Department buying program, and the surge in demand is benefiting makers. Force Protection shares have jumped 10-fold in the past year to $23.81 yesterday as the company gained more orders than larger rivals, including London-based BAE and Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics, the biggest U.S. armored-vehicle maker.

General Dynamics' 2006 sales of $24.1 billion dwarf Force Protection's revenue of $196 million. The Standard & Poor's 500 Aerospace and Defense Index gained 15 percent in the past 12 months.

In January, the Pentagon awarded nine companies a total of $34.6 million to deliver 36 test vehicles. So far, eight have delivered trucks and the ninth is on the way, Marine Corps spokesman Bill Johnson-Miles says.

Early Production Awards

Already, five of those companies have received early production awards totaling $683 million to build about 1,390 trucks. Force Protection has the largest share with $548 million, while BAE won $55.4 million. Other initial-production orders went to General Dynamics; Oshkosh Truck Corp. in Oshkosh, Wisconsin; and North Charleston, South Carolina-based Protected Vehicles Inc.

The other truck builders, which still can win production contracts once their test vehicles are tested, are Textron Inc. in Providence, Rhode Island; Armor Holdings Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida; General Purpose Vehicles LLC in New Haven, Michigan; and International Military and Government LLC in Warrenville, Illinois, a unit of Navistar International Corp.

``We are going to go on the max production rate if we find them successful,'' the Marines' General Conway says.

Delayed Funding Bill

The first round of purchases will come from about $800 million in already appropriated funds, says Johnson-Miles. Another $3 billion for the next round is contained in a war supplemental funding bill before Congress, he says.

``We cannot place orders without having funds on hand,'' Johnson-Miles says. ``There is still time to get funding before we are ready to place some more orders. It's not holding us up yet.''

Passage of the supplemental bill may be delayed as the White House and Congress, now controlled by Democrats, negotiate a compromise on the funding measure. President George W. Bush vetoed an initial measure this week because it sets timetables for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.


To boost truck production rates, the smallest companies receiving awards are teaming with larger rivals.

Force Protection formed a joint venture with General Dynamics in November to make more of the Cougars and signed up Armor Holdings as a subcontractor.

Leveraging Partners

On its own, Force Protection has a production capacity of about 140 vehicles a month and can produce more than 400 a month with partners, says Vice President Michael Aldrich.

Protected Vehicles, set up in 2005, has linked with Oshkosh on two blast-resistant truck models, says Kent Martin, 34, a Protected Vehicles director. The companies are producing the Golan, a four-wheeled 18-ton truck built with Rafael Armament Development Authority Ltd. of Israel, and the Alpha, a four- wheeled 13-to-14-ton vehicle that seats eight.

For Gunnery Sergeant Lindsey, the car-bomb in Habbaniyah was one of five he survived without injury while in blast- resistant trucks from November 2005 through March 2006.

The native of Augusta, Georgia, has spent the past year recovering from second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of his face received in Iraq when he wasn't in one of the trucks.

He was wounded when a device hidden under a disarmed explosive detonated as his team removed road explosives on foot in Habbaniyah, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of Baghdad.

He is preparing to return from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to Iraq for his second tour. He says he's certain the trucks saved his life.

``I was never hurt in Iraq until I had to step out of one of these vehicles,'' Lindsey says.

To contact the reporter on this story: Edmond Lococo in Boston at elococo@bloomberg.net . Last Updated: May 4, 2007 00:04 EDT

Thursday, May 03, 2007

RATIO OF ENLISTED KILLED IN IRAQ TO COMMISSIONED OFFICERS TRENDS UPWARD



May 3, 2007
By Brian T. Hart

The following chart indicates that as time progresses, a higher ratio of enlisted U.S. personnel are dying in Iraq in relation to commissioned U.S. officers.


This analysis is compiled from data collected by Iraq Coalition Casualty Count (http://www.icasualties.org/) of individual casualty reports which I sorted by rank and time period.

