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Via email, from Haider Ajina:
The following is an article from the Iraqi independent news agency Aswat Al-Iraq (voices of Iraq VOI) of January 28, 2007
Sadrists, Islamic Party ink deal to maintain security By Wathiq IsmaelHaider's comments:
Baghdad, Jan 28, (VOI) – The Sadrist bloc, or members of parliament loyal to Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Iraqi Islamic Party (Sunni Party). Signed an agreement to set up joint committees in the areas inhabited by a mix of Shiites and Sunnis with the aim of preserving security and cooperating with Iraqi security forces, according to Bahaa al-Aaraji, a Sadrist member of parliament, on Sunday.
"A meeting was held on Saturday between Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (Sunni Kurd), his deputy Tareq al-Hashimi (Sunni Araba), the Secretary of the Iraqi Islamic Party and a leading figure of the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF), and al-Aaraji to discuss a host of issues and mechanisms pertaining to the security situation in general and the Baghdad security plan expected to be carried out soon," Aaraji told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
A statement issued by the Iraqi vice president's office read "Aaraji has briefed Hashimi on proposals regarding the Sadrist bloc's position on the security plan, to be in effect during the next few days."
The statement quoted Aaraji as saying "if the proposals deliberated in the meeting materialized, it would be a historic juncture undoubtedly improving security conditions, especially in Baghdad."
"The parties in the meeting agreed to hold further ones in the future," the statement pointed out, adding "Hashimi has encouraged the Sadrists to adopt stands in important but still pending issues showing the Sadrist bloc's keenness on helping stop the vicious circle of violence."
"Aaraji promised to study and reply to these proposals," the statement added.
Aaraji, however, declined to speak on these issues but hinted, "one of them is about the armed militias."
It appears from this article that Sunni & Shiite Arabs in the Iraqi government and Parliament are beginning to sit together and hash out a security plan. By the way, both these groups have militia or armed members in them. This is why this meeting is significant. As you may have read, last week the members of Parliament loyal to Muqtada have returned to their seats after boycotting the parliament since December. They returned with no (apparent) conditions. A few days ago, these same Sadarists announced that they fully support, with no reservations, the new security plan for Baghdad, which includes the increase in U.S. and Iraqi troops in Baghdad. The Sadarits camp has deffinatly had a change of policy and rhetoric. They are calling for not attacking coalition troops, not retaliating for Sunni Bomb attacks and for allowing the Iraqi and coalition security forces to implement security via the new plan. All this is quite encouraging. If the Mahdi army stands down then the Arab Sunnis will have no reason to feel threatened and that excuse will be nullified. By the way, Iraq’s president Jelal Talibani (a Sunni Kurd) said in an interview to a, London based, that over 70% of the victims of the violence in 2006 in Iraq have been Shiites. This shows the lopsidedness of the violence in Iraq. Most of the attacks are by the former Baathists and Alqida in Iraq (both predominantly if not totally Sunni groups) as they continue the car bomb campaign against Iraqis and coalition forces mostly in Baghdad and north west of Baghdad. Many moderate Iraqi Arab Sunni leaders are condemning these attacks when ever they occur.
Plans are moving forward for this year's Milblogs Conference - the blog is now online.
Speaking of MilBlogs, if you're wondering where I spend most of my time these days, it's here.
During the Democratic response to the President's State of the Union Message, Virginia freshman Senator (and Marine vet) James Webb made this statement:
The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought. Nor does the majority of our military.That claim regarding the military led many to wonder where he got his figures. He didn't say, and you're not likely to hear any official answers. But a possible explanation may be a Military Times poll from late 2006. Here's how the Times led their coverage of the results
The American military — once a staunch supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war — has grown increasingly pessimistic about chances for victory.You can read the whole thing - it's quite a gloomy tale.
But the Times did one thing that few polling firms would do - they made the raw results available for download on the web. If you're familiar with Microsoft Excel you can crunch the numbers yourself - and check my results. We're about to take a look at the results of the poll that probably won't make headlines in your local paper (or speeches from your local politicians).
Before looking at these numbers, understand they were collected prior to the "surge" announcement, and opinions expressed may have changed subsequently. (Those who might wonder what "the surge" really is should probably read this, too - contrary to what you're hearing, no additional troops are being sent to Iraq. And read this for an understanding of the more important changes in strategy beyond the numbers.)
The poll received 954 responses. All were from active duty troops - no National Guard or Reserves.
Total responses, by branch:
Coast Guard: 9
480 have not been to Iraq. (Is it accurate to claim "a majority of the military have not been to Iraq"?).
303 have been once,
24 three times,
24 more than three times.
Iraq service, by branch (Iraq tour data was missing from the results in four cases):
Army: 280 (64% of responses) to Iraq; 179 once, 78 twice, 15 three times, 8 claim 4 tours (note: normal Army rotations are 1 year - or longer. The war will reach four years duration this March)
USAF: 27% had been to Iraq - 34 once, 11 twice, 2x3, 12x4 (Air Force tours were 90 days at the beginning of the war but were extended to 120 days in 2004. Some USAF members serve 6 month or longer tours)
USMC: 70% - 39 once, 17 twice, 4x3, none claim 4 (Marines generally serve 8 month tours)
Navy: 34% - 49x1 13x2 3x3 4x4 (Navy tour lengths vary by position)
Coast Guard: none to Iraq
Some specific questions and responses:
If you had to decide today, would you re-enlist or — if an officer — extend your commitment?
The purpose of this question is to determine if Iraq is "breaking" the military by attrition. The answer appears to be "no".
Of the total responses, 200 (21%) indicated they would not extend/re-up. Of those, 94 (17 USAF, 6 Marines, 20 Navy, 50 Army, 1 Coast Guard) cited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as one of the three primary reasons for their decision (an equal number cite pay). Of those 94, only 52 have been to Iraq.
Of all troops who've been to Iraq, 104 of 470 (22%) answered no.
Seventy-five of 280 Army Iraq veterans answered no (27%) - but only 38 (14%) cite Iraq/Afghan wars as a reason.
Throughout all services, 59 of those who answered yes cite those same wars as one reason for doing so. Re-enlistment rates have exceeded goals for the duration of the Iraq war - so far.
Regardless of whether you think the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq, how likely is the U.S. to succeed?
