Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dead Eyes

"It wasn't a good night to have a new LT on patrol. Our LT was was out with us, of course- the new guy would be leading the platoon coming to replace us. We were on a mission that could easily turn bad- as it happened, everyones night but ours was bad. We waited around at a Combat Outpost for hours for our Marine attachments to resolve some equiqment issues, cleared our route, and went home. One of our sister platoons ended up MEDIVACing two men on a helicopter after an IED strike, while another route clearance team out of Falluja was hit multiple times, and an EOD team hit a bomb that flipped a Cougar and sent two techs to the hospital."
Acute Politics

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Iraqi Cleric: Militia in `freeze'

BAGHDAD (AP) - Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took his Mahdi Army out of action for up to six months Wednesday to overhaul the feared Shiite militia - a stunning move that underscores the growing struggles against breakaway factions with suspected ties to Iran.

A spokesman for al-Sadr said the order also means the Mahdi Army would suspend attacks against U.S. and other coalition forces.

But it's unclear how much influence al-Sadr still wields over Shiite groups blamed for waves of attacks, including powerful roadside bombs that remain the chief killer of U.S. troops. American officials, meanwhile, reacted with skepticism and urged al-Sadr to show tangible steps to rein in his fighters.

The announcement by al-Sadr - who formed the militia after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 - appeared aimed at distancing himself from suspected Iranian-backed Mahdi factions he can no longer control. It also sought to deflect criticism for his followers' perceived role in this week's fighting in Karbala that aborted a Shiite religious festival and claimed more than 50 lives.

Thousands of pilgrims fled in terror as fighting erupted Tuesday between Mahdi Army members and security forces linked a rival Shiite militia, the Badr Brigade.

The battles are part of wider power struggles by armed Shiite groups for control of the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq, which includes major religious shrines and most of the country's vast oil riches. The splintering of the Mahdi Army has opened new fronts across the south.

In a statement, al-Sadr said he would "freeze" the Mahdi Army "for a period not exceeding six months." The goal, the statement said, is to reorganize the force "in such a manner that would maintain and preserve the prestige of this symbol of the faith."

A spokesman for al-Sadr, Ahmed al-Shaibani, told reporters that the Mahdi Army also was "suspending the taking up of arms against occupiers as well as others."

Iraq's national security adviser welcomed al-Sadr's announcement and said the Shiite-dominated government was "waiting for concrete results on the ground."

"The contents of the statement as we heard it are good," Mouwaffak al-Rubaie told Alhurra television. "We welcome it and believe that if implemented to the letter. It will have a huge effect on the level of violence in Iraq."

But the effects of al-Sadr's announcement were far from clear, and it received a cooler reception in Washington and among military commanders in Baghdad.

"What really matters here is actions, and so those are the measures of merit that we'll be watching for," U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said in an AP Broadcast interview.

In Washington, Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell urged al-Sadr and other militia leaders to join "the legitimate Iraqi security forces and be accountable to the central government" but said it was too early to determine the significance.

An Iraqi army lieutenant colonel, however, described the announcement as a "tactical maneuver" by al-Sadr.

"Six months or even a year wouldn't matter because the Mahdi Army is allied with Iran and is waiting for a signal from the Iranians to start something," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for his personal safety.

Al-Sadr's relationship with Iran is complex. He has ties to Iranian religious figures and is suspected of fleeing there to escape U.S. military crackdowns. But al-Sadr also strongly proclaims his Arab roots - suggesting he sides with the historical Arab suspicions of Persian Iran.

Al-Sadr's militia staged two bloody uprisings against U.S.-led forces in 2004 and has been blamed for attacks against coalition troops since then, despite numerous ceasefire agreements.

The Mahdi Army was also blamed for killing thousands of Sunnis and forcing others from their homes during a wave of sectarian reprisal attacks after the February bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

But it is unclear how much control the 33-year-old al-Sadr maintains over now-fragmented organization. Estimates of the number of Mahdi fighters vary widely, with some as high as 50,000 to 60,000 nationwide.

After the wave of sectarian cleansing last year, Mahdi fighters - many of them young street toughs from some of Baghdad's most impoverished neighborhoods - have taken over vast areas of the Iraqi capital and other cities and sometimes rely on extortion and intimidation to maintain their grip.

Forcing those fighters to give up such power will be challenging, especially since it could encourage displaced Sunnis to return - possibly along with Sunni extremists seeking revenge.

U.S. officials and some al-Sadr loyalists say the Mahdi Army has splintered into numerous factions, some of them little more than criminals and others under the control of Iranian agents.

This month, the U.S. operational commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, said breakaway Mahdi factions were responsible for about 73 percent of the attacks in the Baghdad area that resulted in American casualties.

Odierno said those factions - which the U.S. refers to as the "special groups" - are trained, financed and armed by Iran, a charge that the Iranians deny.

The timing of al-Sadr's announcement - on the heels of the Karbala bloodshed - suggests the young cleric was becoming concerned over a backlash within the Shiite community to this week's violence.

Abu Ali al-Rubaie, a Mahdi Army commander, told The Associated Press that al-Sadr loyalists would establish committees to "chose new leaders, each of whom will bring in followers that he knows as part of the restructuring."

Jon Alterman, the Middle East Program Director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, believes al-Sadr "certainly has influence" over the Madhi movement even if his full control is slipping.

"But, at the same time, it's unclear what he's really trying to do," Alterman said. "Does he want to disband the Mahdi Army's military capacity? I don't think so. Does he want to preserve it and build it up? I think so."

In Karbala, meanwhile, sporadic gunbattles raged Wednesday morning but gradually tapered off.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite whose family roots are in the Karbala area, flew to the city and fired the military officer in charge of security. The prime minister also ordered an indefinite curfew and closed the city to all non-residents.

Elsewhere, an American soldier died Wednesday from wounds suffered the day before in fighting near the northern city of Kirkuk, the U.S. military announced.


I'll believe it when I see it.

Guess What?

"Limited internet time, busy schedule, and one lazy soldier, albeit safe and sound, in one piece, and full of piss and vinegar."
Unlikely Soldier

Arizona Bound

Doc in the Box

They a picture is worth a thousand words.

Curfew, Fishing, and BOMBS ..

"On Friday we had a curfew ,it lasted till Sunday at 6 pm ! I don't know why the governor decided to make curfew suddenly!....
Immediately dad went to the near by shops and he came with two bags of bread only!! The citizens started shopping and they bought everything to be ready in case the curfew continued for more than 2 days! We can't buy so much food, because of the lack of electricity, sometimes we have to throw everything in the refrigerator when the electricity don't come for few days.
It seems like curfew is the easiest solution for the politicians, whenever something happen they announce a curfew, because they CAN'T control the situation."
Days of my Life

Henry V, Act IV, Scene III

"Plus, honestly, (and this will sound odd to those who've never been in) its really, really.....hard to stop."

Proper male restroom etiquette

With all the to do this week about Senator Craig's poor restroom etiquette, we bring you this public service message to help us all maintain the peace.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Crossing Anbar

"We've been getting some reports about the improvement in security in Anbar in the last few months but little was said about the highway that runs across the province.
The several hundred kilometer western section of the international highway is technically Iraq's second "port" in a way as it connects Iraq with Syria and Jordan and was for years the only window to the world when all airports and the southern ports in Basra were closed to traffic in the 1990s."

Fleet Marine Force Qualifications

"On November 10, 1775, in Tunn Tavern, Philadelphia, Samuel Nicholas was commissioned to raise two battalions of Marines. As the Marine Corps. first commandant, Samual Nicholas was tasked with raising a Continental Marine fighting force for the protection of combatant naval vessels as a young nation sat on the cusp of a full British invasion (not The Beatles; the other invasion) mere weeks before the signing of the Declaration of Independence by our forefathers.

Not only were the Marines charged with protection of the ship at all costs, they were also responsible for protecting the officers from mutiny. Hence, Marine berthing was smartly placed between officer and crew berthing spaces in those early days."
Desert Flier

Fellow Army Girl's Career Transition

"Guest post from another Army Girl:

Job Hunting as an Army Girl, soon to be no longer, can be quite discouraging. One thing I am trying desperately to keep in mind is that many MANY people who were far less qualified than I (no ego involved here) have obtained jobs in my field for the past several years, some of whom have no business in a position of trust.

