Saturday, December 31, 2005

U.S. Uses Diplomacy in Hunt for Insurgents

"BUJWARI, Iraq (AP) - U.S. Army soldiers sit cross-legged in a room thick with kerosene fumes from a whistling heater while a sheik puffs quietly on a cigarette.

Dressed in a dapper brown coat and robe, the aging Iraqi is not a suspect in any roadside bombings or as someone who helps insurgents. He is a prominent figure who knows the area's residents well, and the soldiers need his help tracking rebels.

U.S. military units across Iraq often rely on the personal touch in hunting for clues about insurgents, sitting down to sip tea - chai in Arabic - with locals and building a rapport with tribal leaders.

"Our primary focus, which isn't what we trained for, is to get the town on our side. It's, 'This is the type of protection I can offer if you help me out,'" said Staff Sgt. Gary Frisbee, 28, of Chattanooga, Tenn., one of those at the meeting in Bujwari.

The village sits near Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad. Iraq's largest refinery is in Beiji and threats by insurgents to kill tanker-truck drivers have shut down refining since Dec. 18, creating a fuel shortage in much of Iraq. The Americans want to find those making the threats.

For many the soldiers, the transition from warrior to diplomat has been challenging. It requires them to put down their guns to shake hands with informants. Instead of kicking down doors, they more often knock.

The tactics are a stark change from earlier missions for the 101st Airborne Division, which deployed to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States, and then came to Iraq to help coalition forces drive north into Baghdad during the 2003 invasion.

Lt. Col. Jim O'Brien, commander of the division's 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, said on the visit to Bujwari that soldiers must adapt to multiple roles while a full-fledged counterinsurgency operation continues.

"It's soldiering one minute, being a diplomat the next," said O'Brien, 40, of Valrico, Fla. "It's everything. We're not an occupying force. We're here to help these folks, and every one of us would rather be home."

Iraq's insurgency remains an elusive mix for soldiers."

Al-Hakim Sees Baghdad as Federated Province

'Al-Zaman/ AFP [Ar.]: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the victorious (fundamentalist Shiite) United Iraqi Alliance suggested Friday that Baghdad province join Kurdistan, the Middle Euphrates, and the deep south as a confederacy with special privileges, overseen by a federal government. He said that the constitution had given the Iraqi people this right, adding, "The choice of federalism is the right one, because it has strengthened the unity of Iraq on the one hand, and on the other has ensured justice. It has saved the country forever from the troika of dictatorship, racism and sectarianism.""
Juan Cole

Iraqi Sunnis grasp election olive branch

"BAGHDAD (Reuters) By Gideon Long and Ahmed Rasheed- Leaders of Iraq's Sunni and secular communities gave a cautious welcome on Friday to a plan to bring foreign experts to Baghdad to review the results of this month's election, which they say was fraudulent.
{mosgogle left} They said they would cooperate with the experts and still hoped to join Shi'ites and Kurds in a grand coalition government capable of healing Iraq's sectarian wounds and providing its people with the basic services they so badly lack.
The closure of a major oil refinery in the northern town of Baiji due to fears of insurgent attacks heaped further misery on Iraqis, prompting longer-than-usual queues for fuel in the capital and fears that supplies would run out.
"If the refinery stays shut, the queues at fuel stations will get longer and I imagine I can see I'll have to wait more than three hours for petrol," said Sadiq Shamikh, 28, as he lined up to fill the tank of his taxi in Baghdad.
"Wasting time means losing money for me.""
The Kurdistani

ABC News Poll (I)

'An ABC News poll in Iraq, conducted with Time magazine, the BBC, NHK and Der Spiegel by Oxford Research International includes some remarkable results. It was released early this month. The poll is compared to two previous ones; the first conducted by ABC News released on February 28 2004 and the other is a survey conducted by Oxford Research International for Oxford University on June 14 2004.

The poll consists of several questions which I find some of them interesting. These questions are:"
Ibn Alrafidain


"Victor Davis Hanson's newest gem is called Democratic Implosion. The part that resonated with me:

Despite the stentorian intonation, Kerry’s new suggestions for what to do in Iraq simply outlined what the United States is in fact already doing"
Trying to Grok

Happy 2006!

"It is 2006 since the birth of Christ however more than 2560 according to the Persian calendar, more than 2600 according to the Sumerian calendar, and similar or more according to some other ancient calendars.

Millions of years according to the age of the earth and God know for how-long based on the age of the universe.

Years represent a new start or plans for us however the concept of time and its continuity is one process that we tend to divide or separate to achieve certain goals or record a new term. It could be anything like a study or a business or any other term.

For Iraq we wish the 2006 will be a new term for reconstruction, peace, prosperity and stability for its own and the region.

We wish the 2006 is a year of prosperity to all mankind for less war, less poverty, more peaceful and prosperous to every one.

These are just wishes however"

Sunset near Ad Diwaniyah

"A lot has happened since my last post. The elections two weeks ago were a positive step forward. We'll have to see how the horse trading over the new parliament goes. As I've said before this is slow and messy work. The elections were not perfect, yet huge numbers showed up. Other problems with the Interior ministry prisons have cropped up. This is the danger of the militias. Many militia members were given jobs in the ministry and abused their position. The hope is that the next interior minister will be from a party with no militia ties."
Iraq Calling
This post is an excellent clue
Something tells me that the message has gotten out, and that there is a change in the air. I'll leave at that for now, I know it's cryptic. It's for the reader to think about, and think if they also notice anything different.

Battle at Entry Control Point 5/ Battle Position 4

"by Staff Sgt. Julie Nicolov
Multi-National Corps – Iraq Public Affairs

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Of all the troops deployed in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, 6 percent are National Guard or Reserve. They are often tagged by active duty soldiers as “weekend warriors” who train soft, know less and are rarely in harm’s way.

Two days in the fall of 2005 changed that stigma for the men deployed to Camp Corregidor in Ramadi, Iraq."
In Iraq for 365

Personal Iraq Diary: 18, 19 August 2004.

"18 August 2004

This afternoon we went out after a mortar round was fired into the city center. It landed in an intersection and caused a bit of a mess. When we arrived I got some pictures of a mosque near bridge 3 and moved over to the hit. Our vehicle was last and I didn't make it up all the way. As usual by the time we got to the scene the Iraqi ambulance had carried off the dead and wounded but some of their parts were left behind. Lafferty found a piece of someones skull about the size of your hand. Turns out the Hajj' killed 7 and wounded 10."
Candle in the Dark
Click the main page and scroll down for pictures and more.

Friday, December 30, 2005

87 Cuban migrants arrive on Florida's coast

"MIAMI (Reuters) - Eighty-seven Cuban migrants reached Florida's coast on Friday, including a group of 28 who waded ashore in a Miami Beach waterfront park.

Federal officials said most of the migrants appeared to have been brought to the United States by smugglers who carry Cubans in fast boats across the 100 miles of open water that separates the communist-ruled island from Florida.

The arrivals capped a year in which unusually high numbers of Cubans and Dominicans left their Caribbean homelands looking for better living conditions in the United States.

Fifty-six Cubans landed in the Florida Keys and three came ashore in Key Biscayne, a wealthy island town near Miami.

The 12 men, seven women and nine children who landed at Miami Beach told police they left Cuba on Wednesday in a makeshift boat, which began to sink somewhere between Cuba and Florida.

They said they were picked up by a yacht and dropped off in waist-deep water just off South Pointe Park in Miami Beach, which is alongside Miami's main shipping channel in the shadow of luxury condo towers."

And on the same theme we have this from Babalu
"The Sad Statistics

Now that the end of 2005 is upon us, we are being inundated with end-of-the-year recaps, summaries, etc. One such example is today's Miami Herald article on migration to the U.S. in 2005.

The sad statistics in the article are there for everyone to see: over 10,000 Cubans either made it to the U.S. or were interdicted at sea. That's the highest number since 1994, and it probably doesn't include the most recent detaining of Cubans and Haitians. It also mentions increasing number of Dominicans being interdicted at sea, but lesser number of Haitians.

By looking at the increasing number of Cubans leaving the island, it's obvious that conditions are worsening on the island, no matter what castro apologists might think."
Babalu Blog -Robert M.


I just wanna say that I am still alive (lol), doing fine at college, I got my mid term examination results, it was not that good, but I think because as I am not studying as much as I did in the 12th grade, I got...."
Nabil's Blog
Good to hear.