Time Period 6 reflects February 1, 2007 to May 3, 2007 or since the “Surge” or troop escalation was announced by President Bush. As can be seen enlisted personnel are killed 16.7 times for each commissioned officer – much more often than in the past.

Contrast this with the opening period of the war shown as Period 1 from March 20, 2003 to May 1, 2003 when President Bush announced the end of major combat. During that period the ratio was 5.4 enlisted personnel to each commissioned officer – a ratio much more indicative of Vietnam.

A closer look at the current period from February 1 to the present shows only 15 commissioned officers killed (assuming none are in the 5 unnamed as of May 3). Those 15 are 8 Army, 3 Navy and 4 Marine officers. Of the marine officers, two were killed in helicopter squadrons, presumably in crashes and only one has been killed recently (recon).

For time periods 2-5 -- May 3, 2003 when the President declared the end of major combat to January 31, 2007, the day before the President announced the “Surge” had begun -- there were 2,946 casualties of which 241 where commissioned officers which averaged 11.2 enlisted to each commissioned officer killed or 8.2% of all killed in Iraq being commissioned officers during this timeframe.

Something is happening as time progresses. Commissioned officers were definitely in the fight during Period 1, but by Period 5, after Iraq General Elections were held on Dec. 15, 2005 and certainly by Period 6 when the “Surge” was announced, commissioned officers appear to be getting out of the fray or enlisted personnel are getting killed relatively more often than officers now versus the recent past.

International Campaign against killings and stoning of women in Kurdistan Petition

International Campaign against killings and stoning of women in Kurdistan Petition: "
View Current Signatures - Sign the Petition



To: Kurdistan Regional Government
International Campaign against killings and stoning of women in Kurdistan "

Condemn the brutal stoning to death of Doa - a young girl whose only crime was to fall in love Doa was stoned to death in the centre of the town of Bashiqa in front of hundreds of people and the authorities did not prevent this crime from happening.


On the contrary, they were present and paving the way for this horrific crime to be carried out. Doa was a 17 year old girl from a family of Yazidi faith; she was snatched from her house by some Yazidi men who discovered that she was in love with a Muslim Arab man and had visited him.

They stoned her to death in public on 7th April 2007 in the town of Bashiqa. It is known that women in Kurdistan and Iraq are oppressed. The few rights they do have are very limited and in most cases they are treated as sub-humans.

Killings, suicide, and violence against women are an every day occurrence in this region. Although a crime of this nature is very new to Kurdistan, this is an indication that such crimes against women are now tolerated. Doa’s killers are still free.

The government’s failure to protect women, and enforce laws against criminals, has created a situation where thousands of women become victims of so called “honour killings”. V

iolence has risen as result of patriarchal and religious traditions. We strongly condemn this barbaric act, and call upon all human rights and women’s rights organisations, political parties, and activists in Kurdistan and globally to condemn this crime.

In the 21st century, for such crimes to be carried out in broad daylight is not only a shame on society as whole, but most of all, it is a shame on a government that is unable to protect women from such inhumane and backward practices.

The stoning of Doa sets a dangerous precedent for more women to become victims of stoning.

We hold the Kurdistan Regional Government responsible for the lives and protection of women in this region, and we believe that the brutalisation and victimisation of women must come to an end.

We the undersigned therefore demand: • That the Kurdistan Regional Government brings the killers to justice and punishes them. • The Kurdistan regional Government should set laws against terror, killings and oppression of women, and punish criminals. •

To avoid this barbaric crime from becoming a norm and a practice in Kurdish society, the Kurdistan Regional Government should criminalise stoning to death.