Very likely to succeed: 126
Somewhat likely to succeed: 355
Not very likely to succeed: 291
Not at all likely to succeed: 95
No opinion - remainder
Very likely to succeed: 68
Somewhat likely to succeed: 186
Not very likely to succeed: 139
Not at all likely to succeed: 49
No opinion - remainder
These numbers - while much more positive than results from civilian polls - probably also reflect an assumption that then-current strategy would remain constant - an assumption already proven faulty. Based on responses to the next question, the results might be even more favorable if this same question were asked today.
We currently have 145,000 troops in Iraq and Kuwait. How many troops do you think we should have there?
All responses / Iraq vets
0: 121 / 60
0-50,000: 69 / 42
50,000 - 144,000: 56 / 38
145,000: 122 / 70
146,000-200,000: 208 / 100
200,000+: 155 / 78
No opinion/don’t know: remainder
Note the largest group - both the Iraq vets and non-Iraq vets categories - favored (even prior to the announcement) an increase in troops consistent with the "surge" plan numbers.
Again, theses results were obtained prior to the announcement of the surge. "The majority of the military no longer supports the way this war is being fought" might have been an accurate statement at that time, it may be less so now. And the reasons for that lack of support might not be ones that certain members of congress want to hear.
If so, they'd better stay away from bases from which the surge will launch:
Unlike in Congressional corridors and across the civilian landscape of the country, there seems far more support than outrage, more cheer than cheerlessness, and a hope that maybe this will do it.
Or: "How to stop choosing the wrong damn side in this war"
President Bush announces The Surge - 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. "The vast majority of them -- five brigades -- will be deployed to Baghdad."
Fox poll: "By 59 percent to 36 percent, Americans oppose sending more U.S. troops to Iraq."But sixty-three percent (including most Democrats) say they personally want the plan to succeed. But with an eye on the above numbers,
That's right in line with other polls on the topic - so much so that it's hard to refute the results. USA Today/Gallup Poll: "those surveyed oppose the idea of increased troop levels by 61%-36%." Times/Bloomberg found 36% approve, 60% disapprove of the plan. CBS reported 33% favor sending more troops and 59% oppose.
Lawmakers were introducing Iraq legislation at a mad pace yesterday, at one point in the afternoon scheduling news conferences in half-hour intervals.With poll results in, they wanted to confirm their own opposition to the plan. But what is it they oppose? By the same token, what is it that others are supporting? What exactly is this plan that most Americans "want to work"?
You might think you know. You might be under the false impression that 20,000+ troops who otherwise wouldn't be in Iraq will now be there. You'd be wrong - but it's not completely your fault. The President didn't offer details in his speech, and nowhere in all the subsequent coverage of "The Surge" will you discover an explanation of how it's being accomplished. But before deciding what you think about the plan you might want to take a moment to learn what it is. Clarifying that is not a difficult task - the issue isn't complicated and the information is unclassified. The Pentagon has released the details, and they are readily available on various public DoD web sites. Any reporter wanting to understand what's happening prior to filing their next story on the topic could discover this with about 15 minutes work - but we're going to make it even easier and do it for them.
First: no units are going to Iraq that weren't already planning on going.
Troop rotation plans for most of 2007 were revealed in this November DoD announcement:
For Operation Iraqi Freedom, the major units announced today are:What had yet to be determined officially was exactly when those troops would deploy. For most, late spring/early summer was the working plan. Likewise, their exact destination within Iraq was "for planning purposes only". For some (not all) it's now Baghdad, and sooner.
3rd Infantry Division Headquarters, Fort Stewart, Ga.
4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Ks.
4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wa.
3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.
1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C
173rd Airborne Brigade, Vicenza, Italy
While not all those units will "surge", only one of the "surge" units is missing from that list - but that unit surged before the surge was cool. Brigades of the 82nd Airborne are America's "stand by" force, with one of the four always ready to deploy on short notice. For the 2nd Brigade that notice came on December 27, with little fanfare.
The 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team received orders today to deploy to Kuwait in early January to become the theater command's "call forward" force, Defense Department officials announced today.And replace them they did. But the Marines weren't coming home - they had already moved into Iraq the month before:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved the request from Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, yesterday, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told Pentagon reporters.
About 3,500 members of the "Falcon Brigade" headquarters will replace the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit as CENTCOM's forward-deployed on-call force, ready to respond quickly to a full range of contingencies, he said.
The amphibious group moved into the Persian Gulf so the Marines could become the reserve force for Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command, who is responsible for Iraq and Afghanistan.Then came the announcement of "The Surge":
The Marine unit was sent ashore in mid-November to replace Army troops who had been transferred from Anbar to reinforce the effort to stop the increasingly deadly sectarian violence in Baghdad.
DoD Announces Force AdjustmentsAnd there you have it. Some troops already tapped to deploy will now go a few months early. Some troops in country will stay late. No troops will move into Iraq who weren't already scheduled to go to Iraq.
As a result of the President’s Iraq strategy review, the Department of Defense announced today an increase of 20,000 U.S. military forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Specific decisions made by the Secretary of Defense include:
The 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., and currently assigned as the call forward force in Kuwait, will move into Iraq and assume a security mission there.
The 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard, will be extended in its current mission for up to 125 days and will redeploy not later than August 2007.
The 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, based at Ft. Riley, Kan., will deploy in February 2007 as previously announced.
Three other Army combat brigades will deploy as follows:
The 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, based at Ft. Benning, Ga., will deploy in March 2007.
The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Ft. Lewis, Wash., will deploy in April 2007.
The 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, based at Ft. Stewart, Ga., will deploy in May 2007.
The Marine Corps will extend two reinforced infantry battalions for approximately 60 days. Additionally, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) will remain in Iraq for approximately 45 additional days.
So is "The Surge" a simple numbers game, a bit of sleight of hand to make it appear we're doing something that we aren't? No - there will be a real increase in troop numbers in Iraq - especially combat troops and especially in Baghdad - until such time as the units currently in Iraq (and extended as part of the surge) start coming home.
And that is "The Surge". While naming it provides something "tangible" to oppose, if there was some way to "stop it" - short of withdrawing immediately from Iraq - the same troops would go to Iraq,
...just on their normal schedule and in time to hive-five the folks they will replace instead of reinforce. Those newly arrived troops will be completely up shit creek, of course, as no one in Iraq is going to take them at all seriously.That's assuming not too much damage has already been done with the political grandstanding of the past week. Meanwhile, lost amid the hoopla surrounding those press conferences scheduled at half-hour intervals
Casey: First Additional U.S. Troops Arrive in Baghdad to Support New PlanFor those interested in keeping up with all this in the future, I recommend frequent visits to MilBlogs - we tend to track this stuff rather closely over there.