What happened this week? And my #1 project

"I got an e-mail from a Moslawi citizen living far away, he was suggesting few projects for Iraq. One was to collect books for Mosul University's library. I read the e-mail to mom, hoping to get satisfaction, and she said that the university's library is so out-of-date.
And so dear readers, I ask for your help. I'm planning to collect books in enviromental engineering at first, since that's mom's majority. She asked the head of the department and he gave her the department e-mail, and agreed on the project. If anyone has books in reach, on the enviromental engineering field, it would be great if you could mail them to the department. I am also planning to collect donations to buy books of choice by the head of the department and mom, and to subscribe to magazines depending on the amount of the money I collect.

If anyone would like to participate in anyway, or have suggestions, please e-mail me."
A Star from Mosul
I got a link, let me go search. brb.

Elections - Part IV

"A little after midnight my eyes crept open and filled with the cold, diamond light of a full moon. I squinted hard against the liquid glow, but the light seemed to seep through my eyelids until I gave up my futile attempts at falling back asleep. As I sat up I felt the dull cacophony of muscles shot through with lactic acid, and for a long moment I sat there on the edge of the cot waiting for the staccato aches to fade."
a365 and a Wakeup

International observers to come to Iraq, the oil minister ousted!

"In what‘s supposed to be a “waiting day” in Iraq since it’s Friday, events and developments just kept surfacing and vacation day was just as eventful as any other day of the week.

Baghdad now is suffering from a power siege that began after workers in one of Iraq’s largest refineries-the Baiji oil refinery-came under threats from terrorists who said they’d kill tanker drivers who transport oil products to the rest of the country. The oil ministry responded by shutting down the refinery as a measure to avoid loss in lives. This caused Baghdad to suffer from yet a new fuel and electricity shortage because the refinery supplies many power plants in the country. The electricity outages are most severe in the western part of Baghdad where residents are getting a little more than 6 hours/day.

In a related development, Ahmed al-Chalabi has been asked to run the oil ministry"

Pond at Tallil Airbase (Ali Base)

"Though this blog is focused on Iraqi wildlife I will make a little detour on this entry.

A reader soon to deploy to Afghanistan asked a few questions that I'll try to answer here.

The first is: what resources are there on Afghan birds?...
J then goes on to talk a little about milbogging, he says
Another question involved digiscoping and blogging from a forward deployed area. ...

...I found that blogging anonymously is the way to go. It simplifies things considerably and makes the command much more comfortable with your blogging in general. My self imposed rules were very strict because of my role in battalion intelligence. I never revealed my name, my unit or my location in the country. We had many incidents that I never wrote about on my other blog because a relatively smart person could identify my location from the incident and perhaps use it for battle damage assessment. When it came to my wildlife watching, any and all my writing was seen as universally innocuous and not an operational security issue."
Birding Babylon
Good advise.

The Middle East and America in 2005: How the Region Has Changed

"The Bush administration has several major policy goals in the Middle East, which are often self-contradictory. They include:

1. Fighting terrorism emanating from the region, which might menace the US or its major allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

2. Ensuring the security of petroleum production in the Oil Gulf, which contains 2/3s of the world's proven reserves.

3. Reestablishing order in Afghanistan and ensuring that the Taliban and al-Qaeda cannot again use it as a base for Muslim radicalism.

4. Reestablishing order in Iraq and ensuring a government and system there favorable to US interests.

5. Weakening or overthrowing the governments of Syria and Iran, primarily because they are viewed as threats to Israel. As part of weakening Syria, the US applied enormous pressure to get its remaining troops out of Lebanon.

6. Pushing for democratization in the "Greater Middle East," even at the risk of alienating long-time US friends such as Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak....

...I'd give the Bush administration a "D" (60 out of 100) on the Middle East this year. Support for the end of two military occupations, in Gaza and Lebanon, pull up the averages. But much of the policy is self-contradictory, in disarray, or likely to cause some wars. None of that makes us safer."
Juan Cole

Fiddler’s Green- Sgt Regina Reali

"Echo9er posts an email from an Air Force Load Master that you must read."
Sgt. Hook

Shiite Family of 11 beheaded

"Pro-wahabi terrorists slaughtered Shiite family in the south of Baghdad. The family consist 11 members lived for many years in a Sunni dominated area. They received threats to leave the area over the last few weeks however they got no where to go and leaving their property and business. Six Sunni pro-wahabi terrorists attacked the family and slaughtered all of them by beheading all the 11 members.

By this time when Iraq needed a quick and stable government based on the result of the last election the Sunni groups and some of the pro-Bathists like Iyad Allawi trying to hinder the democratic process and impose their agenda and parties irrespective of the election results. The UN representatives and the Higher Electoral commission declared that there are no major breaches about the election however they stated that minor violation did happen which will not affect the results and its results will not be taken in account."

Attacks Halt Production At Iraq's Largest Refinery

"BAGHDAD, Dec. 29 -- Under a mounting insurgent offensive against Iraq's gasoline supply, the country's largest fuel refinery sat idle Thursday. Gas station owners in surrounding communities in northern Iraq hung up their dry nozzles. A police chief put out a no-patrol order to his men to conserve fuel. And Nouri Ahmed Azaid put off his wedding.

In Iraq, convoys of cars draped with wreaths, their horns honking and side windows sprouting relatives with video cameras, are as much a post-wedding ritual as the honeymoon. But Azaid said, "I suspended my wedding party, because there is no fuel to drive around."

Azaid lives in Baiji, a town north of Baghdad that is home to Iraq's largest refinery and a frequent target of insurgent attacks. On Thursday, authorities confirmed that the refinery had been closed since Dec. 21 by a concerted insurgent campaign against gasoline distributors and filling stations."

AP: U.S. Teen Runs Off to Iraq by Himself

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare. But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.

And he didn't even tell his parents.

Hassan's dangerous adventure winds down with the 101st Airborne delivering the Fort Lauderdale teen to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which had been on the lookout for him and promises to see him back to the United States this weekend."
"You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition has given you some length of bone, but you're not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling Hassan? And that accent you've tried so desperately to shed? Pure West Virginia Fort Lauderdale. What's your father, dear? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamb? You know how quickly the boys girls found you... all those tedious sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars... while you could only dream of getting out... getting anywhere... getting all the way to the FBI Baghdad"

Preliminary Parliamentary Seat Distribution

"I’ve been getting similar numbers from a source today; but this is what is being reported in a bunch of Arab and Iraqi newspapers for tomorrow: [Note: results for 16 out of 18 provinces, and this tally also excludes 45 ‘compensatory’ seats].

UIA: 35
Consensus: 11
Allawi: 8
Kurdish: 1
Mutlag: 1
Risaliyoun (Sadrist): 1
Mithal Alusi: 1
Rafidayn (Christian): 1

2-Ninevah (Mosul):
Consensus: 7
Kurdish: 4
UIA: 2
Allawi: 2
Mutlag: 2
Misha’an Jabouri: 1
Yazidis (Kurdish): 1

Kurdish: 13
Islamic Kurdish: 2

Kurdish: 12
Islamic Kurdish: 1

Kurdish: 6
Allawi: 1

6-Dhi Qar (Nassiriya):
UIA: 11
Allawi: 1
Note: there must be something wrong with this number, because Nassiriya only has 9 seats.

7-Babil (Hilla):
UIA: 9
Allawi: 1
Note: Hilla should have 11 seats, not 10.

Consensus: 4
UIA: 2
Kurdish: 2
Allawi: 1
Mutlag: 1

Consensus: 7
Mutlag: 2

Kurdish: 5
Consensus: 1
Mutlag: 1
Misha’an Jabouri: 1
Turkuman: 1

11-Salahuddin (Tikrit):
Consensus: 3
Mutlag: 2
UIA: 1
Allawi: 1
Misha’an Jabouri: 1

UIA: 7
Allawi: 1

UIA: 7
Allawi: 1

UIA: 7
Allawi: 1

UIA: 5
Allawi: 1

UIA: 5

Total excluding the 45 ‘compensatory’ seats, and the results for two remaining provinces and Nassiriya (see note above):

UIA: 100
Kurdish: 43
Consensus: 27
Allawi: 19
Mutlag: 8
Misha’an Jabouri: 3
Islamic Kurdish: 3
Mithal Alusi: 1
Turkuman: 1
Rafidayn: 1
Yezidi: 1
Risaliyoun: 1"
Talisman Gate
And dont miss
New Videos from Al-Qaeda in Iraq

Zarqawi’s outfit, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, released three new videos of its exploits yesterday. The first video (approx. 5 min) shows a confrontation between jihadists and an Iraqi National Guard unit in the vicinity of Al-Adheim. It is dated Saturday, December 3, 2005. Al-Adheim is the area north east of Baghdad along a now-dry river bed of the same name. The Adheim River been diverted into a canal during Saddam’s era, and used to transverse the provinces of Kirkuk and Diyala. The demographics of that area reflect the confluence of three major Sunni tribes, the Ubeid, the ‘Azza and the Bayat—the latter two of dubious Arab origin and probably originate from Arabized Turkuman clans."
Talisman Gate

Low Tide, Fuel Shortage, and Compensation.

