Friday, May 11, 2007

In The Know: Our Troops In Iraq

Pentagon restricting testimony in Congress

Pentagon restricting testimony in Congress - The Boston Globe: "WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has placed unprecedented restrictions on who can testify before Congress, reserving the right to bar lower-ranking officers, enlisted soldiers, and career bureaucrats from appearing before oversight committees or having their remarks transcribed, according to Defense Department documents."

Robert L. Wilkie , a former Bush administration national security official who left the White House to become assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs last year, has outlined a half-dozen guidelines that prohibit most officers below the rank of colonel from appearing in hearings, restricting testimony to high-ranking officers and civilians appointed by President Bush.

The guidelines, described in an April 19 memo to the staff director of the House Armed Services Committee, adds that all field-level officers and enlisted personnel must be "deemed appropriate" by the Department of Defense before they can participate in personal briefings for members of Congress or their staffs; in addition, according to the memo, the proceedings must not be recorded.

Wilkie's memo also stipulated that any officers who are allowed to testify must be accompanied by an official from the administration, such as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his top-level aides.

Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress see the move as a blatant attempt to bog down investigations of the war. But veterans of the legislative process -- who say they have never heard of such guidelines before -- maintain that the Pentagon has no authority to set such ground rules.

The guidelines would not affect congressional subpoenas, which can compel anyone to appear before lawmakers. As a result, several lawmakers have pledged privately to use that power if the Pentagon's guidelines stymie their efforts to get information from specific sectors of the military.

Wilkie declined to be interviewed for this story, but a Pentagon spokesman confirmed that the guidelines are new. "The memo was a way to establish guidelines on how junior officers and the enlisted be contacted on their participation in the aforementioned briefings," Army Lieutenant Colonel Brian Maka said in a statement yesterday.

Even so, the guidelines, a copy of which was provided to the Globe by a Democratic aide, have already set off one highly unusual confrontation between Pentagon lawyers and the newly created House oversight and investigations subcommittee, according to several congressional officials who witnessed the exchange.

At a closed-door hearing a few days after Wilkie's memo was distributed, Defense Department lawyers sought to apply the guidelines to the testimony of three Army officers -- a captain, a major, and a lieutenant colonel -- set to testify about their first-hand experience training Iraqi security forces.

A few minutes into the proceedings, a representative from the Pentagon's Office of General Counsel tried to apply the new provisions. Speaking from the audience, he declared that the officers could not participate if the meeting was being recorded for a transcript -- a regular practice in congressional hearings.

The panel's Democratic chairman, Representative Martin Meehan of Lowell, and ranking Republican W. Todd Aken of Missouri both insisted a transcript would be kept and the Pentagon entourage, including the officers, "theatrically stormed out of the room," said one attendant.

Veterans of Capitol Hill scoffed at the Pentagon's restrictions on who can talk to lawmakers.

"If I was the staff director I would say why the hell should I care who you want to appear before my committee," said Winslow Wheeler , who worked for three Republican senators and one Democrat in a 30-year career as a top congressional aide. He called Wilkie's memo "embarrassing."

The memo has fueled complaints that the Bush administration is trying to restrict access to information about the war in Iraq.

The special House oversight panel, according to aides, has written at least 10 letters to the Pentagon since February seeking information and has received only one official reply. Nor has the Pentagon fully complied with repeated requests for all the monthly assessments of Iraqi security forces, reports compiled by US military advisers embedded with Iraqi units.

Some on Capitol Hill are focusing their frustrations on Wilkie.

Before the Senate confirmed him last fall, Wilkie -- an aide to former GOP senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina -- was a senior director of the National Security Council in the White House from 2003 to 2005.

Wilkie was also the "principal staffer and editor of the national security section of the 2000 Republican Party Presidential Platform," according to his official biography. Wilkie is currently responsible for providing "guidance for centralized direction, integration, and control of DoD legislative affairs and liaison activities with the US Congress," according to a September 2006 Pentagon job description.

Several congressional officials accused him of attempting to muzzle the military's lower ranks, which are more likely to give Congress an unvarnished opinion compared with the top-level Pentagon brass, who typically seek to further the Bush administration's policies.

Wilkie's guidelines stipulate, for example, that "junior officers" -- any officer at or below the rank of colonel, as well as noncommissioned officers -- "may provide support to briefers and witnesses, but shall not be asked or required to have their names entered into the record or speak on the record," according to the memo, which was sent to Erin Conaton , the armed services panel staff director.

The guidelines claim the right to provide Congress only with witnesses who are Bush administration appointees -- as opposed to longtime senior government officials who do not owe their jobs to the current administration -- to provide sworn testimony.

Sandra Stuart , who served as assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs from 1994 to 1999, said that such specific guidelines are unprecedented.