The initiators of this campaign are: Houzan Mahmoud:

Representative abroad of Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and campaign coordinator Raga Rauf: Writer and women’s rights activist and campaign coordinator Samera Mohammed: Editor of Rasan women’s newspaper in Kurdistan Yanar Mohammed:


President Of Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq Aram Ali: Coordinator of the Kurdish website www.bopeshawa.com Baker Ahmad:

Writer and poet Dler Colnadar: member of executive board of CHAK organisation Omar Faris: coordinator of a Kurdish website www.kurdsitannet.org Dina Nammi:

International Campaign against Honour Killings Amal Almas: (Iraqi Women’s League) Gothenburg -Sweden Federation of Workers councils and unions in Iraq/ Kurdistan representative Chro Sabir:


Director of Rasan women’s organisation in Kurdistan Hana Shwan: Journalist and women’s rights activist in Kurdistan Hamza Abd: The Iraqi Cultural House in Gothenburg-Sweden To join this campaign or to show your support pleases contact: Campaign Coordinators: Houzan Mahmoud and Rega Rauf houzan73@yahoo.co.uk Or rega_rauf@yahoo.com 26/04/2007

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

View Current Signatures

The International Campaign against killings and stoning of women in Kurdistan Petition to Kurdistan Regional Government was created by and written by Houzan Mahmoud (houzan73@yahoo.co.uk). This petition is hosted here at www.PetitionOnline.com as a public service. There is no endorsement of this petition, express or implied, by Artifice, Inc. or our sponsors. For technical support please use our simple Petition Help form.
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The moment a teenage girl was stoned to death for loving the wrong boy

The moment a teenage girl was stoned to death for loving the wrong boy the Daily Mail: "A 17-year-old girl has been stoned to death in Iraq because she loved a teenage boy of the wrong religion. "

As a horrifying video of the stoning went out on the Internet, the British arm of Amnesty International condemned the death of Du’a Khalil Aswad as "an abhorrent murder" and demanded that her killers be brought to justice.

Reports from Iraq said a local security force witnessed the incident, but did nothing to try to stop it. Now her boyfriend is in hiding in fear for his life.

Miss Aswad, a member of a minority Kurdish religious group called Yezidi, was condemned to death as an "honour killing" by other men in her family and hardline religious leaders because of her relationship with the Sunni Muslim boy.

They said she had shamed herself and her family when she failed to return home one night. Some reports suggested she had converted to Islam to be closer to her boyfriend.

Miss Aswad had taken shelter in the house of a Yezidi tribal leader in Bashika, a predominantly Kurdish town near the northern capital, Mosul.

A large crowd watched as eight or nine men stormed the house and dragged Miss Aswad into the street. There they hurled stones at her for half an hour until she was dead.

The stoning happened last month, but only came to light yesterday with the release of the Internet video.

It is feared her death has already triggered a retaliatory attack. Last week 23 Yezidi workmen were forced off a bus travelling from Mosulto Bashika by a group of Sunni gunmen and summarily shot dead.

An Amnesty International spokesman in London said they receive frequent reports of honour crimes from Iraq – particularly in the predominantly Kurdish north.

Most victims are women and girls who are considered by male relatives to have shamed their families by immoral behaviour.

Kurdish authorities have introduced reforms outlawing honour killings, but have failed to investigate them or prosecute suspects, added the Amnesty spokesman.

Kate Allen, the organisation’s UK director, said: "This young girl’s murder is truly abhorrent and her killers must be brought to justice.

"Unless the authorities respond vigorously to this and any other reports of crimes in the name of 'honour', we must fear for the future of women in Iraq."


Note the Media is listed under the Category of Threat. And the military can't understand why they are losing the support of the American people. Its because the leadership of the Pentagon has decided that average thinking Americans are a threat along with the media and military bloggers. I get contacted every few months about posting military news feeds which I've declined to do. ... Suggestion. How about the Pentagon brass focus on capturing Osama bin Laden and less about what soldiers blog or email to their friends.
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Army Squeezes Soldier Blogs, Maybe to Death

Army Squeezes Soldier Blogs, Maybe to Death -: "The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned. The directive, issued April 19, is the sharpest restriction on troops' online activities since the start of the Iraq war. And it could mean the end of military blogs, observers say. "

Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq -- the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.
The new rules (.pdf) obtained by Wired News require a commander be consulted before every blog update.

