Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Viper's gunships escort Marine patrol in Karma

"KARMA, Iraq - Under a baking Iraqi sun, beads of sweat roll down a Marine's face as his eyes slowly scan the surrounding fields of tall grass, looking for insurgent forces that could ambush him and his fellow Marines' dismounted patrol. Suddenly, the thumping sound of helicopters breaks through the noise of his beating pulse and a squawking radio in his ears. Air support has arrived.Like guardian angels, the sharp-eyed crews of a UH-1N Huey and AH-1W Super Cobra with Marine Light Attack Squadron 169, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, use their bird's eye perspective, flying just above treetops or thousands of feet in the air to provide reconnaissance on the convoy's route through the streets and fields of Karma, May 11."Our mission was to fly in the vicinity of Karma, Iraq, in support of the dismounted patrols that were throughout the city," said 1st Lt. Brian P. Brassieur, a Huey pilot. "We were looking for any improvised explosive devices on the roads or any military-aged males digging holes in the road and anything (insurgents) might be doing to disrupt our patrols.""
One Marine's View

Thoughts on Jarhead

"The movie Jarhead, an adaptation of a book written by former Marine Anthony Swafford, created much controversy in the military community when it was released. Reactions ran the gamut of apathy, excitement, and disgust. I have since watched the film more than once, and discussed it with many Marines. The following is a brief description of my opinion of the movie and the opinions I have found in some of my Marines."
Midnight in Iraq

Military blog study

"Just in case you didn't know that military blogs were influential, read this: Don’t tread on my blog: A study of military web logs. It's a study from the University of Oklahoma about milblogs. They used information from several of my posts and other bloggers I know. It basically examines how blogs affect strategic decisions and whether readers like blogs more than newspapers."
In Iraq for 365

7th Century Baghdad

"Baghdadis are reporting that radical Islamists have taken control over the Dora, Amiriya and Ghazaliya districts of Baghdad, where they operate in broad daylight. They have near full control of Saidiya, Jihad, Jami’a, Khadhraa’ and Adil. And their area of influence has spread over the last few weeks to Mansour, Yarmouk, Harthiya, and very recently, to Adhamiya.

All of these districts, with the exception of Adhamiya, are more or less mixed or Sunni majority areas. They make up the western part of the capital, or what is known as the Karkh sector (the eastern half of Baghdad is called Rusafa). These areas also witnessed an influx of families displaced by the violence in the Anbar governorate, since many residents of the western part of Baghdad have roots in western areas of the country, such as Fallujah and Ramadi.

People who live in the mentioned districts claim that unknown groups have distributed leaflets (often handwritten), warning residents of several practices, ranging from instructions on dress codes to the prohibition of selling or dealing with certain goods."
Healing Iraq
Here is more good news from Iraq for you to read. And I have no idea what the problem is, here is a list of the places that desperately need more help. Why aren't these place flooded with more help. Or would that only help in my view of reality.

A No Comment Commentary

"I was with the Marine rifle company named in the Haditha incident. During the month of October 2005, up to the Iraqi constitutional referendum vote, I patrolled the streets of Haditha with them. Due to blog entries here at Fire and Ice back in October several news organizations have contacted me for comments. I had intended to make a statement here with my personal reflections, but will not do so at this time.

The Public Affairs Office and Judge Advocate General of the Marine Corps have asked Marines
to temporarily refrain from publicly speaking about the November 19, 2005 incident in Haditha, Iraq. Here is their request, which I will gladly honor."
Fire and Ice

A reporter's shock at the Haditha allegations

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- It actually took me a while to put all the pieces together -- that I know these guys, the U.S. Marines at the heart of the alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians in Haditha.

I don't know why it didn't register with me until now. It was only after scrolling through the tapes that we shot in Haditha last fall, and I found footage of some of the officers that had been relieved of their command, that it hit me.

I know the Marines that were operating in western al Anbar, from Husayba all the way to Haditha. I went on countless operations in 2005 up and down the Euphrates River Valley. I was pinned on rooftops with them in Ubeydi for hours taking incoming fire, and I've seen them not fire a shot back because they did not have positive identification on a target. (Watch a Marine's anguish over deaths -- 2:12)

I saw their horror when they thought that they finally had identified their target, fired a tank round that went through a wall and into a house filled with civilians. They then rushed to help the wounded -- remarkably no one was killed.

I was with them in Husayba as they went house to house in an area where insurgents would booby-trap doors, or lie in wait behind closed doors with an AK-47, basically on suicide missions, just waiting for the Marines to come through and open fire. There were civilians in the city as well, and the Marines were always keenly aware of that fact. How they didn't fire at shadows, not knowing what was waiting in each house, I don't know. But they didn't.

And I was with them in Haditha, a month before the alleged killings last November of some 24 Iraqi civilians.

I'm told that investigators now strongly suspect a rampage by a small number of Marines who snapped after one of their own was killed by a roadside bomb.

Haditha was full of IEDs. It seemed they were everywhere, like a minefield. In fact, the number of times that we were told that we were standing right on top of an IED minutes before it was found turned into a dark joke between my CNN team and me.

In fact, when we initially left to link up with the company that we were meant to be embedded with, the Humvee that I was in was hit by an IED. Another 2 inches and we would have been killed. Thankfully, no one was injured.

We missed the beginning of the operation, and ended up entering Haditha that evening. The city was empty of insurgents, or they had gone into hiding as they so often do, blending with the civilian population, waiting for U.S. and Iraqi forces to sweep through and then popping up again.

But this time, after this operation, the Marines and the Iraqi Army were not going to pull out, they were going to set up fixed bases.

Now, all these months later, while watching the tapes, I found a walk and talk with one of the company commanders that was relieved of his duty as a result of the Haditha probe.

After being hit by an IED, his men were searching the area and found a massive weapons cache in a mosque. Although it wasn't his company that we were embedded with, the Marines had taken me to the mosque so we could get footage of the cache.

And so began the e-mails and phone calls between myself and my two other CNN crew members, Jennifer Eccleston and Gabe Ramirez: Do you remember when we were talking with the battalion commander and his intel guy right outside the school and then half an hour later they found an IED in that spot? Do you remember when we were sitting chatting with them at the school? And all the other "do you remember whens."

There was also -- can you believe it? -- the allegations of the Haditha probe.


H/T Fire and Ice

AiB: Videoblogging from the Middle East

"This first episode details the situation of displaced Iraqis who are now living in a refugee camp outside Fallujah.

The included video was provided to us by an Iraqi production team at a press conference concerning the camp. The footage was provided to the Rafidain channel, but as far as we know has not aired previously. The audio leaves something to be desired, but everything has been subtitled in English."
Alive in Baghdad

Probe finds Haditha killings unprovoked

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A preliminary military inquiry found evidence that U.S. Marines killed two dozen Iraqi civilians in an unprovoked attack in November, contradicting the troops' account, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

President George W. Bush said he was troubled by news stories on the November 19 killings of men, women and children in the town of Haditha, and a general at the Pentagon said the incident could complicate the job for the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

"Allegations such as this, regardless of how they are borne out by the facts, can have an effect on the ability of U.S. forces to continue to operate," Army Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, deputy director for regional operations for the military's Joint Staff, told a Pentagon briefing.

Forensic data from corpses showed victims with bullet wounds, despite earlier statements by Marines that civilians were killed by a roadside bomb that also claimed the life of a Marine from El Paso, Texas, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, a defense official said.

"The forensics painted a different story than what the Marines had said," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The official said there were wounds that would not have been caused by an improvised explosive device. "Did someone shoot somebody just for the sake of taking him out?" the official said. "Bad things happened that day, and it appears Marines lied about it."

"I am troubled by the initial news stories," Bush said at the White House. "I am mindful there is a thorough investigation going on. If in fact laws were broken there will be punishment."

Residents of Haditha, 125 miles northwest of Baghdad in an area that has seen much activity by Sunni Arab insurgents, have told Reuters that Marines rampaged through houses and shot civilians after their patrol was hit by the roadside bomb.

The incident could represent the worst-known case of misconduct by U.S. troops in Iraq, and comes at a time when opinion polls show falling U.S. public support for the 3-year-old war. Ham emphasized the importance of U.S. troops having the support of the Iraqi people and government.


There are two ongoing military investigations.

A probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, responsible for cases involving Marines, might lead to charges including murder, officials said. A separate fact-finding inquiry involves whether Marines tried to cover up the true nature of the incident, officials said.

The defense official said the investigations should be completed in mid-June.

A preliminary inquiry was ordered in February only after Time magazine presented the U.S. military with information casting doubt on the official military version of the incident -- that civilians had been killed along with the one Marine by a roadside bomb.

Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said he was "deeply disturbed" by the allegations, adding, "These accusations, if proven true, may rise to the level of war crimes."

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the initial investigation in February and March led by Army Col. Gregory Watt uncovered death certificates showing the civilians were shot mostly in the head and chest. The Times said Watt reviewed military payments totaling $38,000 to families of victims.

In an interview with CNN, the new Iraqi ambassador to the United States, Samir al-Sumaidaie, said there appeared to have been other unnecessary killings of civilians by Marines in Haditha, where some of his family lives.


Crow to be eaten, Iv got mine marinating in mojo.