"Today, while biking by the bay, I noticed that the water level is the lowest since I moved to the US! It looked at least five feet lower than usual!

Low tide is such an amazing natural phenomenon, but not for Niki. So, the only ones who seemed to be fascinated by it today were me and the birds.

The main Iraqi oil refinery was closed last week. Beji refinery was closed on the 21st of Dec because of what the Iraqi government described as “terrorist threats” to kill tanker drivers and attack the refinery. "
Raed in the Middle
Where has our old friend Raed gone too? Must be something in the water out west, I mean this blog is more controversial than this... and I'm a supporter.

Democracy Kurdish style

"A Kurdish writer was thrown into prison for 30 years in a court in Kurdistan just 4 days after the Iraqi elections for swearing at the President of Kurdistan Massoud Barzani.

Kurdish media networks are approaching the case nervously and some are even scared to report about the news. Some newspapers haven't even reported about this anti-democracy and human rights decision.

The writer's name is (Dr. Kamal Saeed Qadir) and he was put in prison for 2 articles he wrote against the KDP.
KDP's tribal mentality are not fit for today's democratic life."
Kurdo's World
I think I read somewhere that the whole trial took twenty minuets...

Accordance, rather than elections will decide the shape of the new government.

"Or at least that's how things appear to be heading till now...

As part of an expected series of meetings between the leaders of major political groups, today there’s a meeting between al-Hakeem and President Talabani and a number of senior Shia and Kurdish politicians.
In a speech before the Kurdistan parliament al-Hakeem expressed his sympathy with the Kurdish cause and promised to work hard in that direction because “we are 100 percent with the Kurdish people in finding a solution for Kirkuk’s issue”."

Thursday, December 29, 2005

More on the political conflict in Iraq.

"Just like the previous days since the preliminary results of the elections were announced, this day brought some important events and developments and here I’ll try to summarize the most important ones here...

As everyone can easily see, Maram has rapidly grown in size and number of participating parties; now Maram is 50+ parties strong with a total representation of some 80 seats in the parliaments according to the results announced so far.

The parties within this bloc has also chosen a negotiator and a semiofficial leader for them; Allawi and they have also signed a “charter of honor” that requests from all participants to remain under the umbrella of this bloc and not separate from it after the parliament is formed."
From this description, it would appear that democracy is breaking out in Iraq. keep your fingers crossed.

Bloggers, Money Now Weapons in Information War

"BAGHDAD -- Retired soldier Bill Roggio was a computer technician living in New Jersey less than two months ago when a Marine officer half a world away made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

Frustrated by the coverage they were receiving from the news media, the Marines invited Roggio, 35, who writes a popular Web log about the military called "The Fourth Rail" ( ), to come cover the war from the front lines.

He raised more than $30,000 from his online readers to pay for airfare, technical equipment and body armor. A few weeks later, he was posting dispatches from a remote outpost in western Anbar province, a hotbed of Iraq's insurgency.

"I was disenchanted with the reporting on the war in Iraq and the greater war on terror and felt there was much to the conflict that was missed," Roggio, who is currently stationed with Marines along the Syrian border, wrote in an e-mail response to written questions. "What is often seen as an attempt at balanced reporting results in underreporting of the military's success and strategy and an overemphasis on the strategically minor success of the jihadists or insurgents.""
Hat tip Truth about Iraqis

It's a shame that the DoD now has to pay for "good news", if I remember correctly we were getting all sorts of news for free from the original milbloggers before the Dod shut all the good ones down. Now after the predictable result of this "miss management", something I predicted at the time, we now have to stoop to the level of cheep propagandist and pay for coverage. This administration is it's own worst enemy. My recommendation, lift the stupid blogging restrictions, and let the men and women that are in fact Americas best ambassadors speak freely again. Wont cost us a penny.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

May peace be all over the world.......

"Hello all I hope you enjoyed Christmas, and had memorable day with your families, I really wanted my Iraqi Christian friends to enjoy Christmas, but may be through this post you can imagine what a MEMORABLE Eid they had !!!
These days the weather became very cold, the temperature is 2-3 degrees under zero … this cold weather synchronize with not only the raise in the oil, fuel prices but with its exiguity….yesterday my baby (20 months old) cried freezing at night, we have oil storage but we tried to sleep without (soba) an oil heater, to save it for the rest of winter. We get the electricity for ONLY 2 hours a day now, we also don't have hot water!."

Iraq PCO Weekly Update

"Every week, Friday or Saturday I will continue to challenge the media to report PCO’s Iraqi reconstruction achievements and link to the weekly updates.

Sadr City has 15 sewage pumping stations rebuilt. This area of Baghdad was one of the most neglected under Saddam. In the past, sewage flowed in the streets, today they are clean. Furthermore, water treatment plants are being built and extensive networks of water taps are being located in homes."
Pearls of Iraq
This is a new Iraqi blog for me, I had not seen it before and could not find it on any of my list.

Withdrawal of US Troops from Iraq

"How come we didn't hear about this very important resolution passed by the Sacramento City Council in November 1, 2005?!


SACRAMENTO—Joining over 100 American cities, Sacramento passed a resolution Tuesday night urging President Bush and the United States Congress to commence a humane, orderly, rapid and comprehensive withdrawal of United States military personnel and bases from Iraq...

...“The White House should follow this sound advice: Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is,” Tretheway continued. “That's not the statement of a Democratic Senator or prominent Iraq war opponent. It was said in April 1999, in reference to President Clinton's military intervention in Kosovo, by a Republican governor named George W. Bush.”
Read in the Middle
I guess Read is trying comedy to bring back his readers. Well Raed you better try something, as they have already found a replacement for you. What you thought you were the only anti-American blogger around? Your Anti-American crowd has found a new home, you better get out there and fight for the public you have left, or your going to find yourself with nothing but that game of solitaire.

Countercolumn News Ticker

"Breaking News!

Al Qaeda offering rebates to ransomed hostages ...

Dateline: Irbil, Iraq - (CNT) Al Qaeda unveiled a massive marketing campaign today designed to spread the word about a new hostage ransom rebate program. The rebates are designed to encourage Germans and other citizens of spineless, equivocating nations, to vacation in violent areas and make themselves vulnerable to kidnap and ransom efforts.

In exchange, Al Qaeda is offering cash rebates of up to 1/3 of the ransom price to any hostages successfully ransomed under the program.

"It's just our way of saying "Thanks" to all the nations who, by looking the other way for so long, have made all our successes possible to this point," said Abu Musab al Zarqawi, President and CEO of Al Qaeda's Iraq division in a statement. "We're very excited to be able to make this offer, which we believe will be competitive with anything offered by any of our competitors in the terrorist industry.""
Raed could take a lesson from Jason on making parity of the news

Pedro Martin

"Pedro Martin (Originally posted at Val’s Blog Cuba, August 2004).

Private First Class Peter Martin lay on his cot made of an aluminum frame and green nylon, dressed only in his desert camouflage trousers and a brown t-shirt and tan suede combat boots. His blouse hung on a hook fashioned out of 550 cord and an expended 7.62 shell casing tied to a section of the tent’s metal frame. He lay on his back, with his hands behind his head, staring at the canvas ceiling, tiny rays of sunlight piercing the many holes in the tent, waiting. He’s been there waiting for three days now while his platoon was on patrol in the village to the east of their forward operating base. The tent flapped violently in the wind and dust settled on everything. Pete Martin tired of waiting and tired of the heartache he felt within.

He had joined the Army just less than two years ago, shortly after the events of September 11, 2001. He signed on to be an infantryman, he loved being an infantryman. The day that he raised his right hand taking an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies was one of the proudest moments in his life, he was twenty-one years old at the time. He had trained hard after enlisting, first at Fort Benning’s school for boys during the Army’s basic training, then with his unit at Fort Campbell, Kentucky before coming to Afghanistan two months ago."
Sgt. Hook
I want to welcome Sgt Hook back to blogging after such a long hiatus.

NSA Web Site Puts 'Cookies' on Computers

"NEW YORK - The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them. These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.

"Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern," said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government's very basic rules for Web privacy."

Until Tuesday, the NSA site created two cookie files that do not expire until 2035 _ likely beyond the life of any computer in use today.

Don Weber, an NSA spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday that the cookie use resulted from a recent software upgrade. Normally, the site uses temporary, permissible cookies that are automatically deleted when users close their Web browsers, he said, but the software in use shipped with persistent cookies already on. "
Here want your very own cookie NAS just visit the NSA and be a patriot, help secure the country, help fight terrorism.

