Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pentagon Moves Toward Monitoring Media

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. command in Baghdad is seeking bidders for a two-year, $20 million public relations contract that calls for monitoring the tone of Iraq news stories filed by U.S. and foreign media.

Proposals, due Sept. 6, ask companies to show how they'll "provide continuous monitoring and near-real time reporting of Iraqi, pan-Arabic, international, and U.S. media," according to the solicitation issued last week.

Contractors also will be evaluated on how they will provide analytical reports and customized briefings to the military, "including, but not limited to tone (positive, neutral, negative) and scope of media coverage."

The winner of the contract will likely also be required to develop an Arabic version of the multinational force's web site.

Attempts by The Associated Press to contact officials connected to the project via telephone and e-mail were not successful Thursday night.

The program comes during what has appeared to be a White House effort, before the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, to take the offensive against critics at a time of doubt about the future of Iraq.

President Bush addressed the American Legion's national convention in Salt Lake City on the issue Thursday, stressing that a U.S. pullout from iraq would lead to its conquest by America's worst enemies.

He continued a theme set by both Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when they spoke to the administration-friendly group earlier in the week.

The military last year was criticized for a public relations program in Iraq that included hiring a consulting firm that paid Iraqi news media to carry news stories written by American troops.

Pentagon officials have defended the program as a necessary tool in the war on terror. But critics have said it contradicts American values of freedom of the press.


These people are all image, no substance, all talk and no walk. This is going to feed right into the hands of the enemy. Can this administration give them any more ammunition. Can you think of anything better to hand their propaganda machine than for the US to set up a Ministry of Information? Shot me now, and just get it over with.

I do have some advise, hire someone with lots of experience, someone who has proven a master at spin and propaganda. I hear Fidel Castro needs a new job, maybe you can get the best. I mean if we are really going to do it, why do it half ass. Go all the way and get the best. Your going to need it.

Bush Says Iraq War Is Part of a Larger Fight

President Bush began a new drive today to rally the American people behind him on the Iraq war and national security, declaring that the United States must stay the course in Iraq because it is a battleground in an epic struggle between democracy and tyranny.

Mr. Bush told the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City that the terrorists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, have much in common with the suicide bombers of Baghdad and the Hezbollah militants who rain rockets on Israel.

Whatever their ethnic or religious differences, Mr. Bush said, they are united in their wish “to turn back the advance of freedom, and impose a dark vision of tyranny and terror across the world.”

Mr. Bush scoffed at his critics’ charges that the American-led campaign in Iraq is a distraction from the real struggle against Al Qaeda terrorists. “That would come as news to Osama bin Laden,” he said, asserting that terrorists from other countries in the Middle East are making their way to Iraq to try to smother the emerging democracy.

“And the unifying feature of this movement, the link that spans sectarian divisions and local grievances, is the rigid conviction that free societies are a threat to their twisted view of Islam,” Mr. Bush said.

The president’s 40-minute address, coming on the heels of similarly aggressive speeches on Tuesday by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to the legionnaires and Vice President Dick Cheney to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, underscored the White House’s determination to make the Iraq war a fundamental issue in the November elections as Republicans try to keep control of Congress and Democrats try to capitalize on growing impatience with the war.

“In the coming days, I’ll deliver a series of speeches describing the nature of our enemy in the war on terror, the insights we’ve gained about their aims and ambitions, the successes and setbacks we’ve experienced, and our strategy to prevail in this long war,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush also chided Iran and Syria for their support of Hezbollah, and he said that Iran must not be allowed to fulfill its nuclear ambitions. He pledged that the United States would continue to seek a diplomatic solution to bridge the deep differences with Iran, “but there must be consequences for Iran’s defiance.”

Yet Mr. Bush acknowledged that the United States must assume some blame for the smoldering resentments in the region. “For a half-century, America’s primary goal in the Middle East was stability,” he said, recalling the cold war era. “This was understandable at the time.” But Washington’s support of anti-communist dictators was accompanied by growing despair and radicalism, he said, alluding to the seizure of Americans at the United States Embassy in Iran after the pro-American but dictatorial Shah of Iran was overthrown.

Doubtless familiar with polls showing increasing numbers of Americans drawing a distinction between the Iraq war and a larger battle against terrorism, Mr. Bush invoked the approaching anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks to rebut that view.

That September morning brought to the United States “a war we didn’t ask for, but a war we must wage, and a war we will win,” Mr. Bush said. And if the United States tires of fighting in the streets of Baghdad, he said, “we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities.”

“So the United States will not leave until victory is achieved,” Mr. Bush said, warning that more sacrifice lies ahead and that the struggle will be a long one.

Seeking to disarm critics who say that the administration has bungled the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush said he and his commanders are united in their resolve for victory yet flexible enough to adapt tactics to changing conditions. But he said the war, in Iraq and against terrorism generally, will not be won by military might alone.

“Every element of national power” is being marshaled in “the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century,” Mr. Bush said.

Democrats were quick to denounce the president’s speech. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, said the president’s “failed policies” have made the United States less safe in the past five years. “Democrats will lead the American people with tough and smart policies that will make us safer by beginning the redeployment of troops from Iraq, refocusing our efforts on the war on terror, and protecting Americans from terrorism here at home,” Mr. Reid said.

And Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts called the speech “a cynical attempt to help his Republican enablers survive the November elections at a time when he should be spending all of his time working to chart a new course in Iraq.”

Mr. Bush, unlike Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld, did not use the word “appease” today. As for those who doubt the wisdom of the war in Iraq, he said, “Many of these folks are sincere and patriotic. They cannot be more wrong.”

Mr. Bush did not use the term “Islamic fascists” today, as he had recently. But he did employ similar language. “As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before,” he said. “They’re successors to fascists, to Nazis, to communists and other totalitarians of the 20th century, and history shows what the outcome will be.”

Ultimately, he said, the outcome will be “victory for the cause of freedom and liberty.”

The president again described America’s purpose in Iraq as at once idealistic and deeply pragmatic. Victory there will guarantee the Iraqi people freedom, and the country will be a beacon for other freedom-loving peoples in the Middle East, Mr. Bush said. And a free country does not become “an incubator for terrorist movements,” he went on.

Mr. Bush was applauded frequently. He had not only a friendly audience but a friendly setting: he carried Utah over Senator John Kerry by 71 to 29 percent in 2004, for his biggest margin of victory in any state.

The battles in Iraq will one day rank alongside those at Omaha Beach and Guadalcanal as mileposts on the path to liberty, Mr. Bush said. “We know that the direction of history leads toward freedom.”


Did anyone besides Ladybird and me notice the fake clapping that was going on at that speech? What's up with that. Are they so hard up for some approval they hired professional clapping people.

And I know they must be putting something in my water, I just wrote a comment that sounded almost exactly like that, and this is the first time I read the speech. All I caught was the end on a replay on C-SPAN.

Elevated from the comments section

"Regarding the news that mortality among young black males in Philadelphia exceeds that of troops in Iraq, A reader comments:

Error on my part: the death rate of military personnel in Iraq is 2.5x the death rate of American males 18-39.

The statistic that really stands out is that the Iraq death rate is 18% of the Vietnam death rate. This makes me wonder whether the U.S. operation in Iraq is actually too cautious. Not that I want more dead, but are commanders being too risk-avoidant?
I have read elsewhere that U.S. troops in Iraq tend to use 100 bullets where one will do, to the point that a bullet shortage appeared and commanders had to tell troops to fire less often.
This is true of infantry combat since time immemorial. In combat, very few bullets actually strike human flesh. S.L.A. Marshall did a lot of writing to the effect that in a real infantry fight, only one or two men in ten are actually aiming their rifles."

New Video Coming From Ayman al-Zawahiri and American Al Qaeda (updated)

"Rita Katz's SITE Institute and Laura Mansfield, each of whom we rely upon for reliable information on upcoming Al Qaeda videos, have seen an announcement by Al Qaeda's As-Sahab media arm of a forthcoming new video. The video is titled, "“Invitation to Islam” and includes Al Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri and a man who appears to be "Azzam the American," a.k.a. Adam Gadahn. The banner announcing the video is posted on Laura's site. Al-Zawahiri's last video was released in early August."
CT Blog


Well it's out, Ali of "A Free Iraqi" has thrown in the towel. The other day I reported that Ali's blog had been hacked, but we know now that that's not true. Ali closed it down. What we don't know is why he closed it. There are a few speculations that run the gambit from death threats to just plain old depression at the current state of things in Iraq. You can make up your own mind which one you like best. Maybe he'll come out and clear the air, but for now, it's the sound of silence.

I don't know if Ali reads here, I doubt it, but I just want to say, Thanks. Thanks for the great post you did jive us, thanks for the time you spent with us, and thanks for the effort, and passion you put into your blog.
We each do what we can, and give what we have to give. No one can ask for more.

TAK Terror Group Carries Out a Series of Bombings in Turkey

"Over the past few days, Turkey has been hit by a string of bombings. On Sunday night and Monday morning, four separate blasts injured at least twenty people. The first blast, which came around 11:00 p.m. Sunday in the garden of an Istanbul school, wounded at least six. Then, just after midnight, the Aegean Sea resort town of Marmaris experienced three blasts. According to the Turkish Daily News, the first of these bombs "ripped through a shuttle bus ferrying tourists along one of the resort's main streets" after being placed under one of its seats. Subsequently, two other bombs stashed in garbage bins exploded, causing no injuries, "though some reports suggested those had not detonated properly."
Later on Monday, a bomb exploded in the coastal resort city of Antalya. Two people were killed in the explosion, and a third died later in the hospital. And another blast in the port city of Mersin injured a twenty-year-old woman."
CT Blog
I have to go on the record condemning these acts of violence, and terrorism.