Human Torpedo

"Meet Mahmoud.

Mahmoud would merely register as a statistical blip on a population chart somewhere, but this make-believe character - a 15 year-old, upper-middle-class Egyptian that I constructed in my head - is going to matter a great deal in a decade's time. He may be the next president of Egypt, or he may turn out to be a suicide bomber.

In the last couple of weeks, policy has perceptibly shifted in Washington. While the Bush administration claims that it is sticking to the "democracy in the Middle East equals stability" talking points, its actions indicate otherwise. Even though Mahmoud has not fully absorbed the implications, those changes will play an important role in forming his political consciousness. In fact, they may map out his trajectory from teenager to murderous fireball."
Talisman Gate

Why they call me mad

I can not believe it, but I just heard on Rush that congress was threatening to impeach "speedy Gonzalez" the attorney general, and the judge who signed that warrant to invade and search the offices of that democrat congressman accused of taking bribes.

When I heard that I stood up and yelled Yaaaaaaaaa!!!
at the top of my lungs. So now you know

Karl Zinsmeister: Contemptible

"BEIRUT — Sigh Another attack on the war corps by a guy who’s now the senior domestic policy advisor for President Bush. He’s also the guy who wrote this gem:
In another article, this one at the American Enterprise Institute’s Web site on June 20, 2005, Zinsmeister, after another period as an embed, wrote, “What the establishment media covering Iraq have utterly failed to make clear today is this central reality: With the exception of periodic flare-ups in isolated corners, our struggle in Iraq as warfare is over….Contrary to the impression given by most newspaper headlines, the United States has won the day in Iraq…. the battle of Iraq is no longer one of war fighting—but of policing and politics.” The article is titled, “The War Is Over, and We Won.”
Back to Iraq
Can these people be anymore insulated from reality.


BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi forces raided two targets in the Karada area of Baghdad on May 30 and detained seven individuals responsible for improvised explosive device, or IED attacks against Iraqi Security Forces.

The first target was a dormitory on the campus of the Baghdad Technical University where two student cells, operating out of dormitory rooms, built IEDs and later initiated attacks against Iraqi Army and Police forces. Iraqi forces detained four students on this target.

On the second target, an apartment building near the campus, Iraqi forces detained three cell leaders responsible for emplacing IEDs made by their student cells. All three cell leaders are believed to be Palestinians, and they were financed by a local business.

This cell is responsible for at least two attacks against Iraqi security and police forces in the Karada area. The first attack, in December 2005, resulted in no casualties. The second attack, in January of this year, killed several Iraqi police officers riding in a vehicle.

No Iraqi forces were killed or wounded during this operation.

Hey Khalid, friends of yours?

Two Saudi Al-Qaeda Members in Kurdish Prison: "We're Just Tourists"

Irbil, Asharq Al-Awsat - Two Saudi most-wanted terrorists currently held in Iraqi Kurdistan spoke exclusively to Asharq al Awsat on Monday and revealed details about their arrest and their life in a Kurdish prison.
Abdullah al Ramiyan and Mohammed al Rashudi, whose names appeared on Saudi Arabia’s list of 36 most-wanted terrorists, were captured in September 20003, as they attempted to enter Iraqi Kurdistan.

Abdul Karim Sinjari, minister of state for the interior in Iraqi Kurdistan, told Asharq al Awsat, “Terrorists want to spread their destructive operations to our secure territories.” However, the strong cooperation between the people of northern Iraq and the security services had thwarted several terrorist attacks. Many individuals maintained direct contact with the Kurdish police and informed them of the presence of foreigners in Kurdish territories, the minister added. One wife even informed the police that her husband had taken part in a terrorist attack. “It is best I hand over my husband to the police than for 50 women to become widows.”

The last major terrorist attack occurred in May 2005 when a police training center was targeted. Iraqi Kurdistan has enjoyed calm and prosperity, since the fall of Saddam Hussein, contrary to other parts of Iraq where the security situation has deteriorated and attacks occur on a daily basis.

Islamist militants and would be jihadists were linked to al Qaeda and traveled to Iraq from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen and other Gulf countries, not to enjoy Kurdistan’s beautiful scenery but to spread terror in the territory, Sinjari said.

Asharq al Awsat met the two 24-year old terrorists, Abduallah al Ramiyan, the Kingdom’s 17 th most-wanted terrorist and a history student in the Mohammed bin Saud university in al Qassim, and Mohammed al Rashoudi, a high school student in Bureida, amid heightened security procedures, in the offices of Lieutenant Ismat Artush.

According to Lieutenant Artush both men confessed they traveled to Iraq to undertake jihad, and had sought to enter Kurdish territory through the Ibrahim al Khalil pass, coming from Turkey without any proof of identity. They were given fake Iraqi names at the border but their cover was rapidly blown because of their foreign accents.

The Kurdish official said the authorities had not sought to extradite the men to Saudi Arabia but established contact with Baghdad in order to determine their fate. “We know they are wanted by Saudi Arabia but we spoke to Baghdad about them.” The men were jailed initially in the city of Dohuk and then Shaklawa before finally being moved 20 miles to the southwest to Irbil . They have yet to stand trial because anti-terrorism laws have yet to be approved by the regional assembly.

Abdullah told Asharq al Awsat he had been traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan for tourism with his best friend Mohammed, after leaving Saudi Arabia to Jordan and then to Syria. The two young men then traveled to Istanbul and Diyarbakir in eastern Anatolia .

“I crossed the border as an Iraqi but on the Kurdistan side, they detained me. I had 2500 dollars in my possession.” On another occasion, he repeated a different version of events and said he had traveled to Iraqi to see his friend’s relatives.

The 24-year-old said he was from al Manar neighborhood in Riyadh and had been held in solitary confinement during the investigation but was later moved to a bigger cell with other Arab and Kurdish prisoners. He denied being physically abused or tortured. When asked about the origin of a prominent cut on his forehead, Abdullah said he had hurt himself as child. He said his family had visited him four times in jail and regularly sent him money. But Lieutenant Artush refuted these claims and said the Saudi inmates had received no visitors. While refusing to be photographed, the terrorist gave Asharq al Awsat his brother’s number to reassure his family.

The meeting with Mohammed Saleh was more tense, with the 24-year old student aggressively answering questions and shouting. As he entered the room, he asked, “Who are you?” to which I replied, “I am a journalist.” “I don’t like journalists. Leave me alone. Kurdish officials have promised they will release me in the next few days.” He said he had enough money to buy essentials such as soap and shaving cream and indicated that one of the benefits of jail was that he had learned to speak Kurdish and tried Kurdish foods.


I bet she had just had enough of the guy.

Troops told Geneva rules don't apply to Taliban

WASHINGTON — Canadian troops in Afghanistan have been told the Geneva Conventions and Canadian regulations regarding the rights of prisoners of war don't apply to Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters captured on the battlefield.

That decision strips detainees of key rights and protections under the rules of war, including the right to be released at the end of the conflict and not to be held criminally liable for lawful combat.

“The whole purpose of those regulations is to know if Geneva applies,” said Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who has been pressing the Defence Department for details of its detainee policy for months.

The 1991 Canadian regulations — developed during the Persian Gulf war — included provisions to hold tribunals to determine a detainee's status under Geneva if there is any doubt.

Captured fighters don't deserve these rights because this isn't a war between countries, says Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, who commands the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command and thus oversees all Canadian Forces deployed abroad.

“They are not entitled to prisoner-of-war status but they are entitled to prisoner-of-war treatment,” he said, asserting that all detainees are humanely treated.

“The regulations apply in an armed conflict between states, and what's happening in Afghanistan is not an armed conflict between states. And therefore there is no basis for making a determination of individuals being prisoners of war,” he said.

Since Ottawa first sent fighting forces to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the government has said that anyone captured by Canadian Forces is treated humanely. For years, detainees were quickly turned over to the U.S. military. But, since last December, a new agreement with Kabul means Canadian troops now turn detainees over to the Afghan military, a move some have criticized because of the Afghans' uneven record of observing human rights.

The decision to ignore the regulations without a legal test of whether detainees in Afghanistan are entitled to PoW status puts Canada “in a very odd situation. It's completely irregular,” Prof. Attaran says.

He believes the government's position that Geneva doesn't apply may be correct but it needs to be tested in court.

According to Canada's Prisoner-of-War Status Determination Regulations, “the commanding officer of a unit or other element of the Canadian Forces shall ensure that each detainee is screened as soon as practicable after being taken into custody to determine whether or not the detainee is entitled to prisoner-of-war status.”

Last updated before Ottawa sent a field hospital to Saudi Arabia in the middle of the Persian Gulf war, the regulations are designed to make sure Canadian soldiers understand and correctly apply the 1949 Geneva Conventions with respect to detainees.

But Canada, following the Bush administration's lead in the United States, had decreed that there are no lawful combatants among the enemy in the current conflict and no screening was required.

Gen. Gauthier concedes that the change in policy could open the door to criminal charges being laid against Taliban fighters.

If a captured enemy fighter is implicated in killing a Canadian soldier — for instance, the Taliban fighter who launched the rocket-propelled grenade that killed Captain Nichola Goddard on May 17 — Ottawa might order him charged with murder and tried.