WASHINGTON – The first additional U.S. troops who will take part in new security operations in Iraq have arrived in Baghdad, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq said today.
“The initial elements of the first group are here," George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters at a news conference in Baghdad.
Additional reading: Don't confuse the 'surge' with the strategy, from Small Wars Journal.
Non-military progress reported in Iraq, from Reuters:
U.S. aims to restart 10 Iraqi factories in weeksThat story prompts a surprising headline in the NY Times: Iraqi Factories, Aging And Shut, Now Give Hope
BAGHDAD, Jan 18 (Reuters) - U.S. officials have drawn up a list of 10 former state-run Iraqi factories they hope to restart within weeks to employ 11,000 people, kicking off a plan aimed at giving potential insurgents an economic reason not to fight.
Paul Brinkley, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for business transformation, said the factories on the "top 10 list" are among 200 major factories around Iraq that used to employ more than 300,000 people before the March 2003 U.S. invasion.
U.S. policy immediately after the invasion was to promote privatisation so most state-run factories closed.
That left their employees surviving on stipends of about 30 to 40 percent of their former salaries and had a ripple effect on the economy, for example on farmers whose produce was no longer bought by food-processing plants, Brinkley said.
"The core effort right now is to restore employment to as many of the Iraqi people as we can," Brinkley told a news conference in Baghdad. "We think that will improve stability. It will undermine insurgent sympathy."
Conceding that U.S. policy had been based on the false assumption that Iraq's industry was "Soviet-style" and inefficient, Brinkley said a gradual transformation to the private sector was now favored over rapid privatisation.
RAMADI, Iraq, Jan. 16 — Inside a huge shuttered factory on the gritty western fringes of this outlaw desert town, thousands of ornate porcelain sinks, toilets and other fixtures sit in row after row next to the automated ovens and assembly lines that once churned out the products but lie silent under a thin film of yellow desert dust.The Times story is also carried - with the same headline, in The International Herald Tribune and Speigel Online.
However, neither the fancy ceramics nor the machines appear to be damaged, a miracle that no one can quite explain in one of the most dangerous cities of a country that looters have ravaged since 2003.
Whatever the explanation, some American and Iraqi officials believe that surviving factories like this one — once considered inefficient, government-subsidized behemoths — could present a last chance of sorts for dealing with two problems that have remained stubbornly unsolved since the invasion: Iraq’s reconstruction and its insurgency.
And in fact, the Times has a double shocker for its readers today:
Iraqis Answer Global Critics By Tackling Troubling IssuesElsewhere in Iraq:
Iraqi political leaders stepped up efforts to persuade the world that they were tackling the country’s thorniest problems on Wednesday, highlighting crackdowns on militias, pressing for more rapid arming of Iraqi troops, and underlining progress on a national oil law and new examples of reconciliation with former Baathists.
BAGHDAD — Iraq's leaders will need at least a few more months to hammer out political deals central to President Bush's security overhaul, the outgoing U.S. ambassador said Wednesday.Meanwhile, back in the States:
In an interview with USA TODAY, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad laid out a timetable for Iraqi politicians to resolve long-simmering disagreements, such as how to share Iraq's oil wealth.
The initiatives include:
•An oil law. Drafters finalized an energy bill Tuesday that would define how Iraq's oil wealth would be distributed to different regions, Khalilzad said.
Sunni-dominated territories possess a relatively small percentage of Iraq's oil reserves, and Sunni politicians want to make sure they receive a share of future royalties.
The bill needs Cabinet approval before the parliament votes on it and will probably take a month to pass into law, Khalilzad said.
•De-Baathification. U.S. officials are reviewing a draft law that would partially lift a ban that prevents former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, most of them Sunnis, from holding government jobs. The law is probably two months away from passage, Khalilzad said.
•Constitutional amendments. A bill that would outline how Iraq's constitution could be amended — a point of heated debate between Iraqi sects — is being studied and is "several months" from completion, Khalilzad said.
"You cannot run a war by committee," Vice President Cheney said over the weekend. Oh? Just watch them. Lawmakers were introducing Iraq legislation at a mad pace yesterday, at one point in the afternoon scheduling news conferences in half-hour intervals.She can get headlines in the NY Times, too.
Early risers saw Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) in the Senate television gallery introducing his proposal to limit U.S. troops in Iraq to 130,000 and to hold a vote on whether to reauthorize the war. Those who lingered until lunchtime could catch Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and other House liberals demanding a withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq within six months.
Booking the Senate TV studio at 2:30 p.m. were Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), with their own Iraq resolution. They had to vacate the room at 3 p.m. for the arrival of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.); Clinton floated a variation of the Dodd plan. Minutes after that session, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) issued a statement announcing legislation ordering a "phased redeployment" of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Even Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who gave up his Senate seat, tried to get a piece of the action yesterday. His campaign sent out a fundraising appeal, asking: "Please chip in to help stop this escalation today."
But the excitement was misplaced. For all the bills introduced yesterday, none is likely to force President Bush to change course in Iraq. Proposals such as Biden's are "nonbinding" and others don't have enough votes to pass. "There is very little chance in the short run that we are going to pass any legislation," Clinton confided during her news conference. Asked to elaborate, she explained: "I can count."
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday called President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq “a losing strategy” and proposed placing new limits on the White House’s conduct of the war.
Starting at 7 a.m. with back-to-back appearances on NBC and CBS, Senator Clinton devoted her day to a choreographed effort to press the Bush administration to change its Iraq policy and to outline a set of views that might bring her more in sync with Democratic primary voters.
Mrs. Clinton, who is expected to announce plans to run for president soon, sought to tap into the intense and bitter emotions that many Democrats feel about the war, as she promised to introduce legislation to cap the number of troops in Iraq and to place restraints on the administration’s policy.
“I’m really passionate about getting the administration’s attention because they hold most of the cards,” Mrs. Clinton said during an interview in her Senate office here. “And I don’t want to keep losing these young men and women.”
Her new political offensive on Iraq came one day after Senator Barack Obama of Illinois announced that he had formed an exploratory committee for a presidential bid and three days after another likely rival, former Senator John Edwards, took an indirect swipe at Mrs. Clinton and other members of Congress for not doing more to oppose the war in Iraq.