"This is the final nail in the coffin for combat blogging," said retired paratrooper Matthew Burden, editor of The Blog of War anthology. "No more military bloggers writing about their experiences in the combat zone. This is the best PR the military has -- it's most honest voice out of the war zone. And it's being silenced."

Army Regulation 530--1: Operations Security (OPSEC) (.pdf) restricts more than just blogs, however. Previous editions of the rules asked Army personnel to "consult with their immediate supervisor" before posting a document "that might contain sensitive and/or critical information in a public forum." The new version, in contrast, requires "an OPSEC review prior to publishing" anything -- from "web log (blog) postings" to comments on internet message boards, from resumes to letters home.

Failure to do so, the document adds, could result in a court-martial, or "administrative, disciplinary, contractual, or criminal action."

Despite the absolutist language, the guidelines' author, Major Ray Ceralde, said there is some leeway in enforcement of the rules. "It is not practical to check all communication, especially private communication," he noted in an e-mail. "Some units may require that soldiers register their blog with the unit for identification purposes with occasional spot checks after an initial review. Other units may require a review before every posting."

But with the regulations drawn so tightly, "many commanders will feel like they have no choice but to forbid their soldiers from blogging -- or even using e-mail," said Jeff Nuding, who won the bronze star for his service in Iraq. "If I'm a commander, and think that any slip-up gets me screwed, I'm making it easy: No blogs," added Nuding, writer of the "pro-victory" Dadmanly site. "I think this means the end of my blogging."

Active-duty troops aren't the only ones affected by the new guidelines. Civilians working for the military, Army contractors -- even soldiers' families -- are all subject to the directive as well.

But, while the regulations may apply to a broad swath of people, not everybody affected can actually read them. In a Kafka-esque turn, the guidelines are kept on the military's restricted Army Knowledge Online intranet. Many Army contractors -- and many family members -- don't have access to the site. Even those able to get in are finding their access is blocked to that particular file.

"Even though it is supposedly rewritten to include rules for contractors (i.e., me) I am not allowed to download it," e-mails Perry Jeffries, an Iraq war veteran now working as a contractor to the Armed Services Blood Program.

The U.S. military -- all militaries -- have long been concerned about their personnel inadvertently letting sensitive information out. Troops' mail was read and censored throughout World War II; back home, government posters warned citizens "careless talk kills."

Military blogs, or milblogs, as they're known in service-member circles, only make the potential for mischief worse. On a website, anyone, including foreign intelligence agents, can stop by and look for information.

"All that stuff we used to get around a bar and say to each other -- well, now because we're publishing it in open forums, now it's intel," said milblogger and retired Army officer John Donovan.

Passing on classified data -- real secrets -- is already a serious military crime. The new regulations (and their author) take an unusually expansive view of what kind of unclassified information a foe might find useful. In an article published by the official Army News Service, Maj. Ceralde "described how the Pentagon parking lot had more parked cars than usual on the evening of Jan. 16, 1991, and how pizza parlors noticed a significant increase of pizza to the Pentagon.... These observations are indicators, unclassified information available to all … that Operation Desert Storm (was about to) beg(i)n."

Steven Aftergood, head of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, called Ceralde's example "outrageous."

"It's true that from an OPSEC (operational security) perspective, almost anything -- pizza orders, office lights lit at odd hours, full or empty parking lots -- can potentially tip off an observer that something unusual is afoot," he added. "But real OPSEC is highly discriminating. It does not mean cutting off the flow of information across the board. If on one day in 1991 an unusual number of pizza orders coincided with the start of Desert Storm, it doesn't mean that information about pizza orders should now be restricted. That's not OPSEC, that's just stupidity."

