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Want to help out "the under privileged"? Learn about Valour-IT, then choose a team in whose name to donate. (All proceeds go to the same worthy cause, and to individual service members as the need arises, regardless of which team you pick.)
Much more military-type feedback on this topic (including what I believe was the first ever blog post on this) at MilBlogs.
Time to put Mudville's fundraising on temporary hold to support a worthier cause:
We helped Team Air Force last year because they are the underdog - so we're keeping the tradition going.
You can join (or donate to) any of the teams (and see who else is "in") here.
As October winds down expect to see numerous stories in the press regarding the death toll in Iraq.
Above chart from the Brookings Institute's Iraq Index represents U.S. fatalities in Iraq since the initial invasion. October 2006 will indeed be one of the higher months.
The nearly random nature of this chart appears senseless (and on a fundamental level it is - no argument from me there) but there is some signal in the noise. The two most notable spikes in violence represent the two battles for Fallujah. Other spikes occur with the various Iraqi elections, and some coincide with other major offensive actions on the part of the coalition.
But the chart also has a weakness. It's using western months. The Muslim world uses a lunar calendar. Applying that system to the lower axis would give some additional insight to the violence of "the past month", because the Ramadan spikes would stand out a bit better than they do when presented in a Western calendar format. Note November '03 for the first example - in 2004 Ramadan was split between October and November on our western calendar, in 2005 and 2006 it fell mostly in October.
But this year's spike also coincides with focused operations in Baghdad, and may or may not also reflect enemy awareness of pending U.S. elections. Whether they can sustain that level of violence over the next week will be one indicator if this is so - because Ramadan has drawn to a close.
...on many topics at MilBlogs - but you've already bookmarked and blogrolled, right?
Another report from Haider Ajina. Before turning this space over to him, I draw your attention to this passage from his comments:
Iran has forbidden Iranian Arabs living in Ahwas (an Iranian province on the Persian Golf. Arabs are a minority in Iran) from practicing their Muslim celebrations for Eid Al-Fitr. Here we have a Muslim country, run by A (supposed) Muslim government forbidding Muslims in their own province from practicing Muslim celebrations (these celebrations did not include self flagellation, since that is forbidden by Islam). I am a Muslim living in the USA and no one has ever forbidden me from practicing any portion of my religion or religious ceremonies. Muslims in the USA practice their religion freer than Muslims do in Iran……The significances of this is tremendous.…..Indeed. Here's Hader:
The following is my translation of a head line and article which appeared on October 27 in ‘Sot Al-Iraq’
‘Sermon after Friday prayers in Nejaf’,Hader's comments:
By Khuther Elias
‘After Friday prayers in the Fatima Mosque in Nejaf , Imam Sadir Aldien Alqabanchi delivered a sermon titled ‘Iraq is a piece of the Arabic fabric’.
‘He said in his sermon, ‘since the dictatorship was brought down in Iraq, some have said Iraq has left the Arabic fabric because of the following reasons;
1- A free political and governmental system. Which is quite different from the rest of the Arab world, thus they consider it different from the Arabic fabric.
2- The Shiite majority forming a unity government and attaining their proportional rights through elections. They said this is a second reason.
3- Minorities in Iraq have their rights protected. The Kurdish minority have finally received their deserved rights under the unity government. They said this is was the third reason.
‘The imam then added, ‘Today the Arab world has been influenced by these statements and there are forces at work to return Iraq to the Arab fabric by destabilizing or annulling the current government and maybe even brining Saddam back. These reasons are why the Arab world has turned its back on Iraq and created false rumors of division and suspicion of what they call the Shiite crescent etc.. Iraqis reaffirmed that Iraq is a piece of the Arab fabric and will not leave it. No Iraqi wants to leave the Arab world we want Iraq to be an effective member of the Arab world. Iraqis did this by their free vote for the constitution which affirmed this. He added, ‘we must have a policy of mutual openness between us and the other Arabic countries. Iraqis chose the road of freedom from dictatorship and other Arabs thought that to be a step backward, they are wrong. Yes we have our problems but we have the resolve to cure the problems with patience, wisdom and courage. Talk about dividing Iraq is false and no one in Iraq wishes to divide the country. The USA under the leadership of James Baker is studying choices and options about the Iraqi situation. We Iraqis have three immovable matters,
1- No to the return of the Baathists or dictatorship.
2- No to violence or terrorism.
3- No to foreign interference in Iraqi leadership.
Other than these three immovable points they (the Baker commission) can study any other options they wish.
‘Alqabanchi then called on the government to take responsibility towards the residence of Balad and save them form the terrorists. He added, ‘we believe that all of Iraq’s province must move towards rebuilding and development and avoid internal strife. We hope that the provinces experiencing turmoil will resolve their problems fairly and in brotherly spirit’.
The Imam of one of Nejaf’s (oldest and most influential city and center of Shiisim) most prominent mosques ‘Fatima Mosque’ gave this sermon today after Friday prayer at the end of Ramadan, after Eid Al-fitr (breaking of Ramadan fast) and after a tough month. This sermon sets the tone for most Shiite mosques in Iraq. The tone and resolve of this sermon is unmistakable. Iraqis solving their problems through ‘patience, wisdom and courage’ is a clear and concise statement by religious leaders rallying Iraqis towards a strong democracy and freedom. If any one in the west had any thought that the majority of Iraqis want to ever go back to dictatorship or will put up with their neighbors meddling in Iraqi security, or want Iraq divided, these thoughts, I am sure have been erased. Iraqis also know they have no friend in Iran. Iran is supporting Shiite and Sunni subversive groups. They want Iraq unstable to keep the focus off Iran. They also fear democracy.
Iran has forbidden Iranian Arabs living in Ahwas (an Iranian province on the Persian Golf. Arabs are a minority in Iran) from practicing their Muslim celebrations for Eid Al-Fitr. Here we have a Muslim country, run by A (supposed) Muslim government forbidding Muslims in their own province from practicing Muslim celebrations (these celebrations did not include self flagellation, since that is forbidden by Islam). I am a Muslim living in the USA and no one has ever forbidden me from practicing any portion of my religion or religious ceremonies. Muslims in the USA practice their religion freer than Muslims do in Iran……The significances of this is tremendous.…..
Iraqis also know they have no friend in Syria. Syria is supporting former Baathist and their ilk. Saudi Arabia is also no big fan of democracy at it boarders. Saddam’s no. 2 man Izzat Ibrahime Al-Duri most wanted man in Iraq is directing Baathist terrorist activity from within Saudi Arabia. He is funding activities from the millions of dollars the Baathists stole from the Iraqi people.
Iraqis have tasted freedom, the rule of law, democracy and rights of the individual; they will never go back to pre spring 2003.
Cindy Sheehan, whose son Army Spc. Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq in 2004, came to Fresno State on Wednesday night to speak about her loss, and what she called an illegal and immoral war.One woman called her "pathetic, but that's nothing compared to one of the other goon squad members in action...
Robin Butterfield, whose son, Lance Cpl. Anthony "Tony" Edward Butterfield, was killed in Iraq in July, was there as well. Butterfield said she came to remind people that Sheehan did not speak for all of those who have lost a loved one in the war on terrorism.
"George Bush has made us a hated and despised country," Sheehan said. "This is a tragedy of humanitarian proportions, and I'm not OK with that."
Outside the auditorium, Robin Butterfield stood with her husband, Keith, and more than a dozen family members, holding flags and signs supporting Tony Butterfield and accusing Sheehan of disrespecting her own son's sacrifice.
Keith Butterfield, who said the group did not plan to disrupt Sheehan's visit, said it was a silent protest.
"Some of the things she's said, we feel are disrespectful of our son, and of hers," Keith Butterfield said. "I feel she's angry. She lost her son. I lost my son, and I'm angry, too. But the difference is, I recognize my son was doing it for himself and for his country. We're here to respect my son, and her son as well."
The small protest did not escape the attention of those in attendance, many of whom broke off to address the Butterfields. One woman, who wouldn't identify herself, called Robin Butterfield "pathetic" for protesting against Sheehan. Keith Butterfield said everyone was entitled to an opinion.
"Let them be disrespectful to us," Keith Butterfield said. "We don't want to be like that. We just want to say that Cindy Sheehan does not speak for us."
(Via Chickenhawk Express)
That's what one blogger can uncover about any story.
Then other bloggers start in, and eventually you have a real grass roots movement, in this case working to expose a phony one.
Antimedia has been researching the pre-military career of Jonathan Hutto, and has found even more things to make you go "hmmmmm"...
Lynn Cheney on CNN:
CHENEY: Right, but what is CNN doing? Running terrorist tape of terrorists shooting Americans. I mean, I thought [Rep.] Duncan Hunter asked you a very good question, and you didn’t answer it. Do you want us to win?With all due respect, it is terrorist propaganda. That's not my opinion, it's CNN's. Short version of the story: The video was produced according to a well defined and published plan, and CNN's own description of the method by which they received it describes exactly how they followed that plan. Furthermore, CNN's own report acknowledges their awareness of the terrorist propaganda plan.
