Saturday, May 26, 2007

FireScout robot deathcopter passes engine testing

FireScout robot deathcopter passes engine testing - Engadget: "The Army's "FireScout robotic helicopter passed its engine tests today, marking another step on the road for the US armed forces to move away from the sort-of-cute "RC car with a big gun" school of military robotics to the sort-of-terrifying "Skynet becomes self-aware at 2:14 A.M., August 29th" school of deathbots. The robochopper, based on the commercially-available Schweizer 333 helicopter, can stay in the air for eight hours autonomously (five with a weapons payload) and has successfully landed itself on warships at sea. The Navy is considering deploying up to 200 of these things beginning in 2008, and the Army is interested in variants for work in Iraq -- the bird can be towed behind a Humvee and used to scout for explosives. No mention of who gets authority to fire the optional Hellfire missiles, but let's hope that decision stays with the humans for a while longer.

U.S. Raids Radical Anti-American Cleric's Baghdad Stronghold - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

FOXNews.com - U.S. Raids Radical Anti-American Cleric's Baghdad Stronghold - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "BAGHDAD — A day after radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr resurfaced to end nearly four months in hiding and demand U.S. troops leave Iraq, American forces raided his Sadr City stronghold and killed five suspected militia fighters in air strikes Saturday."

U.S. and Iraqi forces called in the air strikes after a raid in which they captured a "suspected terrorist cell leader," the U.S. military said in statement.

The statement claimed the captured man was "the suspected leader in a secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training."

EFP's are deadly roadside bombs that hurl a fist-size slug of molten copper that penetrates armor, a weapon that has been highly effective against American forces over the past year.

The militia fighters were killed in air strikes on nine cars that were seen positioning themselves to attack American forces after the raid, the military said....

IraqSlogger: TNT Found in the Office of Iraqi MP

IraqSlogger: TNT Found in the Office of Iraqi MP: "Partisan politics make for a dirty game, but nowhere more so than in Iraq. Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, the Iraqi in charge of the Baghdad security plan and the Interior Ministry, reportedly presented Prime Minister Maliki with a dossier of 15 parliamentarians who should be stripped of immunity and prosecuted for ties to terrorists last month."

Now the NY Sun's Eli Lake reports that one of the names on that list, Khalaf al-Ayan, is suspected of involvement in the April 12 Parliament bombing.


An American military official this week confirmed to The New York Sun that on April 3, American forces raided Mr. Ayan's house in Yarmouk and found stores of TNT that matched the kind used in the suicide belt that detonated on April 12 at the Iraqi parliament's cafeteria. That blast killed a member of parliament, Mohammed Awad, a Sunni Arab member of Mr. Ayan's Dialogue Front, yet the terrorist who killed him is believed to have been a member of Awad's security detail.

But the background on Mr. Ayan, who has threatened to return to "resistance" if the political process does not yield to the demands of his Sunni constituency, also implicates him in a string of attacks in Mosul on May 17 that detonated bridges and blew up a police station, according to one senior Iraqi Sunni official and an American intelligence officer who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the investigation. A raid last week on his parliamentary offices, in which American forces participated, yielded time-stamped before-and-after photos of the attacks, according to these sources.


An American military official conceded to Lake that only a handful of the names on Maliki's dossier of targets for prosecution had any serious ties to terrorism, but said Ayan was one who deserved to be charged.

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Lang's Rules for Analytic Thought

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Lang's Rules for Analytic Thought: "Lang's Rules of Analytic Thought:

1-Duck Rule: If it walks like a duck, squawks like a duck and has feathers, it probably is a duck.

2 – Sherlock’s Rule: When considering a problem, remove everything from consideration which seems untrue. What is left is probably the truth.

3-Occam’s Razor: In considering a complex phenomenon with many factors and a variety of explanations, remember that the simplest explanation that accounts for the factors is probably correct.

4- The KISS principal” “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” (Army Rule)
pl"

Friday, May 25, 2007

UMass faculty, students protest Card's honorary doctorate - Boston.com

UMass faculty, students protest Card's honorary doctorate - Boston.com: "AMHERST, Mass. --Hundreds of students and faculty erupted in a chorus of boos Friday when President Bush's former chief of staff Andrew Card rose to accept his honorary doctorate in public service at the University of Massachusetts, blaming him in part for the Iraq war."...

Prosecutors: Up to 3 Years for Libby

Prosecutors: Up to 3 Years for Libby: "WASHINGTON (AP) - Former White House aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby has shown no remorse for corrupting the legal system and deserves to spend 2 1/2 to 3 years in prison for obstructing the CIA leak investigation, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said Friday. "...

Top Mahdi Army Militant Killed in Fighting With British - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

FOXNews.com - Top Mahdi Army Militant Killed in Fighting With British - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "BAGHDAD — The leader of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia in the southern Iraqi city of Basra was killed Friday in a gunbattle with British soldiers, Iraqi police said."

Wissam al-Waili, 23, also known as Abu Qadir, was shot and killed along with his brother and two aides during the battle Friday afternoon, police said.

The Mahdi Army of radical Shiite Muqtada al-Sadr is fiercely opposed to the presence of U.S. and British troops in Iraq. However, the militia has lowered its profile since U.S.-led forces began a security crackdown in Baghdad in February.

The gunbattle Friday began about 4 p.m. when British forces attempted to arrest al-Waili after he left a mosque in Jumhoriyah a middle class, residential area in central Basra, police said. Al-Waili and his three companions opened fire and were killed in the subsequent gunbattle, police said.

British forces could not immediately be reached for comment.

AP: Marines fail to get gear to troops

AP: Marines fail to get gear to troops - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - The system for delivering badly needed gear to Marines in Iraq has failed to meet many urgent requests for equipment from troops in the field, according to an internal document obtained by The Associated Press. "

Of more than 100 requests from deployed Marine units between February 2006 and February 2007, less than 10 percent have been fulfilled, the document says. It blamed the bureaucracy and a "risk-averse" approach by acquisition officials.

Among the items held up were a mine resistant vehicle and a hand-held laser system.

"Process worship cripples operating forces," according to the document. "Civilian middle management lacks technical and operational currency."

The 32-page document — labeled "For Official Use Only" — was prepared by the staff of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force after they returned from Iraq in February.

The document was to be presented in March to senior officials in the Pentagon's defense research and engineering office. The presentation was canceled by Marine Corps leaders because its contents were deemed too contentious, according to a defense official familiar with the document. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

The document's claims run counter to the public description of a process intended to cut through the layers of red tape that frequently slow the military's procurement process.

The Marine Corps had no immediate comment on the document.

In a briefing Wednesday, Marine Corps officials hailed their "Urgent Universal Need Statement" system as a way to give Marines in combat a greater say in weapons-buying decisions.

"What we all liked about (the urgent requests) is they came from the operators out on the ground and there was always a perceived better way of doing things," said Maj. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, who was a commander in Iraq from June 2004 to February 2005.

The document lists 24 examples of equipment urgently needed by Marines in Iraq's Anbar province. One, the mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, has received attention as a promising way to protect troops from roadside blasts, the leading killer of U.S. forces in Iraq.

After receiving a February 2005 urgent request approved by Hejlik for nearly 1,200 of the vehicles, the Marine Corps instead purchased improved versions of the ubiquitous Humvee.

The industrial capacity did not exist to quickly build the new mine resistant vehicles and the more heavily armored Humvees were viewed as a suitable solution, Marine Corps officials said.

That proved not to be the case as insurgent elements in Iraq developed more powerful bombs that could penetrate the Humvees. The mine resistant vehicles are now a top priority for all the military branches, which plan to buy 7,774 of the carriers at a cost of $8.4 billion.

Brig. Gen. Robert Milstead, chief of Marine Corps public affairs, said cost was not a factor in choosing the Humvee.

"This was not a budgetary decision," Milstead said Wednesday. "You can take that to the bank."

The internal document, however, states that the cost of building new vehicles was a primary reason the request was denied by the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va.

Needs of the deployed troops are "competed against funded programs," the document states.

"Resistance costs time," it adds. "Unnecessary delays cause U.S. friendly and innocent Iraqi deaths and injuries."


A second example cited is the compact high power laser dazzler, an inexpensive, nonlethal tool for steering unwelcome vehicles away from U.S. checkpoints in Iraq. The dazzler emits a powerful stream of green light that stops or redirects oncoming traffic by temporarily impairing the driver's vision.

In June 2005, Marines stationed in western Iraq filed an urgent request for several hundred of the dazzlers, which are built by LE Systems, a small company in Hartford, Conn. The request was repeated nearly a year later.

"Timely purchase and employment of all systems bureaucratically stymied," the document states.

Separate documents indicate the deployed Marines became so frustrated at the delays they bypassed normal acquisition procedures and used money from their own budget to buy 28 of the dazzlers directly from LE Systems.

But because the lasers had not passed a safety review process, stateside authorities barred the Marines from using them.

In January, nearly 18 months after the first request, the Marines received a less powerful laser built by a different company
.

Titus Casazza, president of LE Systems, criticized the Marine Corps' acquisition process.

"The bureaucrats and lab rats sitting behind a desk stateside are making decisions on what will be given to our soldiers even if contrary to the specific requests of these soldiers and their commanding generals," he said.