While there has always been "a back and forth and to and fro-ing" between the Pentagon and Congress over what witnesses and information to provide, she said, "I do not recall that there were policies of this sort with that sort of specificity," such as stipulating only colonels and generals could participate in legislative briefings or fact-finding hearings.

David Golove , a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said there appears to be no legal basis for the Pentagon's limits on lower-level officers speaking directly to Congress -- and lawmakers' power on this issue supercedes the military's.

"Congress has the power to subpoena anyone in the United States who has information relevant to their proceedings," Golove said.

Charlie Savage of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Bryan Bender can be reached at

Russia foils major car bomb

Russia foils major car bomb: World: News: News24: "Moscow - Russian security services said on Thursday they had prevented a major attack in Moscow, disabling a car bomb and arresting several suspects. "

"The FSB and regional security organs prevented the activities of a terrorist group preparing a major terrorist attack on Moscow," Russia's FSB special services said in a statement.

"To carry out the terrorist attack in Moscow, the group's members planned to use a car filled with explosives," the statement said.

"Several people have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the terrorist group," the statement said, without adding further details.

The group was principally made up of natives of the North Caucasus - a volatile region in southern Russia that includes Chechnya - and had carried out attacks in that area, the statement said.

Agents discovered a bomb containing seven kilograms of plastic explosives, detonators and metal shrapnel outside a building in southwest Moscow on Tuesday, a day before official celebrations for victory in World War II.

The bomb was disabled in an operation on Wednesday during which residents were evacuated from surrounding homes and gas supplies to the neighbourhood were cut, the statement said.

Russian television images on Thursday showed a controlled explosion, a remotely-controlled robot manoeuvring near the car and FSB officers inspecting the scene.

A criminal case has been opened into the attempted attack, the FSB said.

In 2002, 43 people were killed in a bomb attack during Victory Day celebrations in the town of Kaspiisk in Dagestan, a North Caucasus province that neighbours Chechnya.

Administration Withheld E-Mails About Rove (05/10/07)

NATIONAL JOURNAL: Administration Withheld E-Mails About Rove (05/10/07): "The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove's, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. "...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Daily Kos: Goddamn Body Armor Issues Still Exist...w/Vid

We The People - Iowa

YouTube - We The People - Iowa: ""

Documents show US had propaganda campaign plan two months before invasion

The Raw Story | Documents show US had propaganda campaign plan two months before invasion: "Months before the US invaded Iraq, Pentagon planners were developing an elaborate propaganda campaign to ensure US government-'approved' information was broadcast to the Iraqi public, according to a previously classified White Paper released Tuesday by the independent National Security Archives"

The White Paper, prepared in January 2003, lays out plans to install American-friendly media with an Iraqi face and to silence local anti-US news outlets, referred to in the paper as "hate media." Also released by the National Security Archives were a Power Point presentation outlining the goals of the media plan and other briefing materials

Transformation of Iraq’s media would be accomplished by a Rapid Reaction Media Team, which planners envisioned as a bridge between the state-controlled outlets of Saddam Hussein’s regime and a long-term “Iraqi Free Media” network, which would broadcast America-friendly programming.

"This team will deploy from Washington immediately upon cessation of hostilities … and begin broadcasting and printing approved USG information to the Iraqi public," the paper says.

The paper was prepared by two Defense Department offices, Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, which is in charge of psychological warfare, and Near East and South Asian Affairs (Special Plans), which was established to plan the Iraq war in secret. A Pentagon spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

"Having professional US-trained Iraqi media teams immediately in-place to portray a new Iraq (by Iraqis for Iraqis) with hopes for a prosperous, democratic future, will have a profound psychological and political impact on the Iraqi people," reads the White Paper.

To deal with native voices unfriendly to US interests in the war, the paper calls for installation of a “temporary Media Commissioner to regulate against ‘hate media’ that might destabilize Iraq.” The commissioner would work with military commanders to “identify the media infrastructure we need left in tact and … find alternative ways of disabling key sites.”

The National Security Archives' Joyce Battle mused, “Evidently the Baghdad headquarters of Arab satellite network al-Jazeera was not part of "the media infrastructure that we need left intact."

The project was estimated to cost about $2 million, and be completed within 12 months from the end of the invasion, according to briefing materials prepared along with the White Paper.

The Pentagon’s media strategy enriched several defense contractors including the Rendon Group, Scientific Applications International Corporation and the Lincoln Group, reports Battle. According to press reports that emerged in late 2005, the Lincoln Group was paid $100 million by the Pentagon to act as a go-between to allow the US military to covertly place articles written by military information officers into Iraqi newspapers as if Iraqi correspondents had written them.

Despite the Pentagon’s stated goals of a “free” Iraqi media, Battle reports, the International Press Institute ranks Iraq as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists and says Iraq’s media is closer to what would be found in an “autocratic regime” rather than an emerging democracy.

