Friday, November 23, 2007

Picking up after failed war on terror - Andrew Bacevich

Picking up after failed war on terror - Los Angeles Times: "Don't expect to hear this from the White House any time soon, but the global war on terrorism conceived in the wake of 9/11 has effectively ended. As President Bush travels from one military post to the next giving pep talks to soldiers, he manfully sustains the pretense that V-T Day is just around the corner. Yet events have shredded the strategy that his administration was counting on to produce its victory over terrorism.

War requires adherence to principles. Once a conflict becomes an exercise in improvisation, it ceases to be meaningful. It becomes the antithesis of war -- killing without political purpose or moral justification.

The Bush administration is no longer engaged in a principled effort to address the threat posed by violent Islamic radicalism. In lieu of principles, the administration now engages in crisis management, reacting to problems as they pop up. Last week, it was Turkey's threat to invade Iraqi Kurdistan. This week, it's Pervez Musharraf, key ally and beneficiary of $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2001, imposing naked military rule on Pakistan. Next week, who knows what surprises await?

This much we can say with certainty: Bush is as much in the dark as you are.

It wasn't always this way. During the heady run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the president was boldly promising that the United States, drawing on its "unparalleled military strength and great economic and political influence," would not only "defend the peace by fighting terrorists and tyrants" but also "extend the benefits of freedom across the globe."

Stripped of its hyperbole, this meant that the Bush administration intended to nudge, cajole, bribe or bludgeon regimes across the Islamic world into embracing modernity so that they would no longer breed, harbor or otherwise support terrorists. Condoleezza Rice put it this way: Because the United States "has always been, and will always be, not a status quo power but a revolutionary power," the Bush administration was going to engineer a democratic revolution, thereby creating what Rice called a "new Middle East."

This revolution has demonstrably failed. In such places as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, it never got off the ground. In the West Bank and Gaza, free and fair elections delivered power into the hands of Hamas. In Lebanon, the people voted in droves for Hezbollah. In each case, the United States refused to accept the outcome, opening itself to charges of hypocrisy.

In Afghanistan, the promotion of democracy has yielded record opium crops and a resurgence of the Taliban. Then there is Iraq. The "liberation" that deposed a dictator gave rise to civil war, created a vacuum that Al Qaeda was quick to fill and has benefited no one apart from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Policymakers such as Rice, who once disdained mere stability, are now frantically trying to prevent the greater Middle East from sliding into chaos. As the clock runs down on the Bush era, the administration preoccupies itself with damage control.

Given that Bush's version of global war has proved such a costly flop, what ought to replace it? Answering that question requires a new set of principles to guide U.S. policy. Here are five:

* Rather than squandering American power, husband it. As Iraq has shown, U.S. military strength is finite. The nation's economic reserves and diplomatic clout also are limited. They badly need replenishment.

* Align ends with means. Although Bush's penchant for Wilsonian rhetoric may warm the cockles of neoconservative hearts, it raises expectations that cannot be met. Promise only the achievable.

* Let Islam be Islam. The United States possesses neither the capacity nor the wisdom required to liberate the world's 1.4 billion Muslims, who just might entertain their own ideas about what genuine freedom entails. Islam will eventually accommodate itself to the modern world, but Muslims will have to work out the terms.

* Reinvent containment. The process of negotiating that accommodation will produce unwelcome fallout: anger, alienation, scapegoating and violence. In collaboration with its allies, the United States must insulate itself against Islamic radicalism. The imperative is not to wage global war, whether real or metaphorical, but to erect effective defenses, as the West did during the Cold War.

* Exemplify the ideals we profess. Rather than telling others how to live, Americans should devote themselves to repairing their own institutions. Our enfeebled democracy just might offer the place to start.

The essence of these principles can be expressed in a single word: realism, which implies seeing ourselves as we really are and the world as it actually is.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University.
One of the biggest things I've learned is that
the country wants heroes, but doesn't necessarily
want to pay for the consequences of having heroes

--Cpl. Stephen C. Sanford

AFP: All private security firms must close: Afghanistan

AFP: All private security firms must close: Afghanistan: "KABUL (AFP) — Authorities in Afghanistan want to close down all private security firms operating in the country, many of them illegally, President Hamid Karzai's office said.

About nine unlicensed companies have already been shut down in a crackdown that has been under way in Kabul for weeks, according to city police.

Under the constitution "only the Afghan government has the right of having and handling weapons, so private companies are against the constitution," the president's spokesman Siamak Hirawi told AFP late Wednesday.

A cabinet meeting Monday argued that the dozens of private security firms were illegal and a source of criminality.

"The session decided that in the long term all private companies should be shut down," he said.

"But for the time being a small number of private companies which can prepare themselves to meet the regulations put in place by the ministry of interior will be allowed temporary licences."

Only a "handful" of such companies would be allowed to operate mainly for the use of international organisations and the United Nations, he said.

"In the long run, when Afghan security forces have the capacity to replace them, they will be replaced by government security personnel, police."

Insecurity in Afghanistan has sharply increased because of a rise in crime and an insurgency led by the extremist Taliban who held power until 2001.

A range of security companies are operating in Afghanistan, from US-based Blackwater to smaller Afghan firm, some of them linked to militias or former warlords.

They guard embassies and other premises or act as bodyguards, while some, like the US-based DynCorp, also train Afghan police.

A report released this month by the Swisspeace research institute said that while about 90 firms could be identified by name, only 35 had registered with the government.

Some are alleged to be involved in extortion, kidnapping and the smuggling of drugs, it said.

Pink: Dear Mr. President

Informed Comment

Deadly blasts rock Indian cities

Deadly blasts rock Indian cities - CNN.com: "NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Blasts were detonated outside courts in three northern Indian cities on Friday, killing at least 8 people, CNN-IBN TV reported.

The near-simultaneous blasts detonated in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad, all in Uttar Pradesh state.

Citing information supplied by authorities, CNN-IBN reported five killed outside courts in the holy Hindu city of Varanasi, where there were two blasts.

CNN-IBN reported three were killed outside a Faizabad criminal court with a bicycle being used in that incident. There was no one killed in a blast outside civil courts in Lucknow, the state capital, according to IBN.

According to a report from the Associated Press, the blasts may have been targeted at lawyers who were among the dead and wounded in the blasts at the court complexes.

The AP report cited Brij Lal, a top official in Uttar Pradesh, that at least two of those bombs were attached to bicycles, police said.

In Faizabad, a pair of bombs killed three lawyers and injured 10 to 12 more, said Lal. One of the bombs was rigged to a motorcycle, said R.N. Singh, a local police officer.

Lal told AP that at least 40 people were believed to have been injured, most of them lawyers.

In August, at least 44 people were killed and scores were wounded in bombings in the southern city of Hyderabad. Those were described as terror attacks carried out by Islamic militants

From Scots college to jihad - first man in UK convicted over terrorist propaganda

Scotsman.com News - Scotland - From Scots college to jihad - first man in UK convicted over terrorist propaganda: "A PAKISTANI "man who travelled to Britain to study at a Scottish university yesterday became the first person in the UK to be convicted of spreading terrorist propaganda.

A court heard Abdul Rahman, 25, acted as a recruiting sergeant who tried to persuade British Muslims to join in a "holy war".

He arrived in the UK in September 2004 on a student visa - ostensibly to study biotechnology at Abertay University in Dundee - but left the city after only one day. Rahman later claimed he was "unable to settle in this culture".

Moving to Manchester, he joined a radical cell who believed in fighting a holy war and viewed people who did not believe in their particular brand of Islam as "legitimate targets", the court was told.

"He joined up with a group of young men, some of them fellow Pakistan nationals, some of them radical British Muslims," Parmjit Cheema, prosecuting, told the court.

"What this group, particularly this defendant, were involved in, we say was scouting, recruiting and encouraging others to join their philosophy of extreme jihad or holy war."

The group saw the fighting in Afghanistan as an unjust assault on Muslims and believed in the need to recruit fighters and resources for the conflict.

"In essence, they were a group, or cell of young men all espousing the radical jihad philosophy that states non-believers in Islam are legitimate targets," Ms Cheema said.

At Manchester Crown Court yesterday, Rahman pled guilty to possessing articles for the purpose of terrorism; dissemination of terrorist propaganda; and aiding or abetting the breach of a control order.

He had faced the more serious charge of assisting another to commit or prepare a terrorist act, which carries a maximum life sentence on conviction. However, under a plea-bargain deal, he confessed to the three other charges after the judge, Clement Goldstone, indicated he would only be jailed for a maximum of six years.

While in Manchester, Rahman became friends with Aslam Awan, 25, another Pakistani-born man who came to the UK on a student visa.

Awan went to fight in Afghanistan and sent back a letter to Rahman, which was described as a call to arms. Awan is now excluded from entering the UK. The letter talked about the "fragrance of blood" from the battlefield. Describing a firefight with coalition forces in Afghanistan, Awan said: "The second time was a very big job ... in which our three friends were martyred."

