Friday, October 12, 2007

WoundStat dressing compound cleared for battlefield use - gizmag Article

WoundStat dressing compound cleared for battlefield use - gizmag Article: "September 24, 2007 "A potentially lifesaving new type of dressing compound has been approved for use by the FDA. WoundStat is a lightweight, pre-mixed, compound that stems high-pressure bleeding in moderate to severe wounds and is ideal for combat situations due to its portability and ability to be be applied on the spot. Like the Integrated Tourniquet Clothing System covered recently on Gizmag, the development provides another avenue of relief for what remains a major cause of death on the battlefield - bleeding to death.

"The FDA's speedy approval of WoundStat means that we can get it more quickly into the hands of those who need it most today - our warfighters in harm's way around the world." said Devinder S. Bawa, chief executive officer of TraumaCure. "The product's effectiveness is particularly important with core body wounds that a tourniquet can't reach. We believe that WoundStat has the potential to provide the military with another important tool to minimize battlefield deaths caused by hemorrhaging."

"Uncontrolled bleeding continues to be the primary cause of death on the battlefield," said Kevin Ward, MD, a VCU emergency physician and associate director for VCURES. "After years of research we've developed a versatile and robust material that is specifically suited to treat the tremendously complex wounds of war under very demanding environmental conditions. The material is both very absorbent and adherent which helps to quickly stop the bleeding while simultaneously facilitating clotting."

The patent-pending technology behind WoundStat is the result of more than three years of research and development by VCURES. The university center not only conducts research on life-saving technologies, it plays a key role in training around 50 percent of the Special Operation Combat Medics in the U.S. military. TraumaCure anticipates that WoundStat will be available for deployment by the late fall. Both U.S. military and foreign military allies have expressed interest in the new product.

"WoundStat's value goes beyond the battlefield," said retired Lieutenant General Ronald Blanck, DO, former Surgeon General of the Army. "It will provide a life-saving tool in everyday civilian emergency situations as well as where advanced medical care is not immediately available, such as accidents in remote terrain and on the high seas, or in unexpected disasters such as earthquakes or explosions."

TraumaCure is continuing research for discovery and development of additional products based on the core compounds used in WoundStat. The current focus is on trauma injury care, and future products will aim at surgical, chronic wound, and burn care.
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Military Seeks Alternatives in Case Turkey Limits Access - New York Times

Military Seeks Alternatives in Case Turkey Limits Access - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 — Loss of access to military installations in Turkey would force the United States to send more supplies for Iraq through other countries and could cause short-term backups in fuel shipments and deliveries of critical equipment, senior officers said Thursday."

The officials said they had a contingency plan in case Turkey followed through on threats to shut off the United States military’s use to its territory if the full House approved a resolution condemning the mass killings of Armenians during World War I as an act of genocide. That could mean the loss at least temporarily of Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey, a key resupply hub for Iraq, and the closing of the Turkish-Iraq border to fuel trucks for the American military.

It could take months to increase operations in other logistical hubs, including Jordan, Kuwait and at the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr in the northern Persian Gulf, the officials said.

“Turkey has been a tremendous hub for us, and if we didn’t have it that would increase time lines and distances,” said a senior military officer involved in logistical planning and operations. “But it would be a short-term impact.” The officer spoke on condition of anonymity, as did other officials, because he was discussing matters of military planning.

Turkey signaled its displeasure by recalling its ambassador to Washington on Thursday, the day after the House Foreign Affairs Committee endorsed the resolution. Meanwhile, Bush administration officials stepped up their warnings that passage of the measure by the full House could have dire consequences.

For the second day in a row, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned about the “enormous implications” for American military operations in Iraq if Turkey limited flights over its territory or restricted access to Incirlik Air Base.

“All I can say is that a resolution that looks back almost 100 years to an event that took place under a predecessor government, the Ottomans, and that has enormous present-day implications for American soldiers and Marines and sailors and airmen in Iraq, is something we need to take very seriously,” Mr. Gates told reporters in London.

In public, only Turkish legislators have explicitly warned of limiting the American military presence, though other members of the government have also warned of consequences.

“This is an issue where the Turkish officials have made clear their very strong concerns about this and have raised questions about potential consequences in the event that this resolution passes,” said Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman.

Though a NATO ally, Turkey has proved a roadblock to American military actions before, especially in March 2003, when its Parliament refused to authorize movement of American ground troops through its territory during the initial invasion of Iraq.

Mr. Gates and other military officials have said that 70 percent of the military cargo sent to Iraq is flown through Incirlik or on routes over Turkey.

To drive home the potential impact of the House action, American officials have warned that delivery of new heavily armored trucks, known as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, could be disrupted. Senior military officials said Thursday that the roughly 400 such vehicles delivered since July have been flown in over Turkey but not landed on its territory. Those flights could avoid Turkish airspace, if necessary, they said.

[bth: a further indication of supply route vulnerability]
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Kurdish Media - : Talabani predicts 100,000 troops could leave Iraq in 2008 :

Kurdish Media: "WASHINGTON — At least 100,000 U.S. troops could return home from Iraq by the end of 2008, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in an interview aired on Sunday, although he proposed that several American military bases stay in Iraq. "

Speaking on CNN television, Talabani envisioned faster U.S. troop reductions than U.S. commanders have discussed in public. But he stressed that the pace of withdrawal was up to those commanders and did not explain why he foresaw a faster pullout.

"I think it is possible at the end of the next year that a big part of the American Army will be back here," said Talabani, who gave the interview during a trip to the United States. "More than 100,000 (troops) can be back by the end of the next year."

But Talabani, a Kurd and former guerrilla leader who fought Saddam Hussein, said he was not pushing for an independent Kurdistan in Iraq's North, because neighboring countries would never agree to it

The United States now has about 165,000 troops in Iraq. Under pressure from opposition Democrats and some senior Republicans for big cuts in troops, President Bush last month approved a plan from his top commander in Iraq to gradually reduce the U.S. force by 20,000 to 30,000 by mid-2008.

In Baghdad Sunday, a joint U.S.-Iraqi commission reviewing American security operations after a deadly shooting of Iraqi civilians, allegedly at the hands of Blackwater USA guards, met for the first time, the U.S. Embassy said.

The joint commission, chaired by Iraq's defense minister and the American Embassy's No. 2 diplomat, expressed "mutual commitment of the Iraqi government and the U.S. government to work together to evaluate issues of safety and security related to personal security detail operations in Iraq," the brief embassy statement said.

The commission is expected to issue recommendations to both Baghdad and Washington on improving Iraqi and U.S. security procedures, with the "goal of ensuring that personal security detail operations do not endanger public safety."

It is one of at least three investigations into the Sept. 16 shooting in which Blackwater guards are accused of opening fire on Iraqi civilians in a main square in Baghdad. The Moyock, N.C.-based security company contends its employees came under fire first, but the Iraqi government and witnesses dispute that.

Across the Iraqi capital, bombings killed at least nine Iraqis in three separate attacks, police said, while the U.S. military reported the capture of three suspected Shiite militia fighters believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of five British security contractors.

The U.S. military said a pre-dawn raid Saturday in Baghdad's Sadr City netted three men believed responsible for the May 29 abduction of the four British security guards and a computer expert. In the kidnapping, some 40 armed men in police uniforms swept into the Iraqi Finance Ministry and took the Britons toward Sadr City.

As recently as last month, the U.S. military has said it believes the Britons are still alive.

Also Sunday, the leader of the self-governing Kurdish region spoke out in an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal about new oil agreements with several international companies. The central government in Baghdad is upset about the deals, saying the Kurds should wait until the passage of a national oil law before signing any new contracts.

But Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said the deals were "not an attempt to usurp the nation's oil resources" but rather to make "these valuable resources work for the people of Iraq."

He said the Kurdish regional government has signed eight production-sharing contracts with international oil and gas companies since enacting its own law covering foreign oil investments

[bth: read this article in the context of the ones I've posted below. One suspects that the US will in the end be asked by the Kurds and the Turks to stay in the Kirkuk area to help stabilize the region and by the by develop the oil resources there. That the Kurds would have to export that oil, presumably through pipelines north into Turkey goes without saying. As yourself this question, does Hunt Oil whose owners just gave $35 million to the proposed Bush library to be built in Dallas and who just cut oil contracts with the Kurds, want the US military to stay or leave these northern areas of Iraq? Events are being choreographed.]

Kurdish Media: Why should I believe Turkish military? :

Kurdish Media: "Recently two major attacks have been perpetrated against the civilians in southeastern Turkey bringing about the death of 12 villagers in Beytussebap. Many Turks believe that this attack was carried out by the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). The other attack was October 7th, when an ambushed military unit resulted in the death of 13 Turkish soldiers, including village guard militia, in the Garbar Mountains in the province of Sirnak. These attacks in southeastern Turkey met with strong condemnation by the Kurdish public and the Turkish people. Let me say that I condemn the targeting and killing of civilians. I am against any kind of violence; however, I am not convinced that the Turkish military did not provoke the public nor that it did not try to build a case to get support of the public to enter Iraq. Why do Turks wants to acquire Iraq? It is very simple. Turks still teach in school that Mosul and Kirkuk are part of Turkey and should, therefore, be inside the Turkish borders. Consequently, Turkey is looking for any opportunity to move into the region. The second reason is that Turkey worries that a strong economically independent Iraqi Kurdistan in control of the oil rich cities of Mosul and Kirkuk would gives incentives for the Turkish Kurds to ask for independence, especially given the poor social, political and economical conditions of southeastern Turkey. Recently Turkey worked hard to made a bilateral agreement with the neighboring countries of Iran, Syria, and even Iraq to come to one another’s defense against the Kurdish threat. Thus, the “Kurdish threat” unified the old enemies to stand against their common enemy—the Kurds. However, the Turks believe that accession into the European Union will change the mind of the Kurdish people regarding independence. Furthermore, the Kurdish people in Turkey are not asking for independence. They are wanting social, political, and economical justice, to live in human not animal conditions, and not to be surrounded by the military. Anyone one who has been to southeastern Turkey knows that the military can watch every move that both the local and the visitor make. Travelers will meet rifle-toting soldiers at numerous military checkpoints and can see armed guard towers dotting the hillsides, making them feel like they are in a prison.

