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Heh - Bill Ardolino makes it into Baghdad about 24 hours before I would have thought it possible - but he has indeed arrived in interesting times.
Barring a New Year's Eve plane crash, 2006 looks like a slightly better year in Iraq for US casualties
...the year total of 816 as of Saturday morning, is on course to be slightly lower than last year's 846 U.S. fatalities.(We should also note that the majority of troops wounded in Iraq returned to duty within 72 hours.)
The number of U.S. wounded also declined this year, from 5,947 in 2005 to 5,676 so far this year.
The headline above the story? Monthly U.S. military deaths in Iraq reach 2-year high
The Elves are quick. From email: "...it should be delivered next weekend, assuming they can get ahold of Salzman's family to arrange for the meeting. "
Those of you who contribute to Project Valour-IT - thank you ever so much.
The witness reported that celebrations broke out after Hussein was dead, and that there was "dancing around the body."
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not attend the execution, according to an adviser to the prime minister who was interviewed on state television.
The execution was videotaped and photographed, state television reported, and those images will be distributed to the media.
Al-Arabiya television network reported that Barzan Hassan, Hussein's half-brother, and Awad Bandar, former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, were hanged after Hussein. All three were convicted of killings in the Iraqi town of Dujail nearly 25 years ago.
Jules Crittenden hits his (blogging) stride in Dead by Dawn? - which segues to a brief glimpse at reporting in the early days of the invasion.
I think Jules and I are in about the same frame of mind on the execution.
I's add that it's a damn rare thing to see a tyrant meet his maker in such a manner. Unprecedented in modern history?
WMD and other (IMHO) unfortunate advertising gimmicks aside, the fundamental reason for invading Iraq in the first place was a notion that perhaps if freed from Saddam's oppressive rule the Iraqis could build a model democracy*. I'll admit I believed that in 2003 (with the "perhaps" qualifier included, I'm a bit too old to live without it) but I'd like to see more evidence of it now - say more folks acting instead of wishing (or awaiting Allah's will). But perhaps too many were his children after all, and he the only model to which they aspire.
However few there may be to oppose such as that, I'm still on their side.
This war is strange. I never hear soldiers worried about their own morale sagging. Contrary, the war-fighters here are more concerned to bolster the morale of the people at home. Here in Kuwait, where the dining facilities are bedecked in Christmas decorations, soldiers stream in from Iraq on convoys and stream back north along those bomb-laden roads. The service members here are not all rear-echelon people who never see fighting or blood. Yet their overall morale obviously is high. Few of them know I am a writer, and so they speak freely at the tables around me. In Qatar, from which I’d just departed, I spoke with troops taking four-day R&R passes, some having just returned from the most dangerous parts of Iraq, and others heading straight back, and their overall morale was also very high. The morale at war is higher than I have ever seen it at home; makes me wonder what they know that most Americans seem to be missing.We'll know soon enough. Michael says va email: "I've landed in Baghdad and am preparing to re-embed with U.S. Force."
So is Bill Ardolino, whose INDC journal has a new name. He says he's headed to the airport to manifest for a flight - which shouldn't in any way be confused with the act of getting on a plane that takes you where you want to go.
They arrive in interesting times.
On this fine night I'll tip a cool one indeed - for those who never will again. I think one would have to have been in Iraq at some point in the past 4 years to really get that. Perhaps because I've been there, done that, and will again I just don't share the enthusiasm expressed as so many exclamation points (!!!!) and cheers from so many bloggers who haven't and never will. I feel no thrill in this moment. I suppose any death in Iraq tomorrow will be depicted as "retaliatory". If there's none to speak of I'll feel joy at that.
But this email alert from the WaPo just utterly falls short:
The text reads:
Former Iraqi President Hussein Executed
Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who rose from humble beginnings to build the Arab world's most ruthless dictatorship but whose fall unleashed a turbulent era for his nation and the world, was executed early Saturday morning in Baghdad, according to Iraqi state television.
*The "Yeah, but why the f--- should we care?" angle being another issue altogether, and one that good people can argue reasonably.
it is hard for me to tell you all this but i was hurt by an ied here. my right arm has been amputated below the elbow, my left has four working fingers. my legs are fine so l can still logroll! i am on my way to the hospital in germany, then back to the states for more care. i am in high spirits. i am going to be ok, but i will have a long road to recovery. please remember me in your prayers, as well as those who were injured with me. i will let you know more as time passes.Not how anyone wants to come home for the holidays, but hopefully there's a valour-it laptop waiting under the tree - thanks to folks like you. (Via Smash)
Update: Chuck Ziegenfuss - wounded in action '05 - visits Walter Reed for some follow-up, and meets Three Kings.
Tending Distant Fires
Far from hearth and home, watching
Cold alone but not alone
On distant shore and only wanting
Safe return and little more
What tales we'll tell
When that time comes
When tales can be told
When things grim
Seem far away
When other fires go cold
Some distant sunset, vision fading
And tired eyes gaze 'pon folded flags
While distant drums beat their refrain
Saluting fallen friends whose names
And youth will never fade
Here's to those on other shores,
for them live well, the price is paid
-- Iraq, December 2004
Our Christmas tradition continues. Milbloggers far from hearth and home this holiday season have time to check their blogs on Christmas day. Perhaps you have time to leave them tidings of comfort and joy in their comments sections...
Badgers Forward: A blog by an Engineer Company Commander on the front lines of the war against Islamofascism
Lightning From The Sky: The personal observations and opinions of an ANGLICO team leader supporting a Military Transition Team in Al Anbar Province.
I'm a Captain in the Marine Corps, on my fourth deployment since January of 2003. I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a deployment aboard ship to the Persian Gulf. I'm an infantry officer by trade, having just completed a 3-year tour in an infantry battalion. In my current billet, I am a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) responsible for requesting and directing close air support in support of friendly ground units.
SGT Dock's Holiday: Take a long trip in the sun with the Minnesota Army National Guard - Tales of boredom by a Medic at LSA Anaconda / Balad, Iraq
I was sitting in the sparrow’s nest at the gate with one of the designated marksmen toying with my new camera when the call came over the radio that I was needed up to the front. I ran down two flights of stairs and into my ambulance. As I was pulling up the lane to the front of our gate I could see two gun trucks escorting two pickup trucks. In the beds of the pickup trucks were probably 4-9 Iraqi townspeople standing around.free our fobbits: Fighting Army issues in general, Iraq in particular (let's all get in the war).
I pulled my ambulance way off to the side and all of the people had exited the beds of the trucks. I could hear the townspeople wailing, but my attention was immediately diverted to what was remaining in the pickup trucks. 13 bodies were still in the beds of the two trucks; some of them not moving. I ran up and started to try and figure out what to do. I made a quick count. “I’ve got ten patients down here and some DOA.” I didn’t have a clue if I was right, but I knew that we needed more help. Soldiers from the gun trucks had started to help people out of the vehicle beds and on to the ground. One of the soldiers asked where the litters were. I started to tell people to pick a person and treat. I dumped my aid bag onto the ground in between the tailgates of the two trucks. “Take what you need and do what you can!” I ran over to a child and started to assess him for a second. A call came over the radio asking for the names and ages of the patients. A Lieutenant from the gun trucks, god bless him, said, “This is a triage situation right now!” I snapped my self away from the child.
I had fallen into that old medic trap of wanting to jump in and treat. But in a mass casualty event, the only medic on scene has to work as a command and control. I started to order more people to treat and tell me what they had. “I got a baby with bleeding from the head! Probably a fractured skull!” I looked for the best turn around for an ambulance.
Citizen Soldier Sojack in OIF: Sojack is from Arkansas and is a transporation officer in the United States Army Reserve. She has 16 years of service in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve and is currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This blog is a journal of her experiences during her time serving overseas.
The Desert Periscope
Follow the adventures of a Navy Submarine Officer during a yearlong deployment to Iraq in support of Counter-IED efforts.
The Iceblog: The Journal of a Polar Bear in Iraq: The journal of a Polar Bear serving with his National Guard unit in Iraq.
Acute Politics: Just another star among the growing constellation of milblogs that bring you reports of life in a warzone from the guys in the middle of it.
gwot dot us (Terror news that you can use, from SGT Brandon White, Afghanistan)
SigSpace The often bitter but occasionally insightful (and inciteful) weblog of a National Guard MI Soldier supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Making the Leap... An Untraditional Year Abroad: They asked for volunteers, so I volunteered. When it all comes down to it, a year overseas means a year in Paris, eventually. In the meantime, I belong to the Army. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it doesn't.