Awan's letter was to be passed to others to "spread the word" for their cause and recruit more people to fight in Afghanistan.

"We have to do this work even with our last drop of blood. Please do migrate and encourage others to migrate too. Please invite everybody towards this cause," it said.

More propaganda material was found on DVDs and CDs at Rahman's address in Manchester. It included a speech by Osama bin Laden interspersed with photos of the 9/11 attack, dead Muslim children and the "betraying criminals" - George Bush, the US president, Tony Blair and Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president.

A 177-page manual, entitled "Organisation and Conduct of Guerrilla Warfare" and another, "How can I train myself for Jihad", was found along with information on jobs and careers in the British security services.

Abertay University confirmed that an Abdul Rahman had enrolled in a course in September 2004 but "appeared to have left the course very soon afterwards".

At the time, universities did not have to inform the authorities if a foreign citizen on a student visa stopped attending classes, but this was made a requirement this year. ...

Iran warns of domino effect of nuclear attack - Telegraph

Iran warns of domino effect of nuclear attack - Telegraph: "Iran warned today that an attack on its nuclear facilities would trigger a "domino" effect across the Middle East as deeply divided world powers met to review Teheran's co-operation with United Nations resolutions. ...

20,000 vets' brain injuries not listed in Pentagon tally

20,000 vets' brain injuries not listed in Pentagon tally - USATODAY.com: "At least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been found with signs of brain injuries, according to military and veterans records compiled by USA TODAY.

The data, provided by the Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs, show that about five times as many troops sustained brain trauma as the 4,471 officially listed by the Pentagon through Sept. 30. These cases also are not reflected in the Pentagon's official tally of wounded, which stands at 30,327.

The number of brain-injury cases were tabulated from records kept by the VA and four military bases that house units that have served multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One base released its count of brain injuries at a medical conference. The others provided their records at the request of USA TODAY, in some cases only after a Freedom of Information Act filing was submitted.

The data came from:

• Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center in Germany, where troops evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan for injury, illness or wounds are brought before going home. Since May 2006, more than 2,300 soldiers screened positive for brain injury, hospital spokeswoman Marie Shaw says.

• Fort Hood, Texas, home of the 4th Infantry Division, which returned from a second Iraq combat tour late last year. At least 2,700 soldiers suffered a combat brain injury, Lt. Col. Steve Stover says.

• Fort Carson, Colo., where more than 2,100 soldiers screened were found to have suffered a brain injury, according to remarks by Army Col. Heidi Terrio before a brain injury association seminar.

• Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, where 1,737 Marines were found to have suffered a brain injury, according to Navy Cmdr. Martin Holland, a neurosurgeon with the Naval Medical Center San Diego.

• VA hospitals, where Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been screened for combat brain injuries since April. The VA found about 20% of 61,285 surveyed — or 11,804 veterans — with signs of brain injury, spokeswoman Alison Aikele says. VA doctors say more evaluation is necessary before a true diagnosis of brain injury can be confirmed in all these cases, Aikele says.

Soldiers and Marines whose wounds were discovered after they left Iraq are not added to the official casualty list, says Army Col. Robert Labutta, a neurologist and brain injury consultant for the Pentagon.

"We are working to do a better job of reflecting accurate data in the official casualty table," Labutta says.

Most of the new cases involve mild or moderate brain injuries, commonly from exposure to blasts.

More than 150,000 troops may have suffered head injuries in combat, says Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.

"I am wary that the number of brain-injured troops far exceeds the total number reported injured," he says.

About 1.5 million troops have served in Iraq, where traumatic brain injury can occur despite heavy body armor worn by troops.

[bth: we are personally seeing this among those that contact us. This is going to be the signature injury of this war.]

A plan to attack Iran swiftly and from above

globeandmail.com: A plan to attack Iran swiftly and from above: ..."Bombing Iran would be relatively easy. Its antiquated air force and Russian air-defence missiles would be easy pickings for the U.S. warplanes.

But effectively destroying Iran's widely scattered and deeply buried nuclear facilities would be far harder, although achievable, according to air-power experts. But the fallout, especially the anger sown across much of the Muslim world by another U.S.-led attack in the Middle East, would be impossible to calculate.

Israel has twice launched pre-emptive air strikes ostensibly to cripple nuclear programs. In both instances, against Iraq in 1981 and Syria two months ago, the targeted regimes howled but did nothing.

The single-strike Israeli attacks would seem like pinpricks, compared with the rain of destruction U.S. warplanes would need to kneecap Iran's far larger nuclear network.

"American air strikes on Iran would vastly exceed the scope of the 1981 Israeli attack on the Osirak nuclear centre in Iraq, and would more resemble the opening days of the 2003 air campaign against Iraq," said John Pike, director at Globalsecurity.org, a leading defence and security group.

"Using the full force of operational B-2 stealth bombers, staging from Diego Garcia or flying direct from the United States," along with warplanes from land bases in the region and carriers at sea, at least two-dozen suspected nuclear sites would be targeted, he said.

Although U.S. ground forces are stretched thin with nearly 200,000 fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the firepower of the U.S. air force and the warplanes aboard aircraft carriers could easily overwhelm Iran's defences, leaving U.S. warplanes in complete command of the skies and free to pound targets at will.

With air bases close by in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan, including Kandahar, and naval-carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, hundreds of U.S. warplanes serviced by scores of airborne refuellers could deliver a near constant hail of high explosives.

Fighter-bombers and radar-jammers would spearhead any attack. B-2 bombers, each capable of delivering 20 four-tonne bunker-busting bombs, along with smaller stealth bombers and streams of F-18s from the carriers could maintain an open-ended bombing campaign.

"They could keep it up until the end of time, which might be hastened by the bombing," Mr. Pike said. "They could make the rubble jump; there's plenty of stuff to bomb," he added, a reference to the now famous line from former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld that Afghanistan was a "target-poor" country.

Mr. Pike believes it could all be over in a single night. Others predict days, or even weeks, of sustained bombing.

Unidentified Pentagon planners have been cited talking of "1,500 aim points." What is clear is that a score or more known nuclear sites would be destroyed. Some, in remote deserts, would present little risk of "collateral damage," military jargon for unintended civilian causalities. Others, like laboratories at the University of Tehran, in the heart of a teeming capital city, would be hard to destroy without killing innocent Iranians.

What would likely unfold would be weeks of escalating tension, following a breakdown of diplomatic efforts.

The next crisis point may come later this month if the UN Security Council becomes deadlocked over further sanctions.

"China and Russia are more concerned about the prospect of the U.S. bombing Iran than of Iran getting a nuclear bomb," says Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tehran remains defiant. Our enemies "must know that Iran will not give the slightest concession ... to any power," Iran's fiery President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday. For his part, Mr. Bush has pointedly refused to rule out resorting to war. Last month, another U.S. naval battle group - including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman with 100 warplanes on board and the Canadian frigate HMCS Charlottetown as one of its screen of smaller warships - left for the Persian Gulf. At least one, and often two, carrier battle groups are always in the region.

Whether even weeks of bombing would cripple Iran's nuclear program cannot be known. Mr. Pike believes it would set back, by a decade or more, the time Tehran needs to develop a nuclear warhead. But Iran's clandestine program - international inspectors were completely clueless as to the existence of several major sites until exiles ratted out the mullahs - may be so extensive that even the longest target list will miss some.

"It's not a question of whether we can do a strike or not and whether the strike could be effective," retired Marine general Anthony Zinni told Time magazine. "It certainly would be, to some degree. But are you prepared for all that follows?"

Attacked and humiliated, Iran might be tempted, as Mr. Ahmadinejad has suggested, to strike back, although Iran has limited military options.

At least some Sunni governments in the region, not least Saudi Arabia, would be secretly delighted to see the Shia mullahs in Tehran bloodied. But the grave risk of any military action spiralling into a regional war, especially if Mr. Ahmadinejad tried to make good on his threat to attack Israel, remains.

"Arab leaders would like to see Iran taken down a notch," said Steven Cook, an analyst specializing in the Arab world at the Council on Foreign Relations, "but their citizens will see this as what they perceive to be America's ongoing war on Islam."...

[bth: articles like this always overlook the most obvious responses which would be the time tested use of terrorist surrogates like Hezbollah on targets outside the middle east.]

U.S. Electronic Surveillance Monitored Israeli Attack On Syria

Aviation Week : U.S. Electronic Surveillance Monitored Israeli Attack On Syria: "The U.S. provided Israel with information about Syrian air defenses before Israel attacked a suspected nuclear site in Syria, Aviation Week & Space Technology is reporting in its Nov. 26 edition.

The U.S. was monitoring the electronic emissions coming from Syria during Israel's Sept. 6 attack, and while there was no active American engagement in the operation, there was advice provided, according to military and aerospace industry officials.

The first event in the raid involved Israel's strike aircraft flying into Syria without alerting Syrian air defenses. The ultimate target was a suspected nuclear reactor being developed at Dayr az-Zawr. But the main attack was preceded by an engagement with a single Syrian radar site at Tall al-Abuad near the Turkish border.