During the early days of the Iraq war, milblogs flew under the radar of the Defense Department's information security establishment. But after soldiers like Specialist Colby Buzzell began offering detailed descriptions of firefights that were scantily covered in the press, blogs began to be viewed by some in the military as a threat -- an almost endless chorus of unregulated voices that could say just about anything.

Buzzell, for one, was banned from patrols and confined to base after such an incident. Military officials asked other bloggers to make changes to their sites. One soldier took down pictures of how well armor stood up to improvised bombs; a military spouse erased personal information from her site -- including "dates of deployment, photos of the family, the date their next child is expected, the date of the baby shower and where the family lives," said Army spokesman Gordon Van Fleet.

But such cases have been rare, Major Elizabeth Robbins noted in a paper (.pdf) for the Army's Combined Arms Center.

"The potential for an OPSEC violation has thus far outstripped the reality experienced by commanders in the field," she wrote.

And in some military circles, bloggers have gained forceful advocates. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, for example, now regularly arranges exclusive phone conferences between bloggers and senior commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq. Major Robbins, for one, has argued strongly for easing the restrictions on the soldier-journalists.

"The reputation of the Army is maintained on many fronts, and no one fights harder on its behalf than our young soldiers. We must allow them access to the fight," Robbins wrote. "To silence the most credible voices -- those at the spear's edge -- and to disallow them this function is to handicap ourselves on a vital, very real battlefield."

Nevertheless, commanders have become increasingly worried about the potential for leaks. In April 2005, military leaders in Iraq told milbloggers to "register" (.pdf) their sites with superior officers. In September, the Army made the first revision of its OPSEC regulations since the mid-'90s, ordering GIs to talk to their commanders before posting potentially-problematic information. Soldiers began to drop their websites, in response.

More bloggers followed suit, when an alert came down from highest levels of the Pentagon that "effective immediately, no information may be placed on websites … unless it has been reviewed for security concerns," and the Army announced it was activating a team, the Army Web Risk Assessment Cell, to scan blogs for information breaches. An official Army dispatch told milbloggers, "Big Brother is not watching you, but 10 members of a Virginia National Guard unit might be." That unit continues to look for security violations, new regulations in hand.

See the Wired blog Danger Room for additional information on the Army's blogger ban

To Rafael Anderson, I want you to know that I was able to stop to see your brother who served with honor as I promised in Section 60. Please know he is remembered.
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Bush: Im the Commander Guy

Bush: Im the Commander Guy - The Caucus - Politics - New York Times Blog: "WASHINGTON, May 2–And you thought he was still “the decider.”"

President Bush coined a new nickname for himself — ‘’the commander guy” — on Wednesday, as he criticized Congressional Democrats in a speech to the annual gathering of the Associated General Contractors of America, a construction industry trade group.

The man who last year proclaimed “I’m the decider,’’ in response to a question about whether he would fire Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, came up with this latest moniker in explaining why he vetoed an Iraq war spending bill that dictated a timeline for troops to withdraw from Iraq.

“The question is, ‘Who ought to make that decision, the Congress or the commanders?,’’ Mr. Bush said. “As you know, my position is clear – I’m the commander guy.”Mr. Bush issued the veto Tuesday; on Wednesday, the House failed to muster the two-thirds majority necessary for an override and Congressional leaders went to the White House to talk to the commander guy about a new spending measure.

Both sides said afterward they believed compromise was possible. But if Democrats try to tie his hands in prosecuting the war, Mr. Bush has vowed to exercise his veto power again.

Would that make him “veto man?”

Killed in action
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Pentagon says funding fight affecting war effort

Pentagon says funding fight affecting war effort - CNN.com: "WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The standoff between President Bush and congressional Democrats over a war funding bill already is delaying some military training and orders for spare parts, Pentagon officials said."

Bush on Tuesday vetoed legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress that would continue to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but set a timeline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.
The bill would have required U.S. combat troops to begin to withdraw on October 1, with a goal of a complete pullout within six months.