There are successful examples listed in the briefing document. A December request for an airborne surveillance system — Angel Fire — is expected to be filled this summer. The system provides constant overhead surveillance of large urban areas, such as Ramadi or Fallujah, and is able to track the movement of people and vehicles.

Len Blasiol, a civilian official with the Combat Development Command, said the speed with which requests can be met is largely dependent on how much research and development work needs to be done.

"The first question is, 'Is this something we can go out right now today and buy? Is it sitting on a shelf somewhere waiting for us to buy?' And if it is, then we figure out how to buy it," Blasiol said.

Citizens for Civic Courage

 

Sam Poulten and Brian Hart as hosts for the Citizens for Civic Courage debate on Iraq, Afghanistan and Military and Veterans Health Issues, May 23, 2007 in Chelmsford for 5th MA Congressional Candidates
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Poll Shows View of Iraq War Is Most Negative Since Start

Poll Shows View of Iraq War Is Most Negative Since Start - New York Times: "Americans now view the war in Iraq more negatively than at any time since the invasion more than four years ago, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll."

Sixty-one percent of Americans say the United States should have stayed out of Iraq and 76 percent say things are going badly there, including 47 percent who say things are going very badly, the poll found.

Still, the majority of Americans support continuing to finance the war as long as the Iraqi government meets specific goals.

President Bush’s approval ratings remain near the lowest of his more than six years in office. Thirty percent approve of the job he is doing over all, while 63 percent disapprove.

More Americans — 72 percent — now say that “generally things in the country are seriously off on the wrong track” than at any other time since the Times/CBS News poll began asking the question in 1983. The number has slowly risen since January 2004. Then, 53 percent said the country was “seriously off on the wrong track,” and by January of this year it was 68 percent.

Public support for the war has eroded. In January 2003, 64 percent of Americans said the United States did the right thing in taking military action in Iraq and 28 percent said the United States should have stayed out. The current numbers are nearly reversed, with 35 percent saying the United states did the right thing and 61 percent saying the country should have stayed out. In January of this year, 58 percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq and 38 percent said going in was the right thing....

Sadr Back in Iraq, U.S. Generals Say

Sadr Back in Iraq, U.S. Generals Say - washingtonpost.com: "BAGHDAD, May 24 -- Moqtada al-Sadr, the influential Shiite cleric and militia leader who went into hiding before the launch of a U.S.-Iraqi security offensive in February, is in the southern city of Kufa, senior U.S. military commanders said Thursday."

Sadr, who has long opposed the U.S. occupation and is ratcheting up pressure for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, has returned from neighboring Iran, perhaps as recently as this week, they said....
.

Militias to intensify battle for Basra

Gulfnews: Militias to intensify battle for Basra: "Baghdad: Armed fighting between the British troops and the Mehdi Army headed by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, will escalate in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, warned Iraqi security forces and military experts.Baghdad: Armed fighting between the British troops and the Mehdi Army headed by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, will escalate in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, warned Iraqi security forces and military experts."

The warning comes after London's decision to begin troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Zaman Al Khuzai, a major general in the former Iraqi army, told Gulf News: "I believe Americans will shift some of their forces to Basra and other Shiite southern provinces in case the United Kingdom starts an early troop pullout from Iraq.

Security situation

"Americans will keep a track of the Shiite militias, loyal to Iran, to prevent them from getting a grip on Basra and control of the situation, particularly as the government of [Prime Minister] Nouri Al Maliki is impotent and largely involved with militia infiltration in the state's institutions." He alleged: "The replacement does not amuse Al Maliki and other Shiite political and religious leaders who want to surrender the full security file to the Iraqi forces, which are accused by the British and Americans of being loyal to the dominant Shiite militias."

Sources close to Iraqi intelligence revealed that the Mehdi Army has mobilised itself and its supporters are preparing to return to Iraq immediately after an early pullout of British forces.

Some do not rule out a coup attempt. Muaid Abdul Mustafa Al Dulaimi, an expert in strategic military studies, told Gulf News: "The Mehdi Army and rival Shiite militias will attempt a coup to seize control of the entire official military and security establishments in Basra and other southern Iraqi cities."

If this happens, "the [militias] will be extremely powerful and stronger than Al Maliki's government, especially as Iran will back the militias in the south more than supporting the government in Baghdad", Al Dulaimi said.
It does not seem that Al Dulaimi's analysis is fully true as som
e reports confirm that the British withdrawal is likely to unleash a power struggle among main Shiite militia groups like the Mehdi Army and their rivals the Fadila party which engaged in clashes recently.

Some sceptics believe that the British and Americans have a role in creating the current conflict between the two Shiite groups to spark off an internal fight in the Shiite block.

The security situation in Basra is growing critical and witnesses struggles for interests and power between the United States, Britain and Iran.

The development may spur Americans to bring a strong central Iraqi government led by the former Baathists as its primary mission will be to suppress Shiite militias and end Iranian influence in southern Iraq.

U.S. Working To Sabotage Iran Nuke Program, CBS: Iranian Efforts To Enrich Uranium Are Progressing Despite Covert Efforts To Disrupt Program - CBS News

U.S. Working To Sabotage Iran Nuke Program, CBS: Iranian Efforts To Enrich Uranium Are Progressing Despite Covert Efforts To Disrupt Program - CBS News: "CBS News has learned that Iran is continuing to make progress on its expanded efforts to enrich uranium — in spite of covert efforts by U.S. and other allied intelligence agencies to actively sabotage the country's nuclear program. "...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Decline Begins

....The Five Fallacies
In the run-up to the Iraq war, the neoconservative movement considered writer and foreign-policy thinker Francis Fukuyama a fellow traveler. When the war dragged on, however, he committed ideological heresy by re-examining the basis for some of his own arguments, and he eventually broke ranks with the neoconservatives. Six years of the war on terrorism, Fukuyama concluded in a recent talk, have essentially exposed five fallacies underpinning the Bush Doctrine.

Fukuyama's analysis, one seconded by many foreign-affairs experts interviewed for this article, begins with the Bush administration's overreliance on America's conventional military forces. "Our military thinks of itself as an overwhelming force optimized against other nation-states; but overwhelming force applied to groups like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or the militias in Iraq is often counterproductive because it increases the population from which these groups draw strength," said Fukuyama, speaking at a Capitol Hill symposium sponsored by the Project for the New American Century. In a Middle East characterized by weak states but powerful terrorist groups and radical movements that cross national boundaries, he notes, "our military power has grave limits."

A second fallacy of the Bush Doctrine was the elevation of "preventive war" against other nation-states as a way to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. "Preventive strikes against stateless terror groups that can't be contained or deterred make sense," Fukuyama said, "but the problem is, the Bush administration switched the subject in the middle of the conversation and applied it to rogue states in the 'axis of evil.' That's a very different ballgame." Because such a preventive war doctrine essentially requires nations to accurately predict the future (an especially dubious proposition, as evidenced by the cloudiness of the CIA's crystal ball about Iraq's weapons programs), he notes, "Otto von Bismarck called preventive war 'committing suicide because you are afraid of dying.'"

The third faulty pillar of the Bush Doctrine, Fukuyama said, was making democracy the chief instrument for achieving U.S. strategic goals, regardless of the absence of democratic institutions or traditions in areas of the world such as the Middle East. Worse, it seemed to many of these traditional societies that the United States was imposing Western-style democracy at the end of a gun. The tension between modernity and traditional Islamic culture fueled much of the jihadist terrorism at the center of this struggle.

Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations agreed. "There are a number of reasons why democracy makes for a poor lodestar for U.S. foreign policy, beginning with the fact that many of the prerequisites for democracy don't exist in today's Middle East," he said. "Iraq has also given democracy a bad name because many Sunni Arab leaders now associate it with disorder and Shiite ascendancy. Even if we could transplant democracy there, it would not be a panacea for our problems in the region. Democracies take many decades to take root, and immature democracies are often dangerous and highly prone to hijacking by nationalist or populist forces."

The fourth fallacy that Fukuyama saw in the Bush Doctrine was the idea of a "benevolent unilateralism," which others never viewed as benevolent and which largely ignored the multilateral nature of virtually all problems in an age of globalization, from terrorism and worldwide pandemics to weapons proliferation and global warming.

"Globalization is to this age what the Industrial Revolution was nearly 200 years ago, because it changes everything," Scowcroft said. "The erosion of national borders and the politicization of people around the world have created problems like terrorism and proliferation that can only be dealt with through cooperation. The decision by this administration to go in the opposite direction, and try and deal with those problems as a unilateral nation-state using traditional military power, is what has brought America to the point of crisis."

The final fallacy of Bush's strategic vision was a yawning mismatch between its lofty goals and the consistently underwhelming means used to reach them. The Bush neoconservatives launched a grand campaign to eradicate tyranny and reorder the world, yet the Bush administration failed to rally a sustainable coalition for Iraq, skimped on ground troops, resisted significantly increasing the size of the U.S. military, and refused to put the nation on a wartime footing by asking for sacrifices commensurate with the challenge.