Checking the packing list twice:
De Re Militari Written by an artillerymen in the Marine Corps soon to be serving in Iraq - "...an officer wrapping up training before heading to the fleet, where I will join a unit that is headed to Iraq in mid-January."
Andrew Olmsted: It seems that the situation in Iraq is worse than I thought. The Army has accepted my application to active duty and is sending me to Iraq as commander of a battalion MiTT team. That means I'll embed with an Iraqi battalion and I and my team will attempt to train and assist that battalion to be able to stand on their own and serve the Iraqi government.
From the Home Front:
Daddy is in a sandbox: A sporatic account of my husbands deployment to "The Sandbox" and how my life and our family is coping.
Rodeo With a Twist of Suspense: An aspiring author and mother of four coping with the deployment of her National Guard husband. Check in as I deal and try to break into the publishing world.
Just got home:
bandit.three.six: The personal blog of the pogey responsible for providing voice and data service to the International Zone in Baghdad
Just Another Thunderhorse Roughneck!: The blogsite is about the thoughts and adventures of a Arizona National Guard soldier deployed in Iraq.
Porphyrogenitus: Thoughts and opinions on the state of the world
Fun With Hand Grenades: The mindless ramblings and exploits of a US Army infantryman recently returned from Iraq
Other distant shores:
Kosovodad: Kosovodad is an active duty public affairs officer with 20 years of service in both the officer and enlisted ranks.
Sgt Hook: The life of a soldier, in war and in peace.
This list will grow - check back. And if you know of any bloggers that belong in the above categories, drop a note to greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com.
This year at House Greyhawk we're spending our first Christmas in America since 2001.
As much as we miss Germany...
...it's good to be home.
A poem from Russ Vaughn:
To Our Sheepdogs
It’s so easy to forget them there,
As we warm beside the fire,
Those spread so far out everywhere,
Those sent to man the wire.
Patrolling on the front line,
As peacefully here we bask,
Protecting what is yours and mine,
That’s their hard, dreary task.
Like sheep we are protected,
From the far off wolves of war,
And our Sheepdogs as expected,
Never waver from their chore.
In peace we sheep ignore their kind,
Wary of their violent trends;
But when the wolves attack we find,
These Sheepdogs are our friends.
Forever this has been the way,
Since time for us began,
Sheep fearing that the Sheepdogs may
Disrupt our placid plan.
Yet time again Dogs surely prove,
When comes a wolfine danger,
The Sheepdogs will most swiftly move
To guard the lambs, the manger.
So here’s to Sheepdogs everywhere
At this Christmas time of year;
Just know the flock is with you there,
And we wish you Christmas cheer.
We wish we could advance the clock,
Cause truth is, Dogs, we miss you,
To the day that you’ll rejoin the flock,
When we’ll sheepishly then kiss you.
And our friend Bill Faith writes:
You might be interested in knowing I've brought my alphabetized Russ Vaughn index up to date and moved it here. Also, if you've ever wondered what Russ looked like you might want to click here.And from Iraq, the Online Chaplain writes of Christmas at War:
I know you're going to see some great "Merry Christmas to our troops" things in the next couple of days but yule be hard pressed to find anything that improves on what The Gray Dog just posted. Click here.
I believe I am about to get the best Christmas present of my whole life...Something I understand completely, having been there...
A funny thing about Christmas in Baghdad. Christian, atheist, or other, most folks who grow up in America consider Christmas a great family holiday, a chance to reunite and share gifts and catch up with the widespread relatives. Missing this aspect of the day turned many folks sour - but not those who saw the day primarily as a celebration of the birth of Jesus. In other words, those who knew the real purpose of Christmas actually enjoyed the holiday, while those for whom it was a secular event were rather morose and withdrawn and distinctly more unhappy on the day. Stated differently, the farther from the " real meaning of Christmas" you stood, the more the holiday depressed you - those for whom it meant the least were hit the worst by the day....done that:
So much went on during that one day that I'm sure I could write a book about those 24 hours. For starters, the worst weather of the year. A cold rain, flooded ground, mud everywhere, missions cancelled, you name it. But as miserable as I was I saw something that reminded me that someone always has it worse. I'd just donned my armor and started for the DFAC. As I splashed past the porta potties I noticed the smell. The team of civilian third country nationals was busy cleaning them, even on Christmas day in the rain. Off to the side stood the escort for the workers. His sole purpose in life was to ensure the guys cleaning the porta potties didn't get up to any "funny business" and plant bombs or steal anything during performance of their duties.
As I walked past the escort, I considered saying one of the following things to him:
"Hey, this is a Christmas you'll tell your grandchildren about - the year you helped free Iraq!"
"Son, if you move over to this side (pointing) you'll notice the wind won't blow in your face off the porta potties any more"
In the end I said nothing, just moved on. Sometimes there's nothing you can say.
An exchange of emails with my 13 year old daughter over Christmas holidays.Mrs G had her own Christmas message for me that year...Her: Merry Christmas! (Note: Original in red and green letters 1 inch high)
Me: Merry Christmas to you! Christmas isn't too bad here, weather is awful though. We had a great meal in the chow hall (don't tell grandma I ate there). Last night some folks put on a Christmas show and that was great too. There were enough people to make a nice choir and they sang Christmas songs and told the story of the first Christmas.
This will make all the future Christmases much nicer I think. It will be even better to be all together.
Tell me what you got!!!!!!!!!!!
Her: i got mostly clothes. i got the sims 2 game. i got this black makeup kit. ear rings, a necklace, a hat, a purse, a candle, and these cool monster feet slippers and a pink safe. (big brother) actually picked out our gifts this year. he got me the slippers and candle. (big sister) got me the purse and pink safe. we're gonna take pictures of our piles of stuff we got. did you get our cookies yet?
why dont you want me to tell grandma that you ate there?
Me:Don't worry about Grandma, that was just a joke. She wants me to stay away from crowds.
Why would you wear black makeup?
Her: its not black make up. its a case of makeup and the case is black. here's a picture of the stuff i got. actually its the things i got but most of them are in different colors. but thats only the stuff mum got me. did you get those pictures mom sent? we put my monster feet on the dogs. man, nothing interesting has happened lately. except for this one day we went on base and we were eating at the food court. me and (big sis) went to fill up our cups and this chick who looks about (big sis) age (who we noticed behind us in line) comes up and says, "excuse me, um my friend over there thinks your hot," and i thought she was only talking to (big sis) but then she says "both of you and i just wanted to let you know that" and i was just shocked at first. the first thing that came out of my mouth when she turned around was, "IM 13 YEARS OLD!" so then we sit down and tell mom. and i start to unwrap my taco and i say to mom and sis, "you know how to take care of a problem like this?" and i look over in there direction except i couldnt see cuz i didnt have me glasses on and i smile. and then i open my mouth huge and take a huge bite of my taco. meat and sour cream came out the other end and then i was chewing with my mouth open and just looking as gross as possible. oh man. so funny.
Me:Well, I suppose if you're going to wear makeup you'll have to get used to that sort of thing. ;)
Sounds like you can handle it though.
All Mrs G wants for Christmas is a soldier coming home.A bug indeed. I caught it myself, and wrote my own poem at Christmas time that year too.
For those troops that are reading blogs to get closer to home, our thoughts and prayers are with you. We love and miss you.
Come home soon.
I've spent too much on Christmas presents this year,
I think trying to compensate for you not being here,
but out of all those gifts under the tree,
the only gift these kids want is you to come home safe and free.
(Now this didn't start out to be a poem but after the first three lines it had to end as one. I think there's a poetic bug in the blogosphere air)
Tending Distant Fires
Far from hearth and home, watching
Cold alone but not alone
On distant shore and only wanting
Safe return and little more
What tales we'll tell
When that time comes
When tales can be told
When things grim
Seem far away
When other fires go cold
Some distant sunset, vision fading
And tired eyes gaze 'pon folded flags
While distant drums beat their refrain
Saluting fallen friends whose names
And youth will never fade
Here's to those on other shores,
for them live well, the price is paid
-- Iraq, December 2004
...from James Hooker:
I'm offering, to the troops, downloads my new album FREE until 1 Jan. 2007 over at my place. Homemade SinCool stuff, thanks!
Permalink to the post, which I've made a sticky, is HERE.
For those unfamiliar with the man and his music, here's Hooker's Hanging Out With The Boys
Lots more (including Christmas tunes) at Hooker's.
(Our review of January, 2006, is here)
February, 2006 began with some relatively good news:
The death toll among U.S. troops in Iraq dropped back to average levels in December and January after a bloody autumn, and U.S. officials said on Tuesday insurgent attacks have been waning since October.Here we tempered our optimism:
The number of attacks conducted by insurgents has dwindled from more than 700 per week in the first week of October, just before the October 15 referendum on a new Iraqi constitution, to the current level of about 430 per week, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.