That being said, it is still a challenge to stand out in a world full of college graduates with, let's say with masters degrees, who have a great deal of experience in studying, test-taking, and writing essays (and let's not forget social situations and public speaking!) Now, let's say I can do all of this- and in full combat gear! Does that make me more, or less appealing? I ask honestly, I have no idea how to look at myself from, well, the point of view of a Hiring Manager or prospective employer."
Army Girl


"On to more serious matters. I was reading The Sandbox this week, and on the 21st, CAPT Lee Kelley, who is a fellow blogger, deployed to Iraq and home about the same time we were, wrote about his struggles upon returning home. Despite a divorce, he maintains a stubborn optimism, and I wish him the best.
It got me thinking about my adjustment. Things have changed a bit for me. I find it hard to get very passionate about anything. The summer was a blur of projects that had to be done, visitors to entertain, all while trying to return to “normal” life. I would not presume to compare myself to men and women who have post-traumatic stress disorder, or anything close to it. Sonic booms still send chills down my spine. They remind me of car bombs."

Little Saddam

"Some of you may already know that I was one of several bloggers given the chance to guest blog at the incomparable Jules Crittenden's site this week. My first substantial entry is cross posted below.

Little Saddam"
Acute Politics

France's Sarkozy raises prospect of Iran airstrikes

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday a diplomatic push by the world's powers to rein in Tehran's nuclear program was the only alternative to "an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran."

In his first major foreign policy speech, Sarkozy emphasized his existing foreign policy priorities, such as opposing Turkish membership of the European Union and pushing for a new Mediterranean Union that he hopes will include Ankara.

He also presented some new ideas, such as possibly renewing high-level dialogue with Syria and expanding the Group of Eight industrialized nations to include the biggest developing states.

Sarkozy said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and that major powers should continue their policy of incrementally increasing sanctions against Tehran while being open to talks if Iran suspended nuclear activities.

"This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran," he said, adding that it was the worst crisis currently facing the world.

Tehran says it only wants to generate electricity but it has yet to convince the world's most powerful countries that it is not secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

Sarkozy criticized Russia for its dealings on the international stage. "Russia is imposing its return on the world scene by using its assets, notably oil and gas, with a certain brutality," he said.

"When one is a great power, one should not be brutal."

Energy disputes between Russia and neighbors such as Belarus and Ukraine have raised doubts in Europe about Moscow's reliability as a gas exporter. It supplies Europe, via its neighbors, with around a quarter of its gas demands.

Sarkozy had warm words for the United States, saying friendship between the two countries was important. But he said he felt free to disagree with American policies, highlighting what he called a lack of leadership on the environment.

Franco-Syrian dialogue

Breaking with the policy of his predecessor Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy said he was prepared to hold high-level talks with Syria if it backed French efforts aimed at ending the political crisis in Lebanon. "If Damascus committed itself to this path, then the conditions for a Franco-Syrian dialogue would be in place."

But he stuck to his predecessor's stance in demanding that a timeline be drawn up for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Sarkozy said the only option for Turkey's accession talks with the European Union was a form of privileged partnership short of EU membership, and said he wanted a Mediterranean Union to take shape next year.

Turkey has said that project should not be an alternative to Ankara joining the European Union.

Sarkozy proposed setting up a "committee of wise men" to consider the future of Europe, including the Turkish question.

He criticized Beijing's management of its currency, which he says is too low and gives it an unfair advantage on export markets. He said China and other developing powers Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and India should eventually join the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations to become the G13.

Ynet News

Iraq Weapons Are a Focus of Criminal Investigations

BAGHDAD, Aug. 27 — Several federal agencies are investigating a widening network of criminal cases involving the purchase and delivery of billions of dollars of weapons, supplies and other matériel to Iraqi and American forces, according to American officials. The officials said it amounted to the largest ring of fraud and kickbacks uncovered in the conflict here.

The inquiry has already led to several indictments of Americans, with more expected, the officials said. One of the investigations involves a senior American officer who worked closely with Gen. David H. Petraeus in setting up the logistics operation to supply the Iraqi forces when General Petraeus was in charge of training and equipping those forces in 2004 and 2005, American officials said Monday.

There is no indication that investigators have uncovered any wrongdoing by General Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, who through a spokesman declined comment on any legal proceedings.

This article is based on interviews with more than a dozen federal investigators, Congressional, law enforcement and military officials, and specialists in contracting and logistics, in Iraq and Washington, who have direct knowledge of the inquiries. Many spoke on condition of anonymity because there are continuing criminal investigations.

The inquiries are being pursued by the Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among other agencies.

Over the past year, inquiries by federal oversight agencies have found serious discrepancies in military records of where thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces actually ended up. None of those agencies concluded that weapons found their way to insurgents or militias.

In their public reports, those agencies did not raise the possibility of criminal wrongdoing, and General Petraeus has said that the imperative to provide weapons to Iraqi security forces was more important than maintaining impeccable records.

In an interview on Aug. 18, General Petraeus said that with ill-equipped Iraqi security forces confronting soaring violence across the country in 2004 and 2005, he made a decision not to wait for formal tracking systems to be put in place before distributing the weapons.

“We made a decision to arm guys who wanted to fight for their country,” General Petraeus said.

But now, American officials said, part of the criminal investigation is focused on Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph, who reported directly to General Petraeus and worked closely with him in setting up the logistics operation for what were then the fledgling Iraqi security forces.

That operation moved everything from AK-47s, armored vehicles and plastic explosives to boots and Army uniforms, according to officials who were involved in it. Her former colleagues recall Colonel Selph as a courageous officer who was willing to take substantial personal risks to carry out her mission and was unfailingly loyal to General Petraeus and his directives to move quickly in setting up the logistics operation.

“She was kind of like the Pony Express of the Iraqi security forces,” said Victoria Wayne, who was then deputy director of logistics for the overall Iraqi reconstruction program.

Still, Colonel Selph also ran into serious problems with a company she oversaw that failed to live up to a contract it had signed to carry out part of that logistics mission.

It is not clear exactly what Colonel Selph is being investigated for. Colonel Selph, reached by telephone twice on Monday, said she would speak to reporters later but did not answer further messages left for her.

The enormous expenditures of American and Iraqi money on the Iraq reconstruction program, at least $40 billion over all, have been criticized for reasons that go well beyond the corruption cases that have been uncovered so far. Weak oversight, poor planning and seemingly endless security problems have contributed to many of the program’s failures.

The investigation into contracts for matériel to Iraqi soldiers and police officers is part of an even larger series of criminal cases. As of Aug. 23, there were a total of 73 criminal investigations related to contract fraud in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, Col. Dan Baggio, an Army spokesman said Monday. Twenty civilians and military personnel have been charged in federal court as a result of the inquiries, he said. The inquiries involve contracts valued at more than $5 billion, and Colonel Baggio said the charges so far involve more than $15 million in bribes.

Just last week, an Army major, his wife and his sister were indicted on charges that they accepted up to $9.6 million in bribes for Defense Department contracts in Iraq and Kuwait.

Investigations span the gamut from low-level officials submitting false claims for amounts less than $2,500 to more serious cases involving, conspiracy, bribery, product substitution and bid-rigging or double-billing involving large dollar amounts or more senior contracting officials, Army criminal investigators said. The investigations involve contractors, government employees, local nationals and American military personnel.

Questions about whether the American military could account for the weaponry and other equipment purchased to outfit the Iraqi security forces were raised as early as May of last year, when Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and then the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a request to an independent federal oversight agency to investigate the matter.

But federal officials say the inquiry has moved far beyond the initial investigation of hundreds of thousands of improperly tracked assault rifles and semiautomatic pistols that grew out of Senator Warner’s query. In fact, Senator Warner said in a statement to The New York Times that he was outraged when he was briefed recently on the initial findings of the investigations.

“When I was briefed on the recent developments, I felt so strongly that I asked the Secretary of the Army to brief the Armed Services Committee right away, which he did in early August,” Senator Warner said in a statement.

An Army spokesman declined to comment on the briefing by the secretary of the Army, Pete Geren. In a sign of the seriousness of the scandal, the Defense Department Inspector General, Claude M. Kicklighter, will lead an 18-person team to Iraq early next month to investigate contracting practices, said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.

Mr. Morrell said Mr. Kicklighter, a retired three-star Army general, would stay in Iraq indefinitely to investigate contracting abuses, and was empowered to fix problems on the spot or take action if his team identified potential criminal activity.

Congressional officials who have been briefed on the Defense Department inspector general’s inquiry said Monday that one focus would be on weapons, munitions and explosives. In addition, Mr. Geren, the Army secretary, is expected to announce later this week the creation of a panel of senior contracting and logistics specialists to address any systemic problems they identify.

Senator Warner’s request last May for an independent federal oversight agency to investigate the accountability of weapons and equipment given to Iraqi security forces underscored concern about the issue.

That federal agency, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, responded with a report in October 2006 that found serious discrepancies in American military records of where thousands of the weapons actually ended up. The military did not take the routine step of recording serial numbers for the weapons, the inspector general found, making it difficult to determine whether any of the weapons had ended up in the wrong hands.

In July 2007, the Government Accountability Office found even larger discrepancies, reporting that the American military “cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi security forces as of Sept. 22, 2005.”


