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(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.
Not sure what to say about the shooting, but I do know that this busy month is nothing, it is going to get crazier and crazier as time passes. Finally, Merry Christmas. God Bless.Posted by Douglas V. Gibbs at December 23, 2006 03:19 AM
A very merry Christmas to the Hawks from the Hooks.Posted by Sgt Hook at December 23, 2006 04:38 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(2) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)