WOLF: The answer of course is we want the United States to win. We are Americans. There’s no doubt about that.
CHENEY: Then why are you running terrorist propaganda?
WOLF: With all due respect, this is not terrorist propaganda.
This week, Reuters reported on what we've been doing here at Mudville for the past week:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As U.S. military losses mount steadily in Iraq, a document issued by a group linked to al Qaeda spells out new goals for America's most determined enemies and calls for a media war against the United States.With a brief stop at CNN along the way. (And to think it all began right here...) Reuters doesn't give us our due credit, of course. But it's nice to see Lynn Cheney knows the score.
The document, which began circulating on the Internet this month, illustrates the techniques Washington's enemy is using in what President George W. Bush has called the "war of ideas."
...the call in the document for a parallel media war traveled from the Internet to a mention in a New York Times column, the White House briefing room and eventually Bush himself.
Hopefully you do too.
Update: Let's have a bit more...
Mrs. Cheney: “Where did you get the film?”
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “We got the film, look, this is an issue that has been widely discussed. This is an issue that we reported on extensively. We make no apologies for showing that. That was a very carefully-considered decision why we did that. And I think, I think …”
Mrs. Cheney: “Well I think it’s shocking.”
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “If you are a serious journalist, you want to report the news. Sometimes the news is good, sometimes the news isn’t so good.”
Mrs. Cheney: “But Wolf, there’s a difference between news and terrorist propaganda.”
The missing piece of the puzzle was actually available from the start:
Yesterday, a company that does public relations for the liberal activist political action committee MoveOn.org, Fenton Communications, organized a conference call for reporters and three active-duty soldiers to unveil the soldiers' anti-war group Appeal for Redress.That's from the October 26 New York Sun - kudos to the only reporters in the crowd who had the guts to tell the truth about this.
A staff member at Fenton Communications who requested anonymity said his company was approached last week by a longtime peace activist and former director of the anti-nuclear proliferation front known as SANE/Freeze, David Cortright, to publicize Appeal for Redress. Mr. Cortright is now president of an Indiana-based nonprofit group, the Fourth Freedom Forum, and his biography on the organization's Web site says he helped raise "more than $300,000 for the Win Without War coalition to avert a preemptive attack on Iraq in 2002–03."
There's a full recap of this story so far here (including a definition of "astroturfing" for those who aren't familiar with the term).
...specifically, that "grass roots" anti-war military effort here.
Unfortunately, the lie is halfway around the world (actually all the way - literally). Help spread the truth.
Our fundraiser continues. It my take me a while to write thank you notes this weekend, but it's time well spent.
Please make me work...
Looks like the Pentagon is fighting back against misleading MSM reports.
The graphic above is from this story:
Newsweek Declines Pentagon Request to Examine ReportingThose hyperlinks are in the original, and full text of the letters exchanged, to include pdf scans of the original documents on letterhead, are also provided here.
DOD asks magazine to reconsider refusal
Oct. 20, 2006 —In response to a Newsweek article on Afghanistan (“The Rise of Jihadistan,” October 2, 2006), the Department of Defense sent Newsweek a lengthy rebuttal of points of fact and opinion, as well as a request for an “opportunity to submit a stand-alone column that not only rebuts some of the more sensational charges, but offers your readers a clearer view of the very real challenges we face in Afghanistan—as well as the many achievements of the past five years.”
Newsweek dismissed the rebuttal as the “government position,” as well as the request for a stand-alone column. The Pentagon’s response to that letter read in part: “First, a ‘concise’ letter to the editor, of say, 200 words, cannot adequately address an [sic] 2200-word article containing a series of false assertions. Second, the issue is not Newsweek’s position versus the ‘government position.’ The issue is that your readers were given a one-sided, opinion-laced article on Afghanistan based on falsehoods—which is something that journalists and editors are usually concerned about. Your dismissive reply is disappointing, to say the least.”
Read all those, then bookmark the front page - it looks like it will be worth several return trips.
The White House has responded to press accounts of the alleged dispute between Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad and General Casey. (Yes, I'm convinced they read Mudville in the White House.)
Of note is this quote - sourced to the BBC:
In Yesterday's Press Conference, Prime Minister Maliki Was Asked Whether The United States Had Set A "Timetable For The Withdrawal Of Foreign Forces From Iraq Within 18 Months."As I suspected - a question phrased to mischaracterize the original statement from Khalilzad.
That also explains this quote from Maliki in yesterday's report:
The prime minister dismissed U.S. talk of timelines as driven by the coming midterm elections in the United States. "I am positive that this is not the official policy of the American government but rather a result of the ongoing election campaign. And that does not concern us much," he said.Read that as his acknowledgement that the actual question was being phrased by a reporter, and not the U.S. government (i.e. Khalilzad) and it all fits together - Maliki knows it's the press statements that are driven by the elections, and which "does not concern us much". The actions of the U.S. government obviously concern him very deeply - no one could believe otherwise.
But enough of yesterday's news - on to Maliki's bombshell for today - in which he declares that he can get the job done sooner than the most optimistic U.S. timeline anyway:
Iraq's prime minister said on Thursday he could get violence under control in six months, half the time U.S. generals say they need, provided Washington gave him more weaponry and more say over his own forces.That kind of leadership is exactly what is needed in Iraq - I say we give him what he wants, get out of the way as much as possible, and see what happens in six months.
"They think building Iraqi forces will need 12 to 18 months, for us to be in control of security," Maliki said, referring to remarks two days ago by U.S. commander General George Casey.
"We agree our forces need work but think that if, as we are asking, the rebuilding of our forces was in our own hands, then it would take not 12-18 months but six might be enough."
"I am now prime minister and overall commander of the armed forces yet I cannot move a single company without Coalition approval because of the U.N. mandate," Maliki said.
"I have to be careful fighting some militias and terrorists ... because they are better armed than the army and police," Maliki said. "The police are sharing rifles."
Asked what kind of Iraqi forces he wanted, Maliki said: "I'm not talking about modern tanks or modern warplanes and missiles ... I'm talking about having a well-trained army, swift and light on its feet and at the same time with medium weapons."
By the way, why wasn't this the biggest headline story of the day?
For the record - I'm all for my fellow troops speaking their minds, but I'm not in favor of them being duped by Socialist organizations hiding behind false fronts.
Previous post here.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki corrects published comments regarding that Sadr City raid:
Maliki said the raid had his backing but argued that it was conducted in a heavy handed way that could wreck a political deal he had worked on with Moqtada al-Sadr, a radical anti-American cleric who controls the Mehdi Army Shi'ite militia. <...> Maliki had appeared to disavow the raid at a news conference on Wednesday, saying he had not been consulted, but he told Reuters his problem was with an operation in the same area which was part of the hunt for a kidnapped American soldier.Bill Roggio has commentary here.
"We knew about the first part but they did not tell us about the second part," Maliki said.
Masked gunmen grabbed the American serviceman at the home of relatives he went to visit in Baghdad after leaving the fortified Green Zone, according to U.S. military officials who have identified him as a linguist of Iraqi descent.
Maliki said the man's brother was snatched with him but later let go. "The brother who was released said he been abducted by the Mehdi Army but we don't know what Mehdi Army means anymore," Maliki said.
"We asked the Sadr movement to look for him and they swear they know nothing about him," Maliki said. Sunni insurgents and loyalists of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein sometimes also posed as Mehdi Army fighters in the same black garb, he said.
U.S. military spokesmen were not immediately available to comment on Maliki's remarks.
(And note this is titled Update 1...)
There's usually much of both from Iraq, and today is no exception. But the nature of the news today strikes me as a bit different.
Top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq said Tuesday that they had won Iraq’s agreement to set a timetable to tackle some of the country’s most intractable problems.Good:
Army Gen. George Casey, commander of American forces in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad provided no details of their discussions with Iraqi officials and no hard deadlines.
Casey also said that more U.S. troops may be needed in the capital to quell raging sectarian violence, and reiterated that it will take longer than previously thought for Iraqi troops to take the lead in providing adequate security across the war-scarred nation.
“It’s going to take another 12 to 18 months or so till I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security,” Casey said, repeating the estimate he made more than a month ago.
Iraqi Army soldiers backed by U.S.- led coalition advisers carried out a raid on Sadr City, a Shiite Muslim slum in east Baghdad, to search for a suspected sectarian death squad leader, the military said.This is what many in America and Iraq have wanted - an agreed-to timetable, and Iraqi forces taking the lead, and in Sadr City, no less.
Gun battles erupted in the stronghold of anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, and coalition aircraft participated in the Iraqi government-authorized operation, the U.S. military said in an e-mailed statement.
Just one minor problem...
An angry Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki disavowed a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid in the capital's Sadr City slum Wednesday, and criticized the top U.S. military and diplomatic representatives in Iraq for saying his government needs to set a timetable to curb violence in the country.Unfortunately, much criticism regarding Maliki has been his reluctance to respond forcefully to actions of Sadr's militias - this reinforces that criticism. Did he initially agree to timetables with Khalilzad and Casey? Is he withdrawing that support (and denying it ever existed) in response to the Sadr City raid? Are Casey and Khalizaid acting without any coordination with Maliki? There are countless other possibilities, too...