The radar site was struck with a combination of electronic attack and precision bombs to allow the Israeli force to enter and exit Syrian airspace unobserved. Subsequently all of Syria's air-defense radar system went off the air for a period of time that encompassed the raid, U.S. intelligence analysts told Aviation Week.

However, there was "no U.S. active engagement other than consulting on potential target vulnerabilities," a U.S. electronic warfare specialist says.

Elements of the attack included some brute force jamming, which is still an important element of attacking air defenses, U.S. analysts say. Also, Syrian air defenses are still centralized and dependent on dedicated HF and VHF communications networks, which made them vulnerable.

The analysts don't believe that any part of Syria's electrical grid was shut down. They do contend that network penetration involved both remote air-to-ground electronic attack and penetration through computer-to-computer links.

"There also were some higher-level, non-tactical penetrations, either direct or as diversions and spoofs of the Syrian command and control capability, done through network attack," one U.S. intelligence specialist says.

These observations provide evidence that a sophisticated network attack and electronic hacking capability is an operational part of the Israeli Defense Force's arsenal of digital weapons.

Despite being hobbled by the restrictions of secrecy and diplomacy, Israeli military and government officials also confirm that network invasion, information warfare and electronic attack are part of Israel's defense capabilities.

These tools have been embraced operationally by key military units, but their development, use and the techniques employed are still a mystery even to other defense and government organizations. It remains "a shadowy world," an Israeli Air Force general confirms.

Israel is not alone in recent demonstrations of network warfare. Syria and Hezbollah revealed some basic expertise during the Lebanon conflict last year.

"Offensive and defensive network warfare is one of the most interesting new areas," says Pinchas Buchris, the director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. "I can only say we're following the [network attack] technology with great care. I doubted this [technology] five years ago. But we did it. Now everything has changed.

"You need this kind of capability," he says. "You're not being responsible if you're not dealing with it. And, if you can build this kind of capability, the sky's the limit."

[bth: very hard to tell if this information is true or not. The comments which attached to the original Aviation Week article suggest this article is in error. One might also suspect a leak like this to divert attention from a human connection or asset. One also wonders how the computer to computer link was established. Still its impressive.]

Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request

Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request: "Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers.

In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.

Such requests run counter to the Justice Department's internal recommendation that federal prosecutors seek warrants based on probable cause to obtain precise location data in private areas. The requests and orders are sealed at the government's request, so it is difficult to know how often the orders are issued or denied...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

 
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Military identifies remains of soldier from East Boston missing from Korean War - The Boston Globe

Military identifies remains of soldier from East Boston missing from Korean War - The Boston Globe: "When Agostino Di Rienzo returned from World War II to his family's triple-decker on Maverick Street in East Boston, his big sister, Jean, threw him a huge welcome-home party. Someone snapped a picture of her 6-year-old son, Richard Faiella, sitting on his handsome uncle's lap, both of them smiling joyfully.

more stories like thisBut the reunion would not last long. A few years later, Di Rienzo reenlisted in the US Army, and went to fight in Korea. Sergeant Di Rienzo's final homecoming came almost 60 years later: A couple of weeks ago, the US Army returned his remains to his family, five years after they were excavated in rural North Korea.

Today, Faiella plans to visit the grave of his mother, who died a year and a half ago.

"It sounds crazy," he said, "But I will say, 'Ma, they brought him home.' "

Di Rienzo went missing on Nov. 2, 1950, during a fierce battle near Unsan, North Korea. His unit, Company L, Third Battalion, Eighth Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division, was occupying a defensive position near the confluence of the Nammyon and Kuryong rivers when Chinese Communist forces struck, according to a US Department of Defense report presented to Faiella's family. The unit was demolished, and more than 350 servicemen went missing.

In 2002, a team of US Army and North Korean officials excavated a grave near the battle site discovered by a worker who hit bone while trying to install a utility pole, according to the military's report. The grave contained the remains of multiple soldiers. After five years of forensic research that matched the remains with Di Rienzo's dental records, DNA samples from his family, and other circumstantial evidence, the military identified some of the remains as Di Rienzo's.

Among the items the military discovered in the grave was a tiny Holy Name Society medal, encrusted with rust-colored stains. Faiella said it probably belonged to his uncle.

Faiella still lives in the same house where both he and his uncle were raised. He remembers Di Rienzo as a tall, handsome man who, for a couple of years between the wars, became a father figure to him. He remembers Di Rienzo taking him on a trip to New York City, where they went to the top of the Empire State Building, and promising to take him to California one day.

"He was very, very generous," he said.

Di Rienzo, who joined the Army just before World War II, was stationed in Hawaii when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, his nephew said. He served for five years, until the war's end, Faiella said, fighting in major battles, including Guadalcanal, and enduring a serious bout with malaria.

After he returned home, he worked at a candy factory and did odd jobs, Faiella said. But he decided to return to the Army, even though he was still haunted by nightmares from the war.

Faiella still remembers the day the telegram came informing his grandmother her 32-year-old son was missing in action.

"People just kept coming in as the news kept spreading," he said.

They hoped his name would show up on the prisoners-of-war lists, but it never did. Until the end of her life, he said, his mother held out hope he would come home.

"She went to her grave with her prayers," he said.

There were few people to tell when the Army representatives came to Maverick Street, bearing a folded flag and his medals and ribbons. All but two of Di Rienzo's seven siblings - his sisters Edith and Sue - have died. Sue, who lives in a nursing home, was not available for an interview yesterday; Edith, who lives in the family's triple-decker with Faiella, declined to speak about her brother at length.

"He was the nicest boy living," she said in a brief interview.

Faiella said there was only one man left in the neighborhood to tell about his uncle's return, an elderly fellow who knew his uncle as a child.

"When I told him, he cried," Faiella said. "He said, 'He's home?' I said, 'He's home.' "

Another Thanksgiving with the Troops

Democrat Taylor Marsh Broadcasts Live Talk Radio and Blogs Politics

President John F. Kennedy

Democrat Taylor Marsh Broadcasts Live Talk Radio and Blogs Politics:
>"What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war… Not peace of the grave or the security of the slave… not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

As his brother Edward Kennedy said, '... the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.'"

We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” - John F. Kennedy

Saudi rape victim's husband blames judge for punishment - CNN.com

Saudi rape victim's husband blames judge for punishment - CNN.com: "The "The husband of a Saudi rape victim sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison said his wife is "a crushed human being," but blamed a judge -- not the Saudi judicial system -- for treating her as a criminal.

Saudi society is respectful of women, he said, adding that he had faith his wife would get justice.

The ruling relates to an incident in March 2006 when the woman, then 18 and engaged to be married, and an unrelated man were abducted from a mall in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, by a group of seven men. She was later raped.

In October, the men were convicted and sentenced to two to nine years in prison for the assault. She was convicted of violating the kingdom's strict Islamic law by not having a male guardian with her at the mall.

"From the outset, my wife was dealt with as a guilty person who committed a crime," said her 24-year-old husband. "She was not given any chance to prove her innocence or describe how she was a victim of multiple brutal rapes."

The husband, who asked to remain unnamed, spoke to CNN senior Arab affairs editor Octavia Nasr.

His wife, who he said is "a quiet, simple person who does not bother anyone," is ill and too fragile to speak about the case, he said. As her guardian under Saudi law, he is standing up for her publicly

The attack, trial and sentencing have taken a heavy toll on his wife's already-poor health, he said.

She suffers from anemia, a blood disorder and asthma, and will have surgery next month to remove her gallbladder, he said.

"Since the attack, she's been suffering from severe depression."

The events ended her pursuit of an education past high school, he said.

"Her situation keeps changing from bad to worse," he said. "You could say she's a crushed human being."

"The court proceedings were like a spectacle at times," he said. "The criminals were allowed in the same room as my wife. They were allowed to make all kinds of offensive gestures and give her dirty and threatening looks."

Of the three judges at the trial, one of them "was mean and from the beginning dealt with my wife as guilty person who had done something wrong," he said.

"Even when he pronounced the sentence, he said to her, 'You were involved in a suspicious relationship, and you deserve 200 lashes for that,' " he said.

The judge dismissed her lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahim, after the two clashed in court, he said.

"The judge took things personally and was reacting to our lawyer, who's a known human rights activist," the husband said. "The judge undermined the lawyer, decreased his role and then dismissed him from the case altogether. The judge simply couldn't work with our lawyer."

The woman was originally sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes. But when she appealed, the court more than doubled her sentence.

The husband said the judge was pursuing "a personal vendetta...

[bth: why aren't women's groups putting pressure on the Saudis, the US government and the UN on this and related matters of despicable treatment of women.]

Foreign Fighters in Iraq Are Tied to Allies of U.S

Foreign Fighters in Iraq Are Tied to Allies of U.S. - New York Times: "BAGHDAD BAGHDAD "— Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials.

The data come largely from a trove of documents and computers discovered in September, when American forces raided a tent camp in the desert near Sinjar, close to the Syrian border. The raid’s target was an insurgent cell believed to be responsible for smuggling the vast majority of foreign fighters into Iraq.