This counts all attacks against U.S. and other foreign troops, Iraqi government security forces, civilians and infrastructure targets, Col. Johnson said. Attacks that cause damage or casualties are considered "effective."
"They've had a fairly consistent effectiveness rate of about 24 percent throughout that period," he said.
I'm hopeful, but also inclined to agree with the quoted experts on this one:But, while hardly peaceful, things in Iraq were peaceful enough that at least one Brigade found itself in a sort of limbo in Kuwait, where they awaited further instructions...
"We've seen these cycles of ebb and flow half a dozen times or more since the war began. One can hope that this is a permanent decline, but it's still much too early to reach that conclusion," said defense analyst Ted Carpenter of the Cato Institute think tank.
[Lt. Col. Rich] Anderson said the commanders continue to plan for a range of possible missions that may include bringing the entire brigade or a portion of it into Iraq later this year. Formally, Army officials say the 2nd Brigade should expect to stay in Kuwait for an entire year, serving as a rapid response force for any regional crisis in Iraq.But while Iraq may have been getting safer, America had not.
Senior Airman (Air Force E4) Elio Carrion is a USAF Security Police troop who recently returned from Iraq. On leave in San Bernadino County, California, his welcome home included three rounds from a sheriff's deputy - but we don't mean free drinks.
Carrion was the passenger in a blue Corvette that had led the deputy on a brief high-speed chase Sunday night. The chase ended when the driver crashed into a fence on a residential street. Neither Carrion nor the driver had any weapons, sheriff's officials said.The deputy shot SrA Carrion three times at point blank range...
The sergeant who spoke to Webb shortly after the incident said the deputy had told him that Carrion "tried to get up and lunge" at him. A Chino police officer who also arrived at the scene moments after the shooting said Webb had told him that Carrion "tried to attack" him.
Moments after the shooting, Chino Police Officer Brian Cauble arrived. With his gun drawn, Cauble said, he approached the Corvette to help Webb out.
"The deputy informed me that the passenger had just tried to attack him," Cauble wrote.
San Bernardino Sheriff's Sgt. Richard Swigart, who had monitored the pursuit over the radio, said he arrived just minutes after the shooting. When Swigart asked what happened, "Webb told him he had fired his weapon three times because the subject charged him," according to a summary of Swigart's statement to investigators.
Webb told Swigart he ordered Carrion to stay on the ground but Carrion refused to comply and "tried to get up and lunge" at him, records state.
About three hours after the shooting, as sheriff's investigators gathered evidence and interviewed witnesses, Jose Luis Valdes, one of the neighborhood residents, approached Det. Robert Casas, according to the report.
"How is the guy doing?" Valdes asked the detective, referring to Carrion. Casas replied that he was going to be OK. Valdes then told the detective he had videotaped the incident and invited him into his home to watch it. Casas asked if other investigators could view the tape as well. "Bring them in," Valdes said.
As Casas and five other deputies watched the tape, nobody said a word.
What they saw was SrA Carrion on the ground, pleading with deputy Ivory Webb Jr. "I'm on your side" he told him. Finally, Webb ordered Carrion to get up, then shot him three times as he attempted to comply.
Among other things bleeped out of the above video are Webb's comments to Carrion as he lay bleeding on the ground and moaning in pain: "You mother f-----r! you try to attack me? Shut the f--k up! I'll (garbled) your (garbled) ass!"
Later we learned more about Jose Luis Valdes, the man who captured the shooting on video:
Valdes said the incident was a chilly reminder of his own youth in the Cuban military: After returning home to Havana after two years of fighting in Angola, he said, police severely beat him for visiting a prohibited store.But in the wake of the Carrion shooting, Valdes himself was arrested for an outstanding warrant for assault. His bail was set at $100,000.
Valdes said he and his longtime partner, Grecy Duarte, immigrated to the United States by boat in April 1993, seeking political asylum.
"To see what I saw, I felt like I was there," Valdes said of the altercation outside his home. "I felt like I was the guy; like I was 21 years old once again, that I had just come back from the war.
"I lived through that," Valdes said. "The same thing happened to me in my country."
The life of Valdes, 38, who sells used cars in El Monte, has turned upside down since the shooting. Now he is in jail, away from his family, including two daughters aged 11 and 4.Since then we've failed to follow developments in the story - but getting caught up is one reason why year in review entries are worthwhile.
In April, a police department spokesperson announced the completion of the shooting investigation:
"Once the investigation was complete, we were informed that Deputy Webb no longer worked here," she said.Later:
She did not disclose whether he was fired or he resigned, saying the law prohibits the department from disclosing such information.
A felony charge has been dropped in Miami against the Chino man who videotaped a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy shooting an unarmed Iraq war veteran in January.And
Florida prosecutors dropped the nearly decade-old aggravated assault case against Jose Luis Valdes, 38, who had been scheduled to go to trial this week, in exchange for a guilty plea to a lesser misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.
"I'm really happy that my case has ended," Valdes said by phone from Florida on Thursday. "My family is very happy."
A trial date for Ivory J. Webb Jr., the former sheriff's deputy charged with shooting an unarmed man after a high-speed chase, was set for Jan. 5, 2007.SrA Carrion continues to recover from his wounds.
February's new Iraq war urban legend: Several female service members have died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day due to fear of being raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.
This is absurd for countless reasons - the most obvious being that death by dehydration takes a little longer than a couple hours without fluids, even in the hottest conditions.
But this fabrication has an interesting source: Col. Janis Karpinski, former commander of the unit responsible for torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. And she's found a sympathetic forum in which to tell the story: The "Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration" - a mock trial sponsored by "Not in Our Name", a group originally founded by members of the Revolutionary Communist Party to protest the US-led war in Afghanistan.
Said Karpinski to the judges at the show trial:
Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.Of course, their are a few problems with Karpinski's fantasy. It takes several days to a few weeks for death to occur by this means - if no liquid is ingested at all. At some point prior to that time, someone would have noticed the individual's deteriorating condition and complete inability to function.
It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.
Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition's joint task force said in a briefing that "women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep."
For example, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Sanchez's top deputy in Iraq, saw "dehydration" listed as the cause of death on the death certificate of a female master sergeant in September 2003. Under orders from Sanchez, he directed that the cause of death no longer be listed, Karpinski stated. The official explanation for this was to protect the women's privacy rights.
To believe Karpinski's account you must accept that a mature individual (a master sergeant is an E8 - one rank short of the highest possible rank an enlisted member can achieve) who had achieved a place of great significance and responsibility in the US military had foregone all fluids for several days without anyone noticing her failing health before her death - because she was afraid of being raped (by junior troops or senior officers?) on her way to the latrine at night.
And she also would have had a 9mm at her disposal.
And, oh by the way, no female master sergeants have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
None of which stopped any of her new hard-core leftist pals from believing everything she said.
Karpinski's story had grown from an earlier version she first told to Soldiers for the Truth - the same group who in January had released the secret report on vulnerabilities of American body armor. Ironically, they were also the same group responsible for public release of the now famous photos taken by Karpinski's torture squads at Abu Ghraib.
Speaking of body armor - new side plates were on the way...
Only days after receiving a $70 million order from the Army, Ceradyne of Costa Mesa this week sent its first shipment of ceramic armor side plates to U.S troops in Iraq....to mixed reviews:
The side plates, which augment chest and back plates worn by many soldiers and Marines in Iraq, were ordered by the Army on a no-bid, “urgent and compelling” basis after a report surfaced in early January that Americans were dying from side torso wounds.
“You think about how much of a pain in the neck your maneuvering will be. You will feel like a robot. You will feel like R2D2 in a turret. Forget that junk,” said Winchester, a member of the Savannah-based 118th Field Artillery Regiment Task Force stationed at Al Asad Air Base.Still, many commanders were planning on ordering their troops to wear the additional gear:
Winchester is guarding U.S. supply convoys in the violent Al Anbar Province of western Iraq. He wears the military-issue neck and groin protectors attached to his body armor, but many other soldiers have shed them, saying they hinder mobility.
The Army is sending the new side plates to every soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan starting this month in an effort to shield body parts vulnerable to sniper fire and roadside bombs.
Army officials concede the standard body armor with neck, groin and shoulder protection is already too heavy at 24.1 pounds. A pair of the ceramic side plates — costing $900 – will add seven more pounds. On top of that, soldiers typically carry up to 50 additional pounds of gear into combat.