Al-Maliki spoke at a news conference a day after U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Iraqi leaders had agreed to set deadlines by year's end for achieving specific political and security goals laid out by the United States, including reining in militia groups.
"I affirm that this government represents the will of the people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it," the prime minister said.
The prime minister dismissed U.S. talk of timelines as driven by the coming midterm elections in the United States. "I am positive that this is not the official policy of the American government but rather a result of the ongoing election campaign. And that does not concern us much," he said.
Update: Links below are to the video of the conference. As usual, the situation is not as simple as the reports would indicate.
Here's what Ambassador Khalilzad said about timetables or timelines, and what the Iraqis had agreed to. As the U.S. civilian representative in Iraq, he is addressing "civil issues":
Second, we are helping Iraqi leaders to complete a national compact. Key political forces must make difficult decisions in the coming weeks to reach agreements on a number of outstanding issues on which Iraqis differ: Enacting an oil law that will share the profits of Iraq's resources in a way that unites the country -- this is of critical importance; amending the constitution to make all Iraqis understand that their children will be guaranteed democratic rights and equality; reforming the de-Ba'athification Commission to transform it into an accountability and reconciliation program; implementing a plan to address militias and death squads; setting a date for provincial elections; and increasing the credibility and capability of Iraqi forces. Iraqi leaders have agreed to a timeline for making the hard decisions needed to resolve these issues. President Talabani has made these commitments public. The United States and its coalition partners will support Prime Minister Maliki and other leaders in their effort to meet these benchmarks.Much later in the briefing, General Casey addressed military issues:
We are coordinating with Prime Minister Maliki and his team on developing a plan for the transfer of security responsibilities. Reforming the Security Ministry is one of the benchmarks that the Iraqi leaders have agreed to. This plan will be ready before the end of the year. To broaden international support for stabilizing Iraq, Iraqi leaders and the United Nations have been working on a plan, an International Compact with Iraq, that will consist of a commitment by Iraq to do what's necessary in terms of continued economic reform and policies to put the country on the path to stability and prosperity, in exchange for the international community's support. Many countries, including those who opposed the initial intervention in Iraq, are participating in the process, which should be completed by the end of the year.
From my perspective on the security side, we have been focusing on helping build Iraqi security forces that can maintain domestic order and deny Iraq as a safe haven for terror. We are about 75 percent of the way through a three-step process in building those forces. And it's going to take another 12 to 18 months or so till I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security; still probably with some level of support from us, but that will be directly asked for by the Iraqis.So news reporters edit that down to this (see above):
Top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq said Tuesday that they had won Iraq’s agreement to set a timetable to tackle some of the country’s most intractable problems.Is that accurate? Yes - but hardly enough information to respond to. (And is "won" accurate? Was there a battle?) Obviously a lot of erroneous conclusions can be drawn from that characterization of a much lengthier discussion. Trying to guess whether the subsequent quotes from Maliki are accurate, or if he was responding to an accurate quote from a reporter of what Casey or Khalizad said in the first place, is pointless.
But the results - political and military, good or bad - of that Sadr City raid may be of greater significance.
Again, stay tuned...
At MilBlogs, the next chapter.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
On October 23, 1983, around 6:20 am, a yellow Mercedes-Benz delivery truck drove to Beirut International Airport, where the 1st Battalion 8th Marines, under the U.S. 2nd Marine Division of the United States Marines, had set up its local headquarters. The truck turned onto an access road leading to the Marines' compound and circled a parking lot. The driver then accelerated and crashed through a barbed wire fence around the parking lot, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through a gate and barreled into the lobby of the Marine headquarters. The Marine sentries at the gate were operating under their rules of engagement, which made it very difficult to respond quickly to the truck. By the time the two sentries had locked, loaded, and shouldered their weapons, the truck was already inside the building's entry way.One of the opening battles in the war that goes on today - unfortunately only one side was battling at that time.
The suicide bomber detonated his explosives, which were equivalent to 12,000 pounds (about 5,400kg) of TNT. The force of the explosion collapsed the four-story cinder-block building into rubble, crushing many inside.
About 20 seconds later, an identical attack occurred against the barracks of the French Third Company of the Sixth French Parachute Infantry Regiment. Another suicide bomber drove his truck down a ramp into the building's underground parking garage and detonated his bomb, leveling the headquarters.
Rescue efforts continued for days. While the rescuers were at times hindered by sniper fire, some survivors were pulled from the rubble and airlifted to the RAF hospital in Cyprus or to U.S. and German hospitals in West Germany.
The death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel and 3 Army soldiers. Sixty Americans were injured. In the attack on the French barracks, 58 paratroopers were killed and 15 injured. In addition, the elderly Lebanese custodian of the Marines' building was killed in the first blast. The wife and four children of a Lebanese janitor at the French building also were killed.
This was the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima (2,500 in one day) of World War II and the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the 243 killed on 31st January 1968 — the first day of the Tet offensive in the Vietnam war. The attack remains the deadliest post-World War II attack on Americans overseas.
But two years later, in December, 1985 another event resulted in an even higher death toll:
Today is the 20th anniversary of the plane crash in Gander, Newfoundland, that claimed the lives of 248 soldiers -- all members of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division heading home to Fort Campbell, Ky. -- along with eight crew members. The soldiers had just completed peacekeeping duties as part of a multinational force assigned to patrol the Sinai Peninsula. They arrived in Gander on an Arrow Air charter DC-8.Such things served to remind those of us in uniform back then that we were doing something more than the typical 9-5 job.
Upon arrival, many dashed to pay phones in the terminal for a quick phone call home. They would all perish shortly after takeoff just a few minutes later. None survived.
Even one death could do the same.
On June 15, 1985 Hezballah Shi'ites brutally beat, tortured and then killed 23 year old Robert Dean Stethem as he was being held hostage aboard TWA 847 commercial airliner. Robert was on his way home after a tour of duty with the US Navy in the Middle East. The terrorists had hijacked the plane with 153 passengers in Athens Greece forcing the pilot to fly twice to Algiers and twice to Beirut during the 17 day siege. The hostages were released after Israel released 435 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.
"When the plane was at the Beirut airport in Lebanon, Petty Officer Stethem was singled out because he was in the US military. After many hours of being cruelly beaten, tortured, and finally killed by the terrorists, they threw his body from the plane in a final disgraceful, cowardly act. The wounds were so terrible that his body had to be identified by its fingerprints.
Throughout the ordeal, Robert Stethem did not yield, and instead encouraged his fellow passengers to endure by his example. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for heroism and bravery. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery."
For those who appreciate our efforts, and can spare even 5 or 10 bucks to help keep us going...
Two Austin, Texas police officers and a firefighter recently traveled to Iraq for a bit of a knowledge sharing exercise with their brethren in Baghdad.
Some pointers the Texans got from the Iraqis:
When dowsing flames from a car bomb, the Iraqis suggested, use extended water hoses to keep most of the crew farther from secondary attacks on the first responders. Or, just let it burn out.Probably won't be very useful in Austin any time soon (though maybe post-November elections here...)
Spend the night at the scene of a fire if the area is too dangerous to return from in the dark.
And try to stay "neutral" in the sectarian fighting raging throughout the city, but get your own guns if you can.
On a routine call, three unwitting police officers fell into a trap. A car darted out to block their path, and dozens of hooded youths surged out of the darkness to attack them with stones, bats and tear gas before fleeing. One officer was hospitalized, and no arrests made.Assuming the Iraqis would be willing to help train the French...
The recent ambush was emblematic of what some officers say has become a near-perpetual and increasingly violent conflict between police and gangs in tough, largely immigrant French neighborhoods that were the scene of a three-week paroxysm of rioting last year.
One small police union claims officers are facing a "permanent intifada." Police injuries have risen in the year since the wave of violence.
National police reported 2,458 cases of violence against officers in the first six months of the year, on pace to top the 4,246 cases recorded for all of 2005 and the 3,842 in 2004. Firefighters and rescue workers have also been targeted - and some now receive police escorts in such areas.
On Sunday, a band of about 30 youths, some wearing masks, forced passengers out of a bus in a southern Paris suburb in broad daylight Sunday, set it on fire, then stoned firefighters who came to the rescue, police said. No one was injured. Two people were arrested, one of them a 13-year-old, according to LCI television.
Between now and the elections, we'll post notable comments from politicians on their views of the future of US military involvement in Iraq. These will appear without any additional editorial comment except that which might appear in the source material. We make no claim on the accuracy of the quotes, and urge the reader to determine the difference between actual quotes and reporters' interpretation of quotes (Actual quotes generally have quotation marks) and likewise to be aware of the frequently appearing editorial ... indicating portions of a statement have been excised at that point.
The <...> appearing below are where we've deleted portions of the linked news story not pertinent to the comments, or beyond actual direct quotes. We encourage readers to click through to the links and "read the whole thing".
Our goal? An informed electorate.