"For an administration that set unbelievably ambitious goals, the implementation was like watching a patient with attention deficit disorder," Fukuyama said. "Donald Rumsfeld said you go to war with the army you have, not with the army you wish you had. Well, you also craft foreign policy for the government you have, not the government you wish you had. That is strategically very significant. If you can't count on competent follow-through in terms of your intelligence agencies, nation-building apparatus, and military establishment, then you should set less ambitious goals for yourself. You should stop biting off more than you can chew."

Outraged Biden questions Marine Corps' request

delawareonline ¦ The News Journal, Wilmington, Del. ¦ Outraged Biden questions Marine Corps' request: "WASHINGTON -- Sen. Joe Biden reacted sharply Wednesday to the possibility that the Marine Corps delayed its response to an urgent request from field commanders in Iraq for mine resistant vehicles, calling it a 'national scandal.'"

Biden said he was told field commanders made their first request in May 2006 for 185 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, V-shape vehicles that can reduce casualties from roadside bombs by two-thirds.

But a Marine Corps document that surfaced recently showed Marines made a "priority 1 urgent" request for 1,169 vehicles -- not 185 -- Feb. 17, 2005, a request the Corps says was handled appropriately. The "universal need statement" said there was an immediate need for "an MRAP vehicle capability" and that without them, "personnel loss rates are likely to continue at their current rates."

Brig. Gen. Robert Milstead, a Corps spokesman, said the term MRAP, as it was used in the request, is being misunderstood

[bth: bullshit. it isn't being misunderstood. The request was being ignored. The request came when marines in unarmored trucks or with trucks with hillbilly armor were being blown up regularly in Ramadi and Fallujah. If you remember at this time a marine captain lost his command for letting a reporter (Michael moss of the new york times) know that there was a problem. Shortly thereafter a truck full of female marines was obliterated. Because much of the armor was only at about neck height in the back of the truck, many were decapitated. Why don't these so called defense expert journalists call the generals on this obvious misstatement]

Army defends body armor quality

Leavenworth Lamp - Dod News: "WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan have the best body armor in the world, and the Army is constantly looking for ways to improve force protection, the general in charge of the program told reporters at the Pentagon May 21."

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan have the best body armor in the world, and the Army is constantly looking for ways to improve force protection, the general in charge of the program told reporters at the Pentagon May 21.

"Force protection is the No. 1 priority of the U.S. Army. We value our Soldiers very highly, and we do everything we can do to ensure that they have the finest in force protection as they go into the battle," Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, Program Executive Officer Soldier, said at a Pentagon news conference.

In response to a May 17 NBC News report challenging the Army's use of Interceptor body armor vs. the newer "Dragon Skin" armor developed by Pinnacle Armor Inc., Brown released information about the testing that ruled out Dragon Skin a year ago.


The tests were conducted May 16-19, 2006, at H.P. White labs near Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The Pinnacle armor was subjected to the same tests Interceptor body armor goes through, first being X-rayed and analyzed and then undergoing a series of live-fire tests, Brown said. The live-fire tests included room-temperature tests, harsh environment tests, and durability and drop tests.

Of the eight Pinnacle vests tested, four of them failed the tests, with 13 rounds penetrating completely on the first or second shot, Brown said. After the first complete penetration, the vests technically failed the test, but the Army continued the testing to be fair, he said.

The Pinnacle vests also were subjected to extreme temperature variations, from minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which would be a realistic cycle if the equipment was loaded onto a plane and flown to the Middle East, Brown said. These temperature tests caused the adhesive holding the Dragon Skin's protective discs together to fail, and the discs gathered at the bottom of the vest, leaving gaps in protection, he said.



Brown also noted that the Dragon Skin vests are significantly heavier and thicker than the Interceptor vests. Dragon Skin vests in size extra large are 47.5 pounds and 1.7 to 1.9 inches thick; the Interceptor vests in size large, which offer an equivalent coverage area to the extra large Dragon Skin vests, weigh 28 pounds and are 1.3 inches thick.

"Bottom line is it does not meet Army standards," Brown said of the Pinnacle body armor.

Brown showed reporters videos of the tests, which were supervised by the chief executive officer of Pinnacle. He also displayed the actual vests that were tested, with markers showing the penetration sites.



The Army did not initially release the information about the tests because of possible security concerns, Brown said.

"We are facing a very media-savvy enemy," he said. "They're not only media-savvy, they are Internet savvy ... Everything that we put out into the public domain, we pretty much assume that they get. We don't like to discuss our vulnerabilities and our counters to the vulnerabilities in the open public."

However, after the NBC report, Army leaders felt they needed to counter any doubts in the minds of service members and their families, Brown said. "Our Soldiers and, more importantly, the families - the wives, the children, the parents - have to have confidence that our Soldiers have the best equipment in the world," he said.



Right now, the Army's safety-of-use message mandates that all Soldiers use Interceptor body armor, which has passed the same tests the Pinnacle armor failed, Brown said. The Army is interested in a more flexible armor, like the Pinnacle design, and if the company improves its product, it could be reconsidered, he said.

Brown stressed that the Army has more than one set of body armor for every Soldier in the combat theater, and that he has all the money and support he needs to make improvements to force protection. Also, the Army is constantly working to develop new technologies that will deliver better protection.

"This is not just a matter of debate for us; this is personal," he said, noting that many of his staff members have relatives or friends who have served or are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.


[bth: Pinnacle CEO didn't supervise the test and the army isn't releasing the full video of the tests. Further no data is shown for the army vests. Finally all this is going to come out in a closed door hearing in about two weeks. Its going to be ugly.]

Iraqi cache held sophisticated SAMs

United Press International - Security & Terrorism - Briefing: "WASHINGTON, May 24 (UPI) -- U.S. forces found 22 surface-to-air Iraqi missiles buried in Baghdad last year, indicating that the 2003 looting of arsenals was more extensive than thought. "

Most weapons caches found in Iraq have some mix of mortar and artillery shells and ammunition, items relatively easy to cart off by hand from the estimated 600 weapons sites left unguarded in the aftermath of the invasion. Most of those sites were well looted, and the bombs continue to be wired into the improvised explosive devices that claim some 70 percent of U.S. casualties in Iraq.

The weapons sites were not secured by the U.S. military in large part because it lacked the manpower to do so during the invasion.

But in January 2006 soldiers from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division armed with metal detectors uncovered 22 SA-13s, 7-foot-long missiles normally carried on and launched from heavy tracked military vehicles.

Details of the cache were obtained by the Federation of American Scientists, which obtained a redacted report on the missile find through the Freedom of Information Act this week.

With a 5 kilogram high-explosive warhead, a maximum speed of Mach 2 and a range of 500 to 5,000 meters, the SA-13 Gopher is especially well suited to shooting down helicopters and low-flying aircraft.

The SA-13 warhead is two to three times larger than the warhead on the more common SA-7, said Matthew Schroeder, the FAS analyst who obtained the document.

According to the document, the missiles appeared to have been recently buried. It is not clear whether they were operational. They were found with 5,000 rounds of 32mm cannon ammunition.

Insurgents have successfully downed dozens of U.S. helicopters, but their most common method is heavy machine-gun fire, according to U.S. Army officials.

[bth: how many thousands have been killed or wounded because we let 600 ammo dumps be looted? Who in the command structure is held to account? Now one. Criminal gross negligence is all I can say.]

Video Clips from the May 23, 2007 MA-05 Congressional Candidates Debate









Here is Dick Howe's Slide Show from the MA-05 Congressional Candidates Forum that Sam Poulten and Brian Hart hosted in Chelmsford.

Left In Lowell » Blog Archive » Specific On Iraq: MA-05 Candidates Debate

Left In Lowell » Blog Archive » Specific On Iraq: MA-05 Candidates Debate: "by Lynne at 12:59 am.

This will probably be the last substantive post I have until I come back from my weekend getaway to Montreal (I’m away until Tuesday night), but reading down what I’ve written, it’s a doozie, and should take you days to get through. "

I headed tonight to the Iraq/Afghanistan/foreign policy debate in Chelmsford sponsored by the The Citizens for Civic Courage, the Chelmsford DTC, GLAD, and the 3rd Middlesex Dems. It was a packed house in the police training room, with overflow and standing room only. I’m kind of gratified to see how many people appear to be interested at this race even with several months to go. I hope even more people will be jumping in to inform themselves as the race goes on.

This debate was the first in a series of issue-specific forums (the next is on health care), allowing the candidates to really dive into the discussion and prove if they’ve got what it takes. I commend the organizers and the moderators, Brian Hart and Sam Poulten, for a job well done.

For what it’s worth, I will be trying to get the video online; I’ve got the permission, and the technical volunteers, now I just need the time to work how to host a long streaming video. So when I get back from vacation, hopefully we get that squared away and you’ll be able to watch it at your convenience.

I took extensive notes so I might as well use them for something (my hand still hurts…I need a laptop! And now I have Mini Viao Envy after seeing Dick Howe’s new toy. Who by the way has posted on the forum as well.). For more…

The format: I liked the format, with a combination of pre-ordained, audience, and candidate to candidate questions. There were several rounds of the candidates asking each other, which really allows them to test their opponents’ strengths, and probe weaknesses. I will say, things are a lot more manageable now that there’s only five Dem candidates…

The candidates: Well, I got my first look at Miceli, who has not attended any event I’ve been to until tonight. I’ll be nice, and say there was not one issue on which he and I agreed, except maybe the position held by all candidates that we need to take care of our vets. More on his specific comments later on.

