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Chrenkoff reports on the under-reported good news from Iraq, Mudville presents the rarely reported military successes in the War on Terror.
And yes, the bad guys have some success too. A car bomb has killed 125 people gathered for an opportunity to join the police force in Hilla. CNN mentioned this quickly then switched to an update on the Michael Jackson trial.
But we won't. In spite of the attacks on recruits an ever-increasing number of Iraqis are stepping forward, willing to risk all for their nation's future:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Iraq Police Service this week graduated 1,993 new police officers from basic police training courses in Sulaymaniyah and Baghdad. Completing the 8-week training courses were 259 police recruits from the Sulaymaniyah Regional Police Training Center and 1,734 recruits from the Baghdad Police Academy. The Baghdad class included 46 female police recruits.
The basic police training program is designed to provide fundamental and democratic policing skills based on international human rights standards to the students in preparation for assuming police officer responsibilities. The program consists of academic study of general policing topics combined with a strong focus on tactical operational policing skills.
To date, more than 25,000 police recruits have completed the 8-week training course developed for new recruits. An additional 35,000 police officers have completed the 3-week Transitional Integration Program (TIPs) course that provides officers with prior experience a condensed version of the longer basic police training course.
The new officers will immediately report for duty and take up their assignments at their respective police stations throughout Iraq.
Meanwhile, with little to no fanfare, Operation RIVER BLITZ continues, as US and Iraqi forces, increasingly aided by citizens of Iraq, keep the pressure on the terrorists in al Anbar Province:
Iraqi and U.S. forces continued increased security operations by raiding a mosque, detaining 17 suspected insurgents and seizing several weapons caches throughout the Al Anbar province as Operation River Blitz rolled on for a fifth day.
Those detained Feb. 24 bring to 104 the number of suspected insurgents detained since Operation River Blitz began Sunday.
In Haqlaniyah, Iraqi soldiers from the Freedom Guard Battalion, Iraqi National Guard, and U.S. Marines from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division, conducted a joint raid on a mosque that produced six detainees and insurgent propaganda at approximately 12:30 p.m. The Freedom Guards cleared the mosque as U.S. Marines provided security outside.
North of Ar Ramadi, a local civilian directed a U.S. Marine combat patrol to an improvised-explosive device, which consisted of four 105 mm artillery rounds that were daisy-chained together in a brown bag hidden underneath a pile of leaves at approximately 10:00 a.m.
At approximately 11:15 a.m. in the central portion of the city, insurgents shot an Iraqi citizen in the abdomen when they fired a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire at U.S. Marines. The Marines provided medical treatment to the injured civilian after immediately returning fire at the insurgents, who fled the area.
In southern Fallujah, an Iraqi civilian guided a U.S. Marine patrol to a weapons cache, which consisted of one 82 mm mortar round, seven 57 mm rounds, three 23 mm rounds and one 30 mm round at approximately 1 p.m. Earlier in the day, another Iraqi civilian guided another U.S. Marine patrol to a weapons cache in the southeastern portion of the city that consisted of one missile warhead, 100 pounds of TNT and one 120 mm mortar round.
U.S. forces detained 11 suspected insurgents and seized several weapons caches during operations throughout other areas of the Al Anbar province Feb. 24.
Insurgent propaganda and materials to make improvised-explosive devices were also found with the weapons caches.
The seizure and subsequent destruction of the weapons cache disrupts anti-Iraqi forces? ability to launch attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces and civilians.
The 1st Marine Division of the I Marine Expeditionary Force stands committed with the Iraqi security forces to disrupt and defeat anti-Iraqi forces while providing enhanced security to the people of Al Anbar province.
Gen. Adnan, as he's known, commands a force of about 10,000 men. He formed the commandos last summer, when security here was spinning out of control, at the urging of his nephew, the current Iraqi minister of the interior. He has a tough-guy resume: a former member of Hussein's military intelligence service who was imprisoned in 1996 after he joined a U.S.-backed coup plot. One look at him and you know he is not a man you'd want to antagonize.
His police commandos are drawn from all over the country, and they include a mix of the country's religious and ethnic groups. A majority are probably Shiite Muslims, but Gen. Adnan, a Sunni, looks pained when I ask for an ethnic breakdown. "I don't care who's Shia, who's Sunni. I want only a good soldier who will fight for his country. I don't want anyone to ask that question, Sunni or Shia. We are all officers."
The commandos next moved into Mosul in mid-November, after local police there had been shattered by the insurgents. Coffman accompanied them into battle. On Nov. 14, he and the Iraqi commandos were caught in a well-prepared ambush. They fought for more than four hours; four of the commandos were killed and 38 wounded, but they held their ground. Coffman was shot in one hand, but with the other, he kept firing his M-4 rifle and then, when he ran out of ammunition, an Iraqi AK-47.