Don't ask what your country can do for you, Ask what freedom you can give to secure your country.

Frenchman kidnapped in Iraq shown on Arabiya TV

"DUBAI (Reuters) - A little-known Iraqi militant group has threatened to kill a French engineer kidnapped in Iraq unless France ended its "illegitimate presence" in the Arab country, Al Arabiya television reported on Wednesday.

The Dubai-based television station aired a video from the "Surveillance for the Sake of Iraq Brigade" showing a man seated in front of militants who pointed rifles at his head. The man identified himself as Bernard.

Earlier this month, gunmen seized a French engineer in Baghdad, beating their screaming victim as they hauled him to their getaway car. He was later identified by French and Iraqi officials as Bernard Planche.

French and Iraqi officials said Planche was an employee of a non-governmental organisation and worked at the Rusafa water treatment plant in eastern Baghdad."
What presence? What are they talking about, the French in Iraq. Not French troops, so who do they what out, French engineers? I agree, either those money hungry French engineers get out or else we are going to chop his head off. Who is going to stop us? the other French engineers?

U.N.: No Justification for Iraq Re-Vote

'BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A United Nations official said Wednesday that Iraq's recent elections were credible and there was no justification for a rerun of the vote that gave a strong lead to the Shiite religious bloc dominating the current government.

In violence Wednesday, an inmate in a Baghdad prison grabbed an assault rifle from a guard and opened fire, killing eight people, police said. One American soldier was injured in the attempted prison break, the U.S. military said.

The Shiite bloc held talks with Kurdish leaders and said preparations were being made to choose a candidate for prime minister - who they have said must come from their governing United Iraqi Alliance.

"We set up the mechanism to elect the new prime minister but have not started it yet. Any member of the Alliance has the right to be nominated for that post," Alliance leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim told the Kurdish parliament."
The UN would not come down on the side of the people over the political elite if there was video tape of ballot stuffing Iranians shooting their way into polling stations.
An I wonder how they would know if the elections was fair or not, they had 5 people in country for the election?

Wiretaps fail to make dent in terror war; al Qaeda used messengers

"The Bush administration's surveillance policy has failed to make a dent in the war against al Qaeda.

U.S. law enforcement sources said that more than four years of surveillance by the National Security Agency has failed to capture any high-level al Qaeda operative in the United States. They said al Qaeda insurgents have long stopped using the phones and even computers to relay messages. Instead, they employ couriers.

"They have been way ahead of us in communications security," a law enforcement source said. "At most, we have caught some riff-raff. But the heavies remain free and we believe some of them are in the United States."

Several members of Congress have been briefed on the effectiveness of the government surveillance program that does not require a court order.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, who was briefed by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the matter, said he plans to hold hearings on the program by February 2006.

"There may be legislation which will come out of it [hearings] to restrict the president's power," Mr. Specter said."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Defense Lawyers in Terror Cases Plan Challenges Over Spy Efforts

"WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 - Defense lawyers in some of the country's biggest terrorism cases say they plan to bring legal challenges to determine whether the National Security Agency used illegal wiretaps against several dozen Muslim men tied to Al Qaeda.

The lawyers said in interviews that they wanted to learn whether the men were monitored by the agency and, if so, whether the government withheld critical information or misled judges and defense lawyers about how and why the men were singled out.

The expected legal challenges, in cases from Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia, add another dimension to the growing controversy over the agency's domestic surveillance program and could jeopardize some of the Bush administration's most important courtroom victories in terror cases, legal analysts say.

The question of whether the N.S.A. program was used in criminal prosecutions and whether it improperly influenced them raises "fascinating and difficult questions," said Carl W. Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who has studied terrorism prosecutions.

"It seems to me that it would be relevant to a person's case," Professor Tobias said. "I would expect the government to say that it is highly sensitive material, but we have legal mechanisms to balance the national security needs with the rights of defendants. I think judges are very conscientious about trying to sort out these issues and balance civil liberties and national security."

While some civil rights advocates, legal experts and members of Congress have said that President Bush did not have the authority to order eavesdropping by the security agency without warrants, the White House and the Justice Department continued on Tuesday to defend the legality and propriety of the program.

Trent Duffy, a spokesman for the White House, declined to comment in Crawford, Tex., when asked about a report in The New York Times that the security agency had tapped into some of the country's main telephone arteries to conduct broader data-mining operations in the search for terrorists.

But Mr. Duffy said: "This is a limited program. This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner. These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings and churches."

He added: "The president believes that he has the authority - and he does - under the Constitution to do this limited program. The Congress has been briefed. It is fully in line with the Constitution and also protecting American civil liberties."

Disclosure of the N.S.A. program has already caused ripples in the legal system, with a judge resigning in protest from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court last week. The surveillance court, established by Congress in 1978 to grant warrants in terrorism and espionage cases, wants a briefing from the Bush administration on why it bypassed the court and ordered eavesdropping without warrants.

At the same time, defense lawyers in terrorism cases around the country say they are preparing letters and legal briefs to challenge the N.S.A. program on behalf of their clients, many of them American citizens, and to find out more about how it might have been used. They acknowledge legal hurdles, including the fact that many defendants waived some rights to appeal as part of their plea deals."
"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore"

International Pawn

"Now, despite President George W. Bush's support for Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon, there is concern among some here that Lebanon could become a victim of U.S. strategic interests -- the need for Syrian help with Iraq -- yet again.

"We understand Syrians are turning toward cooperation with U.S. in terms of Iraq," says Karam, "so we'll wait and see what happens."

But Karam says the U.S. is already benefiting from Syrian assistance in tightening control over its southern border, where foreign fighters are reportedly entering Iraq to attack U.S. forces and Iraqi government and civilian targets.

U.S. State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez disagrees with that assessment.

"Rather than seeing action and response to our concerns from [Syria], we've only seen more acts of what I would call regional destabilization," Vasquez says. "
Kevin Sites

Embedded With the 101st Airborne

'WEDNESDAY, Dec. 14, 8:10 p.m. local.

BEIJI, Iraq.

The radio had crackled just minutes before with a soldier screaming that his Humvee had hit an IED planted on the side of the road near Sharqa.

No one was injured, a tire was destroyed, and soldiers from the 33rd Cavalry Regiment's Bravo Troop had begun searching nearby homes for someone, something, anything that might have been used as a detonator.

They found a young boy in a room that had walls covered in pictures of Hollywood models. A pornographic American film played on the television. The boy smiled sheepishly as soldiers led him into the courtyard where a group of women had gathered, laughing.

That's when they found the old man, chained to the wall and pawing at a bowl of rice covered with flies in an alley filled with rotting food and feces. His beard was matted with grime, and he mumbled through chewed food that spilled from his mouth.

The man reached out as soldiers passed him. Maybe he was asking for help. Maybe he didn't know what he was doing. I couldn't look and began to gag.

The soldiers I'm with say they've seen this before in Iraq's tribal villages: families that have chained relatives to the walls because of age, senility, disability or disfigurement. Apparently they are seen as an embarrassment to the family.

I had seen it once before. At another home just a block away, soldiers found a disfigured boy chained to the wall. They were talking excitedly about it when he somehow worked himself free from his shackles and wandered closer.

The soldiers spun around, offered him candy and shooed him away with yells.

Finally one soldier led him by the shoulder toward a group of women that were peering around a stone wall who seemed to know who he was.

The soldiers had just been attacked, and the boy was becoming a distraction.

The unit detained six men today from another house they searched after the explosion. They found automatic rifles, $900 in U.S. bills, license plates from Dubai and a picture of the homeowner standing next to Saddam Hussein's brother.

But tonight, it's the man in the alley and the boy on the street who have kept everyone talking."
I guess this is the guy writing those news stories that read like a blog post, I recognize on of the entries on this page as the story I posted the other day. I like it but lets just say that he's no Kevin Sites, but what the hell. At least we are getting something other than the dry cookiecutter drool that usually rolls off the press.

Top Ten Myths about Iraq in 2005

"Iraq has unfortunately become a football in the rough and ready, two-party American political arena, generating large numbers of sound bites and so much spin you could clothe all of China in the resulting threads.

Here are what I think are the top ten myths about Iraq, that one sees in print or on television in the United States.

1. The guerrilla war is being waged only in four provinces. This canard is trotted out by everyone from think tank flacks to US generals, and it is shameful. Iraq has 18 provinces, but some of them are lightly populated. The most populous province is Baghdad, which has some 6 million residents, or nearly one-fourth of the entire population of the country. It also contains the capital. It is one of the four being mentioned!. Another of the four, Ninevah province, has a population of some 1.8 million and contains Mosul, a city of over a million and the country's third largest! It is not clear what other two provinces are being referred to, but they are probably Salahuddin and Anbar provinces, other big centers of guerrilla activity, bring the total for the "only four provinces" to something like 10 million of Iraq's 26 million people. "
Juan Cole

Awaiting a summit...Awaiting a solution.