Saturday, August 25, 2007

PJAK and not uranium

"Unofficial translation of the Iranian fliers distributed to the bordering villages in Qaladiza inside Iraq:
Quote:"Our enemies, especially the Americans, are trying to destabilize the security situation in our country, and for this purpose they are seeking the help from a group of agents in Qandil and Khanira areas inside the Kurdistan Region. In this regard, the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran will purge the area from them and restore the peace and stability to the bordering area.
The Iranian troops will be launching air and land military operations in the next few days; therefore, you are requested to vacate these operational areas for your own safety"."
Free Iraq
Found this on a page recommended by TT

Bush says offensive in Iraq just beginning

US President George W. Bush signaled Saturday his unwillingness to consider early US troop reductions in Iraq, saying new offensive operations there were just in their "early stages."
The statement, made in his weekly radio address, followed a fervent plea by John Warner, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who publicly asked the president to initiate by September 15 at least a symbolic drawdown of US military forces from Iraq.

Warner, a former secretary of the Navy and a widely respected authority on military affairs, suggested Thursday the president bring home up to 5,000 US troops as "the first step in a withdrawal of armed forces" in order to "send a sharp and clear message" to the Iraqi government that the US commitment was not open-ended.

Bush has not formally responded to the appeal. But in his address, he expressed satisfaction with offensive operations launched in the wake of a nearly 30,000-troop surge he announced at the beginning of the year -- and said they were just beginning.

"We are still in the early stages of our new operations," the president said. "But the success of the past couple of months have shown that conditions on the ground can change -- and they are changing."

He argued that every month since January, US forces have killed or captured on average more than 1,500 Al-Qaeda fighters and other insurgents in Iraq.

Young Iraqi men are signing up for the army, Bush went on to say, police are patrolling the streets, and neighborhood watch groups are being formed in Iraqi cities.

Bush said Iraqis were now volunteering important information about insurgents and other extremists hiding in their midst more frequently, which had led to a "marked reduction" in sectarian murders.

"We cannot expect the new strategy we are carrying out to bring success overnight," the president concluded. "But by standing with the Iraqi people as they build their democracy, we will deliver a devastating blow to Al-Qaeda, we will help provide new hope for millions of people throughout the Middle East, we will gain a friend and ally in the war on terror, and we will make the American people safer."

The address was part of a broad public relations offensive launched by the White House ahead of a crucial report to Congress by the top US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

The two officials are to present their views in mid-September on whether efforts to halt sectarian violence and return Iraq to viable self-governance with the help of about 160,000 US troops now in the country were bearing fruit.

Bush defended his Iraq strategy in a major speech before an annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City this past week and is expected to reinforce the message on Tuesday, when he addresses members of the American Legion at their convention in Reno, Nevada.

But his upbeat assessment of the military campaign has been undercut by a somber analysis presented Thursday by the US intelligence community, which warned in a declassified estimate that despite security gains, "Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively" and sectarian violence "probably will intensify."

Warner, who has just visited Iraq together with Democratic Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, also came back in a pessimistic mood.

The two senators said in a joint statement that while the US troop "surge" had given Iraqi politician some "breathing space" to make compromises "which are essential for a political solution in Iraq, we are not optimistic about the prospects for those compromises."

However, The Washington Post reported Saturday the White House plans to keep its existing military strategy and troop levels in Iraq in place, even after the report by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker.


Who looks into it when the POTUS commits an OPSEC violation, for politics?

Stray cats

This Hamas Lion King is really something special.
I mean the imagery is amazing. Whoever it is that produced it is a master propagandist. We should study his work carefully and see if we cant turn the tables. If nothing else it shows the internal conflict within the Islamic world, Divide and conquer.

H/T Big Pharaoh


August 24, 2007 -- WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday raised the prospect of a terror attack before next year's election, warning that it could boost the GOP's efforts to hold on to the White House.

Discussing the possibility of a new nightmare assault while campaigning in New Hampshire, Clinton also insisted she is the Democratic candidate best equipped to deal with it.

"It's a horrible prospect to ask yourself, 'What if? What if?' But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world," Clinton told supporters in Concord.

"So I think I'm the best of the Democrats to deal with that," she added.

The former first lady made the surprising comments as she explained to supporters that she has beaten back the GOP's negative attacks for years, and is ready to do so again.

Terror Suspect List Yields Few Arrests

The government's terrorist screening database flagged Americans and foreigners as suspected terrorists almost 20,000 times last year. But only a small fraction of those questioned were arrested or denied entry into the United States, raising concerns among critics about privacy and the list's effectiveness.

A range of state, local and federal agencies as well as U.S. embassies overseas rely on the database to pinpoint terrorism suspects, who can be identified at borders or even during routine traffic stops. The database consolidates a dozen government watch lists, as well as a growing amount of information from various sources, including airline passenger data. The government said it was planning to expand the data-sharing to private-sector groups with a "substantial bearing on homeland security," though officials would not be more specific.

Few specifics are known about how the system operates, how many people are detained or turned back from borders, or the criteria used to identify suspects. The government will not discuss cases, nor will it confirm whether an individual's name is on its list.

Slightly more than half of the 20,000 encounters last year were logged by Customs and Border Protection officers, who turned back or handed over to authorities 550 people, most of them foreigners, Customs officials said. FBI and other officials said that they could not provide data on the number of people arrested or denied entry for the other half of the database hits. FBI officials indicated that the number of arrests was small.

The government says the database is a powerful tool for identifying and tracking suspected terrorists and for sharing intelligence, and that its purpose is not necessarily to make arrests. But the new details about the numbers, disclosed in an FBI budget document and in interviews, raise questions about the database's effectiveness and its impact on privacy, critics said. They argued that the number of hits relative to arrests was alarmingly high and indicated that the threshold for including someone on a watch list was too low, potentially violating thousands of Americans' civil liberties when they are stopped.

David Sobel, senior counsel with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy organization, said the numbers "suggest a staggeringly high rate of false positives with respect to the identification of supposed terrorists." He added that "this really confirms the long-standing fear that this list is inaccurate and ultimately ineffective as an anti-terrorism tool."

Jayson P. Ahern, deputy commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said focusing on arrests misses "a much larger universe" of suspicious U.S. citizens.

"There are many potentially dangerous individuals who fly beneath the radar of enforceable actions and who are every bit as sinister as those we intercept," he said.

The database is maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center, a joint operation between the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Rick Kopel, the TSC's deputy director, called it "one of the best things the government has been able to accomplish since 9/11."

The government said private-sector entities with a "substantial bearing on homeland security" could also gain access to the data, which is kept for 99 years, according to a notice in the Federal Register this week.

The watch list includes information from the Transportation Security Administration's air passenger "no-fly" list, the State Department's Consular Lookout and Support System list and the FBI's Violent Gang and Terrorist Organizations File.

To be included in the database, a person must be "a known or suspected terrorist such as those who finance terrorist activities, are known members of a terrorist organizations, terrorist operatives, or someone that provides material support to a terrorist or terrorist organization," said Michelle Petrovich, a spokesman for the Terrorist Screening Center. According to the Justice Department's inspector general, the database contained at least 235,000 records as of last fall.

Using the database, U.S. and international authorities prevented "numerous attempts" at entry into the United States by an Egyptian citizen, Omar Ahmed Ali, who went on in 2005 to commit a suicide bombing in Qatar that killed one British citizen and injured 12, Petrovich said.

Many U.S. citizens are stopped, questioned and, if no arrest warrant is pending, released. They are not told their watch-list status. To do so, the government says, could tip off suspects that they are likely to be questioned or detained.

Some travelers who are repeatedly stopped can only speculate that they are on the watch list.

Abe Dabdoub, 39, and his wife, both U.S. citizens, live in a Cleveland suburb. He said he has been detained 21 times at Michigan's border with Canada since last August. Dabdoub, who works for an electronics manufacturing company, said he has even begun to keep a spreadsheet. The first four times, he said, he was handcuffed. Once, his wife had to plead with the agents not to handcuff him in front of their 5- and 7-year-old boys, he said. The agents know him so well by now that they call him by his first name. Every time he asks them why he is being stopped, Customs officers tell him, "We can't tell you, for national security reasons," he said.

Customs officials declined to comment on his case.

Agencies nominate names to the list based on rigorous, classified criteria, Kopel said. The TSC has created a redress unit that ensures that watch-list and source information is accurate, officials said. Since 2005, the unit has resolved more than 90 percent of the several hundred complaints it has received, including by deleting names or adjusting data.

Each watch-list hit is a "positive encounter" -- what the government says is a conclusive match against the database -- by a customs officer or other official with an American or foreigner. U.S. citizens, if there is no arrest warrant, cannot be denied entry. About half of the encounters take place at land borders, airports or seaports. Other travelers are flagged at consular offices or by state and local police.