The most significant discovery was a collection of biographical sketches that listed hometowns and other details for more than 700 fighters brought into Iraq since August 2006.

The records also underscore how the insurgency in Iraq remains both overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni. American officials now estimate that the flow of foreign fighters was 80 to 110 per month during the first half of this year and about 60 per month during the summer. The numbers fell sharply in October to no more than 40, partly as a result of the Sinjar raid, the American officials say.

Saudis accounted for the largest number of fighters listed on the records by far — 305, or 41 percent — American intelligence officers found as they combed through documents and computers in the weeks after the raid. The data show that despite increased efforts by Saudi Arabia to clamp down on would-be terrorists since Sept. 11, 2001, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, some Saudi fighters are still getting through.

Libyans accounted for 137 foreign fighters, or 18 percent of the total, the senior American military officials said. They discussed the raid with the stipulation that they not be named because of the delicate nature of the issue.

United States officials have previously offered only rough estimates of the breakdown of foreign fighters inside Iraq. But the trove found in Sinjar is so vast and detailed that American officials believe that the patterns and percentages revealed by it offer for the first time a far more precise account of the personal circumstances of foreign fighters throughout the country.

In contrast to the comparatively small number of foreigners, more than 25,000 inmates are in American detention centers in Iraq. Of those, only about 290, or some 1.2 percent, are foreigners, military officials say.

They contend that all of the detainees either are suspected of insurgent activity or are an “imperative threat” to security. Some American officials also believe that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown insurgent group that claims a loose allegiance to Osama bin Laden, may by itself have as many as 10,000 members in Iraq.

About four out of every five detainees in American detention centers are Sunni Arab, even though Sunni Arabs make up just one-fifth of Iraq’s population. All of the foreign fighters listed on the materials found near Sinjar, excluding two from France, also came from countries that are predominantly Sunni.

Over the years, the Syrian border has been the principal entry point into Iraq for foreign insurgents, officials say. Many had come through Anbar Province, in west-central Iraq. But with the Sunni tribal revolt against extremist militants that began last year in Anbar, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other jihadists concentrated their smuggling efforts on the area north of the Euphrates River along the Syrian border, the officials said.

The officials added that, based on the captured documents and other intelligence, they believe that the Sinjar cell that was raided in September was responsible for the smuggling of foreign fighters along a stretch of the border from Qaim, in Anbar, almost to the border with Turkey, a length of nearly 200 miles. They said that was why they were confident that the cell was responsible for such a large portion of the incoming foreign fighters.

American military and diplomatic officials who discussed the flow of fighters from Saudi Arabia were careful to draw a distinction between the Saudi government and the charities and individuals who they said encouraged young Saudi men to fight in Iraq. After United States officials put pressure on Saudi leaders in the summer, the Saudi government took some steps that have begun to curb the flow of fighters, the officials said.

Yet the senior American military officials said they also believed that Saudi citizens provided the majority of financing for Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. “They don’t want to see the Shias come to dominate in Iraq,” one American official said.

The Sinjar materials showed that 291 fighters, or about 39 percent, came from North African nations during the period beginning in August 2006. That is far higher than previous military estimates of 10 to 13 percent from North Africa. The largest foreign fighter hometown was Darnah, Libya, which supplied 50 fighters.

For years American officials included Libya on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. But last year the United States removed it from that list and re-established full diplomatic relations, citing what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described as Libya’s “continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism and the excellent cooperation” it has provided in the antiterrorism fight.

Also striking among the Sinjar materials were the smaller numbers from other countries that had been thought to be major suppliers of foreign fighters. As recently as the summer, American officials estimated that 20 percent came from Syria and Lebanon. But there were no Lebanese listed among the Sinjar trove, and only 56 Syrians, or 8 percent of the total.

American officials have accused Iran, the largest Shiite nation in the Middle East, of sending powerful bombs to Iraq and of supporting and financing Shiite militias that attack American troops. They also contend that top Iranian leaders support efforts to arm Shiite fighters.

But whatever aid Iran provides to militias inside Iraq does not seem to extend to supplying actual combatants: Only 11 Iranians are in American detention, United States officials say.

After the raid on the Sinjar cell, the number of suicide bombings in Iraq fell to 16 in October — half the number seen during the summer months and down sharply from a peak of 59 in March. American military officials believe that perhaps 90 percent of such bombings are carried out by foreign fighters. They also believe that about half of the foreign fighters who come to Iraq become suicide bombers.

“We cut the head off, but the tail is still left,” warned one of the senior American military officials, discussing the aftermath of the Sinjar raid. “Regeneration is completely within the realm of possibility.”

The documents indicate that each foreigner brought about $1,000 with him, used mostly to finance operations of the smuggling cell. Saudis brought more money per person than fighters from other nations, the American officials said.

Among the Saudi fighters described in the materials, 45 had come from Riyadh, 38 from Mecca, 20 from Buraidah and the surrounding area, 15 from Jawf and Sakakah, 13 from Jidda, and 12 from Medina.

American officials publicly expressed anger over the summer at Saudi policies that were destabilizing Iraq. Sunni tribal sheiks in Iraq who risked their lives to fight extremist militants also faulted Saudi clerics.

The bad imams tell the young people to go to Iraq and fight the American Army, because if you kill them or they kill you, you will go to paradise,” Sheik Adnan Khames Jamiel, a leader of the Albu Alwan tribe in Ramadi, said in an interview.

One senior American diplomat said the Saudi government had “taken important steps to interdict individuals, particularly military-aged males with one-way tickets.” He said those efforts had helped cause an “appreciable decrease in the flow of foreign terrorists and suicide bombers.” But he added that still more work remained “to cut off malign financing from private sources within the kingdom.”

American officials cite a government program on Saudi television in which a would-be suicide bomber who survived his attack urges others not to travel to Iraq. The officials were also encouraged in October when the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Abdulaziz al-Asheik, condemned “mischievous parties” who send young Saudis abroad to carry out “heinous acts which have no association with Islam whatsoever.”

Armed with information from the raid, American officials say they have used military, law enforcement and diplomatic channels to put pressure on the countries named as homes to large numbers of fighters. They have also shared information with these countries on 300 more men who the records showed were being recruited to fight in Iraq.

Surrounded by desolate prairie and desert, Sinjar has long been a way station for foreign fighters. The insurgent cell raided by American troops was believed to have been smuggling up to 90 percent of all foreign fighters into Iraq, military officials say.

The raid happened in the predawn hours of Sept. 11, when American forces acting on a tip surrounded some tents six miles from the Syrian border. A fierce firefight killed six men outside, and two more were killed when one of them detonated a suicide vest inside a tent, military officials said. All were leaders of the insurgent smuggling cell, including one prominent Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia commander known as Muthanna, they said.

In addition to $18,000 in cash and assorted weapons, troops found five terabytes of data that included detailed questionnaires filled out by incoming fighters. Background information on more than 900 fighters was found, or about 750 after eliminating duplicates and questionnaires that were mostly incomplete.

According to the rosters found in the raid, the third-largest source of foreign fighters was Yemen, with 68. There were 64 from Algeria, 50 from Morocco, 38 from Tunisia, 14 from Jordan, 6 from Turkey and 2 from Egypt.

Most of the fighters smuggled by the cell were believed to have flown into Damascus Airport, and the rest came into Syria overland through Jordan, the officials said.

In some cases, one senior American military official said, Syrian authorities captured fighters and released them after determining they were not a threat to the Syrian government. Syria has made some recent efforts to turn back or detain suspected foreign fighters bound for Iraq, he said, adding, “The key word is ‘some.’”

Ex-Iraq commander says bring troops home

The Raw Story | Ex-Iraq commander says bring troops home: "Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq shortly after the fall of Baghdad, said this week he supports Democratic legislation that calls for most troops to come home within a year.

His comments come as welcomed ammunition for the Democratic-controlled Congress in its standoff with the White House on war spending. This month, the House passed a $50 billion bill that would pay for combat operations but sets the goal that combat end by Dec. 15, 2008. The White House threatened to veto the measure, and Senate Republicans blocked it from passing.

The Pentagon on Tuesday said that as many as 200,000 civilian employees and contractors will begin receiving layoff warnings by Christmas unless Congress approves a war spending bill that President Bush will sign.

"The improvements in security produced by the courage and blood of our troops have not been matched by a willingness on the part of Iraqi leaders to make the hard choices necessary to bring peace to their country," Sanchez said in remarks to be aired Saturday for the weekly Democratic radio address.

"There is no evidence that the Iraqis will choose to do so in the near future or that we have an ability to force that result," he said.

Sanchez added that the House bill "makes the proper preparation of our deploying troops a priority and requires the type of shift in their mission that will allow their numbers to be reduced substantially
."

Critical assessments on the war from former Pentagon brass are nothing new. But Sanchez's newfound alliance with Democrats is particularly noteworthy because he was directly in charge of combat operations in Iraq, from 2003 to 2004.