Cpl. Henry Patterson, 25, a Marine from Stone Mountain, said he definitely will wear the plates if he gets them. Patterson is headed back to Iraq this month...In late January, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were caught in an insurgent attack in Iraq. Fortunately they were wearing armor:
Patterson’s commander, Maj. Eric Young, said he will require them for his troops. Young said he wouldn’t want a Marine’s death weighing on his conscience.
Doctors say the immediate treatment Woodruff and Vogt received in Iraq, and the fact that both were wearing body armor, were crucial in their survival.Details of the attack...
Woodruff, Vogt, and their four-man team were in the lead vehicle traveling in a convoy with Iraqi security forces. They were standing up in the back hatch of their vehicle taping a video log of the patrol at the time of the attack.Reminded us of insurgent target selection training materials we'd seen previously:
(Shoot)... the reporter carrying the camera. First because the camera can be used as binoculars; second, it is the most difficult thing to hide the death of a reporter in Iraq.Meanwhile,
Al Jazeera television broadcast a second videotape of the kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll, and the captors of four members of "Christian Peacemaker Teams" abducted in November renewed their threat to kill the hostages if all Iraqi prisoners were not set free.There's no denying that western reporters travel to Iraq at their own risk.
Reporter Joe Galloway, whose experience in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam led to the book "We Were Soldiers Once, and Young", is no friend of the US administration, nor is he a "supporter" of the Iraq war. But in February he too took that risk of reporting from Iraq:
In some places the news was bad: The insurgents had surged back into rural areas of the Triangle when a unit responsible for the area hunkered down in their outposts and left it to the enemy. Now a successor unit was fighting hard to take the countryside back and was suffering casualties almost every day.Stars and Stripes had additional details on Tal Afar:
In other areas, the news was good: In less than six months Marines of the 2nd Regimental Combat Team in al-Asad and soldiers of the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment have taken back the towns and cities along a broad swath of the western part of Iraq, along the Syrian border. The ability of insurgents to smuggle weapons and foreign fighters through a once unguarded border and mount attacks has fallen.
More than 50 new Iraq border police forts, each with at least two dozen troops, have opened along the border with Syria. With good communications and rapid reaction forces ready to come to their aid, the border police have become more aggressive, the American commanders told me.
In the ancient city of Tal Afar, where insurgents last summer blew up all the Iraqi police stations and drove the police out of town, there is almost an air of peace. New police stations have been built. More than 1,500 policemen are back on duty.
In a region conquered and shaped by a succession of history’s most fearsome armies, this centuries-old city was fast becoming an example of how not to fight a modern- day insurgency.There were other grim signs for the insurgency. Newsweek reported that American officials in Iraq were in face-to-face talks with high-level Iraqi Sunni insurgents. Although "back door" diplomatic efforts had been reported before,
After a sputtering offensive well over a year ago that left few U.S. troops in place to keep the peace, Tal Afar, in northwestern Iraq, soon emerged as a haven for Muslim extremists and Baath Party loyalists who held sway through a campaign of kidnappings, beheadings and assassinations.
“They would order car bombs like it was pizza delivery,” said Maj. Chris Kennedy, executive officer of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. “They’d just pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, we need a car bomb,’ and the car bombers would come in from Syria.”
Today, Tal Afar is a very different and, at least for now, a far more peaceful place. Residents greet U.S. soldiers with smiles and waves, and, in the most significant indication yet of progress here, more than a quarter-million residents in the region turned out for a largely peaceful Dec. 15 parliamentary election.
This marks the first time either Americans or insurgents have admitted that "senior leaders" have met at the negotiating table for planning purposes. "Those who are coming to work with [the U.S.] or come to an understanding with [the U.S.], even if they worked with Al Qaeda in a tactical sense in the past—and I don't know that—they are willing to fight Al Qaeda now," says a Western diplomat in Baghdad who has close knowledge of the discussions.But al Qaeda had a plan, too. And in February we hoped to help increase awareness of it
But Cordesman also depicts an insurgency especially skilled at morphing as necessary to counter advances by its enemies, and consistently successful in exploiting the Arab and foreign media, pushing assorted symbolic "hot buttons," and fostering conspiracy theories that U.S. forces have trouble debunking.Quite a month it already was - and it wasn't over yet.
The insurgents have learned that media reporting on their attacks serves as an indicator of their success and has taught them which high-profile targets to go after in the future. Cordesman calls these attacks "weapons of mass media."
Even so, Cordesman wrote, the insurgency has little of permanence to show for its efforts.
"Much of its activity consists of bombings of soft civilian targets, designed largely to provoke a more intense civil war or halt the development of an effective Iraqi government, rather than progress towards control at even the local level," he wrote.
In the blogosphere news seems to be "old" after about 15 minutes. But here at Mudville, we think the passage of time often reveals even more about a story than was immediately clear when it was new. With that in mind, it's time to take a look back at the year that was, as we reported it here. Like me, you might rediscover some forgotten stories here, or see some that you can't believe are already a year old. You might even find something you missed the first time around, back in January, 2006.
Let's start with a tip of the hat to the New York Times, who in that month published what may be the only accurate casualty report in the history of US media coverage of the Iraq war:
Of 16,472 wounded, 7,625 were listed as unable to return to duty within 72 hours.Most stories simply cite "x thousand casualties" (or "x thousand maimed") without explaining that most "victims" were back on duty a few hours later.
Amputations are a feature of war, but the number from Iraq - 345 as of Jan. 3, including 59 who had lost more than one limb - led the Army to open a new amputation center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio in addition to the existing center at Walter Reed. Amputees get the latest technology, including $50,000 prosthetic limbs with microchips.
One of the reasons casualties in Iraq are so low is body armor - unprecedented advances in procurement and logistics ensured that gear was available to all troops in country. While to this day you'll still hear about GIs sent to war without proper equipment, when the Army tried to compensate those many troops who reportedly had purchased their own, very few took the offer.
Just 29 Army soldiers have sought reimbursement so far for body armor and other equipment they bought to protect themselves on the front lines.So the narration had to change slightly: "If everyone has armor, it's not good enough."
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton claims that hundreds of U.S. soldiers may have died "needlessly" in Iraq because of inadequate body armor and wants the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold hearings into the safety of the standard armored vests issued to troops.The Armed Services Committee did hold hearings - but prior commitments kept Senator Clinton from attending. She didn't really start the fire on this one, however. This (then-) new version of the armor uproar began when the organization Soldiers for the Truth obtained and released a copy of a classified military report detailing the vulnerabilities of the body armor (it doesn't protect every square inch of the wearer's flesh). The story was the biggest of the day in January 2006, and while now all but forgotten, the subsequent increase in successful sniper killings of US troops has been well covered.
For a lot of reasons, I still believe everyone could use better earplugs.
In fairness, this may be one reason so few opted to seek reimbursement for gear purchased on their own dime:
Nearly three-fourths of military reservists called to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq are taking home more money on duty than in their civilian jobs, according to a study on military pay released Wednesday.Earlier stories on Guard and Reserve troops tended to focus on the hardships they suffered due to pay cuts experienced when switching from their civilian jobs to full time military duty. But by the end of the year politicians would grab headlines by claiming that only (or at least "disproportionate numbers" of) the poor and uneducated joined the military.
The National Guard Bureau, the Pentagon office that administers the Guard, issued a statement outlining a turnaround in recruiting and predicting that it would continue to rise this year. In the last quarter of 2005, the Guard signed up 13,466 recruits, above its goal of 12,605. It was the first time since 1993 that the Guard exceeded its goal in that period.The if hot story in 2005 was recruiting shortfalls - the overlooked story was this
Army re-enlistments in 2005 were the highest they've been in five years, with more than 69,500 soldiers choosing to continue their service, the Secretary of the Army said here yesterday.
But this story pushed that one to the back pages:
Senator Jack Reed today joined former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry in a press conference for the release of the report "The US Military: Under Strain and at Risk."Speaking of John Murtha - he had his own story to tell - and it, too, pushed the realities of military recruiting and retention out of the news:
The report is a damning analysis of the effects of Bush Administration policies on our nation's military. By failing to adequately plan for post-conflict Iraq, failing to send enough forces to accomplish the mission with an acceptable level of risk, and failing to adequately equip the Americans sent into harm's way, the Bush Administration has put our ground troops under enormous strain that, if not soon relieved, will have "highly-corrosive and potentially long-term effects on the force."
"For months, Congressman John Murtha and others have warned about the impact of the war in Iraq on our military, particularly our ground forces. The report prepared by Secretary Perry, Secretary Albright, and their colleagues supports these warnings and identifies the serious problems our military faces in recruiting, retention, and equipment readiness," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
"Would you join (the military) today?," he was asked in an interview taped on Friday.In spite of his efforts to reverse the trend, 2006 recruiting goals would be met.