The number of hits has surged since the second half of fiscal 2004, when the database was created. That year, the FBI reported 5,396 encounters, with some people having multiple encounters. In 2005, 15,730 hits were logged. Next year, the FBI projects 22,400 hits.

FBI officials said the rising numbers result from wider information-sharing among international, federal, state and local authorities.

"A lot of times it's not to our advantage to make an arrest," FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said. "We don't want the subject to know what we know. It doesn't mean we're not paying attention. On the contrary, it shows that we're being very proactive in trying to identify threats."

But Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, said growing use of this database magnifies the consequences of errors that are entered into it.

"There needs to be a reliable way to correct bad information and protect the innocent," he said.

The government's system casts too broad a net, and its definition of who should be watch-listed is too broad, said Harvey Grossman, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which has filed a class-action lawsuit against the government on behalf of 10 Muslim Americans who allege they were detained and mistreated after being placed on a watch list without grounds. People with only distant casual contact with a suspect might be listed, he said. "What you eventually get is a worthless list of people."

In rare cases, citizens have discovered they are on the watch list.

Francisco "Kiko" Martinez, a Colorado lawyer and civil-rights activist, said he was detained twice in recent years by police officers who pulled him over on traffic stops and held him in one case more than three hours, and in another, in handcuffs. Through legal proceedings, Martinez obtained police reports that revealed his watch-list status.

"A driver's license check revealed [Martinez] as a possible individual having ties with terrorism," a state trooper wrote after a 2004 stop near Chicago, according to one report.

Last year, Martinez sued the federal government, claiming that he was unlawfully detained and that he was included on a watch list as a result of his political activities.

Last month, he won a $106,500 settlement from federal, state and tribal authorities. Though the settlement did not address any of the underlying constitutional claims, Martinez asserted that it "shows that I shouldn't have been on this terrorism watch list in the first place" and that "the government is misusing this so-called war against terrorism to target its domestic political opponents."

Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said the department declined to comment on the case.

Jim McMahon, chief of staff for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which represents 18,000 state and local police agencies across the country, said the database helps police officers "make a better judgment" about whether to detain a person. One of the 9/11 hijackers, Ziad Samir Jarrah, was ticketed for going 95 miles per hour on Interstate 95 in Maryland two days before the attacks, he said. "Today, chances are he would have been on the list," he said.


Why fight the terrorist, when some people are willing to give their freedom away without even a complaint.

Remember people there is no substitute for freedom to guarantee your safety and security

Friday, August 24, 2007

Petraeus notes Iraqi situation

"The time we have left as a country to make positive changes in Iraq is quickly expiring. Gen Petraeus is heading a last hour charge by our forces to secure the country and contain the multiple threats and opportunist that continue to jockey for position. Gen Petraeus has a military task of incredible complexity but he is engaged by the problem of the Iraqi Government performance deficit to date. He has recently issue the warning that crosses that military/political divide when he said"
Retired Reservist

Pensioner's Paradise

"Poll Closed!!!Wow, 47% each with 6% neither!!! Thanx to all those who voted, but umm results are very confusing. I can see that the poll worked perfectly, although, in the 3 days, with over 1000 visitors, I only got about 140 voters, but hey I aint complaining. I kinda like this poll stuff, will definitely use it in the future for readers' opinions on current events. Anyhow, it was virtually equal between the 2, so Im gonna go with the minority who voted neither. Yup, you read right. I believe its time to give the minority a voice. The minority who never get the chance. So all you 8 people who voted, congrats, you won!!! Thats my first reason, second reason I chose the minority, is because of another email I received from my friend S:"

The Ghosts of Anbar, Part 1 of 4

"Anbar Province
June, 2007
Iraq and this part of the world are complicated in the way, and by the way, that dysfunction always is “complicated.” Worse, in this labyrinth of history, where recent rumors have as much cache as ancient myths, facts fade quickly into mirage, granting mistakes and missteps a kind of perverse permanence. Fertile ground for paradoxes."
Michael Yon

17 Iraqi villagers killed in attack

BAGHDAD - Suspected al-Qaida fighters stormed two villages near Baqouba on Thursday, bombed the house of a local Sunni sheik and kidnapped a group of mostly women. Residents were finally able to drive off the attackers and end the deadly rampage.

Seventeen villagers, including seven women, were killed in the assaults roughly 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Ten al-Qaida gunmen also died.
The twin attacks near the Diyala provincial capital — the focus of recent major U.S.-Iraqi military operations against alleged al-Qaida fighters and Shiite militiamen — hit a Shiite village and a Sunni village with the same ferocity but apparently different motives.

Al-Qaida in Iraq has been forced to fight a rearguard action against many of its former allies in the Sunni community who have risen up against the terrorist organization because of its brutality and attempts to impose the group's austere version of Islam. Shiite communities remain al-Qaida targets out of sectarian animosity.

The attack on the Sunni village, Ibrahim al-Yahya, began when about 25 gunmen exploded a bomb at the house of Sheik Younis al-Shimari, destroying his home and killing him and one member of his family. Ten people were wounded, including four other members of the family and passers-by. Some of the wounded were hit by gunfire.

"They were shouting 'Allah Akbar and a curse be upon the renegades,'" said Umm Ahmed, a woman who was wounded in the attack. She refused to give her full name fearing retribution. "This attack will cause the uprising against them to spread to other villages."

Seven people were kidnapped. Two of the abducted men were later found shot in the head on a road leading out of town. The rest of the captives were women, and their fate was unknown.

Al-Shimari and his village apparently came under attack after he called on the men there to rise up against al-Qaida.

While the Sunni village was under attack, another band of alleged al-Qaida fighters stormed Timim, the nearby Shiite village and an obvious sectarian target, according to Baqouba police Brig. Ali Dlaiyan, who reported both assaults and gave the casualty tolls. He said the villagers were able to fight off the attack in a 30-minute gunbattle.

It was unclear how many of the 17 residents who died were in each village.

A police vehicle rushing to the attack scene crashed and two policemen were killed, according to officials in the Diyala provincial police force who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

The Sunni uprising against al-Qaida began spontaneously early this year in Anbar province, once a bastion of the Sunni insurgency in the west of Iraq, and has spread to Diyala province and some Baghdad neighborhoods. The U.S. military has encouraged disaffected Sunnis, many of them former insurgents, and has begun working side by side with the Sunni auxiliary units.

Kara Driggers, a Mideast analyst at the Terrorism Research Center, said al-Qaida attacks on the leaders of opposing groups have prompted more Iraqis to turn against them.

"The al-Qaida tactic of targeting leaders of anti-al-Qaida movements is counterproductive in that Iraqi society's tribal leanings requires reprisal killings," she said. "The tribal loyalties of Iraqi civilians are ignited to increase anti-al-Qaida sentiment among the population."

Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the Center for International and Strategic Studies, said the Sunni uprising against al-Qaida was more important than military gains.

"If success comes, it will not be because the new strategy President Bush announced in January succeeded, or through the development of Iraqi security forces at the planned rate. It will come because of the new, spontaneous rise of local forces willing to attack and resist al-Qaida, and because new levels of political conciliation and economic stability occur at a pace dictated more by Iraqi political dynamics than the result of U.S. pressure," Cordesman wrote in a report Wednesday.

"The key element for success remains political conciliation and so far the pace of Iraqi action lags far behind the minimal levels necessary to meet either Iraqi or U.S. expectations," Cordesman wrote.

In an indication of the complexities facing American forces in Iraq, where the police force has nearly been given up as a lost cause, U.S. troops arrested nine policemen two days ago on suspicion they were involved in a roadside bombing near a checkpoint they controlled in east Baghdad's Rasheed district, according to a military statement on Thursday.

Police in Iraq are under the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry. Much of the force is believed to be infiltrated by Shiite militiamen, many of them operating as death squads to enforce sectarian cleansing of mixed Baghdad neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, a U.S. soldier was killed and four were wounded in combat operations west of the capital, the military reported Thursday. The attack occurred Wednesday. The death raised to at least 3,723 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The U.S. general who commands troops in northern Iraq issued a statement of condolences for the 14 soldiers who were killed Wednesday when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed shortly after picking up a group of troopers who had just completed a night operation in Tamim province, home to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

The military said those killed included four air crew members based in Fort Lewis, Wash., and 10 passengers based at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

Also Thursday, Jordan's energy minister said his country expects to resume Iraqi oil imports in the coming days, ending a four-year hiatus sparked by the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein, the official Petra news agency reported.

The Iraqis said the deal was in the works for a long time and awaited only the hiring of a security force to guard the trucks. Apparently until now they could find no one who would take the job.


Message/Messenger or Ball of Confusion

"The military and America have had an issue since the Vietnam war. You can't separate the war and its politics from the soldier who enforces those policies. Every soldier you talk to who supports the war tooth and nail believes that the policy of this war and his purpose in it are one in one.