Up first, some key House Democrats. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., on Friday called for a sharp reversal of course in Iraq.Next, Senate Democrats, as quoted in the Washington Post:
The spiraling violence is "deeply disturbing," Skelton said in a conference call with reporters, during which he called for the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq. Skelton, of Lexington, Mo., is likely to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee if Democrats gain control of the House in next month's congressional elections.
"Time is not on our side," Skelton said, noting that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating. <...>
Skelton said he wanted some troops to be brought home while others were stationed near Iraq in case they were needed to quell increased bloodshed or to prevent a foreign invasion of Iraq.
Skelton was joined by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who would probably lead the House defense appropriations panel if the Democrats take a majority in the vote.
"We've lost the hearts and minds of the (Iraqi) people, and we've become caught in a civil war," Murtha said. Failures such as the inability to provide residents of Baghdad with more than 2 1/2 hours of electricity a day have hurt the U.S. image, he said.
"The big problem in the Middle East is Iran," Murtha said. "We went to the wrong place."
Rep. Tom Lanton, D-Calif., who might be tapped to lead the House International Relations Committee, said Democrats were "united in opposing global terrorism and in recognizing the brutal and fanatical nature of our enemy."
"But we are also united in the belief that our current course in Iraq is unsustainable and counterproductive," he said.
No one speaks more authoritatively for the Democrats on defense and national security issues than Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, both longtime members of the Armed Services Committee. If you want to know what Democratic gains in this midterm election would mean for national security policy, Levin and Reed can provide the answers.
On Iraq, the two Democrats harked back to the amendment that 39 senators supported during a debate earlier this year -- an amendment that called for a start on U.S. troop withdrawals within six months but set no numbers and specified no target date for ending the U.S. military presence.
Reed, who has made many trips to Iraq and returned just weeks ago from his most recent visit, described the "very, very difficult situation" he found there. "We have to begin to work toward redeployment without setting a timetable," he said. "We have to start laying out some red lines for the Iraqis . . . give them some clear goals we want them to achieve." They need to set plans for disarming militias, conducting elections at the provincial level and spending some of the funds being hoarded in Baghdad on better services for the people, he said.
The position they all oppose is that of President Bush, so here's his latest radio address:
Our goal in Iraq is clear and unchanging: Our goal is victory. What is changing are the tactics we use to achieve that goal. Our commanders on the ground are constantly adjusting their approach to stay ahead of the enemy, particularly in Baghdad. General Pete Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, recently put it this way: "From a military standpoint, every day is a reassessment day." We have a strategy that allows us to be flexible and to adapt to changing circumstances. We've changed the way we train the Iraqi security forces. We have changed the way we deliver reconstruction assistance in areas that have been cleared of terrorist influence. And we will continue to be flexible, and make every necessary change to prevail in this struggle.The New York Times says "senior American officials" are indicating a plan is developing that appears closer to that of Senators Levin and Reed. But the White House says it isn't so:
There is one thing we will not do: We will not pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete. There are some in Washington who argue that retreating from Iraq would make us safer. I disagree. Retreating from Iraq would allow the terrorists to gain a new safe haven from which to launch new attacks on America. Retreating from Iraq would dishonor the men and women who have given their lives in that country, and mean their sacrifice has been in vain. And retreating from Iraq would embolden the terrorists, and make our country, our friends, and our allies more vulnerable to new attacks.
The Bush administration is drafting a timetable for the Iraqi government to address sectarian divisions and assume a larger role in securing the country, senior American officials said.President Bush is not up for election this year. And of the quoted Democrats above, only Jack Murtha faces a contender with a chance of providing any measurable opposition (but even she must overcome a 2-1 registration edge for Democrats). That candidate is Diana Irey, who supports the President on Iraq. Quote:"Every time we withdraw before a mission is completed we send a message of surrender."
Details of the blueprint, which is to be presented to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki before the end of the year and would be carried out over the next year and beyond, are still being devised. But the officials said that for the first time Iraq was likely to be asked to agree to a schedule of specific milestones, like disarming sectarian militias, and to a broad set of other political, economic and military benchmarks intended to stabilize the country.
Although the plan would not threaten Mr. Maliki with a withdrawal of American troops, several officials said the Bush administration would consider changes in military strategy and other penalties if Iraq balked at adopting it or failed to meet critical benchmarks within it.
In a statement issued Saturday night, a White House spokeswoman, Nicole Guillemard, said the Times’s account was “not accurate,” but did not specify what officials found to be inaccurate.
Do you know your candidate's views?
From the President's radio address:
Another reason for the recent increase in attacks is that the terrorists are trying to influence public opinion here in the United States. They have a sophisticated propaganda strategy. They know they cannot defeat us in the battle, so they conduct high-profile attacks, hoping that the images of violence will demoralize our country and force us to retreat. They carry video cameras and film their atrocities, and broadcast them on the Internet. They e-mail images and video clips to Middle Eastern cable networks like al-Jazeera, and instruct their followers to send the same material to American journalists, authors, and opinion leaders. They operate websites, where they post messages for their followers and readers across the world.It's always good to see the information we provide here being noted at higher levels. (Here's a previous example.)
In one recent message, the Global Islamic Media Front -- a group that often posts al Qaeda propaganda on websites -- said their goal is to, "carry out a media war that is parallel to the military war." This is the same strategy the terrorists launched in Afghanistan following 9/11. In a letter to the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden wrote that al Qaeda intended to wage "a media campaign, to create a wedge between the American people and their government."
We don't parrot political talking points here - we start them.
But I'm also reminded of this quote:
"Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know."So if you appreciate the ongoing flow of that information - if you're in favor of our continued independent "little guy" efforts to counter that information warfare that the other side practices so well, whether you're reading from the White House or some other house, how about helping us keep it going?
And thanks to those of you who already have.
Another translation of Iraqi news from occasional correspondent Haider Ajina.
The following is my translation of a headline and article from the Iraq's Aswat Al-Iraq October 20.
Iraqi religious leaders sign in Mecca a covenant to interdict spilling of Iraqi blood.Haider's comments:
By Adil Fagher & Thergham Mohamed,
Tonight (Friday) in Saudi Arabia, Iraqi religious leaders sign a covenant to interdict spilling of Iraqi blood.
Iraqi TV channel AL-Iraqiah showed clips showing Iraqi Sunni and Shiite religious leaders signing a, In Mecca Saudi Arabia, covenant to interdict spilling of Iraqi blood. The Muslim Congress Organization hosted this event. Chairman of the MCO, Ikmal Aldien Auglu said, ‘the covenant which was signed interdicts killing, evicting, mocking, attacking houses of prayer of Muslims and non Muslims, the covenant also calls for crushing the rift between Sunni and Shiite and brings attention to the dangers of committing crimes in the name of religion or religious sect. The covenant also calls for national and religious unity and its preservation from those who wish to divide Iraqis. The covenant also declare all crimes committed in the name of religion in Iraq as a sin forbidden by God. The covalent condemns disgracing of Shiite or Sunnis and condemns the two sects denunciating each other. Auglu added, ‘the covenant also calls upon the Iraqi government to release all those who are innocent and give the accused just and speedy trials with swift punishments if guilt, that they serve as a deterrent to the rest. The covenant affirms the importance of Sunnis and Shiite to stand together for the sovereignty of Iraq and unity of its soil, and to end its occupation and work towards building Iraq’s economy infrastructure military and political structure’.
Amongst the dignitaries attending the signing of this covenant, is president of the Sunni Accord Ahmed Abdulghafoor Alsameraai and president of the Shiite Accord Adnan Alhaideri and Sheik Mohamed Mahmood Alsumed member of ‘Muslim Scholars Association’ (Sunni organization) and Sheik Sader Aldien Kubanchi member of ‘Supreme Council of Islamic Revelation in Iraq’ SCIRI (Shiite organization). It was noted that a representative of Alsistani and Muqtada Alsadar did not attend. However, they did send their endorsements of the covenant and its contents.
This meeting in Suadi Arabis has been going on since Wednesday. Today they released the news of the covenant so that it may be introduced in Mosques in Iraq after Friday prayers. The covenant also called upon mosque speakers to read it after Friday prayers and call upon all in attendance to follow the instruction in the covenant. These type of conferences and compact and covenants have been happening for a while but none at this large a scale and this strong an attendance and endorsements. Time will tell if this may lead the way to reducing or even stopping the violence and killing going on in central Iraq. Arab Sunnis (not Kurd Sunnis) are being killed as revenge for the years of killing and abuse the Shiites suffered under the Baathists (who were mostly Arab Sunni). Shiites are being killed by Sunni Alqaida and former Baathists (Saddam’s no. 2 man is hiding in Saudi Arabia and directing attacks in Iraq from their, using the vast money Baathists stole from the Iraqi treasury) to destabilize the country. Then we have Iran financing Shiite Militias. Syria is supporting the former Baathists and Alqaida to destabilize Iraq. Iran and Syria are doing this to try to bring us to the table and talk directly with them. This would make Iran and Syria appear important and influential. They want to be talking face to face with a super power to help the super power resolve the situation in Iraq. They would also like to keep us occupied in Iraq. Syria just yesterday announced that it is willing to mediate since it has means to influence matters in Iraq. I think this a very interesting statement, since Syria has maintained the fact that it is not supporting, nor that can it influence, terrorists in Iraq. Iran also announced that it is willing to help stabilize Iraq but did not say it could influence any one. Also an interesting statement. Violence in central Iraq is escalating not just because of Ramadan it is escalating to try to influence our elections and test our resolve. The Arab street often maintains that America is not willing to sacrifice and thus can be waited out easily and will take the easy way out. They influence the election In Spain in 2004 and soon afterward, Spain pulled their troops out of Iraq.