“I would seek guidance that clearly would come from outside the Defence Department if we wished to pursue this any further from a prosecutorial basis,” the general said.

The change aligns Canada's position on the criminal culpability for battlefield violence with that of the United States. Omar Khadr, the only Canadian held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is charged with murder for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier.

Canada has provided few details on the fate of detainees its forces have handed over to U.S. authorities since 2002; neither the number nor the names have been made public. All the government has said is that none are currently at Guantanamo Bay. But it's unknown whether they have been released, or are being held at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or in secret prisons in Eastern Europe.

Similar secrecy cloaks what happens to detainees handed over to Afghan authorities by Canadian Forces fighting in Kandahar province. Gen. Gauthier indicated such transfers occur regularly, if not daily then several times a week. But no numbers are publicly available.

“Our default setting is transfer,” he said. “We haven't held anybody for more than a few hours and we would prefer not to.”

Canadian troops do screen detainees — determining on the spot whether a captive poses a threat and should be handed over to the Afghan authorities or should be freed. Gen. Gauthier said the decision to release those not considered dangerous happens routinely. Both decisions are checked up the chain of command, he said.

Prof. Attaran says the military's policy on transfers doesn't absolve Canada if detainees are then mistreated, tortured or killed.

He argues that if the government wants to be involved in this conflict, then it should take responsibility for those its soldiers detain, at least until a court or tribunal determines it can properly transfer them.

“It seems like they want to treat them as though they are radioactive,” he said.

But Gen. Gauthier said there is no risk that ordinary soldiers or junior officers could face war-crimes charges, even if detainees handed over to the Afghans were tortured or killed.

“Our intention certainly isn't to leave junior folks hanging out to dry at all on this,” he said. “We are on firm legal ground we have no worries about the possibility of prosecution or allegations of criminal wrongdoing for having transferred detainees.”

The Globe and Mail

Otherwise known as the "W" doctrine. Maybe the Canucks will open a new detention center on the arctic tundra, then Rush can name it "Club Eskimo"

Taliban kill, kidnap dozens of Afghan police

KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban fighters killed at least a dozen Afghan police and abducted up to 40 in two separate attacks in southern Afghanistan, while U.S.-led forces launched an offensive in a nearby province, officials said on Wednesday.

In the southern province of Zabul, a senior police official, Mohammad Rasoul, was killed and four other people, including two senior provincial officials, were wounded after the Taliban hit their car with a rocket on Tuesday night.

"They were part of a reinforcement sent to help a group of highway police who had come under Taliban attack on a road of Zabul," said Yousuf Stanizai, the Interior Ministry spokesman.

An official in Zabul, who declined to be identified, said more than 10 policemen were killed in the Taliban assault.

The raid in Zabul came hours after the Taliban attacked a police base in Chora district of neighbouring Uruzgan province and abducted up to 40 policemen, an official in Kabul said on condition of anonymity.

A Reuters reporter received a phone call from an unknown person who described himself as Mullah Ahmad, a Taliban commander, and said the militants had taken the police hostage and the Taliban's leadership would decide their fate

He said militants had killed 12 police in the attack before kidnapping the others.

Separately, coalition and Afghan troops on Wednesday scoured villages for Taliban insurgents in several areas of Ghazni province, said Sher Alam Ibrahimi, the region's governor.

The operation was launched following a series of Taliban attacks in the province recently and amid reports the militants had regrouped there, Ibrahimi said.

Coalition forces captured six suspected Taliban fighters, but there were no reports of fighting, he added. A coalition spokesman could not be contacted for comment.

Meanwhile, the capital Kabul was calm on Wednesday following anti-U.S. riots two days earlier, in which at least seven Afghans were killed. The riots were sparked by a U.S. military lorry killing five civilians after its brakes failed.

A night curfew has been in place in the city, and Afghan troops were patrolling the streets.

The U.S. military has offered compensation to family and dependents of those killed in the accident.

The violence in Zabul and Uruzgan comes amid a series of operations by coalition forces in the south in the past two weeks.

Some 350 people have been killed, many of them in air strikes. Most of those killed were militants, but the toll also includes dozens of police, at least 17 civilians and four foreign troops.

It is the bloodiest period in the insurgency since coalition troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban and their Islamist allies are mostly active in the southern and eastern areas.

Some 23,000 coalition troops are hunting the militants while a NATO-led force has begun expanding its mission into the south.


The forgotten war

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Iraqi Police

"Police all over the world is founded to provide people with peace, security and safety except in Iraq, this perspective is different and in the contrary police became a source of fear and intimidation to the Iraqis.

None of the Iraqis including I ever think to ask the help of the police if they have a problem because if you do that you will be trap in other problems.

I was in a problem lately and did not have any other choice except to try the police, I contacted the chief police and told him my problem, the man answered me “ I will help you but you have to keep the matter secret among the three of us, I will refer you to a General who is in charge of your neighborhood, he will contact you soon.”"
Iraqi Screen

Human rights (II)

"The Washington Post says:

"The U.S. official involved in the inspections, who would not be identified by name, described in an e-mail the abuse found during some of the visits since the Nov. 13 raid: "Numerous bruises on the arms, legs and feet. A lot of the Iraqis had separated shoulders and problems with their hands and fingers too. You could also see strap marks on some of their backs."
A neighbor of mine was, nine months ago, detained for about a week. Till now he shows strap marks on his back. He is an engineer, in early thirties, newly married and had just had his first child when he was detained. Because of the bad economic conditions in Iraq, he does simple works to make his living. He was painting a house gate when a group of Iraqi commandos raided the street he was working at. He describes what happened: "I couldn't understand what was going on. A soldier ordered me to go inside the house. There was lot of gunfire hitting a palm under which I was hiding. Several soldiers broke into the house dragged me and took me to their officer who slapped me on my face."
Ibn Alrafidain

The Combat Artist

"This article orginally appeared on the New York Times TimesSelect website on March 15 and is copyrighted by The New York Times and Michael Fay.

The Combat Artist

I’m going to make an assumption that you would probably like to ask me three questions: What does war have to do with art? What is a combat artist? And why would the United States Marine Corps, of all organizations, send fine artists into harm’s way? I’ll try to answer these as best I can over the next couple weeks. At the same time I hope to provide a glimpse of who I am, both as artist and Marine."
Fire and Ice


"I hopped on my computer (or actually, hopped on the computer of the guy who's on leave but has a really nice Internet connection) this morning and decided to check my email. Now, normally I average about 4-5 emails per day (not counting the neverending accursed spam mail), but today I had 85 new messages. WTF, over?
Then I started reading them, and realized that most (99%) of them were comments on my blog. Okay, now I was seriously in "WTF"-mode. Since when do I get over 100 viewers in a day, let alone 100 comments?? So, I took a look at my web statistics.
Ummm... 2000 hits?? In one day?? Did I miss something? So, I started reading through the comments and discovered what happened. Apparently, someone from Instapundit linked to this blog,"
BoB on the FOB
I guess my link does not have the same effect :(
"Good morning…
The formation of the new Iraqi government was announced, after more than five months of negotiations between the various rivals who participated in the elections, to reach the least minimum level of agreement.
The Interior and Defense Ministries remained without announcing the names of their respective ministers, as the debate still goes on, to choose professional characters, unbiased to their Parties, like what happened in the former Interior Ministry, with the Minister's partiality to his Party, and the sect he belongs to. And many transgressions and assaults took place against another sect. And whenever he was asked, he denied his knowledge of the crimes committed by the personnel of his Ministry, saying; these people do not belong to the Ministry, even though they wear the official uniforms of the Police force, and use cars and the official mobile phones of the Ministry. And so was the case when the scandal of the cellar belonging to his Ministry was uncovered, with detainees in it, and he promised to carry out an investigation, but we didn't hear a thing.
And the good news here is; that this Minister, with all his bad reputation now in the hearts of Iraqis, will receive another Ministerial portfolio in the new permanent Ministry, as if nothing happened.
So; why do they say Saddam Hussein killed the Iraqis, and it is time to get even with him?"
A Family in Baghdad

Russia to sell 29 air defense systems to Iran

Russia intends to sell 29 Tor M-1 anti-missile systems capable of downing cruise missiles and air bombs to Iran, the Vedomosti newspaper wrote with reference to an anonymous manager of a defense enterprise. According to the newspaper, the contract on the matter has already been signed.

Tor is a solely defensive weapon, which intercepts cruise missiles. Journalists contacted the management of the Kupol (Dome) enterprise, which manufactures Tor anti-missile systems, although they failed to obtain a confirmation of the above-mentioned transaction.

A source from the air defense industry said that it goes about the sale of 29 Tor M-1 anti-missile complexes on the base of the Greek order. Greece purchased 21 systems and was intended to acquire 29 more. The country turned the order down at the end of the nineties. Experts evaluate the Iranian contact in the sum of $700 million.

Mikhail Barabanov, an editor with Export of Arms magazine, said that the contract to sell 29 Tor M-1 air defense systems to Iran became the largest transaction in Russia since 2000. In 2000, Russia pulled out from the secret agreement with the USA about restricted arms deliveries to Iran. The document was known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin Protocol. Moscow undertook not to strike any defense deals with Iran. In return, the USA promised to help Russia enter the international market of defense technologies. The promise was not kept, though. “When Russia pulled out from the secret agreement with the USA, we expected Iran to become Russia's largest importer after China and India. However, the weapons, which Iran purchased from Russia during the following five years, were evaluated in the sum of $300-400 million. To all appearance, the Iranian administration thought that Russia would not be able to run US-independent defense policy after the story with the Gore-Chernomyrdin Protocol,” Mikhail Barabanov said.