Here's how a surge works.
Wednesday morning, the phone rings. “Who the heck is calling at this hour?” As I turn over to reach for the nightstand, I glance at the windows in the room. They’re still dark; no hint of light. And I mutter under my breath, “It’s never good news if it’s dark.” As I reach for the phone, the green numbers on the clock say 5:30. I pick the phone out of its cradle and push the “on” button.Some stay late:
“Hey, Ma.” I mentally calculate, 7:30 Georgia time.
“Hey. Everything OK?”
I just got off the phone with my son. One of the wonders of the modern world is that I can actually talk with my boy even though he is so far away serving his country...The President of Iraq:
My son's tour of duty has been extended for six months. I beg you not to turn your back on him and his fellow soldiers.
‘The ideas announced by the American president, shows a new effort to improve security in Iraq, and they concur and correspond with Iraq’s government plans and ideas...Here's how the enemy responds: What? Already running away!?
Iraqi implementation authority is giving its utmost efforts to get maximum benefit from the new plans laid out by President Bush. We will use these opportunities to speed up the implementation of these new plans for personal security and national stability.
...While we fully understand the importance of security, we are cognizant that any long term improvements in security depend on improvement in the political and economic situations. This can only come about by implementing the national reconciliation plan, and revisiting some of the new laws and constitution. Only then can we have national unity. We are very mindful and grateful for all the efforts and sacrifices of our allies and friends. Ending the sectarian violence is an Iraqi responsibility, while fighting terrorism is a joint responsibility for all. Brining security and stability is in the end the central issue for the Iraqi central government’.
President Talabani thanked President Bush for his continued support and backing for the new Iraq, its political process and its people. Talabani said to President Bush, ‘we are your allies in the war against terrorism and for the success of democracy in the new Iraq. We will not spare any effort or resource to obtain measurable success going forward.
Here's a request from a soldier's mom:
Do not undermine the most difficult thing these military men and women will ever be called upon to do.
The decision to increase the American military presence in Iraq is being greeted with a blend of optimism and anxiety among American soldiers and their families, those most directly affected by the change. Unlike in Congressional corridors and across the civilian landscape of the country, there seems far more support than outrage, more cheer than cheerlessness, and a hope that maybe this will do it.
In Baghdad, Hillary Clinton responds
In an exclusive interview with ABC News in Baghdad, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., called the situation in Iraq "heartbreaking" and said she doubts Congress and the American people believe the mission here can succeed.CNN:
"I don't know that the American people or the Congress at this point believe this mission can work," she said.
KURTZ: Pam Hess, has the sending of 20,000 additional troops gotten a fair hearing in the media or has it gotten caught up in this wrenching, emotional debate about whether the war itself was a mistake?These are issues that make for difficult decisions. But it's easier to be "anti-war" once you've been trained to believe that only George Bush has anything to lose.
PAM HESS: I think it's gotten caught up about it, and the debate about it is actually all wrong. What reporters know and what Martha says is that 20,000 really isn't that big -- isn't that big a jump. We're at 132,000 right now. It's going to put us even less that we had going in going across the line.
What we're not asking is actually the central question. We're getting distracted by the shiny political knife fight. What we need to be asking is, what happens if we lose? And no one will answer that question. If we lose, how are we going to mitigate the consequences of this?
It's so much easier for us to cover this as a political horse race. It's on the cover of "The New York Times" today, what this means for the '08 election. But we're not asking the central national security question, because it seems that if as a reporter you do ask the national security question, all of a sudden you're carrying Bush's water. There are national security questions at stake, and we're ignoring them and the country is getting screwed.
President George W. Bush made clear on Saturday he would not back off his plan to send more troops to Iraq despite bipartisan hostility to the idea and he accused his critics of failing to offer an alternative.Odd that although the plan has "bipartisan support" and "bipartisan hostility" Reuters chooses to acknowledge only the later.
But Reuters' coverage isn't "isolated".
Bush isolated more than ever on Iraq with plan for troop buildupThe Washington Post:
WASHINGTON- President Bush once said he was determined to stick with the Iraq war even if his wife and his dog were the only ones left at his side.
It’s moving in that direction.
Opposition To Iraq Plan Leaves Bush IsolatedThe Los Angeles Times
The bipartisan opposition to President Bush's troop-increase plan has proved more intense than his advisers hoped and has left them scrambling to find support, but the White House is banking on the assumption that it can execute its "new way forward" in Iraq before Congress can derail it.
"We recognize that many members of Congress are skeptical," Bush said in his radio address yesterday, adding: "Members of Congress have a right to express their views, and express them forcefully. But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible."
Many Democrats, in fact, have proposed alternatives centered around pulling out troops...
Democrats Feel Free To Defy Bush On IraqThere are two sides in this war. You can't call for defeat of one without simultaneously calling for victory for the other. It's fine to be concerned over the whole "surge" concept - I'm among that number myself. But if you live in the United States or enjoy the protections we afford so many other nations, then you have a stake in this war, and will bear both the unforeseable and predictable consequences of failure. Sadly, too many - perhaps because of those very perceptions of protection here and abroad - feel too much distance from that threat, and can summon adequate "courage" to participate in a simultaneous (and safer, at least as far as immediate likelihood of a participant's physical injury or death) political "war".
Emboldened by President Bush's deeply unpopular proposal to send more troops to Iraq, congressional Democrats are shedding their wariness about tackling the war and embracing positions once primarily held by the party's most liberal fringe.
Less than two weeks after taking power, party leaders who had promised just an increase in oversight hearings on the war are now talking openly about cutting off funds for additional military operations.
The stakes are high in that more genteel battle too, but I fear those who think victory in that sphere will somehow justify defeat in ours are in for a rather rude awakening should they grasp that brass ring of their fondest dreams.
From Haider Ajina
The following is my translation of an article in Iraq’s ‘Almada’ news paper dated January 13th 2007.Iraq’s Talabani, “overcoming sectarian violence is Iraq’s job, defeating terrorists is everyone job”.Haider's comments:
Iraqi President Jelal Talabani welcomed the new American strategy announced by President Bush. Talabani Said, ‘The ideas announced by the American president, shows a new effort to improve security in Iraq, and they concur and correspond with Iraq’s government plans and ideas’. Talabani added, ‘opposing terrorism, defeating all violence, defeating law breakers, keeping arms in the hand of the government only (eliminating militias) are being adopted by the new American strategy and represent America’s primary goals. These goals depend on Baghdad’s security plan, which is being implemented under the supervision of the Prime Minister Noori Almaliki’.