Telling my Kurdish friends that this action is totally counter productive. This is just going to prove to people that the PKK is a terrorist organization. These were all tourist targets, the aim to kill the tourist trade and hurt the Turkish economy.

No one is going to buy that it's some new group, this is the PKK and it has to stop, not escalate.

Live by the sword, and you will die by that sword.

Conde’s Home Ironing Board

"Deep Throat:

During Ms Rice’s last visit to Iraq, and precisely on her brief detour to Kurdistan, she met with the PM to deliver a warning and we quote her: “We are Ironing Saddam’s clean shirt for November (thanksgiving day). Until then if you couldn’t pull it through then we will make Saddam wear it again or have it tailored for someone of his size!” unquote."
Baghdad Connect
I wonder how much truth there is to all these rumors about the US dumping the new Iraqi Government and starting over. Off the top of my head it sounds to complicated for this administration.

Now maybe pulling off a no confidence vote in the parliament might be in the cards, who knows

3rd BSTB soldiers neutralize IED threat in Korengal Valley

Blackanthem Military News, BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Soldiers from Alpha Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troop Battalion conducted route clearance package movements today.
The RCP is designed to neutralize the threat of improvised explosive devices through disarmament or exploitation on site.

Soldiers assigned to the RCP stay in the field up to two weeks at a time traversing narrow winding roads in a seemingly never ending cycle to eradicate the threat formed by IEDs towards the people of Afghanistan as well as Coalition forces.

Members of the RCP, to include airmen assigned to Task Force Paladin as part of the explosive ordnance disposal team, train prior to beginning RCP operations on similar equipment at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., as well as a brief refresher course at Bagram Airfield.


Erbil, 31 August (AKI) - The president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, has ordered the removal of the Iraqi national flag from all public buildings - a move which further signals the region's growing independence from Baghdad. The president's decree says that "only the Kurdish flag must be hoisted above the offices and institutions of the government of Iraqi Kurdistan, the peshmerga (local Kurdish fighters), and at check-points."

The decree also allows for the Iraqi national flag - red white and black horizontal stripes, with at the centre three green stars and the words Allahu Akbar (God is Great) - to be flown at "official functions", but without the religious phrase.

In addition political parties active in Kurdistan will be permitted to fly their own banners together with the Kurdistan flag.

In another development members of the Kurdistan regional parliament belonging to the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, have proposed the introduction of a Kurdistan national anthem.


Oil Search's Iraq move

OIL Search has expanded its interests in liquefied natural gas and oil in the Middle East as it tries to move beyond the doubtful PNG gas pipeline project.

Papua New Guinea's biggest oil and gas producer yesterday said it was ready to tap into war-torn Iraq's re-emerging oil and gas industry by taking a 20 per cent share in an oil exploration company looking for oil in the north of the country.

It also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with British Gas to look at developing an LNG project in PNG, managing director Peter Botten said.

"BG has extensive global experience and a proven track record in the upstream development of gas fields, the construction and operation of large scale LNG plants and LNG marketing," Mr Botten said.

"We see this initial investigation into LNG as highly complementary to our other gas commercialisation projects in PNG."

Oil Search shares took a hammering last month, dropping more than 10 per cent after AGL pulled out of the consortium with Malaysian government-owned Petronas building the Australian leg of the long talked about pipeline.

Oil Search said early last month it expected the pipeline to go ahead and was confident of finding a buyer for AGL's stake.

But yesterday's announcements were backed by analysts and the market, which yesterday saw shares recover almost 4 per cent, rising 13¢ to $3.45.

Speculation in trading circles was the stronger outlook put Oil Search back on the takeover target list with Adelaide-based Santos, whose reluctance to sign up to take gas from the PNG pipeline was a key reason for AGL to scale back its involvement, a likely suitor.

Fat Prophets senior analyst Gavin Wendt said the LNG and oil expansion could be seen as a replacement project for the company in case the PNG gas pipeline did not go ahead.

"Their share price has taken a bit of a battering, despite an outstanding production and profit report," Mr Wendt said.

"The company is trying to diversify away from the perception of having such a tremendous reliance on PNG."

Oil Search has a one-year option to convert its 20 per cent holding in A&T Petroleum into a 10 per cent direct interest in the Bin Bawi exploration and production sharing agreement 90km from the giant Kirkuk oil field in Kurdistan in northern Iraq.

Mr Botten said the area was a relatively stable part of Iraq with foreign investment increasing in the region.


Damn imperialist, taking over Kurdistan, the other Iraq.

Republican advisor to Iraq veterans group blasts Bush Admin. for 'fascist' language

The Republican advisor to a political action committee founded by veterans is blasting the Bush Administration for using "fascist" language in some recent speeches and interviews, and for its "unwillingness to devise a victory plan" to end the war in Iraq.
"I am a proud Republican, who ran for my party's nomination for Congress in Indiana, because I believe in traditional values," said Sam Schultz, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Indiana Army National Guard and acts as the Republican Senior Advisor to, in a press release received by RAW STORY.

"I also believe we need to be vigilant in defending America," Schultz continued. "That is why I feel I must speak out about the Administration's recent contention that the war in Iraq is part of the fight against 'Islamic fascism.'"

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that fascism "seems to be the new buzz word for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq."

"Bush used the term earlier this month in talking about the arrest of suspected terrorists in Britain, and spoke of 'Islamic fascists' in a later speech in Green Bay, Wis," the AP reported. "Spokesman Tony Snow has used variations on the phrase at White House press briefings."

Schultz explained why he thinks "fascism" is an inappropriate word for the Bush Administration to use.

"First, we are not fighting an enemy that fits the definition of fascist, nor does Iraq resemble anything close to Hitler's Germany or Mussolini's Italy," Schultz said. "Second,I do not believe the war in Iraq has furthered our battle against radical Islamism."

"I can attest to the fact that after my time in Iraq, when I served in Afghanistan, we did not have enough people on the ground there to secure the border with Pakistan, and as a result, many terrorists slipped through our grasp, most likely including Osama bin Laden," Schultz added.

Schultz lost to incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel in the GOP primary race for Indiana's 9th district this past May.

Full transcript of press release issued by Vote Vets:

Iraq Vets Slam Administration for "Fascist" Language

Republican says Administration is endangering "the lives of every American"

NEW YORK - Iraq veterans today blasted the Administration for its recent rhetoric on the war in Iraq. Republican Senior Advisor to, Sam Schultz, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, released the following statement:

"I am a proud Republican, who ran for my party's nomination for Congress in Indiana, because I believe in traditional values.

I also believe we need to be vigilant in defending America. That is why I feel I must speak out about the Administration's recent contention that the war in Iraq is part of the fight against "Islamic fascism."

First, we are not fighting an enemy that fits the definition of fascist, nor does Iraq resemble anything close to Hitler's Germany or Mussolini's Italy. Second,I do not believe the war in Iraq has furthered our battle against radical Islamism. I can attest to the fact that after my time in Iraq, when I served in Afghanistan, we did not have enough people on the ground there to secure the border with Pakistan, and as a result, many terrorists slipped through our grasp, most likely including Osama bin Laden.

Because we have so many troops committed in Iraq, not only have we failed to bring those who did us harm on 9/11 to justice, but Iran has continued to pursue a nuclear program. Our preoccupation with Iraq, and this administration's unwillingness to devise a victory plan for that war, has reduced us to a paper tiger in the eyes of the Iranians. They do not fear military action against them, because they know we are too overextended to wage an effective battle with them.

The only way to combat the threat of Islamic radicalism around the world, and protect America, is to draw up a plan for victory in Iraq, which will allow for our troops to redeploy from the region as quickly and safely as possible. This will show Muslims there that we are dedicated to providing them the very things they want - a flourishing, free, and independent nation. Then, and only then, can we recommit our forces to an all-out manhunt for the head of Osama bin Laden, and offer a real deterrent towards the further development of a nuclear Iran.

Until the administration realizes this, the lives of every American are at grave risk." is the only political action committee headed by veterans of the war in Iraq, to benefit the campaigns of other Iraq and Afghanistan veterans running for public office. also holds accountable those public officials whose words and actions adversely affect our troops and veterans.

The Raw Story

That is because this administration is about fighting the war to win the election. I am sorry to be the one to inform you about this but I suggest you get used to it, I have.

Bush of all people remember the lessons learned by his father, win the war, lose the election. And he's not about to make that same mistake, no matter who eventually wins the war, or how many lives it eventually cost.


BAGHDAD, Iraq - As they patrol the streets of the troubled Ash-Shulah neighborhood, the troops of Charlie Company seek out tormentors and guardians: Sunni Arab insurgents who come to kill in this largely Shiite enclave, and Shiite militiamen who protect residents while doing their killing in adjoining Sunni districts.

This is the sinister grid of today's Baghdad, a capital divided along sectarian lines and bearing little relation to the relatively tolerant metropolis it used to be.

On this morning, the U.S. soldiers found no lurking killers, the enemy remaining in the shadows, well aware of the latest U.S.-led crackdown.

``It's too peaceful,'' said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kelly, who heads the 1st Battalion of the 17th Infantry Regiment, which includes Charlie Company. ``It's great. It's really nice talking to folks. It's really refreshing. I wish it would stay like that.''

U.S. troops are again on the move in this city of 6 million people. Officials have taken to calling the new operation ``The Battle for Baghdad,'' and they emphasize that the stakes are high.

``The Battle for Baghdad will go a long ways toward determining the future of Iraq and the future of the Middle East,'' said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, answering questions via e-mail. ``The United States simply cannot achieve its goals of a democratic, stable and secure Iraq if the unacceptable levels of violence that we had in Baghdad in recent months continue.''

About 8,000 additional U.S. soldiers have been in Baghdad since early August, accompanied by 3,000 Iraqi soldiers.