”The transaction is not supposed to raise concerns with the US administration. Tor systems are tactical weapons. The deal should therefore be perceived as a commercial operation first and foremost,” Vagif Guseinov, the Director of the Institute of Strategic Estimations and Analysis said. Iran needs to defend the atomic power plant in Bushehr, which is currently being built with Russia's participation. Israel may strike a preventive blow on Iran's nuclear object in Bushehr: Israeli officials have confirmed such a possibility on several occasions.

The history of Russia's military presence in Iran.

The Russian army successfully completed a military operation 90 years ago, which was included in WWI history as the Hamadan Operation. Iran used to be a semicolony of Russia and England back then. The two countries controlled Iranian oil industry, railways, the banking sphere, as well as communications and fishery. The city of Khamadan used to be the stronghold of the Russian colony in Iran. The leaders of the Iranian clergy were trying to attract Germany's attention to Iran, hoping to win this European country as the third force in the fight with Russians and English. The intrigues put Iran on the verge of the civil war; a pro-German party could come to power in the country.

The USSR deployed its troops in Iran soon after the start of WWII. The Soviet administration was supposedly trying to obtain the only land route for USSR's allies. Three Soviet armies entered Iran on 25 August 1941 at the time, when the USSR was defending itself from Nazi Germany's fierce attacks. There was no significant resistance shown against the Soviet troops, which let them occupy Tehran easily. When the USSR launched the war with Afghanistan, the Iranian clerical regime became a staunch ally of Afghan Mujahideens.


H/T 4 Mile Creek

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Milblogger of the Week: Send in your nominations

Please sit down before reading this, I`m warning you, this is a pretty awesome story. Three, maybe four times a month I will be featuring a Milblogger on I`ve already been doing it here. I like to call it my "Milblogger of the Week", but usually it turns out to be anywhere from 5 days to 16 days before I select another one. In my defense, I lose track of time in between all the autograph signings and Talk Show appearances. I also occasionally work out, and part-time on weekends I rescue injured Koala bears from the forest. Anyway, the featured milblogger on, will also appear on`s Military Blog page. You can see for yourself, right here.
(Read More)

Also from the Newsletter

And don't forget to drop me a line with your favorite milblogs here at This Fucking War. We are always on the lookout for new milblogs, or Iraqi blogs

Milblogger of the Week (May 24th): Doc in the Box

This week`s Milblogger of the Week is Sean of Doc in the Box. Sean is a Navy Corpsman out of San Diego with a Marine unit. He`s currently deployed to Iraq. He’s been milblogging for quite some time. Based strictly on his blog archives, his blog has been around since January 2004, about the same time I started blogging from Afghanistan. Now, except for the time I watched 80 episodes straight of "Full House" during a marathon or the time I swam across the Atlantic ocean, I have never done any one thing this long...

From the - Weekly Newsletter
I had no idea the Doc was back in the Box, I used to read his blog all the time, though I hate that floating clock thingy, but anyway I have added him back to the rotation.

Hamas-Led Government to Pay Some Salaries

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - The Hamas-led government said Tuesday it will pay partial salaries to its 165,000 employees, the first payday for some Palestinian workers in three months.

The announcement came after thousands of angry workers staged an anti-government protest. Salaries have not been paid since a cutoff of Western aid and Israeli tax transfers after the militant Islamic movement took over the Palestinian government.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said he hoped the workers would get checks "in the next few days" for 1,500 shekels ($333), equal to a full month's salary for about a quarter of the workers and a partial payment for the rest.

A top Hamas official tried to smuggle a large amount of cash into Gaza this month, but the money was confiscated.

Ahmed Youssef, a Haniyeh aide, said that money ended up in the coffers of the Finance Ministry. Together with local donations and tax collections, he said, there was enough money to pay some salaries.

The Palestinian government is the largest employer in the West Bank and Gaza. The lack of foreign aid also has led to severe shortages of medicines and other hardships.

Haniyeh called on Israel and Europe to release funding. Israel, the U.S. and European Union consider Hamas a terror group and refuse to give it money. Haniyeh called that an "unjust siege" on his people.

Israel, the U.S. and Europe demand that Hamas recognize Israel, accept previous peace accords and renounce violence. Hamas has refused. Its ideology does not have a place for a Jewish state in the Middle East, and over the past decade it has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his Cabinet on Tuesday that he will meet President Mahmoud Abbas soon, according to participants, but did not want to raise expectations because "after such meetings, the Palestinians always fail to meet their obligations."

Abbas has been trying to force Hamas into a more centrist position, setting a 10-day limit on a dialogue before calling a referendum on a document that implicitly recognizes Israel.

The first two days of the dialogue have produced no agreement, and the parties have decided to move the talks to Gaza when Abbas returns from a trip Friday. Yasser Abed Rabbo, an Abbas adviser, said administrative and legal arrangements are being made to hold the referendum if the talks fail.

Hamas dismissed Abbas' ultimatum.

"Time should not be a sword directed at the participants," Haniyeh said Tuesday. "Enough time should be given to reach the expected results from this dialogue."

In Ramallah, thousands of angry workers demonstrated against the government Tuesday, demanding payment of their back wages.

The protest, which took place just before Haniyeh announced the partial payments, was organized by the Palestinian Authority Employees Union, sympathetic to Fatah.

Palestinians have been dipping deep into their savings and doing without nonessential items to make ends meet.

One of the protesters, Mohammed Taleb, said he can no longer provide for his 11 children and is living from handouts. "They forgot us. They are busy with politics," said Taleb, an employee in the Transportation Ministry.

Israel sent soldiers deep into Gaza for the first time Tuesday since its pullout last summer, ambushing an Islamic Jihad rocket squad and killing three militants in a battle that included missiles fire from an Israeli helicopter.

An officer from the Palestinians' Force 17 security branch was also killed. Hamas said he was a member of its military wing and was defending the rocket squad. Islamic Jihad said its cell was about to fire rockets at the Israeli city of Ashkelon when it was surrounded.

Israel has been hesitant to re-enter Gaza, but other measures aimed at stopping the daily rocket barrages have failed. The military acknowledged its new tactic in a statement noting that a force "operating in Gaza" engaged the militants.

Also Tuesday, masked Palestinian gunmen killed a man they suspected of spying for Israel. Jafal Abu Tzrur, 24, was shot dead on a main street by members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, who suspected he informed on three militants killed during an Israeli raid on the Balata refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus.

The group also denounced Abu Tzrur's girlfriend, a mother of four who was married to one of the Al Aqsa men slain by Israel, and she was killed by male relatives on grounds that she shamed her clan.


But I thought it was everyone but the western countries that supported the Palestinian people? We are always being told that the US only supports the Jews. But look what happens when the west hold back it's charity. I really do believe that we should print and American flag on every product that we send, I mean everything. Even aspirin should be stamped with a US flag, so people know where it comes from.

Pentagon prognosis on Iraq is mixed

WASHINGTON The Sunni Arab heart of the Iraqi insurgency seems likely to hold its strength for the rest of this year, and some of its leaders are now collaborating with Al Qaeda terrorists, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

In a report assessing the Iraq situation, as required quarterly by Congress, the Pentagon painted a mixed picture on a day when the U.S. military command in Baghdad said 1,500 more combat troops had arrived in Iraq. The extra troops are part of an intensified effort to wrest control of Ramadi, a provincial capital, from insurgents.

The report to Congress offered a relatively dim picture of economic progress, with few gains in improving basic services like electricity, and it provided no promise of U.S. troop reductions anytime soon. On the other hand, it said the Iraqi Army was gaining strength and taking lead responsibility for security in more areas.

The U.S. government has struggled for three years to understand the insurgency in Iraq, which began in the Sunni Triangle west and north of Baghdad. In the report to Congress released Tuesday, the Pentagon said that the "rejectionists" who are a key element of the insurgency are holding their own against U.S. and Iraqi forces.

The top American military command in Baghdad, known as the Multinational Force Iraq, or MNF-I, "expects that rejectionist strength will likely remain steady throughout 2006, but that their appeal and motivation for continued violent action will begin to wane in early 2007," the report said.

It also said for the first time that the Sunnis who reject the U.S.-based government are collaborating with Al Qaeda. "Some hard-line Sunni rejectionists have joined Al Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, increasing the terrorists' attack options," the report said.

It said fighters in the insurgency that U.S. officials describe as former loyalists of the Saddam Hussein regime still have a role in the violence in Iraq. But the Saddam loyalists are now "largely irrelevant" as a threat to the fledgling Iraqi government, according to Lieutenant General Victor Renuart, the head of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who helped prepare the report.

The report also said that while security had improved in much of Iraq, total attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces had increased in recent months, following the Feb. 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

The troop movement into Iraq announced Tuesday involved about 1,500 soldiers from an armored brigade on standby in Kuwait and reflected a deteriorating security situation in the volatile provincial capital of Ramadi. It raises the number of U.S. military brigades in Iraq from 15 to 16, just five months after the number was cut from 17 to 15. A brigade has at least 3,500 troops.