Wednesday front-page headlines in the UK's Guardian: Iraq war cost years of progress in Afghanistan - UK brigadier
The invasion of Iraq prevented British forces from helping to secure Afghanistan much sooner and has left a dangerous vacuum in the country for four years, the commander who has led the attack against the Taliban made clear yesterday.The Guardian's letters section, the following day:
Brigadier Ed Butler, commander of 3 Para battlegroup just returned from southern Afghanistan, said the delay in deploying Nato troops after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2002 meant British soldiers faced a much tougher task now.
Your front-page story (Iraq war cost years of progress, October 18) paints a misleading and mischievous picture of what I said at a media briefing on Tuesday. It omits some of my comments and extrapolates meaning and intention from others which is completely false. I did not say the operation in Iraq had cost "years of progress" in Afghanistan; I did not say it had left "a dangerous vacuum"; and I did not say that British soldiers faced a tougher task now because of it.Three cheers for the Brigadier. And never, never believe anything you read in a newspaper. This sort of stuff is happening almost daily now.
I made clear that the operation in Iraq had concentrated UK resources and focus for a time; this is hardly rocket science, nor is it news. I also made clear, however, that the coalition had not slipped back in Afghanistan as a result, nor would it affect its ability to get the job done. Since 2002, the Karzai government's influence has been cemented in Kabul, extended to the north and the west and, now, is being spread in the south and then the east. The dedicated, courageous and professional soldiers I had the privilege of leading in Afghanistan were nothing short of inspirational. I'm immensely proud of them all, and of all they have achieved as part of a difficult mission which, as I made clear, is "emphatically worthwhile".
I am deeply disappointed the Guardian didn't feel able to reflect my views it in its report.
Commander, 16 Air Assault Brigade
(Via USS Neverdock)
Update: More here (as usual with anything I write here.)
Looks like some folks are unhappy with CNN:
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee asked the Pentagon on Friday to remove CNN reporters embedded with U.S. combat troops, saying the network's broadcast of a video showing insurgent snipers targeting U.S. soldiers was tantamount to airing an enemy propaganda film.In another version of the story,
In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., wrote: "CNN has now served as the publicist for an enemy propaganda film featuring the killing of an American soldier."
The letter was also signed by San Diego-area Republican congressmen Darrell Issa and Brian Bilbray.
"This is nothing short of a terrorist snuff film," Bilbray said at a press conference held in San Diego.
CNN officials defended their decision to air the footage.
"Our responsibility is to report the news," said Laurie Goldberg, a CNN spokeswoman. "As an organization we stand by our decision and respect the rights of others to disagree with it."
Executives said the tape came to the network unexpectedly through contact with an insurgent leader.According to their initial story they were just seeking an interview with the "insurgent" leader and were quite surprised to get the second propaganda tape as a bonus.
However, I think Representative Hunter's act could cause more harm than good. It wouldn't keep CNN from airing future terrorists propaganda films, but it would end reports like this one or this one. I doubt Rumsfeld will take this action.
For the record, I'll repeat my position once again:
But like it or not, Mr and Mrs Average American are involved in a propaganda war, the only battle of the war on terror currently being fought on U.S. soil - and those who choose not to be victims of that battle may wonder what the appropriate response should be. Perhaps just this - bear in mind the stated goal: "to throw fear into the American people's hearts", divide and conquer, weaken resolve, and defeat America. Be aware of the plan to reach that goal, and recognize it for what it is when next you see it in action, as you undoubtedly will. (And while you're at it, spread the word...)How can you do that? Since this is the only site telling the full story, send this link to a friend: http://www.mudvillegazette.com/archives/006770.html
(Hat tip: Mark)
Update: On the other hand - the military is the organization that wants to keep Mke Yon out of Iraq, and make it increasingly difficult for active duty milbloggers to function. But I still doubt they'll give CNN the boot. This is why.
Anyone else catch this quote?
A conference call to the committee's nine Democrats on Wednesday to inform them of the aide's suspension prompted outrage, said two congressional officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal committee business.Speaking on condition of anonymity because you are not authorized to speak publicly about what you are speaking about is probably not the best course of action to take when asked to speak about a case about leaks.
Why can't people understand that?
Multinational Force-Iraq spokesman Major General William Caldwell's October 19 briefing from Baghdad:
Violence and progress do coexist here in Iraq. The violence continues against security forces and innocent Iraqis during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Traditionally this is a time of great celebration; it has, instead, been a period of increased violence, not just this year, but during the past two years as well. The violence is indeed disheartening.
In Baghdad alone, we've seen a 22 percent increase in attacks during the first three weeks of Ramadan, as compared to the three weeks preceding Ramadan.
In Baghdad, Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence. We are working very closely with the government of Iraq to determine how to best to refocus our efforts.
In regards to this spike in violence during Ramadan, it's no coincidence that the surge in attacks against coalition forces and subsequent increase in U.S. casualty -- casualties coincide with our increased presence on the streets in Baghdad and the run-up to the American midterm elections. The enemy knows that killing innocent people and Americans will garner headlines and create a sense of frustration.
However, the coalition will not be deterred from establishing an Iraq that can provide for its own security and govern itself. That goal is achievable with a combination of both tough security measures by coalition and Iraqi security forces and a political process that recognizes that 11 or 12 million Iraqis voted for a unity government.
Towards that goal, the coalition continues to support and train an increasingly capable and determined Iraqi security force. This past weekend, Iraqi security forces independently successfully provided security for hundreds of thousands of Shi'a pilgrims who thronged the Iraqi city of Najaf in a peaceful commemoration of the death of the first imam. The event was carefully organized, with city services responding to the massive influx of pilgrims from all across Iraq and neighboring Iran.
Iraqi security forces set up and operated checkpoints and patrols throughout the Najaf province, ensuring the safe passage of these pilgrims. Their ceremony went off as planned, without any incidences, according to the Najaf provincial government officials.
This is the third holy pilgrimage in as many months that involved Iraqi security forces on their own planning and executing security for the movement of millions of worshipers here in this country.
Let's repeat this passage: "In regards to this spike in violence during Ramadan, it's no coincidence that the surge in attacks against coalition forces and subsequent increase in U.S. casualty -- casualties coincide with our increased presence on the streets in Baghdad and the run-up to the American midterm elections. The enemy knows that killing innocent people and Americans will garner headlines and create a sense of frustration."
He knows the sort of treatment the press gives terrorists - but I'll bet he didn't expect the headlines his speech garnered worldwide:
Is that what he said?
Fortunately you don't have to believe anything you read - because the video is here, along with the full transcript.
Note: that second headline might be the boldest lie of them all - the quotation marks around the word failure imply the General actually said that.
This is a growing media strategy, by the way, delivering fabricated quotes - especially from military leaders. You'd think the victims of this sort of sleaze journalism could just respond that they never said that - but if they do they are accused of "backing off" their remarks in follow-up coverage. It's all too common lately.
Update: All too common? Yep - here's another one.
Mudville's quasi-annual fund raising drive begins today. If you can help out, please do.
(Maybe we can get Mrs Greyhawk back to blogging here too...)
At Iraq the Model, Mohammed describes news video of a terrorist attack on a police station:
The driver approaches the entrance to the station which is surrounded by concrete walls. Several police officers open fire from their ak-47's on the incoming suicide bomber but he keeps closing in.Read it all. Wherever you are in the world, there are more people who will seek shelter in that last moment than there are those who will stand. Fortunately, there are even fewer pople willing to slaughter their fellow human beings in this fashion.
As the vehicle passes through the gate and past the last barricade all of the officers run away seeking shelter…except for one extraordinary man.
One police officer held his position and was still standing in the way of the terrorist and kept on firing his rifle at the windshield until the vehicle was just meters from the officer, then…BOOM.
End of video….
There are few people in America who will ever find themselves in such a situation. There are countless more who want to send a message to men like that Iraqi police officer: "You're on your own, pal" and another message to his killers: "You're winning, keep it up".
The jihadists follow our politics much more closely than people realize. A friend at the Pentagon just sent me a post by the “Global Islamic Media Front” carried by the jihadist Web site Ana al-Muslim on Aug. 11. It begins: “The people of jihad need to carry out a media war that is parallel to the military war and exert all possible efforts to wage it successfully. This is because we can observe the effect that the media have on nations to make them either support or reject an issue.”How wonderful. (By the way, I'm not the guy that sent him a copy.)