"No," replied Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees defense spending and one of his party's leading spokesmen on military issues.
"And I think you're saying the average guy out there who's considering recruitment is justified in saying 'I don't want to serve'," the interviewer continued.
"Exactly right," said Murtha.
But January was also the month Mr Murtha would get a bit of a surprise. He appeared at an anti-war "town hall" event organized by fellow representative Jim Moran. The two spent their time repeating the oft-reported mantra of Iraq - not enough armor, poor training, troops aren't getting medical care, only poor people join the army... in what they thought was a friendly environment. And as usual after such events, members of anti-war "veterans groups" (most are comprised of a mix of real and false veterans - more on that later) brought in for the purpose stood and praised their courage. But this time a surprise was in store. An actual local veteran was in the audience too - and he made his way to the microphone...
"Yes sir my name is Mark Seavey and I just want to thank you for coming up here. Until about a month ago I was Sgt Mark Seavey infantry squad leader, I returned from Afghanistan. My question to you, (applause)Our story on Sgt Seavey spread through the blogosphere, to talk radio, and on to television. But another veteran in attendance that night drew less attention.
"Like yourself I dropped out of college two years ago to volunteer to go to Afghanistan, and I went and I came back. If I didn't have a herniated disk now I would volunteer to go to Iraq in a second with my troops, three of which have already volunteered to go to Iraq. I keep hearing you say how you talk to the troops and the troops are demoralized, and I really resent that characterization. (applause) The morale of the troops that I talk to is phenomenal, which is why my troops are volunteering to go back, despite the hardships they had to endure in Afghanistan.
"And Congressman Moran, 200 of your constituents just returned from Afghanistan. We never got a letter from you; we never got a visit from you. You didn't come to our homecoming. The only thing we got from any of our elected officials was one letter from the governor of this state thanking us for our service in Iraq, when we were in Afghanistan. That's reprehensible. I don't know who you two are talking to but the morale of the troops is very high."
Moran - who is one of the few congressmen supporting Charlie Rangel's call to restore the draft - responded quickly: "That wasn't in the form of a question, it was in the form of a statement. But, uhh... let's go over here." And he took the next question.
Just before the end of the meeting, Vietnam veteran General Louis C. Wagner spoke on behalf of a friend who had been ignored by the congressman. Unfortunately Murtha had excused himself and departed a few minutes prior.
Hello Mr Moran I'm General Wagner. I'm here tonight, I decided to come at 7:30. And I'll tell you the reason I came at 7:30 is because I want an answer to a letter, to a friend of ours. She wrote this letter to Mr. Murtha, where she pointed out to him that he was causing the insurgents to bring more activity against the soldiers in Iraq, just as the traitors did during the Vietnam war. I was fighting in 1972 with the Vietnamese when people were cavorting with the North Vietnamese.Elsewhere, other surviving family members of the fallen were ignored, too:
Her son was killed today.
I got the message at 7:30 tonight, and I'll tell you, I wasn't going to waste my time coming here because I knew the trash that was going to be put out. But I'm really mad. Because what is being put out is being used to incite the insurgents to continue this war, just as it incited General Giap to consider the Vietnam war.
He hasn't answered her letter, Mr Moran, but I want to read a paragraph to you. I think its a little instructive:
"I have faith in our military leaders and believe that they are making the necessary steps to train the Iraqi forces and provide for our eventual withdrawal. I also have faith in our executive branch, that they are taking the necessary steps to help the new Iraqi government to get a democratic style government in place and to give them at least a chance of success. Although mistakes were made in the execution of the war and its aftermath, the goal itself is worthy, and in spite of all the negativity that we are constantly bombarded with I believe that there have been some remarkable successes.
"Although my son would surely" - and this, incidentally, this is the one that was killed today - "would surely prefer to stay home with his wife and four young children" - from 10 to 2, I'm adding that - "he is both a soldier and a scholar, he understands that we are in a vital long term struggle against a dangerous ideology, and he is willing to make the necessary sacrifices to defeat it. It is a difficult struggle and will require patience and fortitude both on and off the battlefield. If we lose our will at home, it makes the task for our soldiers all the more difficult. I believe your comments were irresponsible and are contributing to the loss of national will. If they were made to obtain political advantages I would find that abhorrent and unworthy of a former Marine."
Sir, I'm mad. Because that is happening every day when I read the newspapers. I visit Walter Reed, and talk to the young soldiers with their legs blown off. I know you do too.
I can't find one in a dozen that don't believe that they are fighting for a noble cause and are fighting to go back. And I think it's a disgrace when members of our congress, just as they did in 1975 when they sold out the South Vietnamese, are selling out our soldiers today in Iraq.
Thank you sir. (no applause)
Moran stumbled to respond, but eventually began reciting talking points, noting that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11:
Well... uh... Ge.. General... uh.. uh.. we're not gonna end... uh... I'll respond.
But..., um... I.. I do respect your point of view, I know it is widely shared. Uhh... and, um..., and I respect your service in the military.
Uhhh.. I do support the troops, and I do believe that the best way for me to support the troops is to make sure that when they do go to war its a war that needs to be fought. Uh... I... (applause) I... In response to the first two... I don't want the applause, because its going to be interpreted that I'm appealing to the audience. But the, uh... with regard to having faith in the troops I do have faith in our troops, and... uh... but with regard to having faith in uhh... the government that sent them, I don't, and the reason I don't is because they deliberately... is because the reasons that we were giving... given to go to war in Iraq were not accurate, uhhh, and, um, uh, and uh we have now found that Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction, there wasn't reliable evidence that he did. He was not a threat to the United States despite any number of attempts in any number of speeches to uhhh... tie Saddam Hussein to the attacks of 9/11 he had nothing to do with it. So our going into Iraq was not in response to any attack, or even real threat to the United States, and it seems to me it uhh... it failed on that and any number of other reasons for being a war that was of necessity.
Few readers here will forget Robert Stokely's moving tribute to his son Mike. Shortly after we published that the Washington Post ran a piece titled "A Life, Wasted" written by the father of a Marine who was killed in Iraq.It wasn't just "big media" that shoved the troops and their families aside. A socialist "for the troops" website ignored a request for removal from a soldier whose photograph they had appropriated for their own use. We'd meet them again later in the year.
At the time I recall thinking of the contrast between the two stories - and their placement. Probably nothing better defines the divide between the old guard media and the blogs - I would have published either story here. (In fact, a link to the Washington Post story was included in that day's Dawn Patrol.) But apparently the Post is a bit more choosy in what they present.
It seems Mr Stokely saw that Washington Post column too, and submitted his story to them. They rejected it, explaining "we rarely publish pieces that have been published elsewhere or have been widely circulated." That criteria having been met here, it would seem.
In the USA, January meant election year was getting under way...
President Bush prepares for next week's State of the Union address, he faces widespread discontent over his job performance and the nation's direction that could threaten his party in the 2006 election, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.But...
In the survey, 43% of Americans said they approved of Bush's performance as president — his weakest showing ever in a Times poll.
Just 36% expressed a favorable opinion of congressional Democrats, whereas 45% viewed them unfavorably. That's statistically the same as the showing for congressional Republicans, who were viewed favorably by 38% and unfavorably by 44%.Republicans probably felt a bit confident back then.
But other measures point toward a continuing Bush advantage on security questions. When asked who could do a better job of protecting the nation against terrorism, 45% picked Bush, whereas 32% chose congressional Democrats. Independents give Bush a decisive 19-percentage-point edge.
Similarly, 52% said Bush's policies had made the nation more secure, whereas 21% said he had left the nation less secure — and 25% said he had made no difference.
Although not up for re-election, Senator John Kerry had a comeback plan. Although this was on his campaign website in 2004...
In light of the unacceptable statement about the death of Americans made by Daily Kos, we have removed the link to this blog from our website. As John Kerry said in a statement earlier this week, “My deepest sympathies are with the families of those lost today. Americans know that all who serve in Iraq - soldier and civilian alike - do so in an effort to build a better future for Iraqis. These horrific attacks remind us of the viciousness of the enemies of Iraq’s future. United in sadness, we are also united in our resolve that these enemies will not prevail.”In January, 2005 he published his first essay on that very same Daily Kos.
I’m glad I can be a part of this – and frankly I’m not worried about taking some slings and arrows along the way. I’ve faced worse!
Meanwhile, back in Iraq...