The administration is under pressure during this congressional election year to demonstrate concrete progress in Iraq and to begin reducing U.S. troop levels at a time when the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps in particular are stretched thin by their war deployments.

A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said 130,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq. It was not clear whether that included the 1,500 soldiers from two battalions of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division whose deployment to the Ramadi area was described as "short term" in a U.S. military statement from Baghdad.

In other developments Tuesday, insurgents continued to mount a series of bomb attacks. The deadliest struck a popular market during the evening in Husseiniya, 32 kilometers, or 20 miles, north of Baghdad, killing at least 25 people and wounding 65, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

The Iraqi government, meanwhile, said its security forces had arrested a key terror suspect, Ahmed Hussein Dabash Samer al-Battawi, who it said had confessed to beheading hundreds of people.

Battawi was arrested by an Iraqi antiterrorist combat unit, which also seized documents, cellphones and computers that contained information on other suspected terrorists and Islamic extremist groups, the prime minister's office said.

Danes extend mission in Iraq

The Danish Parliament voted Tuesday to keep the nation's troops in Iraq for another year, passing a bill that was opposed by all parties except the governing center-right coalition and its ally, the anti-immigrant DPP, Reuters reported from Copenhagen.

The government, led by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said earlier this month that it would shift some of its 530 troops to UN duties. The changes would mean a reduction in the force by 10 to 40 members. The new mandate for the Danish force expires on July 1, 2007. The troops are stationed near Basra, in the south of Iraq.


Here is the VOA version

A direct result of mismanagement and failed strategy of the current administration, and their rubber stamp congress. The GOP has not only failed America and the ideals of spreading democracy, but they have also failed the people of Iraq and all peoples world wide that yearn to be free.

Dozens dead in Iraq bomb attacks

At least 46 people have been killed and more than 100 injured in three separate bomb attacks in Iraq.
In the deadliest blast, 25 people were killed and 65 wounded when a car bomb ripped through a busy marketplace north-east of the capital Baghdad.

Earlier, a car bomb killed 12 in a market in Hilla, south of Baghdad.

The latest attack, which hit a bakery in Baghdad's south-eastern Jedida district, left nine dead and 10 injured, police said.

The blast came as rescue officials were still clearing the scene from the earlier bomb attack on a vegetable market in the Shia district of Husseiniya, some 32km (20 miles) north of Baghdad.

The car bomb in Hilla, 100km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, targeted a second-hand car market. The blast killed 12 people and wounded 32.

In other violence:

A rocket is fired at Iraq's interior ministry, killing two women employees and wounding four policemen.

A police officer is killed and at least three others injured by a roadside bomb in southern Baghdad

The bodies of two US marines killed in a helicopter crash in western Iraq over the weekend have been recovered

The bodies of three men are found in different areas of Baghdad - reports say the men were blindfolded and handcuffed and had been tortured and shot in the head

Anbar deployment

Meanwhile, the US military said it had decided to move a reserve force of about 1,500 troops from Kuwait into the western Iraqi province of Anbar.

Troops will be deployed in an attempt to help establish the rule of law throughout the volatile province.

Anbar province, which stretches west of Baghdad to the Syrian border, has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the Sunni-led insurgency.

The reserve force will bolster the US and Iraqi troops already serving there.

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says the move, which was announced by the Pentagon, underscores how dangerous the situation has become in Anbar.

US officials have acknowledged that parts of the sparsely-populated province are held by insurgents, including sections of the regional capital, Ramadi, which one official referred to as the "most contested city" in Iraq.

Ramadi lies just 122km (70 miles) west of Baghdad and officials believe that depriving the insurgents of a foothold there is a vital step towards protecting the Iraqi capital.

Threat of force

In a separate development, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said he would fly to the southern city of Basra on Wednesday to try to halt the in-fighting between his fellow Shias.

In an interview with Reuters, Mr Maliki said he was ready to use force against gangs who held crucial oil exports and other trade to ransom.

"There's no way we can leave Basra, the gateway to Iraq, our imports and exports, at the mercy of criminal, terrorist gangs," he said. "We will use force against these gangs."

His comments came after a small Shia faction threatened to halt oil exports through Basra in an attempt to exert leverage over the Iraqi government.

And in an interview with the BBC, Mr Maliki also insisted he had a better chance of tackling the daily carnage in Iraq than his predecessors because he was head of the country's first permanent administration since the US-led invasion.

"Previous governments were either temporary or transitional. They did not receive full backing from the Iraqi people to deal with this issue," he said.


Denmark votes to keep troops in Iraq another year

Denmark's Parliament on Tuesday voted to keep its troops in Iraq for another year - but the bill was opposed by all Opposition parties.

The government, led by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said earlier this month it would shift some of its 530 troops to U.N. duties. The changes would mean a small net reduction in the force of 10 to 40 personnel.

The new mandate for the Danish force expires on July 1, 2007. The troops are stationed near Basra in the south of Iraq.

Denmark has been part of the U.S.-led multi-national security force in Iraq since the end of the 2003 war. Three Danes have died in Iraq since 2003.

Image hit by Prophet cartoons
Denmark's image was hit across the Muslim world by the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a Danish newspaper last year.

All Opposition parties, including Social Democrats and Social Liberals, opposed the bill to renew the troop mandate. In January, the Social Democrats supported a six-month extension but the party has reversed its support in recent months in the face of the increasing civilian death toll in Iraq.
Radio New Zealand

Iraq PM ready to break deadlock on key ministries

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Tuesday he will overrule squabbling parties in his coalition and present parliament with his personal nominees for two key cabinet posts if they fail to agree this week.

In an interview with Reuters 10 days after he named a cabinet without interior and defense ministers, Maliki said that if no consensus were found by the next session of parliament he would exercise his constitutional right to put his own nominees to a vote. Parliament is next due to meet on Sunday.

I'm starting to like this guy.

Iraq PM says no militias exempt from disbanding

BAGHDAD, May 30 (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Tuesday no pro-government party militias would be exempt from his plan to disband irregular armed forces, a vow that could put him at odds with close coalition allies.

"Every militia which is loyal to a party is a militia," he told Reuters in an interview.

"We must have one decision: when we say 'militia' we mean all those who are armed other than the army and police."

Pressed to confirm that even the biggest militias run by governing parties would have to go, he specifically named the Kurdish peshmerga, the Mehdi Army of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the Shi'ite Badr movement as being among those that would have to be disbanded.

Referring to Law 91, a measure passed by the U.S. occupation authority, he said that spelled out 11 political militias that would have the right to have their members join the official security forces rather than simply be thrown out of work:

"There are 11 political parties under Law 91 who are regarded as having militias and the right to merge them into the police or army, including Badr, the Mehdi Army and peshmerga."

Law 91, which Maliki said in his government programme he would implement in full, says all such militias must disband.

Kurdish leaders, including Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, have said that their peshmerga would not be affected by the national unity government's decision to ban all militias.

They say their force, which defended their territory from Saddam's troops through the 1990s, is now an official body of the Kurdistan regional government and that the new Iraqi constitution gives such federal entities the right to have their own forces -- not unlike U.S. states' National Guard troops.

The Sadr organisation and the Badr movement's political allies, SCIRI, are among the main three components of the dominant Shi'ite Alliance bloc, along with Maliki's Dawa party.

"Our plans on the militias must go ahead because the presence of militias ... will mean the security situation remaining unstable. The militia disarmament plan is linked to reconciliation and development in security," Maliki said.

He held out the prospect, however, of favourable treatment for armed groups which fought Saddam's "tyranny" -- that would seem to include the peshmerga and Badr forces -- from those which arose in the chaos of post-Saddam Iraq.

The once dominant Sunni Arab minority accuses Shi'ite and Kurdish militias, some working through their roles in the police, of persecuting their community and running death squads.

Maliki said on being sworn in 10 days ago that he would restore a monopoly of force to the Iraqi state to prevent the country sliding into anarchy.

IRAQ: Residents in north unite against sectarian conflict

SULAIMANIYA, 30 May (IRIN) - Kurds, Turcomans and Christians from northern Iraq have established independent organisations that aim to reduce the influence of sectarian militias operating in the area.

Two of the organisations are the mixed Peace Union for Iraqis(PUI) and the Kurdish Autonomous Freedom Organisation (KAFO).

"Iraqis in the region have begun to unite, without consideration of ethnic background, to prevent sectarian violence from spreading," said PUI member Dorah Muhammad, 38, from a village in northern Kurdistan near the Turkish border. "And we're asking the government to take action to clamp down on the militias."

The newly-formed organisations, whose members include politicians and civil society activists, aim to inform the public that ethnic strife will only serve to delay national unification and development. One way they hope to do this is by reaching out to school children by offering lessons and presentations on human rights and coexistence.

The initiatives come in the wake of recent fighting on the Turkish side of the border between the Turkish military and dissident Kurdish groups. "Militias have hijacked the peace ever since they began fighting across the border with the Turkish Army, which is looking to protect itself from insurgents inside Iraq," said Dorah. "In the end, though, this only caused more internal conflict."