Despite an increase in violence in Baghdad and elsewhere in the past three days, U.S. officials say the early results of the Baghdad offensive seem encouraging. The capital's homicide rate, which soared to a high of more than 1,800 killings in July, appears to have plummeted by more than half in recent weeks, the U.S. military says.

But the plan carries the same potential weakness as previous efforts: U.S. troops, backed by Iraqi allies, descend on an area in force, pacify it and move on, leaving peacekeeping duties to overmatched Iraqi police officers and soldiers.

In the past, the ``we stand down, Iraqis step up'' blueprint has failed because the Iraqis have proven unable to keep the peace, U.S. officials said. Indeed, the inability of the Iraqi security services to keep Iraqis from killing each other was what prompted the newly bolstered U.S. presence in Baghdad.

Officials concede that there will never be enough U.S. forces in Baghdad to maintain a permanent, neighborhood-by-neighborhood presence throughout the sprawling city and its perilous suburbs.

So what is different this time? U.S. and Iraqi officials say it's a matter of commitment.

``The Battle for Baghdad is the most concentrated, focused effort to date in the capital, and the coalition military leadership and the Iraqi government are committed to not letting the city slip back into the vortex of violence,'' Khalilzad said.

As part of the plan, each Iraqi brigade will be subjected to a three-day ``quick look'' reassessment, said Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the top U.S. military information officer in Baghdad. The plan also includes about $630 million in development funds for targeted neighborhoods.

In the new operation, troops typically cordon off neighborhoods and undertake door-to-door searches. House-sized assault vehicles, bristling with automatic weapons and grenade-deflecting grates, release troops and keep vigil on strategic corners, space-age intimidators in urban battlegrounds turned eerily tranquil.

Iraqi forces are officially running the operation, but in the west Baghdad neighborhood of Ash-Shulah one recent day, only three Iraqi soldiers accompanied Charlie Company on its six-hour sweep, often only observing.

So far, the U.S. military says, U.S. and Iraqi forces have searched more than 33,000 buildings, including 25 mosques. But the yield has been relatively small. They have detained 70 suspects and seized more than 700 weapons and 19 arms caches, and they have cleared 10,200 tons of trash.

Commanders concede that insurgents and killers may be waiting out the U.S. presence, knowing the troops will soon move on.

``Could some individuals have fled the area? Of course,'' said Col. Michael Shields, commander of the Army's 172nd Stryker Brigade, based in Alaska, whose controversial four-month deployment extension was a foundation of the Baghdad strategy. ``It's certainly a potential reality that many high-level leaders may have moved out of the area before the operation started.''

Thus far residents, whatever their enmity toward ``occupying'' forces, agree with U.S. commanders that the neighborhood saturation has helped reduce violence.

``Unfortunately, we now prefer the foreigners protecting us rather than our brothers,'' said Kifah Khudhair, 38, a Sunni and an unemployed former shop owner in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Al-Doura. ``Now there is an American patrol of two Humvees and they are controlling the area. In the past, there was an Iraqi patrol of 60 vehicles doing nothing but driving fast and blowing their horns.''

Al-Doura, a largely Sunni neighborhood known for its twin smoke-belching power plant chimneys, is a place where U.S. forces have long faced fierce attacks. Where burning Humvees once drew frenzied merriment, many Sunnis reluctantly welcome the U.S. reinforcements.

But residents of some militia-patrolled Shiite neighborhoods resent the U.S. presence.

``A lot of the problems are perceptions in Baghdad -- the perception that the government may be favoring one group against another,'' said Army Col. Robert Scurlock, who heads the 1st Armored Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

In Baghdad, the targets are a sinister muddle of Sunni insurgents, Shiite death squads, militiamen and non-ideological criminals of various stripes, some of whom operate with quasi-official approval.

With so many bad guys, U.S. commanders say they try to be equal-opportunity overseers.

``We're really not boring in on what organization they're from,'' said Shields, who noted the challenge of recognizing the enemy. ``The militias are within the people. They blend in with the people. It is very difficult to identify them when they lay down their arms.''

Much of the death-squad recruitment is believed to come from groups allied with the ruling Shiite coalition, which has an ambiguous role: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is both nominally calling the shots in the Battle for Baghdad and expressing reservations about the possibility of U.S. incursions into the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, a teeming east Baghdad neighborhood of 2 million people that is a bastion of militia members. It's an area that U.S. troops have largely avoided.

In Ash-Shulah on a recent afternoon, with the thermometer hitting 115 degrees, Capt. Ed Matthaidess led Charlie Company through narrow streets. The Shiite refuge in mostly Sunni west Baghdad has seen its share of slayings, car bombs and mortar attacks. The soldiers found no gunmen and few arms.

``I do believe that the larger stuff we're looking for . . . they moved it,'' Kelly said.

Responsibility for policing Ash-Shulah and much of west Baghdad was turned over to Iraqi forces in the past year. But attacks escalated. Until the U.S.-led crackdown, bodies would be dumped daily in the streets.

Iraqi forces ``have not kept up with it in the way that we would have wanted them to, the way we think they should have,'' Kelly said.

Veteran U.S. commanders in Iraq have too often witnessed ``cleared'' areas return to chaos once U.S. forces leave. They warn that the same deadly cycle is bound to repeat in Baghdad if lasting security and economic development do not follow.

``We come back to the dike all the time and stick our finger in,'' Kelly said. ``It is a longtime process. . . . The reality is that if we left that neighborhood tomorrow, it would start again.''


If we had only listened to Iraqis like Alaa when he warned us six month ago about all this, we could have prevented much of the chaos.

Violation of trust in Iraq: Hospitals new "killing fields"

BAGHDAD, Iraq — In a city with few real refuges from sectarian violence — not government offices, not military bases, not even mosques — one place always emerged as a safe haven: hospitals.

So Mounthir Abbas Saud, whose right arm and jaw were ripped off when a car bomb exploded six months ago, must have thought the worst was over when he arrived at Ibn al-Nafis Hospital, a major medical center here.

Instead, it had just begun.

A few days into his recovery at the facility, armed Shiite Muslim militiamen dragged the 43-year-old Sunni mason down the hall, snapping intravenous needles and a breathing tube out of his body, and later riddled his body with bullets, family members said.

Authorities say it was not an isolated incident. In Baghdad these days, not even the hospitals are safe. In growing numbers, sick and wounded Sunnis have been abducted from public hospitals operated by Iraq's Shiite-run Health Ministry and later killed, according to patients, families of victims, doctors and government officials.

As a result, more and more Iraqis are avoiding hospitals, making it harder to preserve life in a city where death is seemingly everywhere. Gunshot victims are now being treated by nurses in makeshift emergency rooms set up in homes. Women giving birth are smuggled out of Baghdad and into clinics in safer provinces.

In most cases, family members and hospital workers said, the motive appeared to be nothing more than religious affiliation.

Because public hospitals here are controlled by Shiites, the killings have raised questions about whether hospital staff have allowed Shiite death squads into their facilities to slaughter Sunni Arabs.

"We would prefer now to die instead of going to the hospitals," said Abu Nasr, 25, a Sunni cousin of Saud and former security guard from al-Madaan, a Baghdad suburb. "I will never go back to one. Never. The hospitals have become killing fields."

Three Health Ministry officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Shiite militias have targeted Sunnis inside hospitals. Adel Muhsin Abdullah, the ministry's inspector general, said his investigations into complaints of hospital abductions have yielded no conclusive evidence. "But I don't deny that it may have happened," he said.

According to patients and families of victims, the primary group kidnapping Sunnis from hospitals is the Mahdi Army, a militia controlled by anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that has infiltrated the Iraqi security forces and several government ministries. The minister of health, Ali al-Shimari, is a member of al-Sadr's political movement.

In Baghdad today, it is often impossible to tell whether someone is a government official, a militia member or, as is often the case, both.

"When their uniforms are off, they are Sadr people," said Abu Mahdi, another of Saud's cousins. "When their uniforms are on, they are Ministry of Interior or Ministry of Health people."

Sunnis' increasing suspicion of hospital workers is perhaps the most vivid illustration of their widespread distrust of the Shiite-led government.

And their reluctance to enter hospitals is making it increasingly difficult to assess the number of casualties caused by sectarian violence.

During a recent attack on Shiite pilgrims, a top Sunni political leader accused the government of ignoring large numbers of Sunnis who he said were also killed and wounded in the clash, though he was unable to offer even a rough estimate of the Sunni casualties.

"The situation is so bad that people are just treated inside their homes after being attacked by the Shia militias," said the official, Alaa Makki, a leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, part of the largest Sunni bloc in parliament. "The miserable fact is that most of the hospitals are controlled by these militias."

Qasim Yahya, a spokesman for the health minister, said he had never heard accusations that Sunnis have been taken from hospitals by Shiite militias or Iraqi security forces.

"We are the Health Ministry for all of Iraq. Not for Sunnis, not for Shiites. For everyone," Yahya said. But the relatives of Sunni hospital patients tell a different story.

In the case of Mounthir Abbas Saud, a trip to a hospital set off a chain of events that sparked an ongoing, six-month-old drama in which two of his cousins are dead and two more are missing.

It started with cigarettes. As Saud strolled down a street in the Karrada district Feb. 27 to buy a pack, a car bomb wrenched his right arm off his body, tore into his face and sprayed shrapnel into his lower intestines.

His prognosis was grim, and his family flocked to Ibn al-Nafis to watch over him.

Two weeks later, Saud's cousin, Hazim Aboud Saud, watched as gunmen dragged the still severely wounded man from the building, his family said. The militia members loaded Saud, his brother Khodair and a cousin, Adil Aboud Saud, into an ambulance and drove away.

A few days later, Mounthir Saud's bullet-riddled body was discovered in Sadr City, a Shiite slum controlled by the Mahdi Army. His mouth was stuffed with dirt.