He also is somewhat controversial. The Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal happened under his watch, and some have pointed to leadership failures as a contributing factor. While he was not charged with any misconduct, Sanchez said upon retiring from the military in November 2006 that his career was a casualty of Abu Ghraib.

In October, the three-star general told a group of reporters that the U.S. mission in Iraq was a "nightmare with no end in sight." He also called Bush's decision to deploy 30,000 extra forces to Iraq earlier this year a "desperate attempt" to make up for years of misguided policies in Iraq.

Petition condemns Iran for disorder in S.Iraq

Petition condemns Iran for disorder in S.Iraq | Politics | Reuters: "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - More than 300,000 Iraqis including 600 Shi'ite tribal leaders have signed a petition accusing Iran of sowing "disorder" in southern Iraq, a group of sheikhs involved in the campaign said.

The sheikhs showed Reuters two thick bundles of notes which contained original signatures. The sheikhs said more than 300,000 people had signed the pages.

Such a public and organized display of animosity toward neighboring Shi'ite Iran is rare in Iraq. Iranian influence has grown steadily, especially in the predominantly Shi'ite south, since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"More than 300,000 people from the southern provinces condemned the interference of the Iranian regime in Iraq and especially in spreading security disorder in the provinces," the sheikhs said in a statement.

They did not elaborate, but Washington and the U.S. military accuse Iran of arming, training and funding Shi'ite militias in Iraq. Iran denies the charge and blames the violence in Iraq on the U.S. invasion.

The sheikhs declined to be identified for fear of retribution. They said various groups had been collecting the signatures for six months across southern Iraq. It was not immediately clear what they planned to do with the petition.

With Shi'ite Muslims in power in Baghdad after the ouster of Saddam, a Sunni Arab who was an enemy of Tehran, ties have strengthened between the two oil-producing states.

But some Iraqis chafe at the influence of Iran's more conservative brand of religion in the south.

Shi'ites comprise around 60 percent of Iraq's population, generally put at 26-27 million before the 2003 invasion.

"The most poisonous dagger stabbed in us, the Iraqi Shi'ites, is the (Iranian) regime shamefully exploiting the Shi'ite sect to implement its evil goals," the statement said.

"They have targeted our national interests and began planning to divide Iraq and to separate the southern provinces from Iraq."

Iran routinely pledges its support for a stable Iraq, and political leaders from Baghdad regularly visit Tehran.

STRICT ISLAMIC RULES

The statement said that besides 600 Shi'ite tribal leaders, the petition was signed by a number of lawyers, engineers, doctors and university professors.

The group of sheikhs is the same one that told Reuters last month that Shi'ite Islamist political parties were imposing strict Islamic rules in southern Iraq and using their armed wings to create a state of fear.

Such fears are not unfounded -- two provincial governors were blown up by roadside bombs in August, apparent victims of infighting between the Shi'ite parties for political dominance in the region, source of most of Iraq's oil wealth.

Aides to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the reclusive religious leader of Iraq's Shi'ites, have also been killed.

The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and the movement of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are the dominant political forces in the Shi'ite provinces. Both have links to neighbouring Iran and believe Iraq should be governed according to Islamic principles.

SIIC and the Sadrists saw their rise to power cemented by the December 2005 elections which brought the Islamist Shi'ite Alliance to power. The Sadrists have since pulled out of the Alliance and the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, leader of the smaller Islamist Dawa party.

The growing strength of the Shi'ite parties in the south has weakened some secular tribal leaders and excluded them from power structures, a source of patronage and revenues.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Redstateupdate at the Las Vegas Democratic Debate

Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap

Pentagon Warns of Civilian Layoffs If Congress Delays War Funding

Pentagon Warns of Civilian Layoffs If Congress Delays War Funding - washingtonpost.com: "The The Defense Department warned yesterday that as many as 200,000 contractors and civilian employees will begin receiving layoff warnings by Christmas unless Congress acts on President Bush's $196 billion war request, but senior Democrats said no war funds will be approved until Bush accepts a shift in his Iraq policy.

Skirmishing over war funding has continued for nearly a year, but the White House and Congress appear ready to push toward a showdown in the coming weeks. Democratic leaders are convinced that Congress's abysmal approval ratings stem in large part from its inability to force Bush to change his approach in Iraq. But with violence declining in Iraq, Republicans believe they are in an even stronger position to stay the course.

White House and Pentagon officials stress that further delays are already slowing the development of countermeasures for roadside bombs and raising the imminent prospect of idle military maintenance depots, canceled training exercises and shuttered facilities at military bases.

"We are calling on Congress and the Democrats in Congress to send the president supplemental war funding without arbitrary surrender dates and without micromanaging the war before they leave for their next vacation," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

"It's an extraordinarily desperate situation," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

Democrats said the remarks are hyperbolic propaganda driven by politics, not policy.

Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that controls defense funding, said the country owes troops "more than just a debt of gratitude. We owe them and their families a new way, a way that leads home."

Now that Congress has approved a huge base budget for the Pentagon of $459 billion, from which funds can be shifted for various needs, Democrats can rightfully assert that there is no immediate funding crisis, said Cindy Williams, a former head of the Congressional Budget Office's national security division. The Pentagon can borrow billions of dollars slated to be spent at the end of the current fiscal year to pay for operations now, she said.

But with the cost of the Iraq war soaring, fund transfers this winter could be huge, and disruptions would be inevitable. With Democrats saying that future funds will have policy strings attached, "both sides are playing a big game of chicken here," she said.

The House last week approved a $50 billion "bridge" to finance the war through the winter, legislation that would require troop withdrawals to begin almost immediately, with a goal of December 2008 for an end to combat operations. Troops could remain to protect U.S. facilities, train Iraqi forces and counter terrorism. The measure also stipulates that only fully trained troops could be deployed to Iraq

The bill was blocked Friday by a Senate Republican filibuster.

"The money has already been provided by the House of Representatives. If the president wants that $50 billion released, all he has to do is call the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, and ask him to stop blocking it," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) also blamed Republicans for any lack of money for the war. ...

[bth: I think all this is posturing and gaming. The payroll for the last quarter will be raided. This happened in 2004 as well. No government wants an unpaid army so the money will appear without strings in August. In the meantime expect this stuff to be a daily headline. Watch for Bush/Cheney to be going to the American Legion and the VFW for some more speeches.]

In Pakistan, U.S. Envoy Courts No. 2 General

In Pakistan, U.S. Envoy Courts No. 2 General - washingtonpost.com: "ISLAMABAD , Pakistan, Nov. 20 -- When Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte visited Pakistan last weekend, he met once with President Pervez Musharraf, for two hours. But before he left town, he held three meetings with a lesser-known figure: Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, the deputy army chief.

The two shared a Saturday night dinner.

The attention paid to Kiyani has affirmed reports here that he will soon be anointed Musharraf's successor as head of the army -- and, as such, will be a vital ally for the Bush administration during a time of crisis.

"Use your influence. You can help save Pakistan," Negroponte told Kiyani during the visit, according to a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Musharraf has repeatedly said he will step down from his army post. It remains unclear when he will do so. If Kiyani is named successor, he will command Pakistan's 600,000 troops and lead the country's most important institution.

Power in Pakistan flows from the uniform, as a popular saying here goes. Half of the country's rulers have been sons of the military. ...

YouTube - Alberto Gonzales protested at UF

YouTube - Alberto Gonzales protested at UF: ""

YouTube - Total Recall

YouTube - Total Recall: ""

Contractor charged in Army bribery probe

The Raw Story | Contractor charged in Army bribery probe: "A civilian contractor is accused of bribing a U.S. Army official in Kuwait to win millions of dollars in business with the military, according to a federal indictment disclosed Tuesday.

Terry Hall, 41, was indicted by a grand jury in the District of Columbia. His companies received more than $20 million in military contracts, but federal prosecutors say he delivered or transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to at least one Army official to get the business.

A federal prosecutor said at a detention hearing Tuesday in Atlanta that evidence suggests Hall made more than $2.5 million in bribe payments, and that there may be another indictment soon.

Hall, who has not filed a plea, has been linked to Army Maj. John L. Cockerham in one of the Pentagon's largest probes of military graft.

The connection was first reported by the San Antonio Express-News, which relied on court documents in confirming that the Army and FBI had been looking into Hall's dealings with Cockerham, who is based at Fort Sam Houston in Texas and is accused of bribery, conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction.

Federal attorneys would not confirm whether Hall's case was connected to Cockerham's.

Prosecutors allege that Cockerham, along with his wife and sister, took at least $9.6 million in bribes in 2004 and 2005 while Cockerham was a contract officer stationed in Kuwait. Jimmy Parks Jr., who represents Cockerham, has noted that contracts require officers and lawyers above his client's rank to check and approve contracts.

Hall has no criminal record and was awarded two bronze stars for his military service, said his attorney, Paul Kish. Hall is a former Army sergeant who built a career in military contracting. From 2002 to 2004, he worked for the firm Kellogg, Brown and Root and provided food services at Camp Arifjan, near Kuwait City.