"This is a prescription for chaos and confusion," Bush said, explaining his veto of the legislation. "It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing."

The president and congressional leaders have agreed to meet to discuss a compromise. (Full story)
In the meantime, military officials said some effects are already or will soon be felt.

According to the Pentagon, the Army two weeks ago told commanders to purchase fewer parts, delay repairs on training equipment and postpone nonessential travel.

This month, the Army also will freeze hiring for civilian jobs, release temporary workers and sign no new contracts.

An Army official said these disruptions will hurt military readiness.

The Congressional Research Service told Congress that the Pentagon has enough cash to last through June. But the military must plan for the worst.

"The problem is they're not sure when they will get money," said Steve Kosiak of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "If they were confident they would get money in a month, or in six weeks, they probably wouldn't have to make any of these worst-case planning assumptions. But they don't know that for sure."

Any disruptions in training or equipment could disrupt troop rotations.

"We are committed to not sending troops over there until they are fully trained and equipped for the mission," said Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

And delaying rotations will have an effect on those troops already in the combat zone.

"If you don't sustain them with replacements and give them enough well time -- in other words, downtime -- in between operational redeployments, then you'll wear them out. That's simple," said retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis.

Without new funds, orders for what the Army considers the No. 1 lifesaver against roadside bombs, MRAPs -- Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles -- will be canceled. About $3 billion for the vehicles is tied up by the stalled legislation.

"We can build what we can get the funds to build. It's strictly an issue of money," outgoing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker told a Senate panel in March.

The vehicles provide four to five times the protection of an armored Humvee. They have V-shaped hulls that deflect blasts from improvised explosive devices -- IEDs -- outward and away from passengers.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, called the need for the $1 million vehicles a "matter of life and death." The troops "will have a three to four times greater chance of surviving a hit with an IED while on patrol than exists today if we don't act," Biden said.

CNN's Tom Foreman and Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.

[bth: the sad thing about this article is that the troops in Iraq have now become the hostage children of a domestic dispute between the Congress and the President and the Pentagon will use the budget battle as a PR excuse for their own incompetence. The MRAP vehicles could very well have been funded in the last budget - it didn't have to go into this supplemental - but this makes for good headlines. Also the marines have a several thousand vehicle shortage because of their own shortsighted and incompetent planning. This will become painfully apparent this summer as the surge troops discover the vehicle shortage. So the Pentagon will blame the congress, the congress will blame the president and no one will ask the Pentagon why the hell they didn't place the orders or prioritize their purchases - bypassing purchasing Ospreys at 120 million a pop or stealth fighters we don't need right now. ... The troops are the new hostages of Washington politics.]

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

ARMY CLAMPS DOWN WITH NEW OPSEC POLICY

A new U.S. Army regulation on Operations Security (OPSEC)
would sharply restrict the ability of soldiers to participate in public life without supervision and authorization from superior officers.

The regulation also encourages Army personnel to view attempts by unauthorized persons to gather restricted information as an act of subversion against the United States.

"All Department of the Army personnel and DoD contractors will... consider handling attempts by unauthorized personnel to solicit critical information or sensitive information as a Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the U.S. Army
(SAEDA) incident," the regulation states (at section 2-1).

"Sensitive" information is defined here (at section
1-5(c)(3)(e)) to include not just vital details of military operations and technologies but also documents marked "For Official Use Only" (FOUO) that may be exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

It follows that inquisitive members of the press or the public who actively pursue such FOUO records may be deemed enemies of the United States.

In what seems to be a serious conceptual muddle, the new regulation conflates OPSEC, which is supposed to be a defense against adversaries of the United States, with FOIA restrictions, which regulate public access to government information. As a result, it appears that OPSEC procedures are now to be used to control access to predecisional documents, copyrighted or proprietary material, and other FOIA-exempt records.