How do we equate one with the other."
Candle in the Dark

Thursday, August 23, 2007


***and now a bit of
"While aides to Gerald Ford, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney helped cover up the background to the death of CIA scientist, Frank Olson who fell from a 10th floor window in 1953, not long after he had been classified as a potential security risk.

Olson's son Eric says his father's conscience was troubled by awareness of Nazi-style CIA experiments on human subjects.

Kathryn Olmsted, University of California-Davis history professor, recently discovered files at the Gerald Ford library that showed White House officials deliberately withheld details of Olson's death from his family.

They included a memo from Dick Cheney, who was a White House assistant at the time, to Donald Rumsfeld, the chief of staff, on July 11, 1975. That memo warned that a lawsuit by Olson's family might make it necessary "to disclose highly classified national-security information.''

Another memo routed through Cheney and written by White House counsel Roderick Hills to the president cautioned that in any court action "it may become apparent that we are concealing evidence for national-security reasons."

This is quoted from an article By Fintan Dunne Editor, GuluFuture. com
18th August 2002 re/olsondeath.htm

dodagag' hvi ~ until we meet again~cherokee


Troops argue Iraq is 'unwinnable'

A belief that Iraq is unwinnable, fears that Afghanistan could go the same way and an overwhelming feeling that the government has not looked after the Armed Forces properly in return for the sacrifices they make.

That is what emerges from the answers given by hundreds of servicemen and women in response to the online questionnaire we posted here a few weeks ago. We received nearly 2,000 replies to a set of questions about life in the forces.

Those who contacted us did so in defiance of Queen's Regulations. It is forbidden for members of the Armed Forces to talk to the media unsupervised.

There is a good constitutional reason for that. Britain does not have the kind of politicised military which intervenes to change policy, or governments. But many servicemen and women are deeply worried and so are speaking out.

Behind many of the problems lies the stretch - some would say overstretch - in our forces.

"We don't have the resources to do the tasks we're asked to do," said one RAF man who spoke to us. "We are at complete saturation point. If anything else happens, we won't be able to deal with it."

He was only echoing warnings given by senior officers, such as the head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt.

The government said, however, it was doing all it could to pay back service personnel for their efforts.

Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth said: "I don't believe or accept that we have broken the covenant with our service personnel.

"I spoke to General Dannatt before he left for Afghanistan and he agreed with me on this. There are issues that we have got to address and we are addressing.

"We are trying to do as much as we can to pay back our service personnel for that that they do for us - that is massively appreciated."

Iraq has undoubtedly put a strain on the British military. Many of those who responded to our questionnaire - admittedly a self-selecting group - thought Iraq was unwinnable and that British Forces should not be there.

"It's getting hotter and hotter. And more soldiers wouldn't help. It's just more target," said one veteran of Basra.

Another wrote: "I am about to do my second tour of Basra. I don't think the public are aware how bad it actually is out there, getting rocket attacks every day and no let up."

One Parachute Regiment officer reflected the anguish that Iraq has caused within the services.

"Iraq is a lost cause," he said. "I don't think we can't achieve much. It is a difficult moral dilemma though. We owe it to the Iraqi people to stabilise their country and secure it for them. But at the same time it is unwinnable."

By contrast, most of the serving personnel who contacted us did think British forces should be in Afghanistan, although they worried about whether this conflict, too, was winnable.

"Iraq and Afghanistan are two completely different theatres," said one lieutenant who spoke to us at length. "The main difference is that people in Afghanistan actually want us there. Unlike Iraq.

"But the longer it takes [for us] to improve the lives of ordinary people in Afghanistan, the worse that situation will get," he added.

One soldier agreed: "We can win in Afghanistan and are winning. We just don't have enough resources to cover all the ground."

Again, we should stress that this was a self-selecting group. But these opinions reflect those you hear at bases here, and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And the overwhelming view said they felt the military covenant was not being honoured. This is originally an army concept, but it applies to all the forces. It is the deal done between the soldier and the nation: look after me, and I will risk my life for you.

Most of those who answered our questionnaire thought the government was not honouring its side of the bargain.

'Shocking morale'

"The forces are under funded, personnel are leaving in their droves," said one man in response to our questionnaire.

One soldier wrote: "We are under funded by a tight-fisted government who wants to fight wars on the cheap. Young soldiers are dying on a regular basis for less than £50 a day, and yet we are supposed to be grateful for the £2,300 'bonus' we receive at the end of a tour.

"Compare that against an MP's expenses and you'll see why good soldiers are leaving in droves."

Another said: "Life in the armed forces? All you currently read on this matter is true.

"Shocking morale, little done to reduce constant overseas deployments, whilst cutting back our numbers in the middle of two major conflicts, [military] hospitals closed, inquests taking four years, shocking quality of accommodation, poor pay, and 30-minute phone calls a week from theatre.

"Prisoners get the same and we pay tax."

One sailor, just back from Iraq after a six-month tour, wrote: "The armed forces have been cut back year on year. Although the workload has increased enormously, I have never known such a state of apathy and low morale within the armed forces as there is today.

"I, like many, am just counting the days until I qualify for my pension and can leave the demoralised and destitute armed forces."

'Close to failing'

There were other concerns, in particular the number of casualties and how they are treated back in the UK.

One serviceman wrote: "For every fatality, there are many 'broken' soldiers who have suffered hideous injuries. If the sheer scale of those injuries was made common knowledge, the public would be shocked and disgusted."

He went on: "The government prefers to evade that issue. The armed forces are being asked to provide more and more with less and less. The system is extremely close to failing."

Much of what was said to us, in response to our questionnaire is also being said by senior officers, occasionally in public.

Members of the armed forces are not saying they will not go to Iraq and Afghanistan, that they will not do their duty.

But this group who contacted us, and many others, are warning that because the armed forces are so reliable, it is easy to take them for granted.

The overwhelming view is that the armed forces cannot go on like this indefinitely.


At least 25 killed in clashes with Al Qaeda in Iraq

At least 25 people died in a battle between Sunni fighters and al Qaeda fighters northeast of Baghdad on Thursday, police said. According to Reuters, police and residents of the Sheikh Tamim and Ibrahim Yehia villages said about 200 gunmen stormed into their villages early on Thursday and executed three young men and the imam of a mosque. This triggered a confrontation with local gunmen who killed 10 of the attackers.

Police said they detained 22 of the attackers. The two villages are in Diyala province, where American forces are cracking down on al Qaeda and other militants who are using the region as launch pad for attacks in Baghdad.

Baquba police chief Brigadier-General Ali Delayan said the attackers shelled the two villages with mortars before storming them. They also used rocket-propelled grenades and reduced some houses to rubble. He said the attackers took five women hostage before retreating. "The first attack was against a mosque," said Delayan. "They blew up the mosque, then they bombed houses crowded with family members."

In other violence a roadside bomb killed one civilian in Baghdad's Jadida neighbourhood, security officials said. The US military also said two suicide car bombers attacked a US-led forces outpost in northern Baghdad on Wednesday, killing four Iraqi troops and injuring 11 American troops and four Iraqi soldiers.

Al Bawaba

Republican senator urges Bush to start Iraq exit by Christmas

A senior Republican senator, John Warner, last night urged President George Bush to begin bringing troops back from Iraq by Christmas, as US intelligence agencies published a bleak assessment of the chances of progress in the country in the next 12 months.
Mr Warner, who has recently returned from Iraq and is widely respected by his Republican colleagues, went much further than in June when he first broke ranks with Mr Bush over the war. After a meeting with White House aides, he told reporters: "We simply cannot, as a nation, stand and continue to put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action."

But he did not go as far as saying that he would support Democratic members of Congress who are likely to renew their attempts to pass legislation to set a timetable for withdrawal. So far only a handful of Republicans have joined them.

He spoke only hours after the national intelligence estimate, the consensus view of the CIA and 15 other American intelligence agencies, published their latest assessment of Iraq. They predicted that the prospects for the Iraqi government are "precarious", and expressed fears of a surprise attack in that country in the next few weeks comparable to the 1968 Tet offensive that threatened to overwhelm American forces in Vietnam.

An American defence official, briefing journalists ahead of publication, said US forces are braced for "a mini-Tet". He predicted that the attack could be timed to maximise political pressure on President Bush, when the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, goes to Congress next month to provide an up-to-date assessment of progress.

In contrast with regular press statements from the Pentagon about inflicting casualties on al-Qaida in Iraq, the national intelligence report said the militant group, which has concentrated on "spectacular" attacks, remained strong enough to conduct further high-profile operations.