Coffman was still wearing a heavy bandage on his hand when we visited Adnan's headquarters. His thumb and two joints were shattered in the Mosul fight. U.S. military doctors tried to evacuate him to Germany, but he refused. The Iraqi general looks over at his American adviser and says he's a brave soldier. "In the Mosul battle, he stood shoulder to shoulder with my men." It's obvious he could not pay a higher compliment.
That's what success will look like in the training and advisory effort that is now the centerpiece of the U.S. military strategy in Iraq: Soldiers who have confidence in each other and are successful in battle. Coffman is a tough officer, but there's a lot of emotion in his voice when he says: "Our guys stayed and fought."
Elsewhere in Iraq, a "gang busting Chicago Cop" now brings his expertise to the hunt for insurgents:
MAHMOUDIYA, Iraq -- Jim Roussell and the Marines he works with broke the Abu Ali cell of the Iraqi insurgency in much the same way he caught gang leaders on Chicago's West Side.
In the so-called Triangle of Death, where insurgents kidnap and kill along the highways that connect Baghdad to the south, the Marine reservist and Chicago police sergeant is using the investigative skills he honed over years of pursuing street gangs such as the Four Corner Hustlers, the Conservative Vice Lords and the New Breeds.
He sees familiar tactics in his current assignment. Iraq is a world where the enemy hides in plain sight, using street names to cloak his identity and intimidation to protect it.
"The thing they're most afraid of is for us to know who they are and where they sleep at night," said Roussell, a chief warrant officer 5 in the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, a reserve unit with headquarters on the Northwest Side. "They're not so much afraid of airplanes and artillery."
Many of the most effective techniques against those insurgents are more familiar to Roussell's old colleagues in the Chicago Police Department's Austin District than Marines drilled in taking ground from the enemy and defending hilltops.
This is a good point to pause and turn our attention to those who paid a high price for this progress. While some severely wounded troops are returning to combat, most are not. Fortunately some American companies recognize these folks are extremely desirable employees
Army Capt. Lonnie Moore lost his right leg and -- he thought -- his career last April when his convoy was ambushed on the road to Ramadi, in central Iraq. The injury led to some dark days in Walter Reed Army Medical Center as Moore, 29, began his recuperation and contemplated life outside the military.
Within months, however, he had received job offers from a munitions company, an information technology firm, and the Department of Veterans Affairs itself. And that's without sending out a r鳵m鮊
"People tend to seek us out," Moore said of the veterans, particularly those who have been injured, returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. "They know we'll be an asset to their companies, and that we're not going to let our injuries stand in the way. . . . Everybody I've known that's gotten out, they're not having a hard time finding jobs."
Let's hope that trend continues, and that more companies recognize the proven qualities of veterans - wounded and otherwise. These are the sorts of people who make things like this happen, after all:
Doctors Fix a Hole in Iraqi Girl?s Heart
PETER JENNINGS: In Portland, Maine, today, a five-year-old Iraqi girl named Noor Abd Al-Hady Hassan had successful surgery to fix a hole in her heart. She got there because of the efforts of a 115th Army Engineering Group, which is now deployed in Iraq. And some of you may remember we named them as our Persons of the Week last Friday.
A pediatric surgeon, Reed Quinn, performed the operation. We are told Noor is doing so well she was able to talk to her dad after the surgery.
That from ABC World News Tonight, 24 February.
But will Vermont surrender?
Meanwhile, not far from Maine, a group of "activists" has found a way to encourage the terrorists who are fast losing all support in the Middle East. Huntington Vermont is a town with "no diners, one church, two general stores, and 1,800 people":
The closeness of the war, coupled with the state's penchant for taking on social causes, helps explain why a group of activists has gotten enough signatures here and in some 50 other Vermont communities to place resolutions about Iraq on the agendas of their Town Meetings, a New England ritual as local as tapped maple trees and as old as the American Revolution.
On Tuesday, one-fifth of Vermont towns will consider what role the Vermont National Guard should play in the war, and whether American troops should be withdrawn.
Foes call the resolution so much "poppycock," and complain activists have hijacked an annual event they say is better suited to debate on snowplows and school roof repairs. But to supporters, the war in Iraq is the essence of town business: It's about the men and women who live, work, and raise families in the community.
Even as debate continues over whether the resolution is antiwar propaganda or a legitimate community concern, many say the state's Town Meeting resolutions - the most widespread referendums about Iraq to date - foreshadow grass-roots initiatives emerging around the country.
Given the overwhelming bad news for terrorists in Iraq this week the story from Vermont couldn't have come at a better time - their spirits were desperately in need of lifting. Perhaps their struggle will be prolonged - maybe even long enough for American judges to do what Jim Klimanski calls "their duty". Jim's a lawyer, representing soldiers impacted by stop-loss who don't want to deploy, and he recently appeared on PBS News Hour:
JIM KLIMASKI: Stop-loss requires a declaration of a national emergency or war. There is no war declared against Afghanistan. There is no war declared against Iraq.