When militiamen discovered that Hazim Saud had witnessed the abductions, they quickly kidnapped him, his family said. His body was found March 27 with his hands — broken and blue from apparent beatings — bound behind his back and a plastic bag over his head. The death certificate said he had been suffocated.

But the family held out hope that the two men seized with Mounthir Saud — Khodair and Adil Saud — were still alive.

When another cousin, Haithem Ali Abbas, a judge in Baghdad, received a call from the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry that they had been located, he hurried to pick them up. He was shot to death shortly after he arrived.

"We don't care whether the government is Shiite, Sunni, American or Iranian. All we want is security and safety," Abu Nasr said. "But no one in the government represents that now."

"What is going to happen to us?" he said as he clutched a tiny photo of his dead cousin Mounthir. "What is going to happen to this country?"

Seattle Times

WMD expert quit Iraq search over 'flawed methods' of the CIA

AN expert who took part in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq said today that he quit because he felt the programme was being used to justifying the United States' decision to go to war.

John Gee, a chemical weapons expert with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, quit the US-led Iraq Survey Group in March 2004.

His resignation came months before it finally concluded that Saddam Hussein's regime had dismantled its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes years before the US-led invasion in early 2003.

His reasons weren't made public at the time, but Mr Gee today said he resigned because the Iraq Survey Group's activities were "to all intents and purposes determined by the CIA" and its methods and operations were "fundamentally flawed".

The CIA analysts in teams searching for chemical and biological weapons were the same ones who concluded before the invasion - officially called Operation Iraqi Freedom - that they must exist, Gee wrote in his resignation letter.

"Much of the two teams' work is geared to trying to justify pre-OIF judgements rather than any attempt to establish the facts surrounding Iraq's WMD programs," Gee wrote in March 2004.


FEATURE-Fleeing violence, Iraq's Arabs flock to Kurdistan

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Fed up with car bombs and death threats, Lazem Hamid, an Iraqi doctor from one of Baghdad's most violent neighbourhoods, decided one day to pack his bags and take his family north to Kurdistan.

"I had to leave it all and come here. There was no chance for us in Baghdad. The day we left, our neighbours came out to congratulate us. Life is good here. I have made Kurdish friends," said the 50-year-old microbiology specialist.

Thousands of Arabs like Hamid have arrived among the ethnic Kurds of the soaring northern mountains, fleeing the violence gripping much of Iraq since the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in February pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

The trend is a stunning reversal for Iraq's Kurdistan, home mainly to non-Arab Kurds. During the 1980s, tens of thousands of Kurds were killed in the region during Saddam Hussein's military campaign, which emptied entire villages.

In June, Hamid set up a private clinic in Sulaimaniya, in partnership with a cardiologist and an orthopaedics specialist -- both of whom are also from Baghdad, 330 km (205 miles) to the south.

It is not only doctors and academics who have fled north, leaving once-prestigious hospitals and universities in Baghdad without qualified specialists and scholars.

Arab labourers from the Shi'ite south and the Sunni heartland have also sought refuge from the violence. Now, hundreds sleep on cardboard boxes in Sulaimaniya's public parks, scratching out a living in the booming construction sector or working as porters for Kurdish merchants.

There are no official figures for the number of Arabs who have resettled in Kurdistan, but anecdotal evidence suggests it has become a magnet for those who can't afford to go abroad.


Iraq's Kurdistan has been semi-autonomous since a failed uprising against Saddam in 1991 that led the United States and Britain to establish a no-fly zone across the region.

The 2003 fall of Saddam, who is on trial for genocide for the seven-month campaign against the Kurds in 1988, deepened the region's autonomy and its relative calm set it apart even more.

Many of the Arab labourers -- Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims alike -- come from regions where their communities are at each other's throats. More than 3,000 people were killed in sectarian bloodshed in July alone.

But in the crowded parks of Sulaimaniya they seem to live in harmony. They pray together in the old mosque, share meals and sleep on the withered grass, head to toe, their few possessions -- usually spare sandals and an extra shirt -- lying nearby.

"I left my home because I was scared of getting killed. I feel safe here and have a job," said Hassan Ali Mohammed, a Sunni who arrived in June from Baquba, a city north of Baghdad, which has seen some of the worst violence in the country.

Mohammed, who makes $10 a day working as a mason, said Kurds were kind and local police didn't bother them as long as they stayed away from the city's main park, which is across the street from a hotel frequented by foreigners.

"We are all poor in this park, Shi'ites and Sunnis. We get along. We all want to work," said Mohammed Hassad, a Shi'ite from Hilla, south of Baghdad, who arrived in August.

While violence has left much of Iraq's economy in tatters, cities in Kurdistan are prosperous with building cranes popping up and foreign firms looking for bases. Rents have soared, the region offers tax breaks to firms, profits can be transferred out of Kurdistan and foreign companies can own land.

Kurds seem generally happy that their economy is expanding enough to absorb the labour of their Arab neighbours, although many Kurds are also unemployed, especially in the countryside.

But some Arabs complain of feeling unwelcome in the far north and Arab-Kurd struggles for control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk remain a potential flashpoint for conflict.


According to Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration, about 200,000 people have fled their homes due to sectarian violence since the bombing of the Samarra mosque in February.

But the number of refugees is likely to be far higher because ministry figures do not include those who flee abroad or resettle in other parts of Iraq.

The population shift is consolidating a de facto partition along ethnic and sectarian lines. In religiously mixed Baghdad, officials and residents talk gloomily of the emergence of a Shi'ite-Sunni "Green Line", with the Tigris River as a border.

The drift north is also creating a brain drain.

Iraqis living in Baghdad and in other cities find it increasingly difficult to track down a surgeon or dentist. Many are turned away at emergency rooms with the words: "The doctor is not here. Go to Jordan or Kurdistan to get treated."

In the 1980s, Iraq boasted some of the best doctors in the Arab world and many travelled to Baghdad to be treated.

Hamid, the microbiologist, said he has no plans to return to Baghdad any time soon and that he has even learned some Kurdish. He said the doctor who replaced him at his Baghdad hospital was kidnapped for a $40,000 ransom.

"I still have a house in Baghdad," he said. "One day I will return. But only when there is security." (Editing by Clar Ni Chonghaile)


Inside the Ring

Hezbollah arms
One of the most surprising and effective weapons used by Hezbollah guerrillas during recent fighting with Israel in southern Lebanon was the Russian-made Kornet-E anti-tank weapon, a laser-guided missile that was deadly against Israel's Merkava tanks. The question being asked by many security specialists is how the Kornets reached the terrorist group.
Edward Timperlake, a Pentagon arms technology specialist, tells us he investigated Russia's illegal transfer of Kornet-Es to Iraq in 2003 and 2004 in cataloging the tons of foreign arms found in the country.
Mr. Timperlake led the production of the Pentagon's Iraq Technology Transfer List after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Among the many foreign weapons he found had been sold to Saddam Hussein in violation of U.N. sanctions was the Kornet-E, and the report on the list included a photo of a U.S. M-1A1 tank that had been destroyed by one of the missiles in the Iraq conflict.
The Kornet-E transfers were noted in the report as a "sanction buster" by the Russians, and although how they reached Iraq is not clear, "the evidence pointed to a trans-shipment through Syria," Mr. Timperlake said as part of interviews for the book "Treachery: How America's Friends and Foes Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies."
Mr. Timperlake and his former boss, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Jack Shaw, deserve credit for producing the report and giving the world an early and open-source warning of just how deadly the Russian weapon is against the military's main battle tank.
Unfortunately, Mr. Shaw had his job reorganized out of existence the same month the report was completed in December 2004 in a dispute with other senior defense officials.
"[International Technology Service] did a very good thing in focusing on sanctions being busted by the shipment of conventional and dual-use items to Iraq," Mr. Timperlake said. "Unfortunately, the [Israel Defense Forces] paid a price for Pentagon political score settling against ITS and Jack Shaw."

Ugly American
We received this e-mail from a Special Forces soldier posted overseas. He commented on coverage of Israel's war against Hezbollah, an Iranian-sponsored terror group:
"The only TV I have where I am is CNN International and BBC. Jeez, I had no idea how evil the U.S. and Israel are. The propaganda is staggering."

By the way, the Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli government officials are again mad at the British Broadcasting Corp., this time for coverage that favors Hezbollah, which has killed hundreds of Americans. Israel boycotted BBC in 2003 over its perceived favorable coverage of Hamas suicide bombers.

In context
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld put Iraq's casualty count into historical perspective during an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
"Now, you look at the Civil War — I don't know how many people were killed, but someone gave me a piece of paper and I looked at it, it was half a million people were killed, and — 524,000 people were killed.
"So think of that. We've lost 2,054, killed in action in Iraq. ... World War II was 405,000. The Korean War was 36,000. Vietnam was 58,000. The lives that have been lost — American lives to defend this country and the willingness of the American people to defend the country at those costs says a lot about our country.
"But we wouldn't be the country we are today if those people hadn't been willing to serve. ... I think we have to appreciate that wars are terribly difficult things. They're ugly. They're violent. And they're unpredictable, and we are so fortunate to have the people we have serving over there, doing the job they're doing. They're doing an absolutely superb job under terribly difficult circumstances."

An Army commander just back from Afghanistan had some good news and bad news.
The good: The coalition is good at finding and killing Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. The bad: Nearly as fast as the terrorists are killed, they are replaced by new recruits from camps in Pakistan.