The Turkish government has tried many scenarios or provocations to ensure the vitality of the military; for example, a few weeks ago one truck loaded with 600 pounds of explosives was found in Ankara. Despite the PKK’s announcement that they had nothing to do with that, the Turkish government placed the blame on these “terrorists.” For many decades the Turkish Military has been running a dirty war in southeastern Turkey against the Kurdish people, giving the excuse of the War on Terror. Turkey is the strongest military power in the Middle East. Why can’t it eradicate the PKK, or does the Turkish military not want this problem to be solved? Because the military benefits from drug trafficking and because the only people who suffer and are being killed are Kurds (even those conscripted), is it logical that Kurds are killing Kurds? Why are these attacks happening now? Who should the Kurdish public trust: the military and the government? Why should I believe that this is not another military provocation like Semdinli? There members of the gendarmerie intelligence officers (JIT) were apprehended in the 2005 bombing of a bookstore. The public chased and caught the criminals with two Turkish military officials and a PKK informant being arrested. Later it was found that their car was registered to a local gendarmerie and included a list of more than 100 potential targets including the bookstore owner.

Because most of the population of southeast are Kurdish, almost the only ethnic Turks in that area are spies, policemen, military, gendarme, and forces especially trained to kill. Also, most of the special forces are Grey Wolves, who claim that Kurds are Mountain Turks and ask for the destruction of the Kurdish people, similar to the call of the Islamic Resistance Movement, the Hamas, for the destruction of Israel. Ironically, Hamas, like the PKK, is considered a terrorist organization, so why does the Turkish government recognize them and have talks with the Hamas? Hasn’t the Hamas also killed many innocent Jews?

It is true that this kind of provocation has become a tool for the Turkish military to repress and to punish the Kurdish people. For many years the Kurds were crying out about illegality, kidnappings and disappearances, killings, raping, and burning of villages committed by the military. Many people did not believe the charges until the Semdinli trial revealed the military sources in the bombing of the bookshop that made headlines because of the Turkish agency’s involvement. For many years it has been said that soldiers have donned PKK uniforms and introduced themselves as PKK members as they raided houses, humiliated Kurdish people, raped Kurdish girls, tortured men and women people, and killed “the suspects.” In the 1950s the Turkish government bombed its embassy in Thessalonica and blamed the Greeks, justifying the Istanbul mass riots and killings of the Greeks. Vladimir Putin did a similar thing in 1999, when the Russian government bombed a building in the center of Moscow and got the complete support of the public to wage a full scale war with the Chechens, killing many innocent people.

To further demonstrate the military’s involvement, one top retired colonel in the Turkish military, Erdal Sarizeybek, recently wrote a book called I Saw Betrayal. He makes confessions and describes how the gendarmerie would sometimes attack the towns in southeastern Turkey and blame the PKK. After a bomb attack, they would call the local people in a mass meeting, explaining the destruction made by the alleged PKK violence and demand that the local people cooperate with the military to stop the PKK from attacking again (Erdal Sarizeybek Ihaneti Gordum, 2007).

I think the Turkish public and the U.S. government should be cautious about Turkey’s intentions in Iraq and about false provocations. I am not surprised the Turkish government approved of the military incursion into northern Iraq. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has approved possible military action against the Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq, although, according to spokesman Sean McCormack, the U.S State Department fears that such a unilateral incursion would destabilize this region and thus warns against it. By terming these incursions “hot pursuit” raids, the military would bypass the need for the Turkish Parliament’s approval of a large-scale offensive. Erdogen’s government claimed that the military operations may be necessary, “To put an end to the terrorist organization operating in the neighboring country [Iraq], the order has been given to take every kind of measure, legal, economic, political, including also a cross-border operation if necessary." Indeed, soldiers moved in the Kato Mountain in the province of Sirnak on October 5 and sent military vehicles between Cizre and Sirnak on October 7th. President Abdullah Gul also vows to take every measure available to “cope with the threat.” In a recent summit attended by Prime Minister Erdogen, President Gul, and Chief of General Staff General Yasar Buyukanit, the cabal framed the actions in terms of anti-terrorism. Yet, in their pronouncements, Erdogen’s office does not mention the northern Iraq oil- rich fields and Turkey’s claim to Mosul and Kirkuk in his proposal of military operations in the Kurdish controlled region of Iraq.

In conclusion, even though the military and government in the latest incidents point directly at the PKK, why should the inhabitants of that region, or for that matter, of the world community, believe that the PKK organization is responsible, knowing the facts about the Turkish military’s long record of staging provocations and then blaming them on the PKK organization?

[bth: I find this article from the Kurdish media interesting for its perspective on the Turkey's military as a Kurd sees it. It also fails to mention PKK violence or atrocities. Oversight? This ancient conflict is about to suck the US into it. As we start to plan to withdraw from the region, Iraq's neighbors are finding a reason for us to stay. Curious timing isn't it? Those powers in the region don't want us to succeed in Iraq - whatever that means anymore - but they also don't want us to leave either. The Turks don't want a fractured Iraq with a new Kurdish state. The Iranians don't want that either though they're sitting pretty in southern Iraq. The Saudis and Jordanians don't want us to bail out and leave a Shea state now called Iraq as their neighbor with an angry and violent sunni minority pressing for a civil war or regional conflict. We need to be careful here. There are too many curious timings and coincidences going on - like why this month is the Armenian genocide resolution being pushed after almost a hundred years? Coincidence or first stage of a propaganda push involving an independent Kurdish state friendly to oil concessions to the likes of Hunt Oil that could carry revolution into northeastern Iran and eastern Turkey?]

Turkey ready to face world criticism over Iraq :

Kurdish Media: "ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Ankara was prepared to face up to any international criticism if his country launched an attack on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq."

Washington fears such an offensive, against Turkish Kurds fighting for an independent homeland in southeastern Turkey, could destabilize Iraq's most peaceful area and potentially the wider region.

Asked about world reaction to such an incursion, Erdogan told reporters: "After going down this route, its cost has already been calculated. Whatever the cost is, it will be met."

Faced with a sharp escalation of attacks by Kurdish militants on Turkish troops, Erdogan's government has decided to seek approval from parliament next week for a major military operation to target Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels who use northern Iraq as a base to attack Turkish targets.

Some analysts say an operation is more likely after a vote on Wednesday in which a U.S. congressional committee branded killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One genocide -- a charge Turkey firmly denies.

Ankara recalled its ambassador to the United States for consultations on Thursday after the congressional vote, which was strongly condemned in Turkey. The vote sparked street protests in Ankara and Istanbul.

The Turkish government cautioned on Thursday that relations with its NATO ally would be harmed by the committee's decision.


The non-binding resolution now goes to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Democratic leaders say there will be a vote by mid-November. The resolution was proposed by a politician with many Armenian-Americans in his district.

Armenian-Americans, some descended from Armenians who fled the region during World War One, represent a powerful lobby in American politics.

The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee's decision is expected to weaken U.S. influence over Turkey, which has NATO's second-largest army, at a time when the government ponders whether to push for the military operation into mainly Kurdish northern Iraq.

The United States and the European Union, which Turkey wants to join, have cautioned against such a move.

Erdogan said Turkey respected Iraq's unity but if it did nothing to stop the separatist PKK then Ankara had to act.

"As regards Iraq's political integrity, unity, territorial unity and the central government, we have nothing against it and there's no question of thoughts of sanctions ... (But) if they aren't doing anything to stop it (terrorism), then of course we need to do something," he said.

Ankara says 3,000 PKK rebels are based in northern Iraq from where they stage frequent deadly attacks into Turkey.

Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group launched its armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.

[bth: there are innumerable forces here that want to widen the conflict not the least of which is domestic politics in Turkey and the imminent creation of a Kurdish state out of Iraq.]

Alberto Gonzales hires defense attorney

Alberto Gonzales hires defense attorney - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has hired a high-powered Washington lawyer to represent him in investigations of mismanagement of the Justice Department. George Terwilliger, a white-collar crime defense attorney and the second-ranking Justice official in the early 1990s, was on the White House's short list last month to replace Gonzales. "....

[bth: it looks like this DOJ/Gonzales mess is going to play itself out through 2008]

The Next Hurrah: Simpson Claims Rove Worked with Public Integrity on Siegelman Case

The Next Hurrah: Simpson Claims Rove Worked with Public Integrity on Siegelman Case: "According to Jill Simpson's testimony, in January or February of 2005, Karl Rove met with the head of Public Integrity at DOJ and got him to assign resources to the Don Siegelman case."...

Set aside the Siegelman case for a second. If Simpson's testimony is truthful, it means Karl Rove had significant sway over the Public Integrity Section at DOJ in early 2005. The Abramoff investigation was in full swing. As was the CIA Leak investigation. Both of which Rove was personally implicated in.