Interesting developments in Anbar Province:
Ramadi's Sunnis have formed a provincial security council of local leaders, and at least one key sheik has expressed regret publicly for having allowed into the local anti-U.S. resistance such extremist elements as al Qaeda in Iraq.Residents of the area were turning against al Qaeda. In the Arab media this would be depicted as exactly that...
The Anbar tribes’ campaign to rid the province of Zarqawi’s terror organization, al-Qaeda in Iraq is in its 2nd day and so far, 270 Arab and foreign intruders have been arrested.In the U.S. media, reports would explain that insurgents were fighting among themselves:
In Ramadi, in western Iraq, he said, armed clashes have erupted between local Iraqi insurgents and al-Qaeda operatives in recent months. At least one high-ranking al-Qaeda member, Abu Khatab, was recently run out of Ramadi by insurgents loyal to the local tribe.Things weren't looking too good for al Qaeda in Iraq. Following three elections in 2005, negotiations on the formation of the nation's new government were getting under way. As with John Kerry, drastic measures would be needed to turn the situation around.
In book news...
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria secretly incited Iraq's top Shia leader to declare holy war against US and British forces, according to Washington's former administrator in the country.And that was January in Mudville. Eleven more to go...
In his new book, My Year in Iraq, Paul Bremer said he heard the explosive intelligence in October 2003 as sectarian tensions soared across the country following the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The report came from an extremely senior source, the supreme leader of Iraq's majority Shia community, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Beginning with February, and that starts right here.
(And 12 next year. Hey, somebody's gotta do it!)
Back when we were in Germany, Mrs G would often cook up a huge pot of soup to take to the wounded troops recovering in the Landstuhl neighborhood. Yes, they had chow hall food available, but it turned out they appreciated the home cooking from time to time too. (Once she singlehandedly did an Easter Dinner for 40 - but that's another story.)
It didn't hurt that the soup was awesome. Now her recipe has been included in Blogalicious - a collection of recipes contributed by bloggers. Now, obviously Mrs G doesn't need a cookbook (he said, by way of maintaining household harmony) so I'm going to buy this one for myself.
On a related note, the lady who actually runs the whole Soldier's Angels Germany show could use your kind thoughts and prayers right about now.
When I saw this was available I put it on my Christmas list. Never thought its would be released, but here it is.
I'm going to get it, too. Somebody in the family bought it for me. Know how I know? Amazon just ruined the surprise for me. I clicked over to the page to see if it had actually been released (it has now - it was delayed a week) and right at the top of the item description page it said: Instant Order Update for Greyhawk. You purchased this item on December 13, 2006.
I've never been one to peek under the wraper to see what my presents were. I don't even check the gift tags on the boxes under the tree to see which ones are mine. Anyhow, thought I'd better pass on this warning* to anyone who orders Christmas gifts via Amazon - don't do it on a computer the recipient will use.
And BTW, whoever at Amazon thought that spoiler was a great idea should be fired. (Or at least lose their Christmas bonus this year.)
*Or, I suppose this hint for those who can't resist searching all over the house for their Christmas gifts.
Via email, the latest news from Haider Ajina:
The following is my translation of a headline and article, which appeared in Iraq's ‘Buratha News’ on December 14th.
‘Iraqi forces ready to take over security responsibility in Nejaf province’
'Colonel Ahmed Hussein Abdullah commander of Iraqi security forces in Nejaf province said that the Iraqi security forces are ready to receive full responsibility of security operations in Nejaf province, from the multinational forces. He added, ‘The governor of Nejaf province Mr. Asaad Sultan Abu-Kellal visited the USA consulate in Babylon province to prepare for the final steps to transfer security to our forces’. The Colonel pointed out the strong coordination between Nejaf police and the Iraqi Army in the province. The province is enjoying excellent security due to this mutual coordination.
'The Colonel spoke about a new police brigade for the city of Hillah, which will protect the city and all the new police stations to be opened throughout the province. This is in addition to Theqar Brigade (under command of the interior ministry) and Saqer (Falcon) brigade (under command of the Iraqi Army), both assigned to Nejaf province.
'Dr. Ali Aldabagh spokes person for the Iraqi government said, on Thursday, that security responsibility for Nejaf will be transferred to Iraqi forces from multi national forces on December 20. Dr. Ali Aldabagh added, in a conference held at the conventions palace in Baghdad, ‘Nejaf province is experiencing calm and security because of the presence of Iraqi security forces. This situation facilitates the transfer of security to Iraqis'.
Our military has obviously done a good job training Iraqi security forces in Nejaf province. It is one of the calmest provinces with economic activity booming and constantly improving health care etc… Alqaida and the Baathists have extreme difficulty killing Iraqis or setting off bombs in this province. Because of that, sectarian strife is almost nonexistent in Nejaf. Sunnis, Shiites, Sunni Kurds and Christians live in peace and harmony in this province. This situation is mirrored in Kurdistan (the Kurdish provinces in northern Iraq).
Sectarian violence and strife is prevalent in what is called the Sunni Triangle. This is because Alqaida and the former Baathists (mostly Sunnis) are killing innocent civilians, evicting Shiites from Sunni areas, setting bombs in Shiite neighborhoods and market areas. This is then met with reprisal attacks by Shiite militia. Alqaida and the Baathist terrorists are further supported by the ‘Association of Muslim Scholars’ (except for its Basra Chapter which broke ranks last week by denouncing the killing of Shiites and all Iraqis) who appears to be the political arm of Alqaida and the Baathists. These activities further undermine the elected Iraqi government and weaken it. We must decide who our enemy is and who is our friend in Iraq. Most of the attacks against our military in Iraq are carried out by the former Baathists, Alqaida in Iraq, and their sympathizers. These groups are also causing most of the casualties amongst Iraqi civilians. Our continued sympathy with the representatives of the ‘Association of Muslim Scholars’, due to our Ambassador’s Sunni bias, is hurting our mission, not helping it. Our ambassador Khalil Zad (Strong Sunni separatist) is scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of the month. If you look back, you will notice that much of the escalation in violence in Iraq started shortly after Khalil Zad took over as our ambassador from Negroponte (summer of 2005). Perhaps we will see a decline in violence once our new ambassador takes over and, hopefully, calls for stronger support of our friends and stronger challenge of our enemies. Iraqi papers report that Ryan Crocker, who is our ambassador to Pakistan, will take over our embassy in Baghdad.
A quick test to see if you know what you think you know.
As of 30 September 2006,
1. How many U.S. troops (Army, Navy, USAF, Marines, Coast Guard - Active Duty, Guard and Reserve) have deployed in support of OEF and OIF?
Of that number, what percentage were
2. Guard or Reserve?
3. Army and Marine Corps (Active, Guard, and Reserve) members deployed whose primary specialty is/was "infantry"?
5. Killed in hostile action?
Answers here (a popup will appear).
Numbers are from the Defense Department's Contingency Tracking System, as reported in the Army Times.
The Times' coverage adds that
According to the data, compiled monthly by the Defense Department, 24 percent of soldiers who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan have gone more than once. Air Force numbers show that 42 percent of the 287,632 airmen ever deployed have gone more than once. Standard deployments for airmen are four months, compared to 12 months for soldiers.
Of the 169,558 Marines ever deployed, 34 percent have served more than once, while 30 percent of the 263,160 sailors deployed have done multiple tours.
Pajamas Media notes they've been "ripped off" on a story. A valid complaint - welcome to the club.
In the past year (off the top of my head without actually searching for more examples) Mudville has broken - as in discovered and first reported the key facts - stories on a letter from the Mayor of Tal Afar, a confrontation between an Iraq war vet and two rabid anti-war congressmen, and al Qaeda's plan for a media invasion of America - all of which found their way into the mainstream media - print and television.
The only "credit" given this humble site comes as oblique references to "reports circulating on the internat" or "internet sites are reporting"- even though in some of those cases I've even responded to reporters and put them in touch with key figures in the story.
Two of those stories ultimately were quoted at higher levels, too.
The odd thing is that by my own choice, even if Greyhawk was acknowledged for those few contributions, the "real me" - the guy who puts on a uniform and goes off to do the humdrum tasks of a real GI Joe, wouldn't acknowledge that. I think I understand how Spider Man must feel.
But with or without hyperlinks, It's good to see those stories told.
Bill Roggio encounters hostility in a war zone:
In nearly every conversation, the soldiers, Marines and contractors expressed they were upset with the coverage of the war in Iraq in general, and the public perception of the daily situation on the ground. The felt the media was there to sensationalize the news, and several stated some reporters were only interested in "blood and guts." They freely admitted the obstacles in front of them in Iraq. Most recognized that while we are winning the war on the battlefield, albeit with difficulties in some areas, we are losing the information war. They felt the media had abandoned them.