Hall was overseas — mainly in Kuwait — from 2002 until he moved to Georgia in August, Kish said. He was arrested Thursday near his home in Fairburn, Kish said.

At the detention hearing, court officials decided Hall would stay in custody at least until another hearing, to be held this week in U.S. District Court in Washington. If convicted of the bribery charge, Hall faces as many as 15 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and supervised release

Who's the Reaganiest?

Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap

Fallujah under a different siege

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News - Fallujah under a different siege: "FALLUJAH - Three years after a devastating United States-led siege of the city, residents of Fallujah continue to struggle with a shattered economy, infrastructure and lack of mobility.

The city that was routed in November 2004 is still suffering the worst humanitarian conditions under a siege that continues. Although military actions are down to the minimum inside the city, local and US authorities do not seem to be thinking of ending the agonies of the over 400,000 residents of Fallujah. ...

Focus Grouping War with Iran

Focus Grouping War with Iran: "The following article is an updated and revised version of a piece first posted on November 19, 2007. That piece misidentified Freedom's Watch as the sponsor of the focus group described below. We regret the error.

Laura Sonnenmark is a focus group regular. "I've been asked to talk about orange juice, cell phone service, furniture," the Fairfax County, Virginia-based children's book author and Democratic Party volunteer says. But when she was called by a focus group organizer for a prospective assignment earlier this month, she was told the questions this time would be about something "political."

On November 1, she went to the offices of Martin Focus Groups in Alexandria, Virginia, knowing she would be paid $150 for two hours of her time. After joining a half dozen other women in a conference room, she discovered that she had been called in for what seemed an unusual assignment: to help test-market language that could be used to sell military action against Iran to the American public. "The whole basis of the whole thing was, 'we're going to go into Iran and what do we have to do to get you guys to along with it?" says Sonnenmark, 49.

Soon after the leader of the focus group began the discussion, according to Sonnenmark, he directed the conversation toward recent tensions between Iran and the United States. "He was asking questions about [Iranian president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad going to speak at Columbia University, how terrible it was that he was able to go to Columbia and was invited," Sonnenmark says. "And he used lots of catch phrases, like 'victory' and 'failure is not an option.'"

According to Sonnenmark, two fliers distributed at the focus group session bore the logo and name of Freedom's Watch, a high-powered, well-connected group of hawks. This summer, Freedom's Watch launched a $15 million ad campaign to support the escalation of troops in Iraq. It counts former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and former deputy assistant to President Bush Bradley A. Blakeman among its leaders.

The first flier handed to the group bearing Freedom's Watch's logo, Sonnenmark recalls, raised questions about Ahmadinejad's recent appearance at Columbia University. The second one was also related to Iran. Sonnenmark assumed Freedom's Watch had arranged for the session.

And the upshot of this focus group? "After two hours, [the leader] asked three final questions," Sonnenmark recalls: "How would you feel if Hillary [Clinton] bombed Iran? How would you feel if George Bush bombed Iran? And how would you feel if Israel bombed Iran?" Sonnenmark says she responded, "It would depend on the circumstances....What is the situation in Iraq? Do we have international support?"

When asked by Mother Jones about this focus group, Freedom's Watch spokesman Matt David responded, "As a general policy we won't comment on our internal strategy." And an employee at Martin Focus Groups who only gave his name as Steve declined to say anything about the session. (In 2003, Steve Weachter, the manager of the firm's Alexandria offices, told a local Virginia newspaper, "We help whoever calls. It could be about cigarette smoking, drinking, whatever. We could even have a group to evaluate Pepsi one day and Coke the next." In the same article Donna Carter, the assistant manager at Martin, recalled the time the outfit was conducting a Republican focus group in one room and a Democratic group in another.)

After an earlier version of this story attributing the focus group to Freedom's Watch was posted, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the founder and president of the Israel Project, contacted Mother Jones and said that her group had commissioned the focus group and that it was designed by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm. The Israel Project is a nonprofit group that supports Israel and conducts extensive polling on American public attitudes toward Israel and the Middle East. Its board of advisers includes 15 Democratic and Republican members of the House and the Senate, plus actor Ron Silver.

Mizrahi says that her group and Freedom's Watch share a common interest in "thwarting the threat of Islamic extremism" and in "dealing with the threat of Iran." But Freedom's Watch "in no way is directing our work, and it's not funding our work." She pointed out that the Israel Project is not "involved with Iraq," a major concern of Freedom's Watch. But the two outfits, she said, "shared information" produced by this focus group. She insisted the focus group was designed to help the Israel Project promote "our belief in pushing sanctions." She added, "We're working day and night to persuade people the options [concerning Iran] are very limited. We're pushing really aggressively on the economic and diplomatic fronts."

Mizrahi confirmed that Freedom's Watch material was distributed to members of the focus group but insisted that ads from "lots of other groups" were handed out. "We test a lot of messages," she said.

"Of all the focus groups I've ever been to," Sonnenmark wrote in a subsequent email to a group of fellow volunteers for the 2006 Senate campaign of Jim Webb, "I've never seen a moderator who was so persistent in manipulating and leading the participants." (Webb is lead author of a Senate letter warning President Bush not to attack Iran without congressional approval; see here and here.)) The gist of the event was "anti-Iranian," says Sonnenmark.

If the group's organizers were testing the case for military action against Iran—even as a last resort—Sonnenmark believes they could not have been encouraged by the results of this focus group. "I got the general feeling that George Bush didn't have a shot in hell" of winning public support for an Iran attack, she says. Some members of her group suggested that if Hillary Clinton were elected president she might have more credibility in making such a case. As for the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran, Sonnenmark's impression was that the group's members did not believe it was up to them to judge.

Sonnenmark left the session wondering if foreign policy hawks would soon be pushing publicly for military action against Iran using language that had been tested on her. But, she says, "It is not going to be so easy this time around
."


Laura Rozen is the National Security Correspondent for Mother Jones
 
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Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Baram answers your questions

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Baram answers your questions: "Pat This is an attempt to respond to the reactions to my brief comment from a few days ago.
Best,
Amatzia

“[Ricks and DeYoung]’s article nowhere mentions the plight of the over 2 million internal refugees in Iraq”.

I agree. If both kinds of refugees, 4m of them in total, start going back home, though, I am less worried that the US commanders. They will do this only once they ascertain that security is reasonably back and that their neighbors calmed down. House ownership in Iraq is still valid and most of the refugees took with them the title deeds (Qushans, Tabus) so at least legal problems like in Kirkuk, where Saddam rounded up people and drove them out, will not represent a major issue. Judging by similar experiences in Kosovo and Serbia, the returnees also are very likely to support each other, Sunnis, Shiis, Kurds, Christians (if the latter go back at all) because they will have a common cause. And the government, frail as it is, will try to help as well. So it will not be easy, but I don’t see another humanitarian catastrophe. Incidentally, the Catholic St John's Church in Baghdad’s al-Dura neighborhood reopened a couple of days ago. This is a very positive sign of life returning to a more normal existence. However, there are around 50,000 Iraqis who will never be able to go home. These are the educated – in large part professional – Iraqis who collaborated with the US armed forces and US-sponsored contractors either as interpreters or as professional aids. Most of them are in Amman now. When they go back they will be killed by the Sunni and Shii militias. Their savings are running out. There were three attempts already on the life of a good friend of mine, an Iraqi American engineer who has spent the last four years in Basra, working with British military engineers on the barely-existing infrastructure there. He will leave with the British. He has a place to go, but those stuck in Jordan are stranded. Amatzia Baram"

Download pat_11_007_questions_ii.doc

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rising player with a vision for Shiite Iraq

Rising player with a vision for Shiite Iraq | csmonitor.com: "NAJAF Iraq - Ammar al-Hakim is presiding over an Iraqi Shiite building boom. His austere Shaheed al-Mihrab Foundation has raised 400 mosques in Iraq since 2003. It's building the largest seminary here in the holy city of Najaf and opening a chain of schools. And it now has 95 offices throughout the country.

What's more, Mr. Hakim's foundation is winning over adherents to his party – the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) – through all-expenses-paid mass marriages along with cash payments and gifts for the newlyweds, free education and stipends at his new schools, and an array of other charitable projects such as caring for orphans and displaced families.

All of this is being done to promote ISCI's core vision: a federation of nine provinces where conservative Shiite Islam would reign.

While opponents say that such a federation among central and southern provinces would only hasten the breakup of Iraq and create a ministate where Iran would hold great sway, Hakim and his party are making great gains.

For them, the plan would bolster security for Shiites and benefit the stability of the country as a whole. And, most significant, they are winning much support ahead of a national referendum on the issue by April 2008, as proscribed by the Constitution. ...

[bth: this article is worth reading in full. It sounds to me like the 9 southern provinces will vote to break out in April 2008.]

Saudi defends verdict against gang-rape victim

Saudi defends verdict against gang-rape victim | Reuters: "RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia defended on Tuesday a court's decision to sentence a woman who was gang-raped to 200 lashes of the whip, after the United States described the verdict as "astonishing".