At the time, Noel Hillman was head of PIN. Hillman stepped down in January 2006--just weeks after Abramoff's guilty plea on January 3 and a time when the White House was increasingly the focus of the Abramoff investigation--to become a Federal judge. At the time, the move was viewed with a great deal of suspicion....

[bth: so does this mean Karl Rove was interfering with DOJ activities while he was being investigated himself?]

Turks Angry Over House Armenian Genocide Vote - New York Times

Turks Angry Over House Armenian Genocide Vote - New York Times: "ISTANBUL, Oct. 11 — Turkey reacted angrily Thursday to a House committee vote in Washington to condemn as genocide the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey that began during World War I, recalling its ambassador from Washington and threatening to withdraw its support for the Iraq war.
In uncharacteristically strong language, President Abdullah Gul criticized the vote by the House Foreign Relations Committee in a statement to the semi-official Anatolian News Agency, and warned that the decision could work against the United States.

“Unfortunately, some politicians in the United States have once more dismissed calls for common sense, and made an attempt to sacrifice big issues for minor domestic political games,” President Gul said.

The House vote comes at a particularly inopportune time. Washington has called on Turkey to show restraint as its military mobilizes on the border with Iraq, threatening an incursion against Kurdish insurgents. On Thursday, Turkish warplanes were reported to be flying close to the border, but not crossing it.

The possibility of Turkish military intervention in Iraq against Kurdish separatists has long worried American officials for its potential to ignite a wider war. On Wednesday, the Turkish government began the process of gaining parliamentary approval to conduct cross-border operations.

The committee vote in the House, though nonbinding and largely symbolic, rebuffed an intense campaign by the White House and earlier warnings from Turkey’s government that such a vote would gravely strain relations with the United States.

In Washington, the Bush administration tried to ease the hard feelings between the countries, and vowed to try to defeat the resolution on Capitol Hill.

“One of the reasons we opposed the resolution in the House yesterday is that the president has expressed on behalf of the American people our horror at the tragedy of 1915,” said Dana Perino, President Bush’s chief spokeswoman. “But at the same time, we have national security concerns, and many of our troops and supplies go through Turkey. They are a very important ally in the war on terror, and we are going to continue to try to work with them. And we hope that the House does not put forward a full vote.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would definitely take up the measure. “I said if it comes out of committee, it will go to the floor,” she told reporters. “Now it has come out of committee, and it will go to the floor.”

In Turkey, there was widespread expectation that the House committee vote and any further steps would damage relations between the countries.

Turkish officials and lawmakers warned that if the resolution were approved by the full House, they would reconsider supporting the American war effort in Iraq, which includes permission to ship essential supplies through Turkey from a major air base at Incirlik, in southern Turkey.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, refused to say what effect the resolution might have on American access to the base, but he did not exclude the possibility of a policy change. “This step is contrary to the U.S. interests,” he said on Thursday, “and is an unfortunate decision taken by those who cannot acknowledge Turkey’s position.”

Already the top Turkish naval commander, Adm. Metin Atac, canceled a trip to the United States for a conference after Wednesday’s vote, an American Embassy official confirmed. Admiral Atac’s office did not specify any reasons for the cancellation.

For his part, Ross Wilson, the United States ambassador to Turkey, also tried to calm relations, issuing a statement on Thursday saying that the partnership between Turkey and the United States was strong and would remain so. He added that he, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice regretted the committee decision.

He was nonetheless later summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Ankara, the capital, to be briefed on Turkey’s disappointment.

“We had a meeting with Mr. Wilson during which we expressed our concerns about the developments,” said a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry. “We drew attention to bad reflections on our bilateral relations and kindly requested his assistance in preventing the passage of the bill.”

The House decision prompted reaction on the streets of Ankara and Istanbul. The youth branch of the extreme-leftist Workers’ Party laid a black wreath at the United States Embassy and spray-painted the Turkish flag onto an embassy wall.

A total of 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the Armenian genocide, which began in 1915 as part of a systematic campaign by the fraying Ottoman Empire to drive Armenians out of eastern Turkey. Turks have vehemently denied the genocide designation, while acknowledging that hundreds of thousands of Armenians died. They contend that the deaths resulted from the war that ended with the creation of modern Turkey in 1923.

Identifying Armenian killings as genocide is considered an insult against Turkish identity, a crime under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code.

In an Istanbul court on Thursday, Sarkis Seropyan and Arat Dink, the brother of Hrant Dink, the newspaper editor who was killed by a 17-year-old gunman in January, received suspended jail sentences for one year for violating that law. They reprinted other newspaper accounts of Hrant Dink’s statement saying that Armenians suffered genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Army in the 1910s, their lawyer, Fethiye Cetin, said.

Not only writers of Armenian origin, but also the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk have been charged under the same law, although his case was dropped under heavy international pressure.

A State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, said that United States diplomats were reaching out to their Turkish counterparts to express not only their opposition to the resolution but “our commitment with Congress on this to see that the full House, in fact, votes to defeat this resolution.”

Mr. Casey said that State Department and White House officials would try to persuade “various members” of the House on how to vote.

Ms. Pelosi said that she did not have a date in mind for bringing the issue to the floor, but that it would be brought up this session, which is to end around Nov. 16. Whatever happens, she insisted, relations between the United States and Turkey will remain strong.

David Stout contributed reporting from Washington.

[bth: well a couple of things. First there will be total silence from Israel on this issue though domestic surrogate debates about Armenian genocide and its lack of recognition are occurring across local America within anti-defamation leagues and within government strata from local to national. Second, is that as important as Turkey is, what help did they really provide us in Iraq? One should recall that a northern offensive by the 4th ID was scrapped, that the 173rd airborne was parachuted in without overland support and that a real and deadly struggle continues between Kurds (not just radical Kurds) in Turkey, Iraq, Iraq and Syria. ... One should view this intensification of hostilities between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds in context of 2008 votes by the Kurds that will likely result in a semi-independent state (if it isn't there already) and the recent oil contracts negotiated with friendly American companies (friendly to Bush) like Hunt Oil for oil concessions near Kirkuk.]

Sunni insurgents form alliance against US

Sunni insurgents form alliance against US | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited: "Six Iraqi insurgent groups took a step towards unifying the factions fighting the US yesterday by announcing the creation of a political umbrella organisation."

A spokesman for the new alliance, his face blacked out, made the announcement on a video broadcast by al-Jazeera. He described the alliance as "the political council of the Iraqi resistance".

The six Sunni groups have been in discussion about the move for months. The aim is to reduce the fragmented nature of the insurgency but also to try to claim a slice of the political agenda after the expected US withdrawal....

Documents: Qwest was targeted

Rocky Mountain News - Denver and Colorado's reliable source for breaking news, sports and entertainment: Tech & telecom: "The National Security Agency and other government agencies retaliated against Qwest because the Denver telco refused to go along with a phone spying program, documents released Wednesday suggest. "...

Man held in Spain planned suicide attack: sources

Man held in Spain planned suicide attack: sources - Yahoo! News: "MADRID (Reuters) - A French man who was arrested in Spain with explosives in his vehicle on Sunday had been planning a suicide attack in Barcelona, Spanish state security sources said on Thursday. "

The sources said Moulay Abel, 30, told police he planned the attack because of an unlucky love affair, but an Islamist motive was also suspected because he had a copy of the Koran in the car and had shaved his body hair.

The man is undergoing psychological checks, a court source said.

He had planned to drive the vehicle, loaded with two butane gas cylinders and explosive material, into a public building and detonate it from inside, the sources said, citing a police report....

A Madrid court is due on October 31 to give its verdict on the trial of 28 men charged with killing 191 people in train bombs in Madrid in March, 2004....

Relations Sour Between Shiites and Iraq Militia - New York Times

Relations Sour Between Shiites and Iraq Militia - New York Times: "BAGHDAD, Oct. 11 —BAGHDAD, Oct. 11 — In a number of Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia they once saw as their only protector against Sunni militants. Now they resent it as a band of street thugs without ideology.

The hardening Shiite feeling in Baghdad opens an opportunity for the American military, which has long struggled against the Mahdi Army, as American commanders rely increasingly on tribes and local leaders in their prosecution of the war.

The sectarian landscape has shifted, with Sunni extremists largely defeated in many Shiite neighborhoods, and the war in those places has sunk into a criminality that is often blind to sect.

In interviews, 10 Shiites from four neighborhoods in eastern and western Baghdad described a pattern in which militia members, looking for new sources of income, turned on Shiites.

The pattern appears less frequently in neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shiites are still struggling for territory. Sadr City, the largest Shiite neighborhood, where the Mahdi Army’s face is more political than military, has largely escaped the wave of criminality.

Among the people killed in the neighborhood of Topchi over the past two months, residents said, were the owner of an electrical shop, a sweets seller, a rich man, three women, two local council members, and two children, ages 9 and 11.

It was a disparate group with one thing in common: All were Shiites killed by Shiites. Residents blamed the Mahdi Army, which controls the neighborhood.

“Everyone knew who the killers were,” said a mother from Topchi, whose neighbor, a Shiite woman, was one of the victims. “I’m Shiite, and I pray to God that he will punish them.”

The feeling was the same in other neighborhoods.

We thought they were soldiers defending the Shiites,” said Sayeed Sabah, a Shiite who runs a charity in the western neighborhood of Huriya. “But now we see they are youngster-killers, no more than that. People want to get rid of them.”