During each conversation, I was left in the awkward situation of having to explain that while, yes, I am wearing a press badge, I'm not 'one of them.' I used descriptions like 'independent journalist' or 'blogger' in an attempt to separate myself from the pack.
What a terrible situation to be in, having to defend yourself because of your profession. I've always said that the hardest thing about embedding (besides leaving my family) is wearing the badge that says 'PRESS.' That hasn't changed. I hide the badge whenever I can get away with it.
Read the whole thing.
Bill also mentions encountering a Marine who was "furious over the characterization of the Devlin report on Anbar province." That's a valid complaint.
Last week the WaPo began their coverage of the Devlin report with this:
The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report......but shortly after acknowledged a key point (without explaining why it was key):
The Marines' August memo, a copy of which was shared with The Washington Post, is far bleaker than some officials suggested when they described it in late summer.
Of course, in the months between the writing of the report and its publication in the Post, the formation of the Anbar Salvation Council and its declaration of war on al Qaeda and its allies gained the group support from the Iraqi government and coalition forces. This had changed the Anbar situation fundamentally and significantly - to the point where the Devlin memo was without current significance. ("Overcome by events" - or simply "OBE" as we say in the military.)
But since the WaPo has never seen fit to report any of that news, the Devlin report may have seemed like news to them.
Professor Reynolds' has a creative writing assignment for the 'sphere:
So can the blogosphere do better? I'm going to try a blog symposium on Iraq, Iran, and Syria. I want some new ideas -- beyond "cut and run" or "stay the course" -- on things we're not doing that we should be doing.In this case "submission" is probably the wrong word...
Is it a good idea? You tell me. And add some other ideas of your own. Put "Iraq Symposium" in the subject line, and add a link to your blog entry. I'll pull them together in two or three days.
Another observation from Glenn:
In fact, it seems as if Donald Rumsfeld, judging by his classified memo thoughtfully leaked to the New York Times, remains more open to new ideas than many of his critics, who often seem stuck in 1968.Which, I think, is accurate. Rumsfeld's memo did present some concepts beyond those bandied about thus far (in public, at least). But this symposium is a good chance for a lot of folks who are smarter than Rummy to prove it.
And the timing is good to. Get your ideas out there before the Baker Committee does and you can be hailed as revolutionary rather than reactionary. (Just think - if this had been available before the invasion we could have been ready for the insurgency!)
Don't have your own blog? Leave your idea in the comments here. Maybe they'll find their way into the discussion.
In a meeting with us this afternoon, the A.P.’s executive editor, Kathleen Carroll, said again, passionately, “We have done everything we know how to do” to respond to the questions.Insisting that their witness exists by "vigorously re-reporting" the same thing is apparently the limit - proving his existence is out of the question.
The executive editor of The Associated Press, Kathleen Carroll, in a meeting in her office Friday afternoon, explained that the agency had already done all it could to respond to the uncertainties by vigorously re-reporting the article, and suggested that to engage these questions — to continue to write about them — merely fueled a mad blog rabble that would never be satisfied.Until offered actual proof, that is. But it is interesting to see that the NY Times is asking questions.
They also checked with their own reporter, Ed Wong, who replied as follows.
Hi Tom,Now, if I read that correctly he's saying "It seemed very likely to be a bogus story, so we only mentioned it in passing." Remember that rule from the style book the next time you see something mentioned "in passing" in the New York Times.
You ask me about what our own reporting shows about this incident. When we first heard of the event on Nov. 24, through the A.P. story and a man named Imad al-Hashemi talking about it on television, we had our Iraqi reporters make calls to people in the Hurriya neighborhood. Because of the curfew that day, everything had to be done by phone. We reached several people who told us about the mosque attacks, but said they had heard nothing of Sunni worshippers being burned alive. Any big news event travels quickly by word of mouth through Baghdad, aided by the enormous proliferation of cell phones here. Such an incident would have been so abominable that a great many of the residents in Hurriya, as well as in other Sunni Arab districts, would have been in an uproar over it. Hard-line Sunni Arab organizations such as the Muslim Scholars Association or the Iraqi Islamic Party would almost certainly have appeared on television that day or the next to denounce this specific incident. Iraqi clerics and politicians are not shy about doing this. Yet, as far as I know, there was no widespread talk of the incident. So I mentioned it only in passing in my report.
To his credit, he did include a cautionary disclaimer for careful readers in his original story:
Fanned by fear, rumors spread quickly throughout the day. In the evening, a resident named Imad al-Hashemi said in a telephone interview on Al Jazeera, the Arab news network, that gunmen had doused some people with gasoline and set them on fire. Other residents contacted by telephone denied this.But why worry about 6 people burned alive, when he'd already claimed this a few paragraphs prior:
From morning until afternoon, at least four mosques were attacked in Hurriya, a mixed neighborhood in the capital. Two were destroyed, and at least 5 Sunnis were killed and 10 wounded, an Interior Ministry official said. A hard-line Sunni Arab group, the Muslim Scholars Association, said 18 people had been killed when one of the mosques burned down.Apparently a separate incident from the "6 Sunnis burned alive" claim - and one with no quotes from neighbors to support or dispute it, something admittedly within Ed's ability to deliver. As I've noted before, 18 is more than 6, and a "burned down" mosque is relatively easy enough to verify. Given Ed's passion for balanced reporting, it's unfortunate he failed to at least note the well known connection between the Association of Muslim Scholars and al Qaeda - opting instead for the ambiguous "hard line" descriptor. And yes, this is the same group that claimed 184 Sunni mosques had been attacked within hours of the Shrine bombing (and that now appears to be rupturing after their leader fled Iraq). Ed Wong reported their claims as fact back then, too - and declared that plans for the formation of Iraq's government were "in ruins". Small wonder if he harbors grudges against that government now.
Meanwhile, Tom Zeller, who wrote the Time blog items quoted above, notes in a longer article on the topic
It is important to find out if this really happened in order to separate the hyperbole from the merely horrible in Iraq, so that the horrible will still have meaning. Otherwise it will all become din.And that is indeed the substance of the problem. In fact, it's likely that Americans, if confronted with an endless series of unsubstantiated horror stories from Iraq reported as fact - on top of the real death and destruction accompanying war - might even sooner give up altogether, start saying things like "we'll never be able to stop those people from killing each other" and insisting the troops come home now. (Note to NY Times readers: I'm using sarcasm in the previous line.)
But if the NY Times is serious about accurate reporting from Iraq, they might want to start examining the work of their own man on the scene, who's never met an unsubstantiated rumor of atrocity he found unfit to print.
The latest news from Iraq's second largest city, via email from Haider Ajina:
The following is my translation of a headline and article, which appeared in Iraq's “Alsabah” & “Aswat Al-Iraq” of November 30th.
‘Basra’s Sunni religious leaders issue a Fatwa banning killing Shiites or belonging to extremist or terrorist groups’.
'Sunni leaders in Basra representing, Party of Islam, Muslim Scholars Association, The Sunni Endowment and heads of Sunni tribes, issued a Fatwa (religious opinion or edict) banning and forbidding the spilling of Shiite blood or joining any terrorist or extremist organization. The Fatwa also called for the rebuilding of the Asqariah shrine in Samarah.
Sheik Abd Al-Karim Jerad (Sunni), head of the ‘Party of Islam’, said, in a press release on Wednesday, ‘All Sunni religious references in Basra had a conference on Tuesday and issued a unanimous Fatwa (religious opinion) forbidding and banning the spilling of all Iraqi blood (Sunni or Shiite) and all other sects’. He pointed out that this Fatwa reinforces ones from the past issue by these same groups. He added, ‘the Fatwa also forbad and banned joining any extremist or terrorist groups, for they are the source of the rancor. The Fatwa also stipulated the speeding up of rebuilding the Asqariah shrines in Samara. We are calling for the unity of citizens legally and nationally. I call on the Basra security forces to fulfill full security, pursue criminals, extremists and terrorists’. He added that Multi National forces should leave in accordance to a timetable and give the country full independence. Jerad then said,’ while this Fatwa came in response and solidarity with Muqtada Alsadar’s request, it also came to reinforce earlier Fatwas issued by these same groups.’
Muqtada Alsadar had asked, in his Friday sermon, Sheik Hareth Althari (chairman of the Muslim Scholars) to denounce the spilling of Shiite blood and stand against extremist organizations. This brought about the Fatwa, which was signed by nine Sunni scholars.