[bth: what's amazing is that a propaganda campaign was planned out even before the war began but not a damned thing was planned regarding the occupation and resulting peace. Nothing was planned on the construction of a judiciary in Iraq. Nothing.]

War on Iraq: Majority of Iraqi Lawmakers Now Reject Occupation

AlterNet: War on Iraq: Majority of Iraqi Lawmakers Now Reject Occupation: "On Tuesday, without note in the U.S. media, more than half of the members of Iraq's parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country. 144 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal, according to Nassar Al-Rubaie, a spokesman for the Al Sadr movement, the nationalist Shia group that sponsored the petition."

It's a hugely significant development. Lawmakers demanding an end to the occupation now have the upper hand in the Iraqi legislature for the first time; previous attempts at a similar resolution fell just short of the 138 votes needed to pass (there are 275 members of the Iraqi parliament, but many have fled the country's civil conflict, and at times it's been difficult to arrive at a quorum).

Reached by phone in Baghdad on Tuesday, Al-Rubaie said that he would present the petition, which is nonbinding, to the speaker of the Iraqi parliament and demand that a binding measure be put to a vote. Under Iraqi law, the speaker must present a resolution that's called for by a majority of lawmakers, but there are significant loopholes and what will happen next is unclear.

What is clear is that while the U.S. Congress dickers over timelines and benchmarks, Baghdad faces a major political showdown of its own. The major schism in Iraqi politics is not between Sunni and Shia or supporters of the Iraqi government and "anti-government forces," nor is it a clash of "moderates" against "radicals"; the defining battle for Iraq at the political level today is between nationalists trying to hold the Iraqi state together and separatists backed, so far, by the United States and Britain.

The continuing occupation of Iraq and the allocation of Iraq's resources -- especially its massive oil and natural gas deposits -- are the defining issues that now separate an increasingly restless bloc of nationalists in the Iraqi parliament from the administration of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose government is dominated by Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish separatists.

By "separatists," we mean groups who oppose a unified Iraq with a strong central government; key figures like Maliki of the Dawa party, Shia leader Abdul Aziz Al-Hakeem of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq ("SCIRI"), Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi of the Sunni Islamic Party, President Jalal Talabani -- a Kurd -- and Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish Autonomous Region, favor partitioning Iraq into three autonomous regions with strong local governments and a weak central administration in Baghdad. (The partition plan is also favored by several congressional Democrats, notably Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.)

Iraq's separatists also oppose setting a timetable for ending the U.S. occupation, preferring the addition of more American troops to secure their regime. They favor privatizing Iraq's oil and gas and decentralizing petroleum operations and revenue distribution.

But public opinion is squarely with Iraq's nationalists. According to a poll by the University of Maryland's Project on International Public Policy Attitudes, majorities of all three of Iraq's major ethno-sectarian groups support a unified Iraq with a strong central government. For at least two years, poll after poll has shown that large majorities of Iraqis of all ethnicities and sects want the United States to set a timeline for withdrawal, even though (in the case of Baghdad residents), they expect the security situation to deteriorate in the short term as a result.

That's nationalism, and it remains the central if unreported motivation for many Iraqis, both within the nascent government and on the streets.

While sectarian fighting at the neighborhood and community level has made life unlivable for millions of Iraqis, Iraqi nationalism -- portrayed as a fiction by supporters of the invasion -- supercedes sectarian loyalties at the political level. A group of secular, Sunni and Shia nationalists have long voted together on key issues, but so far have failed to join forces under a single banner....

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Democrat Taylor Marsh Broadcasts Live Talk Radio and Blogs Politics: "'Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.'

- Benjamin Franklin

Ad from VoteVets

Breaking News: Poll: Public Rejects Iraq Funding Veto - The Post Chronicle

Breaking News: Poll: Public Rejects Iraq Funding Veto - The Post Chronicle: "A majority of Americans oppose President George W. Bush's veto of a war funding bill that called for U.S. troops to leave Iraq next year, a new poll found.

The CNN poll released Tuesday found that 54 percent of those polled said they opposed the veto, while 44 percent said they supported Bush's decision to veto the $124 billion Iraq war funding measure. "...

Poll shows 39% of Americans support impeachment

The Raw Story | Poll shows 39% of Americans support impeachment: "A poll published Tuesday shows that close to 40% of Americans favor the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, according to an article at"...

[bth: wow.]

Marine Drowns Saving 2 Boys Off North Carolina Beach - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News - Marine Drowns Saving 2 Boys Off North Carolina Beach - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News: "ALMA, Mich. — A U.S. Marine drowned after saving two children who were swimming off Atlantic Beach in North Carolina, the military said."

Master Sgt. Michael Wert, an intelligence chief for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point in Havelock, N.C., was vacationing this past weekend with his family at the beach when he saw two boys struggling in the surf, the Marines said in a statement.