The war
The "long war" to which the Pentagon often refers is not so much a "war on terror," but a global war against religious extremists who cite Islam to justify mass murder in a quest for world domination. In that sense, it is akin to wars against Stalinists, fascists or Nazis.
During an interview this week on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, talked about defeating extremism. He said it is the moderate Muslims who in the end must win the day.
Asked about whether battles in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan are linked, Gen. Abizaid said: "From where I sit, it's all connected. And whether it's one war or not can be debated from a political perspective. But from a military perspective, as I look at it — all of the lines lead back to one or two sources. They either lead back to Sunni-sponsored extremism, or to Shia-sponsored Iranian extremism. And sometimes, on occasional points in the battlefield, they even cooperate with one another. So it's certainly connected. No doubt in my mind."
He added, "We've got to help the moderates in the region face down the extremists, wherever they show up."

Broken pipeline
Government relations with the press appear to be at an all-time low, with leak investigations and selective prosecutions that are expected to have a chilling effect on reporting.
The Bush administration since the beginning has gone out of its way to alienate the press. Senior officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, have issued issue statements criticizing reporting that he has correctly identified as inaccurate or biased.
Many national security reporters hope the recent appointment of Fox News reporter and radio host Tony Snow as White House spokesman will lead to improvements in battered government-press relations.
A former Reagan administration intelligence official reminded us recently about how President Reagan, who was roundly criticized by the predominantly liberal press, dealt with the problem.
"I remember a meeting with the president when negative press coverage was discussed," the former official said, who noted that those in attendance wanted to punish the press. "Reagan interrupted and said: 'The press is our pipeline to the American people. It's important that we not break that pipeline, for if we do, we'll lose an important channel of communication.'"

Washington Times

Don't you hate it when I'm right, again.


"I'm tired of getting a glimpse of the news every now and then, and facing the inevitability of reflecting upon these bits and tads. It's been quite a while since I've thought of politics or anything related to it, and more recently I've only been thinking about home. Not home as in the land where leechlike politicians get to make all crucial decisions, nor where renegade militants do the actual ruling...definitely not the home where "3alsing" is a way of making a living."
Thought Riot


"Marines have the scumbags on the run. Between fighting in the streets and helping Iraqi citizens they learn to adapt to their environment. As a blind man learns to hear better, Marines learn new senses that save lives both theirs and the Iraqi’s

Marines from 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion kicked over the hornet’s nest during Operation Rubicon in Mushin, Iraq, west of Habbaniyah. What they found underneath was a lot deadlier than a stinger."
One Marine's View

NYT move to block Web to Britons raises questions

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York Times decision to block British online readers from seeing a story about London terrorism suspects raises new questions on restricting the flow of information in the Internet age, legal and media experts say.

The New York Times said on Tuesday it had blocked British Internet readers from seeing a story detailing elements of the investigation into a suspected plot to blow up airliners between Britain and the United States.

The story was published in Monday's paper. Under British laws, courts will punish media organizations that publish material that judges feel may influence jurors and prevent suspects receiving a fair trial.

"There has not been a prosecution for contempt over anybody publishing outside this jurisdiction (Britain), but logically there is no reason why there should not be," said Caroline Kean, partner at UK media law firm Wiggin.

While restricting what British media can report has been effective in the past, the Internet has made it far harder to stop information published by foreign outlets, which may breach Britain's laws, from being seen by UK readers.

The New York Times article cited unnamed investigators providing information not given publicly by British police.

It detailed the content of martyrdom videos and bomb-making equipment found by police and said an attempt to blow up the airliners was not as imminent as authorities had suggested.

The same article appeared on the paper's Web site,, but readers in Britain who clicked on the headline received the notice "This Article Is Unavailable."

"On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of in Britain. This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial," the notice said.


However British newspapers the Times and the Daily Mail also published details from the New York Times article this week.

A government source said no injunctions had been taken out against the British papers, but action could not be ruled out if details were in any future publications, closer to a trial date.

"We're keeping it under careful, constant review," he said.

Because British courts may impose heavy fines and jail editors, foreign newspapers sometimes hold potentially sensitive stories out of their British print editions.

Media lawyer Mark Stephens of Finer, Stephens, Innocent said he could not see anything wrong with the blocked New York Times article and the decision by British papers to print similar details showed the contempt of court law may be the problem.

"It's probably unhelpful to have an area of law which is so uncertain where one set of lawyers is saying censor everything while another says there's nothing wrong with it," he said.

"Even by blocking you don't have the desired effect. You actually create an enhanced interest as the blocking becomes a story in itself, which fans the flames of curiosity," he said.

This was the first time the New York Times had targeted a readership and blocked it from seeing a story on the Web, as far as a spokeswoman and a lawyer from the paper could recall.

"The British take this very seriously and tend to attack publications for contempt even if the arguments that we would have made sounded fairly reasonable," George Freeman, a lawyer with the New York Times

Freeman said it was no guarantee that someone in Britain could not find the story.

"But our position is that we did what we could to prevent publication in Britain. If someone carries in on a jet plane a New York Times from New York, that's not our doing and we can't prevent that," Freeman said.


H/T CounterColumn

I find it offensive that some foreign law might be used to restrict my first amendment rights. How about if I had seen the story and put it up here. What them, could I be held in contempt in a British court? And If I was, could I argue the First amendment, being Britain does not have a constitutional right to free speech?

Fallujah Courant 29 August 2006

"All Hands is an email mailing list ran by a former Marine Corporal in PA. Seamus passes along stories, news, and SitReps; easily enough word to fill multiple seven ton trucks. Posts in this category can be long, so they are free from block quotes to ease reading. See the All Hands category archive for all posts from All Hands. "

Okay, Let me explain this one more time

"I got another email, well intentioned I'm sure, from some Lefty who tried to explain what was really happening in the world today, so I'd understand how wrong I am. Look, I am perfectly fine with the idea that two smart people can hold completely divergent opinions on what the facts are underpinning virtually any part of the world as it exists today. But I don't need things explained to me as if I'm a moron. I'm not an idiot simply because I chose to be a soldier. I know, perfectly well, every single argument you can come up with as to why Bush is a greater threat to US interests than islamic fascism. I really do. I just don't believe it; but I do know why some very smart people believe it, and I don't think they are dumb because of it.
To Lefties only: I know it's a major foundation of your thinking that soldiers are by and large, dumb."
4 Mile Creek
"Hey I know I'm smart, my recruiter told me so." :)

The Lost Territories

"North Waziristan and Quetta: Pakistani Tribal regions continue to slide into the hands of the Taliban and al-Qaeda

News from Pakistan's western tribal belt is less than encouraging these days. The Taliban and their al-Qaeda backers continue to operate from safe havens within Pakistan, particularly in North Waziristan and Quetta.

The Taliban have fought the Pakistani Army to a standstill, and forced them to largely remain in barracks in the North Waziristan agency capital of Miranshah. Beheadings of suspected U.S. spies are now commonplace; the bodies of the two latest victims "were dumped at separate places near Miranshah." Despite this, the Pakistani government is openly negotiating with the Taliban. This is the second time the Pakistani government has negotiated a settlement with the Taliban since the Pakistani Army was largely defeated in 2004."
The Fourth Rail
Damn these left wing bloggers and the MSM, are losing the war!

I’m Back and Ready To Leave Again

"As I stepped off the plane in Kuwait City after 2 weeks of leave I was hit with a wave of hot sandy air and I remembered why I hate the Middle East. Of course I am glad that I am here helping the Iraqi people but I long for the day to get back to America.

I spent several days traveling on Qatar Airways to get to and fro from the UK and hope to never ride on a plane with Arabs again. Racist statement? Nope. You just gotta trust me on this one. To be fair the plane was full of Arabs, Indians, and Asians. All of them were loud, obnoxious, and generally rude. I was constantly amazed at how the bickered between each other, pestered the stewardesses, and treated those around them. I am not sure why they behaved this way but it was all rather childish and unbecoming of grown adults.'
T.F. Boggs

Heavenly Chocolate....

"I think Ive caught a disease...a disease thats called writing phobia...Yup...I have a phobia from writing...Ive been trying to post something for the past week...Everytime I do...I start a few lines then I stop...I stop and cant continue anymore...Its the worst feeling ever...The worst feeling cuz writing is my only salvation...

For the past 2 weeks I have been trying to convince HUBBY not to go back to Baghdad...But it seems that he has made his mind up already... In the end I had to give him an ultimatum....I know I musnt but that was the only way to do it...I said either me or Iraq HUBBY....either me or Iraq...He didnt answer for a few minutes...Then he said, ofcourse you...Yeah right, ofcourse me yet he is still going back... I started to wander....wander about marriage and what it really means...For me marriage is commitment...marriage is settling down...marriage is about compromise and understanding....Yet I dont really see that happening or maybe Im just blind to see it..."
Neurotic Iraqi Wife

UN Logic

"So Hezbollah routinely soaks ball-bearings and nails and other frags in rat poison (an anti-coagulant) and then uses them to kill REAL civilians, nowhere near legitimate military targets, and the UN says nothing.

Hezbollah and Hamas set off bombs, and then set off another bomb to target rescue workers, and the UN says nothing."
My feelings exactly

B36 News - 31 August 2006

"After four days and more than 2800 hits, the challenge has been answered.

Interesting challenge.
I think we are losing the war in Iraq because the American people think we are losing or rather, that we cannot win. When the support erodes enough, we will lose.
The similarity to Vietnam is interesting.


Logical, sensible, supported by my own claims in Winning in Iraq. It offers a broad perspective of the war in Iraq and shows that the war isn't only being fought on the ground in Iraq or in the hearts and minds of Iraqis (a fight that we're winning), but it's also being fought in the hearts and minds of the American public. This battle is one that we're losing.

There is definately more to come on this one. Stand by."

The Alawite Question!

"An interesting guest-post on Syria Comment raises the all too important issue of Alawite rule in Syria from the hence missing Alawite point of view. The post does a good job in summarizing Alawite concerns, and poses certain questions that members of the other communities in Syria are required to answer in order to convince the Alawites to take part in changing the situation in the country and turning against the Assads.