I maintain my previous impressions and say that I think Eldridge and Donoghue are the strongest candidates on substance and grasp of the issues. Eldridge is unafraid to take principled stances; and Donoghue was right behind him with a few of her own. For instance, she’s pretty strong in supporting getting our troops out of Iraq immediately, along with Eldridge, as mentioned in this Sun article. (Good article by the way.) They also both have that capacity to get some fire in the belly, especially with several statements by Donoghue (especially on vet issues) punctuated by an intense voice. (Miceli did beat her on loud passion, but more on that later.)

I sat with my co-blogger Mimi, and she was really disappointed in Barry Finegold’s positions on foreign policy, particularly his strong support for the Biden three-state solution proposal. I’ll let Mimi post separately on that issue; but as she has far more personal foreign experience than me, I look forward to her read on the situation.

On Tsongas, I’ve already written why I’ve been disappointed so far with her candidacy. She needs to stop talking about generalizations with which no one can disagree and take a chance and a stand on something…anything would be good. She always talk about running a grassroots campaign; but no amount of great hires from previously successful ‘roots candidates will inspire armies of people to take on the monumental task of organizing in their community for you if they don’t think you’re worth it. I like Tsongas, she’s a lovely person, but the only evidence I’ve seen is of an insider-advised, machine-endorsed, almost Tom-Reilly-like campaign in its structure (though Tsongas is far more personable than Reilly was). Come to think of it, however, at least Reilly took a few pretty chancy positions during the governor’s race.

So, for those who can’t wait for the online video, some details. (By the way, you’re a total political geek if you’ve gotten this far and are still reading. I myself am too far gone, I’m sunk, but you might want to consider getting a life before it’s too late! )

General emphasis from the five during the evening…well, Eldridge was firm on supporting the 90-day troop withdrawal proposed by Rep. Jim McGovern, Donoghue continued her emphasis on vets benefits, Finegold had his three-state solution, Tsongas…not too sure, Miceli on being pretty much anti-Democrat. (Honestly, that’s what I took from it. On several occasions he berated national and state Dems.)

Regarding the draft and the state of our strained military, none of the candidates were for the draft, but with the exception of Miceli, all were for drawing down of troops (either sooner or later) and fixing our military’s personnel problem by having fewer of them deployed. Several also mentioned how we need to increase services for vets so as to keep our professional force fit and military enrollment attractive.

The crazy thing was that Miceli seemed to indicate he favors a military solution for Iran, in passing, in answering this question (something to the effect of “Remember, Iran is in the offing”), and then later, when he basically said that if we think diplomacy will work with the threat from Iran, we should think again. I believe he mentioned it at least one more time near the end.

Some more, um, interesting (talking) points and gems from Miceli…

On the GWOT: Notice there have been no incidents of terrorism in this country since we went over there, because we’re fighting them over there instead of over here.

It would be “lunacy” to telegraph our withdrawal to the enemy with a timeline (then what would he suggest, we just stay there forever…? Eldridge subsequently reminded him that Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism and we were lied to…and I would add, that our presence there is creating more recruits for terrorists, as well as sectarian strife). Oh, and lunacy appears to be a popular word with him, as he’s quoted using it in that Sun article. Other comments: By taking the fight over there, we’ve created a line of defense and kept them (terra-ists) from “establishing a beachhead” here - if we think this is not so, watch what happens when we withdraw. (Cuz, terra-ists can’t multitask and recruit or send goons all over. Have we forgotten Spain, London, Bali, Fort Dix??)

Supports Don’t Ask Don’t Tell anti-gay military policy. Meehan has been working to lift that outdated and silly policy…from what I understand, many soldiers know who the gay members are in their units anyway. The rest of the candidates did come out against DADT.

Was angered at other candidates at forum for being anti-Gitmo, said that they were just “reading the papers” and that we “don’t have the facts” …but if the facts supported the allegations, he’d be for maybe fixing it or shutting it down. (Um, it’s not enough that it violates our international treaties??)

When asked how he would fight the GWOT, he said things seemed pretty good the way they were - except, we need better intelligence. (Yeah, a smarter president would be nice - thought I doubt that’s what he meant. It’s very Republican to scapegoat the intelligence community for Bush’s mess.)
OK, enough Miceli, I’m sure you get the idea.

There was a lot of talk of reviving and recreating a new G.I. bill to support returning vets on house mortgages, college, job training.

Generally speaking, the Sun article is right on…Donaghue and Eldridge support withdrawal from Iraq as soon as possible, Tsongas is for a longer timeline and does not support the McGovern 90-day bill, Finegold pushed his 3-state thing but wants some sort of way to hold the Iraqi government accountable (ie he’d vote against something like the new Democratic proposal which has no binding timeline or benchmarks).

Eldridge took the opportunity on several occasions regarding the vet benefits debate to mention his support for single-payer, universal health care. (So much so, that afterwards, I teased him by asking, “So, Jamie, are you for single payer health care?)

The candidates were asked about the GWOT (global war on terror) and security, and one answer that struck me as a red herring was Finegold’s comment about the Dubai ports agreement, though he got it wrong and said “Saudi Arabia” instead. Even I had taken a pretty measured response to the deal, because though good points were raised, I thought the hysteria at the time (from the right and the left) was a little overblown.

Regarding impeachment (which I still think should be on the table) most of the candidates said it would divert too much attention, even though, as Tsongas said, they “understand the impulse.” Miceli took the opportunity to berate the state Dems for passing a resolution to tell our state’s delegation to impeach G.W. Personally, I think the people are ahead of the pols on this…I remember being the Cassandra (Homer reference!) about troop withdrawal too, and look at the public on that issue now.

Eldridge held the door open for impeachment, saying that he wants investigations and hearings into the administration, and that he doesn’t understand why some think the desire by many Dems to impeach looks bad (I think he said this in reference to Miceli’s rant). But he said impeachment is serious and he wants to see what comes of the investigations first.

Besides Miceli, everyone was pretty down on Gitmo. They seemed pretty clear that the detainees should get their due human rights (Finegold, access to hearings or maybe international courts, Donoghue agreed that these people have rights under our treaties and that we should investigate allegations of torture, Eldridge used the words “close Gitmo,” as did Tsongas.)

For the rest, and there was a lot, you’ll need to wait for the video. I do believe that anyone who’s a member of their local cable access can obtain a copy from Chelmsford Telemedia and run it on your own town’s municipal channel. Also, NECN was there taping, as well.

Hope this was useful to someone…it’s 1am already.

[Filed under Iraq, MA-05] [link]

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3 Responses to “Specific On Iraq: MA-05 Candidates Debate”
will Says: May 24th, 2007 at 11:25 am

I was at the debate as well as a supporter of Niki Tsongas. Thanks for the comprehensive coverage. You made a statment that Niki does not support the McGovern amendment as a way to end the war. That’s not corrrect. She has said she IS for the amendment and all of its provisions, which she described at the debate in detail. She also told the Lowell Sun earlier in the week that she supports the amendment.

As for an immediate pull out, what does this mean? The McGovern amendment gives a time frame, provides other security provisions, and limits the President’s scope of authority using a funding framework (90 day draw down/180 day withdrawal). What does an immediate pullout mean and how will we extricate our troops safely? I’m not sure candidates Donoghue or Eldridge answered that question.

I agree, the forum was well run and confirmed the compassion we all feel for our troops and veterans. It will be somber, but let’s celebrate when we finally bring the troops home and end the Bush war.
Will W.

Lynne Says: May 24th, 2007 at 3:48 pm
Sorry! I’ll reiterate my comment from BMG:

I must have written it down wrong or didn’t write down that phrase from her specifically - it was hard keeping up with a pen. Me wanty laptop! I apologize.

Part of my impression of her position is from the Sun article which says that Eldridge and Donoghue are for more immediate withdrawal and Tsongas is more cautious.
Mike Combs Says: May 24th, 2007 at 5:05 pm

I was at the debate as a supporter of Jamie. It was a great forum, and Sam Poulton and Brian Hart did a great service by putting it together.

Though, just to carp a bit, I wish they had fewer candidate-to-candidate questions (I think they were soft on each other) and more questions that thoughfully explored the issue at hand. I was *really*

disappointed when Nikki’s first candidate-to-candidate question wasn’t even about the Iraq war “for a change of pace”. I know the topic wasn’t boring her, but when she changed the subject away from Iraq that way, that’s the first thing I thought. (Then the other candidates did that too… very annoying to me.)

I worked hard and dug deep to get Democrats elected in 2006 because we need to end this war.
Watching the Democrats give Bush another blank check to continue the war today was profoundly disappointing.

That’s why I’m out of patience for candidates who aren’t fighters. Miceli’s a fighter but borders on lunacy. (Hey, he called us lunatics first.) I thought Jamie had the right amount of outrage about the lies that are keeping us in this war and was fearless about committing to specific actions he’d support.

The other candidates seemed too trusting of the administration, or too willing to compromise. Some random examples stuck in my mind:

- Eileen didn’t call for closing Gitmo but said she’d trust the military’s judgement. The point of closing Gitmo is to get those prisoner’s back on US soil where rule of law and oversight apply to them.