While the Mahdi militia still controls most Shiite neighborhoods, early evidence that Shiites are starting to oppose some parts of the militia is surfacing on American bases. Shiite sheiks, the militia’s traditional base, are beginning to contact Americans, much as Sunni tribes reached out early this year, refocusing one entire front of the war, officials said, and the number of accurate tips flowing into American bases has soared.

Shiites are “participating like they never have before,” said Maj. Mark Brady, of the Multi-National Division-Baghdad Reconciliation and Engagement Cell, which works with tribes.

“Something has got to be not right if they are going to risk calling a tips hot line or approaching a J.S.S.,” he said, referring to the Joint Security Stations, the American neighborhood mini-bases set up after the troop increase this year.

“Everything is changing,” said Ali, a businessman in the heavily Shiite neighborhood of Ur, in eastern Baghdad, who, like most of those interviewed, did not want his full name used for fear of being attacked. “Now in our area for the first time everyone say, ‘To hell with Mahdi Army.’

“Not loudly on the street, but between friends, between families. Every man, every woman, say that.”

The street militia of today bears little resemblance to the Mahdi Army of 2004, when Shiites following a cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, battled American soldiers in a burst of Shiite self-assertion. Then, fighters doubled as neighborhood helpers, bringing cooking gas and other necessities to needy families.

Now, three years later, many members have left violence behind, taking jobs in local and national government, while others have plunged into crime, dealing in cars and houses taken from dead or displaced victims of both sects.

Even the demographics have changed. Now, street fighters tend to be young teenagers from errant families, in part the result of American military success. Last fall, the military began an aggressive campaign of arresting senior commanders, leaving behind a power vacuum and directionless junior members.

“Now it’s young guys — no religion, no red lines,” said Abbas, 40, a Shiite car parts dealer in Ameen, a southern Baghdad neighborhood. Abbas’s 22-year-old cousin, Ratib, was shot in the mouth this spring after insulting Mahdi militia members.

“People hate them,” Abbas said. “They want them to disappear from their lives.”

One of the most notorious killers in Topchi, who residents say was a Mahdi Army fighter, Haidar Rahim, was born in 1989. On a hot August afternoon, he and two accomplices shot and killed a woman named Eman, a divorced mother, in front of her house, residents said. The fighters said she was a prostitute, but shortly after her death they brought tenants to rent her house.

“They are kids with guns, who have cars and money,” said Eman’s neighbor, referring to the fighters. “Being kids, they are tempted by all of this.”

Residents’ fear was so great that Eman’s body lay untouched in a pool of blood for more than an hour, until the Iraqi authorities took it away, said the neighbor. She watched Eman’s 8-year-old son crying next to his mother’s body.

“They are bloodthirsty,” said a man whose father, a neighborhood council member from Topchi, was killed on Sept. 26. “They can kill an entire family for a $10 mobile phone scratch card.”

Mr. Rahim was killed a month later. His young face is emblazoned on a memorial sign, planted near a giant wheel of rotisserie chicken in Topchi. Some said Americans killed him. Others said Iraqis.

A spokesman for the Sadr office in Shuala, the large Shiite neighborhood north of Topchi, said that he had no information on the killings, but that any illegal actions were the work of criminals who merely called themselves Mahdi Army members.

“The claims of membership in the Mahdi Army are huge at this time,” said the spokesman, who goes by Abu Jafar. “The Sadr office is not responsible for anyone who terrorizes the people, Sunnis or Shiites.”

Patterns of violence are different in the Shiite south, where competing Shiite militias with political ties are vying for power.

The militia in Baghdad, always loosely organized, swelled with recruits after a bombing of a Shiite shrine in February 2006. The change disrupted the organization and injected it with angry young men, some with criminal pasts, who were thirsty for revenge.

Criminals began to give the organization a bad name. The price for used cars plummeted as militiamen sold vehicles that had belonged to their dead victims. A Sadr City sheik issued a religious edict permitting the confiscation of the property of Sunni militants who see Shiites as heretics. But many took it as a blank check to seize property, as long as the victim was Sunni.

A 36-year-old Mahdi Army leader from western Baghdad described a system in which victims’ cars were shipped to northern Iraq in convoys of Kurdish soldiers returning from military leave. New documents were drawn up there.

For Yasir, 35, a former member of the militia who had witnessed its breakdown firsthand, a final blow came when his cousin, a wealthy businessman, was kidnapped by young Mahdi members from the neighborhood. He was later killed.

“Don’t call it the Mahdi Army,” Yasir said. “It was the Mahdi Army when people in it had a conscience.”

In a last-ditch effort to re-establish control and respect, Mr. Sadr issued an order halting all Mahdi Army activity in August.

Abu Jafar, the spokesman, said that “the goal of this statement is to uncover the bad people that claim membership in the Mahdi Army and to let the security forces deal with them.”

While the turbulence continued in Topchi, a frontier neighborhood where local militia members are poorer, much of the activity stopped in Sadr City, the base for the most senior leaders, who have grown wealthy and are established politically, residents said.

“At first, we couldn’t drive our cars, we couldn’t walk because they have weapons, AK, pistols on the street,” said Ali, the Ur businessman. “Now they disappeared. There is nothing. You can’t see anything from these people.”

Like many Shiites, Abbas, the car parts dealer, attributes part of the drop-off to a new precision in American arrests, fed by tips from Shiite residents. Abbas said he and his friends had a name for the Americans, the Janet Brothers, a tongue-in-cheek term of tribal respect that plays off an American name. Another name, Madonna Brothers, refers to the American pop star.

American commanders like Lt. Col. David Oclander, of the Second Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, whose area includes Sadr City and other Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, have seized on that cooperation. In the past month and a half, he said, Shiite leaders have begun to make contact with the Americans. The brigade is now working with 25 sheiks in the Shiite neighborhoods of Shaab and Ur and is interviewing up to 1,200 candidates for semiofficial neighborhood guard positions.

The lieutenant colonel compares the shift among the Shiites to the one in Sunni neighborhoods that began to turn against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni extremist group that American intelligence agencies say is foreign led.

In some cases, residents seem more willing to stand up to the Mahdi Army
. In Topchi, several businessmen refused to pay protection money to Mahdi Army members this month. The news spread through the neighborhood. Four months ago, a truck driver was killed in Lieutenant Colonel Oclander’s sector, after the driver’s boss refused to pay protection money. Such retribution is much rarer now, he said.

Ali, the Ur businessman, said he expected the Mahdi Army to be much smaller in the future. People simply do not believe its leaders anymore. “There is no ideology among them anymore,” he said.

As proof, he told a story from his neighborhood about a religious man and a car acquisition.

“He was a poor man, but now he has a Mercedes-Benz,” Ali said. “The Prophet Muhammad, he didn’t even have a horse.”

Reporting was contributed by Johan Spanner, Ahmad Fadam, Kareem Hilm and Qais Mizher from Baghdad.

[bth: very interesting trend. Validated tips from Iraqis is an excellent trend measure.]

Military pays millions in bonuses to keep commandos

Military pays millions in bonuses to keep commandos - "WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has paid more than $100 million in bonuses to veteran Green Berets and Navy SEALs, reversing the flow of top commandos to the corporate world where security companies such as Blackwater USA are offering big salaries."

The retention effort, started nearly three years ago and overseen by U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, has helped preserve a small but elite group of enlisted troops with vast experience fighting the unconventional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Defense Department statistics.

Overall, more than 1,200 of the military's most specialized personnel near or already eligible for retirement have opted for payments of up to $150,000 in return for staying in uniform several more years.

The numbers gathered by The Associated Press and other Pentagon research indicate there has not been an extended exodus of commandos to private security companies and other businesses that value their talents.

"Back in 2005, we saw quite a few exits," said Rear Adm. Michael LeFever, director of the Navy's military personnel plans and policy division. "What we're seeing lately is just the opposite. We've become very aggressive."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates remains so concerned over the lure of high salaries in the private sector that he has directed Pentagon lawyers to explore putting no-compete clauses into contracts with security companies that would limit their recruiting abilities.

While special operations forces are by no means the only candidates for security jobs in Iraq that can pay hundreds of dollars a day, they are the most attractive because of the unique training they receive.

In addition to being proficient with weapons, many of these troops have advanced educations, the ability to speak the languages of the Middle East and other regions, and the cultural awareness that comes with living among the local populations.

For those same reasons, the military wants to hold on to them as long as possible, and at the same time demonstrate to younger enlisted troops that there's a financial incentive for an extended career.

The stress of repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and the opportunities for financial stability outside the military have heightened the urgency of the military's retention efforts.

Gates said Wednesday the Army must focus more on training foreign militaries and fighting insurgent groups — methods essential to success in the type of irregular warfare U.S. forces now face. Troops with these skills "need to be retained," Gates told the annual convention of the Association of the U.S. Army.

With the Pentagon expecting to spend another $43.5 million on commando bonuses in fiscal year 2008, which began Oct. 1, statistics show the military is building a more mature special operations force.

In addition to retention bonuses, enlisted special operations personnel ranging from corporals to sergeant majors also qualify for a special duty pay of $375 a month above their normal salary.

The Special Operations Command bonus program was approved in late 2004 and targeted non-commissioned Army, Navy and Air Force commandos with 19 years or more of service. After 20 years, military personnel are eligible to retire at half pay and have lifetime access to military medical care and other benefits.