"In Baghdad, Amman and Sulaimaniya the meetings continue between representatives and leaders of the major Iraqi political bodies.

The past and current meetings are all in preparation for an expected summit in Sulaymaniya where the leaders of the four major lists (Allawi, Adnan al-Dulaimi, al-Hakeem and Barzani as well as president Talabani) are expected to discuss and work out a solution of the dispute over election results and the shape of the new government.

There was news that the meeting will take place tomorrow but the spokesman of president Talabani denied the news, however a source from Erbil’s regional government said the meeting will be next Saturday.
Probably the contradiction in news is intended for security concerns, the pther possibility is that the meeting has been postponed due to political difficulties in gathering the rivals.
Anyway, a meeting will most likely be very soon because al-Hakeem has already arrived in Erbil."

Discrepancies, and a new ambassador in DC

'Fuzzy Math: Help me out with this one: a candidate no one had heard of before, Tawfiq Hashim Ali Al-Hashemi, running as an independent, gets 1,782 votes in the out-of-country poll, and a further 2,405 votes from the Iraqi military for a total of 4,184 votes in the ‘special poll’ tally. However, Al-Hashemi—who only ran in his home province of Misan—got a measly 463 ‘ordinary’ votes. So why did this obscure candidate running on the number ‘532’ get ten times more votes among the expatriate/military constituency when compared to his own backyard? Either someone inflated his numbers in the ‘special’ count, or deflated his home-base score. Either way it seems fishy, and it’s not as if he was getting the Florida treatment whereby elderly Holocaust survivors voted for Pat Buchanan by mistake; he is sandwiched between lists no. ‘531’ (Najib Salihi’s Free Officers and Civilians Movement) and no. ‘533’ (The Karbala Independent Coalition) on the ballot—both of which did poorly.

I’d hate to sound like the MARAMists, but the discrepancies keep piling up. For the record, it is now clear that the two ‘Sunni’ lists, the Consensus and Salih Al-Mutlag’s, were themselves involved in massive cheating in the three provinces of Nineveh, Salahuddin and Anbar. Many of the ballots from Sunni areas were disqualified (65 ballot boxes to be specific, from the Al-Rashid and Yusufiya suburbs of Baghdad), but part of the deal now with the Electoral Commission is to factor in these questionable votes as part of the final tally in order to placate the MARAMists and win them more seats in the parliament."
Talisman Gate

My Mom is Fine.....

"My god, a friend of mine called me all the way from London to here, to make sure if my mom is Ok...that scared the hell outta me!!!! Dr Saif, how dare you say something that isnt true!!!! I dont even know who you are....Dont you ever dare say something like that again!!!That just pissed me offf....Imagine how would you feel when you get a phonecall asking if your mom is ok and she aint dying!!! That just did it for me......DONT U DARE WHOEVER YOU ARE DO THAT AGAIN!!!!!!!! Its one thing im miles away from my family........"
Neurotic Iraqi Wife
I hate to say it, but this sounds like a threat. Be careful Neurotica, advise your family to be very careful. This guy would seem to have inside information. Where did he get your number, how does he know your name?
And unfortunately now he knows for sure that you are Neurotica. I would consider this a significant security breach and would take the necessary precautions.

Monday, December 26, 2005


"Hi again, sorry for all this absence but I was so busy because my mother is sick( Breast Cancer) and my aunt too so they were have under treatment and because of the collage...
I miss your comments and opinions about the situation in Iraq so I come back again to discuss the situation in Iraq after the vote on Consititution and Election , the progress in the democracy process and the primary results of the election..."
Free Iraq

An Iraqi Christmas Carol

'Once upon a time of all the good days in the year, upon a Christmas eve old Iraqi Roulette sat feeling as miserable as can be in a chilly room watching nerve wrecking elections results , where shameless politicians were rejoicing their preliminary victory.
It was cold, bleak biting weather , and midnight was approaching. Midnight is a dangerous hour in Baghdad even on one’s own house roof, but old Iraqi Roulette could not take any more and decided to wrap up and go out to the house roof, to meditate a bit and may be have a good cry . The sky was clear and there was a cold pinch in the air, winter has arrived at last . Although Iraqi Roulette loved winter it was also something to sob about this year, because the government decided to rise fuel prices out of the blue… mysteriously after elections."
Iraqi Roulette

Christmas in Baghdad

"It is Christmas Eve. I am in an Arab country that has a sizable Christian minority. Some are celebrating Christmas tomorrow. A group preaching inter-faith understanding is holding a dawn mass in a few hours.

I cannot help but think of the Christians of Iraq. Although they may have not been as free as they would have liked to be, they were perhaps one of the most privileged Christian communities - save for in Lebanon - in the Middle East.

The Baathist order had separated Church from State, so to speak, although that may have wavered towards the end of the 90s. Nevertheless, Christians were not hunted down. They weren't forced to convert, as some have told me is currently happening in southern Iraq.

They weren't forced to veil.

And they weren't forced to celebrate Christmas hiding at home or going to Church in the morning having to look over their shoulders for fear of a crazed Arab Wahabi freak imported from abroad to create havoc and wanton destruction."
Truth about Iraqis

Post-election tension grows in Iraq

"BAGHDAD (UPI) -Tensions are growing in Iraq where angry protesters are charging irregularities in last week's elections.

Minority Sunni Arabs received fewer votes than expected in the Dec. 15 parliamentary poll, which has sparked charges of vote-rigging along with fears of further violence between the Sunnis and majority-garnering Shiite Muslims, the New York Times reported Sunday.

Further raising concerns for peace, Shiite and Sunni leaders have called for separate armies for their regions while the Kurds already have one in place, the newspaper noted.

"Every group here is afraid of every other group: The Sunnis are afraid, the Shiites are afraid, and the Kurds are afraid," an unidentified Western diplomat in Baghdad told the Times. "And the response to that has been to sort of draw together as a kind of self-preservation tactic."

Meanwhile, Sunnis are calling for a re-vote in contested regions, while the Shiites claim a do-over would be precluded by Iraqi law.

Leaders of the factions are meeting with U.S. negotiators to try and settle the stalemate over the election results, the Times said."
The Kurdistani

Reconstruction in Iraq!

'First of all, thank you all for the nice response to the reconstruction debate that went on. I never knew this would be of such importance.
I would like now to show a picture of what is happening in Iraq now.

Some of you said that the phone system in Iraq was rehabilitated, or rebuilt the phone system. Well, the phone system was never bombed dear. The only telecommunication building which was bombed in Baghdad was the Sinak building, which was for communication outside Iraq. And believe it or not, the building is still rubble! But that doesn’t mean there is no telecommunication rehabilitation in the country. There are some neighborhood that lost the connection because of the insurgent attacks, and these were rehabilitated. Also, in Anbar, the U.S. and insurgent bombs killed the service, and just recently the U.S. Marines rebuilt the system in Fallujah only.

Some of you talked about the water system. Well, for God’s sake, I live in the country and see it everyday. I just wish you could be in Baghdad in a rainy day. Streets flood with water and sewer. Garbage everywhere in the streets, while the Americans are paying billions of dollars to finance municipality projects."
24 Steps to Liberty

Bullet-riddled body of Iraqi student leader found in Mosul

"MOSUL (Reuters) - The bound and bullet-riddled body of an Iraqi student leader was found on Sunday, a few days after he led a campus march alleging fraud in last week's election, a students' group said.

The body of Qusay Salahaddin was found close to a hospital in the northern city of Mosul with his hands bound behind his back and marks of strangling on it, a hospital source said.

Gunmen took Salahaddin, president of Mosul University's students' union, from his house on Thursday and bundled him into the trunk of a car before driving off, said Mohammed Jassim, a friend of the victim. He said Salahaddin used his mobile phone to make last-ditch pleas for help.

"Save me, the Peshmerga have kidnapped me," Jassim quoted Salahaddin, a Sunni Arab, as saying before the line went dead, apparently referring to Kurdish militia groups operating in northern Iraq."
The Kurdistani

Will ten seats solve the crisis?

"It’s become clear from the active shuttle-like movement of the rival parties and mediators that the intensity of the political crisis began to subside compared to how things looked like a week ago.
In spite of the violence that disturbed Baghdad this morning, the rival parties resumed their meetings and talks with some politicians playing the role of mediators; the most prominent of whom is President Talabani and even in the two main competing camps we’re hearing moderate voices emerge to propose solutions like the Virtue Party from the UIA and al-Mutlaq from Maram.