It then explains that for jihadist videos of attacks on Americans to have the biggest impact, “Some persons will be needed who are proficient in the use of computer graphics including Photoshop, 3D Studio Max, or other programs that the people of jihad will need to design ... video clips about the operations.”
Finally, the Web site suggests that jihadists flood e-mail and video of their operations to “chat rooms,” “television channels,” and to “famous U.S. authors who have public e-mail addresses ... such as Friedman, Chomsky, Fukuyama, Huntington and others.” This is the first time I’ve ever been on the same mailing list with Noam Chomsky.
His very next sentence:
It would be depressing to see the jihadists influence our politics with a Tet-like media/war frenzy. ButAnd yes, what follows that "but" is exactly what you'd expect - a call to leave Iraq. You see, he has the courage to stick to his convictions even though he knows it's exactly what the terrorists want him to do.
Which is why he's on the same list as Chomsky.
I'm in the US - but would like to return to Europe for a visit some fine day.
Whether I do or not, it's possible that some of my major organs could stay there forever.
Germany - a country after my own heart...
Lots of great MilBlogs posts on that "exit poll" topic. Just start here and scroll up. (Good stuff in comments too - as usual.)
And don't miss Glenn and Helen Reynolds podcast interview with Army Secretary Francis Harvey on Recruitment, Retention, and Force Structure. Nice to see the powers-that-be understand the significance of the new media.
CNET, on last May's opening of what's sure to be one of New York city's hot spots - in more ways than one...
NEW YORK--Apple Computer's new 24-hour flagship store in Manhattan is set to open on Friday at 6 p.m. EDT, giving Apple enthusiasts access to products and face-to-face support all day and night.
The new midtown underground store, which features a distinctive 32-foot glass cube entrance, is the most ambitious Apple store to date.
And here's what I mean by "hot spot in more ways than one"...
On October 10, 2006, an Islamic website posted a message alerting Muslims to what it claims is a new insult to Islam. According to the message, the cube-shaped building which is being constructed in New York City, on Fifth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets in midtown Manhattan, is clearly meant to provoke Muslims. The fact that the building resembles the Ka'ba (see picture below), is called "Apple Mecca," is intended to be open 24 hours a day like the Ka'ba, and moreover, contains bars selling alcoholic beverages, constitutes a blatant insult to Islam. The message urges Muslims to spread this alert, in hope that "Muslims will be able to stop the project."While I can't find evidence that Apple actually calls the store "Mecca" (beyond unconfirmed rumors), the building does have bars...
The store will be staffed with nearly 300 trained employees who will be available 24 hours a day to provide free face-to-face customer support on the store floor and along the combined 45-foot "Genius Bar," "iPod Bar" and "The Studio," which are Apple's names for its help desks....and does bear a striking resemblance to the Ka'ba in Mecca - the most revered place in the Muslim world.
Best of luck with that, Mr Jobs.
Update: Heh - LGF had this story earlier today - and it seems the Apple store doesn't look quite the same any more...
The Pentagon will officially announce recruiting numbers for 2006 (fiscal year) this week - but you can preview the results here.
...author Mark Bowden on al-Qaeda involvement in the Mogadishu battle. I believe his estimate of the degree of that involvement is accurate, though the appraisal of the impact - on that specific battle and subsequent events - may be incalculable. (Small ripples that expand with time...)
Likewise I'm sure that involvement was unknown to American intel (and any other) agencies at the time. I recall being utterly baffled by the hostility expressed by the apparent beneficiaries of our attempts to bring food to the starving. In hindsight it's perfectly clear, of course, and by 1998 the pieces to the puzzle were all available - but as much as we'd like to we can't use even the best information to change events in the past.
Update: More background, via comments. I don't recall the referenced precursor event getting much press coverage at the time - or in the aftermath of the later battle.
Tired of the pre-US-elections Iraq news from the national media? Check the local news. There you'll see many of the same points made by the network evening news:
A troop of the 4-14 began its morning Thursday on and around Haifa Street, long considered one of the more dangerous main routes in the city. It’s an area of steady traffic, date palms and tall apartment complexes offering any number of vantage points for snipers, the prime source of attacks on coalition forces in Baghdad.But you'll also get the details that don't survive their editorial scrutiny:
The neighborhood for months has been under the control of the Iraqi security forces, said Capt. Michael Eberhart, commander of this troop, which carries the nickname Assassin Troop.
But now, even many of the Iraqi Army and police are afraid of the violence in the area. Eberhart said his troop’s mission is to determine who’s responsible for the violence and to act as a deterrent. But curbing the ongoing strife between Sunni and Shiite is difficult, he said, because it consists mostly of retaliatory acts.
“It’s just a never-ending cycle,” he said.
Thursday, one of Eberhart’s platoons, headed by 2nd Lt. Mateo Gross and Sgt. 1st Class Curlee Kelley and consisting of four Stryker vehicles, patrolled an area several blocks from Haifa Street accompanied by Iraqi police. The officers joked with the U.S. soldiers as they got out and mingled with the crowd, seemingly at ease with the soldiers nearby. But Gross took charge of questioning local shop owners about the neighborhood violence.Those details are news too, of course. They just don't fit the political narrative that's replaced actual balanced reporting in the run up to the US elections - if that "balance" was ever there in the first place.
Later in the afternoon, Gross directed his platoon to an area off Haifa Street deemed safe enough to patrol on foot. The platoon stopped at a small marketplace near a large apartment complex. The building towers over the few shops selling fruits, vegetables, candy and clothing. Parents had gathered to meet their children getting out of school for the day.
Here, Gross said, is a neighborhood where residents seem to be paying little attention to their neighbor’s ethnicity and living in relative peace with one another. As a Christian woman spoke with soldiers, she was choosing vegetables from a non-Christian shop keeper. Gross said that the city of 7 million has many areas like this where the sectarian violence has not torn neighbors apart.
At another stop, Gross and the other soldiers visited with a clothing store owner, real estate agent and goldsmith. The goldsmith is forthcoming about thieves in the area who became more bold as the presence of coalition and Iraqi forces dwindled in the last months. He, for one, tells the soldiers he’s glad to see them in the neighborhood.
“If we see you guys around, we feel safe,” the goldsmith said.
Of course, the Iraqis have TV News too...
BAGHDAD - The year is 2017, according to the opening credits of the fake news broadcast, and the last man alive in Iraq, whose name is Saaed, is sitting at a desk, working as a television news anchor. He sports an Afro, star-shaped sunglasses, and a button-down shirt.Good stuff - and while Americans are accustomed to seeing their government publicly lampooned it's undoubtedly a bit more of a novelty to a people recently under a totalitarian regime. But such things are fragile, and a world that allows them is not easy to build and even more difficult to maintain, and often taken for granted by those who benefit most, complain loudest, and contribute the least to the cause.
The Americans are still here, the government is still bumbling, and the anchor wants his viewers to drink their tea slowly so they don't burn themselves. "You cannot go to the hospital during the curfew," he warns.
For Iraqis, the remark is outrageously funny, if only because it's so close to being true.
After a summer of the worst violence since U.S. troops toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, tens of thousands of Iraqis are finding solace and amusement in a new television show whose dark humor makes it an Iraqi version of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show.
The nightly send-up of a newscast includes weather, sports and business segments and features six characters, all played by the same actor.
With seemingly no sacred cows, it provides insight into how Iraqis see their country's problems, lampooning the Americans, the Iraqi government, the militias, and the head of Iraq's state-owned media company.
The show is being produced to run only during Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, and it airs just as Baghdadis are breaking their fast. It is so popular that many people report being glued to the screen, eating their first meal of the day in small bites between laughs.
Tears are inevitable, but it would be a fine day indeed if when we did leave we could leave 'em laughing, too.
(Note: This is part two of a series examining recent and little-known developments within al Qaeda, focusing on "public relations" efforts within the group. The previous entry, examining al-Qaeda's acknowledgement of grave problems as revealed in a letter from the group's leadership to Abu Musab al Zarqawi can be read here. This entry details al-Qaeda's efforts to win back the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and the response they received.
Although the group is not yet defeated, al-Qaeda's problems in Iraq are even more significant than western media and other analysts have revealed.
A Threat of Amnesty
A first publicly-released message from Abu Hamza al-Muhajir — also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri - the late Abu Musab al Zarqawi's replacement as leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, made brief headlines in the western media late last month. The AP coverage focused on what seemed his stunning admission of casualty numbers among the "Mujahadeen" in Iraq:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The new leader of al-Qaida in Iraq purportedly said Thursday in an audio message posted online that more than 4,000 foreign militants have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 — the first apparent acknowledgment from the insurgents about their losses.That last bit is true - but incomplete, as we'll soon see. Several paragraphs later the AP adds that
It was unclear why al-Masri would advertise the loss of the group’s foreign fighters, but martyrdom is revered among Islamic fundamentalists, and could be used as a recruiting tool.