A copy of the new regulation, dated April 19 and itself marked For Official Use Only, was obtained by Wired News and is posted here:

http://blog.wired.com/defense/files/army_reg_530_1_updated.pdf

Taken at face value, the regulation would spell the end of military blogging and would severely curtail military participation in public life. It imposes a non-discretionary pre-publication review requirement, stating that "all Department of the Army personnel... will... consult with their immediate supervisor... prior to publishing or posting information in a public forum." (sec. 2-1).

It was reported by Noah Shachtman in "New Army Rules Could
Kill G.I. Blogs (Maybe E-mail, Too)," Danger Room, May 2:

http://blog.wired.com/defense/2007/05/new_army_rules_.html

The terms of the Army regulation are so expansive as to create innumerable new opportunities for violations and infractions.

Just this week, for example, the Army's own 1st Information Operations Command ironically posted a briefing on "OPSEC in the Blogosphere," marked For Official Use Only:

http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/army/opsec-blog.pdf

(Thanks, again, to Entropic Memes at www.slugsite.com.)

[bth: this would classify as subversive any reporter, blogger or interested person worth his salt. It would put Aviation Week editors in to jail, it would make enemies of us all. And for what? I rank this up there with Sec. Rumsfeld's attempt to ban digital cameras from Iraq in an attempt to prevent the public release of information about Abu Ghraib.]
 
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Bush Vetoes Bill Tying Iraq Funds to Exit

Bush Vetoes Bill Tying Iraq Funds to Exit - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, May 1 — President Bush vetoed a $124 billion war spending bill on Tuesday, setting up a second round in his long battle with Congressional Democrats who are determined to use the financing measure to force the White House to shift course in Iraq."...

Kin: Fallen Easton Marine ‘selfless’

Kin: Fallen Easton Marine ‘selfless’ - Local & Regional - BostonHerald.com: "The proud mother of a Bay State Marine killed in Iraq by a cowardly insurgent said her 28-year-old son was courageous to the very end as he attempted to defuse a roadside bomb. "

“My son is a hero. He fought for the Iraqi people,” said Mary Ellen Callahan yesterday outside her Hanson home.

Marine Staff Sgt. William J. Callahan of Easton was killed Friday while attempting to disarm a roadside bomb when a nearby terrorist detonated it, said his uncle, Jeffrey Sullivan of Marshfield.

“He was just above and beyond. He was selfless,” Sullivan said.

Callahan, a 1997 graduate of Whitman-Hanson Regional High, became a new father two weeks ago when his wife, Amy, gave birth to their son, Daniel Allen.

His grieving widow said yesterday in a statement: “We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support that our family has received during this difficult time. Bill was a hero to all of us and I feel fortunate and blessed to have spent the last 10 years of my life with him.”

The couple’s son is named after two members of Callahan’s unit who died during maneuvers on Nov. 1, 2005, Sullivan said.

At that time, Callahan was serving on his first tour with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, and he received a letter of commendation from his commanding officer for his heroic efforts during that night. Callahan is credited with saving the lives of many by putting himself in harm’s way to ensure the safety of his unit.

Callahan was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq, and was assigned to 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. Callahan worked as an explosive ordnance demolition expert.

Sullivan said his nephew would go out of his way to help anyone in need, once delaying a trip home to deliver a truck filled with toys to a family who lost their house in a fire.

Exploiting Al-Qaida's Weaknesses

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Exploiting Al-Qaida's Weaknesses: ..."Lawrence Wright's Pulitzer Prize-winning 'The Looming Tower' provides the most readable narrative history on the origins of al-Qaida, especially his discussion of Egypt's Sayid Qutb, the modern father of jihadist violence. When I reviewed the book last year, I wrote: 'Al-Qaida's dark genius ... has been to connect the Muslim world's angry, humiliated and isolated young men with a utopian fantasy preaching the virtue of violence. That utopian fantasy seeks to explain and then redress roughly 800 years of Muslim decline.'"