His wife, Debbie, said her husband rushed into the water to help while she went to call 911. Their daughter, Katrina, grabbed a boogie board and followed Wert, a Michigan native, into the water.

"She managed to help the boys onto the board, but didn't see her dad with them," Debbie Wert said in the statement. "The one little boy told her (Michael Wert) had to let them go and had died."

Rescue personnel found Wert but could not revive him....

U.S. Pays and Apologizes to Kin of Afghans Killed by Marines

U.S. Pays and Apologizes to Kin of Afghans Killed by Marines - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, May 8 — An Army commander apologized and paid compensation on Tuesday to families of Afghan civilians killed by marines after a suicide attack in March, in the first formal acknowledgment by the American authorities that the killings were unjustified. "

Col. John Nicholson, an Army brigade commander in eastern Afghanistan, met Tuesday with the families of the 19 Afghans killed and 50 wounded when a Marine Special Operations unit opened fire on a crowded stretch of road near Jalalabad after a suicide bomber in a vehicle rammed their convoy....

4 Arrested in 2005 London Bombings

4 Arrested in 2005 London Bombings - New York Times: "LONDON (AP) -- British police arrested four people Wednesday in connection with the suicide bombings that killed 52 bus and subway passengers in London in 2005."...

6 Men Arrested in a Terror Plot Against Fort Dix

6 Men Arrested in a Terror Plot Against Fort Dix - New York Times: "CAMDEN, N.J., May 8 — Six Muslim men from New Jersey and Philadelphia were charged Tuesday with plotting to attack Fort Dix with automatic weapons and possibly even rocket-propelled grenades, vowing in taped conversations “to kill as many soldiers as possible,” federal authorities said."

The arrests came after a 15-month investigation during which the F.B.I. and two informers who had infiltrated the group taped them training with automatic weapons in rural Pennsylvania, conducting surveillance of military bases in the Northeast, watching videos of Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers and trying to buy AK-47 assault rifles.

The authorities described the suspects as Islamic extremists and said they represented the newest breed of threat: loosely organized domestic militants unconnected to — but inspired by — Al Qaeda or other international terror groups.

But the criminal complaint that details the plot describes an effort that was alternately ambitious and clumsy, with the men at turns declaring themselves eager to sacrifice their lives in the name of Allah and worrying about getting arrested or deported for buying weapons or possessing a map of a military base.

The suspects include three ethnic Albanian brothers who entered the United States illegally, part of a family that has lived for years in Cherry Hill, N.J., where they attended public schools and relatives ran a roofing business and a pizzeria. They were joined by their brother-in-law, who was born in Jordan and is a United States citizen, and two other legal United states residents: an ethnic Albanian from the former Yugoslavia, and a Turk who lived in Philadelphia.

The men, ages 22 to 28, held jobs ranging from roofer to cabdriver to pizza deliveryman, and had no clear motivation other than their stated desire to kill United States soldiers in the name of Islam. They considered a variety of targets, including the annual Army-Navy football game and warships docked in the Port of Philadelphia, but ultimately dismissed Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as having too much security and picked Fort Dix largely because one of their fathers owned a restaurant nearby that delivered to the base.

The authorities first caught up with the men in January 2006, when personnel at a video store alerted the authorities after the suspects requested that he transfer onto a DVD a videotape of the group shouting about jihad as they fired assault weapons at a range in the Pocono Mountains....

[bth: the good news is that these guys were idiots. The bad news, there aren't enough idiots]

Official Takes Case to U.S., but Skeptics Don’t Budge

Official Takes Case to U.S., but Skeptics Don’t Budge - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, May 8 — Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser to Iraq’s prime minister, undertook on Tuesday what may have been his most challenging mission yet: trying to persuade American lawmakers who have all but run out of patience that still more patience is required."

In a whirlwind series of closed-door meetings that began with Representative John P. Murtha and ended with Senator Carl Levin — two Democrats who have been leading the charge for American troop withdrawals — Mr. Rubaie sought to make the case that an American pullout would be catastrophic.

“I know that they are running out of patience, and I understand this very well,” Mr. Rubaie said in a Monday interview in which he outlined his case. “And we have to play the political game. But I feel we are on the last mile of a walk toward success, and if they let go and don’t take our hand, I feel that we are going to lose everything.”

It was Mr. Rubaie’s first visit to Capitol Hill. As he navigated the halls with the American adviser who works with him in Baghdad, Mr. Rubaie’s presence spoke volumes about Congress’s growing restiveness over Iraq policy and the emerging sense that the next four months will be critical for determining whether to extend the Bush administration’s troop buildup in Baghdad.

“We need to start lobbying in D.C.,” Mr. Rubaie said, adding that the effort was the idea of the Iraqi government, not the Bush administration. “We need to make people understand our perspective — what are the challenges we are facing, what are the difficulties we are facing. We are not lying and doing nothing.”