At the 19-year mark, an Army sergeant first class earns about $63,400 annually, a figure that doesn't include what the Congressional Budget Office calls "noncash" benefits available to military members such as subsidized child care, lower grocery costs at base stores, and free access to recreational facilities.

The "critical skills retention" bonuses work on a sliding scale and are offered to senior enlisted personnel and warrant officers who form the backbone of the force.

Those agreeing to stay an extra six years receive $150,000; five years is worth $75,000; four years, $50,000; three years, $30,000; two years, $18,000; and one extra year, $8,000.

Since January 2005, 2,326 have been eligible and more than half took bonuses, statistics show.

Those who didn't opt for an extension may have retired, or they may be waiting for the right time to take the bonus: accepting it during a battle-zone deployment makes the payment tax free.

Within the Army Special Forces, the largest U.S. commando branch better known as the Green Berets, more than 900 have traded time for money. Over a third of these troops agreed to six-year extensions.

Overall, at a cost of $75 million, the Pentagon bought an average of 3.3 additional years from Green Berets with nearly two decades of experience in combat engineering, communications, intelligence and field medicine, figures show.

Just over 300 Navy SEALs — Sea, Air and Land commandos — have signed up for longer tours at a cost of $27.6 million. More than half agreed to six additional years.

The Air Force pool of combat controllers and pararescuemen with at least 19 years of service is the smallest; 32 of these troops opted for bonuses costing $3 million. Half took the six-year package.

While Special Operations Command officials view the results as positive, retention figures probably will do little to settle the heated debate over recruiting tactics used by private security companies.

"The disgraceful cycle works like this: Contractors hire away military talent. The military finds itself short of skilled workers, so contractors get more contracts. With more money, they hire away more uniformed talent," wrote Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer and a frequent commentator on military issues, in a recent op-ed in the New York Post.

Blackwater USA has a large contract with the State Department to guard U.S. diplomats in Iraq. Since a Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead, the company has been sharply criticized for the way it operates.

At an Oct. 2 congressional hearing, Democratic lawmakers accused the company of poaching from the military's ranks. Erik Prince, Blackwater's top executive, defended his company, saying not every one wants to stay in uniform for 20 years.

"At some point they're going to get out after four, six, eight, whatever that period of time is, whatever they decide, because we don't have a draft. We have a voluntary service," Prince said. "Yes, a lot of them come to work for companies like us, but not at any higher rate than they ever did before."

Chris Taylor, a former vice president for strategic initiatives at Blackwater, said Prince's claim is backed by a July 2005 study from the Government Accountability Office that said attrition levels within military specialties favored by contractors were about the same as before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
More recently, Chris MacPherson reached a similar conclusion in a research project he conducted over the summer in the Pentagon's special operations directorate.

"I found no evidence that (private security companies) have increased the number of U.S. special operations forces leaving the military," said MacPherson, a graduate student at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Of the estimated 25,000 security personnel working in Iraq, only about 2,000 are Americans and they earn between $350 to $500 a day, said Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association.

That means there aren't that many high-paying security jobs available even if a service member leaves the military, said Brooks, whose organization represents many companies doing business in Iraq.

"There's no drain on the military," Brooks said. "This is way overblown


A HERO AMONG HEROES: "October 12, 2007 -- "President Bush announced yesterday that the nation's highest military dis tinction will be awarded - posthumously - to a Long Islander of incredible valor.

Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Patchogue native and Navy SEAL, was deep in enemy territory in Afghanistan two years ago when Taliban gunmen ambushed his unit. Forsaking cover, he was shot as he scrambled into the open to send a distress signal back to the base.

He succeeded - but was killed in the ensuing gunfight.

Lt. Murphy will be the first to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in Operation Enduring Freedom. The president will present it to his parents at the White House on Oct. 22.

Make no mistake: Americans owe their freedom to all the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. But the courage and instant self-sacrifice that sustains their effort can be seen most clearly in heroes like Lt. Murphy.

His father told a reporter that he considers the medal "a public recognition of what we knew about Michael - of his intensity, his focus, his devout loyalty to home and family, his country and especially his SEAL teammates and the SEAL community."

No one could be more deserving of the honor.

All Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Michael Murphy - and New Yorkers can take special pride in the memory of a local hero.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Army Offers Big Cash To Keep Key Officers -

Army Offers Big Cash To Keep Key Officers - "The Army is offering cash bonuses of up to $35,000 to retain young officers serving in key specialties -- including military intelligence, infantry and aviation -- in an unprecedented bid to forestall a critical shortage of officer ranks that have been hit hard by frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army officials said that lengthy and repeated war-zone tours -- the top reason younger officers leave the service -- plus the need for thousands of new officers as the Army moves forward with expansion plans have contributed to a projected shortfall of about 3,000 captains and majors for every year through 2013.

In response, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved the unusual incentives last month as a temporary measure for this fiscal year, and over the past three weeks, more than 6,000 Army captains have accepted cash awards ranging from $25,000 to $35,000 in exchange for committing to serve three more years.

In a speech at an Army conference yesterday, Gates said that holding on to today's combat veteran officers is vital to reshaping and rebuilding the force for the future -- and this could mean rethinking Cold War-era promotion policies. "There is a generation of junior and mid-level officers and NCOs [noncommissioned officers] who have been tested in battle like none other in decades," he said. "These men and women need to be retained, and the best and brightest advanced . . . to use their experience to shape the institution."

More than 18,000 Army captains are eligible for the bonuses and more than a third of those have taken them since the new cash offer was announced on Sept. 13, senior Army officers said this week. An additional 900 officers have taken other incentives to stay on.

Captains are a mainstay of the Army's combat units, even more so in the decentralized counterinsurgencies of Iraq and Afghanistan. Infantry captains lead companies of about 120 soldiers, and most have served one, two or three year-long combat tours since 2001. In Iraq, such officers are considered key to the military transition teams that are expected to increase as the mission of the 169,000 U.S. troops there shifts from combat to training Iraqi security forces.

Captains, who are generally in their 20s or early 30s, usually have three to 10 years of Army experience and earn basic pay of $4,000 to $5,000 a month. The rank of captain is often a critical juncture in an officer's career, when most decide whether to leave the service or stay, often until retirement. ...

Main and Central: V-22 Osprey in Iraq

Main and Central: V-22 Osprey in Iraq: "The Marines have deployed the V-22 Osprey to Iraq – sort of."

BAGHDAD — The controversial V-22 Osprey has arrived in a combat zone for the first time.
It was an epic trip for the innovative tilt-rotor plane, one that took more than 25 years of development and cost 30 lives and $20 billion. Even the last short hop — from an aircraft carrier into Iraq — went awry, U.S. military officials said Monday.

A malfunction forced one of the 10 Ospreys that were deployed to land in Jordan on Thursday. The Marines flew parts to it from Iraq and repaired it. After it took off again Saturday, the problem recurred, and it had to turn back and land in Jordan a second time, said Maj. Jeff Pool, a U.S. military spokesman in western Iraq. It finally was repaired and arrived at al Asad Air Base in western Iraq late Sunday afternoon.

So, apparently one of these beasts just barely made it to shore, rather embarrassing for a new plane that has been 25 years in the making. I don’t know much about airplanes so there isn’t much point in asking whether these machines have that 20th century “pre-flight” thing I used to hear so much about. But still, 9 out of 10 is all right, supposedly.

It’s unfortunate that they didn’t check it out before flying it ashore, and when it had to be landed in Jordan for emergency reasons it took two trips to get the right parts for it.

What happened? Were those replacement parts made by the company building our Taj Mahal in the Green Zone? Here’s hoping that the Osprey’s fire extinguisher system works better than the one in our embassy’s kitchen. (“Even Sprinkler Systems Fail at US Embassy in Baghdad”)

Maj. Eric Dent, an Osprey spokesman at Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, declined to identify the problem. "The nature of the malfunction was a minor issue, but our aircrews are top-notch when it comes to safety," he wrote by e-mail. "Rather than continue, the aircrew opted to land at a pre-determined divert location and further investigate the issue."
Now the Osprey is on the world stage, and the burden of proving it's safe, reliable and effective in combat is on the North Carolina-based Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, nicknamed the Thunder Chickens. The unit's mission will be transporting troops and cargo in western Iraq.

A stupid man might not understand why a “minor issue” required two trips to the parts store to get it fixed. He might think that the Osprey requires left hand wrenches, since the birds cost $110 million a copy.

Huh. Hey, buddy, nice to see you at the Tailhook Reunion! What squadron are you from? “Why, I‘m from the fighting Thunder Chickens!” Oh, yah. They’ll be popular.

The machine itself is a big step forward for the Corps and I know we’re all rooting for it to deliver the snuffies somewhere near the crash and clangor of battle – but not too close, since they only carry one .30 machine gun for defensive fire, and the rear ramp has to be lowered to use it. Current plans are to fly near the battle site and unload the troops there and let them march to the sound of the guns, as Napoleon ordered his generals 200 years ago.

It’s also planned to lug cargo in the thing, making it the most expensive delivery truck in the history of mankind.

The Osprey should be a success, though - must be a success, as officers used to say years ago, as they reached for the Mk II pencil. One could say it can only go up, considering its past:

The problem with the flight into Iraq recalled one of the V-22's first big journeys, a transatlantic flight last year to an English air show. One Osprey suffered engine problems and had to made[sic] a precautionary landing in Iceland.
The aircraft has had worse moments, though, including three fatal crashes:

_ In 1992, seven crewmembers were killed when a tilt-rotor crashed into the Potomac River.