How to defeat the ideology, with its fantasy narrative? Recently, Dale Eikmeier published an essay in the U.S. Army War College's Parameters Magazine. The essay, titled "Qutbism: An Ideology of Islamic Fascism," suggests "five lines of operation" for attacking Qutbism, which he calls al-Qaida's "ideological center of gravity."

First: Attack the message -- an ideological offensive by moderate Muslims. Eikmeier says Yemeni Judge Hamoud al-Hitar has a particularly effective theological counter to Qutbism.

Second: Attack the Messenger -- "Many of Qutbism's proponents are individuals with questionable religious credentials."

Third and fourth: Attack Islamo-fascism's supporting institutions, and support mainstream Islamic institutions -- mirror images. Attack al-Qaida's educational, financial, and informational structures. Support those of Muslim moderates.

Fifth: Inoculation. Eikmeier says this requires education regarding the Qutbists' "anti-human rights and religiously intolerant agenda." Eikmeier says the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the U.S. Bill of Rights are the alternatives.

Which takes us back to democracy, doesn't it?

Biden talks candidly on V Hulled Vehicles and Bush's Budget



Blunt talk from Joe Biden, picked up by C-Span answering a man's question at Jim Clyburn's fish fry April 27 in Columbia, S.C.

Biden is asked what he'll do when Bush, as is expected, vetoes the Iraq funding bill.

First, he talks about his son, and the equipment soldiers need -- "The idea that we're not building new Humvees with the V-shaped things is just crap. Kids are dying that don't have to die."

And: "Second thing is, we're going to shove it down his throat."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Unconfirmed reports say al Qaeda in Iraq leader dead

Unconfirmed reports say al Qaeda in Iraq leader dead - CNN.com: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Unconfirmed reports Tuesday indicated that Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri had died in fighting between rival militant groups north of the Iraqi capital, according to an Interior Ministry spokesman."...
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Corpses held for ransoms in Baghdad 

Corpses held for ransoms in Baghdad - World - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "BAGHDAD - Criminals in Baghdad are stealing corpses from the scenes of car bombings and killings in order to extract ransoms from grieving relatives. "

In a macabre offshoot of the capital's kidnapping epidemic, the gangs pose as medics collecting bodies to be taken back to the city's overflowing morgues.

Instead, they take the corpses to secret places and demand payments of up to $5,000 to release each body to relatives for burial. Because Muslim custom dictates that a body must be buried as soon as possible after death, many families simply pay up, rather than involve the police.

"We have seen 40 families to whom this has happened, where people said that they have had to pay money to receive bodies," said Dr. Mohammed al-Nasrawi, an official at the Baghdad city morgue.

The new racket in "dead hostage taking" is thought to be run by gangs connected to the city's sectarian militias, many of whom are involved in conventional kidnappings.

Iraqi police said the gangs often respond to car bombings, which can leave more than 100 corpses on the streets. In the chaos, police and army units seldom question the credentials of people posing as ambulance crews.

Capt. Falah Saab al Mamouri of Iraq's Interior Ministry described how one such gang since apprehended operated: "They would look for bodies that had identity cards on them and then get in touch with the family.

"They would then ring the family of the dead person, tell them that their relative has been killed, and then demand between $3,000 and $5,000 to return the body.

"Once the family had handed the money over to a middle man, they would dump the corpse near the city morgue with the name written on a piece of paper pinned on the chest. Sooner or later someone would hand it over to the morgue, and the family would find it there."

The process is made simpler for the gangs by the current Iraqi habit of carrying around details of their next of kin in case they are unexpectedly killed. Frequently, such contact details are stored in a mobile phone.

Capt. al Mamouri added: "We noticed two ambulance crews at the scene of a bombing that were only taking away bodies with mobile phones on them. The Iraqi National Guard arrested the crews and they confessed what they had been doing."

He said that subsequent inquiries revealed that the crews had been employees of the Health Ministry, and they had been stashing the bodies in hospital mortuaries.