Mr. Rubaie used his visit in part to court supporters of a continued American presence, including Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut. But his meetings with Mr. Murtha of Pennsylvania and Mr. Levin of Michigan, which appeared to lead to no fundamental shift in their positions, demonstrated a willingness to make his case face to face with critics who have disdained similar warnings from the Bush administration.....

In the session with Mr. Levin, Mr. Rubaie stressed that Iraq was involved in a historic process to overcome the long legacy of authoritarian rule, and that the early withdrawal of American troops would lead to chaos.

Mr. Levin, for his part, stuck firmly to his position that the United States should begin a partial troop withdrawal in four months to put pressure on the Iraqi leaders to make the necessary political compromises.

“Clocks are action-forcing mechanisms,” Mr. Levin said in an interview after his conversation with Mr. Rubaie. Mr. Levin said the Iraqi talked of the sweeping changes under way and the need “to educate a generation.”

“I told him that is too long,” Mr. Levin said.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pentagon Tells 35,000: Prepare to Deploy

Pentagon Tells 35,000: Prepare to Deploy | The Huffington Post: "WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has notified more than 35,000 Army soldiers to be prepared to deploy to Iraq beginning this fall, a move that would allow commanders to maintain the ongoing buildup of troops through the end of the year if needed."...

Pakistani parliament rejects changing blasphemy laws

Pakistani parliament rejects changing blasphemy laws - South Asia: "Islamabad - The Pakistani parliament on Tuesday crushed moves to amend blasphemy laws that prescribe harsh punishments, including the death penalty, for insults to the Prophet Mohammed. "

'This is the parliament of not a secular but an Islamic state. No one can dare to present a bill here which hurts the sentiments of Muslims,' Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sher Afgan said.

A Christian member of the lower house had suggested a motion to tone down the legislation, which authorities in recent years indicated could be reviewed under President Pervez Musharraf's policies of 'enlightened moderation.'

The motion was rejected by opposition lawmakers as well as the ruling Pakistani Muslim League, while members of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Ammal Islamic religious alliance thumped their desks in applause at its dismissal.

The penal code of Pakistan sanctions the death penalty or life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of making derogatory remarks about the prophet.

Human rights groups have criticized the blasphemy laws because of proven cases where they have been misused by Muslim fundamentalists to persecute religious minorities. Ordinary citizens have also publicly accused rivals of blasphemy in order to settle personal scores.

The author of the proposal, Minno Bhandara, said he had only sought equal penalties for offenders of any religion.

'Under the Pakistani constitution every citizen is equal, irrespective of religion,' he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. 'Therefore prophets and sacred books of minorities should be protected in the same way as those of Muslims,' he added.

Sources: 6 charged with plot to kill Fort Dix soldiers

Sources: 6 charged with plot to kill Fort Dix soldiers - "WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Six men were arrested overnight after being accused of plotting an attack against Fort Dix in New Jersey, and federal charges were to be filed Tuesday, sources told CNN."

The six men were planning to use automatic weapons to shoot soldiers at the Army post, according to a federal law enforcement source and a senior government source.

The men, some of whom were related to each other, had been doing surveillance and planning "for a while," and they trained in the Poconos, according to the federal law enforcement source.

New Jersey state troopers and the FBI were involved in investigating and arresting the suspects. An informant played a key role in the investigation, the sources said.

One of the sources said there is a video and an audiotape of the planning.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in New Jersey told The Associated Press that all six of the men were from the former Yugoslavia, and that five of them lived in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Federal authorities said the men's goal was to "kill as many soldiers as possible," according to the AP.

[bth: Serb, muslim? what?]

Troops at Baghdad Outposts Seek Safety in Fortifications

Troops at Baghdad Outposts Seek Safety in Fortifications - ..."Morale was mixed among soldiers at the outposts -- the closest thing to a "front line" in the military's Baghdad campaign. Some, particularly junior officers, said they accepted the risks to live closer to the Iraqi people. Others, however, said they longed for a sense of purpose and voiced frustration at the prospect of harsh, dangerous 15-month tours for a mission they consider murky.

"What do you want us to accomplish over here? We aren't hearing any end state. We aren't hearing it from the president, from the defense secretary," Sgt. 1st Class Michael Eaglin said in a room cluttered with bunk beds, rucksacks and weapons at the Sadr City outpost. "We're working hard and the politicians are arguing. They don't have bullets flying over their heads. They aren't on the front lines, and their buddies aren't dying," he said, echoing the sentiments of a group of soldiers around him.

"It's almost like the Vietnam War. We don't know where we're going," Spec. Adam Hamilton agreed.

"We're not complaining," Eaglin said. "We're tired of being lost. Have you ever been lost and at the same time getting shot at? It's miserable," he said. "When you paint a car a pretty red . . . it makes you feel good inside. That's what we want with this war. I want to be here for a reason, not just a show of force."