_ In April 2000, a V-22 with 19 crew and Marine passengers aboard crashed in Arizona, killing all.

_ In December of the same year, a mechanical problem compounded by a software glitch caused a crash in North Carolina that killed the crew of four.

Any new military hardware can expect teething problems during testing, and more problems appear during operational use. Iraq is a hard test bed; the sandy environment ages equipment faster than anticipated. In expectation of these problems the contractor, Boeing-Bell, has been stockpiling parts - $100 million worth – and has shipped much of them to Iraq, along with 14 technicians to ease the planes into service.

They’ve arrived just in time for the big move. Some Marine and Army leaders have suggested separating the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters, and staffing them separately, as discussed below.

Paper Highlights Photos of 48 Soldiers Killed in Iraq

Paper Highlights Photos of 48 Soldiers Killed in Iraq: "NEW YORK Vickie Kilgore, executive editor of The Olympian in the city of Olympia, Wash., put it bluntly this morning in a column: 'Today's front page is a dramatic departure for The Olympian"

It shows photos of 48 local soldiers who have died (so far) in Iraq. The banner head reads: IN MEMORIAM. Inside, the paper carries profiles of each of the dead.

John Winn Miller, president and publisher, tells E&P: "Although some will criticize us for editorializing about the Iraq war deaths, we consider this an intensely local story – as our editor so eloquently points out."

Kilgore explains, "A Stryker brigade based at Fort Lewis, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, has returned home from a 15-month deployment in Iraq. The 48 brigade members pictured on the front page are not among them. The Olympian chose to dedicate today's front page as a small but dramatic way to honor their service. It is not intended as an editorial statement on the war. Rather, it is the biggest of local stories. Nonetheless, we recognize that, whether you support or oppose our country's military presence in Iraq, this front page display will generate strong feelings.

"But today, as brigade members remember their dead comrades in a special ceremony at Fort Lewis, we felt it was important to show our readers the faces of those who did not return. We also plan to share with you the jubilation of the official welcome home ceremonies for the brigade later this week. And we will spotlight some of the many acts of bravery of those who served. This weekend we will report on what's next for many of these individuals as they rebuild their stateside lives.

"We assembled this front page with careful deliberation. Our intent is to be respectful but knowing, without doubt, that this lineup of faces conveys the effect of the war in a way words cannot.

"We hope that you will look at the page, read the profiles of these men and reflect on their sacrifice."

The newspaper, several months ago, carried an editorial calling for the start of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. It was one of the first papers in an area with a strong military presence to make that plea.

[bth: seeing the faces of the fallen is perhaps the most powerful anti-war statement. If its an editorial, then the more the better.]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

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Production and Procurement Stats for Military Equipment

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American Propsect - Breaking the Bank - Why Weapons Are So Expensive by Edward Luttwak

The American Interest: Policy. Politics. Culture. Digital.:

[bth: I'm going to skip down to the end of the article which is worth a full read.]

Overcoming the Procurement Paradox

"...The only way to overcome the procurement paradox is to pursue macro-innovation in major platforms to make best use of new technology. But thanks to hidebound service cultures, we instead spend fortunes on micro-innovations meant to remedy the obsolescence of old configurations and practically nothing on revolutionary new platforms."

Worse, perhaps, we cling still to the old model of maximum homogeneity in platforms and weapons. There was once a time when mass armies, mass air forces and 2,000-ship navies could only be equipped efficiently with mass-produced equipment, but that has not been true for years. Not only do we rely much less on sheer numbers, but today’s flexible-production technology allows for far more economical customization than we ask of it. If we are going to pay the costs of building weapons more or less by hand, it makes no sense to build them all the same. Indeed, the great variety of available sub-systems favors heterogeneity and mixed task forces because all these sub-systems can be useful, but very few platforms, if any, can include them all.

For example, many kinds of sensors now operate across the electromagnetic spectrum and all sensor data can be securely communicated all the way up and down the chain of command in real time. Therefore, not all platforms need their own identical set of sensors, even if they could accommodate them all. By equipping the individual platforms of air squadrons, tank battalions, missile-boat flotillas and so forth with dissimilar but integrable sensor suites, total sensor costs could be greatly reduced with no significant loss of performance.

Here’s one way to describe the essence of the point: Think of individual weapons platforms not as discrete units, but as fractional, networked parts of a whole. If the conceptual unit of operation is the ensemble of platforms linked together with reliable, real-time communications rather than a individual machine, platform design and function begin to look radically different. We are living at a time when the concept of a distributed system is widely understood. Why we are unable to apply this elemental understanding to weapons design is a reason for wonder, particularly when it is so easy to demonstrate how it can work. Consider the following two examples.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Resistance to one recent macro-innovation—the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV—has already been partially overcome, proving that we can do this if we try. The simplest function of a UAV is to fly over enemy territory to observe “the other side of the hill.” This is a requirement so elemental that even the most conservative armies have rushed into service anything that could fly, starting with hot air balloons long before Italy used biplanes in the 1911 conquest of Libya to inaugurate heavier-than-air combat aviation.

Unmanned aerial vehicles are not new: Several kinds were operating in the 1950s and remotely controlled drones were flying long before then. Yet it was not until June 1982 that UAVs were deployed operationally as an integral part of a combat force in war: The Israeli Army’s 162nd Division used observation RPVs (remotely piloted vehicles, as they were then called) in their fight against Syrian forces in Lebanon. The dramatic results of that experience were widely shared with the U.S. Department of Defense. The evidence ought to have been immediately convincing: The actual imagery was taped. Yet here we are in 2007, and the integration of UAVs has only just begun, even in the most advanced armed forces, including those of the United States. How does one explain this?

The most prevalent excuse for resisting anything new is cost, but that excuse cannot be used against UAVs as a category. While one or two types of UAVs are very expensive, most are rather cheap. Nor is there evidence to support the widespread belief that the introduction of pilotless aircraft has been impeded by pilot-dominated command structures. It seems instead that the resistance to UAVs is more a case of diffused institutional resistance to any new platform category that must inevitably be funded at the expense of established ones.

Such determined institutional resistance can be documented. For example, the IAI/TRW Hunter UAV program was cancelled in 1996 after the acquisition of an initial batch because U.S. Army evaluators reported many severe defects: inadequate range, unsatisfactory datalink, too big to fit into the designated transport aircraft, unstable software, and unacceptable engines. After considering (one hopes only perfunctorily) an absurdly expensive $2 billion program to remedy this long list of crippling defects, the planned acquisition was simply cancelled. The cancellation inevitably perpetuated the roles of existing U.S. aviation platforms, notably helicopters and fixed-wing light observation aircraft. Alas, this could not be helped, for the cancellation was seemingly a straightforward matter of rejecting defective equipment.

As it happens, however, the initial batch of entirely unimproved Hunters, supposedly crippled by defects, did not go to waste. In the spring of 1999, eight of the surviving Hunters, redesignated RQ-5A, were sent to Albania in support of Operation Allied Force, the NATO air campaign against Serbia. In the course of 281 sorties (281 sorties for only eight aircraft) the Hunters provided real-time video of conditions on the ground both to commanders on the spot and, via satellite links, to NATO headquarters. Hunter operators identified and located targets for the air campaign and often stayed on station during air strikes to provide real-time damage-assessment, greatly reducing the need for follow-up strikes.

In 2002, Hunters were tested experimentally for ground strike operations, dropping Brilliant Antiarmor Munitions (BATs) to achieve direct hits on tank targets. Later a Hunter was armed with the BAT-derived “Viper Strike” fitted with a laser seeker: Nine drops yielded seven hits. In 2003, the Army used Hunters for scouting, fire-observation, damage assessment and overwatch roles during the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. By mid-2004, when leftover Hunters had flown some 30,000 flight hours—a remarkable demonstration of reliability—another 14 unimproved Hunters were purchased and immediately pressed into service.

The 1996 cancellation of the Hunter program was thus clearly not the result of its shortcomings but of exaggerated or simply unnecessary requirements, all in the service of institutional resistance to new platform configurations. UAVs were not rejected outright but were instead disqualified through the imposition of requirements that were inappropriate for the new configuration—namely, reliability and versatility characteristics of manned aircraft. The bureaucratic kill mechanism worked like this: Adding redundancy for more reliability would increase costs, but something so expensive should carry more than just one sensor. Adding sensors would make the UAV more expensive still, so much so that it should be equipped for safe recovery in all circumstances. A few applications of this line of reasoning soon made UAVs as costly as the equivalent manned platforms or more so, without giving it the versatility of manned platforms. The result, though bad for U.S. military capabilities, was certainly good for the attack helicopter business, on which far more has been spent since the advent of UAVs than on UAVs themselves, and by orders of magnitude.

Today, UAVs have overcome most institutional barriers in the world’s more advanced armed forces. They are likely to be fully accepted when the next necessary step is taken: the deployment of UAVs in groups, as squadrons and fleets operating synergistically, as manned platforms now do. This benchmark will lead to a new requirement: automatic or nearly automatic operation from pre-flight check-out to debriefing downloads. This will happen because once UAVs are deployed as broadly as they should be, they will require so many pilot-rated personnel that it will eventually be necessary to automate them.