The 10-page summary, Prospects for Iraq's Stability, is the first such report since January, when Mr Bush announced his "surge" strategy, in which he sent an extra 30,000 US troops to Iraq. The report said gains had been modest: "There have been measurable, but uneven, improvements in Iraq's security situation [since January]." It added: "We assess, to the extent that coalition forces continue to conduct robust counter-insurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi security forces, that Iraq's security will continue to improve modestly during the next 6-12 months, but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance."

Mr Bush criticised the Iraqi president, Nouri al-Maliki on Tuesday, but 24 hours later in a piece of damage limitation, he praised him. Mr Maliki, on a visit to Syria, had said he could turn to friends elsewhere if the US ditched him - almost certainly a reference to Iran.

The report also said that the Iraqi army and police had not improved enough to operate independently of the US and other coalition forces.

The White House claimed the report vindicated the administration's "surge" strategy. Gordon Johndroe, the national security council spokesman, said it showed "that our strategy has improved the security environment in Iraq, but we still face very tough challenges ahead".


On the Soldier

" am going to be away from the net for a while and will not be posting for a week or so.

I've got a lot I'd like to post, and quite a bit of bullshit has happened that some will find humorous, but I don't have time to rant right now.

What I would like to share tonight is something about the character of a Soldier. While we might be crass, crude, occasionally vulgar, and of course dangerous under the wrong conditions it is also true that you will have no better friends than those you make in the Service."
Sergeant Grumpy

Half way there...

"Alright well as of a couple days ago, based on a 15 month deployment, we are now officially 1/2 way done. There is still the chance that our deployment could be shorter than 15 months, but if it does last that long, we are in the 2nd half. It's crazy to think that had this been like any other deployment that this unit has gone on since September 11th, then we would be finishing up or long done with the deployment. But instead, we reach a mark that is significant, yet painful at the same time. It has been a LONG time already and we must do the same thing again."
On the Loose in Iraq


"I was planning on some lengthy posting after mission tonight, but I'm sitting here with a wicked headache. The trash fire in Karma started it, and the sewage ponds just south made it worse. The final cap was grade-2 diesel mist in the face while refueling. I'm not looking for sympathy (really!). I just won't miss a lot of aspects of this place much.

So I'm not doing a long post tonight. However, I've run across a few noteworthy tidbits lately that deserve your attention:"
Acute politics

Warner: Bush Should Bring Troops Home

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush should start bringing home some troops by Christmas to show the Baghdad government that the U.S. commitment in Iraq is not open-ended, a prominent Republican senator said Thursday.

The move puts John Warner, a former Navy secretary and one-time chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, at odds with the president, who says conditions on the ground should dictate deployments.

Warner, R-Va., said the troop withdrawals are needed because Iraqi leaders have failed to make substantial political progress, despite an influx of U.S. troops initiated by Bush this year.

The departure of even a small number of U.S. service members - perhaps 5,000 of the 160,000 troops in Iraq - would send a powerful message throughout the region that time was running out, Warner said.

"We simply cannot as a nation stand and continue to put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action," he told reporters after a White House meeting with Bush's top aides.

Warner's new position is a sharp challenge to a wartime president that will undoubtedly color the upcoming Iraq debate on Capitol Hill. Next month, Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are expected to brief members on the war's progress.

A White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, declined to say whether Bush might consider Warner's suggestion.

Asked whether Bush would leave the door open to setting a timetable, Johndroe said: "I don't think the president feels any differently about setting a specific timetable for withdrawal. I just think it's important that we wait right now to hear from our commanders on the ground about the way ahead."

Republicans, including Warner, have so far stuck with Bush and rejected Democratic proposals demanding troops leave Iraq by a certain date. But an increasing number of GOP members have said they are uneasy about the war and want to see Bush embrace a new strategy if substantial progress is not made by September.

Warner, known for his party loyalty, said he still opposes setting a fixed timetable on the war or forcing the president's hand.

"Let the president establish the timetable for withdrawal, not the Congress," he said.

Nevertheless, his suggestion of troop withdrawals is likely to embolden Democrats and rile some of his GOP colleagues, who insist lawmakers must wait until Petraeus testifies.

His stature on military issues also could sway some Republicans who have been reluctant to challenge Bush.

Warner said he came to his conclusion after visiting Iraq this month with Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the Armed Services Committee chairman; Warner is the committee's second-ranking Republican. Levin said this week that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should be replaced. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., followed suit and told reporters Thursday that Maliki has been "a failure."

Warner said he "could not go that far" to call for Maliki's resignation. But he said he did have serious concerns about the effectiveness of the current leadership in Baghdad, which a U.S. intelligence report released Thursday also cited. The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq does not anticipate a political reconciliation in the next year and predicts the Iraqi government will become "more precarious" because of criticism from various sectarian groups.

"When I see an NIE which corroborates my own judgment - that political reconciliation has not taken place - the Maliki government has let down the U.S. forces and, to an extent, his own Iraqi forces," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the report confirms what most Americans already know: "Our troops are mired in an Iraqi civil war and the president's escalation strategy has failed to produce the political results he promised to our troops and the American people."

"Every day that we continue to stick to the president's flawed strategy is a day that America is not as secure as it could be," said Reid, D-Nev.


Good cop, Bad cop?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Imagine how he will treat us!

"First I need to open with the news of a new Bad Voo Doo Dependant. Micheal Francis Gabriel Ranada was born last week. He is the first child of our Ranada and all of us within the Bad Voo Doo Family wish him and his wife Megan the best. Micheal stayed here with us so his wife has been alone during this time so we also want to recognize her for being an amazing woman and wife to congratulate her on everything. Speaking of wives......."
Northern Disclosure

A story of an Iraqi

An iraqi male born in Baghdad in 1987 in a well-educated family.
At his early years of life he suffered blockage in his bowels and had to go through a
surgical opeation in order to continue his life.
As a kid he was very naughty, he almost got himself killed several times, once by drinking
some pure oil by mistaking it with water, once by burning his leg in an accident during the
second gulf war, and another time by having his tongue almost cut into 2 pieces while
playing in a place not proper for kids to play in."
Nabil's Blog
Where is that where Iraqi kid stick their tongue and get them chopped up?

Good news- I'm sitting in Kuwait, wondering why th...

"Good news- I'm sitting in Kuwait, wondering why these people stationed here get to earn combat pay. Well, wondering about that isn't good news, but sitting in Kuwait is, because that means that all I have to do is wait around to board that freedom plane. From there it's nothing but smooth skies all the way back to California."
Jake's Life


"Iraq now is being identified as a Federal state. There are many countries in the world which adopt the Federal system of ruling, like the USA, Germany and India. Even though Iraq is not as big as those countries, but the new leaders decided that Iraq ( even though it is as big as California) should be a Federal state. Regardless of what the Constitution states, I'm gone tell you what the Federal system in Iraq really means. I'm gone replace the word Iraq with America, since many of the readers have never been to Iraq, so I will talk about the state Texas as an Example and not the Actual Texas and the united state. So that it will be places that you may relate to."
Great Baghdad
You would think that you might take the opportunity to educate them on the term, and remind them that just calling something "federal" does not make it so.

Falluja Post-Bellum Concerns

"The New York Times has a pretty good article here on the situation in Falluja. Overall I would say it is both a fair and accurate article, although the thesis, no one knows what will happen when the Marines leave Falluja and Fallujan's to their own devices, seems somewhat obvious. No one knows what the future holds, for Falluja, Iraq, or anywhere else for that matter.

Some high-lights and context -"
Badgers Forward

The Future of Iraq

"I took these pictures today while on a mission in the Adhamiya district of Baghdad -- north of the Green Zone, on the east bank of the Tigris. We dismounted our vehicles and had to walk several blocks to access the civil courthouse, where we were to meet the judge and talk with lawyers practicing at the court. Adhamiya is the oldest part of Baghdad, and predominantly Sunni. This was our 7th attempt to visit this courthouse--previous efforts had been scrubbed due to security."
Assad Baghdad


"Again. They did it again.....I can't believe this straight-up MARNE-ing....again!

They have once again, on short notice, disappointed me of the leave date I waited all year for. I am now slotted for September 30th. Which completely misses the asked for date of September 23rd, the whole point of the exercise. Leave on that date also brings me back in time just ahead of my birthday.....come to think of it, that's the exact same day they sent me on leave last time!

This is becoming a discouraging pattern. Right down to the Not Happy At All With The Army reaction of the Bad Influence."

A Death in our Family

"One bit of good news and two sad stories today. First the good news: Mike has officially been accepted into the Air Force as a JAG officer. He’ll be assigned to Beale AFB in Northern California, a beautiful area of the country. Glad to see good things happening for him.
I got an e-mail from Hamid today, with very sad news. For the last several months his family was supposedly working to get him engaged, as I mentioned back when I was still in Afghanistan. Well, recently he discovered that in fact, his mother had done nothing, and the girl’s family got tired of waiting, and now she is engaged to someone else. Although he has trouble writing in English, he had no trouble expressing his anguish at this betrayal. Now there is literally no one he can trust.