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is working in partnership with the local community on the issue, in an effort to prevent an escalation of sectarian violence between Iraqi Kurds and ethnic Arabs. "We will not allow ethnic differences to destroy security in Kurdistan," said senior KRG official Kalif Dirar. "And we'll do whatever is required to continue being the safest place in this country."

According to Dirar, the semi-autonomous Kurdistan government is working with residents to disband the militias currently contributing to the tension on the borders with Iran and Turkey. "The local people are aware of the dangers of sectarian differences," he said. "They're united to fight this problem."

Many Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs in Kurdistan have also joined the cause. In the northern city of Kirkuk, however, such proposals have met with less success, due to ethnic tension arising from the outstanding land disputes that resulted from the "Arabisation" programme of former president Saddam Hussein.


Iraq`s marshes showing fast recovery

DURHAM, NC, United States (UPI) -- Re-flooding of Iraq`s destroyed Mesopotamian marshes has resulted in what scientists say is a remarkable rate of recovery for its plants, fish and birds.

U.S. researcher Curtis Richardson of Duke University and Najah Hussain of Iraq`s University of Basra have spend two years engaged in fieldwork conducted at four of southern Iraq`s large marshes. They say water flowing from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has been greater than expected.

Not only has the quantity of water been more than expected, the scientists say both salinity and toxin levels have been lower than had been feared. As a result, many native species have returned, including rare bird species, although their numbers have not rebounded to historical levels.

Iraq`s marshes were devastated during the 1980s and 1990s by the efforts of Saddam Hussein`s regime to eliminate the marshes in a political move against its enemies. As a result, tens of thousands of marsh Arabs fled to southern Iran.

Richardson`s and Hussain`s research appears in the June issue of the journal BioScience.

Kabul under Curfew after Anti-US, anti-Karzai Riots

"We have conducted a thorough assessment of our military and reconstruction needs in Iraq, and also in Afghanistan. I will soon submit to Congress a request for $87 billion. The request will cover ongoing military and intelligence operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, which we expect will cost $66 billion over the next year. This budget request will also support our commitment to helping the Iraqi and Afghan people rebuild their own nations, after decades of oppression and mismanagement. We will provide funds to help them improve security. And we will help them to restore basic services, such as electricity and water, and to build new schools, roads, and medical clinics. This effort is essential to the stability of those nations, and therefore, to our own security. Now and in the future, we will support our troops and we will keep our word to the more than 50 million people of Afghanistan and Iraq."
- George W. Bush
The Bush administration is in the midst of "imperial overstretch" on a grand scale. Taking on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, convincing Pakistan to change its policies, and reconstructing Afghanistan would have been a tough enough job. It might not have been possible even with the investment of enormous resources and personnel. Afghanistan is large and rugged and desperately poor. Bad characters are still hiding out in the region, who have proved that they can reach into the United States and hit the Pentagon itself.

Instead of doing the job, Bush ran off to Iraq almost immediately. Even as our brave troops were being killed at Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in spring of 2002, Centcom commander Tommy Franks was telling a visiting Senator Bob Graham that the US "was no longer engaged in a war in Afghanistan" or words to that effect, and that military and intelligence personnel were being deployed to Iraq. The US troops in Afghanistan would have been shocked and disturbed to discover that in the Centcom commander's mind, they were no longer his priority and no longer even at war! As for money, Iraq has hogged the lion's share. What has been spent on reconstruction in Afghanistan is piddling.

Bush's Iraq imbroglio, or "Bush's Furnace," as history might well call his trillion-dollar purchase, has sucked up money and resources on a vast scale and left US personnel in Central and South Asia to struggle along on the cheap. Afghanistan defeated the British Empire in its heyday twice, and is not an enterprise that can be accomplished without significant resources. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.

Monday's riots in Kabul, in which altogether 14 died and over 100 were wounded and during which thousands thronged the streets chanting "Death to America", also produced violent attacks and gunfire throughout the city, with hotel windows being sprayed with machine gun fire. The protests were sparked by a traffic accident. But they have other roots.

The US military presence in Afghanistan has quietly been pumped up from 19,000 to 23,000 troops.

A fresh US airstrike in Helmand killed some 50 Afghans on Monday Over 400 Afghans have been killed by US bombing and military actions in only the past two weeks. While most of these are Pushtun nativist guerrillas (coded by the US as "Taliban"), some have demonstrably been innocent civilians. (Taliban are, properly speaking, mostly Afghan orphans and displaced youths who got their education in neo-Deobandi seminaries in Pakistan and were backed by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence. It is not clear that those now fighting the US in southern Afghanistan are actually in the main Taliban in this technical sense.)

Whoever they are, the Pushtun guerrillas have been waging a very effective terror campaign in the countryside around Qandahar, and have launched a fierce series of spring offensives. They wounded 5 Canadian troops on Monday, something US mass media anchors somehow have trouble getting past their lips. (Another 5 had been wounded last week, and several Canadian and French troops have been killed, not to mention US troops.)

A recent US airstrike that killed 16 children, women and noncombatant men provoked an enormous outcry in Afghanistan, and sparked President Hamid Karzai to begin a presidential inquiry into it.

While most anti-US actions in Afghanistan come from the Pushtun ethnic group, these Kabul protests, which paralyzed the capital and resulted in the imposition of a curfew, heavily involved Tajiks. Kabul is a largely Tajik city, and the Tajiks mostly hated the Taliban with a passion, and many high officials in the Karzai government have been Tajik. So they haven't been as upset with the US invasion and presence as have been many Pushtuns, especially those Pushtuns who either supported the Taliban or just can't abide foreign troops in their country (who have moreover installed the Tajiks in power . . .) The demonstrators Monday carried posters of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance who had played a major role in expelling Soviet troops in the late 1980s and then fought the Taliban tenaciously before being assassinated shortly before September 11, 2001. Significant numbers of Tajiks are clearly now turning against the US, and that is a very bad sign indeed. Al-Hayat's Jamal Ismail in Islamabad suggests that some of the Tajik discontent derives from the way Karzai has eased out Northern Alliance Tajik leaders such as Marshal Muhammad Fahim and former cabinet minister Yunus Qanuni, reducing Tajik dominance of the government in the name of ethnic diversity (and of mitigating Pushtun anger over the imbalance). There have also been attempts to limit the Tajik presence in the new Afghan Army, which is some 60,000 strong (some sources say 80,000). The CIA factbook says that Pushtuns are 42 % of the population and Tajiks 27 %. Pushtuns have usually supplied the top rulers.

Despite Bush administration pledges to reconstruct the country, only six percent of Afghans have access to electricity. Less than 20 percent have access to clean water. Although the gross domestic product has grown by 80 percent since the nadir of 2001, and may be $7 billion next year, most of that increase comes from the drug trade or from foreign assistance. (Some of the increase also comes from the end of a decade-long drought in the late 90s and early 00s, which had reduced the country's arable land by 50 percent. The coming of the rains again is good luck but nothing to do with policy). About half the economy of Afghanistan is generated by the poppy crop, which becomes opium and then heroin in Europe. Afghanistan produces 87 percent of the world's opium and heroin, and no other country comes close in its dedication of agricultural land to drug production (over 200,000 hectares).

The government lives on international welfare. Some 92 percent of Afghan government expenditures come from foreign assistance. The Afghan government is worse at collecting taxes than fourth world countries in subsaharan Africa. Unemployment remains at 35 percent. Unemployment is estimated to have been 25 percent in the US during the Great Depression.

The great danger is renewed Muslim radicalism and the reemergence of al-Qaeda, combined with a narco-terrorism that could make Colombia's FARC look like minor players.
Juan Cole

I reproduced this post here in full because for some reason Cole's site is down, I got this off of my news reader but I can not bring up Cole's site.

A human, An Iraqi, A Jew..

"I don't know what is it with Arabs disliking, or rather hating Jews. It's a matter of fact that all religions emerged from the Middle East that we all currently share maybe not peacefully but still. But it's one example of how we were force-fed the lies that we actually grew to hate people of a certain religion that once were our natives.
Jews have had a history in Iraq probably further back in time than Arabs had. All the Diaspora carved walls, thousands of years old, are in the Brittish Museum, describing in minute detail how Jews were dragged by Babylonians to Iraq, hence the name Babylonian Jews. By the way, for those who also believed that Babylonians were Arabs, Arabs started moving to the North towards Iraq in the second century before Christ."
Thought Riot

Muqtada and the Sulukiyya Sect

"There is news from Iraq saying that Muqtada Al-Sadr has recently issued a fatwa barring his followers from becoming members of an underground esoteric movement called the Sulukiyya or Al-Salikeen—literally, the Path Takers.

Sulukiyya began in earnest in the mid 1990s in Najaf, and very little is known about it except that it caught on among the younger generation of Shia seminarians. Its beliefs are somewhat similar to the Russian Orthodox splinter sect called the Khlysty, especially when it comes to reaching divinity through sexual stimulation. One famous alleged member of the Khlysty was the monk Rasputin. According to a knowledgeable source, young Saliks (as individuals are called) would “share” their wives and even imbibe alcohol. Much of this seems to have started in the sprawling cemetery of Najaf’s Wadi Al-Salam. Furthermore, there is a hierarchy to enlightenment, very much like the Sufi orders."
Talisman Gate
Damn now this is a "religion" I could get into. But now it's to late.