Indeed, the issue of the Sunni-Alawi Divide, or the Alawi-Everyone Else Divide if you like, is one of the main issues, if not the main issue, that needs to be addressed if peaceful change is to have a chance in the country. I have dealt with this issue on this blog repeatedly before, but I have to say that, oftentimes, the comments have tended to be too general and, hence, uninspiring."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Analysis: Taking on al-Sadr Carries Risk

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - This week's intense clashes between the Iraqi army and a Shiite militia are part of a strategy to whittle away the power of a radical cleric. But the high-risk gambit could trigger more fighting across the Shiite south - at a time when the cleric's stronghold in the capital is virtually off-limits.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has promised to disband militias, including the Mahdi Army of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, as a way to curb the sectarian violence propelling Iraq to the brink of civil war. The United States has made clear it views that effort as crucial.

But a full-scale assault by either American or Iraqi forces on al-Sadr's stronghold of Sadr City is highly risky. Al-Maliki, a fellow Shiite with political ties to the cleric, has publicly criticized a U.S.-Iraqi raid this month on the teeming district in Baghdad, where al-Sadr's followers maintain control and mete out Islamic justice in religious courts.

With Sadr City thus out of play for the time being, the U.S. military and its partners have been going after al-Sadr's forces outside the capital, arresting a Mahdi commander in Basra and raiding militia offices in other cities to cut into the cleric's power base.

The fighting Sunday and Monday in Diwaniyah, a ramshackle Shiite market town about 100 miles south of Baghdad, was the latest and one of the most intense examples.

The trouble started when Iraqi soldiers arrested one of the cleric's supporters before dawn Sunday, said an al-Sadr aide. Later in the day, Iraqi soldiers launched more raids and fighting broke out.

Al-Maliki's office said 73 people, including 23 Iraqi soldiers, were killed before a truce was reached on Monday. Other officials put the death toll at 40, most of them soldiers and civilians caught in the crossfire.

"The battle may be over, but the campaign to clean that city up and to restore it to Iraqi government control isn't finished," the top U.S. commander, Gen. George W. Casey, told reporters Wednesday.

Such confrontations test the loyalty of Iraq's mostly Shiite army and police, whose ranks have been infiltrated by al-Sadr's supporters.

But military moves are all the more risky because of the intense rivalry within various Shiite parties and militias - all competing for power. Diwaniyah, for example, is controlled by a rival Shiite party, leading al-Sadr aides to blame local officials from the other party of essentially using the national army to deal with their rivals.

The fighting in Diwaniyah thus points to one of the most serious problems facing Iraq - the possibility that trouble will spread widely throughout the quieter, calmer south.

With its overwhelmingly Shiite population, most of the south has been spared the Sunni-Shiite fighting that has rocked Baghdad. But the internal Shiite divisions pose a threat.

Another raid earlier this month on the office of a relatively obscure cleric, Mahmoud al-Hassani, triggered a day of street fighting in the Shiite city of Karbala and protests in Nasiriyah and Basra.

Within the Shiite community, al-Sadr is clearly a dominant figure. His popularity among impoverished Shiites has eclipsed those of mainstream Shiite politicians. Even the country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has been loathe to speak out publicly against al-Sadr.

Yet since the beginning of the U.S. mission in 2003, American officials have struggled to find a way to deal with him.

In 2004, U.S. authorities issued an arrest warrant accusing him of a role in the murder of a moderate cleric. That triggered two armed uprisings that ended when the Americans bowed to Shiite pressure and spared al-Sadr and shelved the arrest warrant.

Since then, al-Sadr has become a player. His movement controls 30 of the 275 seats in the national parliament and five Cabinet ministries, and his support was critical to al-Maliki winning the post of prime minister.

Now, the U.S. military rarely mentions his name or his militia's in connection with sectarian violence, even though U.S. officials say privately that the Mahdi Army is behind much of it. And Iraqi officials invariably speak of incidents involving "breakaway elements," enabling al-Sadr to disavow responsbility for his followers' actions.

Al-Sadr has described the Diwaniyah fighting as "individual acts that occurred without instructions" from him, according to one of his spokesmen, Sheik Mohammed Jamil.

In fact, it is unclear how much control al-Sadr does wield over the Mahdi militia, which appears to lack a cohesive command structure, and al-Sadr aides have complained about renegades.

Equally unclear are al-Sadr's ties to Shiite-dominated Iran. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad contends Iran has urged Shiite militias to fire mortars and rockets on the Green Zone and says splinter groups of the Mahdi Army are behind the attacks.

Others doubt al-Sadr, whose politics are strongly nationalistic, is beholden to the Iranians, who instead have directed most of their aid to mainstream Shiite parties. A recent study by the International Crisis Group think tank concluded that al-Sadr receives "at best, limited material support from Iran."

"Learning the hard way, the U.S. and its allies have had to recognize the reality of the Sadrists' strength," the group wrote.


Lebanon Seizes Hezbollah Arms

PARIS, 30 August 2006 — The Lebanese Army has seized weapons belonging to Hezbollah in south Lebanon, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora was quoted as saying in a French newspaper yesterday.

“The army has been seizing certain weapons, that is confirmed,” Siniora told a group of four journalists, including Le Monde’s correspondent, accompanying UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Beirut.

“There have been interceptions, but our policy is not to make announcements on such matters,” he said, adding that the seizures involved “heavy weapons.”

“We are not the enemies of Hezbollah,” he said, “but we will tolerate no armed presence, either carrying weapons or wearing uniforms.”

He said: “No area will be off limits to the army.” He vowed that Lebanese forces would “confiscate any weapons that it finds. That is already what is happening in a firm but friendly way.”

Visiting devastated south Lebanon yesterday Annan urged Israel and Hezbollah to move swiftly to settle disputes blocking a permanent cease-fire to be upheld by 15,000 UN peacekeepers. He listed as “serious irritants” the fate of two Israeli soldiers snatched by Hezbollah and that of Lebanese prisoners held in Israel, as well as an Israeli air-and-sea blockade of Lebanon imposed at the start of the war nearly seven weeks ago.

Annan later flew to Israel by helicopter on the second leg of his Middle East tour.

“We need to resolve the issue of the captured soldiers very quickly. Obviously the issue of the (Lebanese) prisoners... will also have to be dealt with,” he said in Naqoura, main base of the current 2,000-strong UNIFIL force in Lebanon.

Annan again called on Israel to lift its blockade of Lebanon, which he said the Lebanese saw as a “humiliation and infringement of their sovereignty,” while stressing the need for the Beirut government to exert control over its borders.

Israel has refused to lift the blockade, citing the need to prevent the rearming of Hezbollah, whose capture of the Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12 sparked the war.

Annan is trying to secure full implementation of a Security Council resolution that halted the fighting on Aug. 14 and mandated up to 15,000 UN troops to deploy in the south. Italy’s first contingent of 800 troops, out of an eventual 3,000 pledged, set sail on what Rome said would be a “long and risky” mission. The aircraft carrier Garibaldi and four other navy ships were due to reach Lebanon by Friday. France promised to send a 900-strong battalion before the middle of September, with a second battalion to follow.

The Turkish government said it wanted Parliament to meet on Sept. 5 to approve a troop deployment in the UN force, a day after agreeing in principle to contribute soldiers.

In Brussels, European Union diplomats urged Muslim countries to make substantial contributions to the UN peacekeeping force, saying Muslim participation is key to the mission.

Bangladesh has volunteered about 1,800 troops, and Indonesia and Malaysia about 900 each. But Israel has not yet agreed to let the Asian nations send peacekeepers because their governments do not recognize the Israeli state.

Arab News

Iranian Submarine Launched Missiles

August 30, 2006: Iran test fired what appeared to be a Russian Klub-S (3M54) submarine launched anti-ship missile. Weighing two tons, and fired from a 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tube on a Kilo class sub, it has a 440 pound warhead. The anti-ship version speeds up to 3,000 kilometers an hour during its last minute or so of its flight, and has a range of 220 kilometers. There is also a land attack version, with a 300 kilometers range and an 880 pound warhead.

Iran has three Kilo class subs, bought from Russia in the 1990s. China has a dozen on order. China already has some of its Kilos, and has received 3M54 missiles as well. So Iran could have gotten the 3M54s from Russia or China. It???s unlikely Iran built their new missiles themselves. Even China, with far more resources, has not gotten far in this area. Much easier to make a deal to get them from Russia or China. Or even India, which also has the 3M54, although is not likely to sell them to Iran.

It's also possible that Iran has an earlier Russian cruise missile launched from a torpedo tube (the "Granit"). This was a 1980s development, made obsolete by the recently developed 3M54 (nicknamed "Klub"). The Granit is not designed to hit ships at sea, but fixed targets on land.

The problem with the 3M54 is that it would make it easer for Iran to shut down oil exports from the Persian Gulf, at least for a while. China and India have economies heavily dependent on that oil, and would suffer if the oil supplies were interrupted. But Russia, as a major oil exporter, would benefit enormously if Iran shut off Persian Gulf oil for a while, and oil prices spiked.


U.S. Navy says officer passed secret Guantanamo data

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The military has charged a U.S. Navy officer who worked as a lawyer at Guantanamo Bay with mailing classified information on foreign terrorism suspects there to an unauthorized person, the Navy said on Tuesday.

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz, stationed from July 2004 to January 2005 at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, faced a total of eight counts of three criminal charges and could spend 36 1/2 years in prison if convicted on all, the Navy said.

Diaz, 40, was not charged with espionage and remains free, working at a Navy office in Jacksonville, Florida, ahead of a military hearing set for October in Norfolk, on whether the case will proceed to court-martial, said Navy Mid-Atlantic Region spokeswoman Beth Baker said.

The charges relate to improper safeguarding of classified information and improper forwarding of classified information to a person not authorized to receive it.