Versatile Combat Aircraft. Multi-role fighters gradually became the standard configuration in the 1960s as distinctions between fighter-bomber, interdiction and attack roles grew blurry, thanks to technological change. The technical constraints that had forced sharp choices between these sub-configurations began to erode long before then, but institutional urges prolonged role distinctions. For example, the survival into the 1960s of the pure interceptor aircraft—such as the American F-102 and F-106, or the Soviet Yak series and later the MiG-31—can best be explained by the existence of separate “interceptor” commands like PVO Strany and the USAF Air Defense Command that wanted to select and buy their very own distinctive aircraft.

All this is now past, and it is a major advance to have abandoned obsolete role distinctions that imposed vast costs because of their dissimilar design, development, production, training and maintenance requirements. Now the time has come for another advance, away from tightly packed fighter-size aircraft, in which today’s sensors, communication devices, data processors and displays must be squeezed at great cost, to larger Versatile Combat Aircraft (VCA).

VCAs would be characterized by “plug-and-play” equipment racks and operating stations in the main cabin, longer unrefueled range and much greater endurance than any fighter-sized aircraft. They would, or at least could, also have any or all of the following characteristics:

• fuselage/wing fittings for optional dorsal, lateral and belly antennae;
• internal bay or bays for expendable sensors, ordnance and, possibly, recoverable UAVs;
• “smart” hard points for equipment pods and air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons;
• aerial refueling capability.
To be all that a VCA can be, it could not be smaller than a big executive jet with a stand-up cabin, but it could be as large as a C-5 or Airbus 380. VCAs could not reach supersonic speeds, nor could they be highly maneuverable. But they would have no need of either: The velocity and agility required tactically would be provided by their missiles, so they would not need to be duplicated by the platform itself.

Despite these limits, VCAs would not be particularly vulnerable. As with the VCA’s closest predecessors like the AWACS, J-STAR and Phalcon, all large, non-stealthy, non-agile subsonic aircraft, actual operational vulnerability would be much less than the apparent tactical vulnerability. Combat experience to date shows that, when flying at typical cruise speeds (Mach 0.8) at altitudes well above 30,000 feet, even airliner-type aircraft can usually evade interception by short-range fighters that are not already airborne, as well as protect themselves with electronic countermeasures (to which radars with circuitry-burning power levels could now be added). In addition, VCAs could protect themselves with air-to-air missiles, especially longer-range varieties. In due course, if VCAs are deployed, air-to-air missiles of ultra long-range are likely to be developed for them.

VCAs cannot be cheap, but they could be economical all the same, especially for countries that have geographically expansive operating requirements. The same individual VCA, not merely the same type of aircraft, could quickly be fitted out for any of several different roles. Any airframe can be converted given enough time and money, but the VCA would be designed for such modularity, taking only an hour or two for reconfiguration rather than weeks, months or years. With that kind of designed-in flexibility, VCA roles could include maritime surveillance, classification and surface strike; anti-submarine detection, location and attack; airborne early warning, and beyond-visual-range interception with long-range air-to-air missiles; airborne command, control and tactical direction of air, ground or naval forces; detection and classification of surface targets with Synthetic Aperture Radar; direct attack of surface targets in low-threat environments; detection of low-contrast targets via controlled UAVs; air-defense suppression, ECM and kinetic; airborne refueling, and all forms of electronic intelligence collection and some immediate analysis by on-board specialists and linguists.

The VCA would also be economical in another way. Because the same aircraft could perform functions now compartmentalized among different platforms, their capabilities would be fungible. VCAs could therefore be surged force-wide for any role for which operating crews, equipment and ordnance are available. That would directly offset the most obvious shortcoming of VCAs for smaller countries, that their high unit cost would restrict their numbers.

Beyond that, VCAs could be used synergistically, the same platform working in different roles simultaneously. VCAs fitted out for different roles could offer tactical and operational synergies without sacrificing airframe diversity. Some cost savings would be realized from the commonality in the acquisition, operation and maintenance of the platform itself, which would have the same engines, cockpit, flight-crew training, replacement parts and so on regardless of its role. Still more cost savings would flow from modification and modernization economies. The expense of fitting today’s wide variety of sub-systems and their components into the nooks and crannies of fighter-sized aircraft would disappear, as would the expense of modifying, upgrading or replacing those sub-systems and components within rigid volume and other functional constraints. With VCAs, modifications, upgrades, even total mission modernization or conversions, could be plug-and-play, or at least easily accommodated within the less-constrained main cabin.

For all these reasons, VCAs could advantageously complement or replace almost all current platform types, including fighters, especially for militaries with long-range operating requirements. At present, for the lack of an alternative, such militaries acquire inherently unsuitable jet fighters of very limited range and endurance.

Similar arguments can be made on behalf of a multi-purpose armored combat vehicle, without a main turret gun, to replace main battle tanks and the array of armored personnel carriers that accompany them. And the same reasoning applies to the arsenal ship concept, and to still other platforms for which the needed sub-systems, components and weapons are ready for production.

All such arguments for replacing the canonical systems of World War II predictably will be resisted for understandable but very costly institutional reasons—reasons almost always masked by seemingly reasonable objections focused on some shortcoming or other. Those confronting such objectives should keep in mind that almost every military innovation entails some potential loss of capability. The first arquebuses traded a lower rate of fire and shorter range than longbows in exchange for greater lethality. Their winning advantage, however, was ease of training: The longbow was best learned from childhood, while musketry could be learned in a week, allowing regiments to be raised at will.

For reasons not ultimately very different, UAVs could now advantageously replace more capable manned aircraft. VCAs could now replace fighters, as well as half a dozen specialized aircraft types. Multi-purpose armored combat vehicles could replace the big guns of main battle tanks. And arsenal ships could replace individually cheaper destroyers, as well as complement much more expensive aircraft carriers.

For all the diversity of these new platform configurations, they share in common the fact that the platform is designed to accommodate today’s sub-systems and weapons, instead of the other way around. They also share a design premised on the widespread use of distributed systems. This is the best way, perhaps the only way, to escape from the downward spiral of the procurement paradox. The alternative is escalating unit costs for fewer and fewer platforms, the likely net strategic effect being increasingly ineffectual military power in a world of increasingly unconventional challenges.

Sycophant Savior

Sycophant Savior: "General Petraeus wins a battle in Washington—if not in Baghdad. by Andrew J. Bacevich"....

[bth: I'm going to skip down to Andy's conclusions though the article is worth reading in full.]

...There is only one plausible explanation for Petraeus’s terminating a surge that has (he says) enabled coalition forces, however tentatively, to gain the upper hand. That explanation is politics—of the wrong kind.

Given the current situation as Petraeus describes it, an incremental reduction in U.S. troop strength makes sense only in one regard: it serves to placate each of the various Washington constituencies that Petraeus has a political interest in pleasing.

A modest drawdown responds to the concerns of Petraeus’s fellow four stars, especially the Joint Chiefs, who view the stress being imposed on U.S. forces as intolerable. Ending the surge provides the Army and the Marine Corps with a modicum of relief.

A modest drawdown also comes as welcome news for moderate Republicans in Congress. Nervously eyeing the forthcoming elections, they have wanted to go before the electorate with something to offer other than being identified with Bush’s disastrous war. Now they can point to signs of change—indeed, Petraeus’s proposed withdrawal of one brigade before Christmas coincides precisely with a suggestion made just weeks ago by Sen. John Warner, the influential Republican from Virginia.

Although they won’t say so openly, a modest drawdown comes as good news to Democrats as well. Accused with considerable justification of having done nothing to end the war since taking control of the Congress in January, they can now point to the drawdown as evidence that they are making headway. As Newsweek’s Michael Hirsch observed, Petraeus “delivered an early Christmas present” to congressional Democrats.

Above all, a modest drawdown pleases President Bush. It gives him breathing room to continue the conflict in which he has so much invested. It all but guarantees that Iraq will be the principal gift that Bush bestows upon his successor when he leaves office in January 2009. Bush’s war will outlive Bush: for reasons difficult to fathom, this has become an important goal for the president and his dwindling band of loyalists.

Granted, no one is completely happy. Yet neither does anyone go away empty-handed. The Petraeus plan offers a little something for everyone, not least of all for Petraeus himself, who takes back to Baghdad a smidgen of additional time (his next report is not due for another six months), lots more money (at least $3 billion per week), and assurances that his tenure in command has been extended.

This outcome reflects the handiwork of someone skilled in the ways of Washington. Yet the ultimate result is to allow the contradiction between our military efforts in Iraq and our professed political purposes there to persist.

* * *

Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli is one officer keen to confront rather than ignore that contradiction. In an article appearing in the current issue of the journal Military Review, General Chiarelli writes:

The U.S. as a Nation—and indeed most of the U.S. Government—has not gone to war since 9/11. Instead the departments of Defense and State (as much as their modern capabilities allow) and the Central Intelligence Agency are at war while the American people and most the other institutions of national power have largely gone about their normal business.

Chiarelli is correct. His statement goes directly to the heart of the matter. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to sustained bipartisan applause, President Bush committed the United States to an open-ended global war on terror. Having made that fundamental decision, the president and Congress sent American soldiers off to fight that war while urging the American people to distract themselves with other pursuits. The American people have done as they were asked.

The result, six years later, is a massive and growing gap between the resources required to sustain that global war, in Iraq and elsewhere, and the resources actually available to do so. President Bush, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff serving as enablers, has papered over that gap by sending soldiers back for a third or fourth combat tour and, most recently, by extending the length of those tours. In a country with a population that exceeds 300 million, one-half of one percent of our fellow citizens bear the burden of this global war. The other 99.5 percent of us have decided to chill out.