Of Marines and Congress"men"

"Lately a lot of media coverage has been directed towards the actions of a few marines in Haditha, Iraq last November. The marines killed 24 Iraqis after a roadside bomb hit their convoy on November 19th 2005. After the dust settled on that day 1 marine and 24 Iraqis were dead, and of the 24 dead Iraqis 15 of them were supposedly innocent civilians. Since then an investigation has been opened concerning the events and everyone has an opinion about what happened that day. Congressman, ex-marine, and failed human being John Murtha has already publicly declared that the marines killed the civilians “in cold blood.” All this before the trial has even taken place."
T.F. Boggs

The incomplete cabinet.

"In the latest development regarding the shape of the cabinet, sources close to the PM Maliki told New Sabah newspaper that PM Maliki might make a decision to do a wide ministerial change in his cabinet to make space for including the Dialogue Front of Salih al-Mutlaq which formerly boycotted the government.

The anticipated change will supposedly include 6 cabinet posts and the sources also mentioned that the purpose of this change is not only to include the Dialogue Front but will also involve replacing some current ministers with more qualified people explaining that some ministers were chosen in a haste merely to meet the deadline of announcing the cabinet."

Covering President Bush

"Last week, I covered President Bush at the National Restaurant Association’s Hotel Motel Show. As a restaurant reporter, I was surprised he chose this venue to speak about the War on Terror more than immigration reform. But as a veteran, I had butterflies in my stomach as he thanked servicemen and women countless times during his very long speech.

I sat in press section, where I was expected to have a stone face and no personality. Reporters are supposed to be objective! (Sidebar: Once I covered my beloved OSU Cowboys and I cheered when they scored a touchdown. The veteran journalists gave me dirty looks.) Needless to say, I found myself clapping along with the crowd and laughing at his jokes. (Seriously, such actions would get AP reporters fired.) But I couldn’t help it."
In Iraq for 365
It's nice that Bush has finally come around, but that does nothing for the damage he and his party have done over the years to the alternative fuel industry.

Alternative fuel

"This chart not only shows alternative fuel cars, but how the US can reduce foreign oil dependency (virtually waging wars)."
Baghdad Dweller

Even thought I do advocate alternative fuels, and Hybrid cars, and best of all would be E85 hybrid. You do realize that if and when the US make these moves that it will kill more people in the ME and ten Iraq wars. It will probably kill more people than if we nuked the place with 100 bombs.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Zarqawi''s senior aide, two assistants arrested in Iraq

BAGHDAD, May 29 (KUNA) -- A senior aide of Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was captured in Baghdad Sunday evening.

Qasim Al-Aani, one of the most wanted people in Iraq, was arrested with two other insurgents, Defense Ministry spokesman Kassim Al-Mosawi told reporters.

Chief of the 3rd Brigades in the Iraqi Army Jawad Roomi Al-Daini told KUNA Al-Aani is a leader of an insurgent group and is behind many attacks in several Iraqi districts.

He said Al-Aani was involved in the assassination of the son of Chief Justice of Iraqi Supreme Court, Judge Madhat Al-Mahmoud, pointing out that the killer's brother, who is a member in the terrorist group, was also arrested.

Details about the arrest were not revealed.

The Multi-National Force announced in a statement that coalition forces arrested a wanted insurgent and two suspects.

It said two people surrendered as the forces were arresting the suspects, while one tried to escape by jumping in a nearby swamp. Arrested suspects told the forces the runaway is the wanted terrorist.

The insurgents' car was destroyed at the place of the arrest, the statement added. (pickup previous) mhg.

A soldier's diary

NORTH -- Outlining his experiences while serving with the National Guard in Iraq, North resident James Harley has published a book, "The Trouble in Iraq," available online through some of the nation's largest booksellers.

"It's a diary," Harley said of his work. He said he kept messing up while writing a letter to a stateside friend and the younger members of his unit asked him what he was doing. Jokingly, he answered that he was writing a diary.

"The younger fellas kept encouraging me to write," the 59-year-old staff sergeant said. "There were quite a few days I didn't have time."

Following his 14-month tour, from the time he was activated in February 2003 until the time he began outprocessing in March 2004, "The Trouble in Iraq" is a vivid account of one soldier's day-to-day experiences in war and the impressions they left on him.

"It's opinionated," Harley said of his memoirs. "Everything I say is basically truthful. It's what we were involved in. It's a pretty neat book."

Had it not been for the intervention of his sister, Venetia Felder, and her friend and author, Tim Everett, both of Spartanburg, Harley's words may have remained merely his own personal account while serving with the 122nd Engineer Battalion.

"'From Paradise to Hell,' that was the name of my diary," he said. "The guys in Iraq and I came up with that."

Harley said some experiences stick out in his mind more than others, like the time he and fellow soldiers were asked by a commanding officer to build a gazebo in the middle of their camp.

He said although they had no supplies for such a project, going through garbage and straightening out used nails led to the creation of what became known among the unit as "The Ark," which he said was still standing when he left Iraq and his base camp Al-asad.

"A lot of people used that for a reference point, traveling from one place to another," Harley said. "We were constantly going different places."

Harley said the unit was able to, using batteries from run-down equipment, rig a DVD player and television to work.

"There'd be 60 or 70 people gathered around that little building, watching movies at night," he said.

Harley's war experience prior to serving in Iraq includes several months in Vietnam as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. He said there are more differences than similarities between the two.

"In Iraq, we just didn't get any rain," he said. "The conditions were a lot different." Monsoons to drought, lack of communication with family and friends to the age of computers and advanced phone service, from vegetation to desolation -- these are the contrasts that stick out most in Harley's mind.

"One of the main things I recall is kinda keeping a watch out for younger guys," he said. "Some of them, after a short while, really didn't think it was as serious as it was -- that it really wasn't a war."

But, in time, Harley said, "They realized that this was the real thing. It took a lot ... to keep their mind together."

He said communication played a large role in keeping up the morale in Iraq.

"That kind of kept the young ones at ease, where they could keep in touch with their loved ones," Harley said.

Another contrast between Vietnam and Iraq was contact with natives, until the end, that is.

"In Vietnam, I tried to stay away from the people as much as I could," he said, adding that you never knew who the enemy was -- it could be a child or a woman.

Harley said when American military personnel first arrived in Iraq, they were welcome.

"In Iraq, they thanked the U.S. for coming to the rescue," he said. "After that, they wanted us to go home.

"It got to the point that they had to do things according to the way we wanted them done. People didn't like taking orders from someone in their own homeland. It's a natural thing. I wouldn't want to take orders from someone coming into the U.S."

He said the Iraqis were on guard for the most part near the end of his deployment, wishing the Americans would leave.

"It was just like Vietnam," he said. "It didn't matter, as long as they got the job done."

Poverty was rampant in the region, Harley said, and Iraqis were in need of the most basic of necessities: shelter and food.

The children were kind to the soldiers, trying to learn English from the Americans in uniform.

"They were friendly," he said. "We'd give them candy and cookies and such. We weren't supposed to do that, but we did."

War didn't come without its moments of uncertainty for the veteran soldier, who, after serving full-time in the U.S. military for two years, joined the National Guard in 1976.

"There were a few times I got real concerned," Harley said.

"There comes a certain point when you have to make the

decision whether you're going to use that weapon, and you'd rather not. It doesn't necessarily mean that because we are going into a hostile area that your life will end. Being a soldier, you're expected to do these types of things.

"Those months at (Fort) Stewart, getting training together, really paid off. You learn to rely on the guy behind you, standing next to you."

Harley said war is a life-changing experience, as he still suffers from the mental impact it has had on his life.

His family has pointed out that he is more withdrawn, and he said even now, he would rather be by himself than in a crowd.

"The hardest thing is to get back to normal," Harley said. "I'm not there yet. I don't think it's because I was older -- I just can't seem to get back to where I was at. Something seems missing, and I can't get it back. I can't really focus the way I did on things in the past.

"You can see some things just as bad in the U.S. I really can't explain what it is that I'm missing, but I know I'm not at where I want to be."

Harley said while war is hard, serving in the military is something everyone, male and female, should experience.

"I think everyone should spend at least two or three years in the military," he said. "That should be your first job, and we probably wouldn't have half the problems we have. The military teaches you a lot, if you want to learn.

"After a short while, some people will see this is not what they want to do. If they would just hang with it, military life can be a rewarding life."

As for his personal take on the war in Iraq, Harley said he doesn't agree with the U.S. presence in the Middle Eastern country.

"I don't think it should be a war," he said. "I don't see where it's benefitting the U.S. or the people of the U.S. To those who believe there should be a war, that's their belief. Mine's different from that. I had to go because I was in uniform."

Harley plans to retire from the National Guard in 2007. When not serving his country, Harley works as a maintenance mechanic at Albemarle, where he has been employed for 26 years, and helps his 85-year-old mother, Idella Harley of North, plant and maintain vegetables to take to market or share with neighbors and friends.

The Times and Democrat

Looters of Hussein's Bunker and Palace Threaten Iraq's Heritage, Lawmaker Warns

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 28 — It would be hard to get a better glimpse of how Iraq's cultural and political heritage continues to slip away.