Diaz was accused of mailing "a multi-page classified document that contained the names and other identifying information" about Guantanamo detainees from that base to "a nongovernmental organization not authorized to receive it," Baker said.

The charge sheet provided by the Navy said Diaz copied and transmitted secret national defense information "with intent or reason to believe that the said information was to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation."

Baker declined to identify the organization beyond saying it was in the United States, and said the group turned over the document to federal authorities, prompting the investigation that led to the charges.


As deputy staff judge advocate at Guantanamo, Diaz's job was to give legal advice on a variety of issues to military commanders, Baker said, and he never represented any Guantanamo detainees.

The charge sheet stated between December 20, 2004 and February 28, 2005, Diaz violated a Navy regulation by failing to properly safeguard and store classified secret information and failing to properly transport and mail such information by sending it via routine first-class mail. It also said he was derelict in his duties.

While the United States for more than four years refused to identify those held at Guantanamo, the Pentagon this spring released the names and nationalities of all the detainees it said had ever been held under military control there.

Diaz has served for 11 years as an officer in the Navy after spending eight years as an enlisted soldier in the Army, Baker said. Baker said his hometown is Topeka, Kansas.

Diaz was formally charged on Monday, Baker said.

The Pentagon said the U.S. military currently holds about 445 detainees at the Guantanamo facility, most held without charges for more than four years.

The United States has faced international criticism over the indefinite detention of Guantanamo detainees amid allegations of their mistreatment. The Pentagon said the Guantanamo facility is needed to hold dangerous prisoners and extract important information from them.

Rear Adm. Frederic Ruehe is scheduled to decide after the October hearing whether Diaz will face trial, Baker said.


The Battle Against Sadr Intensifies

"Signs indicate the Iraqi government and the Coalition are putting additional pressure against Muqtada al-Sadr and his radical Mahdi Army

The fighting between the Iraqi Army and the forces of Iranian backed radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army earlier in the week has increased the tensions between the government and the militia. The battles in Diwaniyah resulted in fifty Mahdi militiamen killed, twenty troops from the Iraqi army, and up to 80 civilians dead. One day after a truce was called in the town of Diwaniyah, Iraqi Defense Minister Abdel Qader Jassim Mohammed has called it off. According to AFP, "13 of the military's dead had been 'executed' by the militia fighters," and Mohammed "demanded that this be investigated while an 'extraordinary security plan' [is] implemented in the city.""
The Fourth Rail

A tale of two tribes, a gang and a militia...

"Is it civil war in Iraq or is it not? And if it is, is there a way to stop it and if it's not, is there a way to avert it?
Who's to blame for the sectarian violence and who's escalating it? And what role foreign terror groups like al-Qaeda is playing in this regard? Is it possible that foreign terrorists, with their numbers estimated to be between several hundreds to a few thousands, were/are capable of inflicting so much damage and taking the lead in provoking sectarian strife in a country of 28 millions?

These are some of the questions I hear and read very often these days. It's not easy to find the right answers without taking a much closer look at what's happening on the ground preferably by following the sequence of events in a limited area(s) to get a better understanding of the reality of the situation."
This is a great example of the down side to the "fly paper" strategy that they keep hyping.

"They taught us how great Turkey is"

"Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

My nickname is Hiwa, I was born in a village in southern Kurdistan, but raised in Halabja and lived there till 1995. Except the three years from 1988-1991, when we were unable to go be in Halabja. I have just finished my degree in computing at the University of Leeds. Currently I live in Leeds in UK.

How did you end up at a Turkish school in Hawler? What did they teach you? Was the education good? In what time was this?

Hawler. Fezalar Egitim, which is a Turkish educational company, opened it's first school in Hawler in 1994. A year later we heard through the Nur Islamic group, which had people in Halabja, that there is a private school. This school accepted students with high marks. We also heard that the first round of assessments are over, but there was a late second round and I was taken to Hawler by my eldest brother. So I entered Erbil Ishik Private College in 1995 and I finished it in 1999.

These schools are probably the best schools in the Middle East, if not better than some European schools as well. They care about every detail of the school from the school buildings to the books. They assess students and pupils and they only accept the best amongst them. The main education language is English, but Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic are languages which are also studied. Great care is given to teaching Turkish, as some of the teachers struggle with teaching in pure English."

Democratic Candidate Blasts Rumsfeld

WASHINGTON -- A House Democratic candidate accused Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of lying about the progress in Iraq, a day after the Pentagon chief lashed out at critics of the Bush administration.

"After 21 months of trying to find something I can agree with Secretary Rumsfeld on, it is true: the American people are being lied to and I totally agree with Secretary Rumsfeld," Eric Massa, a Navy veteran, said Wednesday. "What I disagree with is the fact that he's the one doing the lying."

The New York Democrat and another House candidate, Tim Walz, discussed Rumsfeld's speech in a conference call with reporters. The national party had arranged the call.

On Tuesday, Rumsfeld told veterans at an American Legion meeting that the world faces "a new type of fascism" and warned against repeating the pre-World War II mistake of appeasement.

Rumsfeld alluded to critics of the Bush administration's war policies in terms associated with the failure to stop Nazism in the 1930s, "a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among the Western democracies."

Without explicitly citing Bush critics at home or abroad, he said "it is apparent that many have still not learned history's lessons."

Massa, who is challenging one-term Republican Rep. Randy Kuhl, said he was outraged by Rumsfeld's comments and faulted him for blaming the media for his own misstatements and missteps.

In his speech, Rumsfeld criticized the media for paying more attention to a single soldier accused of misconduct than a soldier awarded a Medal of Honor, saying the fight against terrorism is fought in part on the Internet and in the media.

"Those who know the truth need to speak out against these types of myths and distortions that are being told about our troops and about our country. America is not what's wrong with the world," Rumsfeld said.

The Pentagon had no immediate reaction to the candidates' criticism.

Walz, a Minnesota schoolteacher and veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard, said the Bush administration has no effective plan to secure the country.

"This thing has disintegrated," Walz said of Iraq. "On the macro level, there's an absolute failure."

Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said the Democratic candidates' strategy is to criticize Republican efforts to win the war on terror, while elected Democrats are "committed to a strategy that will weaken our ability to defend America and make us less safe at home and abroad."


Marine Combat Artists

"Sgt Battles and WO Fay are two Marine Combat Artists (only three Corps wide) serving Country and Corps creating some awesome works of art. Both of them operate blogs that I’ve read for some time now. They don’t post everyday, but you should add them to your RSS reader or check in on them from time to time. You’ll be happy you did.

You can find Sgt Battles at Sketchpad Warrior, and you can see WO Fay at Fire and Ice."


"In the comments to the previous post, a friend asked if I had heard about the former NATO commander who's been appointed to act as the US special PKK coordinator to the fascist Ankara regime. This friend was thoughtful enough to provide an URL to the State Department website which carries an article on this "special envoy" who is supposed to "coordinat[e] U.S. engagement with the government of Turkey and the government of Iraq to eliminate the terrorist threat of the PKK and other terrorist groups operating in northern Iraq and across the Turkey-Iraq border."

But, if you do a little digging, you come up with some darker dirt on the new American "special envoy." It would appear that retired General Joseph W. Ralston, USAF, is deeply connected to the deep shit of the Deep State, through the person of one Marc Grossman. Grossman was named in connection with Sibel Edmond's allegations as being in connection with the Turkish lobby in the US. At the end of July, I had this to say about Marc Grossman:"


"LOSING THE WAR THE RUMSFELDIAN WAY....I guess one way of viewing Don Rumsfeld's speech to the American Legion yesterday is that it was nothing more than garden variety election-year political pandering. Iowa farmers want to hear you swear undying fealty to ethanol subsidies and WWII vets want to hear paeans to blood and guts. Usually, they both get what they want.
Alternatively, and more persuasively, it's one of the opening shots in the ongoing Dr. Strangelove-ification of this year's midterms. In the same way that TV shows have to become ever more violent and risque in order to shock audiences who have seen it all before, Republicans must figure that the only way to make the terrorism card pay off yet again is to amp up the wingnuttery for an obviously skeptical and jaded public. And since terrorism is all they've got, that's what they're going to do. What other choice do they have?"
Political Animal
I thought so.


"On the 29th Rumsfeld spoke at Fallon Air Station. During a question-and-answer session, Rumsfeld said “the one thing that keeps him up most at night is the manipulation of the media by terrorists”. He says it bothers him how clever the enemy is. You know something? He’s right. You’ve known it for some time, how the media likes to put their spin on things and make the USA look like the bad guy all the time."
One Marine's View

A note from the field...

"Afghanistan is a challenging environment. The conditions are harsh and primative. There exists a very fine line between modern living and tribal nomadic life.

The blog entries over the past few weeks have been minimal. There are many more stories still to come. As I have moved about the country over the past few weeks, I have been faced with a variety of challenges, all of which take time to resolve. I have not stopped writing or composing video stories. The key has been timing, and the challenges of connectivity.