Finally, MSgt Gillespie, US Air Force, part of the team that replaced us in Afghanistan, was killed recently. Needless to say, this hits very close to home. Here is the press release from his home base, Luke AFB in Arizona:"

The End Times

"We're living in them. No, not those end times... I don't know anything about those.
Our time here will soon be up, as I've mentioned. It doesn't seem that way; no matter how much gear I pack up and turn in, this desert still feels normal, still feels like home. A year doesn't seem that long- twelve months, less than five percent of my life to date- but I barely recall what "normal" life is like. It feels so distant to me now that it might as well be a second lifetime, an earlier incarnation of myself. Leave wasn't that long ago, of course, but that was only two weeks, lived under the specter of impending return."
Acute Politics
All things come to and end, something which seems specially true for great milblogs.

I hope you find home.

Tillman's wife: Real leaders needed

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The wife of NFL athlete-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman said Wednesday in her first public comments since her husband's death by friendly fire that the country needs "authentic leadership."

Saying that talking about her best friend was difficult, Marie Tillman told an audience at the University of Arkansas about the many good qualities of the NFL athlete and Army Ranger.
"Pat was a man with enormous talent. His athletic ability was matched by a deep and complex moral and intellectual side," said Marie Tillman, a featured speaker at the school. "He always tried to do the right thing and he was the first to admit when he didn't."

Pat Tillman was cut down April 22, 2004, by bullets fired by his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan, not by enemy fire, as the military initially claimed. The military said officers knew within hours that Tillman's death was from friendly fire but didn't tell his family or the public for five weeks.

Tillman's death attracted worldwide attention because he had walked away from a huge contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

During a congressional hearing Aug. 1, former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and three former generals expressed regret with the Pentagon's delay in telling the truth. They took no blame for the violation.

Marie Tillman and her brother-in-law Alex Garwood avoided discussion about the controversy around Tillman's death, saying they wanted to focus on honoring his memory through the work of the Tillman Foundation.

On Wednesday, Marie Tillman said her husband was dynamic and action-oriented, something needed in private and public life.

"We are in need of authentic leadership on many levels," Marie Tillman said.


Fresh meat! Republicans have a chance now, to show how tough they are tearing her to shreds.

They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

"This was said about the Palestinians, I believe, though it seems to apply just as well to our political class but with a difference. There are some opportunities our leaders never seem to miss: the ones that make things worse."

Pentagon cuts armored vehicles due in Iraq in 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. troops in Iraq will receive at least 1,000 fewer special armored vehicles than expected this year due to the amount of time needed for shipment, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the Defense Department expected defense contractors to produce 3,900 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicles this year. But only 1,500 would make it to the war zone in 2006 -- down from the Pentagon's previous shipment target of 2,500 to 3,000.

"If we could get 1,500 to theater by the end of this year, that would be a positive development," Morrell said.

The new goal of 1,500 was first reported by Stars & Stripes, the newspaper for troops overseas that is partially funded by the Defense Department.

The MRAP vehicle is one of the Pentagon's top acquisition priorities and the Defense Department's aim has been to buy as many as can be produced. It follows years of criticism directed at the Pentagon for not providing adequate armor to troops.

The MRAPs' V-shaped hull is designed to protect occupants from roadside bombs, which have killed many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Morrell said it takes about 50 days to equip and ship a finished MRAP into the war zone. That includes 15 days for equipping and 35 for transport by ship.

Morrell said he did not know which units in Iraq would be affected by the production shortfall this year.

MRAP contractors include: Navistar International Corp.'s International Military and Government LLC; Force Protection Inc., which is partnered with General Dynamics Corp.'s Land Systems business arm; a General Dynamics Canadian unit; BAE Systems Plc; Oshkosh Truck Corp..


With surprise visit, France changes its tack on Iraq

Paris - Partly to restore strained ties with ally America, and partly to deal itself into the strategic game on Iraq, France is opening a new chapter in the Persian Gulf.

In the European nation most publicly opposed to the Iraq war, media reaction in Paris on both the left and right appears to support new French offers to mediate among Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions – whose strife is paralyzing Iraq's day-to-day governance.

The offers were put forward by Bernard Kouchner, whose surprise visit to Baghdad this week was the first by a French foreign minister since 1988. They signal a significant change in France's tack on Iraq, offering the kind of diplomacy France used to inspire dialogue among ethnic and religious factions in Lebanon. They also come amid warmer US-French ties under President Nicolas Sarkozy, who vacationed in New Hampshire this month.

France's sudden shift on Iraq "is almost as spectacular as the refusal of France to take part in the American intervention in Iraq," noted the left French daily Le Monde. "It is time to stop lecturing the Americans about their errors and start contributing to a solution."

In Baghdad Monday, Kouchner said "the Americans will not be able to get out of difficulty [in Iraq] alone," adding that "Europe must play a role ... and I hope that other foreign ministers will come and visit Iraq." Kouchner, a popular left-wing politician in Sarkozy's right-wing government, said after his visit that "the Americans in Iraq seem unable to see what surrounds them," speaking of the ever-more complex and violent interethnic conflict.

Foreign minister's credentials a plus

Analysts here say that a central factor in France's ability to quickly enter the Iraq fray is Kouchner's own credentials. He developed policies to protect Kurds from Saddam Hussein's army after the first Gulf War, has close relations with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and played a pioneering role in the concept of "humanitarian intervention" in the 1990s.

Kouchner, who cofounded the Paris-based "Doctors Without Borders," is also seen as unconnected to French business and political circles that were closely involved with Mr. Hussein.

While a proactive position on Iraq by Paris is a significant step in Mr. Sarkozy's professed design to regain French traction in international affairs, the French role is purely diplomatic. No troops, major resources, or significant political capital are being committed. As such, the French public has not reacted sharply pro or con to news of a modest role in Iraq.

"This is a symbolically important indicator that the French want to be a positive presence rather than a spoiler. But no hard questions are [on the table]," says François Heisbourg, special adviser to the Foundation for Strategic Studies in Paris. "If Sarkozy said he was sending 10,000 troops, people would go to the streets. But Kouchner, who is extremely popular, has gone to Iraq to signal that France will help if help is called for, and blessed are the peacemakers. Who can think badly of such positioning?"

US-France diplomacy suffered considerably after former President Jacques Chirac tried to create an international consensus against the US-led invasion of Iraq. French initiatives after 2003 were often blocked by the White House, and French influence in Europe itself was hamstrung by France's "no" vote on an EU constitution.

Sarkozy's diplomacy

Since being elected president in May on promises to reassert France's proud internationalist tradition, Sarkozy has conducted an astounding array of diplomatic initiatives. He put France squarely into the effort to create a European constitution, helped Libya end its isolation by brokering a deal to release six Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, held a conference on Darfur with Chinese and American envoys, got a Frenchman named to head the IMF, continued France's central role in Lebanon, is taking a role on Kosovo independence, and has worked ardently to unfreeze US-French relations.

"We are clearly turning a page here ... it is a new chapter in French-American relations," the No. 2 US diplomat in Paris, Mark Pekala, told cable TV network France 24 earlier this month.

Commenting on an Iraq role for France, the rightist Paris daily Le Figaro argued on Aug. 21 that "The US is looking for a solution ... It is time to show that France, alongside Europe, is available."

Iraqi President Talabani, however, said he would prefer French investment and reconstruction help over diplomacy.


Maybe they have come to offer their services, most notable their ability to surrender on the spot.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Clinton, McCain split on Iraq pullout

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - New military tactics in Iraq are working but the best way to honor U.S. soldiers is "by beginning to bring them home," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton told war veterans Monday.

Clinton, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, praised the work that soldiers have done in Iraq but described the government there as "on vacation," leaving American troops in the middle of a sectarian war.

Later the Veterans of Foreign Wars were told by Sen. John McCain, who is seeking the GOP nomination, that withdrawing from Iraq would be a historic mistake — far worse than previous U.S. missteps in the country.

McCain said he understands that Americans are "sick and tired" of the war, which he said hasn't gone well. Still, he said Gen. David Petraeus and other military leaders deserve patience.

Petraeus, the U.S. commander who will report to Congress on progress in Iraq next month, told the group that in some areas, partnerships between coalition forces and Iraqi soldiers are "quite robust." He also said that Iraqi losses have been three times those suffered by the U.S.-led coalition.

Clinton and McCain spoke to hundreds of members of the VFW, which is holding its annual convention in Kansas City. On Tuesday, Democratic candidate Barack Obama and former GOP Sen. Fred Thompson are to speak. President Bush arrives Wednesday.