In the audio message, al-Masri also offered amnesty to Iraqis who cooperated with their country’s “occupiers,” calling on them to “return to your religion and nation” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which Sunnis began observing in Iraq on Saturday and Shiites on Monday.The two points - the number of deaths suffered by al Qaeda fighters in Iraq and the "amnesty" pledge - reported as distinct issues in western media, are not unrelated, and actually both part of the same desperate appeal to Sunni leaders in al-Anbar Province, a "haven" increasingly less safe for al-Muhajir/Masri and other followers of the Zarqawi/al Qaeda jihad.
The purpose of Muhajir's evocation of the number of "martyrs" is to remind his "target audience" of the dedication and commitment of his fellows to their cause. That reminder serves two purposes - the first an attempt to add a burden of guilt on those who've turned against him: "Do not let us down." Muhajir pleads, "We are at a fork in the road. We need you. We can't promise safety and security, but we can promise jihad for the sake of Allah."
But his second purpose is to establish the deadliness of his purpose, evoked moments later by what some may call an "amnesty" offer, but is truly a threat with a deadline. Muhajir brands his growing (and increasingly bold) Sunni opposition "traitors", demands they make a very public "repentance", and gives them until the end of Ramadan to do so. While the full translation of Muhajir's speech is not currently publicly available, one brief excerpt can be seen here:
"I say to those traitors in this blessed month, the month of pardon and forgiveness," al-Muhajir wrote, "that we are declaring a general pardon for all of them, forgiving them for our blood that was spilled by your hands and your treachery. We welcome you once again. Return to your religion and homeland before we defeat you, and you will have peace and security. We will not touch you but with kindness. You must first declare your sincere repentance in front of your tribes and families and inform us by whatever means, lest we make a mistake [and kill you]. You should put your hands in the hands of your brothers and sons, the mujahideen, for peace and security to return to our homes and expel the invader and to expel the occupier from our midst in this blessed month"But a point of no return may have been passed. As noted here previously, the al Qaeda letter to Zarqawi reveals the group's senior leadership strategy of "keeping quiet, overlooking things, forgiving, and reserving things to a time of an end to weakness and the attainment of complete authority...". Zarqawi never had the opportunity to act on that advice - but Muhajir appears to be doing so. "...it is highly advisable to be polite and to show complete respect, regret, compassion, and mercy and so forth. You must incline yourself to this, and be humble to the believers, and smile in people’s faces, even if you are cursing them in your heart..." Zarqawi was told, and rather than kill them, he was further instructed to confront his Iraqi opposition "by many other means of discourse and fervor of speech, and such, and with a bit of wisdom, patience, and deliberateness" until such time as he can "behave differently in accordance with what is appropriate for that time." - the aforementioned attainment of complete authority.
But Muhajir's intended victims are aware of that approach, and have seen al Qaeda's plan for Iraq in action. Accordingly, his comments have already drawn their response. Iraq's al-Iraqiyah Television interviewed Shaykh Abd al-Sattar Abu-Rishah, chieftain of the Al-Bu-Rishah tribe in al-Anbar the day following the release of Muhajir's message:
Asked about his response to Al-Muhajir's statement about giving a pardon to the chieftains of Iraq, he says: "I do not know what kind of authority he enjoys. Is he a prophet? Did he receive a messenger from God to give us a pardon? Are we criminals like him? Are we killers like him to be given a pardon? Or did we ask him for pardon? On the contrary, he should ask us for pardon, because he killed Iraqis, Sunnis and Shi'is. Who is he? He is only an inferior criminal. We should not grant him a pardon."And a guest on a popular Iraqi al Diyar television talk show was even less gracious: "Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, who stole chickens in 1980, is now issuing pardons for chieftains? Who is he to pardon the Chieftains of Iraq?"
Turning the Tide
That's a glimpse of Iraq rarely seen in western media. The rift between al-Anbar's chieftains (who once welcomed al-Qaeda fighters into their towns) and those now-despised foreigners has been growing for some time - and the strength and resolve of the chieftains has increased too, to the point where statements humiliating the once-feared terrorist leadership are now made in person, before the entire nation, in prime-time. They may pay for that show of courage with their lives, but it may be too late to turn the tide back in favor of their would-be assassins.
The U.S. military cited incidents of insurgent infighting in a rare public description of a split:February:
• At least six ranking members of al-Qaeda in Iraq have been assassinated by Sunni insurgents or tribal gunmen in separate incidents since September, Zahner said. The killings are usually in retaliation for al-Qaeda's role in violence, such as the execution of local police officers, he said.
• 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.
• Near the Syrian border, members of the Albu Mahal tribe, which attacked U.S. positions as recently as March, have lately been pointing U.S. troops to al-Qaeda hideouts, Zahner said.
Iraq's national security adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, also said there is a rift in the insurgency, calling it a "a major step forward in our fight against terrorism."
Sheikh Osama al-Jadaan, head of the influential Karabila tribe in Sunni Arab-dominated western Iraq, is more politician than traditional sheikh these days. He's given up his dishdasha and Arab headdress for a pinstripe suit with a silk handkerchief in his breast pocket.March:
He's also turned away from supporting Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi and other foreign fighters in Iraq. "We realized that these foreign terrorists were hiding behind the veil of the noble Iraqi resistance," says Mr. Jadaan. "They claim to be striking at the US occupation, but the reality is they are killing innocent Iraqis in the markets, in mosques, in churches, and in our schools."
Tribal chiefs in Iraq's western Anbar province and in an area near the northern city of Kirkuk, two regions teeming with insurgents, are vowing to strike back at al-Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni Arab-led group that is waging war against Sunni tribal leaders who are cooperating with the Iraqi government and the U.S. military.
While all this was ongoing, coalition forces were capturing al-Qaeda members (often on tips from Iraqi citizens) and gaining intel that ultimately led to the June attack that killed Zarqawi.
Lines in the Sand
While obviously this was not the end of al Qaeda in Iraq, it was a significant blow to their cause. Still, many "analysts" declared Zarqawi a hindrance to al Qaeda's goals and predicted the group would restore its image with the local population. Reality did not meet those expectations. By mid-September:
Anbar residents say the towns of Khalidiya and Haditha are effectively controlled by al Qaeda, who run Islamic courts, force women to wear an Afghan-style burqa and regularly dump bodies of those they call "traitors" and "spies" on the streets.But...
But there are also towns like Qaim on the Syrian border where tribesmen have taken matters into their own hands and thrown the al Qaeda militants out. Others want to emulate them.
"We just want to live like everyone else. We're sick of all this bloodshed," said one Ramadi resident, voicing a common sentiment but requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals.
"If you criticise al Qaeda, you will find yourself dead the next day. We don't want to live in constant fear," he added.
A young man who calls himself Abu Farouq, a senior al Qaeda figure in northern Ramadi, said his fighters want an Islamic caliphate in Anbar...
"We have the right to kill all infidels, like the police and army and all those who support them," he told Reuters.
"This tribal system is un-Islamic. We are proud to kill tribal leaders who are helping the Americans."
Sheikh Sattar al-Buzayi summoned other tribal chiefs last week for a war council at his fortified home in Ramadi, the teeming, scarred capital of Iraq's Anbar province, desert heartland of the Sunni Arabs.Buzayi's meeting, dubbed the "Anbar Awakening Conference", was attended by 15 of the 18 tribes of the region. The group formed the "al Anbar Salvation Council", and sought help from the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq, as reported by the AP on September 19th:
There was a bountiful feast of beef and rice, and a vow of unrelenting battle against the common enemy -- al Qaeda.
"We have to form police and army forces from among our sons to fight these al Qaeda militants," Buzayi, who says the militants murdered his father and his brother, told Reuters.
"We have now entered a real battle. It's either us or them."
BAGHDAD, Iraq A prominent Sunni tribal leader on Tuesday asked the Iraqi government to legitimize a newly formed tribal council in one of Iraq's most volatile provinces to enable it to fight "terrorists where ever we find them."One week later, (and one day after US and Iraqi forces killed "Al-Qaeda's Amir in Anbar") Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki met with those leaders:
Tribal leaders and clerics in Ramadi, the capital of the violent Anbar province west of Baghdad, met last week and set up a 43-member Anbar Salvation Council with a force of about 20,000 men to fight the virulent insurgency in this western Sunni city.
Baghdad: Sunni tribal leaders who have vowed to drive Al Qaida out of Iraq's most restive province met the Shiite premier on Wednesday, marking what Washington hopes will be a breakthrough alliance against militants.Those developments - as with most in Iraq - attracted scant notice in western media. But Iraqi and Arab media sources had much more. Dubai's al Arabiyah quoted Buzayi after the meeting: "The Prime Minister is concerned with the Iraqi people. He is a good man, and wants everything good for our governate." Other reports would say the Anbar group had pledged to defend the highways, and that the youth of the tribes would be encouraged to join the Iraqi army and police. In return, rebuilding funds were pledged to al Anbar to be used when the security situation had improved.
Sattar Al Buzayi, a Sunni shaikh from Anbar province who has emerged in recent weeks as a leader of a tribal alliance against Osama Bin Laden's followers, said he and about 15 other shaikhs had offered their cooperation to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki.