- Nikki twice called 9/11 “a failure of imagination”. She’s buying into the worn out Bush excuse “nobody could have foreseen this”. Except that they had a briefing warning of an attack by Al Queda. And Richard Clarke warned that hijacked aircraft might be used as missiles. We need a congress that questions and verify everything the Bush administration says.

- Barry had pretty good answers, I thought, but he didn’t seem as consistently forceful about it. I know he’s genuine, but at times he seemed a little detached.

Well, I told you I came in a Jamie supporter. Lynne, let’s get that video on the web this weekend so people can judge for themselves.

[bth: thanks Left in Lowell for letting me clone your post and record your comments.]

MA-05 Forum in Chelmsford | richardhowe.com

MA-05 Forum in Chelmsford | richardhowe.com: "The Citizens for Civic Courage, a new group consisting of Gold Star families, veterans and supporters of veterans hosted a forum tonight in Chelmsford for the candidates in the Fifth Congressional special election. The focus was Iraq, terrorism and veterans’ issues. Here’s what the candidates had to say about the war:"

Jim Miceli said repeatedly that setting a timetable for withdrawal was “sheer lunacy” that would “telegraph our intentions to the enemy.” He agrees with the compromise bill that passed Congress today because it does not establish a time certain for withdrawal. Regarding the war on terror, Miceli says we’re fighting that in Iraq today. He says it’s no coincidence that since we’ve been fighting in Iraq, there has not been a terrorist attack against the United States. He fears that if a date certain for withdrawal is set, it will lead to more terrorism here in America. “We have Al Queda under siege and we’re fighting them on foreign soil rather than fighting them here.”

Niki Tsongas supports a specific timeline for withdrawal. She does not support the bill that passed today. She was harsh on the Bush administration for its lack of a strategy for Iraq and a lack of equipment for our service members in Iraq. She said we must make a greater effort at diplomacy. As for terrorism, she agreed with the 9/11 Commission that 9/11 was the consequence of a “failure of imagination” on our part. She believes we should pay closer attention to our intelligence resources, should better equip and train our first responders, and that the center of the war on terrorism needs to be back in Afghanistan, not in Iraq.

Jamie Eldridge was perhaps the most vehement in his opposition to the war. The war, he said, was caused by the lies and deception of the Bush administration. He complained that too often Democrats in Washington capitulate to the Bush administration. “Sadly, many Democrats voted to give Bush the authority to enter into this war.” He said he would work very hard to withdraw our troops within 90 days. He said that the presence of our troops in Iraq is causing the violence there. We should withdraw our troops as soon as possible and pursue diplomatic solutions with other Middle Eastern nations.

Eileen Donoghue also opposes the war and would set a date certain for troop withdrawal from Iraq. She said the Bush administration has repeatedly shown it cannot lead on this issue so it is up to Congress to step into the breach and provide the necessary leadership. “We can’t afford to referee this civil war any longer.” We need a definite timeline to hold the Iraqi leaders accountable. Regarding the war on terror, she said we need to refocus on Afghanistan, that Iraq is just a distraction, and that we must beef up our homeland security forces, especially the National Guard.

Barry Finegold repeatedly mentioned his support for Sen Joe Biden’s plan to partition Iraq into a federation consisting of three independent regions. He said we need “less war and more diplomacy.” Regarding the war on terror, he was critical of the federal government’s plan to turn over one of our major ports to a Saudi company and said we need to focus more on intelligence, especially the need for increased fluency in the languages of the Middle East.

A number of other areas were covered at the forum. I’ll address them in a subsequent post.

Lowell Sun Online - Iraq a key in 5th race

Lowell Sun Online - Iraq a key in 5th race: "One of several stories examining key issues in the race for the 5th Congressional District seat. "

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan's successor in Congress will enter office in October amid rising calls for troop withdrawals from Iraq, at a critical juncture for the president's "surge," and facing heavy decisions about funding for the Iraq war in the final year of the Bush White House.

Visions of the Iraq war's endgame are as diffuse among the five Democratic candidates as they are among their would-be colleagues in Washington.

The views of the lone Republican, meanwhile, are unknown, a position he has vowed to maintain until June, when he officially retires from the military.

Two Democrats -- state Reps. Barry Finegold of Andover and James Miceli of Wilmington -- reject instant military drawdowns in Iraq, contrasting with the other three, who prefer decamping units in between one and 90 days.

Finegold believes Iraq's future lies in its fragmentation, creating a three-district state in which he says Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds could exist semiautonomously.
Finegold would resist an American departure until the separation is achieved through urgent diplomacy. He opposes the troop "surge" and blames President Bush for not having swiftly initiated multinational talks.

"I want to end this war responsibly," Finegold said. "I don't support an immediate withdrawal."

Miceli, meanwhile, assailed the 171 Democrats in Congress who voted last week for a bill by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, calling for a withdrawal beginning in three months. The move "borders on lunacy," Miceli said.

"I haven't heard anyone with any sanity subscribe to that idea," he added, saying military generals and the president should decide when a withdrawal occurs.

"Members of Congress toying with a timetable establishes a very dangerous precedent," he said.

The other three Democrats -- Lowell City Councilor Eileen Donoghue, Acton state Rep. James Eldridge, and Lowell resident Niki Tsongas -- are strident about quickly removing American troops from what they describe as a civil war caused by the administration's missteps. Differences arise in timing and method.

Eldridge and Donoghue surface as the only candidates who say American troops should be removed from the fighting now.

Eldridge has vowed to vote against spending bills for military operations, and says violence related to Islamic extremism and sectarianism would diminish with an end to the occupation, a move many Republicans say could result in enveloping violence across the region.

"The only way to stop the mass violence and civil war in Iraq is to end the war in Iraq and immediately begin to bring our troops home," Eldridge said.

Donoghue said: "I would vote for a proposal to withdraw from Iraq tomorrow if such a proposal existed. Short of that, I would vote for a proposal that brings our troops home in the quickest and safest way possible."

Tsongas prefers a slightly longer approach, beginning a drawdown by August and completing it by next spring. She supports leaving a small American force in Iraq for counterterrorism operations and Iraq security-force training.

"Nine months is a reasonable time frame (for withdrawal), both to make sure that our troops are redeployed in a safe way and that Iraqi security forces transition into the military policing role currently played by American forces," Tsongas said.

Designing the war's end, however, may reveal a path of pitfalls: Will Iraq fall into stampeding violence? Will the government crumble, and, on that heap, al-Qaida rise? Will Iran and Syria become puppet masters?

Miceli and Finegold say an abrupt U.S. departure could promote instability, threatening the lives of Iraqis and perhaps Americans. On the other hand, Tsongas, Eldridge and Donoghue say the occupation has already failed to protect Iraqis and Americans alike.

All five promote stronger diplomacy. Miceli is alone in supporting the "surge," for several months longer.

"Since we've been there fighting the war, we haven't had any major problems at home, anything like 9/11, again," Miceli said. "Nobody wants to fight this war, but sometimes things are necessary to protect our country."

Finegold said, "If we were to withdraw from Iraq tomorrow, the civil war would get worse."

Still, other Democrats indicate that the threat of instability in Iraq, and its potential of becoming a nexus of terrorism, began with the United States' 2003 invasion.

Tsongas and Donoghue say the civil war will continue whether American troops stay or leave, and Eldridge believes a U.S. departure will douse the violence.

"Unfortunately, we already have an unfavorable outcome in Iraq," Tsongas said, adding that "the greatest terrorist threat to the United States is not from extremists in Iraq but from Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan and along its border with Pakistan."

Donoghue said: "I'm concerned about extremists of all sorts who have thoughts of attacking the United States, no matter where they reside. The fact is that Iraq is unstable now, and extremists can establish a base of operations there now. Only an internal political solution will provide the necessary stability needed to combat extremist cells."

A large unknown in the race are the war views of Republican James Ogonowski, who's finishing a 28-year career in the Air Force and Air National Guard on May 31.

Hinting at his war stance, Ogonowski said, "I take pride in having played a part in securing freedom around the world. The war in Iraq is the challenge of our day, and it's going to be a big part of this campaign."

NENC video footage of May 23 Candidates Debate for 5th MA Congressional District

Video - NECN.com - Flash Player Installation
Here is video footage of the 2 hours debate Sam Poulten and Brian Hart hosted in Chelmsford last night on Iraq, Afghanistan and related Military and Veterans issues. It was an excellent debate and I'll post more links to it.

Insurgents Cut Out His Tongue

IraqSlogger: Insurgents Cut Out His Tongue: "BAGHDAD, Thirty-eight-year-old Muhanned Sulaiman, says he cannot forget the day insurgents cut off most of his tongue after he decided to stop working for them. With a wife and two children to support, he was scared, but he had grown tired of the daily grind of a dangerous occupation and wanted to find an alternative job to support his family. "...

[bth: if he spoke english and used his english and internet skills to find useful information one wonders why they left his hands as obviously he could type on a computer. My guess is that it was a pure terror example.]