LEE HOCHBERG: The Army says the need for stop-loss continues.
BRIG. GEN. SEAN BYRNE: It does inconvenience a certain portion of the population, but we are a nation at war.
LEE HOCHBERG: Three of the soldiers claim they weren't just inconvenienced, but defrauded.
SPC. DAVID QUALLS: What this boils down to, in my opinion, is a question of fairness.
LEE HOCHBERG: On a recent leave from Taji, Iraq, near Baghdad, 35-year-old Spec. David Qualls said he enlisted with the Arkansas Guard in 2003. It was supposed to be a one-year trial through a program called Try One. The Guard promotes Try One on its web site.
ADVERTISEMENT ON WEB SITE: Veterans who have served in any branch of the military have additional options available to them, including a try one program. This allows a veteran to serve for only one year on a trial basis before committing to a full enlistment.
JIM KLIMASKI: That's what the contract says, real clear. Try it for one year, see if you like the Reserves or the National Guard, it fits with your schedule. And if you don't like at the end of one year, you are gone. However, all of those people who signed up under that program discovered that it was a fraud.
SPC. DAVID QUALLS: I tried my one, and you know, I completed and served that one year. Actually I've served five months past my one-year obligation, and I feel that it's time to let me go back to my life.
LEE HOCHBERG: Under his stop-loss order, Qualls has been sent back to Iraq. The Army recently offered him a $15,000 bonus to reenlist. He says, since he was going to have to serve more time anyway and since his deployment has left him in debt, he took the money and committed to six more years.
His lawyer says he'll nonetheless keep pressing all eight court challenges hoping to void all of the original enlistments as fraudulent. Four other soldiers have been released from stop-loss duty, for administrative reasons after they sued. Some military watchers say examination of the Army's use of stop-loss is overdue, but few are expecting a broad court ruling that restricts the Army.
EUGENE FIDELL: Judges historically have said, "Look, it's not for us to run the Army."
LEE HOCHBERG: Eugene Fidell founded the Washington-based National Institute of Military Justice.
EUGENE FIDELL: You're never going to get federal judges to say, "Look there really isn't an emergency. That the president's determination that we really need these people in the interests of national security is unfounded or misguided." I just cannot see federal judges doing that.
LEE HOCHBERG: Lawyers for the soldiers, though, say with more angry soldiers considering legal action, change could come soon.
JIM KLIMASKI: Eventually the matter will build up to the point where the courts will recognize their duty and the law changes.
Klimanski has filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court, most recently notorious for banning the Pledge of Allegiance from American elementary schools.
We're winning - don't doubt it for a minute. Despite the best efforts of those who'd gleefully snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
I know each man has his own reasons for joining or not joining the military. I know it is wrong to force them to join against their will.
I also know once you have joined, you have signed a contract with your country. You agreed to provide your life to her for our defense. It doesn't say if things get tough, you agree to quit and leave your shipmates in the lurch. It doesn't say "I agree to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic," except when it inconveniences me. You promised -- now stick with it.
I don't care what the Great State of Arkansas told her citizens about serving only one trial year in the Guard, after you have already served on active duty ("Veterans who have served in any branch of the military have additional options available to them, including a try one program. This allows a veteran to serve for only one year on a trial basis before committing to a full enlistment.") Since you can only join as a veteran, I would expect you would know what the service is all about, and if you choose to join the Guard, then you know what can happen if your country needs you.
Frankly, I thought the men of the Great State of Arkansas would feel a little different about serving their country than someone from say Seattle or San Francisco or Boston, where service is what you might expect from your waitress when the coffee is too cold. Most men I know from Arkansas (and frankly, those from Seattle, San Francisco, and Boston who have the guts to join)have a little bit more grit in their craw when it comes to accomplishing the task at hand. They don't whine that they get extended on mission, and then reenlist for 6 yrs claiming they hate the Army life. (Unless they are just plain stupid or lying)
I'll be honest. I can't serve in the Guard. I'm retired, and it requires an act of Congress to recall me. I can't go back.
But I have wished everyday since 9-11 that I could. My country needs me. No matter how hard I try, she won't take me back. And those who won't finish the job, go home, and make useful citizens out of themselves, or who complain everytime life throws lemons at them are part of the problem, not the solution.
I know for certain that soldiers don't need more burdens added to their load. Especially today's young men. We have asked them to kill with efficiency, heal with proficiency, and befriend and love our citizens and our former enemies with affection and compassion. We ask too much, yet they deliver.
And those who refuse to help them provide the Victory my country so desperately needs are neither patriots nor citizens of good standing. They are undeserving of our defense, and undeserving of our sympathy. Yet we, and the young men who followed us will provide those things for them without question.
I pity the man who won't lay down his life for something or someone he loves. Because he won't defend anything.
A coward dies a thousand deaths, -- the Valiant die but once.