[bth: the introduction of these small bases earlier this year correlates highly with the increase in casualties to the highest level since the beginning of the war. Further the evidence is that officers aren't at the compounds taking casualties nearly as much as they used to (see trendlines posted earlier this week). I hope the benefits, whatever they are, outweigh the cost.]

LUXOR PARKING GARAGE: Strip blast kills man - News - LUXOR PARKING GARAGE: Strip blast kills man: "A small homemade bomb exploded at the Luxor parking garage early Monday, killing a man and stoking fears of a terrorist attack on the Strip."

Not long after the 4 a.m. blast, national news outlets jumped on the story in a media frenzy that continued throughout the day, though Las Vegas police soon determined that the deadly explosion was an act of murder, not terror.

"This is a murder investigation, but rather than a gun or knife as the weapon of choice, an explosive device was used," Las Vegas police Deputy Chief Ted Moody said.

The dead man was an employee of Nathan's Famous hot dogs, employees there said and an investigator confirmed. The restaurant is one of several noncasino businesses that remain open all night in the food court inside the Luxor, a pyramid-shaped hotel with more than 4,400 rooms and 4,200 employees at the south end of the Strip....

Iraqis Thwart Pipeline Sabotage In North

IraqSlogger: Iraqis Thwart Pipeline Sabotage In North: "Mosul, May 7, (VOI) – Iraqi army forces foiled an attempt to blow up the western Mosul pipeline that carries oil to Turkey and managed to arrest four suspected saboteurs, a military source said.

The Iraqi army's 3rd Division forces "found during the early hours of Monday 350 kg of TNT laid under the pipeline that carries oil to Turkey in the area of al-Kasak, northwestern Ninawa province," the division's media official, Capt. Mohammed Ahmed al-Zibari, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

Zibari pointed out that the forces arrested four people suspected of attempting to detonate the pipeline in al-Kasak, 35 km west of Mosul, declining to reveal their identity.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Eddie Vedder and the Doors - Light My Fire

Fatal Injustice

Fatal Injustice: " - May 19, 2003 began like any other morning for Dominic Baragona. He woke early, turned on some old Italian songs and headed outside to work on his garden. "

But this day was special. His son, Army Colonel Rocky Baragona, was on his way home from Iraq.

It wouldn't be long before Rocky would sit down to a traditional Italian dinner with his family. Or so they thought.

Rocky's father, Dominic Baragona said, "These two officers come around the back of the house. And you know, your worst nightmare comes true."

They told him that Rocky had been killed on his way to the airport.

"...And I guess mom kinda knew...," added Dominic.

Vilma Baragona, Rocky's mom, confirmed, "...I knew, as soon as I saw them all dressed up."

"And boy, I'll tell you, you get hit -- just like that," Dominic said, "and everything's shattered."

Rocky's Humvee was traveling near Iraq's border with Kuwait when it was struck by a tractor-trailer. Rocky was killed instantly.

Dominic said, "The tractor-trailer is playing road tag, if you know what road tag is. You know, a guy falls behind you and passes you, and falls behind again. And the Humvee can only do 55 miles an hour. It's a big super-highway, three lanes going both ways."

Rocky, a West Point graduate, had served 21 years in the U.S. Army. The Ohio native could have gotten out of the Army a year earlier, but he wanted to serve.

Pamela Baragona-Robinson, Rocky's sister, said, "It's like his whole life has built up to this moment of serving his country at this level. And he was able to do it, and wanted to serve his country, and was very proud of having the honor to do it."

As the Baragona family began to pick up the pieces, one question nagged them: who drove the truck that killed Rocky? The U.S. Army said it didn't know.

"So now you're questioning -- wow, the Army doesn't know? And they're not too happy with us, because we're really upset about this," Pamela said.

The Army finally issued a report on the incident a year later. But there were still no answers. So the Baragonas began their own investigation.

They contacted eyewitnesses in Iraq, including the driver of Rocky's Humvee. Their persistence led to a second incident report from the U.S. Army. This time, the family got some answers.

The truck that killed Rocky belonged to a billion-dollar Kuwaiti transport company called KGL. Its trucking contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense alone run $100 million per year.

Pamela said, "...all of a sudden you're like, 'Oh.' This is a giant company. And this company's stock had gone up since 2001 from the benefit of being in the relationship with the Department of Defense."

The Army found that KGL's truck caused the accident, meaning that the company was responsible for financial compensation to Rocky's family. That's a standard procedure for u.s. contractors who want to avoid losing their lucrative deals with the United States government.

In KGL's case, however, they refused any contact with the Baragona family.

"This company should not be in a relationship with the United States if, in a fatality, they're not even willing to respond," Pamela said. "I mean, no response."

Shunned by KGL, the Baragonas went to their senator, Mike DeWine, for help. He urged Kuwait's ambassador to the U.S. to put pressure on KGL.