There’s another dispute taking place within the UIA itself about who gets to be the new PM. The Sadrists are objecting to the SCIRI’s nomination of Aadil Abdulmahdi. The Sadrists want Jafari to keep his position because he promised them 7 seats in the cabinet including deputy PM. The Sadrists organized at least two demonstrations in Kadhimiya and Sadr city and appeared carrying pictures of Jafari and demanding that he keeps his position.
However, the SCIRI seems determined to go on with nominating Abdulmahdi who the Sunni are relatively more ready to tolerate."

I wanted to say something about the elections results

"I wanted to say something about the elections results but things are still confusing to me and I can't see any real light from the various possibilities ahead of us. I think there were huge violations and a fraud especially in the south and the north. This elections will cost Iraq and whoever decides to stand by her side at least 10 more years of suffering. The worst thing is that it could have prevented if some of us at least had paid attention to the real danger.
The final outcome I don't doubt. I still believe firmly that Iraq will be a true democracy and a model for the Arab and Muslim world but the cost and time have just been doubled."
Free Iraqi

Sunday, December 25, 2005

HO HO, Ho Ho Ho

"Christmas Eve. We chilled out by trying to watch a movie and enjoy a stoag as it was a quiet day. The movie began and so did the excitement. One post calls out that they have aggressors moving towards the parameter wall. A single pop up goes out to the north east then all the shooting began. AK 47 and M16 rang close with more illume going up into the sky. We were use to such probs and attacks and we continued to watch the movie. Quiet again. Another illume and then more shooting but this time a close 240G medium machine gun opened up and began to mow down the would be attackers. Easily going through 100 rounds the M16s continued to pick off dark shadows as the 240’s released hell."
One Marien's View


"Americans should be concerned about what happens to Roj TV, and lend their support to it, for three reasons: Turkey is not a steady ally of the United States, it is not a secular democracy and it represses the right of free expression, within its borders and without.

Since September 11, 2001, America is no longer an isolated observer of events happening in the Middle East. That tragic day was the beginning of active American participation in changing a status quo that has for too long allowed repressive regimes to crush the populations under their control. The regimes of which I speak have no regard for the human, civil, political and cultural rights of the people they repress. The Kurdish people have suffered and continue to suffer brutal repression under four of these regimes: Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq."

Life's ingredients circle Sun-like star

'The first evidence that some of the basic organic building blocks of life can exist in an Earth-like orbit around a young Sun-like star has been provided by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

Spitzer took infrared spectrograms of 100 very young stars in a nearby stellar nursery, a huge cloud of dust and gas 375 light years away in the constellation Ophiuchus. And one of those stars showed signs of the organic molecules, acetylene and hydrogen cyanide.

These gases, when combined with water, can form several different amino acids. These are needed to form proteins, as well as one of the four chemical letters, or bases, in DNA, called adenine.

The organic molecules were detected in a ring of dust and gas circling a young star called IRS 46. Such dust rings, found around all of the young stars that were examined by the Spitzer telescope, are believed to be the raw material for planetary systems.

The spectrographic data showed that the gases were so hot that they must be orbiting close to the star, approximately in its "habitable zone", the region where Earth orbits the Sun and where water is just at the borderline between liquid and gaseous states."
New Scientist

Happy Holidays

Norman Rockwell: Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

U.S. Army Digs Up Weapons Cache In Iraq

"ZUWAD KHALAF, Iraq -- U.S. soldiers in the northern Iraqi desert dug up more than 1,000 aging rockets and missiles wrapped in plastic, some of which were buried as recently as two weeks ago, Army officials said Tuesday.

Commanders in the 101st Airborne Division said an Iraqi tipped them off to the buried weapons, perhaps an indication that residents in this largely Sunni Arab region about 150 miles north of Baghdad are beginning to warm up to coalition forces.

"The tide is turning," said 2nd Lt. Patrick Vardaro, 23, of Norwood, Mass., a platoon leader in the division's 187th Infantry Regiment. "It's better to work with Americans than against us."

As the sun set, soldiers from the 101st continued to uncover more, following zigzagging tire tracks across the desert floor and using metal detectors to locate weapons including mines, mortars and machine gun rounds."

Off to War

"OFF TO WAR follows 57 citizen soldiers of the Arkansas National Guard from Clarksville, Arkansas, as they leave their jobs and their families to deploy to Iraq.
Part One:
On October 12th, 2003 2,800 members of the Arkansas National Guard were officially notified they would be spending the next year of their lives in Iraq. 57 of those called to duty are from a town called Clarksville, population approximately 7,000 people. In the first installment of OFF TO WAR, viewers are introduced to some of these guardsmen, all with the 239th Engineer Company.

Part Two:
Following the Arkansas National Guard through training, the segment accompanies the troops to their new home in Baghdad. The unit has been warned that the Iraqi insurgents know the newcomers are inexperienced. The men and their families are fearful that these guardsmen, who work in sales, farming and other non-military jobs back home, could become the targets of Iraqi militia groups bent upon attacking Americans. "
Off to War
I have not seen any of these episodes of this program, But a coworker of mine that did see it has demanded that I post it. So I Googled it and found a few links to the show there are some video bios here of the main characters, and the Discovery channel main show page Here. If anyone out there has seen it, and can offer us some commentary on this program, please leave a comment.

Big Pharaoh
A Christmas card to beat all Christmas cards.

Three Times the Charm

"Three times now—three times this year—millions of Iraqis have come out swinging and voting. Hearing the news about the high turnout (as high as 75% in some regions) and low incidence of violence during the elections in Iraq yesterday, I have to wonder how many times Iraqis have to demonstrate their commitment to freedom and democracy before the world starts to believe it.

I can understand the skepticism that attended that first election almost a year ago. I had just arrived in Iraq, and was with the 1st Infantry Division in Baquba and the fear of a bloody debacle was palpable. Writing about it at the time, I said:"
Michael Yon


Tuesday 16December2003
Kabul, Afghanistan
Today, our platoon arrived in the Afghan capital of Kabul via C-130 for a planned six-week stay through the holidays. This Afghan "city" is not exactly the Big Apple (it's more of a core, really), yet is still worlds apart from the Khost bowl area we've been used to.
-It has a real airport with actual commercial flights! (My first question: Why?)
-It has paved streets! (With sidewalks, no less!)
-It has a Starbucks with a ride-thru donkey window! (Okay, not really... but it can't possibly be far behind)."
American Citizen Soldier

Cole's Christmas message

"Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis of all walks of life are protesting the election's early results. The results, so far, show that the Shiite list is the likely winner of the greatest number of seats in Parliament.

The protesters, described by the media as Sunnis, secular Shiites, communists and others, marched carrying signs that said they rejected fraudulent elections.

With his seasonal spirit, Juan Cole puts the protesters in the pockets of the Americans. He mocks their complaints:"
Well for this one Cole and Jeffrey have joined forces with Sistani.

Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq

Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq (Hardcover)
by Nina Berman (Photographer)

I saw the presentation by the author of her book last night on C-SPAN, and was very impressed. First when the author talked about why she made this book it reminded me of why I started this blog.
If you haven't seen it yet on C-SPAN I recommend you watch for it this weekend, they are sure to repeat it, the best part was the Q&A, again it reminded me of this blog, on one side you have the people saying that publishing this would hurt the war effort, you have the author saying that her images were a part of the human cost of war that the public should see when they decide if they are willing to bear the cost, and you have the other side thanking the author for bringing her subjects story out, a story they said was worth telling. Just like the commentary that goes on around here. So I recommend this book because I agree that the public should know and that the soldiers story is worth telling, and I disagree that the war should be conducted behind a curtain.

Iraq by Numbers

"Here's another way to look at the December 15 parliamentary election results in Iraq.

Governates heavily dominated by UIA, 555 (Shia):

Babil (76%)
Basrah (77%)
Karbala (76%)
Misan (87%)
Muthana (86%)
Najaf (82%)
Qadissiya (81%)
Theqar (87%)
Wasit (80%)"
I'm almost convinced.

Not appropriate for human use.......

All our agonies you may at least have an idea about from the media. But today I am going to talk about something may be the media did not focus onto, it's about the bad sources of goods in the markets, without quality control. Almost everything in the market is from the cheapest sources, but with expensive prices, the most dangerous thing is the food & medications' types…."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

U.S. GIs Hunt for Suspected Iraq Bomber

"MUSALKAH, Iraq (AP) - The Americans came in the pre-dawn darkness, looking for a long-faced Iraqi with fair skin they believe was behind a pair of roadside bombings that killed five fellow soldiers last month.