The hall where the candidates spoke can seat 6,000 people, and both Clinton and McCain drew about half that for their late-morning speeches. The crowd was mostly friendly to Clinton and offered polite applause throughout her speech. McCain, a former Vietnam War prisoner of war, received a warmer reception — and louder applause during his remarks.

Clinton said she wanted to restore America's image abroad.

"People have to root for America," she said. "They have to want to be on our side."

In Iraq, she said, the government must take responsibility for itself and its people.

"I do not think the Iraqis are ready to do what they have to do for themselves yet," she said. "I think it is unacceptable for our troops to be caught in the crossfire of a sectarian civil war while the Iraqi government is on vacation."

Clinton said new tactics have brought some success against insurgents, particularly in Iraq's Anbar province.

"It's working. We're just years too late in changing our tactics," she said. "We can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war. We have to keep preparing to fight the new war."

McCain said that pulling out of Iraq would empower al-Qaida and Iran and unleash a "full-scale civil war" in Iraq.

He drew applause when he said, "As long as we have a chance to succeed, we must try to succeed."

Later, he said, "We're starting to succeed, and I think we're seeing some shift in public opinion."


Well I don't know where she gets off making such statements when I have not been able to make a concrete determination as of yet. Unless she has access to information that I do not, I think it's premature to make such wild ass statements.

No doubt that what we are doing today is lightyear ahead of what we did for the last four years, but to conclude a success at this time without giving any consideration to what the enemy is doing is foolish. Give it time, they will fight back, and from what I am hearing, they are going to hit hard. They have the advantage of time and space. You can be sure the enemy will use every advantage they can find.

Beware of good new and just keep you head up and your ass down, till your buckled into your ride home.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

US military in dogfight over drones

While Predator and Global Hawk drones cross the skies of Iraq and Afghanistan looking for insurgents or hunting for Osama bin Laden, thousands of kilometres away in Washington they have been dragged into a vicious turf battle.

Resurrecting tensions over US airpower that have lingered since the Korean war, the air force is pushing to become “executive agent” for drones – unmanned aircraft – that fly above 3,500 feet. The army, navy and marines oppose the move, which would make the air force responsible for the acquisition and development of unmanned aerial vehicles such as the army’s Sky Warrior.

As Gordon England, the deputy defence secretary, prepares to make a decision, air force and army officers are furiously lobbying Congress in preparation for a possible legislative battle. The stakes have risen dramatically as the use of drones has ballooned. First deployed by the US in Kosovo in 1999, Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now operates about 1,000 UAVs.

Aside from reducing military casualties, these roving eyes in the sky are becoming an indispensable tool for detecting insurgents planting the deadly roadside bombs that have become the biggest killer of US troops in Iraq.

“You can’t bring the soldier back to the farm once he has seen Paris,” says Colonel John Burke, the army’s former director of unmanned systems integration, to underscore the growing attractiveness of drones.

Their proliferation has intensified the Pentagon debate over how drones are acquired and operated. The air force says there is a need to streamline acquisitions to reduce cost and duplication, and for greater standardisation to improve interoperability and lessen the potential for mid-air collisions.

The air force argues, for example, that the Pentagon should have procured more Predators to deploy in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than allowing the army to develop the Sky Warrior, which will not be deployed until 2009.

Air force officers add that a compromise joint approach reached several years ago when it unsuccessfully pushed for executive agency has hurt UAV development.

“We can’t afford to compromise any longer, particularly when ‘compromise’ comes at the cost of inefficiencies and with no benefit beyond assuaging ruffled parochial egos,” says Lieutenant General David Deptula, deputy air force chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

But the army counters by questioning the air force’s record on acquisitions, stressing that Global Hawk and Predator have seen cost overruns, while other programmes such as refuelling tankers and search and rescue helicopter have been embroiled in controversy. It points out that its Sky Warrior programme has so far met cost and schedule goals.

“The ruffled feathers and parochial egos belong to the air force ... the marine corps, navy, special forces and army are co-operating across acquisition programmes, common ground stations and future programme development,” says a senior army officer.

“It is the air force that refuses to join the joint team, preferring to criticise others, disseminate misleading statements and independently lobby Congress for support they do not have in the Pentagon.”

Colonel Charles Bartlett, head of a special air force task force on UAVs, says the army, marine corps and navy have also experienced cost problems with weapons systems. He dismisses suggestions that the air force is the only service looking to Congress for help.

“All the services are representing their interests ... the army has worked the Alabama delegation as hard as the air force has worked the North Dakota and Ohio delegations,” says Col Bartlett.

While Richard Shelby, the Alabama Republican senator from Alabama, is concerned about the impact on Redstone Arsenal, which manages much of the army’s UAV work, Byron Dorgan, the North Dakota Democratic senator, wants to attract more work for Grand Forks air force base, partly to make up for the loss of four refuelling squadrons scheduled as part of the Pentagon’s base realignment across the US.

Tom Ehrhard, a UAV expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, says the debate is a “fundamental doctrinal issue” about the current state of Goldwater-Nichols, the 1986 law designed to improve co-ordination across the branches of the military.

“The bid for executive agent authority is in part an indictment of current joint organisations,” says Mr Ehrhard. “What the air force is trying to get is supposed to be taken care of with existing organisations but it clearly is not.”

But some experts, including Pierre Chao at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argue that it would be a “strategic mistake” to narrow competition for UAVs.

“If you think it is a young technology, that the Orville and Wilbur Wrights of the 21st century are running around in the UAV marketplace, then as messy as it makes the environment, is it far more strategically important to have lots of players, different patrons behind those players, and to keep stimulating the useful competition of ideas that a useful inter-service rivalry brings.”

The air force argues that executive agency is required to reduce the possibility of mid-air collisions. But army officials say there have been no complaints from commanders in the field about traffic problems. Col Burke says the argument is a “red herring”, stressing that there has only been one minor incident in recent years when small Raven drone crashed into a helicopter on the ground.

“We are very pleased at the low number of accidents, but that does not reduce the potential,” says Col Bartlett. “We will continue to flood the skies with UAVs.”

Another reason the UAV debate has stirred up passions arises from concerns that the air force could use executive agency – which would be limited to acquisitions and development – to edge towards gaining control of how drones are deployed and operated.

Mr Ehrhard says executive agent authority would not impact the employment of forces, since the joint force commander, such as the head of Central Command, and not the air force, decides when to allocate a UAV to any one of the services.

But experts concede that one side-effect of executive agency could impact the army’s ability to ensure access to the Sky Warrior. Loren Thompson, a defence expert at the Lexington Institute, says the air force has reservations about the army’s plan to tether the Sky Warrior to army units.

Gen Deptula says executive agency would not directly impact deployment, but he says the issue needs to be re-examined.

“I am forced to conclude that the army’s plans for their use dooms them to sub-optimal employment,” says Gen Deptula.

“I am not suggesting the air force be given the army’s theatre-effects-capable UAVs [such as the Sky Warrior]. What I am suggesting is that rather than tethering such high-value assets to ground forces that may not be in the hottest part of the fire, such UAVs should be available to the Joint Force Commander who needs them most, wherever that might be.”

The army argues that it is important to keep drones such as the Sky Warrior “organic” to the units that are deploying them for tactical missions. It says army commanders would not get sufficient UAV resources because there are more requirements for drones at the theatre level.

“The army wants to put assets where they are most responsive to make sure the capability is available and versatile,” says Col Burke.

Army officials also argue that operating drones from the battlefield reduces communications problems, and they balk at suggestions that they should be operated from the US. The air force operates many of its drones from Nevada, which it says reduces the number of troops placed in danger on the battlefield.

“Why does the army have to have organic control [leaving] a large footprint in harms way?” says Col Bartlett. “[The air force] can provide the same combat capability from Nevada that the army can provide on the battlefield.”

Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace expert at the Teal Group, says the debate poses a real dilemma.

“What the army suspects, rightly or wrongly, is ‘thank you for filing your flight access request. We will get back to you within a 48-72 hour period and make certain that there are no air assets. Thank you and this is not a recording,’” says Mr Aboulafia.

Mr England is expected to debate the issue later this month. But regardless of his decision, the battle is unlikely to end there. On Capitol Hill, some lawmakers have introduced legislation requiring the Pentagon to appoint an executive agent. And the House armed services committee has appointed a panel to examine the “roles and missions” of drones, which could have even wider ramifications for their operation.

Peter Singer, an expert on contemporary warfare at the Brookings Institution, says the military is just starting to grapple with some of the key questions surrounding UAVs, including whether they should be operated by pilots as the air force does, or by trained specialists in the army.

“The people who really need to be making the decisions ... are the very senior leadership in both the civilian and the military world, and yet you are taking about people who needed their grandkids to programme their VCRs,” says Mr Singer.

“The best result of the air force pushing [executive agency] right now is that it really does create a debate and forces the issue.”