Basra (Iraq’s second largest city) being much more peaceful than Baghdad, is taking the lead in uniting Shiite and Sunni against the terrorist who are trying to tear them apart. Sadly, though a high-ranking member of the ‘Sunni Endowment’ was assassinate late Thursday with two of his guards. This is the price courageous people pay in Iraq if they denounce sectarianism and extremisms. The extremist or “Baath–Alqaida” will go after courageous leaders such as these. The reasons for this are obvious, they want the instability to continue, democracy and the rule of law to fail and wait us out.
This is the second time in as many days that Sunnis in Basra are showing solidarity with their Shiite brethren and distancing themselves from the Baathists and Alqaida and its extremist ilk. I hope other provinces will join this trend.
Along with other under-reported news from Iraq...
Now that the leader of the Muslim Scholars Association has fled the country, other members of the group are signaling they might be ready for compromise. The LA Times offers a rare "good news" story from Iraq:
BAGHDAD — With sectarian violence reaching new extremes, some Sunni Muslim clerics are breaking with the most militant factions in their sect and reaching out to Shiite clergy in an effort to pull Iraq back from the abyss.There's not much deep background in the (still most welcome) Times piece, so if you haven't been following the storyline, this might be a good starting point. Back-links should tell you all you need to know. If you have been following, you'll know that fractures in the Association of Muslim Scholars, following on the heels of the Anbar Tribes commitment to battle al Qaeda, are a hopeful signal. (And that an American media outlet even hinting that the group is tied to terrorists in Iraq is, too - see second quoted paragraph above - but that's another story altogether.)
Some members of the Muslim Scholars Assn., which has acted as a broker between Western officials and members of the country's Sunni-driven insurgency, worry that their group has done little more than clasp hands before television cameras with their Shiite counterparts and issue joint appeals for calm.
"The Muslim Scholars Assn. so far has not participated in any real, effective negotiations," said Sheik Mahmoud Sumaidaie, a senior member who preaches at the organization's Baghdad headquarters, the Umm Qura Mosque.
Sumaidaie said more than 70 clerics across Iraq want to form a new religious council that can unite all Sunni factions and open a channel of communication with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's most revered Shiite cleric. Without it, he said, "we will never be able to stop the bloodshed in Iraq."
Now back to this one:
In defiance of national leaders, Sunni clerics representing the association in Basra, Nasiriya, Amarah and Samawah issued religious edicts Wednesday banning the killing of all Iraqis, supporting reconstruction of a revered Shiite shrine and disavowing "any terrorist organization targeting the innocent blood of our people."For balance, the Times includes an interview with Harith Dhari, leader (or perhaps "former leader"?) of the Muslim Scholars Association who recently fled Iraq for Jordan:
After consulting local political and tribal leaders, the southern branch went ahead and issued its fatwa, or edict, including a specific ban on killing Shiites, language others have so far avoided.
"We did this to please God and our conscience," Abdalrazaq said. "We hope that we will be able to apply this fatwa to the reality on the ground, as it gives us a chance to live side by side with our brother, the Shiites, in the south."
Sumaidaie, the Baghdad cleric, said support for a more moderate approach extended across Iraq, though he refused to supply names, citing concern for members' safety.
He said that the Muslim Scholars Assn. had become too closely identified with the insurgency and that he had been working for three months to help form a new, strictly religious body that he hoped could unify all Sunnis in Iraq.
Sadr demanded that Harith Dhari, the leader of the Muslim Scholars Assn. who is wanted on charges of inciting terrorism, issue edicts forbidding the killing of Shiites, banning participation in the group Al Qaeda in Iraq and supporting reconstruction of the Samarra shrine.Haider Ajina brought us a translated version of this story from the Iraqi media, too.
Dhari said he had already repeatedly denounced the killing of any Muslim and did not see the need to do so again. "Why is Sadr saying it now? Is he trying to provoke a problem?" Dhari asked The Times in a rare interview with a Western newspaper this week in neighboring Jordan.
He sidestepped the question of whether he is prepared to denounce Al Qaeda in Iraq, which is blamed for some of the deadliest attacks against the Shiite-led government and civilians.
That's the good news. But dig deep enough into the Times' bad news story on Iraq and you'll find the hidden gold there also. Although the two developments aren't connected by the Times, this is probably the main reason the "Scholars" association is talking peace - the latest on the "Sunni-vs-Sunni civil war" in al Anbar:
In Al Anbar, Iraq's Sunni heartland, members of the Al Anbar Salvation Council, a Sunni tribal militia, battled suspected Al Qaeda fighters north of Fallouja and in Ramadi. An Iraqi police official in the Fallouja suburb of Garma said militiamen killed 15 Al Qaeda members. Five council fighters were killed.Here's a previous story on this topic, too. The US has most definitely taken sides in this one.
"The capability of the security forces has increased with the assistance of the tribes," said Brig. Gen. Hamid Shouka, Ramadi's police chief. "We have started to take over important responsibilities and missions that are having a great impact on Al Qaeda. In the coming days, we will hit them in Fallouja, Hit and Haditha until we eradicate them all."
These aren't the big, front page headline stories they should be, but it's good to see them being told.
But there's plenty of other news from Iraq that doesn't "make the papers"; for that we'll turn to CENTCOM:
BAGHDAD, Iraq — The Central Criminal Court of Iraq, between November 10th to the 23rd convicted 41 individuals for variety of crimes including possession of illegal weapons, possessing false civil affair identifications, failure to renew resident identification and illegal border crossing.
The trial court found an Iraqi man guilty of participating in terrorist activities and attacking Iraqi Forces and Multi-National Forces in violation of Article 4/1 of the anti-terrorist laws. MNF apprehended the defendant during a targeted raid. The defendant confessed to participating in the video production of the Merez dining facility bombing that killed 18 MNF servicemembers and wounded another 30. On November 13, 2006 the trial panel found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to death.
The trial court found a Sudanese man guilty of violating Article 24/ Residency / Entering Iraqi Border Illegally. MNF apprehended the defendant in a targeted raid to disrupt anti-Iraqi Forces and anti-MNF elements. The defendant admitted to entering Iraq for terrorist purposes. On November 14, 2006 the trial panel sentenced him to life imprisonment.
The trial court found an Iraqi man guilty of possession of illegal special weapons in violation of Order 3/2003, Section 6, Paragraph 2B. MNF apprehended the defendant in a white vehicle parked outside of a targeted compound. A search of the defendant revealed one grenade and one pistol. On November 13, 2006 the trial panel sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment.
The trial court found an Iraqi man guilty of possession of illegal special weapons in violation of Order 3/2003, Section 6, Paragraph 2B. MNF apprehended the defendant after taking fire from his vehicle. The defendant tried to flee in his vehicle. A search of the vehicle revealed a large cache of weapons as well as IED making materials. On November 15, 2006 the trial panel sentenced the defendant to 15 years imprisonment.
The trial court found four Iraqi men guilty of possession of illegal special weapons, in violation of Order 3/2003 Section 6, Paragraph 2B. MNF were conducting a vehicle patrol in Fallujah and observed a vehicle operating suspiciously. MNF stopped the vehicle and searched it. All four defendants were in the vehicle. When MNF began the search, one defendant attempted to flee. The vehicle search revealed a large weapons cache. On November 20, 2006, the trial panel sentenced the four men to 15 years imprisonment.
The trial court found a Saudi Arabian man guilty of violation of Article 10/1 of the Iraq Passport Law. MNF apprehended the defendant in Anbar for attempting to set an ambush for MNF using AK-47’s. On November 20, 2006 the trial panel sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment.
The trial court found three Iraqi brothers guilty of possession of illegal special weapons in violation of Order 3/2003, Section 6, Paragraph 2/A. MNF received information that this targeted house had an unmanned aerial view (UAV) camera for sale that was obtained from a UAV that had crashed. All three defendants were in the house when it was raided. A search of the house revealed a large weapons cache, sections of the UAV and anti-MNF propaganda. On November 21, 2006 the trial panel sentenced all three defendants to 15 years each imprisonment.
The trial court found an Algerian man guilty of illegal border crossing in violation of Section 10 / First / A of the Passport Law. MNF apprehended the man during a raid on a home known to house foreign terrorists in the area of Mosul. On November 22, 2006 the trial panel sentenced the man to 15 years imprisonment.
Those convicted of passport violations, forging official documents, possession of illegal weapons, taking advantage of someone else’s legal documents and entering the country illegally, were sentenced from between 6 months to 10 years imprisonment. Those convicted included 18 Iraqis, three each from Egypt and Syria as well as one each from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Jordan and Sudan.
Since its establishment in April 2004, the Central Criminal Court has held 1,740 trials for Coalition-apprehended insurgents. The proceedings have resulted in 1,501 convictions with sentences ranging up to death.