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division raided this small, dusty village on the rocky banks of the Tigris River just minutes before the morning call to prayer on Friday. They carried an old, grainy photo of the suspect.

But he was nowhere to be found. Villages said he hadn't been there in months.

It was a frustrating moment for soldiers in the division's 3rd Brigade, known as the "Rakkasans," who are intent on finding the insurgents responsible for killing their five comrades in the Nov. 19 bombings."
This is new, this story is more like a blog entry than a news story. I wonder what's up?

More on election results crisis; Talabani has an initiative.

"The different parties in conflict over the election results continued to make more statements in defense of their positions today.
Jawad al-Maliki of the Dawa Party said in a press conference for the UAI that talking about redoing the elections is not acceptable and that making threats is in no one’s interest and he warned that such threats voiced by some parties that can be classified under “terror threats” and can possibly be responded to under the “terror fighting law” considering that some threats were “provoking violence and threatening national stability”...

...Christmas is here but this year Christians in Iraq decided to cancel all celebrations and parties they usually have in their social clubs and will limit the celebrations to ceremonies in churches for fear from terror attacks.
If you pray, take a moment and pray for peace in Iraq.

Merry Christmas to all…"

IMF offers historic loan to Iraq

"The International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed on Friday to offer Iraq $685-million to help its post-war economic recovery, the first loan of its kind for the conflict-torn country.

The loan is designed to support the Iraqi government's economic programme over the next 15 months, which envisages a boost in economic growth, lower inflation and further steps toward a market economy, an IMF statement said.

In a positive economic report card, the IMF praised Iraqi authorities for promoting economic stability in 2005 despite the "difficult security environment" caused by the anti-United States insurgency.

"The medium-term outlook for Iraq is favourable, but subject to many risks," IMF deputy MD Takatoshi Kato said in the statement.

The loan comes under a so-called standby arrangement, which countries can draw on every quarter if they meet economic targets set down by the IMF. -- Sapa-DPA"
Mail & Guardian

20,000 Protest Election Fraud in Iraq

"There was a story floating around last week that a "tanker" full of "hundreds of thousands" of forged ballots coming from Iran was discovered and confiscated at the border, with the names but not the rest of the ballots filled in. This story, which has fed Sunni Arab discontent, makes no sense. First of all, you can't get hundreds of thousands of ballots on one truck, even a tanker. Paper is bulky. How would Iran have a list of plausible Iraqi voters? Iranians mostly print in nasta'liq script, not the naskh favored in the Arab world, and mostly use Persian, not Arabic. While Iranian printers could pull off such a thing, you have to ask, why? If you were going to print fake Arabic ballots for Iraq, why not just do it in Basra? It is not as if the United Iraqi Alliance, the presumed beneficiary of the alleged forgeries, does not control Iraqi printing presses in areas secure enough for it to commit fraud if it liked. I don't find the story plausible, but it appears that the US military has actually arrested Fazel "Abu Tayyib" Jasim, a provincial council member of Kut and a member of the Shiite Badr Organization (the paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq), implicating him in the affair. I'd like to see the truck and the ballots on television. One tanker, or even a fleet of them, couldn't affect centrally an election with millions of voters.

In any case, these actions and statements of the US military are unlikely to overturn the election results, which probably give the religious Shiites control of parliament. But they could further destabilize Iraq, if that is possible."
Juan Cole

The Electoral Commission Responds To 'Extortion'

"BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun
December 23, 2005

CAIRO, Egypt - The head of Iraq's election committee yesterday told The New York Sun that a call for new elections from 35 largely Sunni political parties is "political extortion," and vowed not to bend to their demands.

In a telephone interview, Adel al-Lamy said he believed most of the disappointment of groups calling for the abolition of the panel he heads was more appropriately directed at their constituencies. He said that claims of fraud and abuse in the December 15 parliamentary elections were overblown and politically motivated. He also said that reports that more than 200,000 votes in Baghdad for Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress went missing or were disqualified were overblown and that he did not think there would be more than a couple thousand more votes for Mr. Chalabi's party in the final tallies."
Talisman Gate

Shiites Reject Calls for New Iraqi Ballot

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's leading Shiite religious bloc on Saturday condemned protests by Sunni Arab and secular groups claiming that parliamentary elections were fraudulent, and it rejected calls for a new ballot.

Officials with the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance said preliminary results showing them with a clear lead in the Dec. 15 elections reflected the will of the people. They countered claims of irregularities by charging that many violations took place in Sunni Arab areas.

They added, however, that they had begun talks with other groups about the possibility of forming a "national unity government."

At least one Sunni Arab leader said he was upset by the Shiite comments."

From American kids in Iraq, the blogs of war

'A Marine blogger who calls himself Captain B is describing the scruffy four-foot Christmas tree at his base in Anbar province, west of Baghdad: "Lacking ornaments for the most part, we used bullets, cigars, Marlboro packs and other things we like and hung them on the tree. It looks like a freaking train wreck but it's our train wreck."

An Army officer who signs on as Lieutenant K is blogging from another base in Anbar province. He has a Christmas tree, too, with what he calls a nice dark touch. "There is a belt of .50-caliber ammunition placed carefully in a ring around the bottom, reflecting the multicolored lights off its brass casings. It's actually quite beautiful." A 22-year-old hip-hop loving Marine who calls himself sup3rman83 writes: "We had a sandstorm last night!! I figure since I can't have a white Christmas, I'll settle for a sandy one."

When politicians talk about soldiers in Iraq, they will often say with great solemnity, "Thank you for your service." America does owe its troops a huge debt, but that phrase rankles, somehow. It sounds so pious, as if the troops are off serving in a monastery. But these are mostly young American kids - joking, cursing, blowing out their eardrums with rock music, asking anyone who will listen why they got stuck in this hellhole. And then doing their jobs."
Daily Star
Thanks Fayrouz, I guess the secret is out. Nice to see that the MSM is discovering milblogs, hopefully they will help bring them to a larger audience.

Fraud ... Fraud ... and Fraud

"At the days following the election, many people and I are very optimistic that there will be deviation to the political processes instead of armed confrontations. This was because of the easiness and peaceful ballot. But it lasted for no more than two days, then the explosions and the clashes started again. You know why? ... I will tell you … I know.

Seven days since the election, every new day we hear news of frauds in the process of voting. There are more than 1250 claims of illegal and cheating acts during the process of voting. All the cheating are done by the militias of the puppet government, (the Badr militia in the middle and the south and the Peshmerga in the north), both are supported by the current government. Many of the complaint are really serious"
Citizen of Mosul

Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report

"WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.

The government's collection and analysis of phone and Internet traffic have raised questions among some law enforcement and judicial officials familiar with the program. One issue of concern to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has reviewed some separate warrant applications growing out of the N.S.A.'s surveillance program, is whether the court has legal authority over calls outside the United States that happen to pass through American-based telephonic "switches," according to officials familiar with the matter."

EXCLUSIVE: Nuclear Monitoring of Muslims Done Without Search Warrants

"In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.

Federal officials familiar with the program maintain that warrants are unneeded for the kind of radiation sampling the operation entails, but some legal scholars disagree. News of the program comes in the wake of revelations last week that, after 9/11, the Bush White House approved electronic surveillance of U.S. targets by the National Security Agency without court orders. These and other developments suggest that the federal government's domestic spying programs since 9/11 have been far broader than previously thought.

The nuclear surveillance program began in early 2002 and has been run by the FBI and the Department of Energy's Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST). Two individuals, who declined to be named because the program is highly classified, spoke to U.S. News because of their concerns about the legality of the program. At its peak, they say, the effort involved three vehicles in Washington, D.C., monitoring 120 sites per day, nearly all of them Muslim targets drawn up by the FBI. For some ten months, officials conducted daily monitoring, and they have resumed daily checks during periods of high threat. The program has also operated in at least five other cities when threat levels there have risen: Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Seattle...

...Cole points to a 2001 Supreme Court decision, U.S. vs. Kyllo, which looked at police use -- without a search warrant -- of thermal imaging technology to search for marijuana-growing lamps in a home. The court, in a ruling written by Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled that authorities did in fact need a warrant -- that the heat sensors violated the Fourth Amendment's clause against unreasonable search and seizure. But officials familiar with the FBI/NEST program say the radiation sensors are different and are only sampling the surrounding air. "This kind of program only detects particles in the air, it's non directional," says one knowledgeable official. "It's not a whole lot different from smelling marijuana.""
Oh! these liberal judges can't be trusted with the security of the nation!

Glad Tiding to Mary

"(Remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word ("Be!" - and he was! i.e. Isa the son of Maryam) from Him, his name will be the Messiah Isa, the son of Maryam, held in honour in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah." (3:45 The Holy Quran)"

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Clean Election in Iraq?