The colossal concrete bunker in the heart of Baghdad's security-obsessed Green Zone, from which Saddam Hussein is believed to have planned his futile defense strategies and made some of his last televised appearances as the leader of Iraq, was unscathed by a savage American bombardment that mangled the upper floors of the palace above.

But these rooms have been faring less well against the lawlessness, both petty and significant, that has gripped Iraq since then. The large table Mr. Hussein sat behind disappeared sometime over the past year, say Americans who visit regularly, and the embossed carpet has been gradually ripped from the floor as progressively heavier pieces of mechanical and electrical equipment have vanished from nearby rooms.

They smell increasingly dank, possibly because of water spurting from holes where fixtures used to be.

"You can see if it's not bolted down, people will get it," said Joe E. Scott, who works for a nearby construction contractor. "I can't tell you who," said Mr. Scott, pointing to a spot where recently stolen components had been in one of the catacomblike rooms, "but it's gone."

As Iraq struggles to create a viable political system and quell insurgent violence, the country clearly faces more urgent problems than the looting of historical artifacts, which began after the American invasion in 2003. But eventually, said Maysoon al-Damluji, a member of Parliament and a former deputy culture minister, the country will want to turn to its cultural and political heritage — including the era of Mr. Hussein.

"This is the property of the Iraqi people," Ms. Damluji said in a telephone interview. "And looting is looting whether it's done by Genghis Khan or the American Army or the people of Iraq."

"I don't feel happy about it, obviously," she said.

Exactly how looting continues in the bunker and other protected structures is unknown. Layers of armor, blast walls, checkpoints and guard shacks proliferate in Iraq, but areas of responsibility are chaotic and overlapping. This structure is effectively controlled on one side by a construction contractor, Parsons Corporation, and on the other by a telecommunications company, Lucent Technologies, because their compounds sit just outside. Mr. Scott works for Parsons.

Access to the communications tower linked to the bunker — a kind of poor man's Space Needle, it is one of the more prominent structures on the Baghdad skyline — is controlled by still another company, Arkel International, an obscure contractor based in Louisiana. When a reporter asked to climb the tower, Arkel's project manager, Larry Miller, could not find a key to the padlock on the gate, so he offered to have the lock smashed.

"Got my key," Mr. Miller joked, walking toward the gate with what looked like a 12-pound sledgehammer. The top of the tower had also been picked clean.

Roughly 650 feet long and 120 feet tall, with three blue domes that somehow remained standing even though one was pierced by bombs, the complex built over the bunker, called the Believers Palace, looks as if it would be astronomically expensive to repair and nearly impossible to demolish.

The palace reportedly cost about $60 million when it was built by a German company in the 1980's, but nothing close to it could be built for that amount today.

The structure is massive, with steel reinforcing bars of all sizes poking from the riot of heavy concrete and ductwork where the bombs pummeled the roof, causing little or no damage to the bunkers themselves. An elaborate system of airlocks and filtration systems protect against a gas attack, two enormous electrical generators made by Siemens lie deep within and secret passageways and escape routes are everywhere.

Officials from Parsons, Lucent and Arkel allowed a reporter and photographer access to nearly all parts of the complex and in some cases pointed out places where looters had recently made off with artifacts.

No one seemed to know who the looters were, although most of the graffiti inside was in English and appeared to originate with the American military, whose members often request tours. "31st CSH," reads one scrawl at the bottom of the bunker, referring to a combat support hospital unit. "Rightfully Proud!" A line at the top of the communications tower says, "Sgt C was here for OIF III," using the American military's title for the invasion, Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Other possible looters are the Iraqi workers and guards who move almost invisibly through Western-held areas, or civilian and military officials from Eastern European countries, or even employees of the American contracting companies themselves.

Ms. Damluji offered an example of just how persistent the problem is. Until recently, she said, she was in charge of a supposedly secure warehouse that contained artifacts from the former government, like the great busts of Mr. Hussein that sat on the Republican Palace, now the occupation headquarters, and his famous carriages.

"I was told that I had the only key to the warehouse," Ms. Damluji said, "but things were disappearing."

The culprits do not want for ingenuity, said John Carter, who until last month worked for Parsons and regularly escorted guests through the complex. "These guys can steal the milk out of your coffee," he said in a telephone interview.

A walk through the tableaus of excess, secrecy, violence and vanity in the palace and bunker complex leaves little doubt about its historical significance as a diorama of Mr. Hussein's obsessions and mad ambitions.

The metal air locks, decontamination rooms and rows of giant air filters are like something out of a bad cold-war thriller. "The guy was absolutely paranoid about gas, chemical warfare," said Thomas Swain, a Parsons vice president.

The main dome, the one punctured at the top, had enclosed a grand dining room with Romanesque pillars, elevated galleries, and friezes that, Iraqis say, placed Mr. Hussein's initials above the word of God cited from the Koran. Now its inner surface is as barren and cratered as a moon of Jupiter, and the gallery is hanging in wobbly tatters.

The skeleton of what must have been a great chandelier is illuminated by a shaft of light from the bomb hole, hanging ghoulishly from the dome's apex, as if from a gallows.

A walk to the Lucent side of the palace, where the ornate arcades and coffered ceilings are still intact, quickly disperses the sense of pathos. The acoustics are so bad, with sounds reverberating endlessly, that the company has put up signs that say "PLZ KEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN. THANK YOU," and on close inspection the decorative motifs are all cheaply made.

But the palace still retains its aura of mystery. Tucked away on the undamaged side is a largely secret communications project that Lucent is carrying out for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said Frank Gay, a Lucent program director. A Lucent employee who refused to give even his first name let a reporter and photographer peek into the room where people worked quietly at laptops. "There's nothing to see," the employee said, hustling his guests on.

H/T Back to Iraq

Yea nothing to see here!

Muqtada Al-Sadr Demands U.S. Troops Get Out Of Iraq

26 May 2006 FOCUS News Agency

Baghdad. Muqtada al-Sadr called on the Iraqi Parliament to take immediate measures for the withdrawal of the US troops from the country, Iraq’s news agency INA reported.

He addressed the US President George Bush urging him to respect the just demands of the Iraqi government and people about the withdrawal of the troops from the country.

Muqtada al-Sadr explained that after the end of political disagreement and the formation of a new government, Iraq doesn’t need international help any more.

On the bright side the Iranians are getting their moneys worth, I guess.

2 CBS crew members killed in Iraq bombing

NEW YORK - A CBS News cameraman and soundman were killed and a correspondent was seriously injured Monday after their U.S. military convoy was struck by a roadside bomb in Iraq, the network said.

Veteran cameraman Paul Douglas, 48, and soundman James Brolan, 42, were killed, said Kelli Edwards, a CBS News spokeswoman. Correspondent Kimberly Dozier, 39, was in critical condition at a U.S. military hospital in Baghdad after undergoing surgery.

CBS did not release any additional information about her injuries but said doctors were cautiously optimistic about her prognosis.

"Our deepest sympathy goes out to the families of Paul and James, and we are hoping and praying for a complete recovery by Kimberly," CBS News President Sean McManus said in a statement.

The three were reporting on patrol with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, when their convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device, CBS said.

It was one of eight blasts in Iraq that killed at least 33 people and wounded dozens in the worst wave of violence to hit Baghdad in days.

According to CBS, the journalists were reporting from outside their Humvee and were believed to have been wearing their protective gear.

Douglas, who was based in London, had worked for CBS News since the early 1990s in places including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Rwanda and Bosnia. Brolan, who also was based in London, had worked with CBS News during the last year in Baghdad and Afghanistan as a freelancer.

Dozier has been reporting on the war in Iraq for nearly three years, CBS said. She had served as the chief correspondent for WCBS-TV New York's Middle East bureau in Jerusalem, and previously was London bureau chief and chief European correspondent for CBS Radio News.

"Kimberly, Paul and James were veterans of war coverage who proved their bravery and dedication every single day," McManus said. "They always volunteered for dangerous assignments and were invaluable in our attempt to report the news to the American public."

Dozens of journalists have been injured, killed or kidnapped in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Before Monday's attack, the Committee to Protect Journalists had put the number at 69. Of those, nearly three-quarters were Iraqis, the New York-based group said.

Among the most visible was ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, who was injured with cameraman Doug Vogt when they were hit by shrapnel on Jan. 29.

They were standing in the hatch of an Iraqi mechanized vehicle, reporting on the war from the Iraqi troops' perspective, when the roadside bomb exploded. Both were wearing body armor, which doctors say likely saved their lives. Woodruff is recovering from serious head injuries.



"FISCHER ON IRAN....Germany's former foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, analyzes the Iranian situation today:
The Iran crisis is moving fast in an alarming direction. There can no longer be any reasonable doubt that Iran's ambition is to obtain nuclear weapons capability....Iran is betting on revolutionary changes within the power structure of the Middle East to help it achieve its strategic goal. To this end, it makes use of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as Lebanon, Syria, its influence in the Persian Gulf region and, above all, Iraq. This combination of hegemonic aspirations, questioning of the regional status quo and a nuclear program is extremely dangerous.
Sounds pretty non-squishy to me. So what does he think we ought to do about it?"
Political Animal
Maybe Europe is finally going to taste the coffee?