A press release by the Iraqi President’s office (copy of which was received by Almada) read, ‘Iraqi implementation authority is giving its utmost efforts to get maximum benefit from the new plans laid out by President Bush. We will use these opportunities to speed up the implementation of these new plans for personal security and national stability.
Talabani said, ‘while we fully understand the importance of security, we are cognizant that any long term improvements in security depend on improvement in the political and economic situations. This can only come about by implementing the national reconciliation plan, and revisiting some of the new laws and constitution. Only then can we have national unity. We are very mindful and grateful for all the efforts and sacrifices of our allies and friends. Ending the sectarian violence is an Iraqi responsibility, while fighting terrorism is a joint responsibility for all. Brining security and stability is in the end the central issue for the Iraqi central government’.
President Bush, in a phone call to Talabani, reaffirmed his support and commitment to democracy in Iraq. President Bush also affirmed that he is making available American military and economic capabilities to support the Iraqi government, and helping it in providing security, stability, and the success of national reconciliation and the political process in Iraq. The press release added that during this phone call, final discussions were held about Washington’s new strategies and opinions were exchanged about the latest developments in the Iraqi theater.
The press release added that President Talabani thanked President Bush for his continued support and backing for the new Iraq, its political process and its people. Talabani said to President Bush, ‘we are your allies in the war against terrorism and for the success of democracy in the new Iraq. We will not spare any effort or resource to obtain measurable success going forward. We will gather all reasonable Iraqis, Arab Shiite, Arab Sunni, and Kurd to serve Iraq’s interest.
The press release also reported on an upcoming trip by President Talabani to Damascus Syria, next Sunday, to meet with President Bashar Alasad. This visit could result in the signing of a security and trade agreement between the two countries.
Iraq’s top elected officials are encouraged and in support of our new plan for Iraq. In contrast Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Egypt are not. Let’s see, democratically elected officials support the plan and dictators are against it. That must be some sort of indication.
Talabani’s visit to Syria is interesting. Syria is a relatively poor country. They have minimal exportable natural resources. They have agriculture and light industry and ports with access to the Mediterranean and that is about it. They need trade with Iraq (a much richer and larger nation with a mostly open economy which needs more ports to export its oil through). For example Jordan has enjoyed tremendous economic benefits from trade with Iraq. Syria is under tremendous pressure to improve its economy and is under the mercy of Saudi Arabia for hand outs. Syria has also been serving as conduit for Saudi support of the insurgency in Iraq. Syria’s youth are a very large percentage of its population and will require Jobs and will demand a better life style. If Talabani can play the economic card and force Syria to abandon or even lighten its support for the former Baathistst of Iraq that could quell much of the violence.
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously toVideo here (transcript below).
CORPORAL JASON L. DUNHAM
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Rifle Squad Leader, 4th Platoon, Company K, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines (Reinforced), Regimental Combat Team 7, First Marine Division (Reinforced), on 14 April 2004. Corporal Dunham's squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the town of Karabilah, Iraq, when they heard rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire erupt approximately two kilometers to the west. Corporal Dunham led his Combined Anti-Armor Team towards the engagement to provide fire support to their Battalion Commander's convoy, which had been ambushed as it was traveling to Camp Husaybah. As Corporal Dunham and his Marines advanced, they quickly began to receive enemy fire. Corporal Dunham ordered his squad to dismount their vehicles and led one of his fire teams on foot several blocks south of the ambushed convoy. Discovering seven Iraqi vehicles in a column attempting to depart, Corporal Dunham and his team stopped the vehicles to search them for weapons. As they approached the vehicles, an insurgent leaped out and attacked Corporal Dunham. Corporal Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground and in the ensuing struggle saw the insurgent release a grenade. Corporal Dunham immediately alerted his fellow Marines to the threat. Aware of the imminent danger and without hesitation, Corporal Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body, bearing the brunt of the explosion and shielding his Marines from the blast. In an ultimate and selfless act of bravery in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Chuck Simmins has followed the story from the beginning, you can read it all here.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor a President can bestow. The Medal is given for gallantry in the face of an enemy attack that is above and beyond the call of duty. The Medal is part of a cherished American tradition that began in this house with the signature of President Abraham Lincoln.
Since World War II, more than half of those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor have lost their lives in the action that earned it. Corporal Jason Dunham belongs to this select group. On a dusty road in western Iraq, Corporal Dunham gave his own life so that the men under his command might live. This morning it's my privilege to recognize Corporal Dunham's devotion to the Corps and country -- and to present his family with the Medal of Honor.
I welcome the Vice President's presence, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, Senator Ted Stevens, Senator John McCain, Senator Craig Thomas -- I don't know if you say former Marine, or Marine. Marine. Congressman Bill Young and his wife, Beverly; Congressman Duncan Hunter; Congressman John Kline, Marine; Congressman Randy Kuhl, Corporal Dunham's family's United States Congressman is with us. Secretary Don Winter; General Pete Pace; General Jim Conway and Annette; Sergeant Major John Estrada, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.
I appreciate the Medal of Honor recipients who have joined us: Barney Barnum, Bob Foley, Bob Howard, Gary Littrell, Al Rascon, Brian Thacker. Thanks for joining us.
I appreciate the Dunhams who have joined us, and will soon join me on this platform to receive the honor on behalf of their son: Dan and Deb Dunham; Justin Dunham and Kyle Dunham, brothers; Katie Dunham, sister; and a lot of other family members who have joined us today.
I appreciate the Chaplain for the Navy -- excuse me, for the Marine Corps. I didn't mean to insult you.
I thank Major Trent Gibson -- he was Jason Dunham's commander -- company commander; First Lieutenant Brian Robinson, who was his platoon commander. I welcome all the Marines from "Kilo-3-7" -- thanks for coming, and thanks for serving.
Long before he earned our nation's highest Medal Jason Dunham made himself -- made a name for himself among his friends and neighbors. He was born in a small town in upstate New York. He was a normal kind of fellow, he loved sports. He went to Scio Central School, and he starred on the Tiger basketball, soccer, and baseball teams. And by the way, he still holds the record for the highest batting average in a single season at .414. He was popular with his teammates, and that could be a problem for his mom. You see, she never quite knew how many people would be showing up for dinner, whether it be her family, or the entire basketball team.