The president has made no serious effort to mobilize the wherewithal that his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan require. The Congress, liberal Democrats voting aye, has made itself complicit in this shameful policy by obligingly appropriating whatever sums of money the president has requested, all, of course, in the name of “supporting the troops.”

Petraeus has now given this charade a further lease on life. In effect, he is allowing the president and the Congress to continue dodging the main issue, which comes down to this: if the civilian leadership wants to wage a global war on terror and if that war entails pacifying Iraq, then let’s get serious about providing what’s needed to complete the mission—starting with lots more soldiers. Rather than curtailing the ostensibly successful surge, Petraeus should broaden and deepen it. That means sending more troops to Iraq, not bringing them home. And that probably implies doubling or tripling the size of the United States Army on a crash basis.

If the civilian leadership is unwilling to provide what’s needed, then all of the talk about waging a global war on terror—talk heard not only from the president but from most of those jockeying to replace him—amounts to so much hot air. Critics who think the concept of the global war on terror is fundamentally flawed will see this as a positive development. Once we recognize the global war on terror for the fraudulent enterprise that it has become, then we can get serious about designing a strategy to address the threat that we actually face, which is not terrorism but violent Islamic radicalism. The antidote to Islamic radicalism, if there is one, won’t involve invading and occupying places like Iraq.

This defines Petraeus’s failure. Instead of obliging the president and the Congress to confront this fundamental contradiction—are we or are we not at war?—he chose instead to let them off the hook.

Of course, if he had done otherwise—if he had asked, say, to expand the surge by adding yet another 50,000 troops—he would have distressed just about everyone back in Washington. He might have paid a considerable price career-wise. Certainly, he would have angered the JCS, antiwar Democrats, and waffling Republicans who want the war to go away. Even the president, Petraeus’s number-one fan, would have been surprised and embarrassed by such a request.

Yet the anger and embarrassment would have been salutary. A great political general doesn’t tell his masters what they want to hear. He tells them what they need to hear, thereby nudging them to make decisions that must be made if the nation’s interests are to be served. In this instance, Petraeus provided cover for them to evade their responsibilities.

Politically, it qualifies as a brilliant maneuver. The general’s relationships with official Washington remain intact. Yet he has broken faith with the soldiers he commands and the Army to which he has devoted his life. He has failed his country. History will not judge him kindly

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University.
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Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, Irish ballad

Where are your legs that used to run
When you went for to carry a gun
Indeed your dancing days are done
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye

--Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, Irish ballad

Ankara seeks incursions approval

Ankara seeks incursions approval - "SIRNAK, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's ruling party decided Tuesday to seek parliamentary approval for an offensive against Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq, a move that could open a new front in the Iraq war and disrupt one of that nation's few relatively peaceful areas."

The government did not say it had decided to launch such an attack, which could jeopardize Turkey's ties with the United States. The U.S. warned against sending troops across the border and urged Turkey to work with Iraq's government to quell the Turkish Kurd guerrillas.

"If they have a problem, they need to work together to resolve it, and I'm not sure that unilateral incursions are the way to go," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "We have counseled, both in public and private, for many, many months, the idea that it is important to work cooperatively to resolve this issue."

In the past, Turkish troops have made small-scale "hot pursuit" raids into Iraq that officials say do not require Parliament's approval. The last major incursion against the militant separatists operating out of Iraq's Kurdish region was in 1997.

There are widespread fears that a Turkish offensive would destabilize Iraq's Kurdish area, which has largely escaped the violence and political turmoil afflicting regions dominated by Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs.

Iraqi Kurds, who run a virtual mini-state in Iraq's north, have vowed to defend their borders. A spokesman for the Iraqi Kurdish regional government, Jamal Abdullah, urged Turkey on Tuesday to drop the idea of a military attack.

"We call upon the Turkish government to exercise self-restraint and not to turn the region into an unstable one," he said. "Such attacks will threaten the stability not only in Iraq but the whole region."...

Taliban: 'We will not negotiate'

Taliban: 'We will not negotiate' - "KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- President Hamid Karzai's office said Sunday that there is 'serious debate' among some Taliban fighters about laying down arms, while a spokesman for the militants said they will 'never' negotiate with Afghan authorities until foreign troops leave."

Clashes and airstrikes, meanwhile, killed 16 people, capping a week that saw more than 270 people die in insurgency-related violence.

Karzai said Saturday he would be willing to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and give militants a position in government in exchange for peace. Karzai spokesman Humayun Hamidzada on Sunday stressed that the militants would have to accept Afghanistan's constitution.

But Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi repeated a position he announced earlier this month, saying there would be no negotiations until U.S. and NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

"The Taliban will never negotiate with the Afghan government in the presence of foreign forces," Ahmadi told The Associated Press. "Even if Karzai gives up his presidency, it's not possible that Mullah Omar would agree to negotiations."....

[bth: I don't see the Taliban negotiating in any meaningful way. For them it would be like negotiating with Satan. Maybe I've read this wrong, but I see no indications.]

250 killed in 4 days of battles in Pakistan -

250 killed in 4 days of battles in Pakistan - "MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistani aircraft bombed a village bazaar packed with shoppers near the Afghan border Tuesday, pushing the death toll to 250 in four days of fighting -- the deadliest clashes since Pakistan threw its support behind the U.S.-led war on terror in 2001."

The attack on Epi village in North Waziristan tribal region killed dozens of militants and civilians -- deaths that are likely to harden domestic opposition to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's alliance with Washington.

The bazaar was crowded with people buying food to break their daylong Ramadan fast when it was rocked by a dozen explosions that destroyed shops and nearby homes, residents said. Abdul Sattar, a grocery shop owner, said he counted more than 60 dead and more than 150 wounded, including many civilians. Many of the victims were mutilated.

"Some did not have heads, hands or legs. Some people were searching for their children and women," Sattar told The Associated Press by telephone from Epi.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said military aircraft targeting militant hideouts struck "one or two places" near the town of Mir Ali -- located about 2-1/2 miles from Epi -- and local tribesmen reported about 50 militants were killed.

He said the airstrikes might have killed some civilians who were living in the areas where militant hideouts were targeted, but he had no exact numbers.

"We had confirmed reports about the presence of militants, and the air power was used to target those militant hideouts," he told the AP.

Another resident, Noor Hassan, said both militants and civilians were killed and that he was fleeing the area. He said the nearby village of Hader Khel also was bombed.

The fighting broke out in North Waziristan on Saturday after a roadside bomb hit a truckload of paramilitary troops, sparking bitter clashes. The bodies of dozens of soldiers, many with their throats slit, have been recovered from deserted areas of the region, fleeing residents said.

The violence comes as Musharraf tries to secure another term as president, vowing to shore up Pakistan's effort against Islamic extremism, particularly in its border regions where Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri are suspected to hide.

Pakistani troops have suffered mounting losses as they try to reassert state authority in a swath of mountainous territory where warlords supportive of the Taliban and al-Qaeda have seized control. Now the army appears to be resorting to heavy firepower.

Sattar, the shop owner, accused the army of "oppressing" the local Pashtun tribespeople. He said journalists should visit the area so they could see that the "miscreants" -- a byword in Pakistan for militants -- targeted by security forces were in fact women and children.

Pakistan struck a controversial cease-fire deal with militants in North Waziristan last year. U.S. officials criticized the pact, claiming it gave a safe haven for al-Qaeda and provided a rear base for Taliban guerrillas fighting NATO troops in Afghanistan.

In July, Pakistan's army redeployed troops at key checkpoints in the region, sparking fresh hostilities. Security forces have since suffered more than 250 casualties, many of them in suicide bombings, and more than 230 soldiers have been kidnapped.

The escalating clashes have sparked debate in Pakistan on whether military action -- widely perceived as done at the bidding of the United States despite Musharraf's insistence it is in the national interest -- can curb Islamic extremism or only serves to enflame it.

"Rather than losing soldiers and killing civilians in indiscriminate bombings [the government] should revive the peace agreements with tribesmen and devise an effective strategy to flush out foreign militants," an editorial in The Nation daily said Tuesday.

Prior to Tuesday's airstrikes, the army reported that battles have killed 150 militant fighters and 45 soldiers since Saturday, while about 12-15 troops were missing.

It is the most intense episode of fighting on the Pakistan side of the border since Musharraf first sent troops to its lawless tribal regions in late 2001.

The army said in a statement it had rejected a cease-fire proposed by the militants and will "continue punitive action until complete peace is restored."

On Sunday, about 300 militants ambushed an army convoy traveling to the scene of a roadside bombing, killing 22 troops and wounding 11, an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

One resident of Isu Khel village said three soldiers came to his home asking for protection but he refused, fearing he might be targeted by militants. Others said they saw the bodies of soldiers in deserted areas and on the side of the road between the region's two main towns, Mir Ali and Miran Shah.

Many victims' throats were slit, they said.

A woman, who fled to Miran Shah, said she saw eight soldiers who had been shot dead. The bodies were covered in dust and one was mutilated, she said.

The villagers spoke to the AP on condition their names not be used because they feared reprisals.

On Monday, the army used artillery and fighter jets against militant targets in Isu Khel and nearby Melagan village, where announcements were being made from mosques urging authorities not to target civilian areas, residents said.

The intelligence official also said Monday that a dozen civilians had died when a shell struck their home in Mir Ali. It was unclear who fired the shell.

Arshad said some houses had been targeted that were being used for attacks on security

[bth: a gruesome and substantial battle is occurring in Pakistan now. It is barely being reported in the US news. Why?]