The one thing that remains constant are the soldiers. They continue to demonstrate a selfless committment to their jobs inspite of the personal challenges they confront. Not every soldier is in combat, but every soldier has an important job in the total operation. As I have said before, every soldier that is here is a hero. "
KGW Afghanistan Blog

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"The three student activists below have been arrested by Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security on Saturday August 19th. Their life is in danger.
1- Abolfazl Jahandar, Business Management, 2002 Graduate of Allameh Tabatabaee University
2- Kheirollah Derakhshandi, Industrial Management, 2002 Graduate of Yazd University
3- Jamal Zaher-Poor, Industrial Engineering, 2003 Graduate of Khaje Nasiraldine-Toosi University "
Iranian Woman

Rumsfeld Accuses Critics of Appeasement of Fascists

"The LA Times reports that

' Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday compared critics of the Bush administration to those who sought to appease the Nazis before World War II, warning that the nation is confronting "a new type of fascism." '"
Juan Cole


"Because for 11 years years, the American public wasn’t informed about the threat that lead to September 11 and because the classrooms and newsrooms of the United States were not educated enough about the global threat of “Jihadism,” we feel it is incumbent on individual citizens to educate themselves about this danger and mobilize to prevent a Future Jihad looming around the world and at home. It is important that American citizens understand who the “Jihadists” are, what they want to achieve, and how they are proceeding. Without this knowledge, the American public will be unable to be part of the political debate about national security and the War on Terror. And if deprived from the support of an informed public, the US Government, now and in the future, cannot sustain difficult decisions pertaining to the defeat of the Terrorist enemy."
CT Blog

B36 News - 30 August 2006

"Over 2100 hits and only a couple serious attempts at the challenge. I particularly appreciated Daniel's comments as he did a great job of laying out his position in a logical, sensible manner.

I sincerely hope that I'm not going to win this challenge by default. There has got to be someone out there with some insight into our defeat that extends beyond assumptions and rhetoric."

Rumsfeld Takes No Prisoners During American Legion Speech

August 29,2006 - Salt Lake City, Utah - - [Editor's note: below is the transcript of Mr. Rumsfeld's address at the 88th Annual American Legion convention]
Tom [American Legion Commander Tom Bock], I understand that your son is flying a Chinook in Iraq -- following in his dad’s proud tradition of military service. Our country is deeply grateful to him -- and to all of you who have children or relatives serving in our nation’s military.

They are in our thoughts and prayers. Please tell them we appreciate all they do for our country.

I thank each of you for the love and support you provide for our troops every day.

No one is more proud of those young people than their Commander-in-Chief. I know that President Bush is looking forward to being with you on Thursday.

We are truly fortunate to have a leader of resolve at a time of war. Through all the challenges, he remains the same man who stood atop the rubble of lower Manhattan, with a bullhorn, vowing to fight back; the leader who told a grieving nation that we will never forget what was lost; and the determined President who works every day to fulfill his vow to bring the enemy to justice or to bring justice to the enemy.

Our nation is so fortunate to have the American Legion standing up for all those who are serving our country in this time of testing.

About a year ago, I participated in the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. And when I looked out into the audience, I could see a great many American Legion caps. It was a reminder of the millions who sacrificed for our country, so many of whom did not come home.

And it was also a reminder of all that American Legionnaires do to for our servicemen and women. Indeed, through nearly nine decades of service, the American Legion continues to find new ways and to undertake new initiatives to embody their motto: “For God and Country.”

The Department of Defense is proud to be a partner with you in the “Heroes to Hometowns” program, which is helping severely wounded veterans with job searches, their homes, and other activities to aid the transition to civilian life. Your partnership with the “The America Supports You” campaign helps communities, organizations, and individuals across this nation express their appreciation to our troops, and to their families.

And, on a personal note, I commend the American Legion for its sponsorship of the Boy Scouts. I know there are some places where Boy Scouts are a subject of scorn.

Well, I was a proud Cub Scout, then a Boy Scout; then an Explorer Scout; an Eagle Scout; and, in 1975, a Distinguished Eagle Scout. The Scouts represent some of the best qualities in our great country -- and they certainly deserve our support!

The American Legion has achieved a great deal for our country since its founding in the months following World War I, when those folks came together in a hotel in Europe to find a way to help some of their fellow veterans who would be coming home soon.

Indeed, that year -- 1919 -- turned out to be one of those pivotal junctures in modern history -- with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and the creation of the League of Nations -- a treaty and an organization intended to make future wars unnecessary and obsolete.

Indeed, 1919 was the beginning of a period where, over time, a very different set of views would come to dominate discourse and thinking in the west.

Over the next decades, a sentiment took root that contended that if only the growing threats that had begun to emerge in Europe and Asia could be appeased, then the carnage and destruction of then-recent memory of World War I might be avoided. It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among the western democracies. When those who warned about a coming crisis -- the rise of fascism and Nazism -- were ridiculed and ignored.

Indeed, in the decades before World War II, a great many argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated -- or that it was someone else’s problem. Some nations tried to negotiate a separate peace -- even as the enemy made its deadly ambitions crystal clear.

It was, as Churchill observed, a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last.

There was a strange innocence in views of the world. Someone recently recalled one U.S. Senator’s reaction in September 1939, upon hearing that Hitler had invaded Poland to start World War II. He exclaimed:

"Lord, if only I could have talked with Hitler, all this might have been avoided.”

Think of that!

I recount this history because once again we face the same kind of challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism.

Today, another enemy -- a different kind of enemy -- has also made clear its intentions -- in places like New York, Washington, D.C., Bali, London, Madrid, and Moscow. But it is apparent that many have still not learned history’s lessons.

We need to face the following questions:

With the growing lethality and availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow vicious extremists can be appeased?

Can we really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists?

Can we truly afford the luxury of pretending that the threats today are simply “law enforcement” problems, rather than fundamentally different threats, requiring fundamentally different approaches?

And can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America -- not the enemy -- is the real source of the world’s trouble?
These are central questions of our time. And we must face them.

We hear everyday of new plans, new efforts, to murder Americans and other free people. Indeed, the plot recently discovered that would have killed hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of innocent men, women, and children on planes coming from Britain to the United States should have demonstrated to all that the enemy is serious, lethal, and relentless.

But this is still -- in 2006 -- not well recognized or fully understood. It seems that in some quarters there is more of a focus on dividing our country, than acting with unity against the gathering threats.

We find ourselves in a strange time:

When a database search of America’s leading newspapers turns up 10 times as many mentions of one of the soldiers at Abu Ghraib who was punished for misconduct, than mentions of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in the Global War on Terror;

When a senior editor at Newsweek disparagingly refers to the brave volunteers in our Armed Forces as a “mercenary army”;

When the former head of CNN accuses the American military of deliberately targeting journalists and the former CNN Baghdad bureau chief admits he concealed reports of Saddam Hussein’s crimes when he was in power so CNN could stay in Iraq; and It is a time when Amnesty International disgracefully refers to the military facility at Guantanamo Bay, which holds terrorists who have vowed to kill Americans and which is arguably the best run and most scrutinized detention facility in the history of warfare, as “the gulag of our times.”

Those who know the truth need to speak out against these kinds of myths, and lies, and distortions being told about our troops and our country.

The struggle we are in is too important -- the consequences too severe -- to have the luxury of returning to the old mentality of “Blame America First.”

One of the most important things the Legion has done is not only to serve, and assist, and advocate as you’ve done so superbly for much of the past century -- but also to educate and speak the truth about our country and our military.

Not so long ago, an exhibit on the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian during the 1990s seemed to try to rewrite the history of World War II by portraying the United States as an aggressor. Fortunately, the American Legion was there to lead the effort to set the record straight.

This watchdog role is even more important today in a war that is to a great extent fought in the media on a global stage -- to not allow the lies and the myths be repeated without question or challenge -- so that at least the second and third draft of history will be more accurate than the quick first allegations.

You know from experience that in every war there have been mistakes and setbacks and casualties. War is, as Clemenceau said, a “series of catastrophes that results in victory.”

And in every army, there are occasionally bad actors -- the ones who dominate the headlines today -- who don’t live up to the standards of their oath and of our country.

But you also know that they are a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of honorable men and women in all theaters in this struggle who are serving with humanity and decency in the face of constant provocation.

And that is important in this “long war,” where any kind of moral and intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can severely weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.

Our enemy knows this well. They frequently invoke the names of Beirut and Somalia -- places they see as examples of American retreat and weakness. And as we have seen most recently -- indeed, this month -- in Lebanon, they design attacks and manipulate the media to try to demoralize public opinion. They doctor photographs of casualties, use civilians as human shields and then provoke an outcry when civilians are accidentally killed in their midst.

The good news is that most of the American people, though understandably influenced by what they read and see in the media, have inner gyroscopes and good centers of gravity.

And I am confident that over time they will evaluate and reflect on what is happening in this struggle and come to wise conclusions.

In Iraq, a country that was brutalized and traumatized by a cruel and dangerous dictatorship is now undertaking the slow, difficult, and uncertain steps to secure a new future, under a representative government -- one that is at peace with its neighbors, rather than a threat to their own people, their neighbors, and to the world.

As the nature of the threat and the conflict in Iraq has changed over these past three years, so have the tactics and deployments. But while military tactics have changed and adapted to the realities on the ground, the strategy has not -- which is to empower the Iraqi people to defend, govern, and rebuild their own country.

The extremists themselves have called Iraq the “epicenter” in the War on Terror. They mean it. And our troops know how important completing the mission is.

A Soldier who recently volunteered for a second tour in Iraq, likely captured the feelings of many of his peers. In an e-mail to friends he wrote:

“I ask that you never take advantage of the liberties guaranteed by the shedding of free blood, never take for granted the freedoms granted by our Constitution. For those liberties would be merely ink on paper were it not for the sacrifice of generations of Americans who heard the call of duty and responded heart, mind and soul with ‘Yes, I will.’”

Someday that young man may be a member of the American Legion, attending a convention such as this. I hope he will be. And one day, a future speaker may reflect back on this time of historic choice -- remembering the questions raised as to our country’s courage, dedication, and willingness to continue this fight until we have prevailed.

I believe the question is not whether we can win. It is whether we have the will to persevere.

I believe that Americans do have that steel. And that we have learned the lessons of history, the folly of turning a blind eye to danger, and of ignoring our responsibilities. These are lessons you know well -- lessons that your heroism has taught to generations of Americans.

May God bless each of you. May God bless the men and women in uniform and their families. And may God continue to bless our wonderful country.



You know it timely because right now I just noticed that this story is what they are discussing on the replay of this mornings Washington Journal call in show.