Congress objecting to Pentagon 'gag order'

United Press International - Security & Terrorism - Briefing: "WASHINGTON, May 23 (UPI) -- Democrats on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee are meeting Tuesday to discuss the Pentagon's 'gag order' that limits military testimony before Congress. "

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Marty Meehan, D-Mass., are planning how to make their objection to the restrictions known to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

On April 16, the Pentagon's chief of legislative affairs, Robert Wilkie, sent a memo to Capitol Hill outlining new limits on how members of the military may testify and brief Congress and under what circumstances.

The policy bans outright anyone ranked lieutenant colonel or below from testifying.

They "shall not be asked or required to have their names entered into the record or speak on the record," the memo states.

Lieutenant colonels serve as battalion commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as such have major responsibility for the day-today conduct of the wars and detailed tactical and strategic understanding of the conflict.

Colonels and above may testify if they are "deemed appropriate" by the Defense Department.

Further, uniformed officers may not testify without their civilian overseers.

"The DoD officials, including officers, will only participate on any briefing or hearing panel with members of the executive branch," states the memo, a copy of which United Press International obtained. The Boston Globe first reported the contents of the memo this month.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told UPI each request for testimony will be handled on a case-by-case basis. He said the policy "(seeks) to minimize demand on junior officers and enlisted military personnel. Each request will present different set of circumstances, so we will work these questions on a

case-by-case basis."

Meehan said Tuesday that he does no want to resort to subpoenas to get members of the military to testify, but will do so if he must.

[bth:issue the damned subpeonas and take DOD to court over this policy in the meantime.]

Taste of Home Runs Low in Iraq

Taste of Home Runs Low in Iraq - washingtonpost.com: "Congress and the White House may be sparring over funds for the U.S. effort in Iraq, but the mint chocolate chip is still flowing at the embassy in Baghdad. At least for now."

Life in the Green Zone -- a Foreign Service hardship post -- has long been mitigated by the culinary comforts of home. Virtually every bite and sip consumed there is imported from the United States, entering Iraq via Kuwait in huge truck convoys that bring fresh and processed food, including a full range of Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavors, every seven to 10 days.

But mouths turned dry Monday when an internal embassy e-mail announced a "Theater-Wide Delay in Food Deliveries." Due to an unspecified convoy problem, it said, "it may not be possible to offer the dishes you are used to seeing at each meal. Fresh fruits or salad bar items will also be severely limited or unavailable."

If the delays continue, the message said, "DFACs [dining facilities] will be required to serve MREs for at least one meal out of the day."

Instead of rice pilaf with turkey or fish -- Monday night's main entree, according to embassy spokesman Dan Sreebny, who said he topped it off with two cookies -- the staff would have to make do with military Meals Ready to Eat, freeze-dried concoctions with prescribed amounts of starch and protein, capable of withstanding parachute drops and remaining edible for three years after packaging.

"We've run out of some things," Sreebny said. "I miss my yogurt in the morning and my fresh-cut melon."

In April 2003, the U.S. occupation administration established its headquarters in Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace and its surrounding grounds -- seven square miles on the west bank of the Tigris River. The fortified area became known as the Green Zone, an island of tranquility and safety in chaotic Baghdad where Americans could live and work and eat in a semblance of home.

Over the years the area was renamed -- it's now officially known as the "International Zone" -- the fortifications were expanded and U.S. tanks were parked at the gates. As the security situation in Baghdad worsened, others with the right connections or titles moved in. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government lives and works in the zone, which also houses the Iraqi parliament. Thousands of foreign contractors live there. U.S. civilian officials live there along with their military and contractor protectors. Meanwhile, a massive U.S. Embassy compound -- 24 buildings on 104 acres inside the zone, the biggest and most expensive embassy in the world -- is under construction and due for completion in August.

Although the State Department has not budged from an original embassy price tag of $592 million, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) complained two weeks ago to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of a "growing size in costs" and a staffing increase of more than 30 percent since Congress approved the State Department's plans two years ago. Leahy chairs the appropriations subcommittee in charge of the foreign operations budget.

"We have 1,000 Americans at the embassy in Baghdad," Leahy told Rice at a hearing. "You add the contractors and the local staff, it comes to 4,000 . . . a deviation from the plan that we'd agreed to." According to Senate staffers, operating costs now total $1.2 billon a year.

Recently, the zone's tranquility has been shattered by a rash of mortar attacks over the walls. This month, embassy staffers were ordered to wear helmets and flak jackets while outdoors or in unprotected buildings. On Saturday, the "palace pool area . . . chairs and lounges, outside dining area, ping-pong tables, etc." were all placed off-limits until further notice "due to the threat of indirect fire (IDF) against the Embassy compound," according to a security notice sent to all embassy personnel.

As if security threats and overcrowding weren't enough, now the food is under threat. Asked about the convoy problems, Col. Steven A. Boylan, spokesman for Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, cited bad weather in Kuwait and along the routes north. "Visibility was very poor and [it] would not have been safe to drive," Boylan said in an e-mail.

The embassy food is supplied under a U.S. government contract with Houston-based KBR, which separately provides similar services to the military.

Sreebny, who said on Tuesday that the last supply trucks arrived in Baghdad two weeks prior, attributed the delays to paperwork problems on the border, traffic jams and "security issues." He said the embassy stocks three weeks of non-perishable food for use in the event of emergency, so no one was yet in danger of MREs.

The Bush administration's Iraq strategy includes an effort to boost the economy and create jobs in Iraq, and Iraqi factories hope to begin shipping manufactured products to U.S. retailers later this year. But security concerns bar any purchase of Iraqi food, and even Iraqi prisoners held by the U.S. military are fed with imports. In addition, Sreebny said, "if we're buying [local] food in large quantities it means that less is available for the citizens of Iraq. It's not fair to them."

In any case, American personnel assigned to the embassy are promised American food -- although Kuwaiti bottled water is acceptable.

"This has happened before, in terms of convoys," Sreebny said, although "this one may be a little bit longer than in the past. Then the food comes and we all gorge ourselves on apples and oranges and bananas again."

In an e-mail update last night, Sreebny reported that the looming crisis was at least partially averted. "Some trucks have arrived at our embassy and are being unloaded even as I write."

[bth: paperwork is another name for funding/contracting.]
 

Honor guard at PFC John D. Hart's memorial service, Oct. 2003
Posted by Picasa

Killing the Russian Media - New York Times

Killing the Russian Media - New York Times: "Journalists from around the world who will gather in Moscow next week are poised to stand up for their colleagues in a country where journalism and journalists are increasingly under attack. The 1,000 media representatives plan to establish a commission to finally investigate the growing number of unsolved murders of journalists in Vladimir Putin’s Russia."

Russia is now the third deadliest country for journalists, after Iraq and Algeria, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since the year 2000, when President Putin was first elected, at least 14 journalists have been murdered because of their work. None of these murders have been solved.

A journalists’ commission is no substitute for what Mr. Putin’s government has denied — justice. But it should draw attention to their murders and what they were investigating. It also may help focus attention on the methodical destruction of the fledgling free press that sprouted in Russia after the fall of Communism.

After Mr. Putin took over, national television stations were the first to lose their independence. Major newspapers are increasingly controlled by those who do the state’s bidding. The radio correspondents for the Russian News Service, the main source of news for radio stations, resigned earlier this month to protest censorship by new owners. And the Russian Union of Journalists, a strong voice against the march to silence any independent reporting, was ordered to leave its Moscow headquarters just days before the international conference.

The few remaining critics increasingly write or speak out at their peril, as new laws tighten the government’s grip. Most recently, the definition of extremism has been expanded to include media criticism of state officials. That can mean jail time for the reporter and the shutting down of the news outlet. Nina Ognianova of the Committee to Protect Journalists puts it chillingly: “The process of squeezing critical journalism out of the public space is now near complete.”

In the meantime, polls show President Putin’s popularity has soared. No wonder. Fewer and fewer Russians can see or hear from anyone who opposes him, his policies or his government
.

US intel warned of Iran, al-Qaida gains

US intel warned of Iran, al-Qaida gains - Boston.com: "WASHINGTON --U.S. intelligence agencies warned senior members of the Bush administration in early 2003 that invading Iraq could create internal conflict that would give Iran and al-Qaida new opportunities to expand their influence, according to an upcoming Senate report."

Officials familiar with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation also say analysts warned against U.S. domination in the region, which could increase extremist recruiting. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the report's declassification is not finished. It could be made public as soon as this week.

The committee also found that the warnings predicting what would happen after the U.S.-led invasion were circulated widely in government, including to the Defense Department and the Office of the Vice President. It wasn't clear whether President Bush was briefed.

Asked to comment on Wednesday evening, the White House's National Security Council did not directly respond to the report's findings that intelligence analysts predicted many of the troubles ahead in Iraq before the invasion.

Spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Iran must stop providing training and weapons to fighters there. "We also continue to take the fight to al-Qaida, who are trying to destabilize Iraq and create a safe haven to plan attacks on the U.S. and our allies," he added.

The report comes as the administration is facing renewed criticism for failing to execute adequate post-invasion plans to stabilize Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled. Meanwhile, the White House has been trying to make the case that Iraq cannot be abandoned.

The committee's findings are the latest chapter in its four-year investigation into the prewar intelligence assessments on Iraq. An earlier volume, completed and released in 2004, was highly critical of the intelligence community and then-CIA Director George Tenet.