"Over at Iraq the Model there is concern that the major Shia political party, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), and the major Kurdish party, Kurdistani Gathering, cooperated so as to rig the much celebrated December 15th elections. The complaints are part of a post titled Baghdad for Kirkuk.

The argument goes like this: The Shia gave the Kurds a majority of the vote in the Kirkuk province in exchange for the Kurds looking the other way at Shia ballot stuffing in Baghdad.

I decided to look at the election figures myself to see if there was anything to these charges. First, I decided to total up the results among the top 10 vote getters for each province on the IECI website, where the partial December 15th election results have been made available.

Here are the nationwide results (so far) for the top seven parties:"

The In T View: 24 Steps To Liberty, Iraqi Journalist

"It's The In T View: 24 Steps To Liberty, Iraqi Journalist

In T View & Artwork By Mister Ghost

MG: Hello 24 Steps to Liberty. Why don't you introduce yourself to the World Audience. Who are you, What are you, Why are you?

24 Steps: I am just an average Iraqi who had the chance and good luck to hookup with one of the best newspapers in the world and has been
working for it as a reporter for almost three years now.

MG: 24 Steps, What is the Most Important Thing to you in Life?

24 Steps: To be able to produce and try to change what should be changed. Mainly, to be part of some era's influence."
IBC -Mister Ghost

Waiting for the "Civil Libertarians" to shift fire onto Clinton

"With all the whining and bitching going on about President Bush's use of NSA intercepts of communications between foreign terrorists and US persons, it is worth noting a very important parallel from the Clinton Administration. In the conduct of the FBI investigation into the espionage conducted by Aldrich Ames of the CIA, Clinton and AG Reno authorized a completely warrantless search of Ames' Arlington, VA home. I have no idea why Clinton and Reno refused to seek court approval for the search of the home of a US Citizen and government employee located within the Continental US. Perhaps they feared that Ames' CIA relationships might have tipped him off at the FISC, but that hardly seems plausible. What is most amazing to me is that a search of this nature did not initiate the "fruit of a poison tree"argument by his legal team. My recollection of the case is that he basically agreed to be fully debriefed on his treasonous activities in exchange for the US Attorney not to seek the death penalty for treason."
Froggy Ruminations
It's amazing how after eight years of being told that Clinton did noting to fight the war on terror and that he was a completely ineffective president, now we are being told that Clinton was the poster boy for national security.
Is it just little ole Froggy that senses a slight inconsistency here? Am I missing something?
No your not alone at all

Rumsfeld Announces Iraq Troop Cutbacks

"FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - Just days after Iraq's elections, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Friday announced the first of what is likely to be a series of U.S. combat troop drawdowns in Iraq in 2006.

Rumsfeld, addressing U.S. troops at this former insurgent stronghold, said President Bush has authorized new cuts below the 138,000 level that has prevailed for most of this year.

Rumsfeld did not reveal the exact size of the cut, but the Pentagon said the reductions would be about 7,000 troops, about the size of two combat brigades. The Pentagon has not announced a timetable for troop reductions, but indications are that the force could be cut significantly by the end of 2006.

That could include substantial reductions well before the November midterm congressional elections, in which Bush's war policies seem certain to be a major issue.

The announcement won praise from congressional Democrats, who also used it to prod President Bush to go even further. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was glad Bush was "beginning to hear the calls" of the American public and lawmakers who want more detail on the administration's objectives in Iraq."
Politicizing the war..Nooo, not Bush.

Bush Administration Defends Spying Program

"WASHINGTON - The Bush administration formally defended its domestic spying program in a letter to Congress late Thursday saying the nation's security outweighs privacy concerns of individuals who are monitored. In a letter to the chairs of the House and Senate intelligence committees, the Justice Department said President Bush authorized electronic surveillance without first obtaining a warrant in an effort to thwart terrorist acts against the United States.

"There is undeniably an important and legitimate privacy interest at stake with respect to the activities described by the president," wrote Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella. "That must be balanced, however, against the government's compelling interest in the security of the nation."

President Bush has acknowledged he authorized such surveillance and repeatedly has defended it in recent days.

But Moschella's letter was the administration's first public notice to Congress about the program in which electronic surveillance was conducted without the approval of a secret court created to examine requests for wiretaps and searches in the most sensitive terrorism and espionage cases.

Moschella maintained that Bush acted legally when he authorized the National Security Agency to go around the court to conduct electronic surveillance of international communications into and out of the United States by suspects tied to al-Qaida or its affiliates.

Moschella relied on a Sept. 18, 2001, congressional resolution, known as the Authorization to Use Military Force, as primary legal justification for Bush's creation of a domestic spying program. He said Bush's powers as commander-in-chief give the president "the responsibility to protect the nation.""

Dispute continues over election results...

"Yesterday was an eventful day for the parties that rejected the results of the elections. Those parties and coalitions-more than 30 in total-signed a “charter of honor” and formed a new movement under the name “Maram”.

The main parties involved in Maram are the Accord Front, Allawi’s list, Salih al-Mutlaq and the list of former defense minister Hazim al-Sha’lan as well as many other Sunni and secular Shia smaller lists and parties that collectively represent more than 70 seats in the parliament according the currently announced results.

Those 35 political bodies established Maram to coordinate their work in rejecting the results they called fraudulent and to press for redoing the elections again under international supervision."
Wow, news flash, the Iraqi election committee is bias! Who would have guessed, I mean the last two elections went off without a hitch, according to them. And we have been told to believe them.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Saddam's Lawyers Say Ramsey Clark at Risk

"AMMAN, Jordan (AP) - Saddam Hussein's lawyers called Thursday for the world to press the Iraqi government to provide them with protection, saying their colleague - former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark - was directly at risk.

In an urgent e-mail to The Associated Press, the lawyers said Clark's life was in danger and "threats were directed against him by name." Clark is currently not in Iraq for the trial of Saddam and seven co-defendants, which resumed on Wednesday.

The appeal came the same day that Saddam told the Baghdad court that U.S. denials of physically abusing him were lies."
Well if I was Clark I would not go anywhere near Sam.

Norway Oil Company Strikes Oil in Iraq

"OSLO, Norway (AP) - A small Norwegian oil company said Thursday it struck oil with its first well in a Kurdish area of Iraq in a project that angered some Iraqis.

The well was drilled under a deal between the Kurdish provincial government and oil company Det Norske Oljeselskap AS, usually called DNO, signed in 2004.

The start of the project angered many Sunni Muslims in Iraq, who called it a first step toward Kurdish areas seeking to secede from Iraq.

Less than a month after drilling of the first well started, DNO announced that it had struck oil at a well depth of about 1,150 feet and that drilling would continue to possible deeper reservoirs.

The company did not estimate the size of the find, because more testing was needed, but said the reservoir could be 2,600 feet thick.

Iraqi officials have said the field near Zakho, 250 miles northeast of Baghdad, could have about 100 million barrels of oil reserves.

Shares in DNO, which has a 40 percent stake in the field, soared more than 30 percent to 50.75 kroner ($7.46) per share on the Oslo stock exchange after the announcement."
Star Tribune

What happened in Al-Dijel?

"The complainants and witnesses about the genocide of Saddam and his regime against Al-Dijel people revealed the following crimes:

1. Indiscriminate killings by using massive military and security powers including helicopters against innocent civilians by top officials who were controlling the power.
2. Mass arrests against hundreds of families."

The Myriad Faces of Heresy!

"“…it is highly unlikely that the Syrian regime will voluntarily effect any major changes in its general structure or its modus operandi. Half-hearted pressures on it to do so will probably not be enough. Still, a full-scale invasion with the goal of effecting a regime change, even with a good casus belli in hand, will most likely prove too problematic at this stage. Syria has a relatively new president who has been received with all due honors by many world leaders, including Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Prime Minister Gerhardt Schroeder, and French President Jacques Chirac. Syria's relations with the world community are much more intricate and ambivalent than those of the Taliban or the Saddam regime, as we have noted earlier. The case against Syria will never be as clear-cut as that against Afghanistan or Iraq. A full-scale invasion of Syria would seem to require a U.S. administration that is even more oblivious to the rest of the world than the current Bush administration seems to be.."

More on Eavesdropping

'This is an exceedingly complex issue, but nevertheless a vitally important one. I am not a legal scholar so I will resist the temptation to get into the weeds on the legal issues, but I have received 90+ hours of instruction on Constitutional Law while at FLETC which is about 90 more hours than 95% of the American people so I am not completely clueless. Nearly all of those 90+ hours were on the 4th Amendment (Search and Seizure) which is the most important Amendment to the Bill of Rights that pertains to the duties of a law enforcement officer."
Froggy Ruminations