He grew up with the riches far more important than money: He had a dad who loved to take his boys on a ride with him when he made his rounds on the dairy farm where he worked. His mom was a school teacher. She figured out the best way to improve her son's spelling was to combine his love for sports with her ability to educate. And so she taught him the words from his reading list when they played the basketball game of "horse." He had two brothers and a sister who adored him.
He had a natural gift for leadership, and a compassion that led him to take others under his wing. The Marine Corps took the best of this young man, and made it better. As a Marine, he was taught that honor, courage and commitment are not just words. They're core values for a way of life that elevates service above self. As a Marine, Jason was taught that leaders put the needs of their men before their own. He was taught that while America's founding truths are self-evident, they also need to be defended by good men and women willing to stand up to determined enemies.
As a leader of a rifle squad in Iraq, Corporal Dunham lived by the values he had been taught. He was a guy everybody looked up to. He was a Marine's Marine who led by example. He was the kind of person who would stop patrols to play street soccer with the Iraqi schoolchildren. He was the guy who signed on for an extra two months in Iraq so he could stay with his squad. As he explained it, he wanted to "make sure that everyone makes it home alive." Corporal Dunham took that promise seriously and would give his own life to make it good.
In April 2004, during an attack near Iraq's Syrian border, Corporal Dunham was assaulted by an insurgent who jumped out of a vehicle that was about to be searched. As Corporal Dunham wrestled the man to the ground, the insurgent rolled out a grenade he had been hiding. Corporal Dunham did not hesitate. He jumped on the grenade, using his helmet and body to absorb the blast. Although he survived the initial explosion, he did not survive his wounds. But by his selflessness, Corporal Dunham saved the lives of two of his men, and showed the world what it means to be a Marine.
Deb Dunham calls the Marine Corps her son's second family and she means that literally. Deb describes her son's relationship to his men this way: "Jay was part guardian angel, part big brother, and all Marine." She remembers her son calling from the barracks, and then passing the phone to one of his Marines, saying, "I've got a guy here who just needs to talk to a mom." Now it's the Marines who comfort her. On special days, like Christmas or Mother's Day or her birthday, Deb has learned the day will not pass without one of Jason's fellow Marines calling to check on her.
With this Medal we pay tribute to the courage and leadership of a man who represents the best of young Americans. With this Medal we ask the God who commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves to wrap his arms around the family of Corporal Jason Dunham, a Marine who is not here today because he lived that commandment to the fullest.
I now invite the Dunhams to join me on the stage. And, Colonel, please read the citation.
(The citation is read. The Medal is presented.) (Applause.)
...for the lack of posts here (expect better soon), but as usual, there's a lot of news at MilBlogs - the latest from Somalia, a Medal of Honor presentation, and as always - an eye on Iraq.
I really hate saying this: Don't say I didn't warn you.
By the way, this is not good:
Khalaf told the AP that an arrest warrant had been issued for the captain for having contacts with the media in violation of the ministry's regulations.Not good on free speech issues, and because it leads directly to this:
Hussein told the AP on Wednesday that he learned the arrest warrant would be issued when he returned to work on Thursday after the Eid al-Adha holiday. His phone was turned off Thursday and he could not be reached for further comment.
Hussein appears to have fallen afoul of a new Iraqi push, encouraged by some U.S. advisers, to more closely monitor the flow of information about the country's violence, and strictly enforce regulations that bar all but authorized spokesmen from talking to media.Let me be the first to send this message: FREE JAMIL.
Let me also assure you all the AP welcomed the Jamil Hussein focus - encouraged it, even. It masked the issue of false reports from Iraq. Were six people burned? Probably not. Were four Mosques burned? Demonstrably not. Did one of those Mosques contain 18 people who were killed in the fire (as the NY Times claimed)? No. Were 184 Mosques attacked last February? No again. Does any of this matter now? Nope. This huge victory (in a battle that shouldn't have been fought) in the information war has essentially given the AP a free pass to report anything without fear of question for months to come.
I'll also assure you this "humbling of bloggers" will be very well covered by the media in the weeks ahead. The AP set 'em up with their "he exists because we say so" responses, (in hindsight, this move was exceptionally well played, just before checkmate) and they'll just love knocking 'em dowm.
And most bloggers walked right into the punch.
In Somalia, one phase of a battle ends:
Somali government troops backed by Ethiopian soldiers battled about 600 Islamic militiamen Thursday on the southern tip of this Horn of Africa nation, and U.S. Navy forces prevented the militants from fleeing by sea, authorities said.
U.S. Navy patrols Somalia coast for fleeing al-Qaeda U.S. Navy vessels have been deployed off the coast of Somalia to make sure al-Qaeda or allied jihadists don’t escape the country by sea now that the once-dominant Islamist forces there are in retreat, the State Department said Wednesday.Good. A preferred land escape route was closed a few days ago:
Of particular concern is the fate of three al-Qaeda militants who were believed by U.S. officials to be under the protection of the Islamic Courts Union in Mogadishu until Ethiopian forces drove the Courts Union from power in recent days. The three are believed to have had a role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and in the 2002 bombing of a hotel in Kenya.
With the most hard-core militiamen headed their way, Kenyan authorities on Monday tightened security along their 250-mile long border with Somalia.But like the Kenyans, the US Navy is likely to find itself accused of cruelty to "refugees":
Kenya has shut its border with Somalia and will not allow more refugees into the country, says its foreign minister.Of course, Kenya already hosts more than 160,000 Somali refugees - who must have fled the peaceful, stable Somalia governed by the ICU.
Earlier the Kenyan authorities deported more than 420 Somali refugees who had crossed the border in recent days.
The UN refugee agency has condemned Kenya's actions, with aid workers expressing frustration at being unable to help Somalis fleeing conflict.
There have been clashes near the Kenyan border with Islamist militias being pursued by Ethiopian and Somali troops.
Kenya has deployed tanks and helicopters to enforce the border closure.