After all, KGL is a publicly owned company on the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange.

DeWine said, "He assured me that he was going to get this information and do what they could do to get the company to be responsive. He made promises and he never came through -- and his government never came through. And I think it's just outrageous."

A spokesperson for the Kuwaiti Embassy told CBN News, "The Kuwaiti Embassy considers this a judicial and legal matter. The Baragona family has every right to pursue this case in a Kuwaiti court. This is a personal matter between the family and the contractor. We cannot do anything about it."

"I think it's irresponsible of the Kuwaiti government," DeWine said, "for them to just stand back and say, 'Oh, we can't do anything about this,' after what the United States has done for them, is just -- it just grates on you."

The Baragonas have met with Bush administration officials about their case. Since KGL refuses any contact with the family, and the Kuwaiti government hasn't been helpful, the administration has approved debarment hearings against the company in a federal court.

If the court rules that KGL has been negligent in its dealings with the Baragonas, it will lose all of its U.S. contracts.

The Baragonas say they aren't pursuing this for money. They're doing it for Rocky.

"He's a hero. He deserves to have answers," they say.

The hearings against KGL began earlier this year. The Baragonas have been there, but KGL has yet to appear at any of them. KGL didn't respond to CBN News' request for comment.

In the meantime, the Baragonas say they just want KGL to show them the same consideration that America showed Kuwait in 1991.

Humvee doors can trap troops

WZZM13 - Humvee doors can trap troops: "WASHINGTON - The Army is fixing the doors of every armored Humvee in combat in Iraq because they can jam shut during an attack and trap soldiers inside, Pentagon records and interviews show."

The door trouble, the latest in a series of problems with the Humvees since the Iraq war began, is an unintended consequence of the Pentagon's effort to add armor to protect troops from makeshift bombs. Improvised explosive devices are the No. 1 killer of U.S. troops in Iraq, causing 70% of injuries and deaths. Armored Humvees, the main troop-transport vehicle, are often targeted by insurgents who plant bombs on roads.

One quick fix to the jamming problem was to weld D-shaped hooks to Humvee doors so another truck could rip them off with a cable. The hook is built into the latest version of armor added to the Humvee, known as the Frag Kit 5, said Lt. Col. William Wiggins, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon. "Every Humvee outside (a fortified base) will have a hook," Wiggins said. There are about 18,000 Humvees in Iraq.

The Army plans to spend $284 million this year on armor kits, which also include improved latches and hinges for the heavier doors. The money was in the Iraq spending bill President Bush vetoed last week because it contained a troop-withdrawal timeline.

"The Humvee wasn't designed to withstand the kind of blasts our soldiers are getting hit with in Iraq," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del. "This is just another reason why we need to get as many of the new MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles as possible into the field, as soon as possible"

The MRAP vehicle has a V-shaped hull and a raised chassis that better disperses the force of a blast. Biden recently won approval of a $1.5 billion amendment to the military spending bill to buy more MRAP vehicles.

The Pentagon does not generally identify vehicles in which troops are killed, making it impossible to determine the number killed because of the door problem.

When armor from the new kits is added, a Humvee door can weigh at least 600 pounds, said Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., of the House Armed Services Committee. The Humvee has run its course as a useful vehicle, he said. "It wasn't designed for urban warfare."

The Marines have been fixing their Humvees in Anbar province as well, Maj. Jeff Pool, a spokesman based in Fallujah. They intend to replace all its Humvees with MRAP vehicles, while the Army plans to continue using some Humvees. Adm. William Fallon, in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, called "rapid fielding" of MRAPs a priority. Fallon heads U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tom Buckner, an owner of IbisTek, a small military contractor, said the Humvee door problem became apparent early in 2006. The company produces a device know as the Rat Claw, which grips the Humvee door, while cables attached to another truck rip it off. The military has bought about 1,500 of the $400 devices.

[bth: there are several misstatments of fact in this article. First, there are probably 18,000 M1114 fully-factory armored humvees in Iraq, but there are another 25,000 Level 2 and 2A humvees still running around. Second, the problem was apparent before 2006, it just wasn't addressed until sometime last year. Third, the MRAP has no chance of replacing humvees in the next few years. The production rates on MRAP simply aren't going to be fast enough to offset the attrition of humvees in Iraq. There is going to be a collossal equipment shortage before the end of the year.]

Bush troop ‘surge’ boosts death toll

Green Left - IRAQ: Iraq: Bush troop ‘surge’ boosts death toll....On May 1, the US Army Times newspaper reported that “Iraqi insurgents are launching four times as many attacks with improvised explosive devices than in 2003”. However, due to countermeasures, “only one in five IED attacks kills or injures US troops”, Pentagon spokesperson Christine Devries said. While she did not provide casualty figures, Davies said that one in nine US soldiers injured by an IED attack dies.