"This is admired and respected by all Iraqis. We are fully prepared to back your efforts," said the prime minister.
That meeting occurred on 27 September - and prompted the response from Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, which was issued the following day, and covered extensively in the western media without the connection being made.
In another (largely ignored, and absurdly transparent) public relations ploy the same day, al Qaeda in Iraq announced they were changing the name of their campaign from the "Campaign to Avenge the blood of Zarqawi" to "The Military Evident Victory Battle".
Al Jazeera that day provided a quote in support of the Anbar tribes directly refuting Muhajir from Ahmed Naji Jibarah al Juburi, chief of the Salah-al-Din Provence tribal council: "Iraq is our Iraq. It does not belong to the leader of al Qaeda. He wants to eliminate us and make Iraq a wasteland."
And also the same day:
...a Shiite religious leader in Karbala province called upon the Sunnis who left Karbala to please return to their homes. These Sunnis left after the attack on Askariah Shrine in samara last February. Please return to your homes to help of our national unity and national reconciliation programs started by Iraqi PM Alamliki to succeed.
Mr. Ahmad Alhussieny, a member of the Karbala provincial assembly (thus an elected official) and committee chair talked to Aswat Aliraq (an independent Iraqi news agency). Alhussieny said; 'the return of displaced Sunnis to Karbala province (a heavily Shiite province) and the return their mosque's use, which was vacated after the explosion at the Askariah shrine in Samara, is essential to the success of national reconciliation. This is very important and a way for the people of Karbala to show that we are committed to peace and reconciliation and will not be drawn, by the enemies of Iraq, into sectarian or religious strife. Alhussieny then called on the other provinces to follow Karbalas' lead, by opening their hearts and their doors to their dear Sunni brethren who have been with us through out history'.
On the final day of September the Yemen Times reported:
Iraqi police and tribal leaders in Al-Ramadi said Iraqi sources promised to wage war on Al-Qaeda organization there and managed to arrest five Al-Qaeda affiliates last Friday, including three Yemenis.And on October 3rd, the British paper The Guardian reported that "Al-Qaida in Iraq is being pushed out of its strongholds in Anbar province after three days of fighting with Iraq's fiercely independent tribes." (For the record - it won't be that easy.)
According to police officer Salam Obeed, the five men were arrested without incident below a bridge in Al-Ramadi in Al-Anbar province.
Occupying approximately one-third of Iraq’s total area, Al-Anbar is the stronghold of Sunni Arabs and one of the most dangerous areas for U.S. forces, according to Sattar Al-Baza’I, a sheikh of one of Al-Anbar's tribes.
By the 5th, even the LA Times offered some lukewarm coverage of the developments.
The same al-Arabiyah news item quoting Buzayi above also mentioned that many of the al Qaeda fighters from al Anbar had fled to Diyala Province. Security responsibilities for that region were handed over from the Americans to the 3rd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division, on October 1st.
The day prior,
Iraqi military forces have defeated what they called an attempt to create a breakaway Sunni religious territory in Iraq's eastern Diyala province, an army spokesman said yesterday.The ongoing Iraqi Army operation, dubbed " Swift Response", has now netted over 250 suspected "insurgent" fighters.
"We foiled an attempt to establish an emirate in Diyala," said Brigadier General Shakr Al Kaabi of the Iraqi Army's Fifth Division on the second day of a wide-ranging operation sweeping through the provincial seat of Baquba. He added that according to their intelligence, this "emirate" – a term which can mean an independent state under a religious leader – was to have been announced at the end of Ramadan.
Tough talk is being replaced by action. Can it be sustained? Can the "Salvation Council" endure if key figures in the movement are eliminated, or shift loyalties? The answers are coming - albeit slowly, and they won't likely appear in western news any time soon. Combat on the part of the Anbar tribes against al Qaeda will simply appear as more carnage in the always blood-soaked month of Ramadan, and the deaths of Sunnis killed by al Qaeda can always be blamed on Shiite militias - or "sectarian violence".
The conflict in Iraq goes on - and will for some time. And the al Anbar tribes' opposition to al Qaeda is not comensurate with support for the U.S. - they will be quite happy to see us leave also. But if their battle with the other foreign invader is successful, that day will come too.
Related: a look at al Qaeda's "accomplishments" in Iraq duiring 2005.
Next: we turn our attention to al Qaeda's public relations outreach to the American people...)
Update: From CENTCOM:
TERRORIST LINKED TO AL-QAIDA IN IRAQ LEADER DETAINEDClosing in...
Release Date: 10/5/2006
Release Number: 06-01-05P
Description: BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained a former driver and personal assistant of Abu Ayyub al-Masri along with 31 others during a series of 11 raids targeting al-Qaida in Iraq activities in the Baghdad area Sept. 28.
This is the second close associate of Abu Ayyub al-Masri captured in September, also believed to have been one of his personal drivers. Intelligence indicates his participation in the 2005 bombings of the Sheraton and the Al Hamra hotels in Baghdad that killed a total of 16 people and injured 65 others.
Three days after this operation, the Iraqi government released a video of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the al-Qaida in Iraq leader, instructing terrorists on how to build vehicle borne improvised explosive devices from the inside of a tanker truck. Intelligence indicates the suspected terrorist captured was working directly for Abu Ayyub al-Masri when the video was created.
Coalition forces identified and detained the suspected terrorist without incident. Testimony from the Abu Ayyub al-Masri associate detained in Baghdad Sept. 12 led to the capture of this suspected terrorist. Coalition forces recovered multiple weapons to include several IED-ready mortar rounds and other munitions during the raids.Operations by Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to contribute to the disorganization and disruption of al-Qaida in Iraq.
Update: The story continues here.
...on that Zarqawi letter, from Austin Bay.
And here's another group feeling a bit squeezed right now.
The recently released letter from a senior al-Qaeda "advisor" to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (captured in the aftermath of the strike that killed him) confirms the strained relationship between the factions of the terrorist organization.
While media analysis has focused on the group leadership's dismay with Zarqawi's attacks on fellow Sunni Muslims, few analysts have gone beyond that surface issue to the deeper leadership strategy and long range plans endangered by Zarqawi's actions and revealed in the text of the document:
Since this is necessary, it is highly advisable to be polite and to show complete respect, regret, compassion, and mercy and so forth. You must incline yourself to this, and be humble to the believers, and smile in people’s faces, even if you are cursing them in your heart, even if it has been said that they are “a bad tribal brother,” and what have you.It's not the attacks on Sunni Muslims that concerns the al Qaeda leadership - its just thepriority of the attacks, and in the eyes of the senior leadership Zarqawi has misjudged the urgency. There will be plenty of time later to deal with Sunnis who disagree with al Qaeda's goals, as the author assures Zarqawi:
Among the most crucial of things involved is exercising all caution against attempting to kill any religious scholar or tribal leader who is obeyed, and of good repute in Iraq from among the Sunnis, no matter what. Instead, we should confront anyone evil by many other means of discourse and fervor of speech, and such, and with a bit of wisdom, patience, and deliberateness. We should continue in our jihad, and when God opens the way, and we have the wherewithal, then we can behave differently in accordance with what is appropriate for that time.
Thus, as I previously mentioned, there is no harm in a certain amount of keeping quiet, overlooking things, forgiving, and reserving things to a time of an end to weakness and the attainment of complete authority...In short, work with them now, kill them last.
(Note: This is part one of a series examining recent and little-known developments within al Qaeda, focusing on "public relations" efforts within the group. The next entry, detailing al-Qaeda's efforts to win back the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and the response they received, can be read here.
In the Boston Herald, Jules Crittenden with good news from Iraq.
This won't do anything to repair his relationship with the Associated Press.
...or something else.
The NY Times reports that the "$436.6 billion military spending bill passed Friday".
"Spending bill" is a media description, not the actual name of the bill, but it is descriptive. Americans will be shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that "Lawmakers... found room in the bill to pay for thousands of requests never sought by the Defense Department."
The total cost of earmarks is subject to debate. The House Appropriations Committee said the value of the “member projects” in the spending bill this time was $6.7 billion, down from $7.7 billion in the bill approved last year. The Congressional Research Service estimated the total cost of earmarks in last year’s bill at more than $9 billion. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan group, has identified well over 2,000 earmarks in this year’s bill, roughly on par with last year’s.Read/search the bill online here.
Given the recently passed earmark transparency bill (actual name: "Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act") we may see some interesting media or blog coverage of these items.
Ironically, the first spending bill passed after the heralded and praised earmark transparency bill doesn't have a single lawmaker owning up to an earmark. All of the bill's $433.6 billion in spending has sailed through the new rule's wide-open loopholes. The only acknowledgement of the change is a small mention at the end of the conference report stating that no provisions meet the earmark criteria. Even the bill writers didn't say the bill didn't contain earmarks, just that none meet the definition outlined in the rule change.So there.
But whatever follows, I hope no one goes after this project:
Among the earmarks identified by Taxpayers for Common Sense were $1.7 million for photon research in upstate New York, care of Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer...Because we need the photon torpedoes first, damn it.