The 19-year-old Shi'ite woman from the town of Qatif in the Eastern Province and an unrelated male companion were abducted and raped by seven men in 2006.

Ruling according to Saudi Arabia's strict reading of Islamic law, a court had originally sentenced the woman to 90 lashes and the rapists to jail terms of between 10 months and five years. It blamed the woman for being alone with an unrelated man.

Last week the Supreme Judicial Council increased the sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison and ordered the rapists to serve between two and nine years in jail.

The ruling provoked rare criticism from the United States, which is trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to attend a Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland next week.

A State Department spokesman told reporters on Monday that "most (people) would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happens".

The court also took the unusual step of initiating disciplinary procedures against her lawyer, Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, forcibly removing him from the case for having talked about it to the media.

"The Ministry of Justice welcomes constructive criticism ... The system allows appeals without resort to the media," said Tuesday's statement issued on the official news agency SPA.

It berated media for not specifying that three judges, not one, issued the recent ruling and reiterated that the "charges were proven" against the woman.

It also repeated the judges' attack against Lahem last week, saying he had "spoken insolently about the judicial system and challenged laws and regulations".

Lahem was not available for comment.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on King Abdullah, who last month announced plans to overhaul the system, to drop all charges against the woman.

A series of erratic verdicts have focused attention on the Saudi legal system, which is dominated by clerics who adhere to the kingdom's austere Sunni form of Islamic law. Personal status law remains uncodified and the system does not recognize the concept of precedent.

(Reporting by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Caroline Drees)

[bth: and the best that Condi Rice's State Dept can come up with is that it's "astonished"? Well thank you very much. There is no justice in this sentence in any modern sense. The shear maltreatment of women, the abuse, their treatment as chattel... from our allies no less! So where are the women's groups on this? How about some positive action? Any action. How about raising this at the UN? Where is the UN on this matter anyway? Cat got their tongue? The situation is revolting.]

Don't Think, Twice It's All Right - Peter, Paul & Mary

YouTube - Don't Think, Twice It's All Right - Peter, Paul & Mary: ""

Romney Leads in NH Poll

Romney Leads in NH Poll: "THE RACE: The race for the Republican presidential nomination in New Hampshire ___

"THE NUMBERS—

Mitt Romney, 33 percent

John McCain, 18 percent

Rudy Giuliani, 16 percent

Ron Paul, 8 percent

Mike Huckabee, 5 percent

Fred Thompson, 4 percent

Undecided, 14 percent

___

OF INTEREST:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney maintains a 2-to-1 lead over rivals John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, who essentially tied for second. Fred Thompson, the former Tennessee senator, dropped from 13 percent in September to 4 percent. Only 14 percent of those polled said they have definitely decided.

[bth: A Romney v. Clinton race?]

Braveheart Theme - piano

YouTube - Braveheart Theme - piano: ""

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Annapolis - Why Bother?

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Annapolis - Why Bother?: "The Cabinet vote took place ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas later in the day. The two men were trying to break a deadlock in preparations for the U.S.-hosted peace summit, which is expected to take place in Annapolis, Md., next week.

Israel sees the conference primarily as a ceremonial launching pad for new peace efforts, while the Palestinians want a more detailed plan for how post-conference talks will proceed.

Seeking to drum up support for the conference, Olmert is heading to Egypt on Tuesday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak, his office said. Arab League members are to decide on Friday whether they will join the gathering. High-level Arab attendance is seen as crucial to the success of nascent peace moves." Yahoo News

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Once again, we are presented with the inability of these parties to the Palestinian-Israeli struggle to accept or even comprehend the difference in approach of the other side.

The Israelis want to see the Annapolis meeting as an event in which the Americans make the Palestinians available for a free-flowing give and take that leads to an agreement that is some sort of compromise.

The Palestinians see the process as one in which the American super-power gives its blessing to the rough outline of what a final settlement will be.

In pursuit of that vision, the Palestinians want there to be a document agreed on between them and the Israelis which gives the shape of what the final settlement will be and they want it in advance. Anything else they see as merely another trick.

As though to make any agreement even more difficult, Olmert's government wants the Palestinians to make a public statement re-newing their previous de facto recognition of the existence of Israel. In this new statement they want a specific acceptance of Israel's nature as a Jewish state. This is very difficult for the Paelstinians since their aspiration for their own state is for a government that is, at least in theory, religiously neutral.

Bottom Line: Annapolis will amount to very little.

If the parties want to move forward towards a state of existence in which everyone can live reasonably, then they must give up their maximalist positions, accept the idea of a series of truces (hudna), and engage Egypt and other regional "players" in dealing with the extremists among the Palestinians.

Even then, progress toward any kind of real Peace will be slow. Struggle of this sort between two peoples for the possession of a single piece of land are not solved until the fires of competitive inter-communal feeling are burned out through struggle. My sense of this is that the two peoples have not reached that level of emotional surfeit. pl

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071119/ap_on_re_mi_ea/israel_palestinians

[bth: one wonders if the time will ever come for peace in that troubled land]

Iraqi Army raids Shiite militia strongholds, finds cache of Iranian-made weapons

Iraqi Army raids Shiite militia strongholds, finds cache of Iranian-made weapons | Iraq Updates: "Iranian -made weapons were among a large cache of arms and ammunition found during operations in a Shiite militia stronghold south of Baghdad, the Iraqi Army said Monday.

Major General Jamil Kamel al-Shimari, a senior officer in the 8th Iraqi Army Division, said the cache was the biggest store of weapons found since the launch of Operation Lion Pounce on Saturday.

Iraqi security officials said that 3,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen supported by military tanks and hundreds of US and Polish troops launched the assault Saturday to flush out Shiite militants from the city.

The stockpile, which included roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar bombs and explosives, was uncovered in Diwaniyya, 180 kilometers south of Baghdad.

Four suspected militants were arrested at the scene, among 74 who have been detained since the operation began.

"All of their hands are bloodied," Shimari said.

"There are seven Iranian-made roadside bombs and nine anti-tank mines. These are a big danger threatening our forces," Shimari told reporters.

US military officials accuse Iran of arming and training Shiite militias in Iraq, a charge Tehran denies.

Iran in turn blames the violence in Iraq, in which tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, on the American-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Some Washington and US Embassy officials in Iraq have noted recent improvements in Iran's involvement in Iraq, but the US military says Iranian weapons and components are still being found in Iraq.

US and Polish helicopters and soldiers supported Iraqi security forces in the Diwaniyya operation, said Polish military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Wlodzimierz Glogowski.

The operation, which Glogowski said included two Iraqi Army battalions and one police brigade, is trying to squeeze militants out of the area.

Qadisiyya Province, of which Diwaniyya is the capital, has been spared much of the sectarian bloodshed that has rocked other parts of Iraq.

But it has been hit hard by factional fighting between rival Shiite militias, including the feared Mehdi Army loyal to influential anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Shiite militants have attacked military bases, including those used by about 900 Polish troops in Qadisiyya.

Witnesses said the city of over 1 one million people was under curfew and US aircraft were dropping leaflets urging locals to cooperate in locating militant hideouts.

Sadr's office in the town of Nafar, south of Diwaniyya, was also raided Monday as part of the crackdown, said a report from AFP.

Diwaniyya's police chief, Major General Ali Akmoush, said the assault also led to the dismissal of 70 policemen, including some officers. "They have been dismissed for supporting armed gangs," he told AFP.

Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, is also witnessing a similar Shiite turf war, with several political factions fighting bitterly to control the vast oil reserves in the province.

On Monday, at least six people were killed, including three children, when a rocket slammed into a house in the town of Al-Qibla near Basra, police and a health official said.

"Three children, one woman and two men were killed in the attack," Basra police Colonel Karim al-Zaidi told AFP.

Basra health department spokesman Kadhim Jawad also confirmed the casualties.

The British military has withdrawn its forces from Basra and plans to hand over the province to Iraqi troops in December.

In another incident, gunmen attacked a police station in Zaghaniyya, south of Baqouba, killing three policemen, said the city's police Captain Ha-zim Yasin.

Baqouba, the capital of Diyala, has seen an increase in violence in the past few weeks despite a series of US and Iraqi military assaults targeting Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters.

On Sunday, three American soldiers were killed in Baqouba by a suicide bomber as they were distributing soccer balls and toys to children near a schoolyard, the US military said.

Major Peggy Kageleiry, spokeswoman for the military, said the soldiers were killed while they were walking among children in the restive city about 60 kilometers north of Baghdad.

"They were handing out soccer balls and stuffed animals to children next to a schoolyard when someone walked up and detonated himself," she said.

"The only evidence of this we have so far is forensic," she said, adding that army experts had found one of the dead was wearing a "suicide vest."

On Monday, one person was killed and nine wounded when a roadside bomb went off near a bus carrying passengers in Al-Baladiyat neighborhood of east Baghdad, a security official said.

An Iraqi translator who used to work for the US-led coalition in the city of Nasiriyya until a month ago was shot dead by gunmen Monday, police Lieutenant Colonel Falah al-Siaidi said.