That 511-page document found widespread problems throughout U.S. spy agencies and said the intelligence community engaged in "group think" by failing to challenge the assumption that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Senators also found that analysts failed to explain their uncertainties to policymakers.

Yet, in predicting the effects of the U.S. invasion, the committee now finds that U.S. analysts appear to have largely been on the mark.

A former intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the decision to go to war had been made months before the 2003 papers were drafted and analysts had no delusions that they were going to head off military action. Rather, the official said, they hoped their warnings would be considered in the planning.

Since the release of his memoir several weeks ago, Tenet has been criticized anew for not doing more to warn Bush about the shaky Iraq intelligence and the consequences of invading.

Yet his book provided a glimpse of some of the prewar warnings about the consequences of invading Iraq.

For instance, he discusses a paper prepared for a Camp David meeting with the president in September 2002 entitled, "The Perfect Storm: The Negative Consequences for Invading Iraq." Tenet called the paper a list of "worst-case scenarios," which included anarchy and territorial breakup of Iraq and a surge of global terrorism against U.S. interests, fueled by deepening Islamic antipathy toward the United States.

He also notes that, in an early 2003 intelligence paper, analysts warned that "a post-Saddam authority would face a deeply divided society with a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other, unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so."

The paper, which is believed to figure in the Senate investigation, also noted that Iraq's long history of foreign occupation means that it has a deep dislike of occupying forces.

Since 2003, the Senate committee -- led by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and now Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. -- has been trudging through its investigation of what went wrong, frequently slowed by politics.

Last fall, the committee released new chapters on what was learned after the invasion about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and its links to terrorism and how information from an advocacy group, the Iraqi National Congress, crept into U.S. intelligence reporting.

While the first phase of its report was supported unanimously just before the 2004 presidential elections, the newer findings on the intelligence community's predictions about postwar Iraq have drawn dissent from Republicans. Details on the committee's vote have not yet been released.

[bth: its becoming clear that the problem wasn't the intelligence but a lack of civic courage at multiple levels of government.]

Dutch news - Minister: US Named Unknown Dutch Company in Iraq Report

Dutch news - Minister: US Named Unknown Dutch Company in Iraq Report: "THE HAGUE, 23/05/07 - Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has said in a letter to parliament that Vlemmo NV does not exist as far as he knows. This company was named by US authorities as a link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden."

On or around 25 July 2002, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (OUSDP) of the US gave a briefing entitled 'Assessing the Relationship Between Iraq and al-Qaida'. This alternative intelligence report wrote that Osama Bin Laden's al-Hijra Company had contacts with the Netherlands-based company Vlemmo NV, which was allegedly involved in the purchase by Iraq of military equipment, Verhagen confirmed.

But "the company Vlemmo is unknown in the Netherlands," according to the minister. "The company has never been registered with the Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands and is also not known to the tax service. That the company may have served as a front for illegal arms trade with Iraq is equally unknown to me."

The 2002 OUSDP report was made public last month by the chairman of the US Senate's defence committee, Carl Levin. "The contents of the intelligence report has only become known to me following the recent publication of the document," said Verhagen.

The minister had been asked to react by Socialist Party (SP) MP Harry van Bommel. Verhagen has now sent the OUSDP report to the Lower House. Parts of it have been rendered illegible by the US authorities.

Verhagen comments that apparent differences of opinion between US authorities on the possible connections between Iraq and Al Qa'ida "are an internal US matter." Apart from this, he wishes to "once again stress that the justification for intervention in Iraq for the Netherlands did not lie in the possible involvement of Iraq in terrorism, but in non-compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions."

[bth: Douglas Feith is a lying no good SOB. It amazes me that we would allow US officials to bring us to an unnecessary war on lies and not hold them to account. If this isn't treason, what is?]

Rice farmers turn to poppies

Rice farmers turn to poppies - 24 May 2007 - NZ Herald: World / International News: "BAGHDAD - Farmers in southern Iraq have started for the first time to grow opium poppies in their fields, sparking fears that Iraq might become a serious drugs producer along the lines of Afghanistan."

Rice farmers in the fertile plain along the Euphrates, just to the west of Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad, have stopped cultivating rice and are instead planting poppies, Iraqi sources familiar with the area say....

Turkey's leader backs attack on Kurds

Turkey's leader backs attack on Kurds - Yahoo! News: "ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey's prime minister said he would back the country's generals if they decide to retaliate for a suicide bombing in the capital by striking Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. "...

Fort Dix suspect applied for police jobs

Fort Dix suspect applied for police jobs - Yahoo! News: "MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. - One of the men accused of plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix had recently applied to be a police officer in two big cities — a move some authorities believe may have been an effort to infiltrate law enforcement agencies. "

TURKEY: RAIDS INTO IRAQ MULLED IN WAKE OF ANKARA BLAST

TURKEY: RAIDS INTO IRAQ MULLED IN WAKE OF ANKARA BLAST: "Ankara, 24 May (AKI) - "Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the government is considering military raids into Iraq targeting Kursish separatists authorities suspected for the deadly suicide bomb blast at a shopping mall in Ankara on Tuesday.

"The government would support a cross border operation into the Northern Iraq if the military asks for this," Erdogan said in a television interview on Wednesday evening.

Police who say the plastic explosive used in the Ankara blast is similar to that used in several attacks by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) have identified the body of a man, Guven Akkus they suspected of being the sucide bomber.

The PKK in a statement has denied involvement in the bombing which killed six peple and injured some 100 ithe Anafartalar shopping mall in downtown Ankara.

In the statement posted to Firat News Agency, the PKK said, "We openly declare that we have no involvement and do not approve of this kind of act.”

The group also accused the Turkish military of using the attack in “trying to win support for a cross-border operations"Erdogan's remarks in Wednesday's interview appeared to signal a policy shift by the premier who in the past has riled the military for failing to authorise cross-border raids against suspected PKK bases in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.

Turkey's top military officer General Yasar Buyukanit has repeatedly accused the Kurdistain authorities of supporting the PKK.

[bth: the season is right, Turkey has 50,000 stacked on the border and they feel a need to make a point as Kurdistan emerges within Iraq.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Poll: One in Four U.S. Muslims OK With Homicide Bombings Against Innocent Civilians - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

FOXNews.com - Poll: One in Four U.S. Muslims OK With Homicide Bombings Against Innocent Civilians - Local News News Articles National News US News: "WASHINGTON — One out of four young U.S. Muslims believe suicide bombings against innocent civilians are OK to defend Islam, according to a new poll."

The nationwide survey — one of the most exhaustive ever conducted of American Muslim attitudes — also found that only 40 percent of U.S. Muslims believe that Arabs carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, reports The New York Post. Another 28 percent said they don't believe it.

More than 60 percent are "very concerned" Islamic extremism will grow in America, while 26 percent believe the U.S.-led War on Terror is a sincere effort to root out international terrorism.

The survey included more than 1,000 of the nation's estimated 2.35 million Muslims and was conducted in English and several foreign languages.

Thirteen percent said suicide bombings and other violence against civilians can be justified "in order to defend Islam from its enemies" at least on rare occasions. Among those under age 30, that 13 percent doubled to 26 percent, the paper reported.

Three out of four people surveyed said the decision to go to war in Iraq was wrong, and 48 percent said using force in Afghanistan was wrong. Five percent of those surveyed had a "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" view of Al Qaeda, while 58 percent had a "very unfavorable" opinion of the terror group.

[bth: given the fear associated with answering some of these questions "wrong", my guess is that the figures are understated.]

Bush to use bin Laden info to defend Iraq war policy

Bush to use bin Laden info to defend Iraq war policy - CNN.com: "NEW LONDON, Connecticut (CNN) -- President Bush is expected to use declassified intelligence about Osama bin Laden to defend his Iraq war policy during a commencement address Wednesday. "

Bush also will outline "three aviation plots" that have been disrupted as part of national security operations, said Frances Townsend, the homeland security adviser. Townsend, who spoke with reporters on Air Force One, offered no other details.

The president also is expected to mention in the speech declassified intelligence that says bin Laden planned in 2005 to use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks in the United States, according to White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe....

[bth: why they would need Iraq as a location to attack the United States is hard to understand.]
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Short Rations in Iraq

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Short Rations in Iraq: "As you can see from the document below dated 21 May, 2007, the command in Iraq is presently in some difficulty with regard to hot meals. Because of delays in the delivery overland of rations the mess system is short in regard to fresh produce and similar items and is serving Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) one meal a day."

This problem may be the result of a "lag" in changing throughputs from Kuwait. The increased size of the force at present may have caused this.

There continues to be a certain "background" level of ambushes of convoys along the route from Kuwait. This exacerbates any other problems that arise. pl

Download 007-110_Food_Convoy_Deliveries_052107.doc

Navy Stages Show of Force Off Iran Coast

My Way News - Navy Stages Show of Force Off Iran Coast: "DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - The U.S. Navy staged its latest show of military force off the Iranian coastline on Wednesday, sending two aircraft carriers and landing ships packed with 17,000 U.S. Marines and sailors to carry out unannounced exercises in the Persian Gulf."...

McClatchy's D.C. Bureau Claims It's Barred From Defense Secretary Plane

McClatchy's D.C. Bureau Claims It's Barred From Defense Secretary Plane: "NEW YORK Staffers at McClatchy's Washington, D.C., Bureau -- one of the few major news outlets skeptical of intelligence reports during the run-up to the war in Iraq -- claims it is now being punished for that coverage."