At least, that's what this London Times "analyst" would have you believe:
Ethiopian troops, with Washington’s tacit approval, have routed the Islamists who seized power in Somalia last June. The official Government forged by the international community in 2004 can take power. Good news, surely?Turns out that during the brief period of sharia rule in Somalia the country had been transformed into a land where children danced joyfully amidst butterflies and rainbows:
As one of the few journalists to have visited Mogadishu recently, I fear it is not. Far from restoring stability to Somalia, this week's developments could well plunge that country back into the protracted anarchy from which it emerged only recently.
For the first time in a generation people could walk the streets in safety. Gone were the ubiquitous checkpoints where the warlords’ militias extorted and killed. Guns had been banned. Somalis who had fled the violence were returning from abroad.And he's not alone among journalists. Wherever you find the boot of totalitarianism smashing endlessly into the human face, you'll find a leftist praising the resulting "stability" - a refrain quickly echoed by Nina Brenjo at Reuters Alertnet...
The Union did reintroduce public executions, ban the narcotic qat and discourage Western music, films and dancing, but that seemed a small price to pay.
Resounding boo for Ethiopia's invasion...who demonstrates she's not afraid to courageously support the majority of her media comrades by following with a lengthy collection of news stories that express similar views, along with the observation that "Very few papers offer arguments in defence of the invader."
It is true that the Islamists reintroduced public executions and discouraged Western music, dancing and films, but they also brought stability after 15 years of anarchy and civil war. The official government, however, is now back in Mogadishu, and not without considerable help from neighbouring Ethiopia.
The invader, in this instance, being the UN-recognized government of Somalia. For their part, the peace-bringing Islamists have declared that "their retreat is tactical and have threatened to launch an insurgency." Violence that will be portrayed in the media as a return of the chaos they had prevented while in power - and blamed on George Bush.
I confess Lex scared me for a moment - I thought he'd gone to the dark side:
It’s hard to be a fan of fundamentalist groups aligned with al Qaeda. And yet, they managed to put the clan militias down and bring peace to the capital, where none had existed since Siad Barre was deposed in 1991 and where periodic famines have often been used as weapons of war. Couldn’t we hope that the ICU would rule benevolently, or if not, could not we at least hope that they might restrain their tendencies towards theologically-inspired, absolutist brutality against their own people?Of course he hadn't. Read the rest.
Well, no: And even Mussolini made the trains run on time.
...is going to Iraq.
We need to get some Lefty bloggers over there for balance. Any volunteers?
This began as a comment on a MilBlogs post, but the more I read about it the more I realized this (mostly unknown) story was more than worthy of it's own space.
Military Women 8
Civilian Women 56
Total Women 64
Thirty-eight were killed in the crash of a C5-A Galaxy transporting Vietnamese children (Operation Babylift) out of the country on April 4, 1975.
On 04 April 1975 the US was involved in the evacuation of more than 2,000 Vietnamese orphans out of Saigon as North Vietnamese forces marched on the city. A C-5, which was returning to the Philippines after delivering war material, and a C-9 were loaded with children from Saigon'' orphanages and female government employees. These children were to be adopted into families in the United States and Europe. The mission, named Operation Babylift, was the first of more than 30 planned. Workers at the airport carried the children -- more than 100 infants and 140 older children -- into the C-5 one by one. A majority of them were only 2 years and younger. Almost half the children sat in the cargo compartment of the aircraft below, while the remainder sat in the troop compartment upstairs. At 23,000 feet the aft door was torn from the aircraft. The safety investigation would later reveal one of the door locks failed and created a pressure overload on all the other locks. When that happened, it blew out the doors, and the C-5 then experienced a rapid decompression. When the aft door blew out it severed three of the four hydraulic systems as well as the flight controls. The explosion ripped a large hole near the rear of the aircraft. The pilot diverted the plane and headed back to Tan Son Nhut AB, but the C-5 couldn't make it. The pilot made an emergency landing in a rice paddy, within two miles of the base, shearing off the cargo compartment of the aircraft. Many of the orphans were still asleep when the aircraft hit the ground, bounced up, and began to break apart as it hit again and slid to a stop. The entire cargo bay of the aircraft sheared off as the plane tore across the field. Of the 140 passengers below only six survived. Eleven out of the 29 crewmembers lost their lives. The nurses and technicians aboard did their best to save as many children as they could. Thanks to the aircrew's flying skills, however, 176 of the 314 people on board survived, including 150 orphans.
Aune was standing in the aisle in the troop compartment when the Galaxy went down. The impact hurled her the length of the compartment. When she tried to drag herself to her feet, she realized her right foot was broken. She was also bleeding heavily from cuts in her left arm and leg. Unsteadily, she made her way to an emergency exit and began helping the crew and surviving medics remove children from the shattered aircraft. The wreckage was waist-deep in mud and water. Debris lay all around, saturated with leaking fuel. Burning parts of the plane were all around. One spark could turn the crash scene into an inferno.
Five minutes later, rescue helicopters arrived. They were unable to land and hovered close to the wreckage. Aune and other team members waded again and again through the mud to hovering helicopters, carrying terrified children. Finally, unable to go on, she staggered toward an approaching officer. She managed to stand straight and said, "Sir, I request to be relieved of my duties since my injuries prevent me from carrying on." The she passed out. Later, at a Saigon hospital, it was discovered that, in addition to her broken foot, she had a fractured leg and a broken bone in her back. Despite her injuries she had helped carry 149 children to safety.
Later, decorations and awards were given out to many of the survivors of the crash. Traynor and his co-pilot were awarded the Air Force Cross. Klinker was the last U.S. servicewoman to die in the Vietnam conflict and was posthumously awarded the Airman's Medal. Now a colonel, Aune became the only woman to receive the Cheney Award. Thanks to their bravery, Operation Babylift continued, successfully.
That's on the job training - and it's what the new UN Chief is getting:
The new Secretary-General of the United Nations received an early reminder of the pitfalls of international diplomacy when he failed to restate the UN's opposition to the death penalty during remarks about the execution of Saddam Hussein.
Ban Ki Moon, the former South Korean Foreign Minister, received a warm welcome from staff at the UN headquarters on Manhattan's East River when he turned up for his first day at work yesterday.
But his spokeswoman was forced to issue a clarification after Mr Ban said that capital punishment should be a decision for individual member states.