The US military, meanwhile, announced its troops last week found the remains of five people at an execution site in Diyala. - Reuters, AFP

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War Is Boring

ON THE JOB / From Iraq to Monster.com: Jittery job interviews, and putting war on a resume

ON THE JOB / From Iraq to Monster.com: Jittery job interviews, and putting war on a resume: "Army National Guard Operations Officer Jorge Regan rode passenger, scanning and re-scanning the highway and the parched landscape beyond for signs of threat. Over the last year he'd learned to train his eyes on the roadside for bits of garbage and, if he was lucky enough to spot it, that telltale wire leading out. On this day he felt particularly uneasy — he didn't have his gear on, or his rifle in hand, and no machine gunner was standing in the back.

Fortunately, his fiancee distracted him with conversation. They were driving up to the Bay Area from Bakersfield.

After 16 months in Iraq with the 1114th Transportation Company, Regan's tour was up. This was the last leg of a long trip home, with stops in Kuwait, Budapest, Ireland and Texas before touching down in Bakersfield. In more ways than one, exiting the war was proving more complicated than just boarding a plane.

"My fiancee really helped me through it — talking to me, laughing, keeping me distracted," he says of that drive north. "But if there was a lull in conversation, I'd start feeling uneasy. Thankfully there wasn't any trash on the side of the road. I don't know how I would've reacted to that. I really don't."

That was four months ago. The weeks that followed weren't easy — "I was jumpy, and stayed indoors a lot," Regan says — but then he knew to expect a rough re-entry. Far more surprising was what might be considered the second phase of transition to life in the States: his attempt to morph from Guardsman to everyday guy with a civilian job.

In theory, trading IEDs and perilous fuel hauls across the desert for a mellow desk job should be one of the simpler parts of coming home, right? And after bearing responsibility for the lives of over a hundred fellow humans, wouldn't procuring such a gig be a breeze? On the contrary, Regan's experience finding a more peaceful line of work at times left him wondering if life was easier in uniform. His time back in California highlights, yet again, how many hidden challenges await our returning veterans.

In person, Regan is genial and deliberate, with an instant air of dependability. One senses service in his blood, and indeed both parents were in the military, as were both grandfathers — the only question was when Regan would enlist. He signed his ROTC papers on Sept, 10, 2001.

Though he admits he never imagined his country going to war, he readily stepped up when it did. Upon graduating from UC Davis in 2004, he switched over to the National Guard to become a field artillery officer. By 2006, he'd been posted to the Al Asad Airbase, in Iraq's Anbar province.

Rather than artillery, he was assigned to fuel transport. Starting as platoon leader, he became operations officer after a few months, a job that gave him direct responsibility for over 200 missions, including the successful delivery of over 2.5 million gallons of bulk fuel and 500 tons of cargo. It was one of the most dangerous jobs a person can have in Iraq.

"In November, when we lost our first soldier (Sgt. 1st Class Rudy A. Salcido), I'd just taken over as the operations officer eight days earlier," he says. "It hit me when he went by in the black body bag: This is for real. And my command put that soldier out there. I went back to my room and I cried. I was glad my roommate was out because I was a mess. I came in the next day and it was a new ball game for me. Every time I sent someone out on the road, it was somebody's father, somebody's brother, somebody's mother, somebody's sister."

Regan was lucky enough never to encounter an IED blast, or take direct fire. He did his best to keep his personnel out of harm's way, too. It was this focus that got him through his time there, he says:

"I could go into how it's great to serve your country and all that mumbo-jumbo, but the bottom line is I don't do it for myself, I don't do it for the country, I do it for my buddy next to me. And the soldiers who are under me, and the guys above me. That's all it's about."

When Regan's tour concluded in July, he came home with a Bronze Star, a National Defense Service Medal and a Humanitarian Service Medal, among other distinctions. As with many vets, his feelings about the war run the gamut, buffeted by what he perceived as uninformed criticism of it back home, but also his own profoundly difficult experiences in Iraq. Still, he wanted to move forward, and "after going over the Internet backwards and forwards" those first weeks around the house, he was ready to find new employment.

Regan assumed he'd secure a management position right away. "I felt like, I survived a year of war, I can do anything now. I figured I'd have a job within a month or a month and a half," he says.

Instead, despite diligence with Craigslist, Monster.com, a staffing agency and a job service for vets, he couldn't seem to break into the civilian work world. To his astonishment, leading 173 soldiers through perilous missions in Iraq didn't qualify him for entry-level management positions at Bay Area companies. Though he was finally home, the experience he describes is not unlike looking for work in a foreign country.

"I know what I've done and what I can do, but it's really hard to convey that to someone who's not familiar with the military," he says. "If I say to someone that I was the operations officer of a line haul and bulk fuel company in Iraq and I transported over 3 million gallons of fuel, and 265 tons of goods, and was second in command for 173 soldiers — 'OK, sounds great, but what the hell's an operations officer?'"

He adds, "I walked in to my first interview and I'm talking about this and that, and it hit me this guy has no clue what I'm talking about. I can see the glaze come over his face."

It wasn't just would-be employers' ignorance of the military that made things difficult.

"My first trip to San Francisco by myself (for a job interview), I was horrible. I was nervous as hell, my eyes were darting everywhere. Some guy touched me on the shoulder and I just about turned around and punched him. I had to go to my interview and then just leave," he says.

The irony was not lost on Regan. For over a year, he faced a kind of stress most of us will never grasp, and shouldered responsibility that dwarfs anything encountered in the average civilian career. Now the most banal disturbance could throw him off. (Back home for his two-week leave last February, he and his fiancee drove past a car parked on the side of the road, hazard lights on and hood up. "I freaked out — I tried to crawl through my window. I was just cringing, waiting for something to explode," he recalls.)

Somewhere in the employment search, with 15-20 applications and six or seven interviews resulting in no jobs, a more existential discomfort began to set in.

"There is a definite feeling of loss (upon) returning," he wrote me in September. "While in Iraq, my mission was simple: Do my job and get my people home ... Now, it is a lot more amorphous ... What is my purpose? What are my goals? What am I doing? That kind of thing goes through your head as you take off the uniform and go back to your real life. You lose the sense of direction that was given to you."

Fortunately, Regan isn't constitutionally capable of losing all direction. Before heading overseas, Regan had nearly been hired by an East Bay Boy Scouts office. He called as soon as he returned, but there were no openings. When he happened to phone again a while later, someone had resigned that very day. Regan was hired. "It was like the heavens opened up," he says.

Since October, he's been a district manager for the Scouts, handling the recruiting of volunteers, members and funding. Compared with other vets — compared with non-vets, for that matter — Regan's period of unemployment wasn't terribly long. But the hurdles he encountered, in himself and in the job market, raise alarms, especially given his relative good luck in Anbar. In a sense, Regan represents the best-case scenario for our returning vets. What do his experiences augur for the 160,000-plus personnel still in Iraq?

By all counts Regan loves the job and his colleagues, though adjusting to a non-military work structure remains trying. But however happily employed he may be, Regan's National Guard contract isn't up until January 2011. As he put it, he could still be redeployed right up till December 2010. A soldier to the core, he doesn't give many hints about his feelings about this possibility, or the war in general; he does suggest he'll be watching the 2008 election and the success of the surge with keen interest.

In the meantime, everyday life has begun swelling to fill the hours. At first Regan had been overwhelmed by all the unstructured time afforded a civilian here in the States: how late he could sleep, the number of times he could rearrange the closet. (At Al Asad, he was working out by 4 a.m., and his various responsibilities would keep him up until midnight.) Now he's gotten used to the pace — and anyway there's a wedding to plan. And though his jitters still returned occasionally, he found that they'd begun to co-exist, oddly, with a pleasant new calm.

"After a year of constant stress, I've got an interesting look on life. I used to get keyed up about small things. Now if I miss the BART train, for example, I'm fine — the person will wait for me, and if not, it wasn't meant to be," he says.

If there was no way to adequately prepare for war, maybe there's no way to really prepare for the transition back to life in the States. "Don't beat your wife, don't commit suicide, don't drink a bunch of alcohol when you get back," Regan recalls being advised in one of many National Guard debriefing sessions. But subtler challenges awaited, he learned. Insofar as work can represent the most basic, normalizing component of daily life, a vet's struggle to trade one variety for another can mean the difference between coming back and coming home.

To learn about how you can help veterans find meaningful employment, visit Hire a Hero.

Chris Colin has worked as a writer-editor at Salon, and before that a busboy, a bread deliverer and a bike messenger, among other things. He's the author of "What Really Happened to the Class of '93," about the lives of his former high school classmates, and co-author of "The Blue Pages," a directory of companies rated by their politics and social practices. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Mother Jones, the New York Observer, McSweeney's Quarterly and several anthologies. He lives in San Francisco.

[bth: our own friends had to remove their Iraq service off their resumes to get jobs. Much as I would like to see the employers stepping up to the plate they are not. Some media overhyping of the PTSD problem certainly isn't helping.]