Bureau Chief John Walcott and current and former McClatchy Pentagon correspondents say they have not been allowed on the Defense Secretary's plane for at least three years, claiming the news company is being retaliated against for its reporting.

"It is because our coverage of Iraq policy has been quite critical," Walcott told E&P. He added, "I think the idea of public officials barring coverage by people they've decided they don't like is at best unprofessional, at worst undemocratic and petty."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman called such assertions "absurd," adding, "There is no basis of fact for that allegation. It is not true. There are always more people who would like to travel with the secretary than seats available."

Jonathan Landay, a former Pentagon correspondent and one of the co-authors of McClatchy's pre-war coverage, said he last traveled on the plane with then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2004 to Istanbul, Turkey, for a NATO economic summit. Since then, he says, none of McClatchy's people have flown. "It is unusual because we get aboard about two out of three trips [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice makes," Landay said. "They have a different policy at the Pentagon. We are definitely being discriminated against."

Drew Brown, who covered the Pentagon on several occasions between 2002 and 2007 before leaving McClatchy for Stars and Stripes, claimed he was never allowed to travel with Rumsfeld or current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who took over several months ago. "I asked a couple of times, and they gave me a non-committal answer," Brown said. "The Department of Defense took the outlets they were able to influence, the wire [services] and the big newspapers. I don't think they really care about anyone outside the Washington Beltway."

Nancy Youssef, a former McClatchy Baghdad bureau chief who took over the Pentagon beat April 9, said Gates has been on four trips since she arrived and she has been denied access to all of them. "They just sort of brushed it off," she said. "I bring it up every time, and every time it doesn't happen."

The Pentagon's Whitman contends that McClatchy does not reach as many readers as some news outlets, adding that they are not as actively covering the Pentagon as some other news agencies: "The interests are best served when we select news agencies that have reach and impact. Another factor is that we look toward those reporters that are covering us every day."

Youssef countered that argument, saying she is at the Pentagon regularly and has a desk in the media room: "We are here, we cover the military." She pointed out that with more than 30 daily papers, McClatchy has a reach into the heartland, where many military bases are located.

James Crawley, a MediaGeneral military reporter and president of Military Reporters and Editors, said he had not heard any McClatchy complaints about denied access, but added, "that doesn't mean it isn't going on."

Walcott said the bureau had hoped that the policy might change under a new secretary of defense. "I think there still is some hope," he said of Gates. "He seems to be managing the department in a different way, more egalitarian." But, he said, the current situation cannot continue. "Practicing this kind of high school pettiness is probably not the right way to go."


[bth: McClatchy is perhaps the best news wire service covering Iraq today. Youssef has broken excellent stories and probably broke the story on Iraq contractor and government corruption.]

IraqSlogger: VOI: Bodies of Three Kidnapped Soldiers Found

IraqSlogger: VOI: Bodies of Three Kidnapped Soldiers Found: "Babel, May 23, (VOI) - Iraqi police forces in Babel province found on Wednesday two bodies believed to belong to two of the kidnapped U.S. soldiers near al-Furat river in al-Musayab region, 50 km northwest of Hilla, a police source said. "

"Two bodies in U.S. uniform were found by Babel police forces near al-Furat river. They bore signs of torture," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "The police handed the bodies to the U.S. army and cordoned off the area," he also said. No comment was available from the U.S. army on the incident.

A police source had said earlier that police forces in Babel province found a body of a U.S. soldier who was kidnapped last week near al-Musayab river. "Babel police forces today found a body, believed to belong to one of the three U.S. soldiers who were kidnapped last week in al-Mahmodiya region, south of Baghdad," the source, who asked not to be named, told the (VOI).

"The body bore a gunshot wound to the head, the hand had a tattoo and he wore U.S. pants," he added. No comment was available from the U.S. army on the incident.

Three U.S. soldiers were kidnapped last week in al-Mahmodiya region, south of Baghdad. The U.S. army launched a wide-scale operation in response to search for them.

Meanwhile, the state-run al-Iraqia satellite television said in breaking news that police forces found the body of one of the kidnapped U.S. soldiers in Mashrooa al-Musayab, south of Baghdad.

Iraq's al-Sadr harbors ambitious plans | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

Iraq's al-Sadr harbors ambitious plans | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle: "BAGHDAD — From hiding, possibly in Iran, U.S. nemesis and radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is believed to be honing plans to sweep into the power vacuum made all the more intense by news that his chief Shiite rival has lung cancer. And he's betting the U.S. won't keep its troops in Iraq much longer."

Al-Sadr aides and loyal lawmakers have told The Associated Press the cleric's ambitions mean he will avoid taking on the Americans militarily as he did in 2004, when his Mahdi Army militia fought U.S. forces to a standstill.

Instead, the 33-year-old cleric plans to keep up the drumbeat of anti-American rhetoric, consolidate political gains in Baghdad and the mainly Shiite south, and quietly foster even closer ties with neighboring Iran and its Shiite theocracy.

The strategy is based in part on al-Sadr's belief that Washington will soon start pulling out troops or draw them down significantly, leaving behind a huge hole in Iraq's security and political power structure, al-Sadr's associates said.

Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi told reporters Monday that Iraq's military is drawing up plans in case U.S.-led forces leave the country quickly...

[bth: the prospect that Sadr could rule in Iraq is truly a revolting development.]

Military Dragged Feet on Bomb-Proof Vehicles (Updated Again)

Danger Room - Wired Blogs: "The Marine Corps waited over a year before acting on an 'priority 1 urgent' request to send blast-resistant vehicles to Iraq, DANGER ROOM has learned. "

According to a Marine Corps document provided to DANGER ROOM, the request for over 1,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles came in February, 2005. A formal call to fulfill that order did not emerge until November, 2006. "There is an immediate need for an MRAP vehicle capability to increase survivability and mobility of Marines operating in a hazardous fire area against known threats," the 2005 "universal need statement" notes.

Back then -- as now -- improvised explosive devices, or IEDs -- represented the deadliest threat to American troops in the region. "The expanded use" of these bombs "requires a more robust family of vehicle capable of surviving the IED... threat," the document adds. "MRAP-designed vehicles represent a significant increase in their survivability baseline over existing motor vehicle equipment and will mitigate... casualties resulting from IED[s]."

"The [Marines] cannot continue to lose... serious and grave casualties to IED[s]... when a commercial off the shelf capability exists to mititgate [against] these threats," the request continues.

Despite the stark language, however, that request was not acted upon. Instead, the Marine Corps waited until November, 2006 to issue a formal request for proposals to buy approximately 1,200 MRAPs.

Bill Johnson-Miles, a Marine Corps spokesman, tells DANGER ROOM that the delay was perfectly justified. "We can't just take the request from them, and put it out on the street," he says.

A lack of manufacturing capability kept the Marines from issuing that request, Johnson-Miller adds. "There just wasn't anybody that could meet those requirements," he says. "The industrial base wasn't there."

Previously, the only American maker of MRAP-style vehicles was Force Protection, Inc., a small firm from Ladson, South Carolina. During the early days of the Iraq insurgency, the firm used a staff of 12 to hand-build a single vehicle per month. By the fall of 2006, 400 employees were cranking out a vehicle per day, and the company had signed partnership agreements with some of the giants of the defense industry, including General Dynamics and BAE Systems.

Delays in responding to requests from the field are not uncommon in the Defense Department's often-byzantine bureaucracy for buying equipment. But what sets the MRAP request apart is the urgency of the plea -- and the tremendous stakes involved. Since the Iraq insurgency began, improvised bombs have been responsible for 1,373 of the nearly 3,422 American servicemembers killed in action, according to icasualties.org.

The military, as far back as 2004 had requested industry information on MRAP vehicles. And in May, 2006, the Marines asked for a relative handful of the vehicles -- just 185 in all. Military interest quickly increased after a small number of MRAPs begun to trickle to the region. Orders grew to 4,060 vehicles, then to 7,774. Now, the Army and Marine Corps are requesting nearly 18,000 vehicles to replace the entire Humvee fleet. Defense Secretary Gates now calls MRAP the Pentagon's "highest priority" target for new equipment.

To Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the stunted response is another example of how "the suits and the bureaucrats in Washington don't seem to have the same sense of urgency as the guys in the field."

"This is what happens when industry isn't put on a war footing," he adds. "It's like the military families are at war, and everyone else is out shopping."

-- Sharon Weinberger and Noah Shachtman

[bth: on my wall is a senate debate from April 2005 in which a senator reads a statement from the army which says they need no more armored vehicles and the marines say this as well. Yet by July 2005 the marines need 2000 or more armored vehicles. What happened? Incompetence that's what. And that such a statement existed as early as Jan. 05 is sickening. ... Its true that Force Protectionw as the only producer at that time; if you exclude most of the european countries, israel and south africa which made them for decades. And if one ignored tens of thousands of unemployed autoworkers that could could convert car production lines into airplane production lines in WWII but couldn't seem to be asked by our government to make armored trucks instead of unarmored ones as many of them had for decades. What criminal negligence - and no one will be held to account.]