Benjamin Cheever is the son of WWII vet and novelist John Cheever. Cheever the younger recently covered military running for Runner's World magazine, an experience that ended a few illusions for the author - illusions shared by many:
My first contact with the military was in Germany, where I met with soldiers who had been in Iraq and were heading back. I hope I don't lose you here, but I must say at the outset that to run with soldiers at Camp Ray, in Friedberg, was to take all my assumptions about the U.S. Army and have them turned upside down. As much as I'd feared conscription during Vietnam, I had mourned the loss of the democratizing draft and thought it appropriate that an army protecting a democracy include everybody. My father, the writer John Cheever, forged lasting friendships during World War II. He trained with a heavy-weapons battalion in Georgia. Late in his life and signing books, I saw him approached by a man he had known in Georgia. It was immediately clear that my father liked this guy, that the bond formed in the infantry had not been shattered--as many bonds are in this country--by differences in status and economics. The stranger called my father "Joey." The name I knew was John.But oddly enough, that wasn't the primary illusion dispelled by the experience.
People go into the army now because they have to, I had thought; and yet my guide in Germany, Capt. Will Bardenwerper, was a Princeton grad. Bardenwerper was working in midtown Manhattan as a financial analyst when the World Trade Center was destroyed. He decided to enlist. My guide's provenance was unusual enough that he was teased about it, but there were also two Rhodes Scholars in the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division.
Running is a delight, and so authority figures disapprove.Given the miles I've logged over the years, I'm a bit amazed that any civilian could be unaware of the military's penchant for physical training in general, and running in particular. But given a moment's thought it makes sense; this is precisely the minutiae of military service about which civilians know little, and for which they can be forgiven. Especially when - as is the case with Cheever - their efforts to expand their understanding includes a trip to Iraq.
A doctor waved me in off the road shortly after we moved into the neighborhood 18 years ago to warn that I'd destroy my knees. "Detach your retina," I was told by an editor over lunch. "Compress your spine, shatter your hips." I can't be the only person who has to run this gauntlet. How many times have you been asked about Jim Fixx? Authority figures in uniform are particularly scornful of vigorous exercise. "Trying for a heart attack?" the veterinarian in his blue smock asked me one torrid summer day, when I came in slightly flushed to get the dogs their shots. Uniformed groundskeepers have blown whistles and shooed me off golf courses. A policeman once tried to pull me out of a triathlon after I'd been hit by a car. That's right, after I'd been hit by a car. I remounted and finished the race. The military, I figured, would be the worst. Soldiers come uniformed and are international symbols of authority. knew they ran in boot camp, but then even policemen are slim during the pupa stage. Which is why I was shocked when a friend, the writer Esmeralda Santiago, said she had two brothers in the service--both ran. Frank had run as a bodyguard with the Joint Chiefs.
"The Joint Chiefs ?" I asked, bewildered. "They run?"
While the military running world and the civilian one are quite separate cultures, they do support one another's shared passion. Therefore, many prominent races in the States sponsor simultaneous, or "satellite," races overseas, in Baghdad and Afghanistan. The Honolulu Marathon does this, as does Boston. The mother race will send T-shirts, numbers, and sometimes even timing equipment.
After Germany, I had hoped to go to Iraq for the marathon that the Honolulu race sponsored in December. When the date was changed, I was told the race might be canceled and so abandoned the plan. It wasn't canceled, and I afterward wondered if I hadn't simply chickened out. Therefore I was excited when I learned that the Atlanta Peachtree Road Race 10-K sponsors a satellite event in Baghdad. I wrote organizer Julia Emmons. The 102-pound dynamo who has turned her July 4th event into the largest 10-K in the world told me they'd held the Baghdad Peachtree a couple times already and the story was an old one. This is different, I explained. I wanted to run in Baghdad. She wrote back: "The Atlanta Track Club cannot endorse anyone going into a war zone, thus potentially in harm's way."
I could see her point, but think of it this way. We have about 130,000 military personnel in Iraq. That's a mighty risk. How dramatically is this changed by the introduction of one more journalist, however frightened? The race was just weeks away when my Army contact in Baghdad, Maj. Todd Breasseale, gave me the green light. Suddenly I could see Emmons's point. Sure there were 130,000 military personnel in Iraq, but none of them were me. I'd been trying to do this for months, but now it seemed hasty, ill-considered.
My wife--and bless her heart for this--didn't want me to go. Because of the irregularity of military flights into and out of Baghdad, it would take almost a week to get there, and I was going to spend a full week in Iraq. The last days at home passed in a welter of chores, red tape, and anxiety. There were forms I didn't understand, shots I needed. Why did the army want to know my blood type? Janet walked by my office and found me standing at my desk holding a piece of string that went from the second button on my polo shirt to the top of my belt buckle.
Janet: What are you doing?
Me: Measuring myself for a bulletproof vest.
She warned me not to tell strangers that I was going to Iraq for a 10-K. "They'll know it's a lie, assume you work for the CIA, and kidnap you or kill you."
"I'm writing a book about running," I'd say, when the subject came up in out-of-family conversation. "This will be the biggest race ever held in Iraq," I explained. "July 4th."
"Oh, that's very brave," everybody said, which sounded like code for "Are you out of your mind?" The runners were more direct. "How hot does it get? Is there a T-shirt?"
This was one of my Christmas gifts this year - a great bargain, and one I'll use frequently. I've been a runner for years. (Man, I love that route and I'm damn glad I preserved it here.) I was stationed in Colorado twenty years ago when I discovered I actually enjoyed running. I was deployed with a Secial Ops crew somewhere at sea level, and I discovered first hand the benefits if "altitude training" when I found to my surprise I could keep up with the team even without having shared their training regimine over the previous months. Since then I've stuck with it, even while watching myself morph with the passage of years from speedy 5k runner to methodical marathoner (a distance for which I no longer have time to prepare).
But I still enjoy the sport, and I still make resolutions for the New Year. In 2007 I may get the chance to try one (or more) of those "satellite runs" first hand - and I hereby resolve to do any and all that I possibly can.
Why? Simple - I want the T-shirt.
Has anybody heard anything from Jamil Hussein lately? Seems odd that the AP, who quoted this guy in over 60 stories between April and November last year would suddenly stop doing so after stating emphatically that
Hussein is well known to AP. We first met him, in uniform, in a police station, some two years ago. We have talked with him a number of times since then and he has been a reliable source of accurate information on a variety of events in Baghdad.But I don't believe they've quoted him since.
...for females in service.
...with the year.. Having just made a routine PCS across an ocean, I can only imagine what this has been like for the family. Words are entirely inadequate, peace and strength be with you.