According to the last quarterly Pentagon report to the US Congress, released in March, 70% of insurgent attacks in Iraq are directed against US and allied foreign forces, 20% target Washington’s puppet Iraqi security forces and 10% are directed against civilians.

On May 1, AP reported that “while American casualties are rising, US officials say the Baghdad [security] crackdown has reduced civilian deaths in the capital since the security operation was launched February 14”. However, in a 30-page report released on April 25, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq complained that such claims could not be verified because the US-backed government of PM Nuri al Maliki had instructed the health ministry not to provide UNAMI with any figures on the number of Iraqi casualties.

During a Baghdad press conference at which she released the report, UNAMI human rights officer Ivana Vuco said government officials had not provided an “official” reason for refusing to release the figures, but she added: “Unofficially, however, in a number of follow-up meetings to their decision, we were told that there were concerns that the people would construe the figures to portray the situation negatively and that would further undermine their efforts to establish some kind of security and stability in the country.”

UNAMI spokesperson Said Arikat said that Maliki had complained in January that the UN’s death count was exaggerated, after UNAMI released a report showing that 34,452 Iraqi civilians had been killed last year. But Arikat insisted the UN count was based on “the most carefully screened figures”, being based on information from the Iraqi health ministry, hospitals across the country and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad. ...

For Iraqi Soldiers, A Medical Morass

For Iraqi Soldiers, A Medical Morass - "...As the U.S. military prepares for an eventual handover of security duties to Iraqi forces, more of Iraq's 120,000 soldiers are advancing to the front lines of the war, and more are being wounded. But because there are no Iraqi military hospitals, thousands have been left to the mercy of overtaxed and corrupt civilian hospitals and a military compensation system paralyzed by red tape and disorganization, according to soldiers, family members, doctors and military officials. Many, feeling abandoned, turn to their families for help."..

Christians Fleeing Violence in Iraq - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Christians Fleeing Violence in Iraq - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "BAGHDAD — Despite the chaos and sectarian violence raging across Baghdad, Farouq Mansour felt relatively safe as a Christian living in a multiethnic neighborhood in the capital."...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

President Bush's veto of Iraq war funding bill - Jim Braude Show on NECN with guest Brian Hart

5/1/07 7:54 p.m.) Brian Hart, whose son John Hart was killed in Iraq and Avi Nelson, a talk radio host and political commentator join. They talk about the showdown between Congress and the Bush Administration over the Iraq funding bill vetoed by the President.

The Doors - The End

Afghanistan: Analysis of U.S. Fatalities - Commissioned Military Officers’ Compared to Total U.S. Military Fatalities in Theater

Afghanistan: Analysis of U.S. Fatalities -
Commissioned Officers’ Compared to Total U.S. Military Fatalities in Theater

May 6, 2007

As of May 6, 2007 there have been 381 U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan since 2001 (excluding CIA and unnamed to date).

Of these 381, 36 fatalities were commissioned officers (345 other). The ratio of commissioned fatalities to enlisted and NCOs is 9.6:1 or 9.4% of the total fatalities. In Iraq the respective numbers are a ratio of 11:1 and a percentage of 8.3% of fatalities. Thus as a percentage of fatalities more officers are being killed as a percent of total U.S. forces in Afghanistan than Iraq over the life of both conflicts.

Not statistically established but by observation, it appears helicopter accidents are a large source of commissioned officer fatalities in Afghanistan.

Of the 36 commissioned officer fatalities in Afghanistan, only 13 or 34% were killed by some form of hostility since the Afghan war began in 2001. For all U.S. military forces in Afghanistan killed by hostile fire versus all fatalities, the percentage was 53% hostile and if the person was not a commissioned officer the probability that they were killed by hostile actions increased to 55%. The cause of death is 62% percent more likely to be hostile for the noncommissioned population than the commissioned officers (55%/34%).

No commissioned officers were killed by hostile fire in 2001, 2002 or 2007 and no commissioned officers were killed in Afghanistan by any cause in 2001 and 2007 (as of May 6).

The ratio of commissioned fatalities to total fatalities peaked in 2005 at 13.1% and then declined to 10.3% in 2006 and to 0% in 2007. Given 2006 fatality ratios one would have expected approximately 3 commissioned officer fatalities by any cause in 2007 and at least 1 by hostilities this year to date (May 6, 2007). Given average fatalities for 2005 and 2006 combined and applying them to 2007, one would expect to see over 3 commissioned officer fatalities (28 x 11.73%) and 1.6 hostile fire fatalities (28 x 5.61%) year to date (May 6) in 2007.

Instead there are no commissioned officer fatalities in Afghanistan in 2007. This is consistent with the downward trend in commissioned officer fatalities relative to others seen in Iraq during Period 6 of that conflict (after the Feb. 1, 2007 surge began).